Rival Sons | The Observatory | 9/19/14 [Photos]

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in a club with a friend and we were talking about bad ass bands, and the name Rival Sons came up. I had never heard of the band previously, so I had I a lot of questions. Where are they from? What kind of music do they play? How many albums have they released? The only I answer I got?

 

“Dude. Just check them out. They will blow your mind.”

 

Considering that my friend plays in a bad ass band as well, I didn’t take the blunt statement of approval lightly. I surfed the web the following day and started doing some “research”. My friend was right. My mind was blown.

 

I really got into rock and roll when I purchased my first Led Zeppilin album, “House of the Holy”. I must have played that CD a hundred times during my four years of college. It shaped the way I listen to music, and has since shaped my sensibilities. Needless to say, I’m a pretty big fan of classic rock.

 

Rival Sons are classic rock revivalists, and they are, quite simply, bad ass. They’ve been releasing records since 2009 with 4 studio albums under their belt, and I’ve been kicking myself in the ass for not having heard of them until recently. The fact that they are based out of Long Beach, California and I hadn’t heard of them until now? Yes … shame on me.

 

I wanted to see them at The Troubadour, but that show had sold out. Though I hardly ever travel outside my comfort zone (Los Angeles) to see bands play, they were embarking on a world tour that’ll basically run through till the end of the year, and I knew that I couldn’t wait until next year to see them perform live. So I sucked up the prospect of an hour long commute, and made my way to a new venue in a foreign territory: The Observatory in Orange County.

 

Thankfully, I had company for the trek, but when I got to the Observatory, I found it to be quite a terrific venue. It was set up so that there was a pretty decent view from anywhere in the audience (unless you had an extremely tall patron in front of you). It wasn’t overpacked and the crowd, at least for this show, was extremely friendly. Enough with the venue … let’s get to the music.

 

In my opinion, they’ve got everything a killer band needs. A charismatic frontman with killer pipes? Jay Buchanan has it in spades. A bad ass guitar player? Scott Holiday and his Dali-esque mustache looked and played as badass as it gets. Dave Beste (bass) and Mike Miley (drums) complete the music puzzle capturing a huge, guitar-driven classic rock sound that many try to copy, but fail to achieve. These guys nail it.

 

These guys nail it, but they aren’t imitators. They take the music that’s influenced them, and create a fresh, rocking sound that, though revivalist, is current and edgy. God damn, it was good. I guess I’ll have to wait until next year to catch them live again. It’s a good thing I’m a patient man. I just hope that the LPs I purchased don’t get worn out before they get back into town.

Rival Sons | Observatory | Setlist

Illumination Road | Hotel Cafe | 8/29/14 [Photos]

I love the Hotel Cafe. It’s a classy and intimate performance venue that has a great sound system and they always seem to find great local (and touring) talent to perform on their small stage.

 

I was excited when I heard that Illumination Road was playing there (full disclosure, I know a couple of the guys in the band), but truth be told I was actually more excited to test out a new 50mm lens with a low aperture that I recently purchased.

 

The band was great. Their set was more mellow than the last time I saw them at the Troubadour. By incorporating an upright bass and keys, their sound was definitely a bit more subdued, but they still rocked it out and performed with the same rock and roll intensity that I remembered from earlier this year. I was particularly impressed with their cover of Radiohead’s “Subterranean Homesick Alien”, which you can check out a clip of below. So killer.

 

 

Because the Hotel Cafe is generally really, really, really dimly lit, I was actually pretty pleased with how my photos came out. I think I’ll need to save some money on a better camera body (something that can take non-noisey, high ISO shot better than my T2i), but I think that these, for the time being, will suffice.

Illumination Road | The Troubadour | 2/17/14

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Last June, I went to go see Illumination Road at The Roxy; a band that writes and performs music with a distinctly classic rock edge. Now, I don’t usually go out on Mondays, but when I heard that they were scheduled to open for another band at The Troubadour, I had to suck it up and check them out. I’m glad I did.

I got to the venue early, and having not eaten anything for dinner, decided to grab a bite from the grill behind the bar. I ordered a grilled cheese and fries, and sat on a stool at the bar closest to the grill while waiting. While waiting, I noticed two things: (i) There was a female-fronted rock band on stage, and (ii) I was sitting next to Darren Criss. I’m not going to deny it, I’ve watched, and enjoyed, his covers of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream”, so I told him that I liked his work, and asked him who he was there to see. It turned out that he was at The Troubadour to support his girlfriend’s band Mad Moon Riot, who happened to be playing at that moment.

“Cool,” I said, and I let him be. I ordered a beer, and started to eat my grilled cheese when a buddy of mine arrived. He had brought his camera to take pictures of Illumination Road as well, so I asked him to sneak a picture of me eating my grilled cheese with Darren in the background. I tried to slyly make the picture funny, but it wasn’t. In fact, it was terrible. By the time I had finished my grilled cheese and beer, Mad Moon Riot had finished their set, and I made my way to the front of the stage to snap some pics.

When Illumination Road started their set, it was loud, glorious and hard-rocking. I enjoyed their show at The Roxy, but there was something this time around that was particularly more impressive. Whether they were inspired by the history of the venue, or whether they had just had more time to polish their live performance since the last time I saw them, it was an inspired set that I’m sure gained them some new fans. Chris Ayden, the lead singer, had a certain swagger and a commanding stage presence that night, that, truth be told, pleasantly surprised me.

If you’re looking for a new band reinvigorating the “classic rock” genre/sound, I suggest that you “like” them on Facebook and catch them live when they’re 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.