After catching two post punk bands, I decided to switch gears and slow it down a bit and check out Banks. Jillian Banks grew up in Southern California and I first noticed her when she did a stint opening for The Weeknd‘s international tour in 2013. Her album, “Goddess,” is still on my list of LPs that I still need to pick up.
Though I thought her set would have been better suited for a time slot later in the day given the downtempo nature of her music, perhaps Goldenvoice knew that she would be a strong draw no matter what time she performed before because she packed the Gobi tent at 3:45pm.
I had a difficult time snapping quality pics of her with the mid-day, natural light beaming into the tent, stage lights, and large hat worn by Banks which cast a sizable shadow over her face, but I did what I could. What do you think?
Unfortunately, there is no setlist available online for Banks performance the first weekend of Coachella. If any of you Banks fans know what songs she performed, please let me know in the comments so that I can add it to the body of this blog entry. Thanks!
What intially hooked me to How To Dress Well’s music was twofold. First, the music leaned dark, simple and atmospheric; the kind of music you could press play on a rainy day, lie on a couch and let it sooth you to sleep. Second, I was very partial to Tom’s tender and vulnerable vocals stylings. A lot of male singers can use their falsetto, but not all male singers can use it the way Tom does.
Before the set started, I scanned the room to see what kind of audience was in attendance. I didn’t have to ask. By the looks of it, I may have been the oldest one in the room. I was a bit impressed insofar as the music that’s been released thus far is quite mature (both lyrically and musically). I asked the two fresh faced kids standing to the right of me (who weren’t wearing drinking bracelets) how they got into How To Dress Well’s music, and they said Spotify. I asked the young girl standing to my right the same question. She said Spotify. A quick non-sequitor … even if major recording artists are complaining about the amount they get paid from streaming services like Spotify, it would appear that Spotify led at least 3 kids to spend their extra cash to buy a ticket to see an act like How To Dress Well perform at a Hollywood club on a Tuesday night. Just saying …
The music of the evening was stellar. I knew that Tom was in the process of recording new material, but I wasn’t expecting that he’d be showcasing a lot of the new songs at the gig. It was truly a pleasant surprise for me. He had the drummer from Broken Social Scene play with him (he used a drum machine at FYF Festival) and that added a new life to the music’s live effect. I was again impressed with the way he used his two-mic set up (one mic without reverb and one mic with) to give his songs layers of depth and feeling.
And I was right about wanting to see him perform in an intimate venue. The concert-going experience was magnified 10 fold for me. For How To Dress Well’s music, you want to be captivated. You want to focus on the emotion that Tom is purging from his body and hang on very word/note. Being in an intimate venue afforded Tom the ability to interact and really connect with the audience. When introducing songs, I really got the sense that Tom wanted the audience to connect with its meaning, and it’s a lot easier to do so when the audience is captivated rather than tent-hopping at a festival. When I say intimate, I don’t necessarily mean a small club venue. In fact, if could pick another venue for Tom to perform in, I’d love to see him perform at The Orpheum.
I didn’t quite catch the names of all of the new songs (some of them were still untitled) but I did my best to list them below, together with little concert notes that I took.
“Two Years” (?): A song about his father
“The Power” (?)
“What You Wanted” (?): A song about how you feel when you have a desire that you can’t control
“Cold Nites”: After he sang this song, he told that audience that he got shivers while he was singing it stating, “That felt really good”
“If You Were My Girl” (?): A dance song
“No More Death” (?): He asked for the venue to turn the lights down since it was a “really dark song”
“I Don’t Know What’s Best For Me” (?)
“Suicide Dream 1”: A song about a friend
“Childhood Faith in Love” (?): Inspired by “You Can Have The Best Of Me” by the Starting Line
“Repeat Pleasure”: A song about controlling emotions even though you know that “if you do something once, you’ll probably do it again”, Tom suggested that this was perhaps the most “poppy” songs he’s written and that it was going to be a big hit
“Words I Don’t Remember” (?)
“Set It Right”
“Baby” (?): Tom mentioned that in the next part of his life, he wants a baby, but that this song is his fear of the fragility of babies, derived from a fear of wondering if a baby is alive while its sleeping (A cappella)
“Lovers Start” (A cappella)
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If you are visiting Los Angeles, and music is your thing, hitting up a show at the Troubadour (or another iconic performance venue) should be on your list of things to do. If you are a Los Angeles resident, and you haven’t been to the Troubadour … shame on you. I kid … kind of.
With a maximum capacity of 400, the Troubadour has hosted music royalty like Elton John, Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen, Guns N’ Roses, Radiohead, Prince, Nine Inch Nails, and the list goes on. Hell, even John Lennon and Harry Nilsson were kicked out of the club for heckling the Smothers Brothers back in the 70s. Needless to say, the tiny, iconic venue has a lot of history. As soon as I heard that The Robert Glasper Experiment was playing a gig there the Friday before the 2014 Grammy Awards, I immediately purchased a ticket.
Now, I was lucky enough to catch his performance at the Roxy in 2013, so I knew that it was a going to be a show filled with musicianship (and a special guest or two) that couldn’t be missed. That show at the Roxy was amazing, and my only regret was that I didn’t have a camera good enough to take pictures in a low lighted setting. That experience made me invest in a new camera that could.
Armed with a capable camera (you can check out some of my concert pics at my Instagram account [@Methodman13]), I got to the Troubadour with the hopes of staking out some prime real estate for the show, only to be told by the bouncers that I couldn’t’ bring my pocket sized, point and shoot camera into the venue. I could respect the policy for the show as they apparently were filming the evening for Robert’s forthcoming documentary titled “Of Dreams To Come: Robert Glasper” [To learn more about that project, head over to the website www.ofdreamstocome.com for more info]. Of course, the first thing I noticed when I got inside were people who had snuck their cameras into the venue, using the their flash no less. A bit of a bummer, as I literally had front row “seats”; but I learned that if I’m ever asked if I have a camera on my person, I am going to say, “No.” Little white lies never killed anybody, right?
I wasn’t going to let my not being able to bring the camera into the venue put a damper on the evening, and apparently the music gods saw fit to bless me with some great music karma. Let’s see ..
1. For the first time … ever … a group of three taller gentlemen, standing at least 6 feet tall each, offered to move around to give me an unobstructed view of the stage. Yeah, I’m short, and yeah, I totally appreciated that. It was a very cool gesture.
2. As expected, the music was beyond amazing, and special guests like Javier Starks, Algebra Blessett (who sang “Calls”), Wayne Brady (who covered an amazing version of Coldplay’s “Yellow”), Grammy Award winning songwriter PJ Morton (performing a song he co-wrote with Robert called “No Worries”), an amazing vocalist and Grammy nominated artist B. Slade, prolific trumpeter Keyon Harrold, and Malcolm Jamal Warner joining the incomproble Lalah Hathaway to perform a moving and powerful cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Jesus Children of America”, made the evening’s performance that much more memorable.
3. I stood next to a pair of wonderful ladies who grooved with me throughout the set, even nudging my shoulder when songs hit magic moments of musicality, and who Robert poured drinks to from the stage (more to come on them later).
4. As soon as Robert ended his set, I took a chance, called out his name and asked for the small piece of paper that I noticed was resting on one of his keyboards. That small piece of paper was his “partial setlist”, and he gladly gave it to me.
5. My friend Terrace Martin was at the show, and happened to be on stage at the end of Robert’s set after I received the setlist, and I was personally introduced to him.
6. Robert spent time after the set greeting his fans, friends and family, so I waited until the crowd dispersed a bit before I approached him to ask for his signatures on my three Robert Glasper LPs. I started to apologize for interrupting him, when one of the wonderful ladies, who happened to be standing next to Robert at that moment, looked at him and basically vouched for me. THAT was freaking awesome.
If there are forces that control the destiny of musicians and those who love music, they were definitely watching over me that evening. Word can’t describe my glee when it was all said and done, and it’ll take a lot for the other concerts I plan on going to this year to compare. Hopefully, the music gods will be keeping an eye out on me …
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Myron & E are a soul duo based in the Bay Area. They are currently signed to one of my favorite independent labels, Stones Throw, so even though I wasn’t too familiar with their catalog, I was relatively sure I would be pleased with their music.
The Stones Throw website introduces the band as follows: “The vocal duo is something of a rarity. There have been countless solo stars, trios, quartets and quintets, but the pairing of equally talented singers isn’t nearly as common. Sam and Dave, Ashford and Simpson, the Righteous Brothers and the Everly Brothers comprise a short list of standouts. Enter Myron & E.” A tall order to live up to, for sure, but I’m willing to bet that the Stones Throw folk know what they’re co-signing on.
They had the earliest set in the day so the crowd hadn’t reached critical mass yet, but they had their die-hard fans in the trenches, wearing their screen-print Myron & E T-shirts, and they performed with the type of gusto to satisfy their own, and to drawn in new fans. Half way through their set E mentioned it was Myron’s birthday, and the crowd joined in on an impromptu singing of “Happy Birthday”.
It was a solid set to establish the “soul” mood for the rest of the day, though at times I felt that some of the vocal tuning was a bit off, which I could attribute to the blazing midday sun, but it was good enough want me to follow them on Facebook so to keep up with their music and see how their sound develops. You should too.
They are touring domestically and throughout Europe throughout the fall, so check them out when they are in your neck of the woods.
As it was when I saw Beyonce perform, I felt a little out of place. Most of the audience members were young women, but casting any uneasy feelings aside, I held my ground and braced myself for the experience. As an aside, for me, there’s really no more uneasy feeling that going to a concert “blind” without having any knowledge or sense of what was to come.
Beyonce, to put it bluntly, blew my mind. It’s hard for anybody, let alone a sister, to live up to the “Beyonce standard”. When Solanage took to the stage, all I could think about was how Solange personally reconciles the comparisons and expectations. From what I had read, Solange’s music leaned more on mid to late ’60’s soul or eccentric synth-funk than modern hip-hop, pop sensibilities of her older sis.
The crowd warmly greeted Solange to the stage and backed with a full band she commenced her set. Lacking the kind of big-budget, stage production that Beyonce incorporates into her shows, Solange relied on her personality and “vibe” to engage the audience. Her music was mature and smooth, and carried with it a style classy and sophisticated. There were no choreographed dancers, but Solange used the entire stage effectively, addressing the entire audience. When digging deep into emotional songs, close up shots of her face projected on the video screen monitors showed someone crafting her own style and meaning to the music.
I enjoyed her set, and though I can’t visualize her having the type of career or stardom her sister has already achieved, she can, and most likely will, carve out her own path and will be making her brand of music for years to come.
To check out pictures of other bands I was able to catch at the festival, CLICK HERE.
Though he released a highly acclaimed album back in 2010, I didn’t become familiar with Tom Krell’s (p/k/a How To Dress Well) music until earlier this year. While I was reviewing the various acts that were slated to perform at the festival this year, I clicked on the musician’s link from the FYF Festival website and thereafter spent the next hour playing his music. I was hooked, and circled his 5:20pm set time as “must attend”.
I spent the months leading up to the festival buying albums of all of the artists that I was interested in, when I purchased How To Dress Well’s 10” EP “Just Once”. It may be one of the best purchases I’ll have made this year. Limited to 1000 copies, that vinyl is described as a one time-only, orchestral release, part of proceeds from sale of which went to MindFreedom.com to benefit those with mental health issues. It was recorded in the memory of one of Tom Krell’s friends and was simply, amazingly, hauntingly beautiful.
I was able to get up front for his set. While the stage hands were setting up, a DJ was spinning some 90s era music. An Aaliyah song started to play and I noticed Tom offstage singing along. When he took to the stage, he was accompanied by a keyboardist and a violinist. Using the a two-microphone technique, he jumped into his set opening with a new song tentatively titled “For Cyril.” Amazing. And it kept on coming.
His music, with sparse drums and layered, falsetto vocals, set a mellow vibe as haunting as the recordings I had purchased. It may have been a rather dark set for the middle of the day- which Tom acknowledged half way in when he introduced an upbeat song with, “This is a dance song, because it’s too early to be this dark”- but I was loving every minute of it. He further made light of the dark set by also telling the crowd that it was his mom’s birthday. He mixed R. Kelly’s “I Wish” into one of his songs to his audience on their toes. At the end by telling the audience that if there was anything he would want to impart on the audience before he left, it was to be, “Be nice to people.” A simple message amongst complex, stunning music.
His set met my expectations, save but a few technical difficulties, and I will definitely be keeping an eye out for any more intimate club gigs that he may have in Los Angeles in the future.