Tuesday, August 31, 2010

More Great August Shows

Before August gets away from me I need to cover some more great shows I saw this month. After that crazy, music filled Monday night of August 9, all I wanted was more and more. So on Tuesday (Aug. 10) I went right from work to Amoeba to catch Lost In The Trees, who drew my attention by playing four shows in town around that time. Based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, they were here to celebrate the release of their CD, All Alone In An Empty House, that day with a free in-store.

As much a chamber music ensemble as an indie rock band, their roots obviously spread wide. Eight performers, including three violin/cello players and a one man brass section on tuba and maybe trumpet, and accordionist, bass and drums and a lead singer/songwriter, Ari J. Packer, on guitar provided a pretty thrilling set of music. Frequent forays into pure instrumental/classical passages enrich the sound measurably on the pastoral songs with evocative titles like "A Room Where Your Paintings Hang" and "Walk Around The Lake" Inventively orchestrated and beautifully played, it was almost hypnotic and reminiscent of film music crossed with pure folk music. I picked up the CD, and while it's very nice, they should be seen live to really be appreciated.

Ran home, grabbed a bite, and took off for El Cid to catch a set by The Californian, who I'm currently trying to see as many times as possible. They're that good. Ran into The Hectors and we sat together during their set as I attempted to describe The Californian's particular sound and the best I could come up with was "surfy/creepy".

Beset by continual sound and technical problems, including a suicidal microphone stand, this band impressed me more than ever before because of their professional aplomb and good humor and smart repartee as everything went wrong. And they still sounded so good that The Hectors became fans on the spot. I'm beginning to think they can do no wrong. It's hard to think of a tighter band, that can just get up on stage and pour passion and energy into a set making it look as easy as walking down the street.

The next day, August 11, Wednesday, I trundled off to the Bootleg to catch up with Division Day (at left), who were opening for The Joy Formidable. I had seen part of Division Day's set at the Silver Lake Jubilee earlier in the summer and wanted to see them in a setting where I could really concentrate on the music, apart from the circus atmosphere of a festival. Their last album, Visitation, was less accessible than Beartrap Island, but I wanted to hear a mix of material from both albums played live so I could more fully understand the relationship between the two CD's.

That was a good idea because now that they've been living with the new material for maybe a year the live renditions of them were the best I've heard them played yet. Division Day opened with "Malachite" with it's halting, yet propulsive rush, "Surrender" with Rohner Segnitz spitting out the lyrics, and the whole band playing powerfully, they sounded great. They ended with songs from Beartrap Island, delivering unforgettable and moving versions of "Colorguard", "Tap Tap Click Click" and "Little Blood". It was a tight, well coordinated and invigorating set by one of the very best bands in town, and it is good to have them back on stage. The headliner was The Joy Formidable from England and the audience loved them. It seemed a very commercial sound to me and I'm sure they could become hugely successful.

I was gifted with some pit tickets to see Avi Buffalo and My Morning Jacket at The Greek on Thursday, August 12, and though I'd been to five shows in three days, I wasn't going to let that go by. I had only heard about Rebecca Coleman leaving the band a couple of days before, so I was still somewhat in shock. But I've seen Avi in different configurations before, once at Echo Curio completely solo...and that was revelatory, so I know he can triumph over line up shake ups. Once they played the little room at the House of Blues and Sheridan couldn't attend because of finals, so Arin performed some very simple but very effective percussion. That was another unforgettable show.

It was an unusual performance, but not without its strong points, Avi played a searing guitar and dazzled with his virtuosity. I've heard complaints that his voice did not carry to the outer reaches of The Greek, but from where I was, I could hear just fine. Sheridan Riley and Arin Fazio seemed at ease and comfortable on the giant stage and added their prodigious talents to the mix and they were augmented by two additional back up musicians, who couldn't quite replace Rebecca. Sheridan added an occasional vocal harmony which worked well. And I must add, my heart soared a little when Avi saw me in the pit and said "Brad...you're here!" from the stage of The Greek. That's a weird feeling.

My Morning Jacket (at right) are a band I knew very little about and the CD a friend played for me didn't particularly impress me. So I was completely bowled over by their dazzling show. An incredibly beautiful light show swept the whole area as the band played a crowd-pleasing set of favorites. They have a very devoted following and they paid the band the respect they deserved by being completely attentive. It was all quite overwhelming in the pit. Great show.

Other shows that stood out include Red Cortez and Vanaprasta at Bloomfest downtown on August 14. Darker My Love sounded quite amazing at their CD release party at Bootleg for Alive As You Are on August 17, as they played the album in it's entirely and ended the set with a radical reworking of "Immediate Undertaking" from their previous album, 2, that was astonishing. They're one of the tightest live acts in town.

And then there was Sunset Junction, which, in spite of itself, I quite enjoyed this year. Reviewed at RFSL. Then the Radars To the Sky CD release blow out, also reviewed. I got a lot of shows in and a lot of writing done this month, along with my first radio exposure, so I got to feel a nice sense on accomplishment on my 60th birthday.


What I'm Listening To August 6 - 12, 2010

Man, have I ever been bad. I've got all these top tens lying around and I better get them up or lose my credibility. I'll post them a day at a time. I'm counting on these to help me tally up my end of the year lists, so I've got to cover every week. Here goes:

1. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Merge Records)

2. Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me (Drag City)

3. Everest - On Approach (Vapor Records)

4. Lost In The Trees - All Alone In an Empty House (Anti)

5. Blitzen Trapper - Destroyer of the Void (Sub Pop)

6. Everest - Ghost Notes (Vapor Records)

7. Menomena - Mines (Barsuk)

8. The Prids - Chronosynclastic (Velvet Blue Music)

9. The New Pornographers - Together (Matador)

10. Broken Bells - Broken Bells (Columbia Records)

I reviewed this album at Radio Free Silver Lake, and I stand by that review. I keep finding new songs to love and I'm not going to get tired of Arcade Fire 's The Suburbs for a while. This was my first full week with the album and I sometimes listened to it twice a day. Still reeling from the Newsom show.

Saw Lost In The Trees at Amoeba and really dug their symphonic chamber rock, so I picked up the album which has some beautiful chamber pieces on it, scattered between more traditional folk rock. Both Everest albums made the list this week as I keep seeing them... four times over the past few months. And The Prids album is really good.

I'm going to keep this short so I can get it posted.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Radio Day

Brad on the radio!

I've been invited to be a guest on Simon Cardoza's radio show on Wednesday night, August 25, which runs from 10 PM to midnight at the online radio station Only For The Open-Minded.

Simon has a weekly show called Si'mon Quey! and I will be chatting about local music with Mr. Cardoza, and musical entertainment will be provided by Walking Sleep (above), which is a perfect match as they are among my oldest and dearest friends in the music scene. This is my first radio venture and I'm looking forward to it.

You can listen to it on Wednesday (Aug 25) beginning at 10 PM here: http://www.onlyfortheopenminded.com/


Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Call For Help For Last Year's FYH Band Of The Year

The Monolators

The Monolators are appealing to their friends and fans to help them cover mastering and pressing expenses on their new album: a split EP, old songs on one side, new ones on the other.

Go to this link and pre order and you too can play a part in this creative endeavor, and support this most supportive of our local bands:

I just did it. It's real easy.


What I'm Listening To July 30 - August 5, 2010

1. Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me (Drag City)

2. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Merge Records)

3. Everest - On Approach (Vapor Records)

4. Blitzen Trapper - Destroyer of the Void (Sub Pop)

5. Menomena - Mines (Barsuk)

6. The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow (Sub Pop)

7. The Prids - Chronosynclastic (Velvet Blue Music)

8. Pinback presents The Rob and Zach Show - ascii E.P. (self release)

9. Menomena - Friend and Foe (Barsuk)

10. Twilight Sleep - Twilight Sleep E.P. (self release)

The Joanna Newsom concert turned out to be as astonishing as I suspected it would be, and turned me into a raging groupie. The album continued it's hold on my CD player. I am as enamored of the new Arcade Fire album as everyone else, and The Prids album was sent to me and I'm digging it very much. Also giving Twilight Sleep some spins.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

One Night, Two Shows - (8/9/10) Learning Music at The Echo; Modern Time Machines at Silver Lake Lounge

It was the Fol Chen residency and Learning Music were slated to open and this was going to be the modest start to an attempted marathon of shows for the rest of the week. It was anything but that.

I had neglected local shows for a couple of weeks and seen only a few major shows and I was wondering if I wasn't reaching the satiation point. Like, was I thinking that I'd seen just about everything there was to see? I don't know, but it seems whenever I reach that point, the thing to do is not cut back, but go out to more shows. So that's what I did, and I was rewarded with fantastic sets by old friends and new bands I'd never heard of before. And a renewed appreciation for what is available every night of every week in Los Angeles.

August 9...oddly enough, this date always jumps out at me, every year, as the anniversary of Sharon Tate murders. It was that long hot summer of '69, when I turned 19, and the suspicion that this had been done by a bunch of drug-crazed hippies was upsetting. It was such a particularly disturbing crime at the time because of all the societal ramifications involved. The "kill the pigs" angle; The Beatles lyrics scrawled on the walls in blood; the celebrity status of the victims; the weird, ritualistic aspect of the killings; Charles Mansons's supposed desire to initiate a race war... it almost seemed like fiction or drama or legend, even at the time. Two weeks later I was at Woodstock. But I digress...

So I walk into The Echo fairly early Monday, so not to miss Learning Music, and walk right into the electric set of LESANDS (I think it's all caps). I could instantly see the connection to Fol Chen and see what an appropriate opener choice this was. Dreamy dance music that was so compelling you wanted get right up on stage and dance with the lead singer, Austin Taylor Tirado, who sang as well as he danced. In fact I found the whole set to be full of well written songs, played by a very tight band. I would like to see more of them.

Learning Music first appeared to me at the Bootleg Theatre last March 27, opening for Field Music and what a top notch show that was. The entire audience fell into a state of rapturous hypnosis during the magical musical concoction John Woods puts together from the various pieces of his music combine.

He continues to impress me as one of the most unique talents I've found in the entire local scene. His inventiveness appears limitless and the theatricality of his presentation only heightens the impression that you're witnessing someone who's truly following his own path.

This time Learning Music appeared as a three piece; a drummer and a guitarist augmenting his keyboard and samples and looping tricks, to produce songs that defy every genre classification. It's a free-form jazz/indie/honky tonk/showtunes compost. He appears to go into some kind of trance while performing, oblivious to the fact that he's before an audience, and when he had a sudden narcoleptic episode, falling to the stage (in perfect time to the music) the effect was complete.

Learning Music is continuing a once monthly residency night Thursday, August 26, at Echo Curio and I recommend it most highly. Fol Chen were up next but I could only stay for couple of songs, which had that nice, powerful Fol Chen punch, though the line up was different, again, as I was off to see a band I have been promising to see.

Modern Time Machines (photo at right from that night by Gabriel Fernandez) was performing at midnight at the Twilight Sleep residency at Silver Lake Lounge, and ever since I was befriended by Ben Golomb, and I was able to unload Jefferson Airplane stories on a receptive ear, I have wanted to see his band. All I had to do was hop a Sunset bus, go few blocks west, and I walked right into a different club scene of people swaying back and forth to the luxurious lugubriousness of Twilight Sleep.

I've seen Twilight Sleep under varying circumstances, sometime very good, other times the sound was against them, and if they're not balanced just right, it doesn't work. Tonight it was working, and they sounded quite impressive. I ducked out of the club for some oxygen (?!?) as Modern Time Machines set up. When I got back in, fellow blogger, Greg, had fled The Echo as I had and sought refuge at this show.

It's really fun to go to a couple of shows in one night to see the contrast between the bands and their audiences that are going on concurrently (not to mention all the other simultaneous shows, going on in this city...I swear they must be able to see something pulsating on the North American continent from outer space...and it's Los Angeles).

I stayed for a few numbers to get a feel for the band and I enjoyed it very much. The Lounge crowd had thinned considerably, except for diehards like myself, Jason Ruck from Film School and Brian Aubert of Silversun Pickups, so there was no problem seeing the band.

A nice psychedelic stew with strong basic melodies with a pop sensibility, adorned with keys, guitars, various orchestral embellishments and fine lead vocals. I wanted to get a feel for the sound of Modern Time Machines and now I look forward to their show at Spaceland on September 8 with Seasons. But it was late and I wanted to get to a show a night for the rest of the week so I went home. All in all, it was a great Monday night.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Some Local Music: Everest at Bootleg Theatre (8/5/10)

As the month of July was filled with national bands on big tours, I felt neglectful of our own local music scene, so I decided to make an effort to get out to some smaller shows this month. Since this is also the month of a BIG birthday for me, I thought I'd try to see as many live shows as possible, to emphasize the important role music has assumed in my life. Or maybe I'm actually a depressive who is trying to commit suicide by rock and roll...naw, I don't think so.

I began with Everest at the Bootleg Theatre on Thursday, August 5, since the last few sets I've attended of theirs have so impressed me. I'm as excited by this band now as I was when they first formed three years ago. And they obviously have an expanding fan base, as I only saw a few familiar faces at the venue that night, and most of them were on stage.

It was a nicely balanced show with a fresh set list which brought back some lovely numbers from their first album, Ghost Notes, including the beautifully sung "Trees" and the heartbreakingly poignant pair, "I Can See It In Your Eyes" and "Standing By". Speaking of moving songs, they actually brought me to tears with "Tall Buildings" as this was the first time I've heard them play my favorite song from their new album, On Approach.

"I've Had This Feeling Before" and one of the tightest little songs I've ever heard "East Illinois" also brightened a set of typical first class Everest music. No false steps with this band. (Thank you Doug Kresse for the top photo)

Stay tuned, I'm going to be publishing a review of every show I go to this week, and tonight I've been gifted with tickets for the pit at The Greek for My Morning Jacket and Avi Buffalo. Can't wait for that one.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

What I'm Listening To July 23 - 29, 2010

1. Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me (Drag City)

2. Blitzen Trapper - Destroyers of the Void (Sub Pop)

3. Everest - On Approach (Vapor Records)

4. Deep Sleep Ops - C25 (Electric Fur Records)

5. Broken Bells - Broken Bells (Columbia Records)

6. Pinback - Autumn of the Seraphs (Touch and Go Records)

7. J. Tillman - Year in the Kingdom (Western Vinyl)

8. The New Pornographers - Together ( Matador)

9. Pinback presents The Rob and Zach Show - ascii E.P. (self release)

10. Menomena - Mines (Barsuk)

The Joanna Newsom record insinuated itself into my music repertoire with a vengeance in the days leading up to her show at The Orpheum. It gets better with each listening. It's so ambitious and succeeds on so many levels, I think it's already my favorite of her albums. Other than that, I'm kind of stuck on the same music as the last few weeks with the exception of Menomena coming back to life with a new album, which I reviewed the other day over at Radio Free Silver Lake.

Expect a shake up next week as the new Arcade Fire is coming out.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Here Comes August

Now that July has wrapped up, and with the stunning Joanna Newsom show at The Orpheum on the 31st, the month that began with The Rob and Zach Show on the 1st at the Detroit Bar might be considered one of my favorite concert months of all time. I'll be posting a review of Joanna Newsom and Robin Pecknold over at Radio Free Silver Lake on Thursday, once I can get this tumble of impressions sorted out. Just let it suffice for me to say it was awe-inspiring.

Seeing Pinback twice, in two different incarnations, the delightful Admiral Radley/The Happy Hollows show at The Hammer, a superior set by Judson and Mary in the middle of the month at Spaceland, two parts of Fleet Foxes as solo acts with J.Tillman at The Troubadour in the same week as the Robin Pecknold solo set which opened the Joanna Newsom concert, and two nights of The New Pornographers. Did I forget to mention a great show over at 3 of Clubs last week with George Glass and Manhattan Murder Mystery?

This new month doesn't have the heavy hitters of the last two months, but does offer Sunset Junction with acts like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Red Cortez, Fitz and the Tamtrums, Eastern Conference Champions and a host of others. And Darker My Love, who are coming out with a new album and some local shows, plays on August 17 at Bootleg. I have a feeling the schedule will fill up as the month proceeds.