Thursday, June 25, 2009

Grizzly Bear at The Wiltern

I posted my review for this incredible show over at Radio Free Silver Lake. Photo is by Doug Kresse.

Go have a look:


Monday, June 15, 2009

A Real Friday the 13th, (June 5, actually)

Reflecting on the evening of Friday, June 5, 2009, I must mention the obvious misalignment of the stars, or something, that led to an unfortunate series of mishaps. I understand there was an accident involving motorists and pedestrians outside The Echo, the Taco Zone truck was attacked by thugs with Molotov cocktails, burning the roof and Web in Front's Travis had his car impounded, stranding him and friends, requiring Captain (Bronson) Marvel to spring to the rescue.

Meanwhile, over at Pehrspace, we were cocooned against the onslaught of bad karma outside, as Elaine Layabout's third Hella Hipster Hoedown was another barn-burner of a show. A rootin'-tootin', foot-stompin' array of bands charged the evening with enough positive energy to drive demons away.

This was also an important trial run for Pehrspace, who were closed down earlier in the week for excessive noise and unacceptable parking lot behavior. We obviously passed, as there were no complaints, but in retrospect, I think we dodged a bullet, as bad luck seemed to envelope the city that night.

First up was Last of the Blacksmiths, from San Francisco, whose live sound immediately reminded my of Pinback, with that laid back sound, plunking guitar and bass and the gentle, vocal harmonies, blended until smooth. It was great to meet the band members and pick up a couple of CDs. Their music on the recordings, seems simpler and more direct, whereas their live sound was intricate and delicately balanced.

Slang Chickens play loud, raucous, blaring garage/punk and had such a good time performing the feeling was infectious. But it was Telegraph Canyon (picture at right by Hal Samples) who really captured my attention with their sweeping orchestral sound, wrapped up in dusty Southwestern ambiance. Beautifully balancing guitar, banjo and vocals with violin and piano, writer/singer Chris Johnson conducted his band through a set of melodically creative, lyrically inventive songs. I picked up their Tour Release 2009 EP and, sure enough, it's a winner. Telegraph Canyon are a band to watch for.

Being an evening of unexpected events, the next thing I knew, I was being whisked off to Mr. T's Bowl in Highland Park to catch the late set by The Monolators. I later learned they had not been immune to the strange karma out there, as Ashley Jex's bass was damaged by a misplaced foot. In spite of that, she played valiantly and, truth be told, The Monolators gave an electrifying performance as Eli was all over the place at once. On stage, off stage, on the floor...everywhere but the ceiling.

On Tuesday night, June 9, Steve Sigl, of The Happy Casualties dragged me back to Mr. T's Bowl to see his other band, a new project called The Shoenberg Knifefight Ensemble, who have recently been hitting the clubs. I hardly know where to begin, as the sound is totally different from Casualties, the centerpiece being the theatrical, extravagant lead singer, John Rickel, whose odd, tourette -like behavior commanded your attention. I've never seen Steve play guitar like that before and it was inspiring. In fact the whole band, Troy Westover on keys, Steve Rosenthal on bass and Doug Boyle on drums played with a ferocious intensity.

I loved the song about their friend and compatriot, "Victor Ferrari", but how can you not like a song with a title like "Phantom of the Copa Cabana". It was interesting to contrast Steve Sigl's songwriting for The Happy Casualties, which is straightforward rock and roll, with his songs for The Shoenberg Knifefight Ensemble, which are quirky and inventive, with more than a hint of flamboyance. He can write an engaging, attractive melody and then hang irony-laced lyrics on top. I once heard someone describe Broadway composer, Stephen Sondheim's music and lyrics as whipped cream with razor blades inside. The same applies here.

This was an evening curated by John Huerta of Seasons, and being a man of impeccable taste, the other bands were none too shabby either. I saw some of The Seizure and Luna is Honey, both of whom performed energetically and I even picked up a Luna is Honey CD, which is quite good.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Brightblack Morning Light and Others

I've been introduced to and reacquainted with a bunch of bands over the last few weeks, like Deep Sea Diver, The Faraway Places, Local Natives and Greater California, and one of the best was his Orchestra, who I saw open for The Wooden Birds May 28 at Spaceland.

I picked up their CD, Field Guide To the Wilds, and it has given me endless hours of listening pleasure. It's sublime indie pop. his Orchestra opened for Dead Meadow last year at Echoplex in November and I remember being impressed at the time, but I didn't follow up, so they fell off my radar. That won't happen again.

I really wanted to write about the Brightblack Morning Light show at the Eagle Rock Center For the Arts on May 29, 2009, but have been too swamped to write, until now. I also wanted to show some photos shot by Lisa Svenson, a fellow concertgoer. There couldn't have been a better venue for this band than this fabulous 1914 mission revival historical building. Once the band took the stage and filled the auditorium with fog so thick you could barely see the person next to you. Which is kind of perfect considering the introspective nature of the music.

The swelling, lugubrious dirge-like pace maintained by Rachael Hughes moody keyboard, coupled with the somnambulant vocals of Nathan Shineywater (at left) sent the entire room into a trance that lasted for the two hours they played. The minute the familiar sound they create washes over the room, people were either sitting or lying on the floor and stayed that way until the end. They play extended versions of song that sound familiar from their albums resulting in about six songs over the course of the two hours. There's an elemental simplicity in the delivery of the music that sometimes makes it seem like just an alternate version of inhaling and exhaling. The beat seems to match human breathing patterns. All I could think of was molasses rolling uphill in sub-zero temperatures.

Wonderful back up singers and instrumentalists rounded out the sound, though I did miss the horn section that appears on their recorded work. They're back in town for a show at El Rey on June 27, opening for Rodriguez, and this band's sound could easily fill a venue that size.

Fol Chen had a great bon voyage show at The Echo on June 4, 2006, before they took off for their first ever shows in London. But first Karin Tatoyan burned down the house with a fiery set that was as electrifying as it was emotional. Fortunately I've seen her enough times so the songs are becoming familiar (we need a CD) and they become more powerful the more you hear them. I was honestly moved to the brink of tears more that once. There an unbearable beauty in her voice that is transportive. She had the audience enthralled.

Then Fol Chen launched into a set highlighting their biggest and best hits. No doubt, the set list they'll use to wow London, and all the songs sounded in top form. But the startling highlight was the great singer who came on stage to sing "The Idiot" with only Adam on guitar. It was hair-raising and the crowd went wild for it.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Upcoming and Current for June

This summer is setting itself up fine to become a pretty memorable concert season. Just keeping up with all the shows that pop onto the radar is a semi-full time job. Just last week The National announced a show at The Wiltern on August 29. Had to get a ticket for that.

In fact it's going to drag me back to that venue for the third time this summer. And The Wiltern is not my favorite place to see bands, so it proves how devoted I am to Grizzly Bear (June 19, picture below by Lane Coder) god that's only two weeks away...and Elbow (July 22), still touring on the strength of their great CD, The Seldom Seen Kid.

Grizzly Bear's newest, Veckatimest, is easily one of the best CD's of the year and I can't wait to hear it live. I have to confess, I've seen this band every time they've played L.A., beginning with Spaceland on Sept. 26, 2006 (for about 30 people), and I don't intent to stop, now that they play for 3000. Their show at Walt Disney Concert Hall on March 1, 2008 is burned into my memory forever.

The awe-inspiring talent of Amanda Palmer (below) will be on full display at The Troubadour on June 25 and the audience will be dazzled into a state of ecstasy, as usual. I can't wait. She's so inspiring she makes me want to be a better writer. Check out her blog if you wonder. Last time I saw her she promised she and Brian Viglione would be back before the end of the year as The Dresden Dolls. I'll be there, too.

mewithoutYou (below) are a band no one I know knows about. I find the lead singer, writer Michael Weiss is an astonishing poet and that alone would be worthy of attention, except that his delivery is so extreme and odd, and oddly compelling. I saw a video of "Paper Hanger" way back when I first got back into music through music videos on Refused TV in 2005. (Does anyone know what happened to that wonderful show?) I have many episodes on tape but I kept watching this song over and over and over. I don't even think I liked the song the first few times I heard it, but something about the weird spastic guy doing the singing/talking/grumbling intrigued me, once I got over the similarity to Ed Grimley ("I must say").

He was the real deal. This act was genuine and I was hooked. I researched the band and found they are considered a religious band. Overcoming my prejudice, I bought their album, Catch For Us the Foxes, and discovered a work of art. mewithoutYou are also incredible musicians, but I've been particularly impressed with drummer Richard Mazzotta. I've seen them twice and each time I think I saw some of the finest drumming I've ever seen. They're at El Rey on June 20.

Handsome Furs is an interesting band I've seen once before. Led by Dan Boeckner of Canada's Wolf Parade, this offshoot band is worth exploring for the quirky, intelligent songwriting. Dan sings in that distinctive Wolf Parade-voice, but here it's matched with electronica and a more direct approach. It's a perfect match up with The Monolators at Echoplex on June 11, as Eli Charkoff employs a similar vocal approach. It will be great to contrast the two remarkable singers.

Residencies by Castledoor at Spaceland and Oliver Future at The Echo will continue to rule Monday nights. But Castledoor have the enchanting Deep Sea Diver on Monday, June 15, and on June 22, Local Natives, who impressed me at their set with Gangi last month, so that may tip the scales for me. Avi Buffalo's only L. A. date this month is Monday, June 8 at midnight at the Echoplex, so run downstairs right after Oliver Future upstairs.

Another favorite of mine, Tommy Santee Klaws, play Saturday, June 6, at Crane's Hollywood Tavern, and Sunday the 14th at Gallery 2023. Alaskan Summer are a band I must check out since Douglas Summer is also the voice of his Orchestra, who have recently become an obsession of mine.

I got to know Brooklyn's Chairlift (photo at left by Katie Chanler) a couple of years ago at the Silver Lake Lounge and really loved their music. They're coming back for a couple of dates, one at The Echo on June 18, and the other at the Getty Courtyard on Saturday, June 20. Also Viva Voce who are a couple who play guitar and drums and both sing creating a dense, swirling phantasmagoria. They play The Echo on June 17.

I wanted to write about the whole summer, but better take it month by month. There's too much going on and a lot more shows will pop up this month alone. I'll leave it there for now.