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.
My guilty pleasure? Wholesome pop-rock that sounds like it could have come from the mid to late 80s. That’s why I decided to check out HAIM’s set at Coachella. Having heard a lot about their music, I’ve been wanting to purchase their debut LP “Days Are Gone” for a while now, only to resist the temptation because it seemed like every time I was at the record store, there were girls half my age hanging out by that section of the record rack.
Early technical difficulties aside, their set exhibited a clean, upbeat rock-pop sound. They also spent a good 5 minutes doing what I believe was an impromptu jam which flexed their chops as musicians that could shred with the best of them. That earned my respect.
I was impressed, and I certainly wouldn’t mind catching them perform in a more intimate venue at some point in the future. I guess I’ll just have to suck up my machismo for now, pick up the album the next time I’m out buying records.
Note:Let Me Go was on the setlist, but wasn’t played due to time constraints
I was already excited to watch Atomic Ape do their thing at El Cid, but when Jason Schimmel messaged me that the band performing after them would blow my mind, my curiosity got piqued. I typically take statements like that with a grain of salt, but knowing how extraordinarily talented a musician Jason is, coming from him, that statement carried with it a lot more weight. A week before the date of the gig, I started my google research.
From allmusic.com: “Tim Young is one of the most creative guitarists out there. Best known for his work with Wayne Horvitz and Zony Mash, he’s been creating a very original style with his mastery of tone and effects and the near-complete absence of clichéd guitar licks. Thruster is his power trio project with bass player Kaveh Rastegar and ubiquitous Seattle drummer Matt Chamberlain […] Guitar fans will surely be impressed, but this is an album worth checking out for anyone interested in good instrumental rock.”
The more research I did, the more the musical dweeb inside of my brain started to squeal. Matt Chamberlain has worked, or toured, with Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, Pearl Jam, Tori Amos, Morrissey, Fiona Apple, David Bowie, Elton John, Peter Gabriel, John Mayer, and the list goes on. Kaveh Rastegar is a founding member of the Grammy nominated new music quintet Kneebody and has worked with, or written for, Cee Lo Green, Bruno Mars, Sam Sparro, Antibalas Afro Beat Orchestra, Joshua Radin, and the list goes on. Timothy Young has performed with, recorded with and/or produced the following artists: Beck, Rufus Wainwright, Belinda Carlisle, Dave Palmer, Fiona Apple, Nikka Costa, Lucy Woodward, Mike Patton, Stan Getz, Sophie B. Hawkins, and, again, the list goes on.
Thruster!’s performance, like their resume, did not dissappoint. Like a well oiled machine, the band performed a set that any lover of rock and roll would have appreciated. Tim’s superb lead guitar playing skills was mesmerizing accompanied by Matt’s succinct rhythms and Kaveh’s steady bass. Jason Schimmel joined them for a song which only added another layer to their already full sound. May favorite jam from their set is at the 5:26 mark of the video below. It’s so hard, dirty and uplifting at the same time, I couldn’t help but make a stink face throughout it.
It seems to me that these guys don’t necessarily get to play together on a regular basis due to their being in high demand for other gigs, so being able to catch their artistry as a collective live was a special treat that I’m glad I got to be a part of.
Unfortunately, the Flickr slideshow below is not currently available on mobile devices. If you are on a mobile device, please click THIS LINK to get redirected to the set of photos.
What do you get when you combine progressive rock, Balkan folk, Klezmer jazz and surf rock? Atomic Ape.
Formerly known as Orange Tulip Conspiracy, the 5 piece band led by Jason Schimmel performed a gig at El Cid on January 31, 2014 to celebrate the release of their latest album, “Swarm”. The intimate venue was packed (capacity 104), and those that were in attendance were treated to a musical barrage of styles and musicianship that is, in my opinion, both unique and unparalleled.
If you’re looking for simple, pop tunes, you should move on. If Atomic Ape’s music is anything, it is definitely not simple. The compositions and arrangements crafted by Jason Schimmel (who has previously played for Estradashere and still occasionally with Secret Chiefs 3) are about as masterfully complex as they come, as evidenced during their live performance with seamless transitions into different rhythms, themes, and styles within any particular composition.
But however complex the music may be, it is all still accessible, as long as you are willing to let the music engulf you. I was consistently amazed with the ways in which the band melded the aforementioned styles to create a sound wholly their own. Not only that, but each player was given time to shine with stand-out moments to demonstrate their individual musical chops. Guitarist Tim Young, who played next with Thruster!, and accordionist Max Wipple, each joined Atomic Ape on stage for a song or two.
Ingenious music like this doesn’t come around very often. If you missed out on their recent tour, I highly suggest picking up a copy of their latest album (which, I may add is superbly produced and mixed) to hold you over until they perform in your neck of the woods.
Unfortunately, the Flickr slideshow below is not currently available on mobile devices. If you are on a mobile device, please click THIS LINK to get redirected to the set of photos.
A tip for any avid concert goer living in Los Angeles: ALWAYS find a concert or two to go to during Grammy Week. During the week immediately preceding the awards ceremony, amazing musical talent from all over the world flocks to Los Angeles to join in the celebration of music, whether to attend the ceremony as a nominee, to perform in the city of angels to showcase their own musical abilities for the throngs of A&R, talent agents, talent managers, critics and fans who happen to be in town to celebrate music with them or to just play gigs with their friends. Continue reading →
I’m extremely grateful that my friends – most of my friends – have good taste in music.
On 3/28/13, a buddy of mine shoots me a text at 11:22am about a show that he’s planning on going to in Hollywood on 3/29/13. He tells me that a friend of his is managing a band based out of Nashville called The Weeks. He described them as “Shit kickin Southern rock” and that the band had recently signed to the Kings of Leons of record label, Serpents and Snakes. My buddy knows I’m a fan of Kings of Leon, so he was basically telling something that would peak my curiosity.
I check out the band’s Facebook page and I am immediately impressed with what I hear. Their latest release, “Gutter Gaunt Gangster” definitely has a Southern Rock feel to it, but it also definitely had catchy hooks and clean production value. It’s only 8 tracks, (with one track only 50 seconds long), so it wasn’t long before I had streamed the album 4 or 5 times in a row. It’s a loud and fun album that feels like a party.
I do a little research online and read that the band hails from Mississippi, and they are, in fact, currently signed to the Kinds of Leon’s record label, but they definitely have a sound distinct from KOL. They remind a little bit of We Were Promised Jetpacks but with a little more funk, and a little bit like Band of Horses but with more edge on the guitars. Mind you, I based this on only the one album I was listening to.
The songwriting is solid. Each member of the band may be in their early twenties, but you probably wouldn’t be able to tell it from the their songs on this album. The album opens with “The House We Grew Up” which seems to be their statement to the world that they’re on a mission with this music thing. The rest of the album seems to follow the general theme, with the band singing about looking for something better and confronting those things that have tried to hold them back.
If you listen to the lyrics on this album, a lot lyrics seems to come from an intense place. They use religious references freely, but it isn’t preachy. Rather, it just adds to the intense emotions they are bringing to the music.Take for example the following lyrics in “Stigmata” which has an uplifting chord progression that seems to contrast with its heavy lyrical content:
“I met the man who raped my childhood/ Oh well, we were never young it’s true/ But when everyone around you keeps dying lord,/ What the hell are we supposed to do. […] I blame the devil, what else could it be/ I blame Jesus, he ain’t answering me/ Don’t call me depressed, don’t call me sad,/ I’m giving up on this life I had”
But I digress. This isn’t supposed to be a review about the album though. Just trust me that it’s really good.
I text my buddy back and let him know that I’m going to make the show. It was a long work week, so I try to figure out a way to get to the venue without driving. I ended up getting a ride from a friend who was heading the same direction, where I spent a greater majority of the ride trying assure the person driving, who also was happening to have a bad week, that things will get better, and that they had to keep pushing through the hard times … kind of fitting, right?
It had been a long, long time since I had been to Three Clubs, and I was surprised that I totally forgot about the portrait of Billy Dee Williams with a Colt45 gracing the end of the bar in the performance area. It was definitely a sign of good things to come. I met up with my friend, and after briefly meeting some of his friends, I made a b-line to the bar to grab some drinks: a shot of Jameson and a Dewars on the rocks.
Shelly Colvin, a singer songwriter, was opening for the band while I ordered my drinks. Her smooth, laid back vocals helped the shot of Jameson go down quite smooth. I sauntered back out to the patio to catch up with my friend.
As I went back in later to get another drink, Shelly was finishing up her set. I got another shot of Jameson and Dewars con rocks and made my way to the front of the stage. As the band took to the stage, they took a minute to adjust the position some of their equipment. It was a really small stage. Shelly sang back up vocals a few songs, and her mic had to be set up off-stage left, and the keys had to be pushed to the far back to make way for the drum kit. The stage may have teeny, but the band worked every square inch of it.
I had only heard the songs from their latest EP, but they seemed to have played their older (and maybe newer?) songs in their set as well. It really didn’t matter that I didn’t know all of the songs in their set though. The band took that little, teeny weeny stage and made it their bitch. Imploring the crowd to move closer to the stage, they fed off the crowd, and themselves, and really kept the set moving with their energy.
The energy in that club was electric and the rising temperature of the room vouches that statement. The music hit hard, fast and frenetic. The Southern rock roots, laced with funk and soul, made the it easy to dance to and the crowd in front of the stage was moving to the rhythms. The live show was groovier than I expected.
It seemed like the set flew by, and that was because everyone was having a good time. By the end, my shirt was sticking to body, drenched in sweat. I made a b-line to the merchandise table to pick up a vinyl copy of the album. I caught the band on the patio cooling down and took a few pictures of the players from the evening. This one was my favorite… Probably because Shelly is a cutie.
I offered to buy a round of drinks and Damien and Shelly accepted. I did a shot of Jameson with Damien and Shelly had glass of champagne. She appreciated the gesture, and kindly gave me a copy of her latest CD: “Up The Hickory Down The Pines”. I say I got the better end of the deal. Another of their fans was getting autographs on a T-Shirt, and after she was done, I borrowed the permanent marker to see if I could get all of their autographs on the LP I had just purchased. In my boozy haze, I think I may have missed a few. LOL. But I did like the fact that one of the guys had “branded” the LP with an “LA 2013”. A rock and roll time-stamp, if you will. Click here if you’d like to see some more of my music treasure.
It turns out that some of the band members wanted to grab a bite to eat, and my buddy suggested a nearby taco truck that was supposed to have some of the best pastor soft tacos. Ended up getting tacos with Alex Collier (keys), Damien Bone (bass) and Sam Williams (guitar). We grubbed it up, and afterwards, headed our separate ways.
The guys were continuing on their tour, and let me know they would be opening for Kings of Leon over the summer in Europe. I wished them the best, and they told me to pick up their upcoming album when it gets released. I assured them that I would.
Here’s their official video for “The house We Grew Up In” from “Gutter GauntGangter”
Here are some video clips from the show that I took.
Earlier this year, a friend of mine posted a video clip on Facebook of a performance by a singer named Jose James. I liked what I heard, and started googling him and his music. When I stumbled upon his amazing cover of Freestyle Fellowship’s “Park Bench People”, I nearly lost my mind. I mean, I grew up with “Innercity Griots”, and I have always preached how that that album is in my top 10 list of best and most influential hip-hop albums of all time. What made that album so groundbreaking was how it pushed the limits of hip-hop (at the time), thematically and musically, especially using live jazz instrumentation, courtesy of members from The Underground Railroad (I even got to meet Onaje Murray– who kills it on Freestyle Fellowship’s version of “Park Bench People” in high school once, but that’s another story). Needless to say, I was feeling what Jose James was doing with his music and the fact that he picked one of my favorite hip-hop songs to cover earned him some mad respect.
While I was watching some of the video clips on Youtube, I noticed that Youtube had a tiny little caption in the video description that showed where he would be performing in Los Angeles next. I clicked through the link trying to see how much the tickets were, but apparently the show had sold out. Apparently, it was a KCRW promoted concert, and to my dismay, they had just featured Jose the day before, and tickets for the show sold out immediately. Slightly disheartened, I simply “liked” Jose’s Facebook page for updates on when he’d be in town in the future.
Facebook. Some people can’t stand it. I can’t live without it. About a week after trying to get tickets, I get a notice on FB that a second show had been added. I logged on and purchased tickets. FYI, the ticket for this second show also sold out. Thank you, Facebook.
It had been a tough couple weeks leading up to the show. Work had been overwhelming, and it seemed that everybody I was working with was heading to South By Southwest to work on various projects. I’ve never been to SXSW, so I was a bit envious. But since everyone was in Austin, TX for the music festival, I got a little reprieve from phone calls and emails to enjoy myself for the evening.
When I got to the venue, I picked up my wristband and got stamped at the door. The performance venue was downstairs in a dark basement with low a ceiling. My guest and I roamed the venue looking for a good place to stand, and we ended up basically where we started off, by the entrance, close to the stage right. The show was scheduled to start at 10pm, but the bouncer at the top of the stairs told me that he started around 11 the night before.
The later it got, the smaller our little space got. People kept filing in, and the temperature of the room started rising. You could feel it. Note to self: bring a small handheld fan for the next show I attend there. The air-conditioning was on (so says the venue), but you couldn’t tell.
Close to 11:00pm, the band the took the stage. One by one, the band members took the stage. Kris Bowers (keyboards), Solomon Dorsey (bass), Takuya Kuroda (trumpet) and Richard Spaven (drums). Each member introduced themselves to the audience through solos, and after a good 10 minutes of jazz instrumentals, Jose joined them on stage to sing “It’s All Over Your Body”, the first track of off his latest album . That song is about 5 and a half minutes long, but they jammed out for at least 10 minutes. It seemed to me that the audience truly understood the musicality of the gentlemen on stage. Each of them was truly skilled at their respective craft.
The room was getting hotter and hotter, and if you came in wearing a jacket or a sweater, you weren’t wearing it anymore. You could feel the the body heat coming off of the person standing next to you. You would think that the temperature would be unbearable, but no. Girls were shouting out Jose’s name with each line he sang, and bodies were swaying to the rhythm. If anything, people were sneakily pushing their way towards the stage, immersing themselves in the sweltering heat. The music was that good. No one wanted too leave their spot (at least where I was standing).
People have compared vocals to D’Angelo and Bill Withers. People say that he evokes the 70’s soul of Gil Scott Heron. As cliched as it sounds, he’s Jose James. His performance showed me that he is his own style … meaning, if you heard his voice on the radio, you’d probably be able to tell that it’s him and not some other singer.
I usually try to take video clips of a handful of songs of the concert I go to, but after the show I realized that I had only taken clips of three songs. It was the kind of show where you didn’t want to watch it from the tiny screen of a cell phone. I was no more than 15 feet from the stage. I was going to soak it all in with my own eyes. Luckily, the three videos that I did take were of some of the highlight I took away from the show.
I had seen Robert Glasper earlier this year, and it just so happened that the music of “Vanguard”, one of my favorite songs off the album, was written by him. Jose wrote the lyrics. Great song.
Jose covered Bill Wither’s “Ain’t No Sunshine”. A great song. A great voice.
It was 1am when Jose closed his set with “Do You Feel”, and people started to leave. It’s almost understandable. Almost. After all, it was a Wednesday, and people have 9-5 jobs. The show was already over 2 hours. I, technically, have a 9-5 job. BUT he hadn’t played “Park Bench People” yet.
After a bit of cajoling from the faithful who moved forward to take up the space from those who couldn’t hang, Jose came on stage and started to sing a cappella a Marvin Gaye medley of “What’s Going On” and “Mercy Mercy Me”. What he did with the medley blew my mind. The voice is an instrument, but what he did with his instrument left me amazed. He became the human record player, scatting lines making it sound like a DJ was spinning records.
“What’s Going On” and “Mercy Mercy Me”, with their strong social commentary, segued brilliantly into “Park Bench People”, a song about the ravages of homelessness. He continued the scat passages of “Park Bench People” like he did with the medley and made those songs … for lack of more poetic words … his bitch. He took a song that I already loved, and left me amazed with his performance. Close to 1:30am, Jose and the band wrapped it up.
I was able to tell Jose before I left that I was amazed by his set, and that there was nothing I appreciated more in the world than good music, but upon retrospect the concert itself was a one of a kind experience. To experience that kind of musicianship, in that venue, with the heat, and skin, and vibe, excitement, and movement … Before I left him and his band alone, I was able to get Jose and Takuya autograph my 12” single of “Park Bench People”.
They say that listening to good music is like having sex. On March 13, 2013, in the crowded, sweltering basement of the Del Monte Speakeasy in Venice Beach, I left a concert drenched in my own sweat (and probably the sweat of others), my feet and legs aching from the physical exertion of standing for over two hours. I was physically and emotionally spent, but absolutely in awe of the performance that I was lucky enough to catch. When I got to my car, I sat there smoking a cigarette just to relax for a moment.
I walked into the bathroom, and some dude with glazed eyes immediately asked me if I wanted mollies on paper. I was about to refuse the offer, but before I could answer, my attention turned to the bathroom stall where someone was purging themselves. I didn’t have to answer, as the dude offering, just left the bathroom. Dubstep shows… Is this how they usually are?
I was invited to check out a live-art exhibition at a dubstep show in Glendale called Quality Control on January 4th. A friend of mine, Mear One, was going to paint on stage while dubstep DJs worked their craft on stage. Mear One is an artistic genius.
The art aside, let’s get back to the music … I’ll be honest with you. I don’t really know, or understand, what dubstep is. I looked it up on Wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dubstep] and they seem to do a pretty good job at breaking down it’s characteristics- albeit most of it went over my head- but I think that Allmusic.com’s description of it better suited my needs and describes it as “tightly coiled productions with overwhelming bass lines and reverberant drum patterns, clipped samples, and occasional vocals.”
This wasn’t my first time going to a dubstep performance. I had spent a few minutes at Coachella in 2012 checking out a dubstep DJ, but I didn’t stay that long, and I can’t even remember who the DJ was. Gaslamp Killer, 12th Planet, SBTRKT and Skrillex all seemed to have pretty a pretty good 2012 (financially), but I never really understand what the “hook” of the music was. Why is/was there an audience for dubstep?
Maybe it’s simply the “new” (even though the music has been around since the late 1990s) style of music. Something for the kids to claim as their own. The thought crossed my mind when I noticed a mosh pit in the center of the audience. It harkened back my memory of the time when Nirvana and grunge came. Grunge was the “new” sound of the times, and people tuned and listened because they hadn’t heard anything like it before. Maybe dubstep is/was that “new” musical trend.
Maybe so, but at least with grunge, the lyrics were 50% of the music. People tuned in, not only enjoy the music, but to also live the lyrics in the music. Grunge, like heavy metal, evoked that kind of intense sentiment that made its listeners mosh. On the other hand, since there really aren’t lyrics in dubstep, the audience moshes because the bass lines “make them”.
I still think that the “sound” of dubstep is exciting. I think that you can easily use that sound in conjunction with real songwriting to write meaningful music. But there still only so many times I can bear someone telling me, “Check out that bass line, bro. Soooo dirty. It’s gonna drop …. Wait for the drop … Here it comes… Uuunnnngh!”
Maybe it’s partially because I’m probably a little older than the typical dubstep crowd. I’m a little too old to pop mollies in the bathroom. I’m not popping ecstasy so that I can “feel” the music. But I still like the sound and I still think that with the right artists, you can transform the underlying dubstep instrumentals into something a little more meaningful. Give the dubstep sound some heart. Give it some meaning. Don’t just leave it as a bass lines and drops.
Some people have called dubstep this generation’s disco. But I think that if dubstep is going to stay relevant, it’s music needs to be written with relevance. I mean, even disco, loathed by many as a passing fancy, has songs to this day that are still relevant, but that’s because those songs, however “cheesy” they may have been, connected with the audience on an emotional level.
Can dubstep can have that kind of longevity? It’s hard to say … but until you give that sound some more soul … some more heart … I think you’ll be hard pressed to see a person 30 years from now saying, “Oh, I love this song with it’s wub-wub-wub, and bass drop”….