The Weeks | The Satellite | 2/21/14

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The last, and first, time I got to hang out with the fellas from The Weeks, I got drunk, rocked my face off and got late night taco-truck tacos with some of them after the gig. This time, I decided to take a more professional approach.

I had asked for permission to take some pictures during their sound check and show using a DSLR camera a buddy loaned me, and the day before the scheduled event, Alex “Admiral” Collier (the keyboardist), texted me letting me know that I was good to go. Making the hour and a half long drive in traffic, I thought that I had arrived too late for sound check, but luckily the band was still setting up. Upon retrospect, I’m glad that the band let me come early to snap some pics because the lighting during the show was extremely low. Even with a decent camera, you still need light.

A couple of the fellas seemed to have remembered me from their last L.A. gig, and that was a pleasant surprise. What was even more of a surprise was that they let me hang out with them and their friends after the sound check, before the show. Admiral got me an “all-access” sticker, presumably left over from their international touring dates with the Kings of Leon, and I slapped it on my chest with pride.

The guys treated me like one of the crew and it revealed to me how down to earth and gracious they were. They included me in their group conversations, lit my cigarettes and had me laughing with some of their observations about California living. While waiting in line for tacos at the taco-truck parked outside with Dee Bone (the bassist), I found out that my after-show taco excursion with them the last time out was not an anomaly, since Dee Bone truly loves tacos and gets them whenever he has the chance. I found out that Admiral’s hand was in a cast because of a car accident he was in (not his fault), and only recently joined the band on tour as he was recouperating. I wished Uel-Dee (the guitarist) a happy birthday as he autographed my vinyl copy of “Dear Bo Jackson” (their latest album) and I found out that Shelly Colvin was getting into town to perform with the band coming from a gig she had in San Diego the night before, making me giddy with the possibility that she’d perform her duet with the Weeks titled “Bad Enough”, which is one of my favorite cuts from the album.

By the time the band got on stage for their set, I was glad that I had staked out, and stood in, my spot up front. The packed crowd was tipsy with eager anticipation for the southern rockers to take the stage. A  girl, and her friend, squeezed in next to me, as she professed her love of the band’s music to me with her alcohol tinged, warm breath watering my eyes. The couple right behind me told me that they had travelled from Ohio to catch the band play in Los Angeles.

Most of their set came from “Dear Bo Jackson”, but they did include songs from their critically lauded album “Gutter Gaunt Gangster” and “Rumspringa”.

  1. Lawman’s Daughter
  2. King-Sized Death Bed
  3. The House We Grew Up In
  4. Gobi Blues
  5. Brother In The Night
  6. Bad Enough
  7. Slave To The South
  8. Ain’t My Stop
  9. Chickahominy
  10. Wo Is I
  11. White Ash
  12. Steamboat

The music rocked big and loud, with everyone in attendance throwing up their hands and dancing in what space they could find. The vocal mix could have been a little louder, at least from where I was standing, but it really didn’t matter all too much since the concert-goers around me seemed to know all the lyrics to the songs anyways, singing along when they could. Funky, steady and thumping, once again, like that night at the The Three Clubs, I was particularly impressed with Dee Bone’s bass playing. Equally impressive was Admiral’s playing on the keys with essentially one hand. His work on “Slave To The South” sounded superb.

After the set, I snagged a setlist from the stage, and shmoozed a bit with some of my friends that had attended the show. On my way out, I had the band members, and Shelly, sign the setlist. I had a long drive ahead of me, so I stepped outside to take off when I noticed that the taco-truck was still parked out front. I wasn’t drunk, so I wasn’t in the mood to eat, but I decided to buy an assorted plate of tacos for Dee Bone. When it was presented to him, his eyes widened with joy.

So I didn’t get taco’s with the band after show, but my parting words to them was, “Next time.” And I certainly hope there will be a next time sooner rather than later. The taco-trucks are waiting.

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Biffy Clyro | El Rey Theatre | 2/14/14

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What band in Europe is big enough to headline over Nine Inch Nails at the  world’s oldest music festival in 2013? Biffy Clyro. Never heard of them? Well, you should.

Formed back in 1995 in Kilmarnock, Scotland, Biffy Clyro has released 6 albums, and sold over 1.1 millions copies of their albums in the United Kingdom. Back in the United Kingdrom, they sell out venues as large as the Staples Center which seats 20,000. On Valentine’s day, they played a venue with a capacity of 771; but they rocked it like it was an arena show.

Waiting for the band to take the stage, I noticed a couple standing in front of me wearing home made shirts that had the words “MON THE BIFFY” emblazoned on the back. I asked them about the shirts, and as soon as they started explaining the meaning of the phrase (a popular saying originated by fans which essentially is short for “C’mon Biffy Clyro”), I noticed their thick European accents.

As it turns out, they were loyal fans from Scotland who decided to follow the band to the states to catch their gigs. They are engaged to get married, and as it turns out they actually met at a Biffy Clyro show. I told them that this was my first time I watching the band perform live, and they assured me that it would not disappoint. They were right.

When the lights of the venue dimmed, and Sister Sledge’s song “We Are Family” (a song that the band plays before every live show) pumped through the house speakers, the audience erupted in cheers. The band took the stage, and immediately exploded into their set with such a fierce energy that it was quite exhilarating to watch. It was almost as if they were playing to prove to those in attendance that they were a band that needed to be noticed. And I noticed.

The band consists of  five players (with Simon Neil on lead vocals and guitar, James Johnston on bass and vocals, and Ben Johnston on drums in the forefront,  and Mike Vennart on additional guitar and Richard Ingram on keyboard in the shadows), and their sound was full, lush and expertly played. Both Simon and James demonstrated their masterful showmanship using the entire stage, and engaging all parts of the audience throughout the set. These guys know how to put on a live show and their repertoire was filled with raucous, pop-friendly, crowd pleasing anthems. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are performing in venues bigger than the El Rey the next time they visit Los Angeles. Not at all.

I would say that the highlight(s) of the evening was when the audience, who were all much better versed in the band’s music than I, sang along and Neil let the crowd do the singing. Being in the audience, engulfed in the sound of voices all around singing (rather well I may add) music unfamiliar to me, sent shivers down my spine. I hope that the next time I see the band perform live, I’ll be singing along with them.

  1. Different People
  2. That Golden Rule
  3. Who’s Got a Match?
  4. Sounds Like Balloons
  5. Biblical
  6. God & Satan
  7. Glitter and Trauma
  8. Bubbles
  9.  Spanish Radio
  10. Folding Stars
  11. Living Is a Problem Because Everything Dies
  12. 57
  13. Many of Horror
  14. Modern Magic Formula
  15. Black Chandelier
  16. Woo Woo
  17. The Captain

Encore:

  1. Opposite
  2. Stingin’ Belle
  3. Mountains

Unfortunately, the Flickr slideshow below is not currently available on mobile devices. If you are on a mobile device, please click THIS LINKto get redirected to the set of photos.

Morning Parade | El Rey Theatre | 2/14/14

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Opening for Biffy Clyro at the El Rey was Morning Parade, a five-piece, alternative rock band from Harlow, Essex. I hadn’t heard of the band before, so my opinion of them is based solely on their performance that evening.

They were good. But for a band from overseas trying to leave its mark on a new audience in the States, is “good” good enough?

Don’t get me wrong, their music wasn’t bad. In fact, all of their songs seemed very radio friendly. The problem for me, though, was that no one song particularly stood out. I always keep an open mind when listening to a band for the first time. I want to hear new music that I can’t stop thinking about. In my opening, the music was good; it just wasn’t memorable.

And their performance wasn’t bad. Clearly, the band is a well-oiled machine and the songs were played with the type of expertise you’d expect a seasoned band to play with. It is a definitely a big, clean sound that has potential. The lead vocalist’s did an admirable job, and his voice was solid. During the set, I thought to myself that his voice was a bit of a mix of Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab For Cutie), John Rzeznik (of Goo Goo Dolls) and Tom Chaplin (of Keane).

But therein lies the problem. I shouldn’t have been thinking about who the lead singer sounded like. I should have been engrossed in his performance, and/or the music, and unfortunately, I was neither. Truth be told, I was more entertained by the bass player’s energy than the voice of the group.

Maybe I was expecting too much considering that they were opening for a band that is known to have an epic live show. Perhaps, since they are a relatively new band, they just didn’t have the repertoire to pull from, having only release one full length album, and a couple of EPs. I’ll admit that it was, altogether, a good set. But if you’re trying to make new fans, especially of people who aren’t familiar with the music, is “good” good enough?

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.

Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band |Burton W. Chace Park | August 17, 2013

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I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, if you haven’t been taking advantage of the free summer concerts available in your neck of the woods, you’re probably missing out. On August 17, 2013, I had the chance to see Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band, play a one and half hour concert at Burton W. Chace Park in Marina del Rey, and it was glorious. I would have gladly paid money to see Poncho Sanchez perform, but I’m not complaining one bit that I got to see this living, jazz legend play for free.

The line to park my car was long, and after waiting almost 20 minutes to park, I almost had to pull out from the front of the line to get change  as the parking lot attendant wasn’t willing to break the cash I had. Thankfully, a kind gentleman behind me spotted me $5 (parking was $10) so that I didn’t have to wait in line again.  Thank you, sir. I hope you contact me so that I can return the favor.

The best seats in the house. Obviously, not for me ... lol
The best seats in the house. Obviously, not for me … lol. If you can’t read the text, click on the picture to enlarge the picture.

With my new friends, I walked to concert area. With the stage situated at the edge of the jetty overlooking the great Marina Del Rey harbor views, latin jazz fans got there early to lay their blankets out to stake their territory. With the weather as pleasant as weather could be on a summer eve next to the water, it was a wonderfully sublime atmosphere for an evening of mind-blowing entertainment.

On his website, Poncho Sanchez has stated the following:

Latin jazz is the world’s greatest music,” says Sanchez. “It has the melodic and harmonic sophistication of jazz and American standards, and the flavor and energy of Latin American music. What I’m most proud of is that this music – while it may sound exotic at times – is from America. It was born in New York City, when Chano Pozo met Dizzy Gillespie for the first time in the mid-1940s. They created something that didn’t exist before in this country. I’m very proud to take this music all over the world all the time.”

And with that in mind, Poncho had a set that payed tribute to a number of the great jazz legends before him, performing his renditions of classic jazz standards and dedicating songs to those who came before him. He performed a song as a tribute to Willie Bobo. He performed a “Night In Tunisia” as a tribute to Dizzy Gillespie. He dedicated a song to John Coltrane who, to the excitement of the crowd, he indicated would be subject of his forthcoming album. Amazing music. Amazing sound. A jazz legend and his band playing music till the sun set in the ocean.

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The later the concert went, the more and more people got up from their picnic dinners to dance.  It was hard to not bump into people trying to dance to the rhythm, some more successfully than others … lol, but the energy was there. Poncho encouraged the crowd to get up and dance, and more people followed suit. I felt the beat in my feet too, and I only wish that I had someone to dance with. Maybe next time.

Tijuana Tears | The Virgil | July 24, 2013

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The first time I heard Tijuana Tears play, it was at a ridiculously awesome house party at Frank Sinatra’s old mansion (Toddchella). What I remember most from their set that night was that their original songs were solid. For any recording artist, it’s the songs that matter most. Style and talent can get you far, but if the material you’re performing isn’t any good … well … then you’re career is going to be pretty short. These guys had some original songs that I really got into. If I’ve never heard the song before, and I’m singing the hook half way through “Phantasmic Consciousness”, I’m pretty sure that song is a keeper.

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I finally got a chance to see them again live at a venue in Silver Lake called The Virgil. By the time I walked into the venue, I noticed a small group already crowded around the merchandise table to buy the band’s newest screen-print t-shirt. The band before them was still playing and I walked around the venue to check out the digs. I bumped into a couple of the guys in the band, and they genuinely thanked me for coming out to see them play. Very appreciative. Very humble. Reza noticed the music pins on lapel of my concert backpack, and ran over to the merchandise booth to grab me one. Although I had only hung out with them once before, their kindness went a long way to make me feel like family.

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The guys took to the small stage and started their set off with a new song that I hadn’t heard before, and continued to rock through songs from the 5 song EP they released in 2012, which you can download from their bandcamp site by naming your own price: http://tijuanatears.bandcamp.com/album/phantasmic-consciousness.

They played all of the songs that I remember them playing from that raucous evening months ago, and I still enjoyed each song, and the way they performed, as much I did then. This time sober. They filled the room with an infectious energy, and while looking around between songs, all I could was smiles. And if the audience wasn’t smiling, they were singing along. After the set, Matt M. (the guitarist) shot me a text with the set list. The first song of their set was, at the time, untitled, but after checking out some other clips online, it seems they’ve titled it “The Narrows”. The setlist texted is below:

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They have a gig coming up at The Satellite Monday, August 12th 2013. If you happen to be in Los Angeles that evening, and you like what you see/hear in the video link below, I highly recommend that you see these guys play. If you’re busy that night, you should go ahead and check out their website (http://www.tijuanatears.com) to find the links to follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Soundcloud and catch them at a small venue before they’re playing bigger ones.

Alabama Shakes | Hollywood Palladium | July 17th, 2013

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What is it with me and female fronted bands these day? It seems that I just can’t seem to get enough of them. On July 17th, 2013, I went to the Hollywood Palladium to check out the Athens, Alabama-based quartet Alabama Shakes. I can’t pinpoint the time I first heard their music, but I remember that the song I first heard was “Hold On”. It was a Southern rock/blues tune that sounded modern enough for today’s radio, but also seemed rooted in classic 60-70s soul as well. But stylistic impressions aside, it was the lead singer’s voice that pierced through the music and into my psyche. I bought their debut album, “Boys & Girls” sometime August or September 2012 (I remember this because I bought their album the same time I bought The Heavy’s “The Glorious Dead” which came out around then).

I pressed play on “Boys & Girls”  in my car, it kept playing the rest of the day while I drove around town running my errands. For a debut album, I was smitten with their sound, and definitely one of the better albums I had bought in 2012. After watching Brittany Howard perform a tribute to Levon Helm with with an all-start cast (including Elton John, Mavis Staples, Zac Brown, Mumford & Sons, etc), and Ms. Howard showing EVERYBODY up,  Alabama Shakes quickly became a band that I put down on my list as “must see live”. Fast forward to 3:30 of the video below to see what I’m talking about. 

IMG_2194I met up with some friends,and after giving each of them their ticket, we head inside inside the venue. While my friends got some drinks, I walked over to the merchandise booth to purchase a special poster that band had printed for their two gigs at the Palladium.  A limited edition, signed by the artist, and numbered (167/200) poster that’s going to find a nice spot somewhere in my crib once it’s been properly framed. It’s probably one of the cooler posters I’ve purchased this year.

We had just missed the first of the two opening bands perform and we floated about in the venue to find decent spot to watch the next band, Fly Golden Eagle, take the stage.  As my friends and I were meandering the GA area to find a spot to stand, I noticed someone very familiar looking around for a place to watch as well. Holy, shnykies. It was Brittany Howard. I’m a total photo slut when it comes to snapping pictures with musicians I’m into, and having done this on several occasions before, my body seem to go in to autopilot.

DSC02045As I handed my camera off to a friend, I whispered to Brittany that I was huge fan, and whether I could snap a quick picture. She looked hesitant, and I assured her that I would keep it on the “down-low”. My friend snapped the picture, and the flash went off. So much for on the “down-low”. I could tell that Ms. Howard reluctantly took the picture (I think her biting her lip kind of tips it off), so I apologized, thanked her and told her to “break a leg” … but I still got a picture! Woohoo! It also goes to show how awesome Brittany Howard is for wanting to support her fellow musicians by actually hanging out in the General Admittance area to watch the other bands play just like all of the other concert-goers in attendance.

Having blown her cover, Ms. Howard and her friend scurried away to blend back into the crowd. Fly Golden Eagle started playing and I think most everybody else was focused on the stage. I didn’t notice others swarming around her for photos, so I think that I kept it on the “down-low” as much as I could.

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Fly Golden Eagles set was solid. A band based out of Nashville, their music seems to touch upon classic-rock and psychedelic vibes.  The lead singer’s vocal delivery had a friend of mine comment that he had a Dylan-ish sound (translation: sounded kinda like Bob Dylan).  I agreed. I liked the band, and I’ve checkout some of their older music and they are a solid “add” on facebook. 

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The only part of the show that I could have done without was the wait between sets. Wanting to get up as close as I could to see the Alabama Shakes do their thing, I thought that I’d be able to float closer up front after Fly Golden Eagle closed their set. Nothing doing. It appeared that everybody wanted to be up close to the Shakes, and people were guarding their space, not moving a square inch, for the 40 minutes between sets. C’est la vie. If you are a fan, and you want to see YOUR band up close and personal, you’ll stay in the same spot for as long as it takes. Kudos to those staked their territory.

The Alabama Shakes took to the stage, and amazed. Their set list was as follows:

  1. Rise
  2. Hang Loose
  3. Hold On
  4. Always Alright
  5. I Found You
  6. Heartbreaker
  7. Boys & Girls
  8. Be Mine
  9. I Ain’t The Same
  10. Worryin Blues
  11. Mama
  12. Itch
  13. On Your Way
  14. Gimme All Your Love
  15. You Ain’t Alone

Encore

  1. Gospel
  2. Heat Lightnin’
  3. Heavy Chevy

The band is a well-oiled machine, and can jam with the best of them, but this band is Howard’s. At 24 years old, her voice is way more mature than her years, with every word sung from her mouth coming from something deep inside her soul. I don’t know about her past, but it certainly felt like she was singing from place of entrenched memories, whether painful, angry or joyful. Her performance is one that makes concert goers feel like they are there in the here and now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the venue lost money on drinks during their set because you would have been a fool to stop watching.

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Sometime during the set she bantered with the audience for a minute and concluded by stating, “You got to give a little to get a little.” Brittany and the band gave us their souls, and we gave them our fan loyalty. I think that’s a fair trade.