Sunday, November 30, 2008

Finally, Marvelous Toy

What a neat place Crane's Hollywood Tavern is, tucked away on El Centro Avenue around the corner from the Fonda. According to previous patrons, they've revamped the place and made the back patio the main entrance and repositioned the stage inside on the street side of the building. Althought the structure itself is an ordinary, boxy, stucco affair the place is steeped in old Hollywood flavor. Nice staff and a picturesque outdoor bar made Saturday evening, November 29, 2008, a very pleasant experience.

Jordan Hudock of Marvelous Toy and Vivien Cao were pulling up as I got there just after 9, so we sat on the patio in a big booth to chat a while. The first band, The Elated Sob Story had been forced to cancel so Downtown Union would open the show at 10. Jordan and Vivien are two of my longest acquaintances in the scene and it's always great to catch up with them. Only tonight, I was going to see Jordan's band for the first time. And on a bill with one of my current favorite bands, Seasons. I was looking forward to it.

Downtown Union are Bo Bory on vocals and guitar and Jeff Electric who is an electrifying human drum machine. Tight songwriting and powerful guitar playing make for a very catchy set. I've seen them before and I feel like they could remain a duo and do very well or add additional musicians for a fuller band sound. Either way they have tremendous potential.

By now, the guys from Seasons had arrived and there was a nice gathering of friends and support musicians like Matt Teardrop of Manhattan Murder Mystery, movie aficionado, Ian, and got to have a nice talk with Jack Gibson of Tenlons Fort, who's currently working with Aaron Embry and Avi Buffalo. I can't wait to hear the fruits of that labor.

Collisions was on next and they play hypnotic trance music that lulled the audience into a state of tranquility. I love ambient electronic indie music and this band plays it extremely well and they sounded great in the space. I would like to hear this band recorded and look forward to seeing them live again.

It must have been close to midnight when Seasons filled the stage with lights, musicians and music. They played a strong set, had able support from Matt on accordion and tambourine, everyone played their best, but, unfortunately, they couldn't get Nic's vocals up enough to pull their huge sound together. All the other elements rang out loud and clear and just to hear the wide range of their musicianship was still a pleasure. They can just fill the ears with perfect sound sometimes. But Nic's vocals are so extraordinary, it's what I pined to hear clearer.

But the night belonged to Marvelous Toy. They didn't even go on till near one in the morning, but once they began, it felt like early evening again.

Like I said, I've known Jordan Hudock for a while, so to have it explode in my face, what a major songwriting and performing talent he is, was a revelation, to say the least. I've been listening to the EP All is Quiet for a while now, but it gives no clue to the dynamic presentation the songs receive in a live performance.

The contributions of all the band members is outstanding with special mention to Ny Lee, and song after song, they kept topping themselves. I recognized "Waiting By the Fire" and "The City is a Washing Machine" but others seemed in an entirely different genre than the other EP selections. He still sounds a bit Randy Newman and John Lennon-ish, but live, there's a whole raucous dimension only hinted at on the recordings.

It's a bit folk, a lot of indie, almost Appalachian at times, but really lively, like an original Americana music form with bookish lyrics. He can also flat out rock till you're ready to jump up and dance. I don't know how they've managed to fly below my radar for so long (many other bloggers have written glowingly of them), but I anxiously await they're next show at the Silverlake Lounge on January 5, 2009.

I was flabbergasted. They're not just a good new band, they're a great band. So many new local bands seem to spring to life fully formed, like they're already performing at the the top of their capabilities, but they keep surprising me and topping themselves. Marvelous Toy is another band to add to that group.

Fun to find a new band and a new venue to enjoy.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Eve Festival at The Echo

It was hard to tell what kind of turnout there'd be for The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra's Thanksgiving Eve show on Wednesday, November 26, 2008, hosted by Performer Magazine and at The Echo. My experience of holiday shows only dates back 2 years but I've never even attended a show on Thanksgiving week before, and Christmas has also been deadly, because, I assumed, everyone went out of town. So what was up Wednesday night. Everybody was there!

The place was pretty empty when I walked in, but by the end of the evening The Echo had inhaled and exhaled huge crowds for each band. Obi Best started the festivities with a lilting set of that curious, jazz-infused, calypso-beat pop music exemplified by The Bird and the Bee's Inara George. I wasn't surprised when I was told Alex Lilly has performed with them, but she brings her own style to the genre.

Backed by a terrific band, she sings twisting melodies and smart lyrics in a strong, stylish voice and has an easy stage assurance. Wendy Wang provides beautiful back up and when she and Alex blend their voices it's one sweet sound. Their set provided the perfect opening for the evening's festivities with a swooning, lyrical, highly sophisticated sound. A martini wouldn't have been out of place.

Princeton set up next as everyone moved out back and more and more familiar scenesters kept showing up. I couldn't help but reflect on the last year and all the great people I've met since I took that step from outside observer to blogger and how everything changed at that point. The welcome I've received has pretty much overwhelmed me. That's what Thanksgiving means to me this year. (That, and the fact we're getting rid of George Bush - though the damage will take decades to clean up)

Princeton played a set of their pleasant, Kinks-influenced indie pop and they had the audience hopping around. I've seen them a few times, but they have yet to bowl me over. They play well, have good stage personalities, but their songs just don't grab me. Perhaps over time I'll reconsider, as they do have some strong advocates in the community.

I was so caught up socializing out back that I missed the first number by The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra, so I was surprised when I went in and saw a bunch of pilgrims and indians singing Tourbillon songs on stage. I have to admit, with her New England roots, Kelli does look like a pilgrim in her getup. But Aaron as an indian, I'm not so sure.

They played a set that included a bunch of new numbers, every one a good song, and some familiar hits. Kelli and Hunter sang wonderfully together and the whole band gave their all, ending with a couple of covers from my youth, "Happiness is a Warm Gun" and "Reach Out".
Not exactly Thanksgiving songs, unless you're a turkey.
(Insert Sarah Palin/turkey video, here.)

Everyone was extremely festive by this time and I'm afraid I Make This Sound were sacrificed in the activity. There was so much going on outside that I couldn't pull myself back inside to see a band I really liked last time I saw them. Sorry guys, next time I'll do better.

It really was a remarkable night and I think it should become a holiday tradition. It was the highlight of my Thanksgiving 2008.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Prom Night at Pehrspace

Since it's been 40 years since I attended my own high school prom (Class of '68, you know), I felt I could finally stand another one. Also, this one was not a forced societal conformity, so it was a choice, not an obligation. Hence, I had a great time.

Arriving early with Elaine Layabout, this final installment of the Sean Carnage presentation of the Archaeology of The Monolators was to feature Elaine's daughter, Ema and the Ghosts, in an opening slot, which I didn't want to miss. We walked into a brightly lit room where the finishing touches were being put on a puppet show set. Yes, the opening act was to be a puppet show by a troupe called Cristina's Puppet Show.

With all the lights, it was like seeing Pehrspace with no clothes on. All the warts and blemishes were showing and you couldn't help but wonder what the space was in a previous life; a beauty parlor? a car rental office? a restaurant? a residence? a front for illegal trade? No one seems to know.

The prom theme hit home when the person standing next to me, with the neatly parted hair and full dress suit on, opened his mouth and it was Rob (Death To Anders) Danson inside there. The Monolators' Eli And Mary Chartkoff swept in, he in purple velvet tuxedo jacket and she in a beige evening gown, highlighted by an agonizingly green jacket. They came bearing tray after tray of Mary's delicious homemade pretzels. Ashley Jex was an Hitchcockian vision in a grey gown that was part Grace Kelly, part Kim Novak.

Milling about outside and inside, the small crowd assembled on the floor when it was announced Cristina's Puppet Show would commence puppeteering. It was an inspired choice to open the night. They are a kind of mime/puppetry/Kabuki theatre mix involving puppets, live actors, shadow play and highly imaginative sets and props. All backed by an alternately droning and wildly dramatic electronic music score.

What begins simply, with a puppet figure discovering precious gems or artifacts, one of them, a ring (Oh god, I thought, don't let this be based on Lord of the Rings!) progresses to an epic tale of, I think, man's relationship to man and to the spirit world and how they all work to each other's mutual destruction. Perfect prom entertainment, to my way of thinking.

Barely discernible puppeteers, dressed in black with black covered heads and hands, manipulate the figures and props with fluidity and grace, even occasionally with humor. It was a pretty enchanting spectacle filled with appropriately weird and fantastic sound effects and a mind-blowing, cataclysmic ending.

All of us on the floor were stunned when it ended. We applauded, but then everyone remained hushed, trying to figure out what had just happened. I hope the performers didn't think the crowd unresponsive, but few spoke to them after because they had just collectively blown our little brains.

Up next was Ema and the Ghosts, who I have been lucky enough to have seen before and, once again, this completely captivating performer enchanted me. Accompanying herself, first, on the accordion, she sings in a refreshingly confident style, droll tales of life and romance, without affectation. Her musical vocabulary is large and varied, she even sang a Monolators cover which was hilarious, along with her own compositions, which are delightfully original. Her fine voice is easy and unforced, with terrific range.

She also played a ukulele and then sat on the floor at her keyboard and sang and played, making me feel like I was peering into the act of creation by an artist in her own private space. Lit only by a red light attached to a forward right speaker and a dim green one (Xmas, you know)behind her to the left, increased the sense of intimacy. They were, however, more eerie than festive; appropriate to Ema and the Ghosts' other-worldly charms. I look forward to more from this fresh, original artist.

People were feeling exceptionally celebratory by this point, both inside and outside. Running into everyone from Nate of Castledoor and Adam from Fol Chen, Katya from The Health Club to Aaron of Amnion and Matt of Manhattan Murder Mystery, Ethan from The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra to most of Seasons, I was totally occupied, completely missing Dugout Canoe from Denver. But what a great turnout!

I was lured back inside for the experimental electronic ambiance of an ensemble named Kevin Shields. It was an amazing mix of sounds, mixed and looped and over dubbed and everything else you can use to bend sound into a pretzel. It was hypnotic and in the gradual grip it took on the mind, I began to see the brilliance of Eli and Mary's plan for the evening. What we were hearing was futuristic and unique, the massive noise punctured by gorgeous vocals, both realistic and distorted.

The last three weeks had highlighted the past, but the intent of this evening was to focus on the present and project into the future. I thought what the Chartkoffs and Sean Carnage were doing was showing us a possible future direction for music and theatre art. We'd had futuristic puppet theatre, Ema and the Ghosts was a form of performance art, and now Kevin Shields. Eli and Mary and Sean, you are brilliant. I stood there in a trance.

The Monolators took to the stage around one o'clock in the morning, but no one cared what hour it was. They were electric and tore through much of their new Don't Dance CD, after beginning with a Christmas song. It was the culmination of a month of creative programming for one of the most extraordinary residencies we've had in L.A.

Cheers to Eli and Mary and Ashley Jex and Tom Bogdon who all performed outstandingly. You should all be very proud. I wish I could write more about this set but even I was beginning to fade at that time, so I just stood there and let the whole beautiful thing wash over me.

They're back at Pehrspace on December 6 with Ema and the Ghosts (again) and The Sweet Hurt and Karabal Nightlife.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Top Ten - November 17 - 23

Lots of new stuff this week of November 17 - 23, 2008.

1. The Henry Clay People - For Cheap or For Free (Autumn Tree Records) When in doubt, play Henry Clay.
2. The Eels - Electro-shock Blues (Dream Works Records) Can't let this record go.
3. The Happy Casualties - Too Much Joy Turns Back the Fingernails (Swillpro Records)
4. Seasons - 12-song compilation (self release)
5. The Broken West - Now or Heaven (Merge)
6. Death To Anders - Ficticious Business (self release)
7. Rogue Wave - Asleep at Heaven's Gate (Sub Pop)
8. Automatic Drawing - The Captain and The Sea EP (self release)
9. O' Death - Broken Hymns Limbs and Skin (Kemado Records)
10. The Frontier Brothers - Space Punk Starlet (self Release)


Death at Spaceland

Saturday night November 22, 2008 was one of those special nights that you just never want to end. Three bands at the top of their game in front of a warm and responsive audience. You feel privileged just to be able to witness it. Ironic that two bands with the word "death" in their names, Death To Anders and O'Death, would spring to vibrant life right before our stunned eyes.

I've been following Death To Anders since I first learned of them last January. Their music struck me as uniquely quirky and unpredictable. With it's skewed sense of humor and sometimes harshly realistic lyrics, love the line, "you be the dollar and I'll be the whore". Whew, that's brilliant. I've seen them play all kinds of sets, but I think I can say with confidence, what I saw Saturday night was a whole other animal.

Each song was performed at the 'best ever' level, until you let go of all resistance, and just went with it. Rob Danson's singing was stronger and more confident than ever and the same can be said of Nick Ceglio. When bassist Pete Dibiasio occasionally joined them, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I have never heard them sing like this before. John Broeckel contributed his usual solid anchor of drum work, which gives the others the freedom to fly.

Their playing together has become seamless, each piece fitting perfectly into the puzzle. It was also the best set list I've ever seen them play, with each song equalling or besting the previous one. Incredible job, particularly, on "Man of 1000 Regrets". I said to someone, it was the most cohesive set I've heard from them yet, and I think everyone was in agreement. At least everyone had a big smile plastered on their face when they finished. I think the uninitiated were duly impressed. Death To Anders hit the big leagues tonight!

The turnout was great for this show and by now I was in a little cluster of bloggers, Kevin Bronson (Buzzbands), Travis Woods (Web in Front), Mouse (Classical Geek Theatre), along with music scene documenters, Elaine Layabout (not filming) and Scott Shultz. It was a mighty contrast to the night before when I'd been floating in that petri dish with the dates on the west side. The spirit in Silver Lake right now is not to be sneezed at.

Next up were Le Switch. No hint of "death" here either, as they amazed everyone with an electric set filled with spirited playing, great musicianship and beautiful music. I've seen this band before too, but this was the clincher. Same as with Death To Anders, Le Switch has never sounded better and the sound tonight at Spaceland was incredible!

They sing a kind of honky-tonk influenced indie rock with songs that have a solid root in tin pan alley. Aaron Kyle sings in a classic "raspy' and 'whiskey-soaked' voice that shows amazing power at times. He's surrounded himself with an incredible ensemble including Joe Napolitano on drums and backing vocals, who's drumming athletics were dazzling to watch, Christopher Harrison on bass and Josh Charney on keys, who plays a perfect saloon piano. Maria DeLuca contributions with viola, trumpet and tambourine adds the flourishes that make their unique sound stand out and vocals that sweeten the mix.

The crowd at Spaceland was cheering Le Switch on as they outdid themselves, song after song. Lots of members from local bands were on hand to support them including The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra, Division Day, The Happy Casualties, One Trick Pony and others.

Already feeling the night was one of monumental musical proportions, I had been warned by various audience members to be prepared for O'Death. I was not. They're currently on a cross-country tour and I'm so glad they dropped into Spaceland to play one of the best bills I've seen this year.

This New York band took the stage by storm and conquered what was left of anyones resistance to the celebratory mood of the evening. They had the audience jumping and dancing and levitating off the floor in a matter of minutes.

I gotta say right here, there are so many New York bands I love, it really warmed my heart to see these guys taken right into the heart of Silver Lake by this crowd. They treated them like they were local favorite sons. And the band responded in kind.

O'Death combines elements of the gipsy-punk movement typified by Gogol Bordello with fragments of the eastern European style of Beirut, the hillbilly-funk of Benjy Feree and the creative songcraft of a Grizzly Bear. Yet they create a sound all their own. Their playing is clear, concise, wildly energetic, and endlessly inventive.

Greg Jamie has a voice I can't begin to describe, kind of a puppy-dog yelp that is totally endearing. The band backs him up like a jug-band orchestra employing instruments that include ukulele, banjo, piano, fiddles, trombone and euphonium. Special mention must go Bob Pycior for his astonishing fiddle playing.

I didn't have enough cash on me last night to get their CD, but ran to Amoeba first thing this morning to pick up their latest one, Broken Hymns Limbs and Skin (how many CD's are going to have the word 'hymns' in the title this year, anyway?). It's just great and a wonderful keepsake of a very memorable evening.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

West Side Story

I had to go to The Good Hurt on the west side on Friday night (November 21, 2008) to see a friend of mine play with his band. Scott Sigl's band, The Happy Casualties were closing the night, and I'm really smitten with their CD, but I wanted to be sure to see Hard Goodbye too, so I got there early. Maybe a little too early.

The bus trip there was a bit trying, and time consuming, but when I walked in, there I was in the middle of Friday night date night - west side style. It was like viewing life in a petri dish. All the range of human particularities are present. No one I knew was there yet, but it was so crowded I had to wait to be admitted.

The band playing was rocking hard and I wandered around to find a good vantage point to see them and watch the door for acquaintances. Wow, it sounded like date night - 1979. Dirty Money weren't what I expected. A Grand Funk Railroad crossed with a little glam rock and a bit of hair-metal. I don't think it's a genre that's capable of being done fresh. And I don't think anyone should try.

They had a lot of enthusiastic fans present, and they had been celebrating with a lot of drinking! I had to dodge the occasional swerving dancer losing balance. And their set went on and on. When they finished, one was bombarded by disco music, played far louder than the band!

That's when I spotted Scott hauling some of his equipment in. Was I ever grateful for a familiar face. He introduced me to the rest of The Happy Casualties and I went off to the door to see if Elaine Layabout was here yet, as he said she was on her way. Rob Danson of Death To Anders came too, so we at least had each other.

Hard Goodbye were the next band and it just didn't inspire me. A couple of good songs, but I just thought it sounded pretty ordinary. It was hard not to compare it to the night at Boardner's a few days ago, when three band just killed it. I mean, why do the bands on the east side make it seem so effortless while others struggle just to be mediocre. Maybe under different circumstances I could reconsider, but all the music so far this night just wasn't making it. I don't think the audience disagreed, as most left during this set.

As soon as The Happy Casualties began, the night transformed itself, right before my eyes, into an evening of worthwhile music. Here was a genuinely talented and unpretentious singer and his band, rocking out at one o'clock in the morning for about 20 of us who stayed. Scott Sigl has a great, raw voice, live, and he can really shred his guitar. He was ably matched by his bass player and drummer.

I have their CD, Too Much Joy Turns Back the Fingernails that I got from Scott and I have been playing it a lot. It's a really pretty indie-pop record with terrific songwriting with some beautiful orchestral flourishes. They only played one song off that release, but this was strictly a rock and roll set and it showed another side of their music. They rocked with a quality that reminded me of The Monolators or Manhattan Murder Mystery.

It was great because the night turned out to be a really fun evening with a few friends and, finally, some really wonderful music. Thanks to The Happy Casualties.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Last Tuesday at Boardner's

An air of sweet melancholy hung over the garden at Boardner's as I walked in on Tuesday (November 18, 2008) as the Automatic Drawing played their pretty, infectious rock. I soon realized it was just as it had always been. Joe Fielder was, once again, finding bands I'd hardly heard of and I was soon airborne, hanging on every note.

By the end of the evening, the melancholy had been replaced by the satisfaction that I had attended so many of these special nights. But instead of feeling like an ending, it felt like a page was turning to reveal something new. What "Let's Independent!" has wrought is a flood of free shows across L.A. (well, the East Side, mostly) that reproduce with such regularity that the competition is becoming a delicious dilemma for the music lover.

With a nice combination of instruments (guitars, bass, keyboards, drums and a ukulele) and some sweet harmonizing, Automatic Drawing played indie-rock of the solid variety which I enjoy very much. Lead singer, Drew Kirkpatrick, reminded me a bit of The New Pornographers' A.C. Newman, but has a strong vocal style of his own. Intelligent lyrics, nice melodies, with a touch of sadness, perfect for the occasion.

Met the members of the band and bought their very nice EP, The Captain and the Sea.
By now there seemed to be a steady stream of people filing into the club which continued throughout the entire evening. So many of the bands that have have played this event were there, many more than I could recognize but among them were Rob Danson of Death To Anders, Christian Biel of The Transmissions, One Trick Pony' Randolph, Mary Monolator, Andrew Spitzer of Radar To the Sky and so many more. It was a night of difficult choices but I was glad I was there.

Next band was The Broken Remotes and they gave a high energy jolt to the proceedings. Not completely unlike the terrific set I saw last week by The Frontier Brothers with a solid lead singer who easily commands your attention. The audience seemed to pay close attention to the music as I detected less bar chatter than usual. Or maybe everyone was feeling a little solemn.

They had everyone bouncing to the music and forced a good mood onto us. Clever song writing from a band whose members are Jon, John P. and John C., plus Amy and Mark Lane; who are also Mr. Wood, Mr. Wood and Ms. Wood, plus Mr. Leahy (that would be Jon) and Mark Lane. Fate brought them together and The Broken Remotes led us up to the nest band, Pizza!.

Boardner's was pretty full by now and it was nice to just occasionally survey the crowd and see how many showed up. Joe seemed pretty pleased with the attendance and bands will be forever grateful for the opportunities he gave to so many. See the fabulous video that Jacob Summers of The Rhone Occupation shot (here). For someone so passionately devoted to the local music scene, there's no doubt we'll be hearing from him soon.

Finally I got some Pizza!. What a party band, and what a perfect capper to the whole shebang. I can see why this band is often asked to close a show, because they bring the whole place to life with their energetic music and style. That's also why I've never seen them, since they often go on at 1am.

Their myspace page describes them as Tropical/Surf/Crunk and I think that about says it. They obviously worship at the alter of Frank Zappa and they let their imaginations fly in a kind of Zappa Rap. They took our heads and bounced them around the walls of Boardner's like so many superballs. It was a lot of fun. And you were left with that wonderful "Let's Independent!"-afterglow, three great bands, lots of great people, a perfect finale to an amazing run of over two years.

Here's to whatever comes next, Joe!


Monday, November 17, 2008

Joe Fielder and Radio Free Silver Lake

Tuesday night is a quandary for many of us (see: Mouse, Classical Geek Theatre) but less so when one considers Joe Fielder. My first acquaintance came about because of Great Northern, who I'd been following around, puppy-dog style ever since I first saw them on March 29, 2006 at the King King playing Irving's CD release party for Death in the Garden, Blood on the Flowers.

Since that night I'd seen them four times and had the chance to get to know them a little. They were the first band I ever approached, to compliment and try to engage in a little conversation. And Rachel Stolte was incredibly kind and generous, gradually easing me into a comfort zone where I could actually sound like a human being around her, and not just a gushing fool.

I'd always held musicians in a special place of awe, almost untouchable. I mean, I can draw and am good at assorted visual arts, and maybe I'm developing a small talent for writing, but music and it's creation were always a mystery to me. So approaching a musician was daunting to me. It doesn't take just talent, but also a lot of courage to put yourself out there so openly and nakedly, and I have nothing but admiration for anyone capable of doing so. I hoped to maybe connect with them by virtue of the fact we were both artists. Flash forward two years and, my god, how times have changed.

Leading directly/indirectly back to Joe, Great Northern were set to play the first "Let's Independent!" and I could see them for the fifth time on September 29, 2006 at Boardner's in Hollywood. Also on the bill were The Western States Motel and The Movies.

A little research led me to the sponsor of the event, Radio Free Silver Lake. Being totally unaware of the blogging scene, I was amazed at what I found. Here was a guy who was talking about all the local bands I'd heard of, some I'd seen, and even more I didn't know. He even had an interview with Pinback (who were already my favorite band).

And the listings of upcoming shows was the best, most comprehensive I'd ever seen. Then there were music videos and music samples to hear what was coming up. And on top of that, his taste seemed similar to my own, so I quickly became comfortable with his recommendations.

That first night at Boardner's was eye-opening to say the least. First of all, the atmosphere, old-Hollywood ambiance and the beauty of the place was almost overwhelming. The fountain with the candles was particularly enticing. (Until I dropped my wallet into it one night).

The first band, The Western States Motel, blew me away right off the bat. I've been a huge fan of theirs ever since and got to know that iteration of the band quite well: Carl Jordan, Mike Schanzlin and, particularly, Mike Griffin, who, along with Rachel Stolte, Solon Bixler and Davey Latter of Great Northern, became one of the musician I knew best, in the local scene.

Great Northern delivered a great set that night and the sound quality was wonderful. Something I got used to at subsequent "Let's Independent's!" nights. The Movies removed the back of my head and I was impressed.

I was getting used to the idea that musicians liked to talk to people, and that night at Boardner's showed me what was possible. Hell, even I could tell the audience was made up mostly of musicians, all I had to do was open my mouth and talk. What I didn't do was talk to Joe. I thought that would have been too presumptuous of me. At that point I was still that old guy all alone at the back, watching.

Then a year went by and I saw lot of show, often on the days of "Let's Independent!" so I didn't go back till November, 2007. That was to see Frankel, who I'd seen at the in-store at Sea Level Records back in June, just before they closed, and who's CD Lullaby For the Passersby I was really enjoying. That was the night I met Castledoor and The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra and they all became friends and the rest, as they say, is history. I'm also proud to call Michael Orendy (Frankel) a friend.

What I could never have been prepared for was the warm welcome I have received. I met Joe Fielder that night and since then I have attended every "Let's Independent!" and spent some great times discussing music (and life) with him. His love of the music scene is remarkable, and genuine and his knowledge of it is without peer. How did he find a band as unheralded and as incredible as The Hidden Hooks? He told me he booked Fol Chen solely on a performance he'd seen in someone's living room. How did he know Amnion would turn out to be one of the most wonderful bands I've ever heard in my life?

How do you thank him for all that? I guess I'll just be there for whatever he does next, because I'll always have him to thank for this blog. It was at Boardner's last February that I met Vivien, who was with Jordan Hudock of Marvelous Toy and we chatted and the three of us hit it off. Meeting them a few weeks later led Vivien to write this flattering article, superfan brad, on her blog. Combined with all the people who had mentioned I ought to start a blog, that was the straw. On May 9, 2008, I put my hands together, closed my eyes...and jumped. It may have been the best thing I ever did!

Thank you, Joe.


Top Ten - November 10 - 16

Here's this week's list: November 10 - 16, 2008

1. The Eels - Electro-shock Blues (Dream Works Records) This is a tough, emotional record, but worth every tear.

2. Seasons - 12-song compilation (self release)
3. Dungen - 4 (Kemado Records)
4. The Broken West - Now or Heaven (Merge)
5. Dead Meadow - Feathers (Matador)
6. Tommy Santee Klaws - Gloria (self release)
7. Thailand - The Remote Contoller Absorbs the Place (self release)
8. Earlimart - Hymn and Her (Majordomo Records)
9. The Henry Clay People - For Cheap of For Free (Autumn Tree Records)
10. Red Cortez (formerly: The Weather Underground) - Hymns and Shanties (self release)


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Feed Your Head at the American Legion

Saturday night (November 15, 2008) I was off to the American Legion Post 206 in Highland Park and this time I intended to find it. In September I had attempted to see My Secret Alphabet there and couldn't find it, so armed with maps, schedules and addresses this time, I found this incredible venue.

It truly is an American Legion, complete with a right-wing bartender regaling patrons with horror stories of schools that won't allow the Pledge of Allegiance. I had to wonder what he thought of the freaky indie-rockers who flooded the place (Actually he was very accommodating and professional).

Eddie Figueroa had invited me out to see his band, My Secret Alphabet, who's CD I had enjoyed. Getting there around 9:15, I was one of about 10 people in the place. And it's big! And empty! The bar is typical American Legion decor, and fascinating because of it. But across the hall is the auditorium, which can only be described as 1960's Indiana high school auditorium ambiance, or like where Carrie got that bucket of pig's blood from her classmates.

Fortunately they turn off the lights in the room and highlight the stage so one can enjoy the bare black brick back wall adorned with an old jukebox and an old cigarette machine. Eddie Figueroa came over and introduced himself and My Secret Alphabet got the evening off to an atmospheric start. I enjoyed their music and its hazy psychedelic sound. Heavy with ambient bass and guitar, Eddie drones his vocals sideways into the microphone, treating his voice as just another instrument in their oceanic sound. They played about 5 or 6 songs to an ever expanding audience.

I'll try to remember some details. Had a nice time sitting at the bar with Matt of Manhattan Murder Mystery, who was there early even though they didn't play till past midnight. Is there anyone who shows up more, in support of the local music community? Got a nice drink from John of Seasons, which helped turn the evening into a big swirl of positive sensations.

Someone ran into the bar and said Auto-Erotix sounded like Depeche Mode so I went over to hear that. They did indeed have that sound, but with a Morrissey-like lead singer. Their dreamy, hypnotic dance electronica-music had a few audience members dancing their heads off.

I think Elaine Layabout and Rob Danson (Death To Anders) had arrived by now, and we were joined by Stephen Sigl of The Happy Casualties. The place wasn't crowded, but I heard more than one of us say that this venue is an instant favorite, even though most had never been there before.

The Health Club came on and I really enjoyed their set. Had spoken with bass player Katya earlier, who I'd met last week at Pehrspace, but was happy to become reacquainted. The more I hear their songs the more they grow on me. They have a kind of primitive take on indie-rock that I like. Totally unpretentious. Occupying a stylistic space somewhere between Death to Anders and Manhattan Murder Mystery. Or like Thailand, they strip their music down to the essentials.

The next band is known as Seasons, but tonight they were Seasons Manhattan Murder Mystery Health Club and what a set it was. These guys are such musicians, and to be joined by Matt of MMM on accordion, it was really spectacular! Good thing the stage is large enough to hold a band of 18 (and a jukebox and a cigarette machine).

Nik holds center stage in Seasons by the extraordinary quality of his singing, beginning with "Song That You Know", which shows the full range of his gifts. It's also probably my favorite song at the moment. But all members of this population-heavy band perform musical miracles, even the tambourine players...especially the tambourine players.

Sometimes rhythm dominates, sometimes melody, sometimes vocals, which makes it hard to define their sound. Somehow it just reminds me of when the circus comes to town.

Since seeing them last I've become addicted to their 12-song CD and to hear the songs I've come to love live was a treat. And the sound at the American Legion was pretty wonderful, too.

O.K., the final band was supposed to be Manhattan Murder Mystery, but instead we got Manhattan Murder Mystery Seasons Health Club. Not exactly unrelated to the last band, but different nonetheless.

It's not enough that these bands are superior bands on their own, but do they have to combine and make an equally superior offshoot band? Jesus Christ! What are they trying to do to me?

To hear those wonderful songs with all those voices, and "Ulysses" is such an amazing song, I just wish I had something recorded. Matthew Teardrop writes some of my favorite songs in this whole genre and I was happy to hear "Pancho Villa" and "Ugly Women", too. I wasn't sure Matt would hit the floor (it was a good few feet down from the stage) but you can't keep this man confined to the stage. It happened and it was great to stand right next to him as he wailed away with his voice and his guitar. When Manhattan Murder Mystery finally plays the Greek or the Bowl will he end up in the picnic baskets among the wine bottles? Actually, I'd love to see that!


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Good Vibes at Silverlake Lounge

Lots of nice folks at the Silverlake Lounge on Thursday night (November 13, 2008) in a good mix of local and Austin and San Francisco bands. You know the night's off to a good start when you step down off the bus and walk right into Rob Danson and step inside and a band called The Frontier Brothers starts up.

Hailing from Austin, Texas, they play kind of a loose brit-punk crossed with 50's rock and roll blend with a severely talented, deep-voiced lead singer in Marshall Galactic (Galactic...really?). It was impossible to resist. There were a lot of fans there, even though this was their first show in L.A. so I guess the word is out about how good they are. They reminded me of The Futureheads and Kaiser Chiefs.

It's a rollicking, piano driven, Saturday-night-at-the-bar kind of music that you don't have to hate yourself in the morning for having enjoyed. Listening to their CD the next day, I was struck at the quality of the music, and it's variety. Gotta love a song with a title like "How Do You Make Movies When You're Under the Sea". It was also the second time this week I got to see someone wailing the hell out of a piano. The way Brett Moses slams the keys reminded me of Harley Prechtel-Cortez massacring his keyboard in Red Cortez Tuesday night at the Echoplex.

Lots of stage presence and charisma from all three band members. Had a nice chat with Travis Newman, their drummer, afterwards and got to introduce myself to Marshall. Great to see how much they were appreciated locally, cause it's fun to see programs that bring in out of town talent.

Death To Anders was up next playing their normal, excellent set that showed off the range of their songwriting. A mix of material that featured Rob Danson and Nick Ceglio sharing vocal duties equally, really showed off the contrast they achieve separately and the complimentary harmony they find together. They just don't sound like anyone else, occupying a niche all their own. My brain always feels a little stretched out of shape when they're done with me. I'm always looking forward to what comes next.

Got in a nice talk with their bassist, Pete Dibiasio, who I've come to admire for his important contribution to Death To Anders' sound. This band is really made up of some fine people who've always been incredibly generous with their time with me. My thanks to them.

Before Thailand finished out the night, a band from San Francisco, Low Red Lands, performed a set of screamer-rock which sounded just like what a fan of that genre would enjoy, but it wasn't for me. All that angst can overwhelm a small place like the Silverlake Lounge.

Thailand served up a set of their great songs, again, featuring a full time drummer and a bass player. Wow, like I've said before, it only makes their music that much more impressive. Like Mouse (Classical Geek Theatre) has said, they stripped down their sound to basic elements (subtraction), but now they're employing addition with new musicians, which results in multiplication of their music into something grand.

Speaking to Marc Linquist earlier, we shared how moving election day had been, but now, what to do with political songs. Actually, when introducing their magnificent anti-war song, "Heartland Failure", Marc had expressed longing for a day when the song would become irrelevant.

Contrary to much opinion, political songs become valuable documents of a time that often need to be referred to when government oppression rears it's ugly head once again. During the early days of the Iraq war, I got comfort and strength from my old Jefferson Airplane Volunteers album. It helped in 1969 and it helped again in 2003. I never devalue political rock.

They played everyone's favorites from The Remote Controller Controls the Place EP and threw in a good deal of older, less-familiar material, which I was real happy to hear. It finished off a night of a lot of varied music in a week which has had more than it's share of remarkable shows.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dungen at The Echo

Wednesday (November 12, 2008) I got a healthy dose of dreamy, screamy, hyper-hypnotic, spacey psychedelia in the form of Swedish band, Dungen. Making only their fourth L.A. appearance in their rather short, rather prolific career (four albums), they already have a fanatical fan base. This includes a few Eastsiders, lots of new hippies, assorted musicians, some music executive-types and more than enough very tall frat jocks to keep the place full of violent head bobbers who kept it up for the first few songs (until the coke wore off...then they stood like statues).

First up was Life on Earth in the person of Dungen bassist, Mattias Gustavsson, who explained that he was performing as a soloist, since his band wasn't with him. He promised not to bore us, and he didn't. He played guitar and sang some nice folk songs in English, with no trace of an accent, that sounded kind of like Mason Jennings crossed with Devendra Banhart. Odd, quirky little story songs and excursions into the imagination. If not inspiring, at least it wasn't boring.

The venue was slowly filling up and I could tell from the crowd outside when I came in, that it would be packed. I stayed up close to hear the next band, Women. They have a couple of selections on their myspace page that I liked, so I expected some nice music from this Canadian ensemble. They seem very serious musicians and their sound featured some wonderful plucked bass and roiling guitar work, but I was never able to locate a cogent melody. Technically impressive, but it left me feeling like I was suspended in midair. It was like Pinback, without an anchor. Pinback's tremendous sense of melody allows them to get away with all kinds of technical virtuosity, without seeming obvious or self conscious. For me, Women just lacked direction so it became little more than an empty cerebral exercise.

Locating Sam Fowles halfway back in the crowd, I pulled myself over to him, as the room began to resemble a tin of sardines. He was the only person I knew in the room, so we chatted until fellow Parson Red Heads member, Evan Way, showed up. Fresh from his solo gig up in Los Feliz at Tangier, on a program with Frank Fairfield, he had raced down to The Echo to catch Dungen. I shouldn't have been surprised to see these two here as I often run into them at the best shows. They have unfailing good taste. It completely coincides with my own. It was also fun to catch up with what's going on in Parson-world.

My good will was beginning to crack as the band took a while to get out on stage, and the oxygen in The Echo was waning fast. But all was forgiven when they did appear and launched into the first number off their new CD, 4, "Satt Att Se". At least that's what I think it was, but as they don't sing a word in English, I can't be sure. They sounded great. That tidal wave of sonic excess was here in all it's glory.

They reproduce the sound of their CD's to perfection. Lead singer, Gustav Ejstes, writes songs that are either guitar based, piano based or guitar/flute based and he plays lead on each one as well as the major vocal duties. He is a wizard on each instrument and the rest of the band keep right up with him. Reine Fiske handled the other guitar and contributed amazing vocal support, as did bassist, Mattias Gustavsson Their drummer, Johan Holmegard keeps the whole thing throbbing and introduces a lot of jazz-percussion into the mix..

I have to admit, I had been looking forward to hearing the enormous sound this band produces in the rather intimate confines of The Echo, only to find their popularity turned the place into a sweatshop, making enjoyment sporadic.

They played most of 4 and a good deal of Tio Bitar. their last release from last year, as well as audience appreciated selections from earlier CD's. In fact, the audience was fairly ecstatic throughout the length of their set. As much as it was a pretty terrific show, I was glad to hit the street and the fresh air after that.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Indie 103.1's Check One...Twosday Inauguration

November 11, 2008 was the debut of the all new Indie 103.1 Check One...Twosday in it's new home at the Echoplex, and Mr. Shovel and Melissa's event got off to a roaring start with a program of all headliner-worthy bands.

Extraordinary was the fact that a show like this, featuring the superb bands Earlimart, Afternoons, and Red Cortez , with Dazzler on at midnight (sorry, I couldn't stay for them), would be free. Feel lucky to live in L.A. yet?

Earlimart will always get me out of the house and to a show, but the opening acts made me get there early. Red Cortez is a band that is rapidly ascending to one of my favorites, based on only two shows and many mighty recommendations from friends and bloggers, from their Weather Underground era.

I saw them two weeks ago at the Silverlake Lounge for the first time in their first public show as Red Cortez and with their new guitar player, Calvin J. Love. It was an eye opening show and I was impressed with the fierce talent on display. They practically burst the confines of that tiny venue while they blew my mind with the intelligence of their music.

But their show here was something different. Perhaps it was the solemnity of the occasion, or the size of the venue, but they played with a precision and formality that struck some of their longtime fans as too tame. Others said it was a set by a headliner-quality band in the opening slot. I sided with the latter. I want a bit of anarchy in my rock and roll, but it needs to have a structure to it. I know, that's a contradiction. Kind of like wanting a choreographed riot.

As a rock fan, there comes a time in one's relationship with a band, when you realize they will become lifetime companions. That you don't want to contemplate any future existence without this music in your life. I think that happened Monday night with Red Cortez. This band has the talent to surprise and amaze for years to come.

They played a set in a wide range of styles that touch on their many influences, with Harley Prechtel-Cortez commanding the stage as if he was born to perform. He appeared the consummate professional showman and had audience members, unfamiliar with them, staring in wonder at the talent on display. He's matched by an equally talented band, Ryan Kirkpatrick on bass, Calvin Love on Guitar and Diego Guerrero's mightily impressive drumming. Loud and hard or acoustic and delicate, I'll follow this band anywhere.

This was also the night that I was finally knocked out by Afternoons. Brian Canning's band just floored me with their 'wall of voices' that spill off the stage and chase after you if you dare resist. Nice, dour, pop tunes with full orchestral accompaniment...and an opera singer. Who could ask for anything more.

It's nice to see the former Irving members playing a whole different kind of music and obviously enjoying it a lot. I saw Irving a lot three years ago when I first got back into music and they were always warm and approachable. Now it's fun to see them transformed into Sea Wolf and Afternoons. Both of whom appear poised for success.

Lots of nice people in the crowd, which turned out to be as crowded as the Viper Room ever got during this event, only here, one could spread out. Aaron Espinoza summed it up best when Earlimart took the stage and he basically said good riddance to The Viper Room. Yeah, I was always impressed (in one way or another) by the overwhelming smell of puke as you came up the stairs into that club. On the other side of the equation, I saw some of the best sounding shows I've ever seen there, and some of my favorite bands. Film School, Everest and The Happy Hollows immediately come to mind.

Earlimart continue to stun me with their live shows. I'm gonna brag and tell you I've seen them 13 times and don't ever recall them giving the same show twice. In consideration of their fans, Aaron E. and Ariana Murray always mix up their set list and include old material I've never heard along with the occasional unrecorded new stuff.

Still performing the majority of material from Hymn and Her, I never tire of these songs. Performing as a three-piece, as has been their makeup lately, they even re orchestrated some of the material to give it fresh punch. It's no wonder their one of the best loved local acts, and will always continue to be so.

As Kevin Bronson (Buzzbands.LA) wisely put it, you don't have to go any further than your own back yard to find a vibrant, pulsating music scene. It's right here!

On a side note, huge congratulations to Fol Chen for being signed to Asthmatic Kitty Records. It couldn't happen to a more deserving band!


The Monolators Residency, Week Two

My third trip to Pehrspace was predicated on the necessity of attending at least one of the residency nights for The Monolators. Sean Carnage is presenting "The Archaeology of The Monolators" all month long and Monday (November 10, 2008) was devoted to their space-age years, 2002 - 2005.

It was also a chance to commiserate with others in the community who were as shocked and saddened as I was by the news of video artist Elaine Layabout's showdown with the Spaceland/Echo/Echoplex triumvirate. You can read about it here (Classical Geek Theatre) or here (Elaine Layabout).

As one of the most devoted, dedicated and just plain great supporters of the local music scene, she was surrounded by well wishers and advisers. But the shining light of the night was Elaine's attitude itself. Little bitterness or rancor were evident, only gratitude that so many care. It was humbling.

And on top of that it was a terrific night of music. Unfortunately the trip to Pehrspace on public trans can be a challenge so I arrived late, missing Billygoat, but arriving in time to see Manhattan Murder Mystery tear the place to shreds. As others can attest, Matt was flailing around on the floor as early as, I think, the second song.

He got through the first song O.K., in spite of his vocals being somewhat undermiked, but during the second song, the microphones started going over and the next thing you know Matt is plowing, helmet-head first into the crowd, wailing away on his guitar. Once again, the quality of the music never wavered, even though Matt was trying to buff the floor while singing and playing. And the floor was mysteriously moist all night.

This band can really rock the hell out of a venue, but the songwriting is strong and creative and never takes second place. Anyone who wasn't bouncing around had to be in a coma.

Having 5 bands on the program necessitated each set be short and sweet. But that only served to make the evening feel like a meal of deserts. Each one a tasty morsel on it's own. The Health Club blazed through a set of pretty wild, 60's influenced garage rock. Wilder, in fact, than their recordings would lead you to believe.

From what I heard on their myspace page, I expected something more in the line of Film School or Gliss, but it was less diffused and more straight out rock. I like being surprised. They list influences as everything from The Beatles to The Brian Jonestown Massacre, so there's a variety of musical tastes apparent here.

What can one say about The Monolators that hasn't already been said. With Mary and Eli Chartkoff dressed in their white, space-age finery accompanied by Ashley Jex on Bass and Tom Bogdon on lead guitar, plus an original member, guitarist Mike, who made them a band of five. They had the crowd begging for more as they tore through songs from the years 2002 - 2005. These were hot, urgent, hard-rocking numbers that barely gave the band time to breathe.

I'm not that familiar with this early material so it was great to hear it live and they sounded pretty impressive with five people playing. People don't just like this band, they love them, and not just because of their music, but because of their quality as people. You could tell The Monolators were having a great time and they really know how to host an evening!

I had to leave before 60 Watt Kid came on. Jesus, it was 1 o'clock in the morning and I have five more nights of concerts in a row, but I couldn't (didn't want to) pull myself away from a chat with Elaine and Steve (of The Happy Casualties) on the sidewalk outside. Great evening of music, sympathy and celebration.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Top Ten - November 3 - 9

Top Ten for the week of November 3 - 9, 2008:

1. The Eels - Electro-shock Blues (Dream Works Records) Just picked this up while reading Mark Everett's autobiography and think it's one hell of a work of art.

2. Seasons - 12 Song compilation (self release)
3. The Broken West - Now or Heaven (Merge)
4. The Henry Clay People - For Cheap or For Free (Autumn Tree Records)
5. Dungen - 4 (Kemado Records)
6. Dead Meadow - Feathers (Matador)
7. Tommy Santee Klaws - Gloria (self release)
8. The Weather Underground (now: Red Cortez) - Hymns and Shanties (self release)
9. Darker My Love - 2 (Dangerbird Records)
10. Pinback - Autumn of the Seraphs (Touch and Go Records)


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Dead Meadow Amaze at the Troubadour

Dead Meadow came back to town on Saturday night for an amazing set at the Troubadour in front of a devoted audience of fans. It's hard to describe a show by Dead Meadow without resorting to all the usual references: hypnotic, dreamy, ruminative, visually stunning, trippy, oh my god! wicked trails. I don't think I've yet come to grips with just how great this show was!

I only got to know their music a year ago and had seen then at the Echoplex last February. I was very impressed with them then, but that didn't prepare me for this show. This was one of those off-earth experiences that take you away for 90 minutes or so.

Arriving as his orchestra were beginning their set, I was quickly attracted to their music. It was similar to the orchestral rock I'd heard the night before by Other Lives, being augmented by two violins but here, with a trumpet, too. What an impressive display of musicianship by the band who numbered seven this night. Gorgeous sweeping string sections and soaring vocals, with great keyboard, I was hooked from the start.

This Los Angeles band is playing a residency every Monday night this month at Silverlake Lounge and I can't wait to check them out again. his orchestra, quite impressive.

I'll admit, after a week like this (emotionally exhausting. You know, overthrowing tyranny is hard work!) coupled with three show in a row, I was tired. But, fear not, when Dead Meadow came out and Jason Simon began tuning his guitar and I heard snatches of guitar chords associated with specific Dead Meadow songs, I got real excited. It's a privilege to get to hear such a thing. From that moment on I was riveted to the stage.

Taking the stage at 10:15, backed by a phenomenal light show and fog, the band was lost in a combination swirl of music, lights and fog. Like Xu Xu Fang, it's an all-encompassing experience. There is no world beyond this one, for the moment.

The background looked like the soap bubbles of some gigantic washing machine set to the hallucinogenic cycle going by, as pinwheels of colored shafts rotated constantly on top of it, bathing the band in intense light patterns. I hope someone took pictures.

And then there's the music. These are serious musicians who play with extraordinary precision and craft. The odd thing about this ambient, trance music style is that it only works for me when strict discipline is applied. The songs just tumbled out one after another, "What Needs Must Be", "I'm Gone" and others from their last CD, Old Growth. It was nice to hear them do the one that sounds like an Indian Raga, "Seven Seers".

I can't decide if they sound better live or not. The vocal was so clear and the tremendous noise just the three of them achieve is incredibly impressive. I love the way Jason emphasizes consonants in his singing which really clarifies the lyrics. Stephen Murphy's drumming is a sight to behold as he sometimes becomes lost in a blur and Steve Kille's bass adds all the gravity the sound requires.

They even performed my favorite songs from Feathers, "At Her Open Door" and "Such Hawks Such Hounds", as well as "Heaven" and some new songs no one had heard before. But everyone was focused intently on the band and we would have listened to anything they wanted to play. The audience is almost as serious as the band. It's just a pleasure to hear a band play so well and see a crowd enjoy it so much!

Another amazing concert in another week of superb shows. And next week will be the same!


The Broken West at Spaceland

I was most anxious to see The Broken West on Friday night (November 7, 2008) playing from their sublime new CD, Now or Heaven, because it's one of my favorite releases of the year.

They were on the bill at Spaceland, sandwiched between Other Lives and Heartless Bastards. It's a real testament to this band's intelligence regarding their career that they spend so much time touring and/or playing shows where they open for popular bands who bring in an expanded fan base.

I arrived part way into Other Lives' set and got caught up in their pretty, orchestral sound. They have a kind of movie soundtrack sensibility and utilize violins, cello, and piano to achieve the sweeping sound. On top of that, the music is beautiful, occasionally almost overwhelmingly so.

Other Lives, from Stillwater, Oklahoma, will be at The Echo with The Little Ones next Friday, Nov. 14 and I think I must go.

Friday night is sometimes so damned odd in the local clubs, you wonder exactly where you are. This was date night at Spaceland and there wasn't a familiar face to be seen, with the exception of The Broken West themselves. I don't run into the heavily scented, text messaging, gym bunny-types often. Is this a Los Angeles phenomenon, or is it everywhere? Is it the Heartless Bastard fan base? I grow concerned.

I decided, better to have this crowd behind me, than be blinded, during the set, by their flashy cell phones, so I settle up front. And there, lo and behold, is Kevin Bronson, who saves the entire evening for me. That, and the set by The Broken West.

I've seen this band five times before and always been impressed, but Friday was best of all. I think their songwriting took a step forward on the latest CD, not that there's anything wrong with I Can't Go On. I'll Go On, but the new material reveals more maturity and gravity.

They performed with their new drummer, Sean McDonald, recently handicapped by a bicycle accident, but insisting on playing one-armed. He was amazing! The whole band was amazing as they played "Gwen, Now and Then", "Auctioneer", the beautiful chiming jangle of "Ambuscade" and "House of Lies", which approaches New Pornograpers territory and quality.

Ross Flournoy singing is sure and steady and the Byrds-like harmonies he achieves with his bass player, Brian Whelan, are pretty stunning, especially on "House of Lies". Brian takes center stage to do lead vocals on one of their very best new songs, "Got It Bad".

They also played "Down In the Valley", one of my favorites from the first CD, which always reminded me of The Turtles. I think they got the attention of most of the audience, though, like I said, I was down front and didn't look back. Kevin and I certainly enjoyed it.

I stayed near the back to see some of Heartless Bastard, and they pleased their fans. Yes, that's who these people were. Apart from the distinctive, hoarse, yet powerful voice of Erika Wennestrom, there was little to distinguish them.

But my mission had been to see The Broken West perform the new stuff, and I was more than satisfied. I was thrilled by it! Even more so, because I got to meet Ross Flournoy and tell him so.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Happy Hollows Record Release Show

Thursday night (November 6, 2008) was a real celebration at the intersection of music and politics. It was the record release party for The Happy Hollows, who decided to expand the night into an Obama Victory Event, as well.

It was a tough call for concerts that night, what with the formidable competition from Thailand and Avi Buffalo at The Scene in Glendale (Oh, and there was the Dodger Stadium show where the middle-aged Madonna was strutting her aging stuff - not competition, just a fact).

The path to The Echo was blocked from any direction by Madonnites, making everyone late. I still managed to get there around 9:30 and The Soft Hands had just begun. Their set blew me away, and I've seen them before, but this show was the clincher. I'm learning that sometimes it can take two or three or even more exposures to a band to really get it.

Not only do they perform great rock and roll, but it's also complex, structurally sound and smart. On songs like "I Hope So" or "I'm on Fire", it's not only the strength of their playing on the shape-shifting melodies that hooks you, but the vocals by Matt and Elizabeth are dazzling technical displays. The intricate weaving of voices and the back-and-forth ping pong match of lyrics, all at double time, had me staring, mouth hanging open. It wasn't just fast, it was beautiful.

The audience was building and it was a great mix of the local music community all offering loving support to Sarah Negahdari and The Happy Hollows.

This was also my first opportunity to celebrate the election and it felt good to see how much it was affecting this current generation. One after another they told me they'd never experienced such a sudden, major societal shift (other than 9/11). Periodically it happens that society steps forward a couple of steps and drags mankind with it. 9/11 was a trauma that sent us reeling backwards, helped by a dunderhead administration, but Obama's election is a catapult forward, and the country will never be the same.

Not so for Proposition 8, unfortunately, as the hateful religious right had the funds to smear and lie to the incurious masses who bought the propoganda. Two steps forward, one step backwards.
Change will come and humanity will evolve. That can't be stopped!

Next up was Strange Boys from Austin, Texas, who played an electrifying set of strange-rock. Much in the tradition of Death To Anders, their music is all angular and edgy and twisted like a pretzel. Lead singer, Ryan Sambol, has the appropriately strained and awkward stage presence that suits the music that has titles like, "Heard You Wanna Beat Me Up" and "Who Needs Who Anymore".

By now the place was pretty packed. Saw Christian of The Transmissions, Rob of Death To Anders, Matt of Manhattan Murder Mystery, Brian of Silversun Pickups among the musicians present. Bloggers Travis of Web in Front, Mouse of Classical Geek Theatre, Jax of Rock Insider and Kevin of Buzz Bands as well as videographer Elaine Layabout, all documenting the evening.

A rapt crowd watched as a documentary introducing The Happy Hollows ran on the wall above the stage. This is the oh-so-serious cinema-verite style film documenting Sarah's tenuous grasp on reality. As bandmates Charlie Mahoney and Chris Hernandez struggle to explain what's the matter with Sarah, and come up with no answers, they show you examples of Sarah's embarrasing public displays of her hostile/aggressive side. It's all very tongue-in-cheek and hilarious, especially when she tries out new expressions.

Taking the stage, they burst into a raucous set of their favorites. I picked up the 7" and it features great versions of "Tamborine" and "Lieutenant" complete with Sarah's incredible guitar neck-playing skills which she does live like it's no big deal. Her singing was wonderful from the littlest squeal to the raging tantrum. Man, does she get mad! Like at the end of "Tamborine". You feel sorry for the floor.

I always enjoy seeing them play and this was a terrific set. They left their audience giddy and I even stayed to see the last band, Die Rockers Die. They also played a wonderful set. After bouncing around for hours to the other bands, it was nice to settle into some ambient, oddball trance. It's like an experimental art rock conglomerate. This is some highly original music and I stayed as long as I could, but at one in the morning, it was time to go home.

And still, at that hour, the busses were packed with Madonnites. It was like 1985 all over again. Not a pretty sight.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Spinto Band - Echoplex

Dashed off to the Echoplex Monday night (November 3, 2008) and it was good to offset pre-election jitters. I was tired and not the best audience but appreciated the band's best efforts to distract me.

I've seen The Spinto Band a couple of times before, first, when they opened for We Are Scientists and Art Brut at the Fonda on Sept. 30, 2006, and when they played the Troubadour, March 4, 2007, with Dios Malos. Both times I really enjoyed their high spirited sets of off-the-wall, quirk-rock. Kind of a Devo-inspired, electro-punk, lots of fun, just not terribly nourishing.

They played a lot of material off the new CD, Moonwink, and old favorites from Nice and Nicely Done like "Oh Mandy". Their playing is really tight and the vocals nicely controlled. They get quite an impressive sound live with three guitar players.

Nice to run into Josiah Mazzaschi of Light FM in the crowd, as there weren't a lot of familiar faces around. I wanted to stay for Frightened Rabbit because I don't really remember how they were when I saw them open for Pinback at the Wiltern last October 28, 2007. But it was a good chance to get home, go to sleep, get up and go to vote. So that's what I did.

Now I'm starting a run of eight shows over the next ten days and I can't wait. It starts with The Happy Hollows Record Release Party tonight (Nov. 6) at the Echo, which they're also calling an Obama Victory Celebration. Tomorrow it's The Broken West at Spaceland and Saturday, Dead Meadow at the Troubadour. Gotta run.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President Obama

What a great, historic moment in American history. It's impossible not to be proud to be an American today. The United States not only won in this election, the whole world won in this election. The future looks brighter!

Before all this happened, I attended the "Day of the Dead" festival at the Hollywood Memorial Cemetery last Saturday night (November 1, 2008). Appropriately and unfortunately there had been a thunderstorm earlier in the afternoon, accompanied by the most gut-wrenching cracks of thunder I've ever heard in Los Angeles (there's hardly ever any thunder here). I mean, it could have cured you of leprosy!

The torrents of rain, no doubt, left a few of the Day of the Dead shrines in ruins, because when I got there around 9, there were more than a few vacancies. Which was too bad because what was left was pretty amazing, though this year I spent most of my time on the attendant festivities.

First of all, this was the fourth "Day of the Dead" festival I've attended here, and it was, by far, the biggest, most crowded one I've seen. Word is spreading about how great this is and by 9 there was actually a line to get in, though it moved swiftly. Once inside, all contact with the outside world ceases and one is transported to a world of sensory, auditory and visual delights that make you feel, at every moment, you could explode from overload.

There was more music from more stages than ever before. All Mexican and South American-themed artists, all playing in or around reflecting pools. At one point, I'm sitting on Tyrone Power's grave, watching a Mariachi dance troupe perform on a stage set up in the middle of a large pond. Through their vibrant costume reflections in the water, a single swan slowly floats into the colors, creating a rippling hallucination. It was like a scene from Fantasia come to life. Or would that be Make Mine Music.

It's always great to grab a glass of wine and head into the mausoleums. Walking inside, all sound gets transformed into an echoey wash. Kind of like the aural equivalent of the reflections in the pools outside. This must not be missed, for they only light the main corridor so that all the tributary halls move into darkness the further you go.

And you're allowed to wander anywhere. It's like getting to run around a cemetery at night when you're a kid. Something I always enjoyed, especially in the great old cemeteries around New England. But here you're surrounded by people dressed up as corpses, so the effect is decidedly weird and wonderful.

You can either be with other revellers or go off down a hall and be completely alone and sit by Rudolph Valentino's crypt. Sitting far down at the end of one of these halls, one can watch a constant procession of people (and ghouls) far at the other end pass by in the dim light.

Then there's the huge throbbing mass of people in death masks, dancing throughout the entire evening, down the cemetery pathways accompanied by dancing Mariachi musicians on trumpets and drums and incredibly ornate costumes. Everyone within reach becomes a dancer in their troupe.

Eventually the sensory overload becomes overwhelming and the only thing to do is to locate the other set of mausoleums at the west end of the cemetery. Hardly anyone goes there and they're darker, longer and scarier than the others. But a perfect place to find solace and peace, as the regular residents are a pretty quiet crowd.

It was a perfect night and the afternoon weather turbulence had left the night sky swept with streaks of cloud patterns. They formed an azure backdrop for the gorgeous palm trees that dot the sky everywhere you look.

If you live in Los Angeles next year at this time, you should make a point of attending, even though it costs a whopping $5. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it happens every year! Can't beat that.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008





Thank You


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Two Top Tens

In order to catch up, here are two Top Tens.

I listen to a lot of CD's in any given week. It's my primary source for music listening.
This is what I've been listening to more than anything else.

Last week, October 20 - 26:

1. The Henry Clay People - For Cheap or For Free (Autumn Tree Records)
2. Calexico - Carried To Dust (Quarterstick Records)
3. Pinback - Autumn of the Seraphs (Touch and Go Records)
4. The Eels - Blinking Lights and Other Revelations (Vagrant Records)
5. Seasons - 12 Song Compilation (self release)
6. Dungen - 4 (Kemado Records)
7. Dead Meadow - Old Growth (Matador)
8. Darker My Love - 2 (Dangerbird Records)
9. The Broken West - Now or Heaven (Merge)
10. The Transmissions - Greater Imperfections (Scary Elevator Records)

This week - October 27 - November 2:

1. Seasons - 12 Song Compilation (self release)
2. The Henry Clay People - For Cheap or For Free (Autumn Tree Records)
3. Dungen - 4 (Kemado Records)
4. The Broken West - Now or Heaven (Merge)
5. Tommy Santee Klaws - Gloria (self release)
6. Pinback - Autumn of the Seraphs (Touch and Go Records)
7. The Eels - Blinking Lights and Other Revelations (Vagrant Records)
8. The Weather Underground (now: Red Cortez) - Hymns and Shanties (self release)
9. Thailand - The Remote Controller Absorbs the Place (self release)
10. Gangi - A (self release)

All caught up.