Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Two of the acts I knew by reputation, for both Charlie Clark and Meredith Meyer have substantial followings. Jill Avilez is a talent I had witnessed first hand when she dazzled me with one of her bands, The Love Absurd (she plays in five) last year when they played at my show in June.
Accompanying herself on guitar, she has a gorgeously strong and expressive voice which she handles like a complex instrument. Joking about how some have told her to temper her broken relationship songs with some lighter fare between the romantic rants, she had a nicely modulated sets with some positively uptempo numbers here and there.
Because she had struck up a conversation before her set with Runson Willis, the multi-faceted musician I met last year when he played my show in Dec. '12, she invited him onstage to join her with his harmonica for a couple of songs. Uncanny how well he fit into her songs, it was truly inspirational to see two accomplished artists make an instant musical connection that sounded like they have been playing together all along.
Personal stories were turning out to be a theme of the evening and the cool, calm, almost stately demeanor of Ms. Meyer offered a wonderful contrast to the previous performer's emotion. She has a steady and confident presence and, though petite in stature, she filled Lot 1 with the soft, melodious sound of her reflective and specific songs. The lyrics sound autobiographical in their attention to detail and the exactness of the references to real life. She even has written a song called "Storyteller Girl". That's an apt description.
He told a familiar story I could relate to about growing up in a picturesque and idyllic pastoral location, but filled with people he couldn't wait to get away from. Afterward, he and I talked about how I empathized with the childhood spent in a kind of environmental paradise (in my case a seacoast town near Cape Cod) and the ever-gnawing need to get the fuck away. I mean, there was no where to go but OUT. So his song reflect a kind of restless desire for growth and new experiences, cogently told. I look forward to hearing him play with his full band.
It was a swinging and seductive set that the audience just ate up. Teena May came back in and became an enthusiastic supporter on the spot. Admitting to me later that she had been nervous about playing solo, Jill must have found the overwhelming appreciation of the people who had stayed enough to assuage that fear. It was a hair raising ending to the night. I'm looking forward to booking her four other bands this year.
Of all the Feed Your Head shows I've done (and that's now over 30) this was one of my favorites. A big thanks to Rebecca Balin for the line up and huge gratitude to the wonderful performers who gave so much for us to enjoy. And thanks to Eileen and Jason for their hospitality, as always. And Sean Guerin for sound duties, always the best.
Posted by Brad at 10:14 PM
Monday, January 6, 2014
I've apparently made an unconscious New Year's resolution to dive in head first and get out to more shows this year. Apropos to this revelation I went out last Friday night to see the fabulous FOMO Festival 2014 taking place at The Echo and Echoplex. 'FOMO' stands for Fear Of Missing Out, and this also fit in with my desire to catch up with the numerous recently sprouted bands that have cropped up over the past couple of years that I have been missing out on.
One of the main attractions was Avid Dancer, who I HAVE seen a few times already, but as they are making incredible strides with each performance, it's worthwhile to check in with them every few weeks.
Knowing that there was no way to enjoy all the bands performing that evening, I opted to focus on particular sets. Next up was Lo-Fang, downstairs in the Echoplex. But before they took the stage there was a spoken word artist named John Tottenham, who recited some wonderful and bizarre pieces that hovered close to the edge of tasteless, but were so truthful and highly humorous that it was just kind of wonderful.
I've known Jacob for a while now and had enjoyed his former band, The Rhone Occupation, but here he leaps to a whole other level. And each time I see them there is marked improvement, even though each time I was convinced they were at the top of their game. Where they go from here is anyone's guess.
Final band, Fever The Ghost, came on around midnight and sounded like a shot of adrenaline, but I had to get home to have energy for my Feed Your Head show the next night, so I couldn't stay. But they have a date at Bootleg Bar next Thursday, January 16th, on a bill with Nightmare and the Cat, Carina Round and The Peach Kings, so there's hope. That sounds like a great show.
Part 2 coming soon...
Posted by Brad at 7:57 PM
Friday, December 6, 2013
I've got an amazing show for you on Saturday night, Dec. 7 at Lot 1. Three wonderful bands and a storyteller artist to open the evening at nine. There's a lot of shows out there on Saturday, but I like to think this one has the edge.
A couple of weeks ago I went to The Viper Room to check out a show Rebecca Balin was putting on. I sampled some of the songs of a band called Wages on line and was quite impressed and made sure I was there for their early set. I was stunned by the breadth and range of their talent. For only a three-piece band they filled the room with melodious sound. Check out the fabulous video that Bronson posted over at BuzzbandsLA, then come on down and hear it live at midnight. Their music has the discipline of Pinback, yet the adventurous quality of prog rock. I can't wait to see them for the second time.
Posted by Brad at 9:00 AM
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
From the very first try, the ticket sales website said, "Sorry, nothing matches your search criteria." As I repeatedly got the "sorry..." message I was cursing the bastards who had pre-ordered the album and been allowed to pre-buy the concert tickets the day before. Then the light bulb in my head went off and I thought, "why not try the telephone and see if any tickets have been siphoned off for phone sales." That's what I did before I had the laptop, and nobody uses the phone anymore. Eureka! Within three minutes I had my ticket.
I have to say, on the first listening, Reflektor wasn't what I expected. As one dance song followed another, and another, I wondered if some variety had been lost. Then the second disk sounded unlike the first disk with a variety of styles that struck me as odd. This all is to illustrate how WRONG first impressions can be. Over the next two days some of the songs really began to get a grip on me and I soon found myself really admiring the thunderous production values.
It didn't take long for the mob of costumed concertgoers to close in behind me. Goblins, ghouls, the walking dead, dandies, hookers and a lot sporting as many reflective surfaces as they could sew onto their jackets and dresses. Many people simply wore CDs all over their clothes. Production people circulated among us and picked out some of the most reflective costumes to pull out of the line for some other purpose.
paper mache heads used in the "Reflektor" video began dancing at the head of the line as a camera crew filmed the entire thing (with our friends in the reflective costumes used as a backdrop). I'm assuming that it was indeed Arcade Fire who were wearing the masks and dancing to the Mariachis. While I can't confirm that, here is a picture (above) from where I was standing.
Blasting into the title tune from the new album, the whole room seemed to move as one giant undulating organism to the hypnotic dance beat. For once, the bass-heavy sound in the Palladium was perfectly suited to the music coming from the stage. The intoxicating thump of that song coupled with the anthem-like refrains and wall-of-sound orchestrations got the room into a frenzied high right off the bat. From that moment on no one was able to resist and we rose collectively off the floor, not to return for an hour and a half.
Next, without taking a breath, they dipped back into their repertoire for the first of only a handful of older songs they included in the set to blast us with a thunderingly aggressive version of "Neighborhood # 3 (Lights Out)". After the audience shouted out the lyrics along with the band, I was thrilled that they returned to the new songs for the bulk of the night, leaving the sing-a-long crowd stranded and forced to listen.
"Flashbulb Eyes" brought the tempo down a little as it qualifies as one of the albums less bombastic songs dipping into reggae territory and featuring twangy '60s surf guitars. It was a temporary respite as they then played a series of progressively more elaborately orchestrated songs that had the audience in a state of ever more collective euphoria.
I was enjoying the hell out of the show from where I was on the floor, but, truth be told, when you're buried in the middle of a huge crowd like this one at The Palladium you're lucky to catch occasional glimpses of the tops of the musicians heads. The venue might be better off with a more graded floor or a higher stage. So I decided to wander for the rest of the show and catch it from all different angles.
I am confused by reviewers who say "it's just dance music." We'll, excuse me, but Arcade Fire has always been a dance band. Thank God everyone stood up for the two Shrine shows two years ago, because I would never been able to stay in my seat. The teaming up of the band with James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem to produce the new album, pushed the band to explore a wider variety of dance oriented music that they have before and the result is an album full of surprises, including some that take some time to get used to. But the effort is well worth it as you'll discover one of the year's best albums.
Coming back on stage from a short break they performed two audience favorites as encores (and two of heir best songs) to finish off this incredible night and give Regine the chance to overwhelm us with her lead vocals. First "Haiti", for which she wore two giant pink foam gloves so that, even at the back of the room (where I was by now), everyone could enjoy her wonderfully evocative hand movements, which, to me, have always been a highlight of their shows.
And they save one of the best for last, "Sprawl II" from The Suburbs, which was such a stand out on their last tour, and it was again here. Regine even picked up the colored streamers she always used to accentuate her dancing and prancing all over the stage, taking command and holding the audience in the palm of her hand. I was like putty. We all were. It was a supreme ending to a superb show.
Limp from exhaustion and exaltation, we all tumbled out of Hollywood Palladium onto the ghoul, witch and Halloween crowded streets of Hollywood itself. The whole world seemed suspended in a weird time-warp, where the environment inside the concert hall and the environment outside on the streets were one in the same. After a night like this I wonder, "Is there anywhere better to be?" It took more than a few days to come back down to Earth.
Posted by Brad at 11:40 PM
Friday, October 25, 2013
(first published at Radio Free Silver Lake 10/23/13)
Every time I see Okkervil River I feel I've gotten to know Will Sheff a little better. The intensity and depth of his lyrics reveal so much about himself it makes his live concerts seem an act of bold daring by an artist unafraid of the fallout such revelations could incur. Only a few performers I've ever seen get away with this successfully. The show on Sunday night, October 19, was just such an occasion. The new album, The Silver Gymnasium, is the most blatantly autobiographical of all his releases, dealing specifically with his childhood in New Hampshire, and it made this performance cathartic for both the performer and the audience.
Sitting in a nearly empty Wiltern Theatre (I wanted to get into the pit so I got there before the door opened at 7) I was surprised there was nobody there yet. But then my thoughts on who should be popular and who actually is popular are almost never in sync. As a fan of Okkervil River for a while now, I'm always amazed all over again at just how compelling a band they are, and yet almost nobody I know follows them. It seems incredible.
They appeared to genuinely enjoy playing their set and that enthusiasm transferred to the audience. The music was meticulously arranged for his talented band and covered a wide spectrum of styles, all highlighted by Matthew's strong and steady vocals. With his obvious talent for music arrangement, he has collaborated with some musicians I admire very much, like Sharon Van Etten and The Mountain Goats. Their 35 minute set was a definite crowd pleaser.
With a blast of orchestral music, the stage remained dark except for the blue glow of their illuminated backdrop until, a couple of minutes later, the seven members of Okkervil River strode onstage and launched into the first two songs off the new album, "It Was My Season" and "On a Balcony", these were exactly the songs I wanted to hear. Instead of continuing onto the album's third cut, "Down Down The Deep River"(which may be one of their greatest songs), they zapped back to the 2004 release, Black Sheep Boy for "Black" and "For Real" and invested those two numbers with a new passion and energy.
photos: Brad Roberts
Posted by Brad at 3:44 PM
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
certain not to miss the record release in-store set at Amoeba Music on Tuesday, September 10, as they're about to do a couple of shows with Cœur de pirate, like on Saturday night (Sept. 14) at El Rey. Soon after that they take off for a Parisian honeymoon, yes, John and Bridgette are getting married!
With Daniel Goldblatt on drums and Augustus Green on bass, the band now numbers four and they have coalesced into a four-piece unit that is evolving with a clearly defined sound. The addition of the drums and bass have anchored the more ethereal sounds generated by John and Bridgette, with a formidable low end making the music move steadily forward.
With an audience made up of many friends, it had a bit of the reunion feeling to it, and they were warmly appreciated by the rest of the crowd. I even managed to finagle a couple of free shows out of the evening with Jacob Dylan Summers inviting me to the Avid Dancer set on the following night, Sept 11, at Bootleg, and John and Bridgette invited me to attend their El Rey set on Saturday. Have I ever said I love this town?
On Saturday night, Haunted Summer was back from playing an opening set for Cœur de pirate in San Francisco the night before and they were all still understandably tingly from the experience and the long drive down the coast to make this date. I met them in the front foyer of the theatre and was, again, whisked up to the Green Room, but this time it was the El Rey theatre. A place where I have seen so many venerated bands that I love, that I felt a little dizzy. It was a bit of a shock to see how small the actual stage of El Rey is, and how it looks so much bigger from out in the auditorium.
Johnny Seasons has brought me into so many remarkable places that I would never have had access to in order to gain the perspective that I've been able to accumulate over the past few years that I'll always be grateful. This was another one. Much of the tour personnel was weary and punch-drunk from being up for so many hours
We all spilled out into the the theatre when the time came for Haunted Summer to hit the stage. With a program that was substantially the same as the set at Amoeba, the revelation was hearing it in the gigantic dimensions of the El Rey, with all the atmospheric lighting and cathedral-like ambiance of the hall itself.
It ended up being a delightful night, spent with good friends and thoroughly enjoying each other's company. I feel like a very lucky individual.
Posted by Brad at 1:34 AM
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Ruthann Friedman & The Now People cover The Ruthann Friedman Songbook at Taix Lounge - September 6, 2013
There were songs of love, "When You're Near" and I'll Make You Happy", songs of anger and frustration, "Please Please Please", celebrations of joy, filled with a realistic optimism and the hope for change that so characterized that generation, like "Halfway There". My generation. I've tried to keep much of that alive in myself through the decades, somehow. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not. It was like a trip through many of the emotions and tribulations I had even forgotten I had, making me feel like I was running into my younger self during the show.
This became nearly overwhelming when Terry Kirkman (behind the mic above) of The Association came on stage to perform the flute part from the song "Windy", confirming that I was indeed in a the time warp. I had all the early albums by The Association, had learned that "Along Comes Mary" was not about a girl named Mary, loved "Cherish" before it was ruined by all those wedding receptions, and even remembered that "Windy" was from their third album.
With the song "Raining Down On My House", Ruthann had one of her musicians play the sitar as this heady and unpredictable song overtook all reason and the audience was lost in a swirling psychedelic acid haze. From a sunny California pop sound, through the songs of a woman's empowerment, with a touch of the Herb Alpert Tijuana sound that influenced so much music in that era, it was truly a program of amazing variety and showed us why Ruthann Friedman is a national treasure.
Posted by Brad at 8:19 PM