Ballyhoo!, Passafire

Throw rock, reggae, punk, and pop into a blender, power it up and you get Ballyhoo!, acclaimed by fans to be "America's-Favorite-Feel-Good-Party-Band." It's hard to argue with the masses, but these road-warriors have tirelessly toured to bring their music to the people. Between the road and the studio, Ballyhoo! has crafted a sound distinctly their own; fresh, fun, and embodied by the soul of the party lifestyle. Lead singer and guitarist, Howi Spangler, has a reputation for mixing slick lyrics with his smooth but powerful voice. Drummer Donald "Big D" Spangler lays out the hard-hitting beats, which are underlined by JR Gregory's funky and witty bass lines. Scott Vandrey (aka DJ Blaze) rounds it out on the turntables and keys.

BALLYHOO!'s unique sound, hardcore devotion to the road and their fans has pitched them into snowballing success. After concluding the Last Calls and Liabilities tour with respected contemporaries, Pepper, they were honored with being included on the ever-popular 2011 Hollister Holiday Playlist. Ballyhoo! has toured with a myriad of the genre's biggest names; Authority Zero, The Expendables, 311, and The Supervillains. In Jan 2011, they got a well-deserved nod from LAW Records and were signed to the Hawaii-based independent record label. Yesod Williams of the dub rock music mega-sensation PEPPER and owner of LAW Records says of his newest addition, "Having BALLYHOO! join the LAW Records family is a perfect fit. They are an incredibly talented band with a really catchy style". 2011 has been a paramount year for Ballyhoo! as they wrap up the year with a few holiday bashes.

On Passafire's fourth album release, Start From Scratch, the Savannah, GA-based rock outfit is truly starting from scratch. Injected with energy from a new member (keyboardist Mike DeGuzman), a freshly formed band-owned label (FlameGuy Records) and a new producer, Paul Leary (Butthole Surfers, Sublime, Meat Puppets), the band have made their best album to date. Trekking down to Sonic Ranch outside of El Paso, TX, where Conor Oberst, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sublime and many more recently recorded, they expand their sound from their previous releases; deeply honing guitar tones, exploring synth sounds, and laying down tracks of harmonica and banjo. "We always wanted to have a good balance of organic and synthesized sounds and we finally had the chance to make that happen this time," recollects singer, Ted Bowne. Songs like "Dimming Sky," "Lorelie" and the title track, "Start From Scratch," exemplify this newly found balance.

Passafire was formed in 2003, by students attending Savannah College of Art and Design. Throughout the years they have become a perpetually touring band, playing hundreds of shows a year with bands like 311, Pepper, Rebelution, Matisyahu, Michael Franti, The Wailers and many more. Bowne doesn't mind the grueling schedule and adds, "Touring is the best way to keep the buzz about the band going. What keeps it fun and exciting is the people we meet and places we get to see. We are in a new city every day so there's always something to go see or do. If we didn't tour constantly, we wouldn't be doing as well as we are. That's a fact."

Cas Haley is breaking out on his own terms.

Connection, his Easy Star Records debut, is aptly named. It's all about those deep-running connections that make him what he is—those unbreakable links between artist and audience, between styles of music, between art and life, and most of all, between all people. As Cas points out, reggae's core message is, after all, "one love."

His crystalline voice and funky, easygoing beats earned Cas a second-place finish on "America's Got Talent," which in turn netted him a measure of fame and a following. But the contest also locked the Texan singer/songwriter/guitarist into a major label deal that didn't feel right. So, not wanting to be turned into a manufactured product, he struck out on his own. The superb result: Connection, a collection of songs basking in the philosophical and musical maturity that comes from staying true to his artistic vision.

Raised by musician parents, Cas grew up surrounded by the sounds of blues and 60s-70s rock. He got serious about the guitar at age 12 and was "taught by the tribe" of musicians passing through the house. "The kitchen would be turned into the practice room or for jam sessions, so I was pretty much born into that lifestyle," he says. And from the very beginning he was more inclined to create his own music than to slavishly learn covers.

Also prominent at home were the Bob Marley records his mother would play, which made a profound impression. After a period of heavy immersion in the sounds of the ska/punk/skateboard culture, Cas was blown away by the classic reggae-pop of bands like UB40 and Sublime, and his mature style began to take shape.

Those pop-inflected island grooves and his joyful, versatile voice helped bring Cas to the brink of stardom on "America's Got Talent" and sell 30,000 copies of a debut album with virtually no promotion. And they're fundamental to the soul of his music—what he calls the "relaxing, effortless playing where everything fits together." Elements of soul, blues, and pop swirl through Cas's strong reggae beats. Just like disparate musical styles, "we're way more connected than we think," Cas says. "We separate ourselves in so many different ways, but the whole theme of the album is that we're all connected."

"Every color," he sings in the title track, "is created from the same light."

Easy Star, the leading U.S.-based independent reggae label, is the ideal home for Connection. The label has been stretching beyond its strictly roots-reggae format, signing progressive bands and artists like John Brown's Body, Tommy T, and The Black Seeds. "Cas's sound is unique, accessible, and a great way to keep expanding the Easy Star audience," says CEO Eric Smith. "And it's not often we come across a singer-songwriter this talented, regardless of genre, so we had to work with Cas."

Mixed by Danny Kalb (Ben Harper, Beck), Connection bristles with chill grooves, rocking guitars, and funky horns, all fueling Cas's irresistible melodies. Meanwhile his lyrics effortlessly balance simple, spiritual truths with thoughtful reflection. Cas's songs recognize the complexities of life—love, family, worldly troubles and uncertainties—but always come back to the central message of connection.

It's the journey that matters; Cas is aiming for success on his own terms. "If I'm not doing it authentically then I don't want it," he says. His only goal: "To authentically express myself and help others do the same. Because it's a sweet life to be able to do that."

Among Criminals

The politically-charged Reggae, Latin-Rock band Among Criminals, is as much about the message as they are about the music. Jarrod Pedone (drums) and Bean (bass) lay down the head-turning rhythm, while singer Ryan Gaughan uses the stage and the mic as a platform for his plea for peace.
"People have to stop thinking of themselves and others as Americans, or Muslims or Christians or Black, White, whatever... To be American you need to be a HUMAN, to be Iraqi you need to be a HUMAN, to be Mexican, or Muslim or African you need to be a HUMAN. We all need to realize that we are all connected as humans, and the rest are just petty details that shouldn't provoke prejudice."

"We, as part of the first world, need to start taking responsibility and action for our impact around the globe. Most of us are lucky and privileged to be born where and when we were. We have to realize that the history of shitty political trade policy, and strong-arm political intervention, has made the first world richer while exploiting the people of the third world. Help us take action to help spread the wealth of this word fairly across the globe."

$15.00

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Ballyhoo!, Passafire with Cas Haley, Among Criminals

Thursday, October 24 · Doors 7:00 PM / Show 7:30 PM at The Note