Every Memorial Day weekend for the past 28 years, UCLA has hosted a music festival called the JazzReggae Festival. Originally, the first day was devoted to Jazz and the second day was devoted Reggae. Though the first day has morphed to a “Jam” day, the festival has always been able to pull in outstanding talent for the price of admission. If you are ever in Los Angeles during the Memorial Day weekend, and looking to enjoy a music festival at an extremely reasonable price, I suggest that you check out the lineup to see if any artists you like are on the bill.
Armed with a photo pass for the event, I was able to take pictures of the artists listed below. Click on the link to check them out!
I was a fan of Aloe Blacc before he was … Aloe Blacc. Being a fan of the underground, L.A., hip-hop scene back in the mid 90s, I was listening to Aloe Blacc’s music before he broke-out, commerically, with “I Need A Dollar” in 2010.
I saw Aloe Blacc first perform at The Beach Ball Festival: Soul Revue September of 2013. As much as I liked his hip-hop leaning music from back in the day, I absolutely love his soulful leaning music that he’s focusing on today, so not hearing his jams like “Blind World” or “Close To Me” was something I could easily accept … although, I wouldn’t mind him sprinkling in a song or two in future sets.
Dressed in a classy fitted suit, topped with a sharp fedora, he took the sun drenched stage and dazzled the audience with his bright personality and hit singles. From “I Need A Dollar” to “Wake Me Up” to “The Man”, the audience was treated to songs that have been permeating the radio airwaves for the past several years. He even performed a slowed-down cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” that really had the audience eating out of his hands.
I wasn’t able to find a set lit of the of the songs that Aloe Blacc performed at UCLA’s Jazz Reggae Fest, so if you happen to know which songs were performed, please leave them in the comments below and I will add them to this post.
The Internet is a neo-soul band consisting of Odd Future members Syd the Kyd and Matt Martians as well as Tay Walker, Patrick Paige and Christopher A. Smith. They debuted in 2011, and released their debut album, “Purple Naked Ladies” that same year. They released their sophomore album, “Feel Good” in 2013, and have been touring in support of it since its release. When I found out they were performing at UCLA Jazz Reggae Festival, I knew I had to make it in time to see their afternoon set.
The Internet’s performance at Jazz Reggae Fest was, in truth, my first real introduction to the band. Sure, I was familiar with some of the Odd Future music by Tyler, The Creator, Frank Ocean and Earl Sweatshirt’s music, but I really didn’t know too much about The Internet other than the video clips I was able to find on Youtube. Watching them live, I was impressed with what I saw and heard.
Their take on late ’90s neo-soul/R&B was something that really hit the spot for me. Syd and the band played a set that really was perfect for the mid-afternoon. Syd’s smooth and understated voice and the band’s clean groove, together with their improvisational playing and singing abilities really demonstrated to me how capable they were as musicians and how smart they were as performers.
The catalog of music is relatively small having only released two albums, but they covered one of my favorite GAP band songs (“Outstanding”) and I was especially impressed with their cover of Jamiroquai’s “We’re Too Young To Die” (one of my favorited cuts off of “Emergency on Planet Earth”, an album that really pushed the boundaries of British funk/acid jazz to new limits). That cover alone would have been enough to convert me as a fan. It’s an extremely tough song to sing. A clip of that performance is in the video below. Maybe it will make you a fan as well.
I couldn’t find the band’s setlist online, so if you were there and know what songs they performed, let me know in the comments below and I’ll add it to the post.
I’m a fan of Tom Krell’s music. Performing under the stage name “How To Dress Well”, his music has always has always resonated a sadness or longing in me. Whether its his airy falsetto, or the generally dark lyrical topics of his compositions, his music always makes me want to lay on a coach and contemplate life, love, at other personal topics.
When I saw him perform at The Roxy earlier this year, Tom performed “Repeat Pleasure” and noted it was a song about controlling emotions even though you know that “if you do something once, you’ll probably do it again”. He also noted that it was perhaps the most “poppy” songs he had had ever written.
That being said, I suppose one would have expected a music video with an airier, light hearted mood, but I think if that had been done, it would have been so out of character for Tom, his fans, myself included, would have said, “Huh?”
Tom’s music video for “Repeat Pleasure”, which is apparently part 1 of the “What Is This Heart?” (the name of his forthcoming album) trilogy, will pull on your heartstrings. It seems to tell the story of a young man who’s grandfather is gravely ill, and his efforts to take him somewhere familiar before passing. The video is appropriately “How To Dress Well”, and I fully appreciate Tom’s creative vision for his music.
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)
Unfortunately, the Flickr slideshow below is not available on mobile devices. If you are on a mobile device, please click THIS LINK to get redirected to the set of photos. If the slide show below isn’t working, then Flickr has disabled their embed option for WordPress and hasn’t yet updated their HTML code, which totally BLOWS! If you can see the slide show below, hooray!
Lee Fields has been doing his thing for over 40 years, but I only got really familiar with his music this year. A work associate was selling some LPs in his collection, and while I was looking through his rack, he pulled out Lee Fields LP “Problems”. He assured me that it was an excellent listen, and I trusted him. I’m so glad I did.
When I played “Problems” on my record player, I was immediately immersed in some deep, soulful funk that I was embarrassed to realize I was unfamiliar with. “Problems” was released in 2002, and I realized that I was over 10 years late to the party … but as they say, “better late than never”.
I found out later that he was scheduled to perform at the Troubadour in support of his most recent album “Faithful Man”, but was saddened to discover that the show had sold out. I didn’t see any tickets for sale on second hand ticket brokers websites, so I can only assume that those who were lucky enough to snag tickets, were keeping them for themselves. My extreme loss. Thankfully, for my sake, he was scheduled to perform at the Beach Ball Festival.
Critics compare Lee Fields to artists like Wilson Pickett and James Brown, but those critics should really just focus on what Lee Fields brings to the current music scene. Perhaps, if Lee’s latest albums were released back in the hey day of soul music (i.e. the 60’s), he may have been talked about in the same breath with the soul stars of that time. But, they weren’t. Rather, the albums are part of the current music scene, and they are diamonds in the rough. Current artists, and popular music, don’t make albums like Lee Fields. There are only a handful of artists today (Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley, to name a few) that provide modern day music fans with the kind of throwback soul that existed back in soul’s hey day. That kind of music is unique in today’s musical landscape, and should be judged on their own merits. Just my thoughts …
Lee Fields brought his brand of retro-soul to the stage, and knocked the audience out. Dressed in his bright red, yellow and blue, plaid blazer, he brought an infectious energy to the stage that the crowd couldn’t help but feel. Interacting with the crowd, strutting and dancing back and forth across the stage, swooning and belting the lyrics to his music, his performance was the embodiment of soul music, and he had me smiling dimple to dimple throughout the whole set.
After his performance, I head back to the back stage area with the hopes of meeting Mr. Fields. Some people may think that I take my music too seriously, but I felt compelled to bring along my copy of the “Problems” LP in case I was lucky enough to meet him to get it signed. The soul stars must have been lined up, because as soon as I made my way back, Mr. Fields was snapping some pictures with a photographer for the event. I got him to sign my LP and snap a picture, told him how much I enjoyed the show and wished him the best for the rest of the tour.
Mr Fields, terrific set. The pleasure was all mine.