Tuesday, June 4, 2013
I've let way too much time go by since my last post, so I'll do a recap of the month of May, fast and dirty. This is Part 1. Catching up with influential bands of the past thirty years has been one of the highlights of coming back to music after so long. There's lots of back story to discover and it seem to be a never ending supply. This month gave me the opportunity to discover Yo La Tengo, who played a show at The Fonda Theatre while touring their new album, Fade, on May 9.
It's hard not to feel stupid for having never heard of them before, but that's the case. Anyway, I bought the album, loved it and got a ticket for the show. As has been the case with Swervedriver, Pavement, My Bloody Valentine, Grandaddy and some others, they still perform at the top of their game and each show was a window into the influences that effect so many of the bands I love today.
This show was split into two acts, one with James McNew, Georgia Hubley and Ira Kaplan performing an acoustic set covering the quieter songs from the new album and then returning after a brief intermission to play as the Yo La Tengo full band.
I've had Fade long enough that the songs have already entered my subconscious so I was lost in a dream as they performed the beautiful and hypnotic trio of songs: "The Point of It","Cornelia and Jane" and "I'll Be Around". Even a beautiful cover of The Beach Boys' "I Can Hear Music". I was especially happy for this format as it allowed them to play my favorite song from the album, "Ohm" twice. First as a quiet, rhythmic chant and secondly as a full-on guitar raga with a tribal beat. That song has a commanding power.
During intermission the stage was bathed in a red light as seen above. Coming back with "Stupid Things" after a break, this was the lengthier portion of the program which included many songs from earlier in their career. Songs with which I'm not yet familiar but I loved on first hearing. "Before We Run" is the Fade album closer that burrows deep down inside you as it winds down slowly to it's hushed ending that seems to scale down to a tiny spot in the center of your brain.
photos by Brad Roberts
Posted by Brad at 11:06 PM
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
I go back a ways with JoshTillman, first as the drummer in Fleet Foxes, then as a solo artist. His first few solo releases, as J. Tillman, featured a folk singer very much in the Fleet Foxes vein of wintry Northwest American folk/roots music, with a whispery vocal style reminiscent of Sam Beam, of Iron and Wine, or Vetiver. I purchased his early solo albums and saw him perform, with his back up band, at The Echo and The Troubadour in 2009 and 2010. They were lovely, laid-back sets with a soft, folky flavor. After I heard that he had left Fleet Foxes and was re-locating to Los Angeles, I went to see him again at Bootleg Bar in 2011 and witnessed an enormous change.
Gone was the backing band and in it's place stood the solitary Josh Tillman (as he was now calling himself) with just a guitar. He opened his mouth and out came a commanding and confident vocalist who had not only found his proper singing voice, but he revealed himself to be a writer of extraordinary personal depth laced with biting humor. I was so impressed with these open, rambling monologues about life, love, bad girlfriends and psychological disorders that I spoke to him afterwards and commented about the thrilling new direction in his work and he confirmed that was, indeed, the case.
I was doubly sorry when I picked up the Father John Misty CD, Fear Fun, and found one of the best new records and best new bands of the year, and that it had happened right under my unsuspecting nose. These were the very songs I had heard a year before in an acoustic format at the Bootleg. It was all so fresh and original and musically addictive that I'm still playing it all the time. When the listing for Har Mar Superstar, Josh Tillman and Rocky Business at The Satellite appeared, for a show on April 25th, I snapped up a ticket even though I didn't know if the full Father John Misty band was sneaking a secret show in the small local club or if it was going to be another solo show. Either way, I wouldn't have cared, I just had to see him and hear these new songs live again.
And what a great opportunity it was. Word apparently hadn't gotten out too far and the club was crowded but not packed, giving me the chance to get a position right up front. His wry humor is on display right from the start when he waits patiently for the rest of his band to come on stage, even though this is a solo set. Speaking to him outside afterward, he confessed that it's a lot easier to perform this way. I could tell he appreciated it after the long months he's just come back from on tour as Father John Misty.
The set consisted of some new songs and solo acoustic versions of Misty favorites "Hollywood Forever Cemetery", "I'm Writing a Novel" and the confessional "Everyman Needs A Companion". I still long to see full-band versions of these songs, but they stand strong as solo numbers, perhaps even gaining something in their personal revelatory nature.
This emerging artist is one of the most original writers in the scene right now with his wonderfully sardonic humor lacing all his lyrics which occasionally touch on the profound. The sense of a liberated performer is extremely gratifying to an audience left too often with the feeling of watching bands grow mechanical from repetition. I have the feeling that Josh Tillman will continue to evolve and grow, no matter how long he continues to perform.
The following night, April 26th, I went to The Echo to see one of my favorite English bands, The Veils (actually British, by way of New Zealand), who are touring for their latest album, Time Stays, We Go. Lead singer, Finn Andrews, has fascinated me since I first heard his band in 2007 and their album Nux Vomica, which was a critical favorite, convinced me to go see this haunting and powerfully soulful singer when The Veils next came to town to play a two night gig at Hotel Cafe (Aug 16, 17, 2007). I attended both nights and was stunned both times. He puts an intensity into his singing and playing that is even more impressive in person than it is on recordings. The strained vulnerability in his voice is moving as an expression of bare-naked emotion.
By the time they came back through town with Sun Gangs in 2008, they had grown to fit into Echoplex, but I was surprised they hadn't really taken off as I had expected they would and by 2009, The Veils were playing Spaceland. I recall that was a particularly good show. Then they slowed down a bit, producing only an EP and engaged in limited touring for a few years, not coming to America at all.
It reveals a more mature band, working at full strength, but with a focus and positive musical spirit that could find the band a broader audience. The intense vocals are still there, but it feels like a more collaborative effort resulting in a solid and musically diverse album.
Posted by Brad at 10:22 PM
Thursday, May 2, 2013
In the midst of a chaotic week, somehow I manage to be hosting two shows over the next few days. And what shows they are. On Saturday, May 4, Feed Your Head presents Judson on a return to the local stage, and with a local star-studded cast of musicians including Rob Danson of Many Embers and Fort King on electric guitar, Eli Reyes on drums, Nancy Kuo on violin, and Mateo of Manhattan Murder Mystery on keys (that will be beautiful).
I've had a little difficulty in putting this one together but want to thank Shannon Inouyi of Emerson Star for jumping at the chance to play and committing early. Emerson Star played one of my favorite events last year when I hosted the November 1012 Lot 1 show and they just floored me with their super-tight harmonies and instantly catchy tunes. I look forward to the opportunity to hear Shannon solo, though he plays with electric guitar.
This show will be co-presented with All Scene Eye, a fairly recently formed co-op with the following stated purpose: "All Scene Eye is a collective of arts and music organizations that seek to better the creative and event promotion communities through sharing resources and good vibes on a massive level". I'm happy to be presenting with them.
The Sixth Son (below) begins a monthly residency at Los Globos, appropriately enough, on Monday, May Sixth, and I was asked to present so I will don two hats and present as Feed Your Head and Radio Free Silver Lake. I also have first hand knowledge of just how good Neil Mallick, and whatever band he puts together, is. The first time I saw him was at a show hosted by Rebecca Balin at 3 of Clubs last October when his only accompaniment was a guy on a saxophone. A sax and an electric guitar might seem like an odd duet, but the sounds they made were uncanny and it was a completely involving set highlighted by Neil's remarkably flexible voice coupled with his powerful, Hendrix-influenced raging guitar.
I immediately grabbed him for a Feed Your Head show at Lot 1 in November. At another show I hosted in December, The Sixth Son had become a band, joined by various audience members which turned into a musical free-for-all and a highly memorable night. When he played for a recent show in April it was as a solo, so I can say with confidence, no matter how many (or any) other musicians he plays with, he always delivers a surprising, and remarkably skillful set. And everyone always has a good time.
This show also features three other favorite local acts, Fort King, Judson (again, hooray!) and that performer who can make the stage cry "uncle!", Matthew Teardrop. This is almost too much fun for a Monday night. Come on down and join us. What a coincidence, here we all are at Thanksgiving last year.
Posted by Brad at 11:09 PM
Friday, April 26, 2013
Many songs were familiar from the Downtown/Union repertoire, but here sounded more emotional and personal. I was particularly intrigued by his final song which was based on his own experiences in Cambodia as a child and the historical upheaval he experienced. It's tale of terror, violence and flight reminds me of the Arcade Fire song "Haiti" about Régine Chassagne's similar situation, whose sad commonality is not restricted to a single location.
I spoke to Bonorath afterward about it and he related the story of his family's middle-of-the-night getaway from their home in Cambodia and their ultimate arrival in California. A harrowing tale. His ability to express all this in song is clearly his release and I'm happy he shares it with us. Oh, and he's a pretty descent guitar player on top of that.
My buddies, Haunted Summer were on second and I stayed to listen to a few song before I had to huddle in a pow-wow business meeting (music is a demanding mistress). But from what I heard it is getting stronger and more definite each time I see then. The sexy, head trip music of Bridgette and John seems to take shape somewhere in the space between your ears. They feed you all their hypnotic sounds and leave your brain and senses to figure it out and put it all together making you feel like a collaborator. It's feeding your head in the finest sense. (Look, in the photo above, they made the lights melt!) Just about the time you pass Saturn you lose all earthly connections. Here's a link to some Haunted Summer music.
This was counter balanced by the heroic blast of rock and roll provided by The Happy Casualties. If you think you've heard this band before, you owe it to yourself to go see them again, because they are really on a roll right now. Confident, almost brazen, they command the stage with a strut and determination to envelope you in their blast of hot rock. Look forward to the new record they're working on. It could be a game-changer. Congratulations!
Sorry I had to duck out before the final band, Circus Atari Acrobats, because it sounds like more in the genre of "Illuminati Puppet Rock", which, as if you couldn't tell, is a genre I like. This is a week of night-after-night shows so I had to leave, as I must pace myself...or die.
Meanwhile, Todd sat alone at the bar...er, wait a minute...
Posted by Brad at 1:34 PM
Saturday, April 20, 2013
But it was the music that transported me out of myself and when Rob started with a new song that was bursting with rapid-fire lyrics, you had to let everything go and just LISTEN. Despite the bar chatter, he persisted and sang two songs alone, the second being "Counterbalance". Now, shorn of facial hair (see above), his expressions are more readable heightening the raw emotion of the songs.
As soon as I arrived home that night and turned on the TV, Watertown, Massachusetts was under siege, and the whole night took on that surreal quality that lasted well into the next night. The pastoral beauty of the Many Embers set contrasted with the anxiety and violent activity going on around Boston at the same time was a mind-fuck and I'm still not sure if my feet have landed back on the ground.
Posted by Brad at 10:34 AM
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Wardell played next (good singers, tight band), and after a couple of songs I decided to explore some of the nooks and crannies of The Redbury and see if I really was in a library. The bands play on the outdoor rooftop that sits between the twin towers that house the hotel portion of the building. Even though the structure is new, it has a vintage feel. The indoor bar is in the "library" portion of the layout. That's "library" in the Hollywood sense of the word. Fake books, artfully arranged on shelves with candles (electronic?), and even a full body skeleton standing between some shelves. It kind of had a "Davy Jones Locker" feel. Pool tables and clusters of seating areas dot the room.
Bradley, with his gruff baritone and natural stage swagger, can't help but bear comparison to The National, and the music has a similar dark tone, but what sets them apart is their songwriting that stands on par with that famous band. There's a hint more pop in NO's songs, but a similar urgency and restlessness keeps the music just edgy enough. And the rest of the band more than hold up their end. Their playing is polished and passionate, never mechanical, and they sing harmonies that make the songs soar.
It was all over by 9:45, making for an early night and helping me to be sure to get over to Taix Lounge tonight (Apr. 18th) for Many Embers at 10:30. MUST SEE MORE SHOWS! MUST WRITE MORE!
Posted by Brad at 9:30 AM