Nikki Lane | KCRW’s “Country In The City” | 8/2/14 [PHOTOS & REVIEW]

CLICK HERE To Check Out The Blog Entries Of The Other Acts Performing At KCRW’s “Country In the City” Concert Series

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Opening for Wynonna Judd at the third, and final, concert of the County In The City concert series, inspired by The Annenberg Space for Photography’s newest exhibit,Country: Portraits of an American Sound,” was Nikki Lane.

Originally from Greenville, South Carolina, Nikki spent part of life in Los Angeles working in the fashion industry before heading out to New York City. In the city that never sleeps, she went through heartbreak that inspired her to write some music about her emotional roller coaster. Thank god for break-ups, otherwise Nikki would never have been on the stage performing in front of an enthusiastic Los Angeles crowd.

Accompanied to the stage with her band and her mother, Nikki started into her set with a series of songs about her failed marriage. You could tell that the music was her therapy. She gave brief explanations, and regrets, about the first several songs.

“I should have followed the lyrics to the song. Sorry, mom,” she said with a smirk as she look stage left to acknowledge her mother.

Her music was country music for the modern audience. Since relocating to Nashville, her latest album, “All or Nothin'” was produced by The Black Key’s Dan Auerbach, and you can tell that Dan’s musical influence had rubbed off on her. The tunes were as country as county comes, but also had a little something extra from other genres to make a finicky music lover’s ears perk up with interest.

Before parting the stage, she thanked the audience and KCRW for inviting her to perform, acknowledging that this was the largest audience she’s ever played for. She definitely picked up a few fans from her performance, myself included.

I had the good fortune of meeting Nikki as she was selling her goods at the merchandise table. I purchased a couple of her LPs at the concert, and had her sign my copies. If she keeps on making good music, I’m willing to bet that won’t be selling her own merchandise for long.

Nikki Lane – Band Members

  • Nikki Lane: Acoustic Guitar and Lead Vocal
  • Ben Eyestone: Drums
  • Eric Whitman: Bass Guitar
  • Alex Munoz: Electric Guitar
  • Matt Stoessel: Pedal Steel

Set List:

  1. Good Man
  2. I Want My Heart Back
  3. Man Up
  4. You Can’t Talk To Me Like That
  5. Seein’ Double
  6. Faded
  7. 700,000 Red Necks
  8. Gone, Gone, Gone
  9. All or Nothin’
  10. Right Time

CLICK HERE To Check Out The Blog Entries Of The Other Acts Performing At KCRW’s “Country In the City” Concert Series

Valerie June | Wiltern Theater | 3/25/14

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One of my favorite albums of 2013 was Valerie June’s “Pushin’ Against A Stone”. Produced by Kevin Agunas and Dan Auerbach (the Black Keys), it was album that caught my ear with its seamless mix of roots, blues and folk sung by a voice that seemed to have decades of earnest life lessons behind it.

Valerie June’s voice is unique. It’s a voice that you can’t confuse with another singer’s voice. She is … for lack of a better comparison … what Erykah Badu is to neo-soul/hip hop music. A voice so raw and sincere, singing music so traditional yet new, I found it hard not to fall in love with it upon my first listen, and have been telling my friends since that hers is a voice that will likely stand the test of time.

It was a week after I purchased tickets to see Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings when I found out that Valerie June was added to open the show … and I was ecstatic. At first, it seemed like an unlikely pairing, but upon retrospect, because both artists’ music styles are essentially modern-day approaches to “classic” styles of music, I figured the promoters knew what they were doing assuming that their audiences would be more knowledgeable and appreciative because of the historical slant to the music.

Valerie’s set was short but sweet. Clocking in at just over 30 minutes, it was charming mix of acoustic and band-backed versions of her songs, mostly coming from her latest release. After it was all said and done, I found myself wanting more. Not only that, but I decided then and there that if she would ever perform in a more intimate venue like the Bootleg Theatre, I would be the first person in line.

As an aside, while waiting in line to get into the venue, I noticed a woman with flowing dreadlocks and large sunglasses walk by me. It was Valerie June and I quickly asked the couple behind me to hold my spot as I caught up to her and asked her to autograph the LP I had packed in m bag. I assured her that I wouldn’t draw any more attention, and as we walked around the corner (she was heading to the artist entrance to get ready for her set), I pulled out the LP and professed my adoration of her “Pushin’ Against A Stone”. Her gorgeous smile made my day.

I also asked about her father, mentioning that my own father had heart surgery several weeks ago as well. Our conversation was brief, but in those few minutes I felt like I connected with her on a human level, which only made me appreciate her performance that much more that evening.

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!

 

Hanni El Khatib | Twilight Concert Series | August 8, 2013

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For the past 29 years, the Santa Monica Pier has been hosting amazing free concerts during the summer season. The line up for this year’s Twilight Concert Series  is particularly outstanding. From Meshell Ngegeocello and the Record Company to Jimmy Cliff to Trombone Shorty, it would simply be a shame if you lived in the area and didn’t make it out to at least one of the free shows. The first show I was able to attend this summer was Hanni El Khatib.

The first time I heard Hanni El Khatib perform live, he opened for the Black Angels at the Mayan. His set was so impressive, that I decided then and there that his live shows were not be to missed. This time, on the pier, he was the featured artist. Opening for him was a Niger-based musician named Bombino.

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Bombino’s music is proof that music, regardless of genre, is universal. Bombino’s music is steeped with the native rhythms of his homeland. Over the years, Bombino has worked with and been influenced by a number of tremendous musicians like Keith Richards and Charlie Watts. Most recently, he travelled to Nashville to record an album under the production eye of The Black Key’s Dan Auerbach, “Nomad”. With his native rhythms meshing seamlessly with deep south, blues rock, Bombino has become, relatively quickly, the talk of the “blues rock” town. Call it what you want- rock and roll, worldbeat, afro-pop, desert blues, blues rock- it’s still good music. Though I wish I could have understood all of the lyrics sung, the music, in and of itself, was trance like and intoxicating. Bombino was certainly the perfect appetizer for the edgier blues rock that would follow.

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The crowd had swelled to what seemed to be maximum capacity by the time Hanni El Khatib took the stage. He had just come back from touring internationally, so I was expecting a polished set and sound, and I was not disappointed. It was a raucous, rock and roll set that had the audience moving to the music, singing along  with all of the popular songs. I didn’t know the name of every dong of the entire set, but I remember that Hanni performed “Nobody Move”, “Low”, “You Rascal You”, “Loved One”, “Penny”, “Fuck It You Win” and a new song I think is titled “Dangerous” or “Dangerous To Love” (which is the last snippet on the video clip below). He even covered a Cramps song, the name of which I can’t recall at the moment. A terrific set and worth the commute and $2 I paid for parking.

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Hanni El Khatib is starting up a national tour supporting his latest album, “Head In The Dirt”, also produced by Dan Auerbach. I joked with friends afterwards while hanging out at Chez Jays (a dive bar which I just found out is a designated Santa Monica historic landmark and a perfect place to grab a beer after a blues concert) that the concert could have been dubbed “Dan Auerbach presents Blues at the Beach”. I’m planning on attending his upcoming gig in October at the El Rey, and if The Black Keys and blues rock is your thing, I highly recommend getting a ticket to check Hanni shred the stage.

Follow Hanni El Khatib on Facebook or follow him on Twitter for updates so you can catch him in action when he’s in your neck of the woods.

Hanni El Khatib and The Black Angels | Mayan Theater | 5/21/13

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When it comes to music, it always pays to have an open mind.

A friend of mine posted on Facebook that she had an extra ticket to see The Black Angels at the Mayan Theater. It was a weekday (which is typically a no-go for me due to my typical work load) but I’d always been interested in the Black Angels because of their reputation of being a good psychedelic rock band. Tthe ticket was free, and I had pulled an all-nighter earlier in the week… so I replied to the post, and the ticket was mine.

My friend wanted to make sure we got to the venue in time to catch one of the opening acts, Hanni El Khatib . As we drove to the Mayan, she was telling me about Hanni, and mentioned that Dan Auerbach produced Hanni’s latest album. Whoa…. You mean the The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach? Yup.  I was intrigued.

We got to the venue, and we decided to make our way as close to the stage for Hanni’s set.  As soon as he took the stage, the crowd started a raucous cheer more fitting for a headliner than an opener.  He started his set, and I could immediately feel the raw, garage rock essence of his music that probably drew Dan Auerbach to it. A few songs into the set, and the crowd started to bounce to the blues rhythms of the music. Sure, the music sounded very similar to the Black Keys, but you couldn’t deny his music ability and the way he was able to engage the crowd. The music was good enough, that I didn’t have to know any of the songs to enjoy the set, and that says something.

During his set, I noticed that the merchandise table (which was oddly located close to the stage, stage left, on a separate, elevated space) was uninhabited, save but the merchants sitting at the tables.  I made my way to the tables and found myself away from the crowd, in a space that was really all my own. If there was a VIP section, that would area have been it. LOL.

IMG_1275After Hanni’s set had ended, I decided to purchase a couple LPs.  Since I was a little short on cash, I opted to pick up his debut album “Will The Guns Come Out” and a limited edition 7’’ single, with a hand-screented cover, of “Skinny Little Girl/Pay No Mind”. My friend, and her friends, joined me at the merchandise table and after making our purchases, and lollygagging a bit, Hanni dropped by the table to say hello to his fans.  Yup. Me being the music dork, I got a picture and had him sign the 7’’ single … with a ball point pen (damn those bouncers for throwing away my permanent marker! Next time it goes in the shoe!) I asked him when he was planning on performing again in Los Angeles, and he told me that he was touring in Europe, and was looking to have gigs at the El Rey and on the Santa Monica Pier for the summer concert series. I am definitely going to check him out again.

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After such an exhilarating set from Hanni El Khatib, my expectations for The Black Angels was slightly mixed.  Blues/garage rock followed by psychedelic rock? Seems like an odd mix, no? I followed my friend upstairs to the balcony seats when the Black Angels started their set.  We waited in line at the upstairs bar for what seemed like forever to get a bottle of water (yup, I was the designated driver), and the band had already started when we found a spot to sit.

The balcony at the Mayan is interesting in that it has a little “patio” area that seemed to serve as a mini dance floor. As soon as the Black Angels started their set, people immediately began to dance, swaying back and forth … dancing like those people I used to watch in those Woodstock documentaries.

The music was good, but it honestly felt like a little bit of a let-down after Hanni El Khatib’s powerful set.  I’m a huge fan of Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, etc., but this music didn’t leave as big of an impression on me as I thought it would. Maybe I needed a few drinks or “something” to help me enjoy the music more.  Again, it sounded good … it just didn’t hit the spot for me.

I spent most of The Black Angels set people watching with my friends. We noticed a lot of tattoos. Hot chicks with tattoos. A lot of dancing bodies. A lot of dudes sitting around us with their eyes closed “twitching” around and bobbing their heads. People young and old. A diverse and amusing crowd.

We left the venue as soon as the Black Angels started their encore, and though I hardly ever leave shows early, I didn’t feel like I was missing anything.  The Black Angels were good, but if I wasn’t shrooming or on something, it was really just background music to me. The highlight of the evening for me was the music I wasn’t even expecting. If it wasn’t for my curiousity about The Black Angels, I would never have discovered the music of Hanni El Khatib.