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  • Twain, Mt. Davidson

    For music aficionados and the real heads that check out a lot of live shows, you know when you’re in the presence of exceptional musicians, singer/songwriters. Where Mumford and Sons have in some respects brought a new wave of progressive folk music to the forefront of popularity, I can’t say the results have led to many high quality bands.  When I received an invite to check out the band Twain, I was a bit reluctant about attending, but after listening to some of their stuff I was ready to go.

    On this night, they were playing the opening set, but it was obvious that the early crowd was gathered to see Twain, and by the end of the night it was clear they were worthy of the top billing for this show.

    With 8pm fast approaching, the level of excitement was building as eager fans edged closer to the stage, and with their new album Rare Feeling dropping on October 20th, this would be the first opportunity for many to experience the new stuff live.  As they got into their first song, the thing that initially caught my attention was the depth and warmth of their sound, and as their set progressed I heard glimpses of everything from Neil Young, The Doors and even The Grateful Dead.

    This is the kind of music that grows on you, and as you continue to listen to Mt. Davidson (lead singer/songwriter) and the band perform, you’re soon captivated both musically and lyrically. Though many of the songs deal with serious subject matter, there’s an undeniable sense of enthusiasm in Davidson’s wide ranging voice.  There’s a handful of bands out there today that can make you feel sort of sad and inspired at the same time.  If you have the chance to see them live, they have some upcoming dates in Brooklyn, NY  (Oct. 24th, Union Pool), Asheville, NC (Nov. 7th, Grey Eagle) and Washington D.C. (Nov. 9th, Pearl Street Warehouse).

    -Frank Jackson

  • For those of you who might not recognize the fashion label Barragán, you are now in for an unexpected treat!

    Led by Victor Barragán, the edgy label has now attracted almost 45,000 Instagram followers. Not a bad feat for a brand new, small label.

    SS17 Campaign

    A post shared by BARRAGÁN (@barragannnn) on

    In seasons past, Barragán issued looks that included ‘jewelry fashioned out of sex toys or raw fruit, and bags fabricated to look like rocks.’

    Victor Barragán tells Fashionista that the label began when he started making DIY, tongue-in-cheek shirts. The label quickly expanded to a full line. “For me, fashion is more than just about selling clothing for wholesale — it’s about telling a story,” he says.

    By @mikeyasanin for @bullettmagazine

    A post shared by BARRAGÁN (@barragannnn) on

    The label’s daring looks have led the design team to gain a selling slot at Opening Ceremony, as well as collaboration opportunity with the likes of Maryam Nassir Zadeh.

    In addition, Barragán says that his hometown of Mexico City, and his adopted city, New York, have greatly informed his work. All of his sourced fabrics are sourced locally in NYC, while garments themselves are produced in Mexico City.

    AW17 soon available on selected stockists !

    A post shared by BARRAGÁN (@barragannnn) on

    And what’s also inspiring about this new label is that it appears to be gender fluid. ‘When we’re designing, we’re never really thinking about gender,’ he says, adding, ‘I think if people are gonna wear the clothes, they’ll wear them how they want.’

  • Big Sweater

    We recently caught up with the guys from the band Big Sweater to discuss their music, inspiration and their exciting new album they’re currently recording.

    In one way or another, members of the band have all been part of AFP’s music education programs over the years. So, we’re very proud and excited to see how they’ve progressed and evolved as artists.  Check out “Platform Stare,” a single from the new album.

    1) What inspired you guys to become musicians, writers?

    Collectively what inspired us to be musicians is that of which was instilled in us by our parents and their taste for the most part. Being shown things that would be considered “old school”. Those things later becoming memories and what is now sense of nostalgia of car rides and long trips throughout the years subconsciously planting a seedling in a driving force that is creating sound as well as putting words together that sum up how we feel.

    2) How would you describe your sound?

    Our sound is derivative of multiple things that boil down for the most part to blues. Our upcoming album has a combination of really somber and light tunes and also some really upbeat ones but overall our sound is very mellow.

    3) Have you been playing the songs off the new album live, and if so how has the crowd responded to the new songs?

    We’ve played most of the upcoming album in a rotation for about a year now, the crowd now sings along and its one of the most gratifying feelings in the world. What everyone is in for is an album that is unlike the live show. The album is a step back from an energetic performance, puts us under a microscope and gives you a rawer and intimate version of what people are familiar with as well giving you a sound that is unique sonically.

    4) What do you enjoy most about performing live?

    The feeling of being able to express yourself in front of a group of people who resonate with what you wrote in your own haven is beautiful, the fact that what you truly feel is relatable is good and you can make a definite and lifelong connection this way…..also having people sing your songs is pretty amazing. Playing music with your best friends is a treat and being in sync and vibing off one another is another solid piece of the pie.

    5) Tell me about your creative process. Do you work remotely or do you work together as a group?

    The songs on this upcoming album were written between Franklin & Elijah remotely. Most songs on it were ideas before the formation of Big Sweater, and they were given new life throughout this current lineup and everyone added their parts individually as introduced. This is something that we are straying away from as we are working towards being more collective with our ideas now that we have set aside a space for us to have writing and rehearsal sessions without any restriction.

    6) Where do you find your inspirations as artists?

    Being broad, we find our inspiration in pure feeling, we dwell on an emotion, it marinates, it becomes something.

    7) What band’s or musicians have been major influences?

    The Beatles, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, & Radiohead are some of our favorites as well as Pink Floyd, Foo Fighters. Again a lot of radio from long trips or Sunday afternoons have had a ton of influence.

    8) What does art for progress mean to you?

    Art for Progress means so much to us because its given us not only a platform to create a record but develop skills with Barry Komitor who is also producing our album and is our musical father figure. Art for Progress has given us a chance to see the development of high school student’s musical skills and maintain a relationship with them to where they come to our shows and we consider them friends. AFP has provided for us and for these students the necessary tools it takes to evoke a certain emotion through creativity, this is the focal point of our music as well, evoking an emotion that we could very well all share, for this we are grateful and hope to continue doing work. Art for Progress is exactly that, keeping creativity in the hearts and minds of not just the youth but everyone so that we can maybe use our words, our pictures, and sounds to push one another….to strive, to lift and to incite emotions in people.

    with love, Big Sweater

  • woodpeckers-julian-yanelly

    The first Dominican film to screen at Sundance (and recently announced as the Dominican Republic’s Academy Award submission for Best Foreign Language Film), Woodpeckers (Carpinteros) is not your typical prison drama. Sure, writer/director José Maria Cabral includes some familiar elements: the new guy initiated into the brutal, dehumanizing ways of the institution; an uneasy alliance formed with the cell block’s bully/fixer. But Woodpeckers, which was filmed on location in the notorious Najayo prison outside of Santo Domingo, is also a love story with a spectacular ending that is Shakespearean in its resolution. With its raw, authentic setting, which includes throngs of actual Najayo inmates, the film has a gritty, documentary feel that really gets under the skin. It’s easy to get caught up in its slowly intensifying narrative.

    When petty thief Julián (Haitian actor/director Jean Jean, quietly riveting) is incarcerated, he notices his fellow inmates crowded around the prison windows, executing elaborate hand signals. Turns out they’re communicating with inhabitants of the neighboring women’s penitentiary, who signal back from their yard. Through this detailed language, known as “woodpecking,” romantic relationships are formed, as are jealousies and resentments as rivals fight over love interests. (The practice is completely true to life; Cabral spent ninth months visiting Najayo and other prisons, where he got to know the inmates.)

    woodpeckers-julian-manauro

    When the volatile Manaury (Ramón Emilio Candelario), who operates a drug ring out of the prison kitchen, gets into a knife fight over his inmate girlfriend Yanelly (the wonderfully expressive Judith Rodriguez Perez), he’s relocated to solitary in a neighboring complex. Enlisting Julián to be his intermediary, he teaches the newcomer woodpecking so that the latter can deliver Manaury’s impassioned missives to Yanelly.  She, however, suspects Manaury of infidelity and wants nothing more to do with him, instead becoming intrigued by his soulful messenger, whose feelings are mutual. This, of course, is a recipe for disaster.

    Julián and Yanelly’s bond grows stronger when he visits the women’s prison on the pretense of repairing the warden’s air conditioner and the smitten couple share a kiss through the bars. Encouraged by Yanelly, he signs up for a music class, leading to a prison performance in which he plays percussion as she sings. When their onstage flirting spurs the enraged Manaury into action, the movie spirals into an inevitable final showdown. The film’s unforced pacing and escalating tension suck the viewer in, until we’re completely involved in the struggling couple’s plight.

    woodpeckers-yanelly

    Though its forbidden-love theme is classic, Woodpeckers is as much a unique romance as it is unusual prison drama, thanks to its engaging protagonists and true-life setting. Shot in sweaty, claustrophobic cells and in sun-baked yards teeming with inmates, the film looks and feels like the real deal. Suspenseful, romantic and erotic, Woodpeckers is a remarkable achievement.

    Woodpeckers opens on Friday at AMC Empire 25, UA Kaufman Astoria Stadium 14 and Bronx Concourse Plaza.

    Marina Zogbi