Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles’

Lightning Bolt, Liturgy, May 3, 2015 @ Echoplex

May 6, 2015

After seeing Dan Deacon get the crowd moving at the Echoplex on Friday, I was back to the same venue to see Lightning Bolt do the same thing. Though the way the bands do it and the way people move is quite different.

I missed the first opener, but got there in time to see Liturgy, a metal band that I’d throw into the “doom/black” variety of metal. There was appropriate riffage and the drummer specialized in high speed bass drum kicks that  led the charge on many of their songs. Lyrics kind of got lost in the noise; the lead singer was soft spoken and didn’t say much beyond announcing the name of the band and a perfunctory thanks when they finished their set.  Their new album was supposed to incorporate some elements not found in the genre, like bells, and sure enough there was one song that featured some prerecorded glockenspiel. It worked for me, the bells were a nice contrast to the dark and heavy guitar and drumming.  The crowd seemed to be into it, with a few enthusiastic young guys flipping the bird at the stage in unison with the music. I guess that’s a sign of respect in this genre? I’m out of my element on that one.

Following a short break it was time for the main attraction, Rhode Island’s Lightning Bolt.  I saw them about 5 years ago and my review gives you a good idea what I saw here in LA.  One difference was that Brian Chippendale was much more talkative.  He greeted the enthusiastic crowd and told a story of how they almost didn’t make it to LA from Oakland when he wanted to pull into a gas station to get a juice and didn’t notice the median and curb and launched their van airborne, over the median, and made it back to asphalt without breaking an axle.  The punchline: the gas station was closed.

All the things I liked about seeing them before was on display again.  Chippendale is a human dynamo on the drums, which contrasts with the stoic Brian Gibson on bass.  One thing they both do is create a cacophony that still finds its way to lock into a groove.  And then pummel that groove to death.  Their new album, Fantasy Empire, has been touted as having more of a metal bent.  A good bit of the set was that new material and there was a lively mosh pit and a lot of headbashing.  I had secured a spot right by the soundboard, so I was safe.  While on record these new songs do sound a bit more “polished”, that polish is smeared all over the place during their live show.  There are waves of rhythm coming at you, and every so often, the wave recedes and allows one of them to breathe and let the other start building the next wave.

They came out for an encore with two ferocious takes on two old songs, Dracula Mountain and Ride the Sky.  The mosh pit reacted in kind and even in my “safe” spot we had a couple bodies come flying into us.  A great end to their set.

Here’s a decent video recapping the performances of both Liturgy and Lightning Bolt (LB starts at 3:04).  I didn’t see the first opener Baby Aspirin DVD (there’s a short bit of them in the video too).

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Hundred Waters, Moses Sumney, and Natalie Prass, February 13, 2015 @ El Ray Theater

February 22, 2015

This was my first show at the El Rey in Hollywood. It’s a nice room with some impressive chandeliers, and a floor that’s recessed below two small tiers of additional viewing areas. Their beer selection is crap but my wife and I both commented on the nice, handsome bartender who served us said crappy beer.

We went into that recessed floor area to see the first opener, Natalie Prass. From Nashville via Richmond, VA (holla!), Prass played a pleasant set of songs that bobbled between rock and country. She reminded me a little of Jenny Lewis’ solo stuff, maybe a little more poppy. The pop side came out when she played an unexpected (for me, at least) cover of Janet Jackson’s Any Time, Any Place. It’s a B side on one of her singles; it was requisitely funky. Her debut has gotten good reviews, I’d recommend checking it out. For a three band opener, this was really good. I’ll expect to hear more from her.

After she finished, we moved up to the highest “level” and found a nice unobstructed view with a railing to lean on for the next artist, Moses Sumney. A solo act who uses electronics to accompany his terrific voice. He has some pre-programmed backing music but also used a live guitar; and his hands, fingers and mouth to create beats that would get layered on top of other elements, building a musical house from which Moses belted out his songs. He played two new songs that both got positive vibes from the crowd, so be on the look out for new material from him.  After his set, he joined the crowd to see Hundred Waters, as he professed during his set that their album was his favorite of 2014.

We had seen Hundred Waters last year at a church at SXSW. It was a perfect setting for their swirling, slow-build music and lead singer Nicole Miglis’ delicate voice.  This time around, they brought a bigger sound, a more confident Miglis (who seemed a bit nervous during the set we saw at SXSW) and a laser show. It was a different experience for sure, but still a good one.  Miglis’ voice can be Bjork-like in cadence and timbre, which suits the music behind her. I love how their songs can veer in between synth-noodling ala Echoes era Pink Floyd and full on rocking out with big beats in the space of one songs.  Stand outs from their set for me were Down From the Rafters, Out Alee and Cavity. Overall, a really good show by all three bands. Can’t ask for more than that.


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Ty Segall, Wand, Endless Bummer, August 29, 2014 @ The Echo

October 9, 2014

IMG_0670In support of his new album, Manipulator, Ty Segall did a four night stint at The Echo in Los Angeles. We got tickets for the second night. Not only does he put out prodigious amounts of material, it seemed from videos of his live show that he puts as much effort into his concerts. I can now vouch personally that is the case.

There were two openers. First, Endless Bummer, a three piece punk band featuring the two owners of Highland Park’s Permanent Records. I only caught their last few songs. A solid take on California punk, nothing more nothing less. Hey, this is a side gig for them so I wasn’t expecting the second coming of the Minutemen.

Next up was another local band, Wand. A young looking five piece with a lot of guitars, I wasn’t sure what to expect. They really impressed me. As expected they were loud, but they were a tight band that mixed elements of basic guitar rock with some of the more theatrical elements of early English metal and prog rock. One of the tracks that I really liked is Flying Golem, which you can download here. Do it, it’s got one of my favorite riffs of the year so far! Looks like Ty Segall was involved in producing their debut, which makes total sense.

Having set a high bar, Ty came on ready to go. But he first spent a minute apologizing to the aunt of one of Wand’s band members since he had apparently fallen on her staging diving during Wand’s set. It was genuine and sweet, matching how he comes across in the interviews I’ve heard him give. After dedicating the first song (or was it the whole set?) he and his band (including Mikal Cronin) proceeded to tear it up for the next hour. Most of the set was made up from his excellent new album Manipulator. He played almost all the songs from the album! No complaints here, the songs sounded even better live with an even rawer take on some of the solos and some ferocious drumming.  He got a lot of folks crowd surfing, including some ladies who would neatly queue up on stage and then take their dive into the waiting arms of the crowd.

He also played the outstanding “I Bought My Eyes” and “Slaughterhouse” from the Slaughterhouse album.  I’ll admit I got some chills up my spine from the solos in those two.  He also threw out two covers, Motorhead’s Motorhead, which made sense, and then he closed the show with Bad Company’s Feel Like Makin’ Love, which wouldn’t seem to be an obvious choice for him, but he belted it out as he went out into the appreciative crowd.  A great show, can’t wait to see him again!

Someone recorded the entirety of his show the night after I went.  Video is here.

Liars and Cherry Glazerr @ The Fonda, May 27, 2014

June 2, 2014

Back to the Fonda two weeks after seeing Charles Bradley to see something entirely different musically, the Liars. While Bradley does Motown era soul and funk very well, the Liars have constantly moved across musical genres, most recently landing on electronic based rock. I was hoping that Liars would be as good a live act as Bradley and based on video and internet commentry it seemed likely.

Before Liars, local band Cherry Glazerr took the stage. I knew they were local (given the name in honor of a local PBS radio correspondent) but I didn’t know they were so young.  Two of the band members are under 18 and bassist Sean Redman is an ancient 22.  Lead singer Clementine Creevy exuded that detached cool that only a 17 year old can have and she has a strong vocal presence that hopefully will continue to grow as she gets older.  Redman and drummer Hannah Uribe got some good grooves going.  I thought they might just be straight forward punk, but they had some more complex rhythms and tempos.  I would definitely go see them again and I hope this is just the beginning for them.

The Liars new album Mess has a ball of unraveling multi-colored yarn on its cover.  Lead singer Angus Andrew came out in all white with a mask with the same multi-colored yarn that made him look like a scarier version of Animal.  They launched into songs from the new album and lead single from the album, Mess on A Mission, really got the crowd moving as Angus dismissed his mask and whipped around his long blond hair with the banging drums of Julian Gross and the synths and electronic blips and burps of Aaron Hemphill.  Occasionally they picked up a guitar, but true to the new album’s direction, the electronics and beats ruled.  Still, the roots of the band seem to come through as the songs rolled on like some of their earlier works and their music has always been fueled by an engine of percussion.

Angus Andrew was made to be a front man in the same way Bradley is.  They have command over the crowd and feel completely comfortable singing and dancing.  Andrew took it completely in stride when someone threw a jean jacket that hit him in the face when they came out for their encore.  He simply took the jacket that was probably a few sizes too small, put it on and ripped through the encore wearing it.

They breezed through about an hour of material, including that encore that dusted off a classic from their noise rock past, Broken Witch that didn’t seem at all out of place with their new songs.  Another band from my must-see list crossed off.

Here’s  a video from the concert:

Charles Bradley, May 17, 2014 @ The Fonda Theater

May 19, 2014

IMG_0385After seeing Charles Bradley at SXSW in 2013, I vowed that I would try my best to catch him any time he came to LA. He’s that entertaining. So I had snatched up two tickets when they first went on sale and put it on my calendar.

Flash forward to last weekend. We had invited friends over to enjoy a nice LA evening on our new patio furniture. Even though we had talked about the concert that week, it had somehow completely slipped our mind on Saturday. As we were chatting, the subject of concerts came up and one of our friends asked “so have you gone to any concerts lately.” Apparently that was what my brain needed and the connection was made. Oh crap, we actually have a concert tonight. Luckily it was only 7:30. We retreated from the porch, showered, printed tickets and were on the way to Hollywood by 8:15.

When we walked in it was after 9, and we thought the opener would be in full swing. However, they had not even started.  Turns out the scheduled opener wasn’t going to be there because instead a substitute band played.  Death Valley Girls might be a good band, but they surely didn’t pair well with the soul music everyone came for.  Throw in a drunk lead singer and this was not good.  I think most everyone in the audience would have preferred to just hear more vinyl spun by the two DJs that were playing before and after the opener.  Luckily, they didn’t play for too long.

IMG_0395Similar to his labelmate Sharon Jones, Bradley’s band comes out and hypes up the crowd a bit before Charles comes out.  The Mehanan Street Band is a great band in their own right and pair them with the theatric performer in Bradley and it’s quite the combo.  Bradley toiled as a James Brown impersonator for years in New York before being found.  It’s obvious he’s studied the master, and while he cops a few of Brown’s moves, he’s got his own personal touches.  As well as some sweet outfits, first a red suit with a jacket that had a gold “C” and “B” on each of the lapels.  Later he came out in a black suit with a matching cape.

But it’s not all flash.  He’s got a great voice that can hit all across the spectrum, from raucous to tender.  Above all, he seems so earnest in his delivery and humble in thanking both his band and the crowd for showing up and listening to him.  He made that crowd happy by mixing in songs from both his studio albums.  Standouts like “The World (Is Going Up in Flames)” and “Golden Rule” sound even better live.  He closed with “Why Is It So Hard?” a soulful ballad that, like he did at SXSW, ended with him going out in the crowd to get hugs and love from his fans.  Even after the house lights went up, he was still out in the crowd.  I thought it before when I saw him a year ago, and this performance affirmed it for me, Charles Bradley will be the closest thing I’ll come to seeing in my lifetime to what audiences experienced in seeing James Brown.

Here’s a video someone took from the upper balcony at the Fonda:

Mikal Cronin and Tijuana Panthers, April 4, 2014 @ LA Natural History Museum

April 7, 2014

I hadn’t been to a concert at The Natural History Museum’s First Friday since they started charging for admission. The museum shows the shows on screens outside the room where the actual show is and the sound is decent.  But when I saw Mikal Cronin was playing in April, I thought “I want to be in the room for that.”

First Friday’s at the NHM is always a fun time.  Get there early for the guest speaker and stay for the drinks, DJs, and live music.  There’s usually two bands and tonight the opener was Long Beach’s Tijuana Panthers.  I didn’t have a chance to check them out before the show so I didn’t know what to expect.  It was apparent they had a following because the room was filled up by the time they started playing.  The room in question is a long hall with dioramas of North American mammals.  A large display of bison is directly behind the stage and bears, bighorn sheep and wolves surround everyone listening to the band.  It’s a neat place to see a show.

Tijuana Panthers

Tijuana Panthers

Tijuana Panthers is a three piece, drums, guitar, bass and all three get in on the singing duties.  They definitely have a California sound.  I’d describe them as surf rock playing at punk tempos (mostly).  They packed in a bunch of songs, first mostly from their new album, Semi Sweet.  A funny moment was when a fan yelled for the band to play “Tony’s Song” and then guitarist Chad Watchel smirked and told him “We just played that one.  Sorry Tony.”  Other songs I recognized by name were Boardwalk, One Way Ticket, and Pushover.  They also played some of their older stuff to the delight of their fans, including a really good song called Red Headed Girl.  In addition to being good musicians, they are fun to watch.  We both concentrated on drummer Phil Shaheen, whose tall, wiry frame bopped and flailed around like he was sitting on springs.  His hair bounced along like it was its own being.  I would definitely recommend seeing them or listening to their record.

After that fun set, it was time for some more California rock with Mikal Cronin.  The 28 year old’s MCII record was one of my favorite last year.  It was a record that could be both sweet and sunny and then turn on a dime into a scraping guitar solos.  Not sure if others hear it, but it reminds me of a more grungy early 90s Matthew Sweet.  I was interested to see what side of Cronin would dominate during his show.

Mikal Cronin

Mikal Cronin

We got an inkling of what we were in store for when Cronin and his band came out looking like roadies for Motorhead, jeans, black tshirts, and no one had hair that was shorter than shoulder length.  Mikal seemed genuinely giddy to be playing in the museum, remarking about several of the animals that were surrounding the stage.  And with that, they started playing and then it got loud.

He played a good number of songs from MCII and while the songs did have those sweet moments when Mikal sang his verses, the choruses and guitar solos would have sent even the grizzly bear (if he wasn’t stuffed) sprinting for the hills.  “Shout It Out” and “See It My Way”, two of my favorite songs of his were in the set list.   Mikal showed off his chops as did his other guitarist, as they traded solos and got some headbanging in with that long hair.

You can tell from his interactions with the crowd and his bandmates that Mikal really enjoys just getting up on a stage and playing and is thankful for the opportunity.  I’ll definitely try to see him again, I just will make sure to have my earplugs along, my old ears can’t take that glorious racket as well as they used to!

Here’s a video of Cronin playing “See It My Way” at last year’s Pitchfork festival:

 

 

Iron & Wine, First Unitarian Church, LA – 6/23/2013

June 24, 2013

When I went to SXSW earlier this year, I got to see an acoustic set by Samuel Beam, aka Iron & Wine, where he played a few songs from his upcoming album and took requests from his fans.  I had wanted to check him out but I was only a casual fan before that show.  It was a highlight of the festival for me.  A few nights later at SXSW, we went to a show at a local church featuring several artists, closing with Mr. Beam.  However, this time we had to make a tough choice and opted to skip a second performance by him and go to see Vampire Weekend.  There was a little bit of regret in that decision given the venue and how much I had liked his performance.

So when I saw that Iron & Wine was playing in LA at a church, I had my second chance and we grabbed tickets.  The venue was the First Unitarian Church in Koreatown.  We got there just as the opening act, Bonzie, was playing a Radiohead cover, when we walked into the darkened auditorium, a suitable mood setter.  It was a true auditorium with seating, not church pews, and the most obvious sign this was a church were the stained glass windows on one wall and the old-time chandeliers on the high ceilings.

After a short break, Sam took the stage sporting a beard even bigger than he had at SXSW.  And he was joined by a brass section, string section and three back up singers, in addition to a drummer and bassist.  His newest album has some more complex arrangements than previous albums and he was definitely intent on recreating that with this live show.  The first part of the show focused mostly on his new album, though he did play one of my favorite songs on the third song, Tree By The River.  Sam played up to the enthusiastic crowd and he played up to the venue when he announced he and God had come to an agreement to let him play Monkeys Uptown, which contains a few f-bombs.  His three brass players (who also swapped out horns for flutes and clarinets at various points) were their own sight to see, swaying in unison when they weren’t playing with the fervor of old Motown.

Beam then did a set without the band, and like at SXSW, he took in the shouted requests and opened up his back catalog freely to his fan.  My favorite of this set was his cover of Love Vigilantes by New Order.  I didn’t realize he had recorded a cover, but I absolutely love that song and his cover is a great substitute for the original.  As he played to the rapt audience, his shadow played on the huge wall on the side of the room around three rotating circles of light, a nice visual accompaniment to his music.  He eventually had his band rejoin him for a few numbers including an epic instrumental freakout (blanking on which song but thinking it was something from the new album) that would have made Explosions In The Sky blush.  By the time he had come out for an encore and played one last song, he had played almost 2 hours and everyone left happy.