Tuesday, September 29, 2009

September - Various Shows and Sets

So many memorable shows and events have been happening lately that I can't keep up. Never did I expect what writing a music blog would bring. Every day there seems to be more opportunity, another path to follow, more people to meet, more fun to be had. The friends I've made in the music community are best surprise of all. Kind of revives my faith in humanity. (Provided I can continue to avoid tea-baggers and other knuckle-draggers.) Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglove of The Swell Season, above.

September has been a good month for shows beginning with Mew wowing a sold out crowd at The Troubadour on the 1st, followed by Division Day 's record release show the following night at Spaceland. The Happy Hollows spectacular performance was next, on the 4th, for their own release party for Spells, which was also a party to remember.

On Sunday, Sept. 6th, I attended the Rodgers and Hammerstein concert at the Hollywood Bowl, which was specifically set up to honor the film versions (and their orchestrations) of the original Broadway shows. (scene from The King and I above) They showed selections from the films with the orchestral tracks removed, and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra provided live underscoring, conducted by the son of Alfred Newman (one of the original orchestrators) David Newman. It was like dying and going to Rodgers and Hammerstein heaven for someone who was raised on these things.

Elaine Layabout hosted one helluva "Hella Hipster Hoedown" featuring eight scheduled bands, including Crooked Cowboy, Les Blanks and Country Pizza!, but it was Telegraph Canyon (above), who took the stage near midnight, that played a near perfect set of their beautifully written rock. Hailing from Texas, they were here a couple of months ago for another hoedown, but since seeing them then, I got hooked on their wonderful CD, The Tide and The Current. Now, I knew the material and to hear them deliver such a powerful and serious performance, it was almost humbling. They really impressed those present and we were still talking about it days later.

On Saturday, the 12th, I saw an impressive show by Brendan Benson at The Troubadour, that opened with a set by Frank Fairfield that had the crowd cheering. From the 17th to the 20th I took in four shows in four days beginning with the Sea Wolf/Afternoons/Sara Lov night at The Troubadour and back to the same venue the following night for Everest and The Parson Red Heads which made for two nights on the West Side of sterling East Side indie rock.

Friday was the Release party for Cobra Lilies, hosted by Elaine, again at the Legion 206 in Highland Park, which included a fashion show that involved murder, and a wonderfully hypnotic, oddball set from Amanda Jo Williams followed by a set by Tommy Santee Klaws (above) that showed the uninitiated what I have been raving about the last few months. This is one amazing band with a wholly unique sound that left people breathless.

Sunday was the engrossing show at the Masonic Lodge of Hollywood Forever Cemetery with The Swell Season where Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova enchanted a great Los Angeles audience in one of the best shows of the year. I reviewed it for Radio Free Silver Lake.

I got to present my second show last Friday, September 25, together with Dramaturgy, featuring The Faraway Places, who delivered their '60's influenced indie rock with great style and conviction, following a real audience grabbing set of Creedence Clearwater Revival covers by Ramble Scramble that had the rather large crowd dancing. The Health Club I enjoy more and more each time I see them and their assured playing is what makes this post-punk garage band stand out.

Sunday, The 25th Annual Abbot Kinney Festival in Venice was my first time at this event and I have to confess, I barely saw the Festival itself, positioning myself in front of the Brooks Little Radio Stage from Dios through Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros and saw five remarkable bands in a row. Dios sang wonderful songs from their latest CD, and sounded revitalized by the new material. Followed by a tight set by a three member version of The Parson Red Heads (Sam, Brett and Evan, in photo) who sang beautiful three-part harmonies. French singer/now indie rocker, Soko, was a real surprise, giving us country-tinged psychedelic rock that I fell for on the spot. Eskimo Hunter play a kind of easy, melodic indie rock style that is probably my favorite and I was glad to finally see this band and, as of now, they are the band I want to see again immediately. Really beautiful music.
Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros (above photo by Michael Camacho for LAist)were a revelation. Just before they took the stage, there was a sudden rush of media that flooded the stage. The buzz on this band must be huge and I must say, judging from this performance, the rush is justified. An electric set was performed, with Edward, not 16 inches from my face at times and it was a superb way to get to know them. I saw them once before at El Cid at 1 AM the night of the '08 Sunset Junction and they played for about 14 friends that night. A LOT has happened since then.

Blitzen Trapper finally played the set I've been waiting to see them play on Monday, Sept 28, at El Rey. Seeing them last year at a packed, hot Echo was a great introduction, but not ideal. I wasn't close enough, though I loved the music. Last July at the Hollywood Bowl, they were undone by the requirement that the opening bands play softly, and across a gulf of indifferent concertgoers. So this show was what Blitzen Trapper are all about. The photo a right is from the Glass House, shot by Doug Kresse. A string of unforgettable songs, great sound, great lights. They play irresistibly rocking songs, occasionally pausing for a song of quiet reflection that is so lovely and profound, there is no lapse in audience concentration. Highlight brilliant new songs from their EP, Black River Killer, the new songs were my favorites of the night, though "God and Suicide" is still one of my favorite songs of all. I'll write a fuller review of this show later.

The month ended with Kevin Bronson's First Anniversary celebration of his Buzzbands blog with a show by Eastern Conference Champions and Voxhaul Broadcast, each releasing EP's at the same event. Both are bands I've heard about over and over, but have neglected to see before, and both were absolutely electric. Terrific songwriting and musicianship with charismatic lead singers, they had the large turnout primed and enthusiastic. Congratulations to Kevin and the most comprehensive music blog in town.

Now we move on to October and what may be the busiest month of the year.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

New EP: Seasons "Summer"

The Summer of Seasons is the new EP release by the Highland Park orchestra, and yes, they are an orchestra that expands and contracts with each live show. This means that the songs I have have grown to love, over the many times I have seen them live, have no rigid, formal shape. Whether there's an accordion or not, three guitars of two, one tambourine player or a tambourine section of five (I saw that once), the songs are molded to the evening's ensemble makeup.

That's why hearing the recorded versions is a little jarring to someone who isn't used to getting to know songs live before knowing the final formal versions. Like someone sat them down and said, "just concentrate on the damned song". The result is slightly tamer, more structured takes on the compositions, with the benefit of a clearer understanding of what the songs are and the knowledge that this band knows exactly what it's doing.

It begins with a simmering sound, like when you're laying on the summer beach and watching the waves that ripple up from the hot sand, and the beat begins, pulling you into "The Weight", which is one of Seasons' best songs. Beginning quietly, Nic lures you in before cutting loose with his trademark roars that proves he means what he's saying, "get off my back!" Highlighted by astute guitar work and John's twinkling piano, it's a real, typical Seasons grabber.

Then the album goes heavy into summer mode with three relaxed, laid back ballads that make no demands except you sit back and enjoy. I haven't seen them do this live so the direction is unexpected. When they performed this at the EP release party I presented in August it was given their characteristic swirl of psychedelia. On disc, you hear the songs beneath the swirl.

They finish with a new take on "The Sea" that becomes a battle to the death between Godzilla and Ghidrah as the monsters roar and the relentless beat pounds and then breaks into a dance beat that always makes a live audience crazy with movement.

I kind of miss the ramshackle quality of their first CD, but as a companion piece to their previous EP, Spring, this is a natural progression. I've been listening to it for a month now and wanted to wait till it sank in to comment, and it's an interesting step for this remakably talented band.


above photo: CGT

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Just want to urge everyone to attend the show I'm presenting with Dramaturgy at Mr. T's Bowl this Friday.

Great bands, great people, great dance party...


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hollywood Forever Welcomes The Swell Season

WOW! Suddenly a friend alerts me this morning that a secret show by The Swell Season has been announced at the Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery this Sunday, September 20, 2009 and tickets are on sale NOW.

I sped over to Ticketweb and secured a ticket. What luck, 'cause I'm sure this will sell out as soon as word spreads.

This is the couple from the movie Once, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, and their band, who have so charmed audiences both on film and in concert appearances. Personally I've seen them three times previously and each show has been a very special event. They appear at The Wiltern on November 18, but this is a chance to see then in a more intimate setting.

And on a sad note, Mary Travers of Peter Paul and Mary has died and an era comes to an end. They were the first folk music I ever got to know and their mixing of political messages and beautiful music was an inspiration to me.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Next Feed Your Head Show

Feed Your Head and Dramaturgy are presenting a show at Mr. T's Bowl on September 25, 2009. That's a Friday night and everyone must attend. Chris Colthart of the headliner, The Faraway Places, designed this terrific flyer which I'm proud to put up now. Excellent support will be provides by Ramble Scramble, which features members of Brian Jonestown Massacre and Mirror Mirror, and perennial L.A. favorites, The Health Club, plus a couple of great DJ's.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Fall

Here comes the fall season and numerous artists, both local and otherwise, are lining up shows for September and October. In fact, October looks like the strongest month of the year (as it often is) with everyone from Grizzly Bear to O'Death coming back to town.

After Mew, Division Day and The Happy Hollows last week, things kick right back into high gear with a colossal "Hella Hipster Hoedown" on Friday, September 11 at the American Legion Post 206 in Highland Park featuring eight bands. Elaine Layabout's shows are always knock outs, but with bands like Telegraph Canyon, Crooked Cowboy, Les Blanks, Slings and more this will be a celebration. And the Post 206 is perfect because it can handle a big, rowdy crowd.

I was dithering back and forth about going to see Brendan Benson at The Troubadour on Saturday. I have really enjoyed his band's work and his terrific indie/folk/pop songwriting, before he ran off to join The Raconteurs, and have been wanting to see him for years, but when Frank Fairfield was announced as the opener, that clinched it and I bought a ticket. I saw Brendan with The Raconteurs at The Wiltern on September 20, 2006, but it didn't satisfy my urge to see Brendan Benson, so now I will get my chance. Frank Fairfield, I've seen a number of times, when he toured with Fleet Foxes and in clubs around town, but not for a while. So when I ran into him at The Echo a few weeks ago at the incredible J. Tillman show, I resolved to see him the next chance I got. I expect this to be a remarkable show.

Further along, on September 16, The French Semester, Rademacher and Downtown/Union play the Silver Lake Lounge, which is three incredible bands for the price of one. Radio Free Silver Lake is sending me to The Troubadour on the following night, Thursday, September 17, to review Sea Wolf, Afternoons and Sara Lov, each one worthy of headlining their own show (which they all often do), but together it'll be overwhelming. Sea Wolf and Afternoons are made up of the pieces of Irving (photo below by Gail Salmo), a band I really got into way back when I first got into the local scene ('05), and whose albums I still play. It will be grand to see them play together. And Sara Lov has been one of my fondest memories of discovering a band, when The Devics opened for The Black Heart Procession a few years ago at The Knitting Factory. I've been a fan ever since and have seen her solo many times. The next night I'm back at The Troubadour for Everest, The Parson Red Heads and These United States, for another round of three great bands. I should be pretty punch-drunk by this point bombarded by incredible music.

I want to go see Blitzen Trapper and Wye Oak at El Rey on September 28, but I haven't gotten my shit together to buy a ticket yet, and hope it won't sell out before I do.

October brings Loney, dear back to town for a date at The Troubadour on the 1st. The great Eagle Rock Music Festival on October 3 may see me announcing a band from the stage... which is daunting. Great Lake Swimmers play their first L.A.big-venue show (as far as I know) at El Rey on October 12, The Black Heart Procession on Sunday the 18th at Echoplex and Grizzly Bear at the Hollywood Palladium on the 20th.

But what I'm really looking forward to is the chance to see the New York band, Le Loup. They came to town, last time in 2008, to play The Echo on April 5 and I had just become obsessed with their incredible homemade-band jamboree sound. It's quite an experience live and I urge you not to miss it, Wednesday, October 28 at The Echo.


Friday, September 4, 2009


I'm still vibrating from some recent shows that I just can't shake. Two massively great nights in a row commenced with Mew at The Troubadour. I was given the royal treatment on Tuesday night, September 1, 2009, when I walked in and was immediately handed a V.I.P. pass allowing me access to the reserved balcony seating overlooking the stage.

The venue was packed and hot as I wandered in and heard the last few songs by Luke Top. I remember seeing them at one of Joe's "Let's Independent!" shows last April ('08) and I was impressed then and was impressed now. The set by Mew was mind blowing and the audience seemed to agree with me. People were screaming and cheering each familiar song as it began and especially when it ended since each number surpassed everyone's expectations. Haven't seen many more perfect sets that this one (once the sound was correct), so I'll be publishing a full length review on Radio Free Silver Lake next Tuesday.

The following night I was off to see the Division Day record release party at Spaceland. It was a show I was anxious to see as I'm quite taken with their new CD Visitation and wanted to hear it live. The crowd was small when I first got there, but I soon ran into photographer/fellow insatiable concertgoer Doug Kresse and then Web in Front 's Travis Woods and Classical Geek Theatre 's (and now Radio Free Silver Lake contributor) Ben "Mouse" McShane and was blindsided by the realization of how much has happened in the year I've known these guys. They all inspire me. But the scene is expanding so fast that we don't run into each other nearly enough these days.
I enjoyed the Division Day (Doug Kresse photo above) set, but it's clear they're still experimenting with the live versions of the new songs. Some sounded set and great, like "Planchette", which explodes into a shimmering wail of noise, dense and beautiful. Others sounded less focused than on the recording, but that will all be solved during touring, I've no doubt. This band seems to pride itself on a polished and powerful live performance. Just the chance to chat with the band and see (new) old friends was enough reason to enjoy the night.

Tonight, The Happy Hollows record release party proved irresistible to me so I decided to cancel all plans and attend. And The Pity Party, too. I think I need to move a cot into Spaceland and take up permanent residence. I hear The Happy Hollows CD, Spell is smashing.

Sunday I indulge my inner musical comedy freak with a show at the Hollywood Bowl that is as highly anticipated as any other show I've seen this year. It's the Rodgers and Hammerstein at the Movies concert, The Big Picture extravaganza. They'll play clips from the film versions of their shows and The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, conducted by David Newman, will accompany the clips with the extraordinary and timeless orchestrations that were provided for these classic films by the likes of Alfred Newman (David Newman is his son), Irwin Kostal and Robert Russell Bennett.
They'll feature scenes from The King and I, South Pacific (above), Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music and Carousel on the giant screen and the music will sweep over you like a tidal wave. These movies were some of the first gloriously STEREO movies ever made and they all figured huge in my childhood. Oklahoma! (1955) was the first movie made in 70MM (after experiments in the '30's) and featured all the technological advances of the day, and it still has some of the best sound ever heard, to date, in a movie theatre.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Surpassed Expectations

"Everything is moving so fast, I am unlimited." Those lyrics from Great Lake Swimmers really sum up how I'm feeling these days. My involvement in the music community is growing by leaps and bounds till I'm not at all sure where it's going, but I'll hang on for the ride.

The more I write, the more time I want to devote to writing. It's a self-perpetuating machine. So I want to use this website to experiment a little and just jot down random notes and organize my thoughts a little for more formal writing.

I wanted to review a couple of surprising shows I saw a couple of weeks ago, but never had the time to write a formal review, so I'll put up some notes:

I knew the J. Tillman concert would be beautiful, but I wasn't prepared for just how beautiful and powerful it actually was. Beginning with the first song, the difference between his recorded material and his live performance was awe-inspiring. I had picked up Vacilando Territory Blues a couple of weeks ago to familiarize myself with his music and was taken in by the lovely compositions, his sweet, but steady voice, reminiscent of Sam Beam, and the occasionally sweeping orchestrations.

Appearing with a new band incarnation on August 20, 2009 at The Echo, he has moved away from strictly folk songs toward rock, and it's a nice move. Consequently the set was far livelier and more powerful than I had expected and to see Tillman thrashing about, banging on the tambourine, showed just how passionately he feels this music. Singing material from his forthcoming album, he and his band delivered a rousing program of unfamiliar but immediately engaging songs. With the blending of harmony vocals, beautiful instrumentation, and atmospheric sound effects it was a set of unforgettably haunting melody and sublime mental images.

I look forward to the new CD, Year In the Kingdom, due out on the 8th. It smells like a breakthrough album. Evan Way, who opened, in a bass-less version of The Parson Red Heads, opined that the new CD was a major step forward for the artist, who is also his friend. Having seen J. Tillman as drummer with Fleet Foxes, it was astonishing to see him step out and take the lead in a creative, intelligent and artistically forceful band.

It was also fun to see The Parson Red Heads as an acoustic outfit who primed the crowd nicely, slowly building us up for the headliner. Singing songs from their usual catalog, but with a gentle, delicate edge that lent a special poignancy to the compositions, I found it especially engaging.

August 26, 2009 found me at Spaceland to see Fruit Bats for the third time. I became a fan of this band a few years ago when I stumbled across a video for the song "Lives of Crime" that was so funny and oddly touching I couldn't stop watching it. I was also attracted to the quirky melody that seemed to exist in its own reality, but having backed into music the way I did, when I asked someone about Fruit Bats, and they said they sounded like The Shins, I said, "The who?"

Yes, I hadn't heard of The Shins. It took about 6 seconds of listening to Chutes Too Narrow to become a die-hard fan. I often find the sub-genre first, and then move up to the genre itself. So when Fruit Bats' Eric Johnson was grabbed by The Shins to join them as a member of their touring band, it seemed pre-ordained.

On April 12, 2006, Fruit Bats played a terrific show at The Troubadour and I was impressed by the clever, witty songs and the professionalism of the band and I looked forward to future releases and performances by them. Then I read Eric was joining The Shins on their Wincing the Night Away tour. Sure enough, when I saw The Shins at The Orpheum on April 15, 2007, there was Eric Johnson on stage and it was a perfect match of sensibilities.

I feared it might be the end of Fruit Bats, but earlier this year , Eric relocated to L.A. and the band played The Echo in February, nearly three years since their last local show. He also showed up playing with Vetiver at their show at Eagle Rock Center for the Arts in April, so he's an asset to many bands.

Now a new CD is out and this August date was in support of it. It was great to hear Eric as lead singer again and the new material is more folky than before, but musically, it feels like a natural progression. Surrounded by a really tight band it was a solid set by a band that really knows what it's doing.

The Ruminant Band is the new CD and the songs sounded even better live. Not generally paying attention to such things, I was surprised when I opened The Rolling Stone yesterday and saw it is the number one on their Top Ten College Radio Albums list. Wow, this could be the breakthrough for this band, too.