Sarah Smith, Daniel Hales, and the frost heaves bring down-home sound to pair of local releases

Hoonah - Sneak - coverSarah Smith/ Hoonah



Delicate and powerful – two words to describe both singer/songwriter Sarah Smith (aka Hoonah) and the unique sound found on the PVPA grad’s first full-length release. Though musically the album consists largely of soft finger-picked melodies and playful vocals, tracks like “Primitive Patches” evoke strong emotions amidst ominous piano chords and raw lyrics. Elsewhere, Smith isn’t afraid to put her heart on her sleeve with lines inspired by relationships and nature. “Little Monster” even includes a mention of photosynthesis, while “Ike” details the loss of a beloved pet. At times rhythms and words can pile messily on top of one another, but despite such pitfalls Smith’s tone is never less than charming. “I like stories,” she says. “I like hearing them and telling them. I think that people who like my music like that it’s personal and about me but also something that they can relate to in some way.”

Daniel Hales, and the frost heaves

You Make A Better Door Than A Window

(Algorithm Records)

“It’s our best door yet,” Greenfield singer and guitarist Hales says of his band’s latest effort. And for listeners, this means an eclectic mix of college/indie rock, Americana, folk, psychedelia, soul and funk. Album opener “Halo Over My Horns” begins with a pleasant guitar intro before erupting into an upbeat rocker, while two versions of the record’s title track give alternate readings of a song that is revealed to be equal parts catchy sing-along and budding epic. “Singing in the Breakdown Lane” compliments lyrics about car trouble with a hard-charging country chorus. And “Braille For God” finds Hales employing a Michael Stipe-like delivery over muted percussion. Though some might gripe over the lack of a dominant musical style, repeat listens continually reveal hidden treasures. Whether it’s the scratches buried within the mix of “All My Best Worrying” or the sitar flourishes within “Present Perfect Tents,” fans will enjoy digging deeper.

Watch the promotional video for “You Make A Better Door Than A Window” by Daniel Hales, and the frost heaves here:

For more information on Sarah Smith and Daniel Hales, and the frost heaves please visit and

Plus, don’t forget to follow the Northeast Underground on YouTube and Twitter:

youtube_icon twitter_icon


“Behind the Beat: Spacey Dream Explosion Pop” While Stella Sleeps – October 25, 2012

“Behind the Beat: Spacey Dream Explosion Pop” While Stella Sleeps – October 25, 2012

“Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody” brings ‘afternoon delight’ to CityStage in Springfield

Girl and guy dual pic (400 px) (crop)

Photos courtesy of Mills Entertainment

Somewhere around 2:54 p.m. on October 6, I started to become very aware of my masculinity.

All around me, crowded into the seats at the CityStage theater in Springfield, Mass. were women – young women wearing bright clothes and sipping drinks from plastic martini glasses, older women laughing in groups with big smiles, and elderly women whispering over their shoulders to one another with excited looks on their faces. Even the men’s bathroom had been converted into a second ladies’ room, and everywhere I looked there was an abundance of the color pink.

So why the influx of estrogen in the City of Homes? Well, according to CityStage President Tina D’Agostino, everyone was about to be spanked.

“That’s just how we do it in Western Mass,” D’Agostino said to a house full of laughs as she stood in the spotlight on stage to make a brief introduction to the venue’s matinee performance of “Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody.”

Based on the popular “Fifty Shades of Grey” book series by author E.L. James, “Spank” was making its world premiere at CityStage and consisted of part play, part musical and all spoof as it tackled the novels’ mix of romantic fiction and erotic sex with its own unique blend of comic absurdity.

Co-written by director Jim Millan, whose other credits include “Kids in the Hall” and “Mythbusters Live,” and a group of friends, the production also showed a remarkable amount of polish for a concept that only came together over the past month.

“We started [work on “Spank”] after Labor Day,” said Millan in a recent e-mail interview. “It may be the funniest thing any of us ever write. It came together like it was meant to be.”

Certainly the show has already garnered many of the reactions Millan had hoped it would. For example, opening to the strains of the ‘80s hit “Tainted Love” as performed by shock rocker Marilyn Manson, the beginning of Saturday’s matinee performance was greeted by enthusiastic cheers that quickly turned to squeals as “Spank’s” male star made his first appearance.

guy and girl chair (400 x 600 pixels)

Photos courtesy of Mills Entertainment

Stepping forward from an opening formed between several curtains, Hugh Hansen (as played by Josh Gates) was quickly joined by co-star Tasha (played by Stephanie Vicars) in a risqué dance that was received very favorably by the gathered crowd before being interrupted by the show’s third cast member and narrator “Easy Breezy” Janet (played by Joni Chandon). Despite making up the entirety of “Spank’s” cast, the trio proved more than capable of not only holding the audience’s attention with their quick wit and delivery of lines dripping with innuendo, but also of filling the large space allotted to them on stage.

Interestingly, for a play whose settings featured a variety of locations including a billionaire’s mansion, a hardware store and a restaurant in the middle of a secluded cave, “Spank’s” sparse stage dressing consisted merely of some curtains and a small black box that was mostly used as a seat for Janet to sit on, while she talked her way through the writing of her very own sexual fantasy novel for the audience. A multitude of props – a Batman costume, a mock hover craft, and a pair of hang gliders amongst others – helped keep things fresh, but the true action came from the story, which while inspired by the first installment in the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy also incorporated many easily identifiable pop culture references.

Millan said, “We had to make a satisfactory journey for our characters because our fantasy about a fantasy could have gone in hundreds of funny directions. In fact we did explore it that way. We probably have enough funny material on the cutting room floor for another act. [But] we wanted it to make sense and make points that were insightful and fun while telling the story of a virgin and her bad boy billionaire.”

“Twilight,” “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” “Love Actually” – all such films and subjects became prime fodder for mockery by “Spank” and created fun deviations in the storyline for the crowd to follow. Also adding to the fun was the use of improvisation by the cast, especially Vicars, who several times during the show ventured into the audience to interact with theater goers to varying degrees of success.

By the time “Spank’s” first act came to a close with another risqué dance seemingly on its way to consummation, many in attendance were on the edges of their seats and ready for more. Fortunately time during the intermission was made more bearable for some by the imbibing of special cocktails created exclusively for the event and the purchase of chocolate penises (both milk chocolate and dark) that added to the overall festive mood, which more closely resembled a bachelorette party than it did a typical afternoon out at the theater.

In fact, if there was one downside to the performance it was the show’s duration, which even including its brief intermission, came in at a tidy two hours. The conclusion of the play felt slightly rushed, no doubt as a result of the second half’s madcap sprint to the finish that saw both Gates and Chandon taking on the roles of multiple characters sometimes within the same scene. But then again, with two more books worth of material out there to mine for comedic gold, Millan noted that a future sequel to “Spank” could be in the works.

“Who knows? Given the response, there may be a trilogy in our future,” he said.

Future New England performances are already booked for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford, Conn. from October 25-27, and a nationwide tour for “Spank” is set for 2013.

As for the show’s billing as “the girl’s night out of the year,” Millan professes that unsuspecting males dragged to performances as dates will also find plenty to enjoy.

“You guys are lucky,” he said. “You will thank me and have a great night before and after the show.”

For more information on “Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody” please visit

Plus, don’t forget to follow the Northeast Underground on YouTube and Twitter:

youtube_icon twitter_icon

“Behind the Beat: Astronaut Folk” Mass Air Flow – October 18, 2012

“Behind the Beat: Astronaut Folk” Mass Air Flow – October 18, 2012

“Behind the Beat: Punchy, Choppy, Groovy” Lentner – October 11, 2012

“Behind the Beat: Punchy, Choppy, Groovy” Lentner – October 11, 2012

There’s a Riot Grrrl Going On: Tobi Vail of Bikini Kill releases “Free Pussy Riot” MP3

Bikini Kill - Pussy Whipped (album cover)As one of the original members of the early ‘90s Riot Grrrl movement, Tobi Vail has never been afraid to speak her mind. Whether via her zine/ journal Jigsaw or as part of the all-female rock band Bikini Kill, Vail has given voice to a multitude of topics over the years including feminism, politics, and the importance of DIY efforts and culture.

Now the indie rocker/ activist has decided to weigh in musically to show solidarity with the members of the female Russian punk collective Pussy Riot by releasing a free song called “Free Pussy Riot” made with members of her group Spider and the Webs.

Listen to the downloadable track here:

Pussy Riot, of course, made headlines around the world earlier this year for the “unjust” imprisonment of three of the group’s members at the hands of the Russian government after an illegal performance inside a Russian church. Since then, numerous musicians and celebrities, including the members of Tobi Vail’s former band Bikini Kill, have shown support for the jailed women, and protests regarding the Russian government’s actions have been held worldwide.


In other Bikini Kill news, Vail and the rest of the band has announced the first release to be made available through its own label Bikini Kill Records. A 20th anniversary edition of the original Bikini Kill EP will be made available on November 20, and those who pick up the vinyl edition will receive a new fanzine featuring photos from the band members’ personal archives as well as an interview with fellow indie icon Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi).

For more information on Tobi Vail and Bikini Kill please visit and

Plus, don’t forget to follow the Northeast Underground on YouTube and Twitter:

youtube_icon twitter_icon

Album review – Silver Jews “Early Times” – October 4, 2012

Album review – Silver Jews “Early Times” – October 4, 2012