Friday ï¿½ Riverbend Music Center
Armor For Sleep began in the post-high school frustration of ambitious players exiting their first bands. Vocalist/guitarist Ben Jorgensen had drummed in his first group but the New Jersey native longed to write songs and step out front. Guitarist PJ DeCicco, bassist Anthony Dilonno and drummer Nash Breen were similarly dissatisfied and Jorgensen asked the band-less trio to cast their lots with him in 2002.
"We just started from the ground up, getting out our demos and seeing who could help us out," says Jorgensen. "We released two albums on Equal Vision Records, which started off as a Hardcore label in upstate New York."
Armor For Sleep's debut album, 2003's Dream to Make Believe, recorded mere months after the band coalesced, opened the door to high profile touring, setting the stage for their astonishing sophomore album, 2005's conceptually-framed What to Do When You Are Dead. That album has sold nearly a quarter million units to date. That success attracted the majors and, in 2006, Armor For Sleep signed with Sire.
But rather than rush their third album, AFS maintained their road schedule and stockpiled material to craft a solid foundation for their latest Emo/Pop triumph, Smile For Them.
Inspired by their own success and that of other friends' bands, Jorgensen examined the world's new state of reality.
"A lot of my friends are bubbling over to the mainstream and their lives are blurring with other American celebrities," says Jorgensen. "To me, it felt like these people were living in their own reality TV shows, and I started making parallels between why reality TV is so popular and things like MySpace and Facebook, where everybody craves this need to be observed. And we're making a record where people are pushing us and saying we're going to be super famous, and a lot of it is us being disinterested in that and realizing what a weird little society we have going on right now.
Sunday #183 Taft Museum of Art (2 p.m. show)
Like a lot of acoustic Folk performers, Peter Mulvey learned his craft on the sidewalk. The Milwaukeean went from Marquette University theater major to Dublin, Ireland, street busker to Boston subway performer (he even recorded his seventh album, Ten Thousand Mornings, in a subway station in Somerville, Massachusetts in 2002).
Unlike many street artists, Mulvey easily transitioned to the studio and a band. He started his own Black Walnut label and self-released a quintet of acclaimed albums before signing with major Folk indie Signature Sounds in 2000. In 2003, he even tried his hand at a collaborative band project, forming the Folk trio Redbird with longtime scene pals Kris Delmhorst and Jeffrey Foucault and recording their lone 2003 album.
After 2006s The Knuckleball Suite, while mulling over his options on new material, Mulvey turned fan requests for recorded solo versions of some of his catalog into his 10th and latest album, last years Notes From Elsewhere. Stripped of the arrangements and electrification that marked the originals -- some of them dating to his early 90s releases -- Mulvey managed to wring even more power and emotion out of the 17 tracks he chose, from the jazzy Folk punch of ï¿½Rapture to the David Wilcox-meets-Bill Withers lilt of ï¿½Better Way to Go to the faux Celtic/Brit Folk clip on the instrumental ï¿½Black Rabbit.
Perhaps the most revealing aspect of Notes From Elsewhere is Mulveys hypercaffeinated acoustic guitar stylings, as he channels populist purveyors like James Taylor, Leo Kottke and Mark Knopfler as well as purer traditionalists like Bruce Cockburn, Richard Thompson and John Fahey on songs that walk the fine line between esoteric impressionism and commercially rousing Folk Pop balladeering.
The fact is that Peter Mulvey fares equally well in either realm.