Straight No Chaser
Never underestimate the power of YouTube when it comes to creating buzz. Just ask unlikely superstar Susan Boyle, or a cappella group Straight No Chaser. The 10-man ensemble, originally established at Indiana University in the mid-'90s, ended up in the international spotlight two years ago. That's when a nearly decade-old video of them performing a cleverly reworked version of "The 12 Days of Christmas" - with doctored verses to Toto's "Africa" - made its way to the Internet, soon scoring more than 10 million online views. The resulting buzz had the chief executive officer of Atlantic Records tracking the group down to sign its original members - by then, each long settled into post-college day jobs they've since abandoned. Two albums later, Straight No Chaser is winding down a 50-city tour that comes to the Keswick tonight. The focus is on holiday favorites ("You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," "Jingle Bells," and "Let It Snow" among them), but the guys also put their vocal prowess to work on assorted pop ditties, like their surprisingly soulful version of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab."
- Nicole Pensiero
Guignol & Mischief Brew
Franz Nicolay's Guignol and Philly's Mischief Brew - they've got a thing going on. The multi-instrumental Nicolay (famous for the straight pop of the Hold Steady) likes his rickety Gypsy jazz and Balkan/Slavic beats on occasion. That's the sound he makes with pal Peter Hess as Guignol on jiving records like
Drink the Best Wine First
. Anarchist singer/songwriter Erik Petersen, also known as Mischief Brew, likes the Gypsy groove, too, but his bare-knuckle, politicized sound includes more rustic folk and raw punk. The boys met, and Petersen and Guignol collaborated on "A Liquor Never Brewed" on Mischief Brew's
Smash the Windows
in 2005. Fast friendship turned into deep admiration with 2009's
, a full CD's collaboration featuring seven Mischief Brew songs with Guignol backing him and six Guignol songs with Petersen playing and singing. Among their swinging original rebel yells and union anthems, look for the combined noisemakers' bumping rusty cover tunes of Iron Maiden and Django Reinhardt. Huzzah.
- A.D. Amorosi