StringOvation- new online publication for string players

 

Ever find yourself wondering how to deal with stage parents? Or whether or not there were apps just for violinists? Or what sort of careers are available to you or your child as a musician?

Connolly Music has launched an online publication just for those of us who find ourselves consumed by all things strings- and those of us who are just starting out. Filled with tips and information about everything from learning the basics to who’s hot in the music industry now, String Ovation seems to be the resource we’ve all been waiting for.

StringOvation.com is devoted to music teachers, string musicians, and string music aficionados. Its mission is to help its readers deepen their knowledge and expertise as musicians as well as their appreciation of string music.”

Why we love it: lists of current string musicians who are “keeping it cool”, tools for inspiring students to keep with it, practical tips on things like string-shopping, instrument insurance, career options and the science of violins.

Local Brew Events’ 6th annual Fiddle ‘n Folk Fest!

On September 10 from 11:00 am – 5:00 pm, Local Brew Events’ 6th annual Fiddle n Folk Fest will take place

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in Haines Park, Barrington RI (near Cove Haven Marina).
Featuring more than 10 acts such as: Cowboy and Lady, French Roast,

Bay Spring Folk, Old Fiddlers Club of RI, as well as storytelling by Len Cabral, food trucks, craft vendors, dancing, and kids activities, it’s bound to be a rousing event.
Join the all-levels fiddle jam with Andy Grover from 10:00- 11:00 am. Bring a chair and a blanket and enjoy the day overlooking Narragansett Bay.

The day’s events are FREE, thanks to generous support from RI State Council on the Arts, the Town of Barrington Recreation Department, Barrington Public Library, The Bay Team, Friends of the Bay Spring Community Center, New Harvest Coffee, Wildflour Vegan Bakery, RIDEM, and many generous individuals.

A rain date is set for September 11.
View the festival flyer HERE.
For more information go to facebook.com/FiddleNFolkFest.

Does Music help you Concentrate?

The right music can hit the sweet spot between predictable and chaotic for which the brain has a strong preference.’ Illustration: Sophie Wolfson

 

Music is wonderful.  It can make us feel almost any emotion.  It can make us dance, make us cry, and it can even help us stay focused, but what is it about music that keeps us focused on everyday tasks, like driving, reading, or writing?

As a new article on theguardian.com by Dean Burnett explains, the brain has two attention systems: a conscious, and unconscious one.  The conscious attention system focuses on our current task, such as writing an article, while the unconscious system, “shifts attention towards anything our senses pick up that might be significant,” like the sudden, sharp ring of a fork being dropped onto a plate in the other room.

When we listen to music, we block out sounds or distractions that the unconscious attention system might otherwise pick up.  Some companies have tried to use this to their advantage, playing music over speaker systems to keep their employees focused on their tasks.  Burnett explains that results have been mixed.  It seems that the type of music plays a major role in focus increasing effectiveness.

“Some studies suggest that it really is down to personal preference. Music you like increases focus, while music you don’t impedes it…Music also has a big impact on mood – truly bleak music could sap your enthusiasm for your task. Something else to look out for is music with catchy lyrics. Musical pieces without words might be better working companions, as human speech and vocalization is something our brains pay particular attention to.”

Finally, Burnett notes that some of the best music for keeping focus has breen credited to video game soundtrack music.  “This makes sense, when you consider the purpose of the video game music: to help create an immersive environment and to facilitate but not distract from a task that requires constant attention and focus. ”

You can read the full article over on theguardian.com.

Scary Music Influences our Thoughts about Sharks

You know the song, it starts out slow, daa-na….daa-na, then increases in pace, da-na..da-na..da-na.  At this point you know what’s coming.  A great big shark is making it’s way straight towards you!

A diver swims with great white sharks. Credit: solarseven | Shutterstock.com

What started as a background music to get your blood pumping for thriller movies like Jaws has jumped from the big screen to the small.  Scary, ominous music is more often than not featured alongside sharks in nature documentaries and according to a new study, it’s taking it’s toll.

“It’s making people feel unjustly terrified of sharks, and these negative feelings are likely hindering efforts to save and protect the magnificent fish, a new study finds.”

In the study, “Researchers showed 2,100 people a 60-second video clip of sharks that was either silent or set to ominous or uplifting music. People who watched the “frightening” music clip tended to rate sharks more negatively compared with people who watched the video with uplifting music or silence, they found.”

This finding is concerning, as most people view documentaries as educational, and may not be aware that these so-called objective shows are actually eroding their feelings toward sharks, said study lead researcher Andrew Nosal.

You can read more about the study, and read the original article over on livescience.com!

Music Makes Beer Taste Better!

Looking for a new trick to make beer taste better?  Good news!  According to a new study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, music can actually influence the way an individual perceives the taste of beer.

Photo credit: Dr. Felipe Reinoso Cavalho (image has been cropped)

A team of researchers from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and KU Leuven were curious whether an individual’s taste experience could be influenced by music and packaging design, so they designed an experiment to test their theory.

A group of 231 participants were split into three groups.  One drank their beer from a bottle with no label and no specific song in the background.  Second, there was a group who drank the beer from a bottle with the beer’s specifically-designed label. Finally, a third group drank the beer from the labelled bottle while also listening to a specific song.

According to the study results, those who drank the labeled beer with music playing in the background reported a greater enjoyment than those who drank the labeled beer alone.

You can read the full story and more details about the study in the original article on thescienceexplorer.com!

How our Culture Impacts our Music Taste

 

What determines our taste in music?  Is it something predetermined, born within us?  Or does it have more to do with how we are raised?  This discussion of nature vs. nurture is not new among scientists, and past studies have found evidence suggesting that nature has some role to play.

However, a new study published by the Nature Journal of Science suggests that the music we are exposed to in our culture while we are growing up has a lot to do with it.

Photo: Alan Schultz via MIT

“A team of researchers from multiple universities, including MIT and Brandeis University, conducted two studies in 2011 and 2015. They asked study participants to rate the pleasantness of both consonant and dissonant chords. Some of those surveyed were from the United States, but most were from the Tsimane, an Amazonian tribe with limited exposure to Western culture. Also included was a group of Spanish-speaking Bolivians who live in a small town near the Tsimane, and residents of the Bolivian capital, La Paz.”

For those unfamiliar, the differences between consonant and dissonant chords and be heard here:

“In Western culture, consonant sounds are typically described as pleasant, while dissonant ones are tense and a little grating.”

The study discovered that while western participants found the dissonant chords to be unpleasant, or were repelled by them, “the researchers found that the Tsimane rated consonant and dissonant tones equally in terms of pleasantness.”

Researchers theorized that this may be because, “Tsimane music doesn’t make use of harmony, unlike the music of Western cultures. Instead of using chords, they are more accustomed to one note being played at a time.”

You can read more about the study in the full article over at gizmodo.com.

Rock ‘n’ Roll ‘n’ Politics

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo by Abbey Oldham

A new exhibit titled “Louder than Words: Rock, Power, and Politics” is on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland Ohio.

The exhibit, “features bands and artifacts – everything from instruments and sheet music to clothing – that documents American history through the tunes we rock out to. The exhibit is free all week while approximately 40 events take place at the Hall across four days during the Republican National Convention.”

According to Greg Hall, the CEO of the Hall of Fame, “At its core, some say all rock ‘n’ roll is political.  It’s asking you to think differently, maybe to push the envelope, maybe to believe in something that you don’t currently believe in.”

You can read more about the exhibit in the full article over at pbs.org.

When Music Gives You Chills

 

You’re sitting in a comfy chair, eyes closed, completely engulfed in listening to a favorite piece of music when it hits you, chills that run up your spine and across your skin.  This reaction, known as frisson, only occurs in about a half to two-thirds of the population according to an article published by Jason Daley on The Smithsonian website on June 20th.

According to the article, past research has shown that dopamine “floods through the body” when one experiences the chills, but a new study published in the journal, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience sought to find out exactly what happens to the brain when frisson occurs.

Individuals in the study who experienced the chills were found to, “have more nerve fibers connecting auditory cortex, the part of the brain that processes sound, to their anterior insular cortex, a region involved in processing feelings” in comparison to their fellow subjects who never experienced frisson themselves.

So, emotional connections and reactions to music is one cause of the chills, but another study finds that taking a more intellectual approach can also cause an increase in the chill factor as well.

A study preformed by doctoral student Mitchell Colver finds that, “people engaged in the music more intellectually, like trying to predict the melody or putting mental imagery to the music, were more likely to get a shiver when the music deviated from their expectations in a positive way.”

Whether it’s emotional or intellectual, for some, the experience of listening to music just wouldn’t be the same without that wonderfully spine tingling feeling.

You can read the full article over on thesmithsonianmag.com.

 

The Best Part of Waking Up…

Is music in your ears!  According to a new study by Spotify and Ipsos one of the best motivators to get out of bed on a Monday morning is the thought of listening to your favorite music.

After polling 3,005 people across the globe, Ipsos found that Mondays are the mornings where people feel the least motivated to get up and out.  While coffee unsurprisingly took first place as the biggest Monday morning motivator, music came in a very close second.

The survey found that 46% of people use coffee to get out of bed, while 44% said their favorite playlist is the best motivator. Music beat out food, working out, and sex as the best way to get going on a Monday.

You can read the full article over on teenvouge.com.

Music Therapy at Boston Children’s Hospital

What started as a volunteer program utilizing Berklee College Students in 1996 at the Boston Children’s Hospital has evolved into a program with four certified music professionals working 130 hours a week, all in the hopes of easing child patients anxieties and helping them cope with their illnesses.

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Photo by David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Melissa Bailey writing for the Boston Globe recently published an article focusing on the program and it’s impact on the hospital and its patients.  Bailey interviewed Joanna Bereaud, who started at the hospital as a Berklee student 15 years ago.

“Bereaud specializes in working with younger patients, including babies in the neonatal intensive care unit, where she helps parents compose songs to sing to their kids. Even when the child is sedated or can’t yet talk, she said, she can see a melody’s soothing effect: On the hospital monitors, their heart rates and breathing regulate.”

Music therapy used to be confined to patients awaiting bone marrow transplants, now it’s available to anyone.  In 2015, Bereaud and other music therapy staff treated 9,000 patients and their families.  From helping a child fall a sleep, use the bathroom, stay calm before a procedure, or even assist with the difficult process of saying the final goodbye, the power of music is undeniable.

You can read the full article here on the Boston Globe website.

An Icelandic Treasure; The Music of Ólafur Arnalds

The year was 2010 and a conversation about movie soundtracks and classical music prompted my friend to ask the question, “Have you ever heard of Ólafur Arnalds?”  I hadn’t.  Nor would I realize how thankful to my friend I would be for mentioning him until I later opened up the link she sent me to the official music video of Arnalds’ song Ljósið.  Hard to pronounce, but not hard to listen to, I was immediately hooked to the music and sped over to iTunes to hear (and purchase) more.

Hailing from Mosfellsbær Iceland, Arnalds is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, and producer.  According to his iTunes biography, he got his start drumming for a series of metal bands and his entry into the neo-classical field was “somewhat accidental.” Some material Arnalds recorded for the German band Heaven Shall Burn was heard by The Erased Tapes Label and they approached him about recording a full album of his own.

In 2007, that album, Eulogy for Evolution was released.  Since then, Arnalds has released three EPs, two studio albums, and a multitude of collaborations.  He has also provided the scores for the BBC series Broadchurch, and has had music featured in a number of films, notably including The Hunger Games.

According to a short statement on his website, Arnalds believes that, “…the greatest thing about being a musician is being in the position to inspire other people.”
He says he, “…takes such pleasure in hearing that people have been motivated to create after hearing my music, whether it be a painting, a poem, their own music or something completely different.  Music is not a one way street, it is a conversation where the listener’s role is as important as the artist’s.”

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A favorite album of mine, For Now I Am Winter, was released April 2nd, 2013.  Earning a five star rating on iTunes, the album was the first of Arnalds’ to include vocals, provided by singer and lyricist Arnór Dan.

When it comes to inspiration, this album has provided the fuel to create illustrations, short stories, and the characters that fill them on many a long night at school, hunched over in bed as the music resonated from my laptop speakers.

The music, which sets the perfect backdrop for sitting at the window with a cup of hot chocolate during a January snowfall, evokes deep feelings and emotions.
Gentle piano, sometimes haunting vocals, paired with backdrops of electronic synth and string instruments creates a deeply satisfying soundtrack to any activity.  Hard to put into words, the album leaves a lasting impression, as cliched as it may sound.

For Now I Am Winter, along with the rest of Arnalds music, can be purchased on the iTunes music store or his own website olafurarnalds.com.

 

Why Does Repetition Work in the Music We Love?

Repetition.  It’s a tool used to memorize, hone skills, and make lasting impressions.  In many cases though, repetition causes fatigue or boredom, so why does the technique work so well in the world of music?

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Author Tom Service writing for The Guardian wanted to know why.  In his article, Stuck on Repeat: Why we love Repetition in Music he states that not only does repetition within a song work for us, it also explains why we like listening to the same song over and over again.  He states that repetition, “Far from dilutes our pleasure… [it] only seems to amplify our involvement in these musical experiences.”

Consider repeating a word over and over again.  After some time, that word loses its meaning and ceases to sound like an actual word.  This phenomena is known as “semantic satiation” and although it plagues words and phrases, it doesn’t have the same effect on music.  Instead, repetition causes us to anticipate with excitement the upcoming chorus or tune, and increases our feeling of “participating” in the music.

When you think about it, that anticipation of getting ready to belt out the chorus of your favorite song is in many cases what keeps us going back again and again.  It’s part of what makes music special and sets it apart from other art forms.

You can read more in detail in Service’s full article here on The Guardian.

 

365 Prince Illustrations serve as a Lasting Tribute

(AP) – Local Pawtucket Rhode Island artist Rebekah Major has gained recent attention for a project started last March titled “365 Days of Prince.”

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One of Rebekah Major’s favorite Prince illustrations, a take on Norman Rockwell’s famous self-portrait. (Rebekah Major via AP)

The project came to light after the shocking death of music icon Prince last week.  When speaking to the Associated Press, Major said she started the project to “improve as an artist” and that Prince resonated with her because his music, “brings everyone together.”

Rebekah’s illustrations can be found on her website dedicated to the project, 365daysofprince.com.  You can read more here.

Music Helps Babies Unlock Language Learning

A new study from the University of Washington reports that music, “…may help babies learn language better, in part by helping them learn to detect important rhythms.”

According to the study, the ability to recognize and predict patterns and rhythms in music can translate to predicting the patters and rhythms in speech as well, even in babies only nine months old.

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Compared to babies in the control group, babies who were subjected to twelve, fifteen minute long music sessions, “showed more brain activity.” Christina Zhao, the researcher who led the study, says this means, “…early, engaging musical experiences can have a more global effect on cognitive skills.”

Patricia Kuhl, head of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington explains, “Music experience has the potential to boost broader cognitive skills that enhance children’s abilities to detect, expect and react quickly to patterns in the world, which is highly relevant in today’s complex world.”

Music is a wonderful tool for entertainment, but also for education.  It not only teaches the musicians who play it, but also the listeners, even those with the smallest of ears!

You can read the full article and more about the study over at NBC News.

Punk Rock Legends; A Stroll through Ramones History in Queens

Alex Vadukul of the New York Times recently took a tour through Queens alongside Mickey Leigh, the younger brother of Ramone’s front man Joey Ramone.  Visiting sites such as the pair’s childhood homes, Forest Hill High School, which all of the band members attended, and the band’s “primitive rehearsal space,” a basement where Leigh recalls, “…opening this door and getting hit by the smell and sound of the Ramones,” Vadukul was sure to hit all of the band’s old stomping grounds.

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Part of the Queens Museum exhibition “Hey! Ho! Let’s Go: Ramones and the Birth of Punk.” Credit Willie Davis for The New York Times

The tour set a backdrop to the opening of a new exhibition at the Queens Museum titled “Hey! Ho! Let’s Go: Ramones and the Birth of Punk.”  Vadukul writes, ” The four-room exhibition follows the band from its misfit beginnings to its later acceptance into pop culture, including in animated form on ‘The Simpsons,” and features such artifacts as, “…the military academy belt of the guitarist, Johnny (John Cummings); report cards with lackluster grades belonging to the bassist, Dee Dee (Douglas Colvin), and the lead singer, Joey (Jeffrey Hyman); and a yearbook photo spotlighting the drummer, Tommy (Thomas Erdelyi), as a member of the Audio-Visual Squad.”

You can read Vadukul’s article full of punk rock reminiscing over at The New York Times.

 

Brace Yourselves, New Game of Thrones Music is Coming

Game-of-Thrones-Season-4-Trailer

April has arrived and with it comes season six of HBO’s wildly popular Game of Thrones. The new season is set to premier on April 24th and while fans theorize about the twists and turns of the upcoming plot, music fans wait to hear what composer Ramin Djawadi will bring to the table this time around.

Djawadi has been composing the scores for Game of Thrones since 2011, when he was brought onto the project just 10 weeks before the series premier. From the iconic Main Title sequence, the somber themes of Winterfell, to the booming drums of the Dothraki plains, Djawadi’s music has been well received by Thrones fans and music critics alike.  The initial soundtrack earned a five star rating on iTunes along with raving reviews, while season two followed up with four stars.  Seasons three, four, and five followed, each receiving ratings of four and a half stars.

In an interview with filmmusicmedia.com, Djawadi explains that producers told him avoid flutes or solo vocals which had previously been pillars of successful fantasy music, such as the Lord of the Rings series. Instead, Djawadi strove to set Game of Thrones apart, pinning the use of the solo cello as one of the scores major successes.  Figuring out how to place the music among the dialogue and action of the show was another challenge that Djawadi faced, but overcame, delivering scores that beautifully enhance the story and characters to viewers of all backgrounds.

With the premier date on the horizon, Thrones and music fans wait in anticipation for the official release date of the season six soundtrack.  Based on the release dates of the previous soundtracks, the new material should arrive sometime towards the end of the season, most likely mid-June.  For the time being, fans will have to hold themselves over with reruns, past soundtracks, and on April 24th, the brand new season of Game of Thrones.

Music on the campaign trail

How do Clinton, Sanders, Trump, Rubio, and Cruz brand themselves through music? They have each chosen very different musical aesthetics for their campaign theme songs. The tunes reflect their personal stories…and their marketing strategies.

 

 

Read about which songs candidates have chosen and why in this article from The Guardian.

 

What do New Yorkers have to say about love?

Listen to NPR’s Valentine’s Day podcast about love in New York City. “You’d think people would be shy and private, but the love was overwhelming. One after another, New Yorkers took a seat and told us about what made them fall in love, the love they lost, and the love they’ll never forget.”

 

 

Music: Selena – Dreaming of You, Los Cenzontles & Andre Thierry – La Luna Y Las Estrellas, Sigur Rós – Hoppipolla, Alex Andwandter – Cómo Puedes Vivir Contigo Mismo

Dom Flemons, The American Songster

Dom Flemons, a talented roots singer and multi-instrumentalist, known to the public as the “American Songster,” performed a lively set @ The Burren in Somerville last night.

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Dom Flemons

 

In the second half of the show, Flemons spoke to the intimate audience about the making of his new album Prospect Hill, which features both original and traditional blues and old-time tunes. Watch one of his most popular songs, “Polly Put the Kettle On,” here:

 

 

Flemons is an intelligent and thoughtful musician. He makes a point of highlighting the undocumented narratives of black music in the US. Flemons is working to reclaim the meaning of minstrel songs, which were performed by traveling musicians in the 19th and early 20th centuries wearing blackface, by performing them in his own style. The following video is his interpretation of the minstrel tune “Can You Blame The Colored Man?”:

 

 

As a scholar of roots music, Flemons presents the nuances of the history of blackface minstrelsy. In his article “Can You Blame Gus Cannon?” he discusses the reasons why a black musician such as Gus Cannon would choose to wear blackface and participate in a tradition that blatantly mocked black musicians. Flemons writes, “In his music I heard minstrelsy, but I could also hear a novel, legitimate black art form developed from minstrel roots.”

 

 

Can you choose between a Stradivarius and a del Gesù in 20 minutes?

“It’s like the NBA draft crossed with The Bachelor, but for classical music.”

The sixteen winners of the Canada Council for the Arts’ Musical Instrument Bank competition got to choose from sixteen million-dollar instruments. The violinists will play their chosen partners for three years, at which point the violins will move on to their next musicians.

The catch: the winners have to choose their “perfect match” in just 20 minutes! Watch the video and read about the process here.

 

“she knew nothing about the music”

NPR wants you to “look at this” and I totally agree!

http://apps.npr.org/lookatthis/posts/album-art/

 

 

Denise Burt, a graphic designer, knew nothing about classical music when she started designing labels for Dacapo Records in Denmark. However, by engaging with the composers and artists of her projects, she designed covers that actually reflect the amazing music that lies underneath!

 

Styrofoam…

A Belgian student of Musical Manufacturing at the College of Ghent in Flanders has built a styrofoam CELLO! Well, just the top is styrofoam, but still!

Sound horrifying? Actually, it’s not! Listen here.

Was Bob Dylan terrible during the ’80s?

How did Dylan’s music change in the ’80s? Did society turn its back on him? Read what Carl Wilson from Slate has to say about it here.

Bluegrass in a cavern?

Bluegrass in a cavern? Pop near some steel stacks? Classical in a limestone quarry?

Explore these amazing concert venues from all over the world!

What Fiona is listening to:

I’m back! What have I been listening to for the past year? too many interesting things…so I’ll start with what I’m listening to right about now:

D’Angelo’s Really Love

Paul Lester’s review in The Guardian of D’Angelo’s album Black Messiah praises the singer’s political and musical integrity: “…a beaming, single-minded statement of spiritual rebirth and political reckoning,” and “…a restatement of faith in the principles and sounds of the pre-digital era of black music.”

 

D’Angelo

 

Unexpected Americana

Check out Fede Graña Y Los Prolijos’ song “El Gigante” on NPR’s field recordings! The band is from Uruguay and is clearly influenced by americana and bluegrass.

And the lead singer seriously can’t stop smiling!

Fede Grana Y Los Prolijos

Fede Grana Y Los Prolijos

 

Still Looking for a New Year’s Resolution?

If you’re still struggling to decide what your new year’s resolution will be (AHEM it’s almost February…), CMUSE has some tried-and-true tips for making your year more musical. Resolution number one? Make practice a daily routine. Check out the rest of their list here.

 

Is Streaming Good for Musicians?

Spotify

Taylor Swift’s abrupt removal of all of her songs from Spotify sparked a debate this week on the New York Times website–to stream or not to stream? Is the trend good or bad for musicians, and how does it impact the music industry in general?

Read the NY Times discussion here.

 

Music Hacks

Check out Buzzfeed’s 13 best life hacks: music edition 🙂

 

Throw Down Your Heart

 

This is a clip from Béla Fleck’s documentary Throw Down Your Heart, featuring a woman named Ruth on thumb piano!

Maya Angelou: “Find a beautiful piece of art.”

 

“Find a beautiful piece of art. If you fall in love with Van Gogh or Matisse or John Oliver Killens, or if you fall in love with the music of Coltrane, the music of Aretha Franklin, or the music of Chopin – find some beautiful art and admire it, and realize that that was created by human beings just like you, no more human, no less.” – Maya Angelou

 

From What Should We Call Sevcik

 

Everybody loves Frozen…

Fiona had mixed feelings about the movie, but this cover of Let it Go with a bunch of different Disney and Pixar impressions is hilarious…

Playing music produces fireworks in your brain :)

This awesome TED video explains why playing music is SO good for your brain.

Some of these are actually quite surprising…

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin

 

Which Famous Musicians Actually Wrote These Popular Songs?

Yay, Buzzfeed!

 

What Dennis is Listening to:

 

 

Amos Lee – Sweet Pea

This song is as sweet as its name suggests.

Against Me! at The Met tonight.

Against Me! is going to be at The Met tonight at 8pm in Hope Artiste Village!

“The bracingly political Florida punk band has been a going concern since 1997, but Transgender Dysphoria Blues can’t help but feel like a debut: It’s the group’s first album since singer Tom Gabel came out as a woman.” – Bio on The Met website

Check out their performance on David Letterman: