HEM, Paul Oakenfold, American Babies and the Boston Pops

Music Features American Babies
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(Josh Jackson, Editor of PASTE, Sweet Talk, DJ Paul Oakenfold, Lora Kratchounova from OurStage)

So after the whirlwind week of Bonnaroo to Telluride Bluegrass, ST was fortunate enough to arrive back in our hometown of Boston and head straight from the airport to Symphony Hall for an eclectic and elegant night.  Usually Symphony Hall is not the first place you’d think to catch such an amalgamation of music, but with the exception of the opening piece from Westside Story the 96 piece orchestra of the Boston Pops took their chops into new more modern territory.  The series which in the past has featured Guster, Elvis Costello, Aimee Mann and My Morning Jacket is known as Pops On the Edge, and the for good reason.

The night really began with a premiere of Nico Muhly’s piece, Wish You Were Here, which he categorized as the musical equivalent of a “cartoon postcard from Bali”, which is apt because I was thinking a hopped up Road Runner dressed in a sarong was going to flatten conductor Keith Lockhart any minute.  Needless to say it was refreshing to see the Pops dip into some more interesting musical pockets.

This was then followed by another eye popping premiere, that of Felix Brenner’s modern orchestral piece Travelacoustica featuring drummer Andreas Brobjer, with a live remix done by world renowned DJ Paul Oakenfold.  Although the Oakenfold’s sound was a bit too low in the mix, it was mesmerizing to see how the effects and loops of the piece interacted with a traditional string and horn section, plus who doesn’t love a good kettle drumming now and again.

After a change of gears intermission with Boston’s very own singer songwriter, Mieka Pauley, the Brooklyn based and Sweet Talk favorite HEM strolled on stage.  Although the band was a last minute replacement and thus had very little time to prepare with Lockhart and the Pops, Hem’s music is designed for just such a collaboration so the rust came off quickly and easily.  This was a close your eyes and fall into pastoral bliss type music for the most part.  Listening to Sally Ellyson’s voice echo through the historic room was emotionally exhilirating for it seemed natural and foreign at the same time.  I know this sounds bizarre but it reminded me of the scene in the Blues Brothers where Cab Calloway goes from pork pie wearing southside bluesy street hustler to white tailed, slick haired, band leader over the course of “Minnie the Moocher”.  Anyway, the overall effect was exquisite.

In celebration of the evening PASTE and OurStage threw an after party where more spice was added to the musical melting pot.  In the beautifully restored Cabot Room of Symphony Hall all the nights performers gathered to hear another local singer well on her way to national acclaim, Antje Duvekot.  Her powerful and commanding voice highlighting her lyrical prowess won over the room filled with other notables such as Sam Bigelow, Chris Pureka, members of Son Volt, The Everday Visuals, and OurStage fan favorites American Babies, who ended the night with typical panache and aplomb.  The veritable cherry on top to a wicked pissah Boston pahty. Go Sox.

Here are some fun pics:


(Lora Kratchounova from OurStage with American Babies’ Tom Hamilton and Scott Metzger)


(Josh Jackson, Editor of PASTE, Conductor Keith Lockhart, Bob Haffner from Hem, and Dave Bryson from Son Volt)


(Sally Ellyson of Hem and Sweet Talk)