Album Review: We Were The Vexies

Cleveland quintet The Vexies’ debut LP We Were The Vexies is a non-cookie cutter record indie rock enthusiasts will be proud of. Per their Bandcamp page, singer and rhythm guitarist Ray wrote most of the album, which was produced by Jimmy Wilkens and mastered by Gabe Swarts. Rounding out the five-piece are lead guitarist Wilhelm Bruening (and singer on the third track), vocalist/tambourine player Kelly Porter-Santamaria, bassist Michael Oswald, and drummer Matt Ebinger. Together, the group put together an album in which could see some major play with the right marketing.

The Vexies are a clone of no one, which makes their album a delight to hear in a multitude of places. The songs have a happy-go-lucky, free spirited feel to them. For instance, the last track on the 10-song record titled “Two Bullets” doesn’t tell a sun-shiny story but how it is executed by the band is sheer brilliance and will have folks singing along to the chorus on road trips and at live shows.

“Shhh!” is the album’s only tune to be written and sung by Bruening and has a real 1960s surfer rock vibe to it. Porter-Santamaria also has singing duties on this song and helps reinforce its beach party dance feel. Regarding the record’s other nine songs, Ray states on Bandcamp, “Some people can go through life blaming everybody else, but that doesn’t work for me. Facing these flaws and admitting they exist is the only way I can get to them. So I sing about it.”

Other notables from We Were The Vexies are the hoppy surf rock song “Whoa! Horsey”, the throwback “On 2nd Thought”, and “Big Bad Wolf”. The entire record is one that would not be out of place being played in a supermarket, doctor’s office, or local diner. The Vexies have concocted a series of tracks with substance that are soothing despite the grim subject matter. In a twist, because of how easygoing the songs are laid out, listeners will get a sense of pleasure from the songwriters’ pain. It is advised one access the album online or hear these tunes at a live show to get a taste of the storytelling Ray and Bruening have served up.

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Review of Lucky City at World Of Beer (Easton)

Last night, Cleveland-based singer-songwriter Sean Benjamin and his band made his return to the capital city and entertained the masses at World Of Beer, an establishment located in Northeast Columbus. It was a very interesting show and some of that had to do with the ‘venue’ itself.

Regional music scene veteran Benjamin was his usually solid self on guitar and vocals, this go around flanked with Lucky City cohorts Egan Ammerman and Jason Seich who sounded great. The group broke out WNCI Top 40-type tracks like “Sky Dive” from Benjamin’s latest studio record, “I Exist”, as well as covers of hits of yesteryear. The best of the bunch was “No Diggity” from BLACKStreet. The lounge-y version of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” fit in with the intoxication of the patrons and established that Lucky City likes to put its personal spin on covers versus doing a ‘knock off’ of the original. The band broke out new material as well, which fits in with Benjamin’s solo hits. A Kickstarter campaign does not seem too far behind in getting an EP of full-length of new tracks recorded and out to the masses.

The only and major problem with the gig, however, is that World Of Beer is not a typical live music facility. The group was positioned at an upstairs portion of the building in a restricted area approximately 12 feet off the main floor. Therefore, while you could hear the awesome music, the group and the audience were unable to see each other creating a massive discord. A less informed visitor of the place would have thought the radio was playing. Due to the obstructed view, applause was minimal as most of the crowd were watching sports on the countless TVs or shouting amongst themselves. This setup is perfect for artists with absolutely zero stage presence or who have stage fright and want to play for a crowd without actually playing for them.

Lucky City are three handsome guys who deserve a chance to connect with a live audience. Obviously, being the professionals they are, Benjamin, Seich, and Ammerman like playing at the atypical watering hole and did not dog their performance. If you are a live music fan, this particular place may not be for you. The group, however, is worth a listen so checking them out at other establishments will be something you will not regret.

Similar artists: Jason Mraz, Calvin Harris, Shane Harper, Josh Kelley, Matt Nathanson.

Photo courtesy of the group’s Facebook page.Image