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Kings of Thrash 2023 – Metal Masters and Upstart Talent – So Far, So Good…So Epic

A freshman in college in 1990, I came up through what some might call the golden era of thrash metal. The ’80s saw iconic albums from Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, and so many more – all coming to prominence with big arena shows right around the time I graduated high school in 1990.  I mean – I had posters of these dudes, variously bought at Kensington Market in London, UK, or plucked from the center of Metal Hammer, Kerrang, or Guitar World – walls and ceiling. My musical heroes, I still have my fire-engine red B.C. Rich Ironbird from that era, bought for their pre-Jackson years. We all had our favorites, but Megadeth were head and shoulders above it all for me.

Ellefson is at his level best in 2023

So when I hear Ellefson and Young are putting the band back together – hitting the road again as “Kings of Thrash” – and coming to my home state on the east coast of the USA – it was an opportunity not to be missed. Roll on 10th March, 2023, the Jefferson Theater Charlottesville, Virginia, and a VIP ticket – and I’m all set to relive the last times I saw them – 1990, variously at Poole Harbour, Hammersmith Apollo, and Wembley Arena, all in the UK – at the height of the “Holy Wars…” tour.

Commercially these fellas have it dead right – just about everything a super-fan would love to acquire, from used guitar picks, to used stage basses, to signed pictures, are all available to buy, and who wouldn’t at this point?  Top that with my literal musical heroes being genuine, vulnerable, just…really nice guys, who spent 30 minutes pre-show chatting with the 15 of us that snapped up the VIPs – on top of a grueling multi-day bus schedule and highly technical set.  It’s quite something that musicians of that stature are leaving a virtuous footprint, to be engaged with people that love their music, and them, alike.  Karma will tell, mark my words.

Hatriot; a furious and worthy opener

The show kicks off with Hatriot, out of Oakland California – a furious onslaught of a set, a lovely opener for a newer metal sound to contrast with the playthrough of Megadeth’s first two albums we’re all hanging on.  They are metal family and have a distinguished lineage, with Kosta Varvatakis and Miguel Esparza on guitars, Cody Souza screaming the living bloody hell out of the vocals and shredding the bass, Nick Souza on drums, they make a formidable entrance.  Judging by their press and footage, they’ve been having a load of fun, and well-deserved air play to a seasoned metal audience on this tour.  Full marks for holding the crowd’s attention throughout.

Chaz Leon giving it some

On to the main act for the night – an intimate but rowdy venue, all high ceilings, no crush barrier, and what felt like open access to the band throughout.  Combining two metal masters, veterans if you will – proud of playing “clean”, and clearly still at the top of their game – with two incredible talents in vocalist and incomparable ax man Chaz Leon, and the lofty Lombardo or Menza-like strains of Fred Aching – they’re clearly here to give it their all, and not give anyone an excuse for ripping “Kings of Thrash” as second best – it’s a profound, unique, and modern take on the Megadeth classic lineup – and I’d say frankly, better.  The talk of the evening was playthrough of the foundational albums, “Killing is my Business…” and “So Far, So Good…So What” and they hit it with a well-thought through set list that delivered the lot.

Chaz and Jeff killing it…it’s their business

Setlist (as written)

Orange Light (Intro)
Lungs of Hell/ World Afire
Anarchy in the UK
Mary Jane
502/ In My Darkest Hour
Hook in Mouth

Bridges Burn (Kings of Thrash original)

Last Rights (Intro) + JY
Loved to Deth
Skull Beneath Skin
Killing is my Business
Looking Down the Cross
Chosen Ones
These Boots

Dawn Patrol
Polaris/ Holy Wars
Wake Up Dead
Peace Sells

Jeff shredding it up big-style

As you can tell by now, it was a monster of an evening, classics that I didn’t even hear live in 1990/1991.  To be honest I was so full of wonder for seeing this material being played, I can’t say there was any “downtime” – maybe highlights of a snarling “Anarchy in the UK”, my personal favorite “In My Darkest Hour” played immaculately by Jeff, Ellefson shouting “it’s time to rattle your goddamn head” preceding a super-fast version of “Rattlehead” – Vic would be proud.  A unique event, punctuated between albums with their first original (they’ve been writing on the road, building on material that was first conceived 30 years back between Jeff and Ellefson), may there be much more to come.

Undeniably, hearing them ripping out an encore of  “Holy Wars…” material was a genius move, partial songs, vicious-fast, but playing to my era at exactly the right time, before rounding it out with the iconic Ellefson bassline of “Peace Sells” – it was an unselfish set that gave Jeff his heyday material, but gave us enough of the back catalog to satisfy everyone.  Complimented by two fabulous newer musicians in the genre in Chaz and Fred, Jeff and Ellefson are in top form, and show no sign of backing down or calling it quits.

This thing could have been a showcase to 40-year old material as a glorious archive moment.  But it isn’t.  It was unexpected to feel like I’m here at the start of something, that Kings of Thrash have this commercial and human element so well thought out and executed, as well as focusing on delivery of a fabulous product, that they will be keeping it coming for years to come.  Bring it on fellas, you’ve got your early fans and the new folks dying to hear more, and we’re with you all the way.

Pre-order the new album here.

Chaz says “time to rattle your goddamn head”


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2022 Parabellum Tour – Metal Collective of the Year Shreds NoVA

As U.K. comedian Russell Howard wisely said in his documentary on what it was like to be an arena-level entertainer during a pandemic – locked down, with little to do but be frustrated and write new material – there’s a “golden age of entertainment” coming. The U.K. was particularly isolationist, and he predicted a pent-up massive supply of new and amazing material welling up, and an equally massive demand from a general public who hadn’t been to live shows in over a year.

I’m a musician and an avid live music listener, and I hadn’t been to a show since 2019. I lived through a pretty good age of music in the 1990’s, seeing Slayer, Anthrax, Metallica, GnR when Paradise City hit, Testament, Megadeth, and many more. Without doubt this was the most positive energy I’ve ever felt about a show in my life. Great sound mixing by my mate Rusty Timberlake, four really different sub-genre metal bands, all of whom executed as if their life depended on it. Put a guitar legend like Malmsteen with this much caliber and a superb sound engineer like Rusty, and you get a banger of a 4-and-a-half hour evening. A “golden age” dawns indeed.

For those that know The Fish Pond – one world, one family, one musical heartbeat – this review is very much about the human element of these musicians.  The music was superbly executed, nearly 5 hours flew by.  Several masters of their crafts.  But what about the people, and some insight into what they meant to me?

The venue, the Tally Ho Leesburg – a converted movie theater turned local music venue – works well for gigs like this, especially if the crowd is in good form, and the sound is mixed right, and at the right volume.  They have a VIP area upstairs, food, a reasonable bar (Guinness all night for me), and close up enough to feel like the interaction with the artist is real.  A good comparison is like a small version of the 930 Club in D.C., or the Fillmore, Silver Spring, professionally run and worth a visit.

Jessikill – Jessica Espinoza (Lead Vocals), Jyra Alejo (Guitars, Vocals), Arturo Knight (Bass, Vocals), Jordan Ames (Drums)

I met Jessica, namesake of Jessikill, outside the venue prior to the gig.  Full of energy, enthusiasm, human connection, she was quick to shake my hand and introduce herself to an interested fan.  Explaining that they hit the stage right at doors open (7:00 p.m.) and had 15 minutes to blow the early-doors folks away, I leaned on a review from All Music Magazine from Hartford, Connecticut a few days earlier, for my cues.

As the first band, let alone metal band, I’d seen live in over 2 years, I can honestly say ‘remarkable’.  With only 3 songs, they blasted out of the gate with “Lightning”.  A well-mixed metal intro, they animated just like Slayer and the lineup of Araya, King, and Hanneman (RIP) back in the day.  If there was a metal equivalent of “whistle notes”, Jessica had us from the get go.  A fresh execution of old school metal.


I disagree with All Music Magazine in the go-to Iron Maiden reference – too easy and perhaps a bit lazy – they are unique, but for me had bad boy elements of Sum 41 taking Metallica and making it better back in the day.  Fast, furious, sword wielding, middling with “Right Now” and finishing up with “The Beast”, the energy despite having an early-doors crowd was delightful.  It was a pleasure to share some space as they moshed and sang along to Yngwie right next to me at the end of the night.  These guys are real, working their asses off, and super-talented.

Check them out on Facebook, and their YouTube channel for more.



Alpha Venturi – Sean Quinn Hanley (Guitar, Vocals), Tyler Stackhouse (Drums), Edward Rojas (Bass)

I’d been in touch with Sean since a few days before the gig.  His proud mum, going by FB moniker ‘Loki Longstocking‘, is all about the Fish Pond mentality, promoting hard-working musicians, including but in no way limited to her son’s efforts, tirelessly.  Sean embraced the contact from the start, agreeing to meet “for a drink” – a great reference to my Englishness – around a gig.  Bear in mind these guys are on the road constantly for this few week period, Sean had something akin to laryngitis, and they’re hustling to make ends meet as serious contenders in the metal game.

I met Sean sitting outside the venue noodling on his axe.  I can relate, as a former performing musician (my BC Rich Ironbird stayed with me these last 30 years), his energy is effervescent.  As with Jessica, he graced me with a handshake and a couple of minutes to chat, a privilege given that pre-gig jumpiness to make it a great show on the Malmsteen tour.

Just when he finished doing neck-long runs on that guitar in the sunshine outside, he’s pushing Marshalls into the venue for Jessikill, all about being the jobbing musician and team player, a consummate pro.  His energy is infectious, manic, I’m really dying to have a beer with this guy and find out where he draws it all from.  He tells me he hopes I like the set, it’s all instrumental thanks to an overwork-related (I suspect) cough.  I wonder if they can pull it off.


From the moment they hit the stage it’s obvious they can;  after a brief intro – I think about all Sean’s throat can manage – they launch straight into “Stop Runnin”.  The way that bass is mixed is superbly funk-metal, Edward’s slap style calling to mind a re-invention of Flea, a great foil to Sean’s guitar.  No doubt he’s a master of his craft, all over that fretboard, beautiful rhythms and runs as they power through “Break the Hold” and “Sweet Serrated Flame”, with time for an awesome prog-metal guitar solo.  I love this kind of mixed funk-futuristic metal feel that they have, a solid capable three-piece.  Even without vocal it’s the re-birth of Cobain – perhaps unfair as it’s more than a little based on Sean’s look – but still gave me that vibe of what Nirvana were doing for the alt-rock scene with early grunge the early 1990’s on the West Coast.  I can’t wait for their return with the vocals intact next time and to actually have that beer.

Check out Alpha Venturi’s work on their website, Facebook page, and their YouTube channel.

Kurt Deimer – Kurt Deimer (Vocals), Phil X (Guitars, Vocals)

I was super-interested in Kurt and his namesake band, I knew the least about them of the four, but after doing a little research, he seemed a strong choice to bridge to the headline.   Add the enormously capable and versatile Phil X of Bon Jovi and stadium fame, with Rusty’s front of house mix, and makes an exciting add to the lineup.

As it was, they lived up to all of the hype and more.  Again from All Music Magazine, I was anticipating the “Talk Rock” aspect, but actually it boxed them in more than I liked.  Kurt comes out blazing, all blue silk and top hat, a great low-end vocal reminding me of General Zod back in the day (Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction), who I caught back in 1993 in the U.K., with more than a hint of Myles Kennedy who’s been working the circuit with Slash for a number of years now.  Phil X is a great sidekick for Kurt, his guitar selection, including what must be an Eddie Van Halen tribute pattern in there, is extensive, and his harmonies and guitar work strong.  I find myself thinking back to how dismissive metal fans were to Bon Jovi back in the day, but the guitar work, lead and harmony vocals, were always outstanding.  Same here.


All that reminiscing done, yes, they have strong roots to point back to, but bear in mind we’re on to our third genre of metal for the night, and these guys are defining their own sound.  They are a superb, capable, workmanlike band in their own right, powering through some awesome originals like “Only Time Will Tell”, “Naive”, “Hero”, and a lovely cover of Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar”, which Kurt’s vocal complemented perfectly.  You can find out much more at Kurt Deimer’s website, Facebook page, and YouTube channel.

If you want a good taste of the set ender, and also what’s dubbed Kurt’s “Talk Rock” style as well as Phil X doing his thing, check out the official video for “Hero” on YouTube.



Yngwie Malmsteen – Yngwie Malmsteen (Guitars, Vocals), Nick Marino (Keyboard, Vocals), Emilio Martinez (Bass, Vocals), Brian Wilson (Drums)

My experience with Malmsteen was as an aspiring metal guitarist back in 1985, as a teenager with my first Washburn – a G8.  My influences back in the day were Angus Young, Philthy Animal Taylor, Eddie Van Halen, Richie Sambora, Billy Duffy, Adrian Smith and Dave Murray – then of course the later 80’s came along and I got more familiar with Scott Ian, Dave Mustaine, Jeff Young, Marty Friedman, the King/Hanneman combo, and so many more.  It was a great time to be a young guitarist, and it wasn’t long before I bought my first BC Rich, a fire-engine red Ironbird, that I have with me to this day.  Somewhere in that period I bought “Rising Force” (1984) and my life changed.

Hearing that the man is coming to Leesburg, VA, frankly was a dream.  I’ve been lucky to have the access we do here near to Washington D.C., but there’s nothing like a small town small venue with this many Marshall stacks, when a guy with 22 studio albums rolls in with his “Parabellum 2022” tour.  Having seen a lot of live metal over the decades, that kind of speed and technicality can be notoriously – and often forgivably – inconsistent on an “off night”.  For example, Metallica and Megadeth weren’t album precise, and that was sometimes part of the charm; Slayer on the other hand were always, always album-tight to a fault.  But the crowd is well warmed up, and either way it’s going to be a glorious end to the night.

From the outset, he bursts onto the stage with that intimidating wall of Marshall cabs behind him, straight into “Rising Force”.  The level of theater is so much a part of the Yngwie Malmsteen experience, and it’s immediately clear he’s going down the well-practiced, precise, musicianship route tonight.  Nick covers the vocal really well, Malmsteen is all over his trademark sweeps and arpeggios, and he’s won the audience from the start.

There’s very little conversation with the crowd, it’s not really needed tonight, we’re all-in already, and looking for what I think Leesburg rightly assumes is a once-in-a-lifetime small venue experience with this guitar legend.  Ripping through classics, the man is here to deliver, and deliver expertly.


One thing that’s really amazing to me; I’m air-guitar jamming out to this stuff with Jessikill singing along to my left, and suddenly realize it’s 11:30 p.m.  He came on at 10:00 p.m., doors were at 7:00 p.m.  The physical demands of shredding so fast, so technically, for so long, is a testament to an outstanding professional as well as a mainstream entertainer.

He takes time to hurl his second-to-last stage guitar around, hang it from the B-string (it broke, and I grabbed it after the gig, along with a signed pick), throw it up on top of the speaker stack at side stage, fiddle with phase effects, and eventually chuck it to his guitar tech (that guy has a great catch and pitch back) to give us the solo we all hoped for.

Coming back on for a single encore, back to his roots once more with “Black Star”, it’s been the 4th genre of the night, and a brilliant ending to what’s been a brilliant night end to end.  My night was made in that little venue as he burst through the door right next to me to hit the green room upstairs, and I get a chance to at least give him a “well done, great set dude” before he’s off, likely not to return to our little town again.

You can find out more about Yngwie at his website, Facebook page, and YouTube channel.

Check out Black Label Brant‘s capture of 8 minutes of Yngwie shredding in Leesburg, VA, here.


Thanks to all the bands and the human beings in all 4 working so hard to entertain.  A golden age of entertainment is upon us, and you guys brought 100% with you to make that happen, and I trust you still are.  May the best of energy, and tireless shredding fingers, be with you all, the metal collective of the year.

One world, one family, one musical heartbeat.

David, founder, Global Musicians Fish Pond

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Ada Shows us “Hope”

Ada Pasternak; a confident, consummate professional, a true performance artist with a highly credible, exceptional background in classical and popular music, and a Berklee gem. I first found her music, and in fact last reviewed her work, in 2013, just after she joined our Fish Pond family. These were the days of the quirky “Lonely Little Painting”, the embryo of an amazing string and vocal combo in one package. I’ve followed her various releases and posts over the years. Now it’s time for “Hope”.

“Been down and out, filled with doubt;
Had this little heart of mine, kicked around”

It’s funny how previous work can shape an expectation – I suppose I was imagining something run-filled, technical, all wow-factor.  A great artist always has the ability to surprise with new and interesting musical direction.  From the very start Ada’s maturity comes through with a lovely piece, simple in melody, building orchestrally, lyrically moving, vocally strong, raspy where needed and simple, with a lovely dynamic to haul you in.

“There’s still hope in this hook; belief that tomorrow
Will hold a silver lining to all of the sorrow”

The nice thing about reviewing any song is having to listen through it again and again, looking for different angles, to digest it slowly and completely, enjoying every nuance. Already by the third listen, I’m totally hooked. I realize the secret sauce is the simplicity, sweet repetition, and clarity of hope in the message, evoking an iridescent reflection of sunlight bouncing off the raindrops of a recent-passed dark storm.

“On the sunniest day, the sky can seem gray
But all of my warmth can’t be taken away”

I remember her fellow Berklee alumnus Paige Chaplin in the vocal, although both artists have their own unique flair, the style is pleasingly reminiscent. As the work swells through highs and lows, taking us through a nuanced and chart-worthy single, it winds down to nothingness, at which point I love the fact that there’s a glimpse of very early Ada in that last breathed word…

“Crying doesn’t make me weak,
This is my heart, just trying to…

You can buy the single here, or check out Ada’s website for more media links.

David Mark Smith
Founder, Global Musicians Fish Pond
CoFounder, My Lucky Fish

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Christian Lopez Comes Home to Creek’s Edge

It was a delight to catch Christian Lopez, making a rare appearance near his home of Morgantown, West Virginia, on Sunday 21st June, at Creek’s Edge Winery in Lovettsville, VA.

It goes without saying that Christian’s music touches me; I have admired his writing, and loved his performances since first seeing him play in Winchester, VA, back in 2012. This time, he interspersed his well-loved early numbers beautifully with first-airings of new album tracks. I must say that the raw and solo Christian, all capable guitar technique, big starts, dramatic pauses, pitch-perfection, and notable use of his falsetto vocal, is a joy to experience. The new tracks are mature yet exciting, and the record is just done. Frankly, I can’t wait to hear it.

Christian, the man behind the music, exemplifies the kind of hard work I’ve seen yield big results for Fish Pond musicians that have a hunger to make it, while staying true to their artistic integrity.  Constantly touring, improving his music through hard graft, his talent and charisma are unstoppable. I met Christian for only the second time at this most recent gig. Not expecting any recognition, I wandered over to give him the Fish Pond’s best regards; he greets me with the biggest smile, a hug, and “David, I was so excited when I heard you were coming to the gig”.  Now that, fellow Fish Pond musicians, is pure gold. Couple a beautiful personality with a musical talent like that, and the world will be at your feet.

Check out Mike Frazier, Josh Doyle, and Adriel Genet, fellow local Fish Pond family with a similar hard working ethos with a talent to match.

You can find this and much more news and media at his website, right here.

One world, one family, one musical heartbeat.

David Mark Smith
Owner, The Fish Pond

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Bright Box Lit Up with Fish Pond Greats

When I first heard that Gallows Bound and Mike Frazier & the Dying Wild – both early members of our Fish Pond musicians family – were playing their hometown, sharing a stage, I couldn’t have been happier. Two totally different yet complementary styles, Gallows Bound describe themselves as “a six piece Appalachian folk-punk/bluegrass outfit”, while Mike is the classic pop-punk kid from down the street made good. Hosted by the Bright Box Theater in Winchester, Virginia, they couldn’t have used a better venue, designed for local bands, for the best possible sound quality, and perfect for the 300 or so die-hard fans who showed up.

Harpers Ferry, WV, based 5-piece “Somewhere Mels” kicked the party off, relaxed-fit in their “slacker country” genre; they were a creditable warmup act, all three frontmen having a go at vocals capably. Their set was tight, the bass player impressing the most, handling vocals while performing ridiculous neck-long runs, finishing off their 40 minute set with a characteristically humble “I’m sure you haven’t come here to see us”.

Mike & the Dying Wild take to the stage looking every bit the seasoned rockers they have become, by flogging the east coast touring circuit for the last couple of years. I’ll declare an interest here, because I love the pop-punk genre, and I have fond memories of Mike blowing my mind with Random Holiday back in the days (2011) when the guitar tuning was questionable, but he obviously had something special to contribute to the pop-punk world. I have very high expectations tonight. A little reminiscent of the early-days Manic Street Preachers, they are all Les Paul and Orange amps, brash and loud, and (after a little experimentation) tuned and mixed to perfection.

‘War on Love’ is a raucous and wonderful experience, especially for anyone familiar with their EP ‘Virginia Son‘, the sound recovering with a much better mix after the first track is vocally drowned by the mad guitars. Finishing up with a loud “fuck you” (or perhaps a more sociable “fuck yeah!”), he’s straight into EP lead track ‘Bones’, and a timely rendition of ‘Parrot King’, Mikey having just attended the Women’s March post-inauguration in D.C.

My two favorite moments from a well put together set are his now staple cover of Woody Guthrie’s ‘All You Fascists Bound to Lose’; a song which so fits the pop-punk rock genre that Mike is pushing the boundaries of, and as appropriate and crowd-rallying now as the 1930’s when it was first wheeled out – and the stellar ‘Big Sky’. I had only ever heard a 7-minute long studio version, but hearing this well-written rock ballad in the flesh, all piano solos, epic multi-part harmonies, acoustic guitar gold, and meaningful lyrics, was one of THOSE moments of the night.

Humble musicians to the core, Mike and his troupe will continue to deliver a brilliant product while they insist on taking the job so seriously. Well done, lads, a lively and worthy performance from a true bunch of road-hardened pros.  As the drum kit said so well, “Love One Another”; Mike and the guys leave us with a sense of togetherness, brotherhood, and family, having thanked the crowd for their support after almost every song.  Now it’s time for the main course.

I’ve known Gallows Bound since the early days, since which they have toured the country from coast to coast several times.  It’s especially a privilege that they don’t forget the local crowd and come on to an adoring and cheering crowd.  Aaron’s stand up bass and a Johnny Cash-style beat accompany their entrance, as Jordan (guitar and lead vocal), Jesse (guitar and lead vocal), Justin (banjo), Rob (drums), and Forrest (mandolin and vocals) settle comfortably into their domain.

‘Del Fuego’, their opener, is a fantastic pick, with Jordan and Jesse’s vocals mixing as well as ever I’ve heard them.  From the days of Jordan being a shy vocalist, often positioned a little out of sight, she has come into her own as a brilliant front woman.

With an ask of “ever been drunk” and a reply of “let’s get fucked up”, the mosh pit explodes and the beer starts flying.  The professional mix at Bright Box starts to give up a bit now under the strain of a balls to the wall six instrument melee; the band is a little thrown initially and it’s distracting, but credit to Jordan that she deals with it in stride, and soon the feedback is manageable level and a comfortable 7th member of the band.  ‘Empty Flask Empty Heart’ is a tip of the hat to the early days.  It’s meant to sound angry and hammered, a furious drunk, and that’s exactly how it comes across.  Jesse brings it to a close spitting whisky and venom, and it’s clearly time to slow it down before place explodes.

The set is crafted with all the right dynamics, which gives the crowd enough of a break between frenetic speed-punk-metal-bluegrass, to deliver some beautiful ballads which make the best of the vocals and instrumentation.  Justin’s banjo solos are frequent and noteworthy, a reminder of how practiced and workmanlike these guys truly are.  With Aaron keeping such a solid beat, he’s the lovable roadie and crowd-pleaser of the band, Jordan’s constant joyful grin, Jesse and his insane vocals ripping through the crowd, and Forrest with the biggest non-miked shouting vocal I’ve ever seen; they are a phenomenon.

The gig is a audience pleaser, we feel included as part of the family, we are the home crowd for these guys, and they reward us by mixing the old greats (‘Love Fury’ being a good example) with some excellent new material, including my personal favorite which didn’t even make it to the EP (‘Rotting Oak’).  As a long-time fan of various hardcore genres, I thought this song bore so much resemblance to classic speed metal, with stops, double bass, and unexpected pauses.  It’s a unique bluegrass twist on the style which brings the crowd to a frenzy.

‘Dominion Flowers’, just before the guys wrap it up, is a reminder once again of how accomplished the 6-piece are, with a beautifully bowed double bass supporting soaring harmonies again from Jesse and Jordan.  Without skipping a beat, their final number, ‘Dogs a-Howlin’, was a return to the frantic, played as fast as they possibly could, as Jesse showers the crowd with water to “keep them hydrated” (and the beer flies back).  With a sincere invitation to join them at the pub after, they end a brilliant night with well-deserved grins.  Gallows Bound is home again, having conquered the States, and have lit up Bright Box like a firework.

You can find out more about Gallows Bound at their website here.  Mike Frazier & the Dying Wild can be found at their home label, Geneva Records.  Somewhere Mels can be found at their Facebook Page.

Photos provided by and credited to Pranam Bai Rose Smith
Review by David Mark Smith, Founder,

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Associations – Associations II

Associations is the debut musical brainchild of Shane Conard.  My introduction to Shane was by way of Fish Pond original Mike Frazier, my long time buddy and compadre pop punk musician, and so it immediately holds some cred for me. Mike has seen it, played it, done it, thrashed the tour circuit over the last few years, and through his latest project, Geneva Records, is producing some excellent music out of the East Coast. So when he calls me and asks if I’d take a listen, I’m excited for what I’m going to get. Welcome to Associations II.

Associations 2

Revolver, at only just over a minute long, is a really interesting start; vocally, Shane is obviously of decent pop-punk pedigree much sought after by the Geneva label, although the pace is slower, rocky, and has a massive guitar-driven sound underneath it. Serving as a short intro for the more meaty “What the Cops Gave Greg”, it gives you something to think about lyrically;

“I swore I felt a calming when I knew you felt this too,
a polished weapon finely furnished, but never been put to use”

Without time to think to much about it, he’s charging into song number 2, “…Greg”. A solid effort with licks that are capable but unsurprising, it reinforces the feeling that the instrumentals have been written and well-produced to support the vocal on this fledgling effort. There’s a throat-rending harshness to the closing bars.

Quite in contrast, “Coyote” starts out very melodically, before hitting a more pop-rocky vibe about a minute in.  The harmonies are great, I can even hear (at least I imagine) a West Coast accent in there (think Jimmy Marino). More dynamic than its predecessors, it keeps the feel light and bouncy.  By now, I’m starting to imagine Associations as a decent support act at a major rock event.

Then that moment comes, as I invariably hope it will; that fave “stick-it-on-repeat” song. Thanks, dude, for “Amber of the Moment”. It’s the Saves the Day, All American Rejects, culmination of all of the good stuff that’s been percolating through the first three songs on Associations II.

“It was a fast approaching winter,
and I’d hate to miss a moment,
of that autumn air,
So I took a walk outside”

Music to my ears, this one certainly should be the track that represents Shane and Associations from here on out. Ballsy, rocking, unafraid, vocally liberating, with all the guitar I could ever want in a commercially viable track like this.


For the finale, we slow down to what some might call the obligatory acoustic track; it’s lovely, a bit reminiscent of Josh Doyle back in the Dum Dums days, and something I would have expected from Random Holiday way back when. Scuppy is oddly named, quirky, and so raw and emotional vocally it has me closing my eyes and nodding my head throughout. Of the five, this is a strong second to “Amber…” and has strong single potential.

And there you have it. Geneva Records and Mike have a great ear when it comes to new artists, and it’s good to see them supporting this kind of talent. It’s a solid EP with some significant soaring highs in the last half, and leaves me really looking forward to hearing some live work and seeing what his first full album can do.

David Mark Smith
Founder and CEO, Global Musicians Fish Pond
Singer/Songwriter, My Lucky Fish

You can find out more about Associations here at his Facebook page.  You can also check out “Coyote” right here.

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Fish Pond Gold Series: Auguster – Rough Summer

Jimmy Marino has been a member of our Fish Pond family since 2012. I remember the first time I heard ‘Bridges’ by the young Berklee freshman back then, and I heard something new, something Southern California, something exciting about his voice and his writing. Simply put, he managed to hawk up and spit out years of experience from the relatively young head on his shoulders. His debut with Auguster, “A Change of Scene”, only solidified this image, and the work quickly became (alongside Hadley Kennary’s “In Fall”) my album of choice for 2013. Now, as we hit the middle of summer 2015, Jimmy and Auguster are back, this time with a change of direction; I give you the three songs which constitute new offering “Rough Summer”.

Auguster Rough Summre

Jimmy and Auguster might have a new direction, but the roots of the musical inventor are very much still there. Kicking off with lead track ‘Slow Down’, it breezes in with a lovely electric guitar and bass sound; the verse builds from Jimmy’s distinct vocal;

“You’ve been distant baby, I feel it too;
so just don’t look so surprised when I pull away from you”

I’m getting the mood immediately. This track has so many pieces to enjoy; solid, well-written, intelligently produced, complex, there are lots of nuances to hear in the details. Yet he produces such a singable chorus, the melody building and breaking like waves, complemented by a weird and wonderful bridge, tying the two halves of the song together. I really like that this song is built around a simple hook (I can already hear it unplugged), and yet is such powerful electronic music. A great and rarely heard blend.

I already have the volume cranked to the max in my headphones in anticipation of song 2. ‘Sinking Down’ is, if any of the three, the more classic “Jimmy” song. Traces of that rough vocal, leading us down a path to the second verse which, through ups and downs in dynamic, inserts a meandering piano hook in the middle, a lovely contrast. It’s reminiscent of the more forlorn songs in “Change of Scene” like ‘California Rainstorm’, but way more produced, and I really like it.

“I’m sinking down, down, down”

Jimmy Marino

The song and lyric builds and builds (or sinks and sinks, as it’s of course intending to take us down) on the theme, it’s like total musical immersion for a few short minutes. It’s a strong link back to his previous songwriting, and the EP is better for it.

Closing out with ‘Waste a Moment’, once again I’m comforted by the lyric and the mood change; Jimmy has a habit of running me through the emotional wringer, as great musical works and musicians absolutely should.

Try it out exclusively right here:

Waste A MomentAuguster

“I’ve watched my heroes growing older,
I’ve seen what we all must become;
I’ve held my love against my shoulder,
I’ve gone through nights to see the sun;
But it’s all going too fast, going too fast…
So don’t you waste a moment
Don’t you waste a moment”

This is Jimmy and Auguster at their very best. There is lyrical empathy (the song was “inspired by something my dad said” as Jimmy puts it), there are beautiful vocal runs, a swelling sound which rivals “Bridges” for growl and power, and what is rapidly becoming for me the Auguster sound; it’s mixed to perfection, it seems like they’ve thought of everything in this last song, and brought the EP to a massive climax.  My favorite without a doubt of the three.

Three songs make for a short and perhaps risky EP; but it works. It’s almost like Jimmy disappeared for a couple of years, relocated and found himself comfortably back on his native West Coast, and stuck this work out as a polite but firm “f*ck you” to convention. Clearly the man doesn’t need constant exposure and output to inspire him to create; just a move all the way across the country, a change of scene, and finally a Rough Summer. A beautiful piece of work which I’ll be keeping on the travel playlist throughout 2015.

You can find out more about Auguster at their Fish Pond profile, Facebook Page, BandCamp, or keep up with them on Twitter.

One world, one family, one musical heartbeat.

David M Smith
Founder, Global Musicians Fish Pond

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Fish Pond Gold Series: Vincent Corver – Why

We welcomed Qatar-based Vincent Corver to our Fish Pond family of musicians in March 2015. A talented composer with multiple awards to his name, he is highly qualified and respected in his field. His 2014 work “Why”, produced by Nyk Schmalz, is a study in what Vincent would call “Key-Precision Progressive Music”; it’s the art of making the complex simple, and by the close of precisely four minutes, should leave you with one simple word – “Wow”.

I love the almost 8 seconds visual of that beautiful silent keyboard just aching to be played, as the artist prepares his hands for the instrument. There’s something amazing about the reflections in a grand piano, and in this case, in its austere keyboard, it is breathtaking.

The initial melody is simple, chords and trickling streams of white and black, music perfectly reflecting the emotion, Vincent’s darkened form setting up the mood. I’m experiencing thoughtful, colored memories of a celebration, better and more romantic days with an ex, as the simple music pulls me ever forward.

The looped percussive vocal is short, intense, I particularly enjoy seeing our artist grooving to it at his keyboard, hands multi-tasking, and I already feel invested in the music and the short story. A beautiful sound, it makes your body instinctively move, traces of the best of Michael Jackson’s rhythm in this interesting technique. It precedes a more sinister note, as we’re introduced to the heroine’s other lover, and the dark overtones of an illicit affair.

The following theme is beautiful, I’m hearing all waterfalls and autumn leaves caught in a river’s ebb and flow, soaring and dipping in the piano’s melody. The visual is intense, as the cheating takes on a real form, our artist working the piano keys, the lover playing the game with both protagonists, in scenes of playful innocence and strained introspection. The complexity grows with the music, as memories of mutual friends are brought into the mix, the sad remnants of a party long-since over. The sound of the keys are delightful, playful, fully engaging me with the story.

Our opening theme returns, the emotion never more dark than this, although the music is so light and breezy; contrasting imagery and sounds of the fun-loving frivolity of the cheaters, red graffiti hearts and sports cars, and the heartbreak of discovery; the piano builds and builds with the mood, I’m feeling anxious, pulled into this short story like the victim of a kidnap. An empty bed, a confused kiss, a spray of water under an overpass, a heart halved, and the separation is complete, unresolved and yet somehow so final.

It’s a beautiful little story which yields so much emotion in it’s 4 minute form; it doesn’t have a happy ending, nor does it have a sad one. It’s honest, tragic. Why? Because sometimes the world just…well, it just is.

The true beauty in Vincent’s art is what it evokes in the eyes and ears of the beholder. The above is what I see and hear – not necessarily the artist’s intent. Take from it what you will, and I hope you enjoy the piece as much as I have.

You can find out more about Vincent Corver, artist and producer, including all of his media links, at his Fish Pond profile.

David Mark Smith
Founder, Global Musicians Fish Pond

Vincent Corver 2

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Fish Pond Gold Series: Mikey Frazier – Virginia Son

I’ve known Mikey Frazier for years; when I first had the idea to form a community of musicians called the Fish Pond back in late 2010, it was while em-ceeing a battle of the bands at Sherando High School, Stephens City, Virginia. Mikey’s band, Random Holiday, together with Kyle Grim, Noah Mullinax, and Jake White, was one of the most memorable acts, producing an unpolished brand of pop punk which was brilliant in high-energy performance and content, but a bit less than in tune back in those days.

However the lads worked hard, went through some lineup changes, improved their live sound, and wrote a couple of really solid recordings in debut EP “A New Hope”, and full length coming of age effort “Space to Grow”. The band perfected their live act and toured every chance they could get.

After parting amicably in early 2015, Mikey is now releasing his first solo effort, “Virginia Son”, on own-label, Geneva Records.

Hit play on the below video before you continue…

“Bones” is the lead-out single from the new EP. Having been a fan of his songwriting and vocal for years, it’s a crowd-pleaser from the first few bars, and I’m really happy about it. Mikey has a hell of a legacy to follow, with some extremely powerful pop-punk writing over the years. It’s fun, bouncy, the guitars are rockin’, and I’m already feeling a little evolution in his music; it’s almost Dropkick Murphys with it’s Irish-American punk feel. It takes nothing away from the pedal-to-the-metal energy he always had:

“I got so damn careless, I went and crashed my car
Distracted myself from my fragile heart;
I couldn’t stand my reflection, I cut my hair
and I swore I’d never go back there
Swore I’d never go back there;
I’ve been feeling so cold, shaking through my bones”

It sets up a high expectation for the rest of the album.  “Keep Us Free” maintains the bouncy pop-punk-rock theme, and is memorable for the excellent melodic chord progression in the chorus.

Mike Frazier Feature

“War on Love” is punchy and shows an interesting pattern in his writing; namely Mikey’s technique of writing these formulaic songs which allow for verse/ chorus/ verse/ chorus/ bridge and solo, and especially the vocal breakdown (i.e. few or no instruments) to introduce a massive last chorus; he does this in almost every song, and it shows educated and mature writing which delivers a very pleasing result to the listener. It works to make the tracks more dynamic, shows off his voice, and also gives you the raw melody of the chorus to cement it even further in your head.

“Never gonna go,
Never gonna go,
Bury me, leave me alone”

“Sunflower” starts acoustically, a tiny bit Mumford and Sons. The only song I’ve heard Mike record acoustically before was “Walk Before You Run” – which I love, by the way. This is altogether different use of acoustic guitar – nice stomping bass, crashing rock guitar brought in for another powerful number. The banjo solo makes this song unique, and makes me smile.

Mikey has chosen to cap the album off with the title track, “Virginia Son”, which at four minutes is the longest song on the album. It’s different, stands out, and I’m glad he left it until last. It’s the first of the five for which I memorized the tag line immediately. I guess it’s close to home as I consider myself something of a Virginia son despite my English origins.

“All we have are these open hearts,
and the beauty of Virginia, she’s been cold from the start;
So carry me back to where we stand,
and the shadow of the valley is the same across the land
And I can’t find home”

Without a doubt this is magnificent, the anthem of the five, and I can see arenas-full getting behind this one as a set closer.

I’ve been a fan of the genre, but also of Mike and Random Holiday from the start, and there’s no doubt in my mind that this is my favorite pop-punk and rock album of 2015 so far. Five extremely strong songs, the only thing which will make this tough for Mikey is that he’s pretty much written five hits here, so how the heck is he going to pick the singles from it?

Head out to buy this effort on 8/11/2015, and make sure you support Mikey and Geneva Records. This guy has lived it from the ground up, and is about to reap some well deserved results from this debut solo effort.

You can find out more about Mike Frazier here at his Fish Pond profile, and historically Random Holiday here.

One world, one family, one musical heartbeat.

David Mark Smith
Founder, Global Musicians Fish Pond

Mike Frazier - Virginia Son

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