Tag Archives: 2018

A Flock has landed again

It was there on Facebook for a flash, then gone as quickly in the scroll of the moment. When I thought to circle back and look for it, I couldn’t remember which of my follows had mentioned it, and the FB algorithms seemed to have rendered it invisible.

So I turned to Google and entered a most unlikely trio of search terms: “Flock of Seagulls” and “I Ran” and “orchestra.”

The combination of rock and symphonic sounds has always fascinated me, ever since spending three years playing standup bass in the grade school orchestra.

(A little story about that: As a 9-year-old fourth-grader in 1966, I chose the bass because I figured I wouldn’t have to practice because there was no way I could lug it home five blocks from school. I never imagined my parents could or would rent one to keep at the house. They did.)

Of course, we never played anything remotely close to rock. But once I heard the orchestration on the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life,” well, it was wonderful that such a thing was possible. Among my favorites when I got a little older: Pretty much anything by Electric Light Orchestra and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, with a little “Sabre Dance” by Dave Edmunds and Love Sculpture thrown in for good measure. I even went through a Rick Wakeman phase.

Fast forward to today, when I learned A Flock of Seagulls and the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra have teamed up to record new versions of some of the Flock’s most popular songs.

“Ascension” was released in July, but that was news to me.

A Flock of Seagulls was one of my favorite groups in the early days of MTV. I gained more respect for them after seeing them live in the summer of 2006.

That summer, A Flock of Seagulls was the headline act in an ’80s nostalgia tour that played in Green Bay. The opening acts were When In Rome, Gene Loves Jezebel, Animotion and Tommy Tutone. Five acts playing a show that had to end at a specific time. Casino rules. The early acts ran long. One of the middle acts got pissy about it, complaining on stage about having to play a shortened set.

When it came time for A Flock of Seagulls, they were up against the clock, robbed of some of their stage time. Their crew set up as quickly as possible. The Flock played as many of the crowd’s favorites as they could in the time that remained. They never complained. Total pros.

Mike Score, the Flock’s lead singer, remembers that tour.

“Twelve or so years ago we did a bit of a reunion, and that didn’t work out well for me,” he told Billboard magazine in May. He dabbled with a solo career in the wake of that tour but has always fronted A Flock of Seagulls, which has had 15 different lineups if its Wiki page is accurate.

Until “Ascension,” the four original members of A Flock of Seagulls — Mike Score, Ali Score, Frank Maudsley and Paul Reynolds — hadn’t recorded together since 1984. They really weren’t together for this one, either, save for a day spent shooting a promo video in Liverpool. They reworked their songs by email, sharing audio clips and then sending them to an orchestral arranger to assemble.

“What I heard sounded great. I would call it neo-retro-classical,” Mike Score told Billboard, laughing.

I agree. It sounds wonderful.

“I Ran,” A Flock of Seagulls with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, from “Ascension,” 2018.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under 2018, September 2018, Sounds

That night in Appleton

right now appleton 1

This is a photo from a tremendous set by The Right Now from their show in Appleton, Wisconsin, last month. Somehow, the old country club overlooking the Fox River was still standing after The Right Now scorched it that night.

Here’s how we got started.

The Right Now is a seven-piece pop-soul group out of Chicago. Heavy Soul Brotha Dave tipped me to them way back in 2010. Their first LP, “Carry Me Home,” had just come out.

I first saw The Right Now when they played an outdoor show on a gorgeous summer night in my hometown of Wausau, Wisconsin. Although it seems like just yesterday, it was 2012. Their second LP, “Gets Over You” had just come out.

Fast forward to February 2017. The Right Now was just out with their third LP, “Starlight.” I’d not seen them live since that summer night in Wausau five years earlier, but I’d followed their career from a distance via Facebook.

By the time their publicist contacted me, I’d already bought my vinyl copy. Mine was Order No. 6. Sure, I said, I’ll write about it. Then I didn’t. They were getting better and more influential reviews than anything they might have gotten from this lightly traveled corner of the web.

Then, last April, a death in the family. David Grinslade, the partner of lead singer Stefanie Berecz and the father of their two children, died by suicide.

The Right Now, tightly knit after almost 10 years together, halted their Midwest tour in support of “Starlight.” They took some time off.

When The Right Now returned to the summer festival circuit a few weeks later, they had a dual purpose.

One was to promote the new record, of course, one they’d self-funded, self-produced and self-released over two years. (They proudly announced in July that “Starlight” was paid for within five months of its release.)

The other was to say “It’s OK not to be OK,” advocating for suicide prevention via outreach and mental health education in the wake of David’s death. They’re doing so by raising funds for Hope For The Day, a Chicago-based non-profit organization.

Hope For The Day

Fast forward to last month’s show in Appleton. A most remarkable encore unfolded.

“Won’t you join us out in the lobby?” they asked from the stage. “We saw this beautiful grand piano out there.”

Brendan O’Connell, who plays guitar and keyboards, sat down at that grand piano. He started playing softly as a group of perhaps 50 people gathered, standing around the piano in a semicircle.

right now appleton 3

Stefanie stood to his left and started talking about David. When she said he’d died, roughly half the audience reflexively said “Awww” in sympathy. When she said he’d died by suicide, a few startled gasps punctuated a stunned silence.

Then, for the first time, they performed “Who Wrote The Book,” a new song written by Brendan, sung by Stefanie and drawn from the aftermath of David’s death.

“Stef gave me the idea for the title and, obviously, the sentiment of the song. After David died, she posted something on social media about how difficult it was to say goodbye,” Brendan told me.

It was a song so new that as Stefanie sang, she scrolled through the lyrics on a phone she’d set on the piano. Their intimate performance was breathtaking.

When they finished, Stefanie simply said “Thank you,” and the small group of listeners scattered in reverent silence. What a moment.

Now, we go forward. Looks like Appleton has embraced The Right Now, which is wonderful news for a friend of the band who lives a half-hour away.

They’ll return in June and again in August. The latter gig will be at Appleton’s Mile of Music festival. That’s a free four-day festival featuring 200 up-and-coming roots music performers and groups. They’re showcased at 70 venues over a mile-long stretch of downtown Appleton.

See you there.

1 Comment

Filed under April 2018, Sounds