Tag Archives: Battle of the Boroughs

The Dirty Gems let loose into the music world

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Beth Laschever

Starting off with covering everything from Lady Gaga to No Doubt, to now evolving into their own unique sound, The Dirty Gems are taking the stage to show everyone that they’re ready to let loose.

The pop-rock-soul band started off as part of a school course at Hofstra University in 2007 when Raycee Jones (vocals), Ulises Amaya (bass) and Cam Underhill (synth, vocals) were chosen by Professor Bob Bowen III to create a jazz combo. The college students then formed the cover band, Pump Yo Brakes, with the drumming beats of Jack Goode. After graduation, their love of music continued and they decided to take matters into their own hands and began writing songs with the creative mind of long-time friend and Raycee’s fellow songwriter Mills.

“When your experience is the song and the crowd is feeding off your energy and comes back to shows, it’s a very humbling and very exciting thing,” said Raycee.

Tragedy struck in late 2010 when Bowen, their mentor, passed away from a bike accident. The band performed at the late professor’s student memorial benefit concert, where they met guitarist Gary Heimbauer after watching him perform.

“He [Bowen] brought someone to us again at the event,” said Raycee.

Since then it has been smooth sailing for the band as the group released its debut self-titled EP in 2011. With half of the members from Astoria, The Dirty Gems were semi-finalists in the Battle of the Boroughs for Queens in 2012 and won the Upper East Side Music Festival the same year. Now the band is ready for round two, the Ultimate Battle, taking place on June 21.

Performing from Boston down to Maryland, The Dirty Gems put on a show capturing both fun and emotional aspects. Mills pointed out that audience participation is big at their shows and the feeling is great when they see the reactions. If you’re the lucky lady picked from the crowd by Raycee, your name will be accompanied by clapping and shouting as they perform the aptly-titled “Your Name Here.”

“We tend to be a stadium rock band that plays small bars and venues,” said Mills.

The group has played various venues including Spike Hill and Public Assembly in Brooklyn, and Bowery Electric and Webster Hall in the East Village. Yet The Dirty Gems took the stage at their biggest venue to date on April 28 at the Highline Ballroom.

Their 2nd EP, “Vujà Dé,” will be released in the summer and will include the single “Let Me Loose.”

“It’s just a whole package,” said Raycee. “It’s about the strange feeling that none of this has ever happened before.”



Borough’s talents battle it out

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Alexa Altman

Emerging musicians, turn on your amps and start your engines. The search for the city’s best new artist has begun.

The Battle of the Boroughs, a city-wide competition, spotlights unknown musicians in the hopes of giving one his break.

Every fall, local musicians submit original pieces of work for consideration for a spot in the competition. Acts, spanning various genres and performance styles, are then selected to contend in the Battle of the Boroughs.

Musicians from Queens have won top honors in the past two years.

This year’s Queens segment took place at The Greene Space on Friday, March 2. The venue, which has hosted the event for the past three years, filled with music lovers eager to catch an earful of budding talent.

This year’s contenders included Jefferson Thomas, The Great Apes, SWEET Fix, Shelly Bhushan, Predestined, Sinner Man, Cate Song, Jason Waters, Una Via, SisterMonk and Tatiana Kochkareva.

Award-winning WQXR personality Terrance McKnight emceed the competition, interviewing contestants after they each performed a song.
“The Battle of the Boroughs experience is as eclectic as walking down a New York City street — the diverse soundscape is a musical potpourri, with a wide range of melodies and rhythms representing every corner of the city,” said McKnight. “The most exciting part for me is seeing a community of listeners having a great time, discovering music together, and coming back for more.”

Artists compete for the chance to win their dream prize — their own featured concert at a New York City venue.

Attendees voted for their favorite acts at the end of the evening, and five finalists emerged — The Great Apes, Shelly Bhushan, Cate Song, Sinner Man and SWEET FIX.

Those who were not able to attend the show can still vote for their favorite act up until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, March 18. For the chance to weigh in, visit thegreenespace.org/battle2012.

The Queens winner will be announced on Monday, March 19.

The ultimate battle, pitting the winners from each borough against each other, will take place on June 29.

Astoria musician is aiming for infinity

| aaltman@queenscourier.com


Tatiana Kochkareva scrolled through lists of albums on iTunes, searching for the perfect one – the first one she would ever buy.

She came across Fiona Apple’s When the Pawn…

Something about it stood out. She clicked “download” and pushed “play” on track seven, “Fast as you can.”

Orchestral and biting, the song dazzled her. At age 17, Kochkareva was hooked.

Years later Moscow native and Astoria musician Kochkareva was selected to participate in the third annual WNYC’s Battle of the Boroughs – a competition that highlights artists around New York City, each vying for a coveted spot at Summer Stage.

A steady force in Kochkareva’s life, her musical training began at a very young age when her parents enrolled her in classical piano lessons, a practice she claims is typical in Russia. Her father, with a proclivity for classic rock, played albums by Queen and Pink Floyd in their family’s home.

It was jazz vocalists, however, who had a heavy influence in Kochkareva’s style – chanteuses Nina Simone, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald.

Kochkareva migrated to the United States from Moscow in 2003 to study Jazz at the University of Miami. Upon graduating in 2007, she moved to New York City to advance her music career.

To make extra money, Kochkareva gives private music lessons to people in the Astoria area.

She enjoys encouraging what she feels is an emerging Queens music scene in the borough’s northwestern neighborhoods– the feisty little sister to Brooklyn’s Bedford and Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The talent is here, she feels. The venues aren’t.

Over the past few months, Kochkareva has been writing and recording her newest album, called Infinity. Its songs are powerful–her haunting alto voice at the forefront, surrounded by pounding piano melodies.

“I felt that with every song musically, the meaning is life and different situations,” said Kochkareva. “Human life, it has a cyclical pattern. It just felt like something infinite.”

“Don’t Dim the Lights” an edgy-electronic track, is her favorite. The song gave her a chance to experiment with harp, piano and synthetic recording elements. Recorded with and produced at GaluminumFoil by Jeff Berner, a friend of Kochkareva’s, she likes the song’s “less straight forward” sound and lyrics:

Don’t dim the lights

There’s no need to hide

Your eyes

What you’ve become

There’s no more place for lies in your heart

“It was an exciting experience to work on this song because it’s different than anything I’ve worked on before,” said Kochkareva. “It’s a dark piece. It takes you through the depths of the darkness.”

Kochkareva’s songwriting spawns from an overwhelming feeling into an idea, forgoing rationale and theory.

The process is quick, capturing a fleeting feeling that can be lost easily. If it takes her more than a certain amount of time to write a song, she knows it’s not going to be good.

“It’s like riding a wave,” she says. “You just go with it.”

Kochkareva plans to host an album release party for Infinity on April 19, the day it debuts, at The Living Room, located at 154 Ludlow Street in Manhattan.

For her Battle of the Boroughs audition, Kochkareva submitted “Downville Town,” a song from Infinity to WNYC. Marking the date she expected to hear back about the competition on the calendar, she waited anxiously. The date passed with no word. Disappointed, she thought she didn’t make it.

The phone call that came a few days later was a huge surprise. It was another move towards her musical “infinity.”

Kochkareva, along with ten other musicians from Queens, will compete in the borough’s segment of Battle of the Boroughs, taking place at The Greene Space, located at 44 Charlton Street in Manhattan, on Friday, March 2 at 7 p.m. Regular entry is $15 or $30 for open-bar tickets. For more information, please visit www.thegreenespace.org/battle2012.