Monday, March 30, 2009

More Catching Up At Hyperion Tavern

I had the same kind of other-worldly experience walking up to the Hyperion Tavern, on Thursday night, March 25, 2009, as last January when I went to this special venue for the first time to see Tommy Santee Klaws (at right). Strolling up from Sunset Boulevard must be more than a mile, but after dark it's so quiet and seemingly unpopulated, it resembles a small town.

On this pilgrimage, like the ones I always take to Spaceland or Pehrspace, I realize this is a head-clearing activity that primes me for the music I'm about to experience. All the walks through all the previously undiscovered neighborhoods of Los Angeles I've encountered in the last three years, since going out to clubs, has really affected my relationship with this city. I appreciate it so much more.

It's always after dark, the street are often devoid of people (in spite of progress, this is still a driving city) of even, ironically, automobiles. Sometimes it has rained and always I'm struck by the smell. The dank smell of earth that wafts through the air. In these neighborhoods, there are many empty lots, left by buildings that either fell down from age or collapsed in an earthquake and were never replaced. Plenty of mud and shrubbery. But I don't smell fumes or smog or gasoline, just damp earth.

I'm reminded, once again that, for all the concrete and buildings and sidewalks and pavement, Los Angeles has never successfully fought back nature. The city loses every time. After a particularly wet winter, the vegetation just invades the city, hanging all over everything, over buildings, empty lots, up through the sidewalk, making roads into leafy tunnels. In L.A. the 21st century mingles with the primordial. (In more ways than one, actually).

Did I digress? I arrived as The Preacher's Son were on and I walked into this warm, inviting club and was struck by the powerful singing I was hearing. Is this really unmiked? The acoustics of the room must be incredible. Maybe it's all those books lining the walls.

The Preacher's Son is David Piorek, aided on this night, by Jason Boles, of Cave Country, on mandolin, and vocally assisted by the lush, warm vocals of Sam The Cat Foot Spirit (he's Tommy's brother, so I think I'll call him Sam "Klaws" for tonight. The music is is an early American folk/spiritual style and beautifully played and sung. Deceptively simple ballads with deep lyrics sung with some stunning vocal harmonies.

During their set, I met up with Tommy Santee Klaws and most of his band, who are all people I enjoy spending time with. They're all pretty excited about about a busy upcoming concert schedule, which includes some out of town dates and another round at the Hyperion Tavern on May 7th. Tommy told me they've never been so busy and it feels good.

They filled the air with Tommy's ultra-flexible voice, aided by Sam's powerful bass vibrato, and the gorgeous playing of guitars, bass violin, plucked strings, toy piano and a variety of percussion instruments. Of the new material, "Dead Leaves and Bumblebees" was a stand out, and I'm always pleased to hear "Chasing Bodies" and "Smoke Spells" or just about anything by Tommy Santee Klaws.

Each band had only about half an hour to play , but with four bands I wanted to see and it being a 'school night', I was glad to get out of there before 1am. Although it would have been real easy to hang out with these bands for hours.

I was real happy to see Cave Country play, because last time they played with Tommy, I met them, but had to cut out before they went on. They kind of reminded me of sixties band New Riders of the Purple Sage with the sweet vocal work of The Byrds, but with a freshness and spirit that felt contemporary. With beautiful swelling harmonies over lush yet precice guitars, the songs are well crafted indie/country/rock.

I was kind of surprised, when we talked afterward, to find out at least some of them are surfers. But I see the connection, now, in that the dexterity and balance required of a surfer seems to infuse the precision of their music.

Finally I saw Isgoodband, Slings, who are quite an impressive assemblage of musicians, which includes players of trombone, accordion and musical saw. They weave this variety of embellishments into a solid fabric created by the strong vocals and flowing guitar work. This really was such an evening of astonishing voices, I felt honored to be in attendance.

I am happy I picked up their CD, The Old Hopeful Trail, as I'm enjoying the full amplified band version of songs I liked equally as acoustic numbers. That seem to me a testament to their song writing talent.

Once again, a trip to the Hyperion Tavern was an experience I won't soon forget.


Catching Up

Avi Buffalo

I've let too much time go by and let too many show go unreviewed. Here's the first:

Wandering the deserted streets of a SxSW depleted Silverlake on Friday night, March 20, 2009 (Christ, I sound like Robert Osborne on TCM) I stumbled into Spaceland to find a spare crowd watching The Spires. They were engaging the audience with their expert set of melancholia laced indie rock. Their music is deceptively accessible, with an undertow of gravity and poignancy that defines their musical landscape and which intrigues the listener.

Among those there, Joe Fielder, who presented this band at a "Let's Independent!" event, remains a fervent supporter of The Spires, and all the bands he presented. They write easy, accessible music that lures the ear to close in on the thoughtful lyrics. Joe introduced me to them afterward and I found them to be approachable and down to earth. I look forward their new record due out in April.

It was nice to see Joe and Amber on this night as he was heading out of town a few days hence and this would be the last opportunity to sit and chat and have a drink together. For a while, anyway.

One reason I was there was to see Karin Tatoyan, who had been forced to cancel due to illness, but at least Avi Buffalo were still slated to appear, albeit at midnight. The band I didn't really know were the headliners, The Coral Sea, so I was pretty impressed with their expert set that was part Wolf Parade, part Pixies.

I enjoyed their performance, but was distracted by the members of Avi Buffalo Music being escorted in and out of the club to use the facilities or whatever, since they're under-age, but I suppose Spaceland is just being admirably cautious. I still grabbed Avi or Rebecca every time they went by to chat a little.

They didn't get on stage till after midnight, but still delivered a super set of songs I am becoming so familiar with, they're imprinted on my mind. Last time I saw them, Avi was battling flu symptoms, so tonight, it was great to hear his vocal performance back to normal. Which, in itself, is highly idiosyncratic. They gave a sparkling set for about twelve people... and that will sound highly improbable a year or two from now.

I just can't wait for Avi Buffalo's upcoming May Tuesday residency at The Echo, but it was still fun to see this quirky performance on a strange and kind of ghostly night. Like The Spires music, the whole night was pretty and sad at the same time. For a while, anyway, this town won't feel the same without Joe, but his impact will last until he returns.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Amazing is Becoming Normal

The last couple of months have been pretty remarkable for me, but the last three weeks have elevated 'remarkable' to 'amazing'. First of all, all I did was start this blog 10 months ago, because I felt compelled to share what I was witnessing, and before I knew it, I was sucked into the vortex of Los Angeles indie rock.

Unexpectedly, I found a community of artists willing to engage, eager to share, disdainful of artifice, creatively motivated and highly talented and now they're people I call friends. Two months ago I was approached by Jon Hershfield of to write reviews for his website. Then Joe Fielder asks me to write for Radio Free Silver Lake, which was the first local music blog I ran into three years ago. Amazing. Now there's all kinds of things happening on that front.

Amazing are a couple of CD's I picked up in anticipation of a couple of upcoming shows.

Even though I saw Chad VanGaalen on October 2, 2006 open for Band of Horses at the Avalon, I didn't have any of his CD's. I purchased his 2008 release, Soft Airplane, and I am enchanted by it. Such intelligent, honest and startlingly fresh lyrics combined with his full arsenal of sonic tricks. This guy could probably make music with a stick and a rock. It sounds like he plays bottles, bells, guitars, whistles, drums, anything he can get his hands on. Reminds me of two of my favorite bands, The Ruby Suns and Le Loup. There's a playful quality to all these bands, that is always anchored in a real sense of poignancy and that oddball freak-folk flavor that I grow fonder of everyday. I can't stop playing this amazing CD. I'm all primed for his show Saturday night at Spaceland.

When I'm not listening to that, it's the amazing new CD by Sweden's Loney dear, Dear John, who are coming in May. This is a beautiful CD, filled with orchestral sweep, gorgeous melodies, sweet singing and the European fondness for a disco beat, coupled with a decidedly experimental element. Loney dear is Nils-Emil Svanangen, who is described as an ex-pro cyclist on his myspace page. I first saw a video for "I Am John" a couple of years ago and have been intrigued by him/them ever since. I missed a chance to see him at the Orpheum , opening for Andrew Bird last January, because of the god-damned flu!

For the last month I've been amazed by the latest CD by Vetiver called Tight Knit. They play a two night engagement at the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts in April and I'll go one night. I've seen them before at the Troubadour and have a few of the CD's, but this one is a breakthrough.
The song "Strictly Rule" is my current 'favorite rock song of all time'. I keep my 'favorite rock song of all time' a fluid category, because I prefer to think that the greatest rock song is always yet to be written. Keeps the art form fresh. A little while ago it was "God and Suicide" by Blitzen Trapper, in a week it will probably be "Bones of Man" by Chad VanGaalen.

Amazing that picked five of my very favorite L.A. bands for the top five slots of their Top 30 Emerging Artists in Southern California: 1. The Henry Clay People; 2. Red Cortez; 3. Avi Buffalo; 4. The Happy Hollows; 5. The Parson Red Heads. All thirty are worthy bands, but, like one writer said, "Where's Thailand?

Oh, and this is going to be an amazing weekend of music. Tommy Santee Klaws on Thursday, Gliss on Friday, Chad VanGaalen on Saturday and Seasons on Sunday.

I look forward to being blissfully wiped out on Monday...and amazed.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Great Northern and The French Semester

Great Northern

I saw what will undoubedly go down as a concert highlight of the year on Monday, March 16, 2009, when Great Northern returned to knock out a sold out crowd at the Silverlake Lounge. I got to write my first full length review for Radio Free Silver Lake, which you can read here.

The French Semester

I value the friendship that has developed between myself and The French Semester. What a great bunch of people with whom I share a lot of similar musical tastes. I was looking forward to their show at The Knitting Factory on Wednesday, March 18, 2009, as a chance to see them for the first time since getting their CD, Good Friends Only I Could See at their release show in January. It's always a test of a band's strength to see how the live renditions of songs hold up to the recorded versions. And this is one of my favorite releases of the year so far. This band has nothing to worry about.

This was a decidedly EARLY show, with the doors set to open at 7 o'clock, but there was no way I could get there by then, so I missed almost all of opening band, Shout To the Left. With The French Semester set to go on at 8 pm, I got a chance to chat with Riaz Tejani, who is the lead singer and the writer of the smart, melodic songs that make this band stand out.

The Alterknit Lounge is a nice, tight little space and the couple of times I've been there, the bands have come off well. There was a little difficulty finding the correct vocal mix, but still The French Semester succeeded in winning over the whole room. I was so happy to hear "Backward Rolling" and "Ivy Letters Upsetting the Norm" with the bands concise recreation of a sound so nostalgic and also so new. They really can reproduce the jangly, surf sound of the mid sixties so acurately.

I settled back and just enjoyed the relatively short set. They sang a couple of new songs for a finish, "What's In the Bag?" being a particularly strong one, and ending with "Go To a Window".

I look forward to seeing a lot more of this band, but first they're off to Europe to tour France, Spain and Germany. Not a bad itinerary.

Afterward, I had a chance to meet Bryan and Gil and it was flattering to hear them say they like my blog, but I wouldn't be writing at all if it weren't for bands like The French Semester and their music... and the music that's everywhere around us right now. And thanks to Matthew Pierce for the great photo.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Mouse's Birthday

Friday night, March 13, 2009, was an event, for the local music scene, not to be missed. It was Ben McShane's (Mouse - Classical Geek Theatre) birthday party at Pehrspace and the turnout was fantastic. The lineup was the New York band, The Besties, local legend, music/mischief makers, Manhttan Murder Mystery, and more magnificent mayhem from Mouse favorites, Mae Shi.

Arriving around 10, I couldn't even get inside to see The Besties because I was waylayed by the delightful crowd outside, where I ran into Elaine Layabout, Matther Teardrop, Ian, Katya, my new boss, Joe Fielder, and many others.

As the crowd filed out after the first set, I got inside, after demonstrating my super-human strength for Elaine by ripping the entire top off a bottle of Corona with a bottle opener. I scared myself.

It was great to see Mouse, back from cross country touring with The Henry Clay People, and wish him 'happy birthday' and see the phenomenal Classical Geek Theatre cake baked by chef extraordinaire, Cindy Nguyen. It tasted as good as it looked.

As Manhattan Murder Mystery took the stage, the crowd packed in to witness the spectacle, as Matthew flung himself around the room, with the audience acting as the ropes surrounding a boxing ring, attempting to keep him upright. Foolish effort.

How they manage to keep their music together in midst of such a fracas always impresses me. They combine the visceral force and fury of a punk concert with the solid musical discipline of a band as tight as The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra. I know, I know... how can you compare Manhattan Murder Mystery with The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra?

When Mae Shi began, the room was at capacity and this band, who were itching for a local show after the rigors of touring and playing for strangers, gave a performance that blossomed into a full-bore explosion of cathartic release. I stood up on a chair at the back, at one point, just to get the view down onto the writhing mass that resembled the movie, The Snake Pit.

When they pulled out their orange parachute, which spread out over the crowd and began undulating over the teaming mass of humanity beneath, I was reminded of the final scene in Bertolucci's epic, 1900, when the farmers all dance under the giant red flag. I leaned over to the person next to me and whispered, "Are we all communists now?"

No, but we were all Mae She-ites. This is one of the, if not THE most fun band in town. No one wanted to leave after that and most of us stuck around till the wee hours. Happy Birthday, indeed, Mouse!


Monday, March 16, 2009

Elvis Perkins in Dearland at The Troubadour

The first time I saw Elvis Perkins in concert was about two years ago at The Echo on March 23, 2007 shortly after the release of his first CD, Ash Wednesday. That was a remarkable night of music that was something of a family affair. The Echo had set up tables and chairs in front of the stage in a cabaret format and the reserved spots were taken up by, who I thought were, friends and colleagues of his late parents, actor Anthony Perkins and photographer Berry Berenson.

It was a decidedly older and more Hollywood-professional type of crowd. But the enthusiasm for the artful music of Mr. Perkins was genuine and movingly heartfelt. It was easily one of the most emotional concerts I've ever attended. He performed material off that first CD, which was an intensely personal look at some tragic circumstances that affected his life, told with honesty, clarity and an amazing absence of self pity.

The music was also excruciatingly beautiful. Joined onstage at one point by his brother, Osgood, the whole affair was defined by a feeling of kinship between band and audience. It was often difficult to fight back tears, especially during the song "Ash Wednesday", about his mother and the ill-fated 9/11 flight from Boston she was on. I saw him a second time later that year, on September 18, 2007, as part of his three day stint, opening for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah at The Troubadour.

Now touring in support of his recent release, Elvis Perkins in Dearland, the new material pulls away from the intensely personal and goes for more universal themes, still dealing with loss and acceptance, but perhaps more accessible to a wider audience. There's a definite thematic similarity with Mark Everett's remarkable work with The Eels and I find it all surprisingly life-affirming.

In the meantime, since I last saw them, they've all turned into hippies, and, although the music is still really serious, their whole demeanor was more upbeat on Thursday, March 12, 2009 at The Troubadour. If there's any sacrifice it may be in the emotional area, but who can blame Elvis for not wanting to spend years turning his heart inside out night after night in front of an audience.

They performed mostly material from the new CD which was enjoyable, though I wish I had been better acquainted with it, but when he sang "Ash Wednesday", the shift in tone and mood was so powerful a hush fell over the crowd. Pull out the Kleenex. He ended the set with "While You Were Sleeping" which was nice to hear in a new arrangement.

I enjoy his band and they all have strong performing and vocal skills. A highlight was when Becky Stark of Lavender Diamond stepped on stage to sing backup vocals on the new song "Hey". She's also on the album, but her presence is always uplifting and her voice truly beautiful. Of course she ended with her trademark Isadora-leap of joy. If I had any complaint it's that I don't think the new material shows off Elvis Perkins' unique and interesting voice enough. Many of the new song employ a talk/sing style, which is fine, but his voice has more variety than that.

Small quibble, it was still a fine performance. Opening was the Tim Eriksen Shape-Note Extravaganza which is Tim Eriksen and his fiddle. He played a wonderful kind of mountain folk music that hearkened back to another era and ably set the stage for Elvis Perkins in Dearland.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Saturday Night with Seasons at The Scene

Last Saturday night, March 7, 2009, I was off to Glendale for an evening at The Scene where Seasons were headlining. I tagged along with another band I wanted to see again, The Happy Casualties, and Steve Sigl joked that they like to bring the press with them.

It proved to be an evening of expected and unexpected pleasures. Throwing the schedule right out the window, the first band, Collisions, was done when we arrived, so I saw Republic of Letters first. They played a poppy brand of indie rock with strong vocal harmonies reflective of the San Diego scene they're a part of. Being partial to that sound, I found the band to have solid writing and performing skills that were easily digestible.

By now Seasons had arrived and they whisked me backstage to chat a while. This band has been very good to me, bringing me and Jon Hershfield together so I can write for Isgoodmusic and support that worthy enterprise. They've promoted me to their fans, and now that I'll be lending my voice to Radio Free Silver Lake, they were ecstatically supportive. I'll be forever grateful to this bunch.

Seasons performed with less members than I've ever seen before, but the sound was every bit as big and impressive as when there are 14 of them on stage. It must be the quality of the material. I've given this band so many raves I must sound like a broken record. But when a band continues to startle and amaze me time after time, well, what am I supposed to do?

I love hearing the new material as they keep churning out hit after hit, including "666, Mark of the Beat", which I think is one of their very best songs so far. It just makes me anxious for their new EP, due out on April 10.

They also sang excellent renditions of "Sea", "India", and a wonderful song by John, "Mailbox". All performed with the usual array of strung green and blue lights contrasting beautifully with the warm orange glow bathing the stage. The visual is always an important element in Seasons' cinematic stage presence.

The other bands this evening continued to expand the range of styles we were treated to. Jonesin' are a musical duo who look like a couple having a fine old time in he privacy of their playroom, but allowing us to share in it. They sing these kind of sing-songy ditties with lots of Sondheimesque back and forth vocal interplay that was both theatrical, yet easily amusing and unpretentious. It helps that they are both genuinely talented performance artists.

Another band was Co-op, who are like O'Death on steroids. Loud walls of noise, interrupted by free-style shouting matches between three vocalists, one who assaults an accordion, adding a gypsy element. Really fresh and original sounding music and an unexpected surprise. Their lead singer also reminded me a little of a mad genius singer in the manner of Aaron Weiss of MewithoutYou, except really angry.

The evening ended with The Happy Casualties and they lived up to the promise I saw in them the first time. This is a real fun and straightforward rock and roll band, which also makes eminently danceable music. They play a classic style of earnest rock that still works, but with an important underlying sense of irony.

Steve Sigl is a charismatic lead who sings rock and roll with assurance and conviction. His band mates, Paul Hewitt and Ryan Blandford are a good match and they form a solid trio, and they really rock. The songwriting is also strong and lyrically adventurous and intelligent.

Their direct approach is even found in the song titles, like "Play Nice", "You Won't Find Me" and "Faithless Companion". Of course, I especially love "Hope", which begins with that incredible riff from Jefferson Airplane's "Volunteers". A band after my heart.

There are some wonderful videos from this evening by the fabulous Elaine Layabout here. Check them out.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Robert Francis on Carson Daly Video

Ashley Jex sent me this video and since I enjoyed so much of his recent residency at The Echo, I felt compelled to put it up.

Monday, March 9, 2009

"EXPOSURE" at the Where Gallery

I had a great time at the Where Gallery in Silverlake last Friday, March 6, 2009. It was the second reception for the exhibit called "EXPOSURE" featuring the work of three of our local music scene's best photographers, Benjamin Hoste, Simon Cardoza and Jeff Koga.

Each Friday during the exhibit's run the gallery hosts an evening of live acoustic music to lure people in and it's a successful gimmick. The place was packed. And why wouldn't it be with the promise of the public debut of an acoustic version of The Monolators. I couldn't wait to see this.

I got there just in time to take in Simon Cardoza's shots of Death to Anders, The Happy Hollows and his amazing photo of Matthew Teardrop and the Manhattan Murder Mystery.

As The Monolators began, most of the room focused their attention on the music, and what a sight it was, with Eli playing banjo and Mary squatting on the floor with, what looked like, toy drums and looking every bit like a demented and delightful 5 year old banging away on the floor of her playroom. They were augmented by two other musicians and it was a delight to hear these different versions of familiar songs.

I enjoyed hearing Eli's yelping vocals up close and out front. Even the decidedly retro sound amplification they used brought an old fashioned quality to the rudimentary sound. I thought the set was a bold step for The Monolators and they rose to the occasion admirably.

Between sets I had the chance to admire the work of Benjamin Hoste and Jeff Koga. Love the close up of Tim James from The Movies and the ladies of Castledoor (The Ladies of Castledoor... it sounds like some old M-G-M opus with Lana Turner or something) and so many others. The whole exhibit is a treat and the Where Gallery is a nice comfortable space.

By the time One Trick Pony came on, a party atmosphere had overtaken the room and, sad to say, not enough paid attention to their remarkable acoustic performance. Well I did. I've seen One Trick Pony a few times and always enjoyed them, but to hear them completely unmiked was a transcendent experience, matched only by the recent unmiked set I saw by Tommy Santee Klaws last January at the Hyperion Tavern.

I moved right down front and sat on the floor, so I barely could hear the cacophony from the crowd behind me. From my vantage point, I heard the combination of Randolph's expressive and limber voice, his evocative lyrics, with Charlene Huang's stunning violin presence which insinuates itself into the song so beautifully, and it all blended into one gorgeous, harmonious whole. It doesn't hurt that One Trick Pony's songs are so finely crafted either.

When the music is not amplified, it's as if each musician takes special care not to step on the other's performances and a natural audio balance occurs that can only be achieved artificially when the band is miked.

Now I want to see all my favorite bands in a non-amplified setting. I'm grateful for those who do.

By now the gallery was in full party mode and The Voyeurs came on to grab everyone's attention, or at least they gave it a valiant try. Their power pop/indie rock was just what was called for and the fine vocals of Jonathan Hylander and Sean Johnson certainly pleased the upbeat crowd. I wish I could have paid attention to more of their set, but the atmosphere was more party than concert at this point.

And it was all over by 11 o'clock and we all went on our merry ways. All in all, a terrific audio/visual event.


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Two Show, 3 of Clubs

Death to Anders rocked the 3 of Clubs Wednesday night, March 4, 2009, which represented the only Los Angeles appearance this month of this local favorite and Isgoodband. A wonderful crowd of well wishers and friends showed up in Hollywood to say, "bon voyage" as they set sail for SxSW in Texas, with many stops in between.

Arriving early, I met up with Ashley Jex (of The Monolators and the Rock Insider blog), who, I was surprised to learn, was playing with Spider Problem this evening. She introduced me to the band and I enjoyed chatting with them.

Then I met up with ace photographer, Anita Marto, who Jon Hershfield (Isgoodmusic) recommended as someone to shoot photos of the shows that I'm reviewing. Jumping at the chance to have shots of the actual shows I write about is something I grabbed onto immediately. I introduced her to Death to Anders and we met the show's host, Brandon, who had kindly given permission for the photography. The photos appear with my review at Isgoodmusic.

The set up of this club, in particular, looks to me like a photographers dream. You can shoot from almost any angle, and get close ups and long shots from a variety of distances, and I think Anita agreed. Check out her photographs here:

First up was a nice surprise in the person of Jack Tempchin, who dropped by on his way to Crane's Tavern for a gig and he asked to play a couple of opening songs to introduce the evening. I was not aware who he was until Anita informed me he was the author of The Eagles' mega-hit, "Peaceful Easy Feeling", among others. I've frankly admitted I'm not a big Eagles fan, but when Jack took the stage and began playing and singing, I was enthralled.

He sang a beautiful little song (composed yesterday, he said wryly) in a fine voice that absolutely filled the room and he played a gorgeous guitar. I recognized I was seeing a major talent. He told funny stories and sang a second song (a birthday tribute), which, again, was a finely composed and performed gem. All at once, I was taken by the fact of how effortlessly and seamlessly the great music I grew up with in the late sixties and early seventies can be folded right into the music I love today. I was thrilled to meet him afterwards. Contrary to what he said on stage, about how he used to be cool in the seventies, I say Jack Tempchin is still cool in 2009. Talent is rarely uncool.

Death to Anders continues their ascension to a level of professionalism shared by only a few other local bands. Brimming with confidence, they dove into the evocative "Handshakes and Earthquakes" and quickly lured the audience into the quirky world of the Anders. This song sounds like it belongs in an old Western saloon with dance hall hostesses strewn about the room. Rob ought to don an extravagantly over sized cowboy hat for this number, to accompany the exaggerated facial expressions.

After the bluntly titled "Asshole Diaries" they played two of my favorites, "For the Headless" and "The Fall". So far the set was really showing off their wide range of styles. Rob Danson and Nick Ceglio share strong songwriting abilities, but with very different sensibilities that lend this band a rich and varied landscape for their music. There's an unpredictability in their songs that keeps them always fresh.

Rob's punk-a-billy aesthetic and Nick's introspective troubadour should clash, but, instead they feed off each other and thrive. And when they collaborate on the same song, the contrasting styles sometimes yield musical interludes of unexpected beauty and even poignancy.

Complimented by the steady, throbbing bass of Pete Dibiasio and the pounding yet precise drumming of John Broeckel, I couldn't help but thinking that this band is more than ready to impress as they hit the road in pursuit of new fans.

They finished up with two cuts from Fictitious Business, "Camera Lens" and "Great Plains States", which continue to be stand outs. As I told Rob earlier in the evening, that CD continues to reveal new rewards each time I go back to it, and it's over a year old! It's like a bottomless treasure chest and I think I underrated it last year.

As usual, Rob and Nick ended up on the floor, twirling knobs and pushing pedals like a couple of kids on the floor of their playroom as they recreated the sound of a jet lifting off the runway. The audience was wildly enthusiastic and it provided a fitting end as they take off for their first out-of-state shows ever.

Also on the bill were Sleepover Disaster, from Fresno, and Spider Problem, but as I had three more nights of shows in a row, I had to bow out early, but Death to Anders and Jack Tempchin had ably satisfied my music cravings.

Thursday, March 5, 2009, I was right back at the 3 of Clubs to catch an early set by Avi Buffalo. Once again, I'm just totally seduced by the atmosphere in this beautiful, old, hidden gem of a club. It's as dark and inviting as a womb. And once again Ashley Jex is there.

This show flew somewhat under the radar and I think that's partly because Avi is coming out of the flu, just like half of Southern California. They probably couldn't be sure they could play. But were they ever able to play.

It was when I met up with Avi that I realized the poor guy was not feeling well. You gotta admire his tenacity. Having time to chat with Rebecca Coleman, I learned that she is quite mature and grounded for her years. And that she has her own band, with Avi playing guitar, who will open on the third May date during the Avi Buffalo residency at the Echo.

Only a few people gathered and it was a sweet set that seemed intimate and soothing. Avi gave his all, but his voice was fighting hard for flexibility so the set was more about the playing than the singing, which I looked at as an opportunity to focus on the strong compositions.

They began with "Summer Cum", which is an incredibly alluring song that gets you right into their style and carried on for about five songs, which was admirable under these conditions. I particularly enjoyed "What's In It For" and of course, "Where's Your Dirty Mind" which is, like, one of my all-time favorite songs already.

They are even so polite, they were going to hang around for the other bands, in spite of having to drive down the coast to go home... and being sick. I had to cut out of there because of two more nights of shows on my schedule. It is going to be wonderful to have the opportunity to see Avi Buffalo four weeks in a row during the Echo May residency.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Upcoming Shows

I am anxious to get back to shows and this looks like a good week to do it.

There are good Monday night residencies this month with Origami Records hosting events at The Echo. This Monday was The Monolators, The Hectors, Writer and Summer Darling. Next Monday, March 9, 2009 is Two Guns, Summer Darling, Wait. Think. Fast. and Shiloe. Nico Stai headlines Mondays at Spaceland up the street.

Check One...Twosday (on March 4) has the techno wizardry of Fujiya and Miyagi and the wonderfully weird genre-bending indie pop of Pop Levi at The Echoplex. Also Les Blanks, Dirt Dress, Shirley Rolls and Hunting Accident are at the Silverlake Lounge.

It's on Wednesday night, March 5, 2009, that I will venture over to the 3 of Clubs in Hollywood to see Death to Anders and join up with photographer, Anita Marto, to get some shots to post with my write up of the show for Isgoodmusic. Finally, photos to accompany my reviews. Also appearing are Spider Problem and a Fresno band, recommended by Death to Anders, descriptively called Sleepover Disaster.

Thursday is another opportunity to go to the 3 of Clubs, which I consider to be just about the most comfortable club I've been to in L.A. Plenty of great places to sit, plenty of great places to stand and not a bad view of the stage from anywhere. That night it's the fast-rising phenomenon, Avi Buffalo at 9, followed by Fitz and the Tantrums and Here Here.

Friday night, March 6, 2009, is a show I really want to recommend.
It's the second week of the Where Gallery show, "EXPOSURE", featuring the works of three wonderful Los Angeles photographers, Benjamin Hoste, Simon Cardoza and Jeff Koga. Each Friday they present live performances and this week's promise of acoustic sets by The Monolators, The Voyeurs and One Trick Pony is too good to pass up. I'll be writing about this show for both Feed Your Head and Isgoodmusic.

I'll be at that show in lieu of Jon Hirshfield's Isgoodmusic show at Mr. T's Bowl which features The Widows, Day of the Outlaw and Jason Heath and the Greedy Souls. All bands I want to see.

I also hear rumors of a Seasons show at The Scene, with Republic of Letter and The Happy Casualties on Saturday, March 7, which I'll be at if it happens.

Since wandering back into music three years ago, I've been tempted each year by Coachella and the chance to catch so many bands in one place. But each year the reports I read of the event portray an ordeal of heat , mud, personal discomfort and chaos, with intermittent moments of musical clarity that make it all worth it. Thus the quandary. Is it worth it? After all I was 18 when I went to Woodstock, so, now, 40 years later, I may never know. I'm amazed I'm still standing up.

Of course, in my world, the Friday (April 17) headliners would be Beirut, Leonard Cohen and Silversun Pickups. With The Airborne Toxic Event, We Are Scientists and M. Ward, and featuring Paul McCartney, Morrissey and Franz Ferdinand.

Saturday (April 18) would feature headliners Fleet Foxes, Amanda Palmer, Calexico and Blitzen Trapper. With TV on the Radio, Band of Horses, Henry Rollins and The Bob Mould Band. I don't think I could fit that day's headliners on the bill.

Sunday (April 19) should headline X (still a potent artistic power 30 years in), Okkervil River (am I ever anxious to see this band again!) and The Brian Jonestown Massacre with Jenny Lewis, Paul Weller and No Age. As far as the scheduled headliners, I'd love to see The Cure (at the beginning of their career). If I liked wall-of-noise rock, I'd love My Bloody Valentine, but now I think music that makes my pores bleed is too loud. I've seen a lot of live videos of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and, though I like some of Karen O's music, the live performances, too often, come off as a mess, with Karen barely even scraping the right notes. I'd pass.

I'm also sure that when I hear stories of some great adventures out there, I'll feel like I missed something.

The 2009 Sasquatch Festival on May 23 - 25 sounds even better to me, without all the celebrity headliners, making it seem like a more seriously musical event. Fleet Foxes, TV on the Radio, Silversun Pickups, M. Ward, Calexico, The Airborne Toxic Event and Blitzen Trapper are all playing Coachella, but when you add Ben Harper, The Decemberists, Animal Collective, Of Montreal, Explosions in the Sky, Devotchka, Gogol Bordello, Grizzly Bear, St. Vincent, The Submarines, Viva Voce and The Builders and The Butchers it becomes a giant collection of some of the most extraordinary bands in the world today. And the absence of all the aging celebrity head-turners would only make for a more serious minded and interested audience, I would think. I'd put my money of this event.

Don't miss Mouse's superb coverage (Classical Geek Theatre) from the road with The Henry Clay People and The Airborne Toxic Event. Reading his accounts, I always feel like I get to know the band a little better. Terrific writing, my friend.