Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Josh Tillman at The Satellite and The Veils at The Echo

Gotta get a couple of reviews out before a recent onslaught of shows overtakes me again. Thursday, May 9th was the Yo La Tengo show at The Fonda which I fully expected to be transported off-earth during, and I wasn't disappointed. But let me get two other shows out of the way.

I go back a ways with JoshTillman, first as the drummer in Fleet Foxes, then as a solo artist. His first few solo releases, as J. Tillman, featured a folk singer very much in the Fleet Foxes vein of wintry Northwest American folk/roots music, with a whispery vocal style reminiscent of Sam Beam, of Iron and Wine, or Vetiver. I purchased his early solo albums and saw him perform, with his back up band, at The Echo and The Troubadour in 2009 and 2010. They were lovely, laid-back sets with a soft, folky flavor. After I heard that he had left Fleet Foxes and was re-locating to Los Angeles, I went to see him again at Bootleg Bar in 2011 and witnessed an enormous change.

Gone was the backing band and in it's place stood the solitary Josh Tillman (as he was now calling himself) with just a guitar. He opened his mouth and out came a commanding and confident vocalist who had not only found his proper singing voice, but he revealed himself to be a writer of extraordinary personal depth laced with biting humor. I was so impressed with these open, rambling monologues about life, love, bad girlfriends and psychological disorders that I spoke to him afterwards and commented about the thrilling new direction in his work and he confirmed that was, indeed, the case.

I didn't hear about him for a while as he was creating a new persona/music group and calling it Father John Misty. I kept seeing shows crop up locally for this new band and didn't bother to do enough research to find out it was Tillman in another guise. Consequently I missed all his initial local shows at places like Bootleg and even a show at Hollywood Forever and when I finally did catch up and realized this was Josh's new band, all the rest of his local dates were sold out.

I was doubly sorry when I picked up the Father John Misty CD, Fear Fun, and found one of the best new records and best new bands of the year, and that it had happened right under my unsuspecting nose. These were the very songs I had heard a year before in an acoustic format at the Bootleg. It was all so fresh and original and musically addictive that I'm still playing it all the time. When the listing for Har Mar Superstar, Josh Tillman and Rocky Business at The Satellite appeared, for a show on April 25th, I snapped up a ticket even though I didn't know if the full Father John Misty band was sneaking a secret show in the small local club or if it was going to be another solo show. Either way, I wouldn't have cared, I just had to see him and hear these new songs live again.

And what a great opportunity it was. Word apparently hadn't gotten out too far and the club was crowded but not packed, giving me the chance to get a position right up front. His wry humor is on display right from the start when he waits patiently for the rest of his band to come on stage, even though this is a solo set. Speaking to him outside afterward, he confessed that it's a lot easier to perform this way. I could tell he appreciated it after the long months he's just come back from on tour as Father John Misty.

The set consisted of some new songs and solo acoustic versions of Misty favorites "Hollywood Forever Cemetery", "I'm Writing a Novel" and the confessional "Everyman Needs A Companion". I still long to see full-band versions of these songs, but they stand strong as solo numbers, perhaps even gaining something in their personal revelatory nature.

This emerging artist is one of the most original writers in the scene right now with his wonderfully sardonic humor lacing all his lyrics which occasionally touch on the profound. The sense of a liberated performer is extremely gratifying to an audience left too often with the feeling of watching bands grow mechanical from repetition. I have the feeling that Josh Tillman will continue to evolve and grow, no matter how long he continues to perform.

The following night, April 26th, I went to The Echo to see one of my favorite English bands, The Veils (actually British, by way of New Zealand), who are touring for their latest album, Time Stays, We Go. Lead singer, Finn Andrews, has fascinated me since I first heard his band in 2007 and their album Nux Vomica, which was a critical favorite, convinced me to go see this haunting and powerfully soulful singer when The Veils next came to town to play a two night gig at Hotel Cafe (Aug 16, 17, 2007). I attended both nights and was stunned both times. He puts an intensity into his singing and playing that is even more impressive in person than it is on recordings. The strained vulnerability in his voice is moving as an expression of bare-naked emotion.

By the time they came back through town with Sun Gangs in 2008, they had grown to fit into Echoplex, but I was surprised they hadn't really taken off as I had expected they would and by 2009, The Veils were playing Spaceland. I recall that was a particularly good show. Then they slowed down a bit, producing only an EP and engaged in limited touring for a few years, not coming to America at all.

At one point during their set at The Echo on Friday, April 26, Finn confessed that they'd been through a rough patch for a while, not really sure whether to continue the band or not, kind of at a cross roads. So they came back to L.A. and recorded this new album in Laurel Canyon and Time Stays, We Go was released in April.

It reveals a more mature band, working at full strength, but with a focus and positive musical spirit that could find the band a broader audience. The intense vocals are still there, but it feels like a more collaborative effort resulting in a solid and musically diverse album.

Playing songs from the earlier albums also showed a different spin as familiar songs were given new life with fresh orchestrations and pacing, like "Sit Down By The Fire". From the new record, some favorites were "Birds", "Through The Deep, Dark Woods" and "The Pearl" which presented some of the new sweeping orchestrations played by the band that includes a strong brass section, percussion,  flowing keyboard and second guitar and bass. Finn also said how good it felt to be back in L.A. and back on stage and The Veils sound like they will be around for a lot longer.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Some Upcoming Shows

In the midst of a chaotic week, somehow I manage to be hosting two shows over the next few days. And what shows they are. On Saturday, May 4, Feed Your Head presents Judson on a return to the local stage, and with a local star-studded cast of musicians including Rob Danson of Many Embers and Fort King on electric guitar, Eli Reyes on drums, Nancy Kuo on violin, and Mateo of Manhattan Murder Mystery on keys (that will be beautiful).

I've had a little difficulty in putting this one together but want to thank Shannon Inouyi of Emerson Star for jumping at the chance to play and committing early. Emerson Star played one of my favorite events last year when I hosted the November 1012 Lot 1 show and they just floored me with their super-tight harmonies and instantly catchy tunes. I look forward to the opportunity to hear Shannon solo, though he plays with electric guitar.

When I asked Judson (at right) to perform for this show, he instantly agreed and I can't even begin to thank him for all the work he put forth to make this a big night. He even lined up a super special guest who I'm not at liberty to disclose at the moment (keep checking this column). And it's been so long since I've heard Judson perform that he and his new ensemble will get my full attention. Happy Cinco de Mayo indeed!!!

This show will be co-presented with All Scene Eye, a fairly recently formed co-op with the following stated purpose: "All Scene Eye is a collective of arts and music organizations that seek to better the creative and event promotion communities through sharing resources and good vibes on a massive level". I'm happy to be presenting with them.

The Sixth Son (below) begins a monthly residency at Los Globos, appropriately enough, on Monday, May Sixth, and I was asked to present so I will don two hats and present as Feed Your Head and Radio Free Silver Lake. I also have first hand knowledge of just how good Neil Mallick, and whatever band he puts together, is. The first time I saw him was at a show hosted by Rebecca Balin at 3 of Clubs last October when his only accompaniment was a guy on a saxophone. A sax and an electric guitar might seem like an odd duet, but the sounds they made were uncanny and it was a completely involving set highlighted by Neil's remarkably flexible voice coupled with his powerful, Hendrix-influenced raging guitar.

I immediately grabbed him for a Feed Your Head show at Lot 1 in November. At another show I hosted in December, The Sixth Son had become a band, joined by various audience members which turned into a musical free-for-all and a highly memorable night. When he played for a recent show in April it was as a solo, so I can say with confidence, no matter how many (or any) other musicians he plays with, he always delivers a surprising, and remarkably skillful set. And everyone always has a good time.

This show also features three other favorite local acts, Fort King, Judson (again, hooray!) and that performer who can make the stage cry "uncle!", Matthew Teardrop. This is almost too much fun for a Monday night. Come on down and join us. What a coincidence, here we all are at Thanksgiving last year.