Thursday, January 26, 2012

Feed Your Head presents Seasons Final January Residency at The Echo

I have been having the time of my life at the Seasons residency this month, so I'm especially proud to be presenting the final show of the series. This Monday, January 30th, they continue to present some of the best bands in town that should cap off this run in grand style. We have been mutual supporters for a bunch of years now and this feels right. It's also the first show I've ever presented at The Echo and I'm especially proud of that too.

I understand that there may be more that 11 present and former band members on stage at any given moment. The program will undoubtedly cover all four EPs and even more. I;m going to miss these nights.

Joining them will be Robotanists, who have quite a following themselves, Paulie Pesh, who honored me by playing my 3rd Anniversary of this blog show at Lot 1 last May and Little Red Lung, who so enchanted me at Hotel Cafe a few weeks ago (Read this). This show has a lot of potential. You don't want to miss it.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hot Fun In The Summer Time

As I was assigned to bring the beach chairs for the evening of Summer by Seasons (seen above), I got to The Echo before the first band even started. A large cardboard sun was hanging over the stage and a sun hat sat at the lip of the stage, indicative of the season being honored here on Monday, January 23. Walking in I spotted the night's presenter, Lord Growing of The 704 Blog chatting with Stephen Sigl and his cousin and Happy Casualties bandmate, Brittany Sigl as Downtown Union set up to open the night.

And open it, did they ever. This was clearly one of the best sets I've seen from this band (including the one they did for me at Feed Your Head night last November). The playing was tighter and more forceful, Bo Bory's vocals were spot on, perfectly miked, and the songs sounded better than ever. Most came from their latest CD, Deal Gone Wrong, including "Honey Bee" and the title tune which show the band's real growth in songwriting. Great hooks, aggressive hard rock arrangements, interesting lyrics combine to make Downtown Union seem like they're really on fire right now. Even Jack Gibson of Tenlons Fort joined them for this set, banging on a tambourine. It illustrated for me, again, why I firmly believe there's a new energy and drive alive in the music community since the beginning of the year.

I haven't seen The Health Club in about a year, but I remember being pretty dazzled by them. Although lead singer Gerard Fortich admitted he wasn't feeling too well as they began, there was no sign of illness in his performance. With real style and panache he performed gallantly for the audience, swaying and with such expressive vocals, his catchy songs urge the crowd into dancing mode. Katya Arce's steady and solidly powerful bass demonstrated, both here and later in Manhattan Murder Mystery, why she's one of the community's most respected bass players. I immediately asked them to play for me next month at Lot 1.

I think I would find Seasons a very special band even if I didn't have strong personal feelings for all of its members. Listening to their back story in the fine documentary Pass The Music only elevated my respect for them as I learned they really forged their sound out of view and unaware of the current local music movement that was in it's infancy. I told John and Ray this when we spoke in the 'green room' before their set and said it most certainly has led to their unique and original sound. Though they trip from genre to genre, it's the common thread of psychedelia that binds all their music together creating a genre all their own.

Bringing out the beach balls for their set, the audience (me included) wouldn't let up with balls flying all over the place for most of their set. It was summer after all. The songs on the EP, Summer, are among the finest they have ever written, and to hear them played with some freshened up arrangements, just made them stand out all the more. "The Weight" impressed me right from the first time I ever heard it. I think it was at Mr. T's Bowl a couple of years ago and I thought, then and there, that it was one of the best songs I've heard come out of this scene. And to hear it with fresh arrangements, only increased it's power. It's a beauty! And "The Sea" has always been one of their surest crowd pleasers, coaxing frozen audiences to break out into dancing frenzy. A beautiful set, with the band reaching nine members or more on this occasion.

What else can I say about Manhattan Murder Mystery beyond that they just keep getting better and better every time I see them. They seem perfectly poised to break out big time, if they don't just internally combust from too much talent. They whipped the audience into unbridled revelry (as they are wont to do) with mostly new material, ending in a finale with more people on the stage than in the audience. It was a pure Bacchanalian moment.

I know that Matthew Teardrop would eschew this notion, but not only is his remarkable songwriting getting more incredible, it's even becoming sophisticated. It still retains the strong sense that it's improvisational, and could burst out in any direction at any moment. It's unpretentious, heartfelt and downtrodden. Full of fatalistic hope and impossible dreams, always looking below the surface. But there's a cohesiveness creeping into his compositions and it is bringing out the best in this band. A wild and undisciplined set that was nonetheless brilliant.

I got home very late.


Sunday, January 22, 2012


That was one hell of a Saturday night at the premiere of the documentary, Pass The Music at the Bootleg Theatre last night. Making sure to get there early enough not to miss a minute of the film, I was not alone in that judgement. The place was already crawling with our local music celebrities, ready to celebrate this loving and accurate picture of the scene that was happening on Los Angeles' east side from 2008 to 2010. It's very specific to those years, making it's value as a relevant document, that much more important.

All the participating musicians relate their early struggles and the exuberance of the local music scene that urged them on. It's also interesting to note that many of these artists have also continued to grow and have been through a lot of changes since the film was made. The scene is ever-evolving. The atmosphere was more than festive even before the film began as the place filled up quickly. I heard there was quite a line outside at one point and I'm sure they must have had to turn people away.

Filmmakers Ryan Maples and Jason Tovar took turns introducing the movie, and it began. What a nostalgic trip that was filled with more emotion than I thought it would have. Although numerous bands comment on their careers, the film focuses primarily on five local bands, all but one, still with us.

Seasons are a great way to start and I loved hearing them relate how they began in a garage and how they crafted their sound, kind of in a vacuum, not really being aware of any 'scene' at the time. This is what makes them sound so special, inspired and certainly unique. The performance clips are a tribute to the band and sound quite like they do live. "Mouse" took the great picture on the right at The Bordello.

The Happy Hollows followed, allowing us into their rehearsal process. That was like a gift and one of the film's most charming moments comes from this sequence watching the facial expressions of Chris Hernandez as he watches Sara Negahdari and Chris Mahoney teaching him how to drum. Sarah's natural ebullience just pours out of the screen and their on-stage clips are as electrifying as one would expect.

The Henry Clay People pull back the curtain on two brothers in the same band who manage not to kill each other. And then when they get on stage all seems right and they pour out these intense emotions into exuberant stage performances. O.K. the occasional argument breaks out, but even then they hold it together. Joey Siara and Andy Siara share their struggles with the push and pull of trying to break out nationally. We get nice swaths of their performances around the east side.

The attempt to navigate life in two different worlds simultaneously is the overriding theme of the Radars To The Sky segment. (That photo is by Travis Woods of Web In Front) Andrew Spitzer fills in some fascinating biographical details concerning the dogged attempts to make a music career, balancing duties of family and how to make a living and still find time for music. It's the dilemma all of these musicians face and I have to say, they face that reality with a determination that makes me admire them all that much more. The clips of the band, when Seamus Simpson and Kate Spitzer were still playing with them, were super-nostalgic...and sounded really really good too. But I'm looking forward to whatever direction they take.

And then there's The Movies. This segment dealt with what you do when your lead singer may be insane. Certainly the live performance clips showed a band with an amazing power, led by the mighty baritone of Timothy James and his thrashing about, spinning in mid-air tricks that were a part of the unpredictability of his performances. The writing partnership with Jessica Gelt is shown, wart and all, to have been challenging. But the music lives on and still sounds incredibly solid. And this band has certainly had an impact on many other local bands.

Everybody from Silversun Pickups to The Monolators to Earlimart to Everest are represented along with about 30 more. Each observation heartfelt and enlightening. They reach out to the community at large as well, acknowledging the photographers, videographers, graphic artists and the bloggers who want to get some attention for these bands.

The astute observations of Kevin Bronson of Buzzbands dot the film and place the scene in an historical context. Joe Fielder of Radio Free Silver Lake talked about what his aims are for the site and made me feel prouder than ever to be associated with it. Ashley Jex explains the lay of the land, how all the clubs are so close you can easily take in more than one on any given night. How that feeds into the sense of community. Everyone amplifying the notion that: "Hey, there's really something kind of special going on here". "Mouse" says it best when he says he didn't set out to be a music writer, but the local music scene just pulled him in and it became necessary. That was exactly my feeling when I started this blog in 2008. I didn't have a choice, it was something I had to do, just to pay back all that this music community has given me.

Following the film were a bunch of musical performances by Seasons sounding as good as ever, Judson in a really effective solo acoustic set, Radars To The Sky with a startling, good line up, Tenlons Fort in his final performance before heading easterly, making it poignant, and Movies Tribute Bands. Manhattan Murder Mystery were scheduled to go on at 1, but, c'mon, I had to get up and do the Low Down and I had to wander out and get a bus. I'm sure the party went on and on and on...Besides I'll see Manhattan Murder Mystery on Monday at The Echo.

Anyway, congratulations and thanks to the team of Maples and Tovar and all their crew for a precious slice of history we can hold in our hands forever.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Jason Simon as Old Testament at Harvard & Stone

I had a really good time at Harvard & Stone last night (Thursday, January 19) when I wandered over there to see Dead Meadow's lead singer, Jason Simon, performing with a project, begun as a solo act, which has blossomed into a four-person band called Old Testament. (Photo on right by Allison Jana Sautkulis) I'd never been to this establishment before, but being located on Hollywood Boulevard near Western, it had a lot of old-style Hollywood charm, a bar populated with friendly and helpful bartenders, and an overall comfortable ambiance. Actually it opened less than a year ago.

Grabbing a beer, I had about 45 minutes to kill till the band went on. Standing by the bar, admiring the layout and keeping a good view of the stage, I began to notice that the DJ was playing "Ruby Tuesday" by The Stones, a version of "Season of the Witch" (I think Donovan), even "Crimson and Clover" by Tommy James and The Shondells. When "Happy Together" by The Turtles started up, I'd had just about enough of someone fucking with my head. I mean, these are all the songs I listened to in High School in my bedroom on WBZ radio from Boston, when I was about 15 or 16, and just beginning my unbridled passion for rock and roll. It seemed like someone had pulled a play list out of my head.

I introduced myself to the DJ and told him this. To let him know I hadn't just fallen out of some time machine, I mentioned that I write blogs covering the current local music scene and the evening was making me feel like I'm living in some parallel universe. Well that really got him started and I heard "I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night" by The Prunes. When he played "Somebody To Love" by Jefferson Airplane, I felt like I had been turned inside out and my brains must have been spilling out all over the floor for all to see.

I got to chat a moment with Jason, but he soon had to head for the stage. The music he writes as a solo or for Old Testament is different, stylistically, from Dead Meadow, but the familiar undercurrent of his Indian raga influence can still be heard. I love the droning, almost somnambulant quality of the music of Dead Meadow, but here, it takes the shape of more classically structured songwriting in an acoustic format.

The skills that are displayed in all the Dead Meadow material is here as well. Uncommonly good melodies are paired with the torrent of words Jason writes. Sometimes the lyrics just come out in a tumble, one on top of the other, sung in a voice as if in a trance, making the listener lean forward to hear all of the carefully enunciated musings. The style is familiar to anyone who knows '60s psychedelic music, but it still sounds fresh and is totally engrossing. I look forward to becoming more familiar with these songs.

The crowd was an eager and willing audience, and many seemed quite familiar with the material and that helped make the set quite special. The second band was called Boy Scout Jamboree, made up of members of Spindrift, but unfortunately it was already getting late and a work night as well. And if I hadn't run into Christian Biel, I would have left then, but we hung out for a while. I was glad to run into a familiar face and catch up (as fellow bus riders, we occasionally are on the same bus or train) and share what was a pretty remarkable evening. Harvard a & Stone passed the test and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good spot in Hollywood to hear good music.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It Might As Well Be Spring

Spring was sprung loose at The Echo on Monday night as Seasons pulled out the songs from the first of their four EPs, released in April, 2009. What with the birds hanging over head and chirping coming out of the speakers (I knew there'd be birds) the lily festooned stage set reeked a bit of Easter, but that would be appropriate. Thanks to Vince Wong for the great photo.

This was another killer line up for this already extraordinary residency, with four of the city's best bands all in one place. I made extra sure not to be late for this one, and within minutes of arriving, George Glass took over the stage. It's been too long since I've seen this band and that was made clear when I was bowled over by how good they were. They sounded tighter than ever and the new songs were a treat to hear. I especially love "AM Radio" which has super-hit appeal written all over it. Some super aggressive playing on the post-punkier numbers had the crowd cheering. This set alone would have made the night a success.

I was surprised at the number of people who told me they hadn't seen The Lonely Wild, and as they began, I stood back and watched them seduce an entire audience in minutes. With "Right Side of the Road" they open their set with every band member braying loudly, mouths wide open in an assault of full-throated harmony. Just as quickly the song narrows down to simple boy/girl harmonies and Andrew and Jessi gently toss vocal duties back and forth. I always enjoy hearing their standard set, but tonight they threw in a few new songs that were excellent and as I looked around I could see the audience was sitting firmly in the palm of their hand.

Things were getting pretty festive by the time Seasons climbed on stage. After two amazing sets by two excellent bands, the audience was already as pliant as could be and ready to embrace the headliner as the twitter and chirp of Spring birds led into "India". As this EP is almost three years old and the instrumental make up of Seasons has evolved, new arrangements were required to embrace their new sound and the transfusion made all the songs sound new again.

As they advanced through the set, playing "Empty Spaceships", "Song That You Know" and the others, the crowd became more and more enthused, until a Seasons mosh pit opened up on the floor in front of the stage. Guest musicians took turns on stage and the party atmosphere was in high gear with random acts of dancing breaking out.

Lastly, Death To Anders came on to try to level off the evening, but the crowd was still reeling as Rob Danson weaved his way through his dark tales of misfits and malcontents. Kind of like this crowd. His vocals were as gnarled and expressive as always and I realized I had heard an amazing array of voices over the course of the night. All different, all unique, and so characteristic of the rich profusion of talented singers all around us in this city. It makes me feel really lucky to be here to appreciate it. Go, Seasons, go! Can't wait for next week, presented by The 704. The photo of Rob, above, by Vanessa Lynn beautifully sums up the feel of the evening.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Marvelous Toy Release "Not Moving"

On Friday, January 13, I headed over to Bootleg Bar to attend the Release Show Marvelous Toy were holding for their long-awaited CD, Not Moving. There's been a lot of positive buzz preceding this record and it does not disappoint.

Actually it was a show for Ozma, the re-formed Pasadena band, that flooded the place with fans and created two separate, distinct audiences. One for Marvelous Toy and Socialistics (Andy Siara and Claire Mckeown) and the other, an Ozma crowd. I was glad I arrived early to have a chance to catch up with friends before Andy Siara of The Henry Clay People took to the stage in an incarnation called Socialistics . Basically it is Andy on guitar and voice, accompanied by Claire on harmonies and tambourine. That's it, and it was a nice surprise. Andy's expressive vocals combined with Claire's beautifully trained voice made some lovely sounds and when they were joined for the final number by Andy's brother, Joey Siara, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. It sounded kind of like The Everly Brothers with a female accompanist, and showed a side of the brother's talent that the hyper-kinetic The Henry Clay People doesn't allow. Good job.

I haven't seen Marvelous Toy since they played one of the Radio Free Silver Lake Tuesdays at LaBrie's months. It was great to see them all together playing in what amounted to a greatest hits of Marvelous Toy set. Not Moving contains such perfected versions of songs we've been hearing throughout this band's career, as produced by Raymond Richards, these are powerful and urgent sounding recordings and this night's live show was full of that energy. Once again one could appreciate the classic sounding Americana, honky-tonk vibe that pervades Jordan Hudock's writing.

I especially love it when the brothers' Hudock, Jordan and Cody (photo at right by David Miller) are both playing keys and pounding away with a proficiency and accuracy that is astonishing, the effect is sublime. Can't imagine what it must have been like to grow up in a house with these two around. I was particularly happy to hear "Cities In My State", "Waiting For the Fire", "I Have To Write This Over" and "I Missed So Much" in such lively renditions. Wonderful support from Ny Lee and Franck Fiser. Afterward, as the Ozma crowd moved in, I stepped out.

Just have to note how beautiful I think the song, "The Subway Driver" is on the CD. Gorgeous and very moving. This is the album Marvelous Toy fans have been waiting for.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Chilly Scenes of Winter

Seasons moved into Winter for their second residency on Jan 9 at The Echo as they journey through a year (plus some) in a month. Last week's stage design of pumpkins, dried leaves and bare trees was replaced by twinkling snowflakes, icicles and a frosty blue and white color scheme. Web in Front presented the evening and the line up was incredible, beginning with Judson, who played a flat out rocking set that was as aggressive as I ever seen from them, and it was dynamic. With a lineup that includes John Seasons and Kaitlin Wolfberg from Seasons and Sheridan Riley (of Avi Buffalo and Tenlons Fort) Judson and Mary lead the band through powerful versions of "People Grow Up So Slow" and "William Jenning Bryan" that sounded so strong and sure that it took the audience by surprise. Me included. Passionate vocals from Judson shows the band just getting better and better, and the combined violins of Mary and Kaitlin give the music a real majesty.

Tenlons Fort moved me, shook me up and ejected me into the stratosphere with a set that deserved to be on anybody's 'best of...' list. After Saturday's indelible performance at Lot 1 for my Feed Your Head show, I didn't think they could sound any better. I was wrong. With just John Seasons on bass, Will Courtney on guitar and Sheridan Riley on drums (I asked her if her arms would hold out) Jack Gibson was in as fine a voice as I have ever heard and the songs sounded more beautiful than ever before. Is this superlative enough? In the rush and excitement of the evening I asked Jack about a specific song which I think he said was composed for a film. It had Berlin in the title I believe and it was a total stunner. I melted into the floor as I listened, each note taking me further into that deeper space, that ordinary music can't accomplish. It's solid bass lines were of a depth and power that I can only compare to Pinback, with its similar direct injection into my music-soul. I don't think I recovered from that one song all night.

Leaving Seasons to try to match that level of perfection, they rose to the occasion honorably. Playing their EP, Winter, in it's entirety, it was a reminder of just how good those songs are. The whole band seemed to be playing at the peak of their powers and it was one of their best sets ever. And I should know, I've seen about 25 of their shows. Ending with a couple of extra songs, "Sign of the Beat" was a particularly apt choice for the last song. Just a quick mention of how the addition of Kaitlin Wolfberg's violin during the past year has had an amazing impact on the consolidation of their sound, and her contribution can't be underestimated.

After a brief break, Kind Heart & Coronets returned to the stage of The Echo after a six year break. Lead Asa Ferry explained that various medical emergencies had sidelined three of the band's members, but they were forging ahead with some substitutions. This made for a somewhat raggedy performance, but I was reminded of why I liked this band six years ago. The songs are well crafted and interesting and, in spite of the musicians unfamiliarity with some of the material, they pulled off a really interesting and rewarding set. Who knows what heights they could reach once they patch themselves together again.

What a great way to spend a Monday night. Here we are, only two weeks into the new year and I think I've already seen three of the best shows of the year. What's going on?!! There was a palpable excitement in the crowd, like everyone discovering their favorite new toy all at the same time. Even Donovan was there. Albeit as a lifesize cardboard cutout. Looking remarkable for his age, it was good to see him out and about...and to see that he appreciates the new music as well. Congratulations to Travis Woods of Web In Front for hosting such a superb show.


Monday, January 9, 2012

Fifth Lot 1 Feed Your Head Show

A big thanks to everyone who came out to play and perform at last Saturday's Feed Your Head Show at Lot 1, especially Jack Gibson of Tenlons Fort who really put together the bill for me. He did such an outstanding job, and set the bar so high, I may have trouble reaching it in the future.

First up was Will Courtney, who I hadn't seen before, so I was duly impressed with his wonderful singing and songwriting. Jack told me his mother is a gospel singer who encouraged and nurtured her son's musical talents. The combination of pristine vocals and complex writing shows the strong musical heritage that is behind him.

Next was a solo set (mostly) by Avi (at right) of Avi Buffalo that highlighted some of his newest songs, which are in stark contrast to the experimental direction he was forging last year with his noise compositions. He's returned to the more straightforward (if you could ever call his curlicue melodies straightforward) character of his earlier work. One song in particular struck me with its probing lyrics and haunting atmosphere, which reminded me of the Andy Warhol Factory/New York/Avant-garde rock circa 1970. Joined by other musicians for his final two songs, he rocked Lot 1 hard.

Tenlons Fort is presently made up of Jack, John Seasons on bass, Sheridan Riley on drums and Will Courtney on guitar and backing vocals. This newest lineup puts new spins on familiar material and makes the new material their own. Jack was in great voice and his natural, unforced style makes other singers appear to be working too hard. Special mention must be made of Sheridan Riley's impeccable drumming, for the variety and nuance she displays is to be envied. The whole audience seemed to notice.

The Wildbunch closed the night with a set of rock and roll that could not be resisted. Their remarkable drummer has an equally impressive voice, with which he led a couple of songs. The lead singer has an appropriately gravelly vocal style, suiting the band's name, and Avi stepped in on second guitar, adding twinkle and shine to already bright melodies. Their set was a revelation in that it just kept getting better and better. By the end, I was ready to be peeled off the ceiling.

Wonderful friends, the wonderful Lot 1 and great sound by Sean Guerin made for a night I won't forget.

Thank you all.


Monday, January 2, 2012

First Show of the New Year

Mark your Saturday: