River City Extension Drummer Steve Tambone Passes Away

I can clearly remember the formation and quick-paced growth of River City Extension. Unconventional and unique, the Toms River group was everything that their suburban brethren were not. In an area filled with the rallying cries of “You Give Love A Bad Name” and “Rosalita,” River City Extension was an odd, Dr. Moreau-styled island unto itself. Their eclectic style of overcharged Black 47 folk and anthemic Pine Barrens punk pushed them into places most Jersey bands could only dream of going.

River City Extension went out fast and furious, developing a management team that soon had them playing the Warped Tour, Bonnaroo, SXSW, and Bamboozle on top of national tours for each record that came out of their experience-laden souls. But it never went to their heads, and Michelini would be the first person to tell you that all they do is make music for all people to enjoy. The genres, the scenes and the culture mean far less than the communication, and that’s about as simple as you can get when it comes to describing their musical motivations.

I interviewed Joe Michelini in 2010 with the release of The Unmistakable Man on XOXO Records, and I remember thinking that as a composer, he seemed miles beyond most musicians his age. With a compositional sense of purpose and an immediately identifiable brand, the group lit out for green pastures and never looked back.

As it happens with most successful bands, there were the ups and downs of that fast growth. The band went through lineup transitions and directional changes, cutting their band in half and pouring it all into biblical paraphrasing on their 2012 full-length, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Your Anger. This time period seemed to be the next turning point, with Michelini and company settling into new creative lanes and heading toward their yet-to-be-released Spring 2015 project, Deliverance.

So it is with a heavy heart that I mention the untimely passing of drummer Steve Tambone. Steve passed away on December 10 of this year. He was a gifted multi-instrumentalist whose contributions to the River City sound were immeasurable. Tambone was an A-list drummer who also mastered trombone and piano. He was a visualizing talent that jumped into everything he did with zeal and abandon. When it came to craft, family and life in general, Steve was an active and caring participant on all fronts. There are no words to vocalize the sense of loss this leaves with his family, bandmates and the musical community at large.

The band released the following statement concerning the passing of Steve:

“We are deeply saddened to share the news that our brother and drummer Steve Tambone has passed away.

A boundlessly talented musician with a heart of gold, he could fill a room with smiles and uncontrollable laughter at the drop of a hat if he wanted to, and just as easily fill it with awe at the inconceivable things he could make a drum set say. He was a top-tier multi-instrumentalist with perfect pitch (we tested him) who could always somehow find deep reserves of ‘chops’ on anything he touched, from guitar, piano, and bass to his well-honed mastery of the trombone (Plus, Meghan can vouch for that night on tour he picked up her viola and started playing ‘Elephant’ like he was a First Chair, never having touched the instrument).

Through knowing him and having him become a part of our family, we found out things about ourselves and about music that we could have never perceived without his endlessly positive outlook on life and all that music meant to him.

We are forever changed for the better for knowing him, and he will live on in everything that we do for the rest of our lives. Our love right now belongs to his family in their time of mourning.”

Stephen Vincent Tambone was 27 years old. His family wanted everyone to know that donations can be made in Stephen’s name to a local school music program of your choosing to honor his love of music.

 

Deal Casino – Heck

Deal Casino are back with another quick glimpse into the progress of their musical evolution. Featuring four brand new songs, Heck was produced by Jon Leidersdorf over at Lakeside Studios. The disc was engineered by Erik Kase Romero and mixed by Tom Pannella. The CD features a quartet of poppy rock compositions in the vein of Young The Giant and Kings Of Leon.

Deal Casino continue to improve every time I hear them. This is a great example of putting your all into the very best. I’ve seen countless records that have 13 songs and feature only a few standout tracks. Focused and slathered with pinpoint continuity, Heck is one “heck” of a calling card.

The band chugs right off the edge on “Bang Bang Bang.” Guitar harmonics ping into the stratospheres of “The Edge” as drums and bass pump heartbeat piercing stilettos straight into the ultra-catchy chorus. Vocals are layered waltzes of metered perfection before dropping back into the chunky verse. Great choice to start off with and a song that sets the mood of the entire EP. Think Coldplay meets U2 and the Foo Fighters before Dave Grohl became the next self-imposed messiah.

“Fortyfive” features a grungy, single electric growling under sparse bass and drums. Riffs abound as reverb shifts into its stereophonic stratosphere. “Fortyfive” is a bouncy romp into the land of the ’80s. Joe P’s vocals are focused and toned, and his ability to change up inflections on a song-per-song basis is vital for making this work so well.

The guitar work of Jozii is another standout feature on this diskette. His style complements Joe’s vocal tonality like a second nature. Choruses growl in staccato bursts of tube fury as the drum and bass work of Nardi and Jon Rodney set the band backup to slingshot them straight back into that catchy chorus.

“Downtown” continues the exploration of the band’s pop rock concoction. The production on this disc is evident in the chorus selections. There’s not a bad choice on the disc and “Downtown” is pure uptown songwriter craft. The bridges here are great and interesting choices that make each chorus bigger and bolder than the last. If you dig the puzzle piece perfection of “Real World” by Matchbox Twenty, this will be something you’ll want on your player.

Deal Casino fade into the sunset on disc closer “Flying Cars.” Electric, finger-picked guitars trill melodically under the lyrical ministrations of Joe P. Intimacy builds as guitars swell and recede under cocktail drums and single-note bass work. When the band comes up at around 2:52 the dynamics have once again put the chorus in a brand new light. This tune reminds me of Springsteen’s melancholy writing on Tunnel Of Love. The backing vocals two-step like grey shadows of isolated bliss while far way salvos of slide guitar rises and fades into the soundscape.

Heck is a great addition to the Deal Casino catalog. It is a carefully measured dose of commercially-aimed success from a band that has learned much about writing and the team of people they surround themselves with.

For more information on Deal casino and Heck, head over to reverbnation.com/dealcasino.

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