Nine Fifty
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Nine Fifty

Band Rock Alternative


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This band has not uploaded any videos


The best kept secret in music


"Nine Fifty? A Bargain Price"

Nine Fifty? they’re not innovative. They’re not subtle. They don’t have a political message or a clever way with words. They’re not cool, intellectual, or thoughtful.

But they might just make your world a happier place though. ‘Heads up, face down’, is a party rock record with humour, melody and a fantastic joie de vivre which shines through the miasma of the record’s creation. That the album had to fight its way out through a turmoil of personal and band trauma might give the record its two-fingers to the bastards feel; it also contributes to the emotional drive of the songs. If you’re feeling the need for some straight down the line rock n roll, then this might fill the hole.

Date review added: Thursday, March 29, 2007
Reviewer: Lynne Pettinger
Reviewers Rating: 8 out of 10 -

"Around Hear"

Though it would be easy to dismiss Nine Fifty as competent Gin Blossoms knock-offs, that would be a big mistake. While they play peppy rock (and a few slower, melancholy numbers) on Heads Up Face Down, their incredibly tight musicianship and strong songwriting distinguish them among the hordes of faceless bar bands. Bright, sunny melodies drive the country-tinged rock of “Another Second Chance” and the extraordinary, swinging “Be There Again.” John Castino’s husky vocals add a nice tonal touch that contrasts well with the jangly acoustic guitars. (
– Patrick Conlan - Illinois Entertainer

"Around Hear (Tales From Shermer Review)"

Inside the album Tales From Shermer, Chicago's Nine Fifty sends "special thanks for endless inspiration" to John Hughes, Kevin Smith, and Cameron Crowe. In a funny way, that pretty much tells you everything about the band. Their straight-ahead rock 'n' roll harkens back to the mainstream rock (but not New Wave) of Hughes' heyday. The opening track, "Nobody Knows" and the later "Paula's Song" are straight outta Bon Jovi (even lead singer John Castino's vocals recall Jon Bon Jovi, although -- thankfully -- less polished). Like Crowe, there's nothing here that's even slightly scary or unnerving, and a lot that's skillfully done and worth hearing. Just when you get ready to sigh, "been there, heard that," Nine Fifty comes out with subversive numbers like "One Way" and the standout track, "Outshined." This is a sharp album of proficient anthem-rock. A band to watch! - Illinois Entertainer

"Tales From Shermer Review by Sam Reid"

Nine Fifty rocks. And that’s no small compliment these days when it’s not uncommon to hear reviewers and pundits alike lament the disappearance of Rock and Roll, whine that it’s been swallowed up by electronica or whatever the latest flavor of pop music. But Nine Fifty’s debut, Tales From Shermer, is here to tell you that mainstream Rock’s alive and well. By the late 70’s, the genre was in trouble, suffering from chronic bloat and stasis. The Punk explosion provided a much needed shot in the arm, but it wasn’t enough to stave off the plague of spandex and hair spray, and before long—with few exceptions—mainstream Rock and Roll had gone MIA. Oh sure, there were loyal torchbearers—fellow Midwesterners the Replacements and Soul Asylum come to mind—but they were forced out into the Alternative ghetto—a seedy wasteland set aside for good music only heard by a few. But Chicago’s Nine Fifty has finally coaxed that marginalized ethos back into the mainstream. They did away with the cowbells and all the other superfluous schlock, and what they ended up with was 12 slices of confident, introspective Rock and Roll. “Come Undone,” for instance, tracks the all-to-familiar rise and fall of one of these hopelessly irrelevant, spot-lit wayward sons, complete with “Behind the Music” reference and everything. And it’s surely no accident that the following rocker, “Outshined,” opens with a glib recitation of the intro to Def Leppard’s “Rock of Ages.” And Tales From Shermer isn’t short on ballads, either. From the bittersweet harmonies of “Never Gonna Let You Go,” to the sparse beauty of “Sanctify,” the band illustrates a certain honesty absent from the scene for too long. All in all, this is a great record that’s not afraid to revisit and revise a nearly extinct form. - Atlanta Music

"Tales From Shermer Review"

Nine Fifty’s debut CD, Tales from Shermer showcases their own unique style. This collection of music inspired by the imagery and vibe of the band's Chicago surroundings includes, “Nobody Knows” which shines with John’s hypnotic, slightly wounded rasp, and the songs jangley guitars which lay the groundwork for a slightly psychedelic groove. “One Way”, has a Replacements feel, with a large helping of Matthew Sweet thrown in for good measure, this upbeat anthem shows a little of the new garage-rock beat of bands like The Vines or The Strokes. “Paula’s Song” has a great melody, drenched in strong yet pleading vocals… and these songs are just the beginning, a ‘must have’ for any CD collection. - Music Showcase

"Heads Up Face Down Quotes"

"I used to be a permanent judge on StarSearch... I would have to give them a five. FIVE STARS!" -Naomi Judd

"Nine Fifty's new album, Heads Up Face Down, is filled with the brand of bloodied, from-the-heart rock and roll that only comes, and only should come, from the center of the United States." -Arig Renard, President, NeedleDrop Records

"Music rarely moves me or my family or my friends or my enemies -- but 'Won't Be the One' was pretty good." -Terry Armour, Nightlife Advisor, Chicago Tribune - Various


Heads Up Face Down (NeedleDrop Records, 2007)
Tales From Shermer (60062 Records, 2002)

Transistor (American Laundromat Records, 2004)
International Pop Overthrow Vol. 6 (Not Lame Records, 2003)


Feeling a bit camera shy


They say misery loves company. When Nine Fifty set up shop to build their own version of Frustrated, Incorporated in the fall of 2003, they were a typical independent (i.e. - unpopular) Chicago band working on their second album, Heads Up Face Down. The 13 songs about upheaval, transition, redemption and (of course) heartbreak were born from the personal chaos of one shattered marriage, sown by the sympathetic despair of another bruising divorce and finally brought to fruition amidst a number of internal and external band breaches. Fellow indie bands take note: your record should never take more than a year to finish! In the end, however, the music was more about the company than the misery.

2005 was particularly ‘challenging’: the band’s original bass player was dismissed, the group parted ways with their long-time manager and the bottom fell out from the record’s funding. A new bassist was hired, the entire catalog of songs was re-learned and a year-long series of live performances commenced to raise the thousands of dollars necessary to complete the album. One fondly remembered ’gig’: Home Depot + Round Lake Beach + Blizzard. Oh yes.

2006 brought the abrupt resignation of the new bass player (literally fleeing from the stage immediately following the group’s Abbey Pub performance) and the band hiring their third bassist in as many years. Following several additional months in the recording and rehearsal studios, the album was ultimately finished and the band was finally complete.

Writing, performing and recording the music together was never just a method to manage the madness, it was the only way to deal with it. Each track is a fragment of the picture documenting the anarchy which engulfed but never dissolved the band. The result is a record filled with classic American guitar rock, forged by a headstrong fire of sheer will and determination.

As a certain schmaltzy rock star would say, “Here’s one for friendship”.