Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Feed Your Head presents November 3 at Lot 1

This Saturday night, November 3rd, I'm presenting another edition of this blog's monthly show at Lot 1 and I'm happy to present some very new acts that deserve more exposure. Hailing from Los Angeles, Emerson Star (below) are a band made of two brothers and a friend who grew up together and now produce an unabashed, sweet, unpretentious 60's sounding folk music wherein all three take turns handling lead vocals but the majority are by Shannon Inouye with Taylor Inouye and Sean Thomas backing up. On the strength of the two songs on their 45 release, I asked them to headline this show and then went to see them last Thursday at Silver Lake Lounge and saw that I had made a good call.

There was a good crowd of fans and friends there who really enjoyed their set and I was impressed with their playing as well as the vocals. The music isn't just pretty, but can really rock when called for, highlighted by some fine guitar playing. Straightforward, uncomplicated lyrics sing of romance, loneliness, irony and general life concerns. You gotta be curious about a band that can rhyme "Romeo and Juliet" with "A couple of idiots". Emerson Star go on at 11.

The Sixth Son are another band I recently saw at a Rebecca Balin show at 3 of Clubs a couple of weeks ago, headlined by Downtown/Union. When shaggy-haired Neil Mallick (above) took the stage with his guitar and acompanied by another guy on saxophone I couldn't even anticipate what I was about to hear. Virtuoso guitar playing stood out, but when this expressive tenor cam out of his mouth, I was transfixed.

And the songs were unpredictable and hypnotic, with deep penetrating lyrics. His friend, Brian Tran, on saxophone provided an astonishing range of varied sounds, including sounding just like a string section at one point. How did he do that? When the set was over, far too soon, I was left, mouth agape. I made sure to make the aquaintance of this remarkable musician right away and when a slot opened up on this bill, I jumped to ask him to. If you attend this show you'll be among The Sixth Son's early fans. Appearing at 10.

Rounding out the bill is someone whose music I have enjoyed for probably six years now. In 2006, I saw local band, Kind Hearts and Coronets a few times just before they sunk below the surface into hiatus. That band has resurfaced, but without band member Jonny Polonsky (above) who is out and about in a range of other projects with a variety of musicians, but on Saturday he plays a rare solo acoustic set to open the night. Can't wait to find out what that is like.

Come on over and enjoy an evening of burgers, beer and fine music at Lot 1. See you there.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Grizzly Bear at The Greek (10/10/12)

There are certain concerts that reverberate through your head for days. Accompanied by a buoyancy of spirit that such profound fulfilment can bring. It certainly puts a bounce in my step. Wondrous spectacle, fragile delicacy punctuated by crescendos of sweeping bombast and the hypnotically chaotic compositions that somehow all pull together under the creamy harmonies of their beautiful voices. That's a Grizzly Bear concert!

I felt serendipity was on my side when I started to climb the long hill up from Los Feliz Boulevard to The Greek and the kindly Joe Napolitano and Jillinda Palmer took pity on the elderly gentleman trudging slowly up the sidewalk. They pulled over and gave me a ride the rest of the way. I knew the night would be good right then and there.

The weather was perfect for a Fall night, but frankly, if it got cold, no one noticed. I had a good seat in the front section so was just as glad I wasn't in the overcrowded pit, which looked like it was filled with some of Los Angeles' tallest music fans. 

I only saw some of the Lower Dens opening set, but it sounded pretty and an appropriate thematic lead in for Grizzly Bear. By the time the headliners came on stage, right on schedule at 8:45, all the seats had filled up. Ambient chords washed out over the crowd, kind of like a monochromatic overture, as fog and lights wrapped the stage in a bluish glow and odd ghostly figures with sad eyes slowly rose from the stage into the air. 

I'm not sure what they represented, but to me they looked vaguely like floating sperm with long tails of twisted umbilical cord. Maybe they were hanging IV bottles. Or maybe I was reading too much into it. Anyway, during the course of the evening, they would rise and fall, sometimes in unison, sometimes separately. What this opening did was induced a trance-like mood in the audience who were then prepared for whatever direction Grizzly Bear had in mind.

It's a far cry from the first time I ever saw them at Spaceland in 2006, when Ed Droste (at right) had first gotten a band together to satisfy the demand for live shows once his music broke on Myspace. They sat on the floor and fiddled with knobs and buttons, played guitars and keys, and performed a stunning recreation of the original music Ed Droste had composed and recorded by himself in his room.

Christopher Bear, Daniel Rossen and Chris Taylor have been Grizzly Bear for about six years now, as both performers and writers, and I've seen them grow from Spaceland to The Troubadour to The Walt Disney Concert Hall to The Wiltern to The Hollywood Palladium. In fact, the last time I saw them was three years ago at The Palladium and it was a big disappointment because the sound was awful, all arena thump and way too bass heavy. Removed all the nuance and basically ruined their music.

But I also knew The Greek would be a perfect place to restore their integrity and that they did. Obviously their new album Shields has had an impact already because as soon as the low thumps of "Speaking in Rounds" began, the audience rose to its feet and squealed in delight. We never sat down again. Next, they went backward to the first song on the album, the single "Sleeping Ute" and it's propulsive beat which breaks mid-way to reveal a delicate reverie at the center.

From then on it was a journey back to previous albums with new songs strategically placed for maximum impact. I was glad they sang so much from Veckatimest including album favorites like "Cheerleader", "Two Weeks" and the challenging "While You Wait For The Others", but they covered all but one song from Shields. With the aid of an additional keyboardist, Aaron Arntz, who made the band a five-piece, they were able to fill out their sound to a near-perfect recreation of the recordings.

This is one of those bands that, no matter how good they sound on record, they are even better in person. The singing is stronger, the orchestrations more grandiose, and the emotional impact more... impactful. There's little between-song nonsense as they get down to the serious business of creating a nearly elusive balance between psychedelic rock and art-rock, accompanied by a visual presentation that hypnotizes the audience.

The singular light-hearted moment came when Ed commented, "It sure smells like the audience is having a good time". Yes, the air was filled with a fragrant aroma. Contact highs were epidemic. It was wonderful to hear them go all the way back to Horn of Plenty for "Shift", which they had rearranged for the full band on their EP release of 2007, Friends and presented here live. From Yellow House came "Lullaby" and, during the encores, "Knife" which features Chris Taylor's extraterrestrial puppy yelps.

The concert, proper, ended with the last two songs from Shields, "Half Gate" and the splashy "Sun In Your Eyes" which provided an appropriately dramatic and bombastic finale with the lighting following suit (see below). The three encore songs kept us up at that high point even after we filed out into the night. The audio and visual stimulation of this show will make it  truly a highlight of the year. And the audience appeared to have been held completely in thrall. It was the kind of audience that make you proud of Los Angeles. There's a warmth that I see coming from this city's music fans that makes me wonder if it's the same elsewhere.
I had the great good luck of going to a show at Hotel Cafe the next night and meeting Grizzly Bear's guest musician for this tour, Aaron Arntz (seen second from right with the rest of the band), and we got to chat for a little while. I was eager to ask what it is like to perform with such a spectacular light and effect show going on around the band. He said it's not at all distracting, but actually enhances their experience on stage and adds drama to the concert. Michael Brown is the extraordinary lighting designer who designs for the legitimate theatre as well as rock and roll concert staging. I noted the dreamy weightlessness that was similar to the floating mason jars that hovered around the stage at their Palladium show three years ago. That was Michael Brown as well and he seems to be the perfect designer for this band as they are on the same elusive wavelength.

As I related to him how I first saw Grizzly Bear at Spaceland in 2006, he said he had been part of that show as a player in the opening band, Hour of the Shipwreck. I had been impressed with that band as well, only now I learned from Aaron that their drummer had been Barbara Gruska (now of The Belle Brigade). I even saw Aaron performing with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros last May at The Greek. The criss-cross overlapping of bands and players probably happens a lot more than I can keep track of.

His being asked to join Grizzly Bear for this tour was unrelated to being on the stage with them six years ago, and was a happy coincidence. The band was still in town as this was the last show of the U.S. leg of their world tour and they departed for London on Sunday to cover Europe for the next month. Taking their light show and floating sperm with them. This was my seventh time seeing Grizzly Bear and it was certainly one of the very best shows I've seen (or heard) from them. It's a week later and I'm still vibrating.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Feed Your Head Show at Lot 1 - October 13, 2012

Come on out and give Soular Brothers a nice send off on Saturday night, October 13th at my show at Lot 1. They have been a residency band for my monthly event for three months running, and I like this idea. We even saw them through a name change (from The WildBunch) and I have enjoyed the super sets they  provided in August and September.

Tomorrow I make them the headliners and have surrounded them with some new bands and my friends, The Happy Casualties who, as the show's capper, will send you out into the night on a high note. To open I have the pleasure of presenting David Piorek of The Preacher's Son showcasing his new project The Trembling Tabernacle of Piorek. And with a name like that I expect something daunting, overwhelming and spiritually uplifting.

Next up is Simon Cardoza's voyage back to the performing stage in a band called, you guessed it...Cardoza. I saw them once at Casey's Bar and was pleasantly surprised at how tight and accomplished they seemed already. Simon's singing voice was a particular surprise. Headliners Soular Brothers hit the stage at 11, bringing their Long Beach sound with them.

There's beers and burgers and time spent with Eileen and Jason of Lot 1. Sean Guerin is doing sound and Rebecca Balin will handle the door. Do drop in and say 'hello'.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The World Record Record Release Extravaganza at Echoplex - October 4, 2012

Even though it was a Thursday night, that didn't stop the celebration for the release of the first record from The World Record (above) in six years from going on for hours. Radio Free Silver Lake hosted the giant show that featured four bands on the main stage and three other bands doing acoustic turns over in the corner between sets. And a huge crowd of well-wishers turned out on a week night to pick up copies of this hot new album. (I've listened to my copy and it's a superb record)

I tried to get there as early as possible, still missed the first band, but saw most of the acoustic set by The Breakups (at left) who were down to two members. Jake Gideon is such a good singer that it was just as polished as a full band set. Just as they finished, Seasons (below) fired up the main stage and this was when I notice the house that Aaron Ballard had told me he had constructed for the show. It hovered, like Dorothy's house, over violinist Caitlin Wolfberg, who bears no resemblance to the Wicked Witch of the West (except for maybe the magic she does with a violin).

Our attention was drawn to the digital shirt that was illuminating itself in time to the music on lead singer Nic Garcia. I enjoy the harmonizing they've been polishing with John and Kaitlin on key songs. They were in their usual tip-top form, even adding a trumpet player for the evening.

I actually feared for Kaitlin (at left) after Aaron told me he built the floating house in his gallery and then couldn't get it out the door because it was too big. He had to remove the roof and re-attach it at the Echoplex before the show, so it was held together with tape and hope. Fortunately there were no earthquakes (or twisters).

The sets were somewhat abbreviated to accommodate all the acts performing and the party atmosphere made one want to wander around and socialize. So I managed to miss The Damselles and the TC4 by hanging out on the patio and being taken to the green room. I was out front for the beginning of The World Record and, even though I've seen this band many times over the years. They sounded like a hot, new band, full of energy and enthusiasm.

It reminded me of the first time I saw them. It was at a Henry Clay People show (bash!) at Spaceland in April, 2009, and it was late, I was hanging out with Evan and Brett Marie Way and Brett said I had to stay to hear The World Record even though it was probably 12:30 in the morning. But I stayed and Brett Marie was right, they blew me away. Such harmonies! Such classic sounding pop songs! Very similar to The Parson Red Heads, but definitely their own band.

It all came back last Thursday night as they dominated the stage of Echoplex, even adding solid back up as the set progressed. Great new songs from the album included the title tune, "Freeway Special", "Be Nice" and "Cats On the Roof" and "We're #1" but one of the highlights was when I was taken backstage to watch from the wings. What a treat! I could really observe just how much hard work goes into making them soar. Ther were definitely number 1 tonight.

And soar they did, with Andy Creighton in strong voice, backed up by Aaron and then a brass section which added so much pizazz to the music, it just swept you up. Of course the sterling guitars of Andy and Aaron have always been a powerful component in their compositions. The shot above shows The Damselles on stage with them.

Afterward, I saw some of Geronimo Getty's fine acoustic set (at right) in the corner and Francisco The Man who finished out the musical portion of the night with a rousing show. Apart from the music and festivities, it was great to hang out with so many wonderful people who came out. The night eventually became a swirl of impressions, but I remember nice chats with Paulie and Cristal Pesh, Jef Hogan, John Seasons and Kathryn Pinto in the green room, Ruthann Friedman Carlisle, Ryan Fuller, Jake Gideon, who else? Hung around with Gerg, Rob Danson (Happy Birthday) Bronson, The Seasons gang. Couldn't have been a better night. I snuck back in to get a shot from the stage after it was over...for mood, and to prove to myself that I stayed till the end.

my photos, too.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Album Leaf at The Satellite - September 29, 2012

On Saturday, September 29, I went to see The Album Leaf at The Satellite. This band has such an interesing history, beginning as a solo side project of musician Jimmy LaValle that has evolved into a highly respected musical project with fantastic fans that even get Album Leaf tattoos to show their devotion. Sometimes they play as a band in venues like El Rey, or in a nearly solo configuration like I saw at The Echo in 2008. Well this was a really special show that was being filmed for an online TV show called Audio-Files that has shows of bands like Ramona Falls, Damien Jurado and Low.

My history with The Album Leaf goes back to The Black Heart Procession by way of Calexico, actually by way of a poster for a concert by Calexico. Let me 2006 I was looking through the LA Weekly for upcoming concerts and saw a poster for a show by Calexico that looked so appealing I knew I would like this band. I listened to music samples on their Myspace page (yes, back then) and fell in love with the band on the spot, bought Garden Ruin (loved it), and got a ticket for this concert on June 13, 2006 at The Fonda.

But as I walked into The Fonda that night, The Black Heart Procession were performing "Guess I'll Forget You" in an auditorium swimming in fog and blue and purple day-glo light. I think I was hypnotized within 15 seconds. Jimmy LaVale was a member of the band that night and in a couple of subsequent shows I attended, but then he was gone. Off to devote all his energy to something called The Album Leaf.

I only had to hear one song by this band to become completely enamored of this music. It was a blending of some of the things I like best...instrumental music, piano, softly understated vocals, intelligent orchestrations and haunting melodies. I think I was a fan for a long time before I finally got to see then live. There's no stage craft at all, just musicians sitting on a stage and playing serious music. I found it completely unpretentious and hypnotically moving.

I think Saturday's show was the best I've seen. Four musicians make up The Album Leaf right now and some play a variety of instruments. But from where I was standing Jimmy LaValle was not four feet in front of me playing his keyboard. I got to see right up close the remarkably fluid way his hands fly across the keys. What a privilege to witness that.

I only recognized a couple of songs as they focused on most of the new songs from their great new EP Forward/Return, which they were selling that night. It's a mostly instrumental recording that plays much like a beautiful film score for a movie yet to be made. The incredibly committed playing by all members of the band made it seem like they all reallly believe in this record.

After five incredible concerts in one week, I expected at least one of the shows to fall short. It didn't happen.

photos by Brad Roberts