August 28, 2009

Dave Smallen thinks it’s getting better; I agree


Formerly of the band Street To Nowhere (who knocked my socks off that one time I saw them live at the downtown club with the Elvis pinball machine), Dave Smallen is now pursuing a solo career and releasing his songs one by one for a small fee. Each comes complete with distinctive artwork, and are really good.

By way of example, I will confess to having listened to this song a dozen times this morning alone – super solid pop skeleton (sha la laaaaa) with a hint of a sharp edge through Dave’s raw vocals. On this tune, I am reminded strongly of Bright Eyes meets Wilco. It makes the sky sparkle, this song.

I Think It’s Getting Better – Dave Smallen

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He has a new song out now called “With The Sky All Blue” that he wrote for a Crayola commercial and they rejected it for being “too dark.” True (and awesome) story.

September 4, 2008

New from Dave Smallen (Street To Nowhere) :: “America”

Dave Smallen used to front the now-defunct Oakland, CA band Street To Nowhere. He’s delightfully whip-smart, as evidenced by the writing in his blog, and also generous – releasing a free solo tune via his website. He says, “I wrote ‘America’ in October 2006 after getting home from my first national tour. I consider it a personal song, not a political song, but I want to release it now while people are very concerned about our country, which I think is actually a beautiful thing.”

America – Dave Smallen

[photo by Matthew Ginnard]

April 17, 2007

Oakland’s Street To Nowhere covers Leonard Cohen

Last Tuesday I saw Street To Nowhere again, opening for Rocky Votolato. Turns out this was kind of the third time I saw them because they opened for that awesome Format show I was at last year at the Cervantes. But I was either late or not paying attention that night, so my loss. They put on a really good set this time around, showing more of their “singer-songwriter” side due to the nature of the following acts, and less of the Weezer-meets-Bright-Eyes rock. Drummer Joey still broke both snare drum and drumstick by song #3, a foreseeable mishap if you were watching the pounding he was giving to those bad boys. Sweet.

In any case, one of the songs that STN included in their set was a surprising Leonard Cohen cover of Chelsea Hotel #2 (I mean, what are the kids covering nowadays from Cohen other than Hallelujah?). After the show, leadman Dave Smallen told me that at the above-mentioned Denver show last year they were kind of off, partly because Dave’s entire extended family was there to distract him. I asked if he was embarrassed or otherwise discomfited by singing Cohen’s lyrics about “giving me head on the unmade bed” in front of his mom and family. He just shrugged — and tells me that his cool mom is actually the one who introduced him to the music of Leonard Cohen. Props to Dave’s mom. My mom introduced me to hippie folk and countless lullabies with three-part harmonies, but no Cohen.

Chelsea Hotel #2 (Leonard Cohen cover) – Street To Nowhere

This version was recorded in bassist Bryce Freeman’s basement in Oakland. And a word of correction: In my previous post, Dave says I called him a 17-year-old. Ladies, let it be noted that he is actually 22.

Check out their album Charmingly Awkward, out now on Capitol. All the kids love it, ’twas selling like hotcakes at the show last week. And look who wrote something nice about them way back when. Chris posted “Boxcars Boxcars Boxcars” [listen], but they did a smashing job on this one Tuesday night, a real crowd-pleaser that’s fun to sing along with:

Tipsy – Street To Nowhere

And completely random side note, but don’t you wish every club you went to had one of these pinball machines?

The King sits there brooding, giving his blessing over your music scene as you feed him quarters.

March 5, 2007

Noise Pop: “I’ve got soul, but I’m not a solider”

Catching up on the Noise Pop coverage! It was a night of peace, love, and reggae rock Friday night at the famed Slim’s (well, famed to me because I am a huge nerd and couldn’t get over the fact that Pearl Jam once played a secret show there where they unveiled a bunch of Vs. songs for the first time. Sigh). The 4-band lineup was solid and very stoked to be there — mostly straightforward rock from all participants to a willing and plugged-in crowd.

Street To Nowhere started things off with this (direct link):

I chatted a little with lead singer Dave (who I think is about 20) at the merch table after his set, specifically about music blogs and their band’s cover of Hallelujah (which he said was featured on “some big roundup of a bunch of different versions of the song“). They had a good sound, I hope he didn’t think I was giving him a hard time when I asked him point-blank what made his take on Hallelujah different and worth it; I was a little belligerent. No, actually I was nice, as always. I just ask the hardhitting journalistic questions.

I missed The Actual‘s set. Excuses and reasoning can be found below. Sorry, Actual.

The New Amsterdams were very good, and the studio material from their forthcoming album Killed or Cured sounds like it has a stripped/alt-country vibe, but that was kinda lost in the cavernous long hall of the club. It was rollicking. Here is a sample:

VIDEO: The New Amsterdams

The danceability and reggae grooves of State Radio was a surprise that I didn’t expect, kind of like the homeless guy earlier that day on the pier who hid inside bush branches and jumped out at people as they walked by. Kind of like that. Except State Radio blended a mix of their politically-charged (anti-war) songs with a Dispatch tune or two (which were wildly well-received) and had some extremely enthusiastic, and bouncy, fans the whole way through. Maybe a bit too heavy for me on the “white guy sounds like he’s from Jamaica, mon” vibe, but those guys are undoubtedly loved.

VIDEO: State Radio

Perhaps this is no reflection on the shows itself, but rather the (open bar) happy hour I attended beforehand, but I think I most enjoyed this part of my evening — dude busts out with freestyle interpretive breakdancing spontaneously in the Diesel Store on Post where we were enjoying cocktails. I happened to have my camera out taking a picture at the moment, and had to share:

(direct link)

A later incarnation of this same idea ended with him sprawled backwards across my lap. It was soo random that it was rad.

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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