Monday, June 28, 2010
Saturday, June 26, 2010
This week is an amazing musical high that I've been looking forward to for a while. Beginning tonight, Saturday, June 26, with the KCRW series "Summer Nights" out in Pasadena at One Colorado(above), the phenomenal Everest play for free at a 7:30 show outdoors. After the amazing set I saw at Amoeba a couple of weeks ago (at right) I've been obsessed with their new album, On Approach, and look forward to a full set by the band. I think I was caught off guard at how moving and deep some of the songs are. If "Tall Buildings" isn't one of the most beautiful songs you've ever heard, you have no heart. I look forward to getting all emotional under the evening stars. And with the new Gold Line extension going all the way out there, getting to Pasadena has never been easier.
After that I may take off back to Hollywood to the Paul G. Gleason Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. to see The Fuxedos and participate in the circus. Appropriately enough, Fish Circus are also performing and the show starts at 10:15.
My other favorite album at the moment is the Blitzen Trapper masterwork, Destroyer of the Void, and once again I'm reminded how lucky I am to be in Los Angeles where I can see bands performing the two albums I listen to more than any others on the same week I'm most passionate about them. That's an amazing alignment of some stars or planets or something. I want to hear what Blitzen Trapper's (photo by Jade Harris) most complex work to date sounds like live, and it's at the El Rey on Tuesday, June 29, where the sound and sight lines will be great.
Wednesday gives me the chance to make up for missing Tenlons Fort last week at the EP release party for Season's great new song collection, Winter. I ran all over town trying to get to The Echo early enough, and walked in just after they had finished. Fortunately two ripping sets by the new Death To Anders and the hosts, Seasons, made up for it. The show at Spaceland will the the last for Tenlons Fort for a while, as Jack heads out of town for a spell. They're opening for Damien Jurado and they go on first, so get there around nine!
Then on Thursday, July 1, comes a show I've had a ticket to for months. It's the Pinback presents The Rob & Zach Show, which promises to be the most unique Pinback show I've ever attended. Number one, it's is Costa Mesa at the Detroit Bar where I've never been. That will be a rail adventure all by itself. Number two, according to what I've heard, it's just Rob Crow and Zach Smith on stage with their computers, instruments and sound machines, putting the music together in front of us. I suspect it will be somewhat like being privy to their creative process, when they compose their music together. If that's the case, this will be a landmark concert for me, who loves their music as much as I have ever loved any music.
On Saturday, July 3, another favorite local act, The Stevenson Ranch Davidians will bring the week to a perfect close with their hypnotic, jangling, psychedelic guitars and haunted vocals that will gently lower me back to earth at Casey's Bar. I've never been there so look forward to seeing a new venue. It looks like The Stevenson Ranch Davidians are doing a Saturday residency for the month of July, so that will provide someplace to go for the next five weeks. I've seen this listed on a show list somewhere, but I can't confirm it yet.
Anyway, I hope to see some of you at some of these shows.
Friday, June 25, 2010
Monday, June 21, 2010
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
I'm always at a loss as to how to describe mewithoutYou. (Thanks to Kate Montgomery and L.A. Record for the photos) Sometimes variously described as a punk band, a post-grunge band, a Christian rock band (from which I would ordinarily duck and hide), freak folk, or a bunch of homeless dudes. There's an element of truth in each description, but they're all inadequate in defining the full range of this band's gifts.
It was the video for "Paper Hanger" that first caught my attention. Actually it repelled me, before it attracted me...then repelled me again before attracting me again. Let me explain. I thought the lead singer seemed possessed and manic, rambling semi-coherently, alternately screaming and mumbling. Screamers never did anything for me, except remind me of infants screaming for mama after getting lost in the supermarket.
But something in the video kept gnawing at me and made me go back to it over and over, until the lyrics started making sense, and I discovered a poet. I was intrigued, but was a little put off by all the religious references and thought, "Uh oh, a bunch of bible-thumpers". (I was born without the religion gene) But the stories they told were troubling and intense and I wondered if, perhaps, mewithoutYou's lead singer, Aaron Weiss, was a genuine damaged soul...or was he just playing one in a band? Whether he was a recovering drug addict of just someone who'd lost his way and was a homeless wanderer, only added to the mystique. Biographical information on the guy is sketchy and purposely remote.
When I got the album, Catch For Us The Foxes, I listened intently and was completely bowled over, not only by the extraordinary poetry, the amazing raw energy of the band and the intense playing, but I was equally surprised because I liked it so much. This was way out of my usual range of rock and roll taste and I could feel my mind expanding. I will always admire a band that can make me redefine my musical tastes, and that's happened a lot over the last few years.
I also like the fact that mewithoutYou could become loud and grating but suddenly break out with a dreamy hypnotic beauty that could be trance-inducing. Subsequent albums found the band going in a more linear song structure direction, but they were no less of an achievement. Lyrically they deal with the same stream of consciousness life observations that are at times disarmingly naive, but filled with extraordinary wisdom and even occasional flourishes of dark humor.
I managed to overcome fears of a zombie-christian audience and attended a show at El Rey back in November 2006, when they opened for Say Anything, and the crowd was like any other dedicated fan base, so I went back to see them again and again. Their live shows are electrifying and magnificently performed, but I never saw a show to match the one on Saturday night at The Fonda. I caught some of David Bazan's set and enjoyed his strong, raspy vocals, but was a little put off when, unlike mewithoutYou, his lyrics veered toward proselytism.
mewithoutYou is such a tight unit live, and the sound at the venue was so perfect and the setting of The Fonda, with the Bosch murals (seen in photo at right) and the teaming mass of adoring fans who cheered every song, that it made it a transcendental experience. Performing healthy samples from each album I was especially pleased to hear "Torches Together" and "Tie Me Up! Untie Me!" from Catch For Us The Foxes, but it was "Paper Hanger" that moved me to tears. The band was in full flower, with Aaron dancing and twirling and spinning in delight. True to the spirit of dualism, I, both, wish more people knew about them, and am glad they're not more popular, cause it's still easy to get up close.
Monday, June 14, 2010
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Now that it's almost half way through June, perhaps I should write about all the great sets I saw in May. It started with the Avi Buffalo CD release show at The Troubadour on May 1st that set a very high bar for all the other bands I saw that month. Their's was truly one of the best sets I've ever seen from the band, and though I've written about it elsewhere, I just want to restate that the more Avi Buffalo tours and plays, the tighter and more solid their shows become. It's quite amazing. I feel so lucky to have stumbled across then very early in their career so I could observe their extraordinary growth. Also that night I was introduced to opening band, Wailing Walls, who are as creative and inspiring as you would expect from a band that are friends of the Buffalos.
May 7th was the second anniversary show for this website at Pehrspace and, at the risk of self-aggrandizement, it was a pretty great show. Of course, I don't think I could have celebrated properly without Seasons being there, but to have George Glass, Radars To the Sky and Downtown/Union there, the latter gifting me with their version of "White Rabbit", it was only made more perfect by the late addition of Harley from Red Cortez to serenade me with a very special performance. There's no way this won't be among my concert highlights of 2010. A giant thank you to all who played and attended.
I knew The Besnard Lakes/The Happy Hollows show on the 13th at The Troubadour was going to be phenomenal, just based on The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night, which is one of the best CDs of the year, and the fact that both times I've seen them, they've blown my mind. The Happy Hollows are...well...The Happy Hollows, so I expect a riveting performance every time I see them, and they haven't failed me yet. This was a show that lifted me off the ground and it took days to get back down, as documented here. As their previous L.A. shows were shamefully under attended, I was glad to see so many people at the show, especially those who were seeing The Besnard Lakes (shown above) for the first time, who seemed more than a little impressed.
The week of May 16th, I saw three big shows, Roky Erickson w/ Okkervil River on May 18 and Broken Bells on May 19, both at The Fonda, which were good, solid, professional shows, with Broken Bells most impressing me with the live versions of the songs from their terrific album. You can tell that this James Mercer/Danger Mouse collaborative band is just getting used to playing together, so there were some loose ends, but, all in all, a solid performance. But The National, on the second night of their two-night stand at The Wiltern, gave a show that was both electrifying and exhilarating on Saturday, May 22.
I've since heard that on the first night, Friday, lead singer, Matt Berninger, was pouring wine down his throat and even ventured out into the audience during one number, throwing the sold out crowd into a frenzy. If he was more subdued on Saturday, it certainly didn't ever feel like anything but a first rate show. I arrived too late to get into the pit and deciding I was not going to get rammed up against one of the railings that front each tier level of the floor section, I wandered near the back of the auditorium. There I found a quiet level featuring some tables with two-chair arrangements, and a clear view over the sound booth and over the heads of the herd ahead of me.
I plopped myself down, alone, at one of the tables, said 'hi' to Ethan of Walking Sleep as he sped by, on his way into the teaming mass of people, and was soon joined by a nice couple I'd never met, who asked if I minded if their female half sat on the empty chair. They were a lot of fun to talk to, but soon I noticed I was being surrounded by some Radars To the Sky. Kate and Andrew Spitzer and friends had just coincidentally wandered into area, so we co-mingled and all became the perfect companions for a superb show. Ecstacy love company...or however it goes.
I've seen The National three times before, but this show was the best I've seen. They played much of the new album, High Violet, but an equal number of songs from The Boxer, which I still think is their greatest record, and even early numbers I didn't recognize. All the songs were great, and, coupled with a magnificent and occasionally hypnotic light show, and the perfect sound, it made for one hell of a wonderful show.
(photo by William Couch)
I'd been so moved by Harley Prechtel-Cortez request to play at my anniversary show that I had to go see Red Cortez at the Bootleg when they opened for Shadow Shadow Shade on May 21. Chatting with Harley and Travis Woods of Web in Front before their set, I learned a lot about the recording of their forthcoming album and what a remarkable experience it was for them to go to England to do it. Suffering from a sore throat, he bravely led the band through a set that included favorites scattered among the new material. His raggedy vocals lent the songs a different flavor, but still sounded strong and powerful. This band can do no wrong, in my book.
That weekend was the Silver Lake Jubilee, my new favorite festival, which took place Saturday and Sunday (May 22 and 23) on Myra Avenue, with amazingly cooperative weather and no complaints from perturbed retailers in the area since no portion of Sunset Blvd. was closed. An amiable and friendly crowd filled the street on Sunday (the only day I could attend), along with so many food vendor trucks it made it the simple decision of what to eat a subject of great deliberation. I will say that in order to have a drink one had to enter an enclosed area that vaguely resembled a pen where cattle get branded. But the 'pens' were close to the stages so you could still enjoy the music.
I saw some terrific sets and parts of sets by Dios, Seasons (see John and Ray above), The Monolators, Division Day and Walking Sleep (who were particularly great), but as the sun went down and it got quite cold, I realized it was Sunday night and I had to get up for work the next morning and... you know how that goes. I bailed at dusk.
Friday nights can be very tricky at Spaceland, when the 'neighborhood bar' atmosphere that usually characterizes the place gets swamped by a wave of out-of-towner/date night partygoers, coming into Silver Lake to gawk at the hipsters. Ironically, most of the hipsters are elsewhere. Those of us who brave that crowd are pulled by the lure of the music, usually to see a specific band. That was the case on Friday, May 29, when I went to see Whispering Pines for the first time. As a fan of their CD, Family Tree, I have been anxious to hear them live and they were as proficient and authentic sounding as on their album. A kind of freak folk/alt/country mix with solid songwriting. Headliners, The Parson Red Heads were the other attraction for me and this night they performed as a nine piece for the first time in quite a while and it was glorious sounding. The crowd of strangers took it all in and were polite and courteous (fairly inoffensive).
The month finished off with the second "UnderCovered" show put together by Joe Fielder and Radio Free Silver Lake at the Eagle Rock Bowling and Drinking Club, and I think the best write up of it was over here at The 704. I'll just add that it topped off the month beautifully to get Joe back into town and attend a function where so many bands and friends got to show him our appreciation.
Monday, June 7, 2010
2. The National - High Violet (4ad Records)
3. The New Pornographers - Together (Matador)
4. Everest - On Approach (Vapor Records)
5. Avi Buffalo - Avi Buffalo (Sub Pop)
6. Broken Bells - Broken Bells (Columbia Records)
7. Helen Stellar - If The Stars Could Speak, They Would Have Your Voice... (self release)
8. The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema (Matador)
9. Choir of Young Believers - This Is For The White In Your Eyes (Ghostly International)
10. Whispering Pines - Family Tree (self release)