Saturday, June 25, 2011

Duniven Residency - The Last Night

Please come out and join me as Duniven concludes a hugely successful residency run at Silver Lake Lounge on Monday night, June 27. They have managed to draw large crowds to each of their shows and this ought to be the biggest yet with a bill that includes Woolen and The Bixby Knolls, along with Broadcast Station. We at Radio Free Silver Lake could not be more proud to have been a part of this showcase as presenters. Duniven has worked his heart out to make these events stand out against some formidable competition this month and he has been rewarded with an ever-expanding and satisfied fan base.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

June...So Far

I've seen some terrific bands so far this month, beginning with a fine set of new and older tunes by Alpine Decline (right) at 3 of Clubs back on June 1st. They opened the first show Radio Free Silver Lake held at LaBrie's last November when we began our Free Tuesday run, and they sent me an LP and a CD of their last album, Visualizations, which I was uncommonly fond of. That album begins with a hollow ringing sound, like some dial tone from outer space, that blanches your mind until a throbbing guitar and drumbeat pierce the eerie sound and a song forms from the wall of sound. And it's a good song that hooks you and you want to hear again.

Speaking with Pauline Mu and Jonathan Zeitlin of Alpine Decline before the show, they told me they already have a brand new album ready for release, and I can't wait. The songs they played from it were instantly likeable so I'll look forward to that. Unfortunately they came on last and quite late, and after two real bland bands, I was tired and left before they were finished. I hope to see them again soon.

Have to mention the two weeks (so far) of the Duniven residency that Radio Free Silver Lake is hosting (in the interest of full disclosure) over at Silver Lake Lounge every Monday this month. These shows have been so entertaining, and so well attended, it's difficult not to feel proud of the programs that Duniven has pulled together. Week one (June 6) featured a really powerful and deeply felt performance by Light FM. They sounded great. Followed by a typically hearty, rocking performance by Wet and Reckless. Duniven was hypnotic from the get go, pounding out song after song in a tightly controlled set that highlighted all the best of the band. Duniven's soulful and electrifying stage presence fronts a band of many equals. They seem very in tune with each other as a band and play off that well. Ceci Castelblanco adds tremendous vocal support that makes the music soar at times. (She was especially well miked at the second show on June 13th).

On the subject of the June 13th show, I walked in as the first band was playing. It was Harley of Red Cortez with a different band called The Petting Zoo. What began as a rather ordinary set ended up being one from which I had to peel myself off the ceiling. I probably saw about five songs and the last three were so powerful, and so good, I was amazed. You know how when the music is so good your breathe becomes labored? That was this. Fronting a band of seven other musicians, Harley brought his unique vocal style to a whole different sounding song. This was sweeping, loud, orchestral rock as fine as I think I've ever heard, with a cello (played by Brian) and two trumpets augmenting the usual assortment of guitars, bass and drums. The fact that this was their first performance was all that much more amazing. Among the musicians was the familiar face of Wendy Wang.

I found out they have another performance next Monday, June 20, but I don't know where...yet. I still can't attend because I want to be at the Duniven show again as a supporter. But I spoke to Harley after the show and made sure to let him know just how impressive this was. WOW, that's just a great example of how exciting discovering new music can be. Look for The Petting Zoo.

The other show was the fantastic The Belle Brigade, in a show at The Satellite last Friday, June 10th. Typical Friday night date crowd and I only knew one other person there, but we enjoyed the show immensely. He summed it up best when he said he always walks out of the club a foot off the ground. And I agree. Their energy and enthusiasm never fail to overwhelm the audience whenever they play. It was a wonderful performance and sets them off on a tour of the east coast, mid west and Canada. I got the chance to wish both Ethan and Barbara a safe trip.

The opener I saw was John Gold (on poster at right) and he performed a very fine set of gravelly, baritone sung rock and roll. And apart from the terrific vocals he also offered some poignant and pointed lyrics that I found interesting, wrapped in melodies I would like to hear again. I was very happy with that discovery.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

What I Listened To May 27 - June 2, 2011

1. Okkervil River - I Am Very Far (Jagjaguwar)

2. Chad VanGaalen - Diaper Island (Sub Pop)

3. The Belle Brigade - The Belle Brigade (Reprise Records)

4. Duniven - I Have To Try For Her (self release)

5. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop)

6. Low - C'mon (Sub Pop)

7. Torches In Trees - Torches EP (self release)

8. Chad VanGaalen - Skelliconnection (Sub Pop)

9. DeVotchKa - 100 Lovers (ANTI)

10. Eastern Conference Champions - Speak-Ahh (RockHampton Records)

I was caught competely off guard by the new album from Okkervil River. I don't know how often I've played a CD 15 times in one week, but that was the case with I Am Very Far. It may also be the best album title of the year. I've seen the band a few times over the years but it was a show two years ago at the Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery where Will Sheff gave a small scale acoustic performance that was so magical and awe-inspiring that I've been a die-hard fan ever since that night. I read somewhere someone describing him as a lyric writer who writes like a novelist, and I couldn't agree more. His writing is so evocative and richly detailed, (the lyric book is huge) that one can get lost in the swirl of stories that he tells. There are at least four great songs here, starting with the first song, "The Valley" which, if it doesn't make you rock out then you haven't got a pulse, "Rider" "We Need A Myth" and "Show Yourself" has one of the most haunting orchestrations I've heard. Some of the songs are fully orchestrated masterworks which include strings and horns and (here's where I veered from facts and claimed this as a Canadian band, when they are actually, originally from Austin, Texas, but now claim Brooklyn as their home...sorry) Anyway, those are the songs that jumped out right away, and I'm sure I will come to appreciate all of them over the years. This album is a keeper. Whereas I loved the earlier album, The Stage Names, I wasn't all that fond of the last one, The Stand Ins, but I Am Very Far surpasses all their previous efforts. I am now so happy I bought a ticket to see them at The Wiltern on June 23.

Chad VanGaalen had to compete strongly to measure up, but amazingly, I still play Diaper Island all the time too. Unfortunately, he's doing a small tour of the east coast and Canada, and then taking off for Europe for the rest of the summer. Damn! I want to see him again. He'll hopefully hit the west coast in the fall. I'm sure as a Sub Pop artist, they'll want him to play L.A. Again, I'm touting the Canadians, but if you've seen him live, you'll understand why.

Still marvellng over The Belle Brigade album, which is so professional and such a complete cycle of songs, it's just a beautifully put together record. Congratulations to Reprise for having the foresight to sign them. It perfectly captures the energy and proficiency of all their live performances...and their glorious harmonies.

Duniven is currently playing every Monday night at Silver Lake Lounge for Radio Free Silver Lake, and even if he weren't, I would still be listening to his album. It's that good. Solid songwriting, good variety, clean and straighforward instrumentation, in a classic American style featuring some strong two-part harmonies. I can listen to this repeatedly.

Fleet Foxes and Low are two beautiful albums that continue to make a mark as do DeVotchka and Eastern Conference Champions. Torches In Trees EP, Torches, is a stunner and Chad VanGaalen's early, Skelliconnection is new to me, though the video for the song, "Red Hot Drops" is one of the things that got me into him in the first place, like four years ago.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

May Shows Wrapup

Apart from Feed Your Head's third anniversary party on May 9th, I had a great time at The Happy Casualties CD release show at Lot 1 Cafe on Friday the 13th. The night began with Manhattan Murder Mystery's Matthew Teardrop (at right) doing a solo gig, and it was very instructive to hear his music in this simplified form. The lyrics often sound like some post-midnight conversation in a bar, sometimes confessional, sometimes confrontational, and in a solo setting they become even more personal. Were it not for the earnestness and honesty contained in his words it might come off a aimless self-pity, but instead, one senses a yearning for something better. The whole set made me feel privy to a certain level of Matthew's songwriting process.

Richard Sax Ross is a one man band who performs a cross between street musician, elevator music and lounge-lizard razzle-dazzle. His electric performance impressed everyone who took the time to pay attention, and I'd like to see more of this. Some amazing saxophone playing. Randolph Williams, of One Trick Pony, performed a small intimate set as Remote Consoller, with just a few friends and it was another chance to bask in his warm, honey-toned vocals. But this was The Happy Casualties night, as they were releasing a 16-track CD, Sons of the New West (album cover at right), and they took the stage and played a potent set of numbers from the album. Steven Sigl's cousin Brittany is singing harmony vocals and her presence adds a whole new dimension to the sound. I've seen them a few times, with a few different band members, but I think this line up is the best of all. The new material is wonderfully cohesive and this is borne out by repeated listenings of the album.

The next night I missed The Henry Clay People for the second night in a row because I had a ticket to see Lord Huron at The Troubadour, and I'd had it for months. I really enjoy following bands I like that start out small and suddenly get the heat turned up on them to see how they handle it and what happens next. Lord Huron (at right) only surfaced a few short months ago and already have developed a substantial following. Good write ups from Brand X and Buzzbands didn't hurt plus a free show at Origami and they just took off. South by Southwest seems to have been particularly good exposure as well and they came back to town to now play The Troubadour, and I didn't want to miss it. Performing with accompaniment by The Calder Quartet on a few numbers, their already full, rich sound only became fuller and richer. And they still appear to be having the time of their lives which makes this band so infectious.

Chris Douridas of KCRW hosts School Nights! at Bardot in Hollywood and I had only attended one before, but the show Monday, May 16 was such a winner I want to go back soon. Hands were the surprise headliner, announced at the last minute, and along with Gardens & Villa and Obi Best they delivered one hell of a strong show in a gorgeous environment. It was a cool and blustery night, like we've had so often this winter, but I braved the elements to get there and dressed warmly cause I know, basically, you're outdoors at this club, being on the roof and all. Cody the Band was there, as was Hunter from Walking Sleep, so I didn't feel 'alone in Hollywood' at all.

I had seen Obi Best at a Radio Free Silver Lake LaBrie's show, and had been so entranced by the dreamy, kinetic, swaying music, it felt like a drink of cool water in a hot desert. But on this night, Barbara Gruska of The Belle Brigade was back behind the drums of this band and, together with Wendy Wang, Obi Best turned in some of the finest three-part group harmonies I've ever heard. Alex Lilly also premiered her new Obi Best video for the song "Tropical Fish", which was lovely, and tossed copies of her latest EP out to crowd members who correctly answered her questions. Hunter got one of them. Also that night, Gardens & Villa impressed with a solid set of crowd-pleasing indie rock, and then Hands rocked the place with their electronic/indie rock combination. One thing about these programs at Bardot is that they tend to run into the wee hours of the morning.

The Belle Brigade electrified a big crowd at Amoeba on Wednesday, May 18. Just two days before, I'd seen Barbara playing drums for Obi Best, as detailed above, and chatted with her and her brother, Ethan at the club. The store filled up pretty quickly as 7 o'clock approached. There's been enough buzz on this band that they're starting to be hard to see (their Friday show at McCabe's that week was sold out).

They're so relentlessly sunny and upbeat, you'd want to slap them silly, if they weren't so god-damned talented. They tear into their songs with the ferocity of a dog with a new bone. Their potent combination of indie/folk rock and alt/country seasonings make me think of everyone from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to The New Pornographers, with Fleetwood Mac in between. It's power pop of the highest order.

I've already reviewed the two show with Tommy Santee Klaws that I saw in May here , one of them being at Silver Lake Jubilee, which I reviewed at Radio Free Silver Lake. Another enjoyable set was Walking Sleep's first show ever at Hotel Cafe (photo from The Satellite on right) on Saturday night, May 28. As that is just a ten minute walk from my house, I couldn't resist the chance to go see them so close to home. My weekends can often be taken up by the L.A. Show Low Down that I publish for Radio Free Silver Lake every Monday morning, but it was a nice respite to stop working and wander over for a fine set of music. Even as The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra, this band has always impressed me with their tight and very professional on-stage commitment. As Walking Sleep they've taken a step forward and seem to be writing the best songs of their career right now and I look forward to their next record.


What I Listened To May 20 - 26, 2011

1. Chad VanGaalen - Diaper Island (Sub Pop)

2. The Belle Brigade - The Belle Brigade (Reprise Records)

3. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop)

4. Low - C'mon (Sub Pop)

5. Duniven - I Have To Try For Her (self release)

6. Tommy Santee Klaws - Rakes (self release)

7. Torches In Trees - Torches EP (self release)

8. DeVotchKa - 100 Lovers (ANTI)

9. Eastern Conference Champions - Speak-Ahh (RockHampton Records)

10. Avi Zahner-Isenberg - Homemade EP (self release)

Still obsessed with Chad VanGaalen and his wonderful new CD. I really thought that the Low album would hold the number one position for a very long time, but with such great new material coming out, those predictions are out the window. There'll be a new number one next week again! The haunting poignance of Chad VanGaalen's vocals are matched by the delicate, yet solidly grounded melodies he writes. With simple arrangements, that are often no more than a guitar or banjo, a drum and two harmony vocals, he achieves an aching beauty so often on this album that it's hard to believe there's also so much variety. His lyrics are odd and decidedly quirky, but reveal real truths.

Jump on The Belle Brigade juggernaut if you want to see a band break into the big time fast. Their brand of perfect indie pop is so infectious, every person I play it for becomes an instant fan. Superb recording technology doesn't hurt either, as this record packs a powerful punch.

Fleet Foxes and Low are still riding high as I revel in having seen the former recently and the latter later in the year. The Duniven album, I Need To Try For Her, has a staying power that is only growing, in anticipation of the upcoming June residency Radio Free Silver Lake is hosting over at Silver Lake Lounge.

Tommy Santee Klaws (Rakes), Torches In Trees (Torches) and DeVotchKa (100 Lovers) are three bands who have given electrifying performances lately that I've been lucky enough to witness. And Eastern Conference Champions have released quite an impressive album with Speak Ahh!.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

An Interview With Duniven

We made an appointment to meet at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, which turned out to be just the right decision. I've never been into the bars of this beautifully restored Hollywood landmark, (but I did have to vote once for a presidential election in the ballroom where the first Academy Awards were held). I had been listening to and enjoying an advance copy of Duniven's CD, I Need To Try For Her, and with the prospect of an upcoming Radio Free Silver Lake/The Fold sponsorship of a Silver Lake Lounge residency in June, it seemed the appropriate time to reach out and sit and chat.

I met Patrick (who, for the sake of simplicity, is known musically as Duniven) for the first time when he came into the lobby of the Roosevelt and we headed into one of the bars in the lobby. He told me how happy he was that Radio Free Silver Lake had agreed to help present his residency, and that he had talked to Joe through emails, but that I was the first Radio Free Silver Laker he'd met in person. I let him know how much I like his album.

Not wishing to retread over areas Joe dealt with in his interview, I asked him about the time between disbanding The Capshuns and going to work on completely new material, with a far more personal edge to it. Plagued by sinusitis for years, he submitted to corrective surgery and the recovery time was somewhat lengthy, but creatively inspirational.

Determined to get away from the "Brit-pop" label mentioned in nearly every piece written about The Capshuns, he decided he needed to relocate his songwriting to a more internal place, to make his music a more personal expression. While recuperating from his surgery, he was listening to lots of artists whose best work was usually written from a point in their lives where they were at their most vulnerable.

Feeling rather vulnerable himself, he decided to try writing about 'the girl that got away', someone from earlier in his life for whom he harbored strong feelings that were never acted upon. 'The road not taken' and all that. It unleashed a torrent of emotions and resulted in the most personal and poignant writing of his career. He wrote about his regrets and his yearnings in regard to this one girl, from many angles and perspectives, ending up with around 20 songs. Choosing the best for inclusion on his album, he began assembling a new band to help him realize his compositions. (Photo above by Gaylord Hill, as it appears on the I Need To Try For Her CD cover.

This quest is detailed in Joe Fielder's interview with Duniven at Radio Free Silver Lake. Just to briefly recap: bassist Dan Komin came from The Capshuns, Chris Vargas is a drummer he had admired in other bands, who was anxious to team up with Duniven. Shea Branham is a guitarist of such skill and presence Patrick would not take no for an answer when he was asked to join the band. Jason Borger plays keys and is a hugely respected musician and has his own band, Jerry Borge who will play the first show June 6 and Ceci Castelblanco adds gorgeous vocal harmonies to Duniven's music.

I haven't done many, but this was the easiest interview I have given, and credit must go to Duniven for his ability and desire to be honest and direct. I even got a recommendation for a saline sinus spray. I've admired his talent, now I admire the person. We said goodbye as I was given a solid copy of his new album, I already know I like it. I look forward to his weekly shows this month, every Monday at Silver Lake Lounge. I outlined the various bills at Radio Free Silver Lake. See you at a show.