Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Haunted Summer - Amoeba Music (Sep. 10, 2013) El Rey (Sep. 14, 2013)

It's been difficult to keep up with Haunted Summer this summer as they've been courted to play dates up and down the coast, even opening for The Polyphonic Spree during some of the California shows on their latest tour. That's why I made doubly certain not to miss the record release in-store set at Amoeba Music on Tuesday, September 10, as they're about to do a couple of shows with Cœur de pirate, like on Saturday night (Sept. 14) at El Rey. Soon after that they take off for a Parisian honeymoon, yes, John and Bridgette are getting married!

I made sure to get there early enough to connect with them before the show. And connect we did! Johnny came out and got me and took me up to see the Green Room at Amoeba which is quite a nice space for the bands to relax in before going on stage. At seven we all trooped down the stairs, me to the audience, the band to the stage. They proceeded to play one of the most fully realized sets I've seen from them yet.

The event was to perform songs from, and to celebrate the release of, their first EP "Something In The Water". It's been fun to watch the development of songs like "All Around", "Young Enough", and "1996" from semi-improvisational studies in sound and distortion into comprehensible compositions. "Something In The Water" is still obscure and scary, but I think that's the way they want it.

With Daniel Goldblatt on drums and Augustus Green on bass, the band now numbers four and they have coalesced into a four-piece unit that is evolving with a clearly defined sound. The addition of the drums and bass have anchored the more ethereal sounds generated by John and Bridgette, with a formidable low end making the music move steadily forward.

With an audience made up of many friends, it had a bit of the reunion feeling to it, and they were warmly appreciated by the rest of the crowd. I even managed to finagle a couple of free shows out of the evening with Jacob Dylan Summers inviting me to the Avid Dancer set on the following night, Sept 11, at Bootleg, and John and Bridgette invited me to attend their El Rey set on Saturday. Have I ever said I love this town?

On Saturday night, Haunted Summer was back from playing an opening set for Cœur de pirate in San Francisco the night before and they were all still understandably tingly from the experience and the long drive down the coast to make this date. I met them in the front foyer of the theatre and was, again, whisked up to the Green Room, but this time it was the El Rey theatre. A place where I have seen so many venerated bands that I love, that I felt a little dizzy. It was a bit of a shock to see how small the actual stage of El Rey is, and how it looks so much bigger from out in the auditorium.

Johnny Seasons has brought me into so many remarkable places that I would never have had access to in order to gain the perspective that I've been able to accumulate over the past few years that I'll always be grateful. This was another one. Much of the tour personnel was weary and punch-drunk from being up for so many hours

Rufo Chan was the victim of too many candid photographers after he simply collapsed from exhaustion (at right), having just driven the band for eight hours, back to L.A. Jason Tovar was still standing as tour manager, and spoke word artist, Scott Schultz, back from Boston and Jack Gibson (Tenlons Fort), back from Austin, made up part of the celebratory spirit of the whole night.

We all spilled out into the the theatre when the time came for Haunted Summer to hit the stage. With a program that was substantially the same as the set at Amoeba, the revelation was hearing it in the gigantic dimensions of the El Rey, with all the atmospheric lighting and cathedral-like ambiance of the hall itself.

 I wandered about the venue all during the set in order to experience it from many different vantage points in regard to sound and visuals.The vocal mix was best at a greater distance as Bridgette's voice was somewhat under emphasised at first. Overall the sound was good, although when I was by the sound booth, I could see the technicians were a little perplexed at what exactly they were hearing. But for the most part the sound was just right.

It ended up being a delightful night, spent with good friends and thoroughly enjoying each other's company. I feel like a very lucky individual.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Ruthann Friedman & The Now People cover The Ruthann Friedman Songbook at Taix Lounge - September 6, 2013

A show of major historical significance took place last Friday night, Sept. 6, when songwriting artist, Ruthann Friedman held a spellbound audience in the palm of her hand to celebrate the long-awaited, long-in-the-making release of a collection of her original recordings of the 1960s, Windy: A Ruthann Friedman Songbook. Through the tireless and persuasive efforts of producer Steve Stanley, this record was able to come to fruition despite the reluctance of Ruthann to fully appreciate the importance of her own contributions, and the difficult excavation process required to unearth these demo recordings. And how lucky we are to be able to hold this CD in our hands.

She and Steve (in center at right) assembled a band, including members of The Now People, and her frequent recent collaborator, Kaitlin Wolfberg (above at left) on violin and keys, to put a modern spin on a particular 60s pop idiom that ended up sounding both nostalgic yet very much like a lot of the music I enjoy today. It took me back to another time (specifically sitting in my bedroom while in high school listening to Tommy Roe, We Five, The Association, Nancy Sinatra and others around, say, 1966). The music was sunny and upbeat, yet possessed the yearning and the defiant 'quest for something more' that so characterized that era. The feeling was as physical as it was emotional.

There were songs of love, "When You're Near" and I'll Make You Happy", songs of anger and frustration, "Please Please Please", celebrations of joy, filled with a realistic optimism and the hope for change that so characterized that generation, like "Halfway There". My generation. I've tried to keep much of that alive in myself through the decades, somehow. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not. It was like a trip through many of the emotions and tribulations I had even forgotten I had, making me feel like I was running into my younger self during the show.

This became nearly overwhelming when Terry Kirkman (behind the mic above) of The Association came on stage to perform the flute part from the song "Windy", confirming that I was indeed in a the time warp. I had all the early albums by The Association, had learned that "Along Comes Mary" was not about a girl named Mary, loved "Cherish" before it was ruined by all those wedding receptions, and even remembered that "Windy" was from their third album.

With the song "Raining Down On My House", Ruthann had one of her musicians play the sitar as this heady and unpredictable song overtook all reason and the audience was lost in a swirling psychedelic acid haze. From a sunny California pop sound, through the songs of a woman's empowerment, with a touch of the Herb Alpert Tijuana sound that influenced so much music in that era, it was truly a program of amazing variety and showed us why Ruthann Friedman is a national treasure.

I don't think I've ever seen Taix Lounge with a larger crowd that I would describe as "standing room only". And what had been a rather noisy room full of diners, suddenly became hushed and attentive. Ruthann told interesting anecdotes about many of the songs and seemed to relax as the evening progressed as she couldn't ignore the extraordinary reaction her set was generating. It's a night that stayed with me for days, and one I will never forget.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Catching Up With Seven Saturdays at The Satellite - September 5, 2013


A nice unexpected treat came my way on Thursday night, September 5, when I remembered that Seven Saturdays were playing at The Satellite and, as I had been missing all of their recent shows, I was gratified to find a tiny reserve of energy that propelled me out of the house and onto a bus bound for Silver Lake. Knowing that Halfbluud were also on the bill, and learning that afternoon that Zoe-Ruth Erwin (below) would be providing vocals for a few of the Seven Saturdays songs, supplied the added incentive. Jim Evens and Zoe-Ruth took care of a trio of songs each, and another female vocalist who's name got by me, sang at the end. Zoe-Ruth Erwin's vocals showed off a power and control that was remarkable, perfectly pitched, while Jim Evens displayed that amazing breath control which enables him to hit his notes long and hard. A major appeal of his own band, Helen Stellar.
I've been really intrigued by the addition of vocals to the flood of sound this band excels in. Over the past year they've experimented with a number of different vocalists, each taking turns as lead singer at the center of each song.

I love the concept, especially because the basic power of the compositional brilliance on display is what makes the music matter. Jonathan D. Haskell's music is organic, and oceanic in it's pull and I find much of it very moving. Lost in a sea of emotional chords would be an apt description of how I felt, standing in the middle of The Satellite floor. Taking home the CD that Jonathan gave me I was still surprised by the other additional singers featured. I mean, Alex Lilly and Rachel Stolte, and all of the singers lending their own individual style. It is as much a musical collective as it is a band. A dazzling recording.

This evening triggered a flurry of show-going activity, which I will reveal piece by piece...stay tuned.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Trip To The Past At Boardner's

There was an incredible show a couple of weeks ago that I didn't want to get by without comment. Although it's been almost five years since I was last at Boardner's in Hollywood, on Tuesday, August 20th when I walked back in it was like time travel. Simply walking into the garden area where concerts are held was overwhelmingly nostalgic. The same tiled pool of water sat in the center of the space, a pile of burning candles still lit the center of the pool and the stage still had that look of a makeshift renaissance stage. Memories came flooding back. George Glass (in photo) was on stage raging through a familiar number and the sound was fantastic. Turns out this was just the sound check, which was cool since there was almost no one there yet.

(George Glass at left) In 2006, I was a mere baby in the local music scene when I began going out to see shows, first for the bands whose music videos I had seen, national and international acts like Super Furry Animals, Matt Pond PA, Low, The Bats, The Dresden Dolls, Fruit Bats, Elbow. I began to feel the presence of the local music scene through a video I had recorded for the song "Heaven Adores You" by Earlimart. They became an early favorite and I began seeing them every time they played. Earlimart led me directly to a couple of shows in March that year at King King on Hollywood Boulevard where I saw Great Northern and Irving for the first time, and the fuse was lit. I tried to speak to each band everytime I saw them and we eventually became friendly.

Thus, I followed Great Northern to a show in Hollywood which was the inaugural show for a new series hosted by Radio Free Silver Lake to take place on a Tuesday night each month at the old Hollywood club: Boardner's. On the evening of September 26, 2006 Joe Fielder presented The Movies, Great Northern and The Western States Motel for the first "Let's Independent!" event.

The evening was very special, the music was great, the audience was friendly, and the ambiance couldn't have been more welcoming. There was even a Truffaut movie playing silently high up on one of the walls. I was completely enamoured with The Western States Motel and chatted with them after their beautiful, energetic set. Sat with Rachel Stolte and Solon Bixer before their soaring set. I was equal parts thunderstruck and confounded by the manic energy of The Movies, which I learned was not an unusual reaction.

(Wet & Reckless at left) Over the next two years I attended many a show from this series and it was here that I cultivated many of the friendships that endure to this day. Jordan Huddock and Vivien Cao helped me fish my wayward wallet out of the fountain one night. (In fact it was because Vivien wrote about me on her blog, that I decided to start this blog in the first place) Hunter Curra and the crew from The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra became fast friends. Rob Danson and I kept bumping into each other repeatedly at shows so we needed to become friends. Same with Matthew Teardrop. It was here I met the other new bloggers in town, Ben McShane of Classical Geek Theatre and Travis Woods of Web In Front, Joe Fielder, Ashley Jex, and then Los Angeles Times music writer, Kevin Bronson.

(Midnight Cities at right) The community surrounded me and swallowed me up. And I was more than willing to go. It opened up whole new worlds and set me up with a big new assortment of ambitions. Pretty heady for a person who was at the age when I believed human beings were supposed to begin slowing down. Time, instead of flowing downhill, had suddenly reversed course and was defying gravity and flowing uphill. My brain was suddenly firing on all cylinders again. That has remained true ever since.

Back to 2013, the evening was hosted by Kitty Kitty Bang Bang and featured Midnight Cities, Wet & Reckless, George Glass and Pretty Flowers (at left). All but one of the bands featured members of bands that had played "Let's Independent!" shows, so the sense of reunion was potent. All the bands played terrific sets, and the audience filled up with familiar patrons from past shows like Jim Saunders, Andy Siara, and Matthew Teardrop, and Ian Baumeister, just back in town.

I did get to meet the Boston blogger who has a keen eye for our local music scene, Julie Stoller, in town for a week or so, and was glad to see Mr. 704 Blog there as he was yet to join us back when this was "Let's Independent!" headquarters and he appreciated the quality of the environment. The whole evening was a pretty magical affair and a reminder that there's more to the scene than just the East Side. The pictures tell the story.