Phantogram | First City Festival | 8/23/14 [PHOTOS]

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CHVRCHES | Coachella | 4/12/14 (PHOTOS)

Chvrches, a trio from Scotland, is band that got a lot of praise from critics in 2013, and its easy to hear why. They debut album, “The Bones of What You Believe”, is an album that is sonically precise, bringing back to life the late 80s, synth pop sounds of Depeche Mode and Erasure, and the lead vocalist, Lauren Mayberry, is … well … cute as a button with an equally cute voice.

As their set was during the middle of the day, I didn’t get to experience the light show that usually accompanies their live performance that I’ve heard so much about, but it really didn’t matter. The music carried their set and I enjoyed the half hour that I was able to watch.

Lauren Mayberry was easy to photograph. Her natural beauty makes it easy for the camera to find a shot, no matter the angle. Ironically enough, my favorite two shots of her are the ones that some, perhaps, may not think are the prettiest. Rather, one is a close up shot of her squinting in the sun, reaching for notes a song (above), and another is a close up candid of her on stage when she stepped  away from the mic and the wind caught her hair as she caught her breath. What do you think?



M83, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and Phantogram | Hollywood Bowl | 9/22/13


PhoenixDaft PunkJustice … France turns out some great electro, synth pop bands. Oh yeah … M83 is pretty damn good too. Named after the spiral galaxy Messier 83, M83’s music is as cosmic as that system of stars. Adding a full orchestra and choir to their already sonically complex arrangements like “Midnight City” only raised the level of their cosmic sound.

I wasn’t planning on attending the show.  In fact, I had been offered to get in on tickets when they first went on sale, but passed it up since I purchased some tickets for other shows and funds, at the time, were running low. But as fate would have it, a dear friend of mine called me up last minute the day before the concert to see if I wanted to attend the sold out show, and I got to attend the last installment of KCRW Radio’s World Festival series.  The stars were definitely aligned for me …

The indie pop/Electronic rock band Phantogram opened for M83. It was my first time listening to their music, but I could tell why they were opening for M83. Their songs were all dance friendly, and had catchy hooks. Sarah Barthel’s vocals were strong and sexy. The band didn’t seem intimidated by performing on the famous stage, but they expressed their humble gratitude by acknowledging the hallowed stage they were on, and thanked the audience for listening.

Their setlist, from was:

  1. When I’m Small
  2. Mouthful of Diamonds
  3. As Far as I Can See
  4. Celebrating Ugly
  5. Black Out Days
  6. Don’t Move
  7. Voices
  8. When I’m Small

M83’s performance, back by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and its choir, was stunning. For a band whose music is already big with layered synths, guitars and voices, I wondered how the orchestral arrangements would come off and how it would alter the original arrangements. Surprisingly, the orchestra didn’t overpower the band’s sound. Rather, at least in my humble opinion, they seemed to be used only to accent the original sound. Truth be told, it was hard to me to actually note when the orchestra was playing and when they weren’t. M83’s sound, alone, is that big.

M83 used a lot visual media  in their performance.  Though it was hard for me to actually glean what the purpose of some of the visual montages were, I supposed that it was used to evoke mood and metaphors for the audience to come up with. As visually stunning as the montages were, personally, I think that the performance could have done without it, as I hardly spent time watching the video screens.

M83 brought up a couple of special guests during their performance: grade-school aged Zelly Meldal-Johnsen (performing “Raconte Moi une Histoire”) and Brad Laner (from the band Medicine) and though each special guest’s performance was entertaining (Zelly’s song about the frog was especially cute), I was hoping that the special guests, especially at the Hollywood Bowl, would have been more exciting or well-known….  After all, it IS the Hollywood Bowl.

Special guests notwithstanding, M83’s performance was the kind of show you hope to see- and is typically delivered- at the Hollywood Bowl. Grand in scale. Aurally pleasing. Toss in a seat in a Terrace Box, with great friends on a lazy Sunday? Perfect.

Setlist procured from

  1. In the Cold I’m Standing
  2. Intro
  3. Reunion
  4. Sitting
  5. We Own The Sky
  6. Steve McQueen
  7. Splendor (with Brad Laner)
  8. Wait
  9. Moonchild
  10. Raconte-moi une histoire (with Zelly Boo Meldal-Jophnsen)
  11. Skin of the Night
  12. Midnight City
  13. Lower Your Eyelids to Die With the Sun


  1. Oblivion (Susanne Sundfor)
  2. Outro
  3. Couleurs

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.

New Build and No Ceremony/// | First Unitarian Church | April 27, 2013


For the past few years, my sister has been working with BritWeek, helping to curate, manage and execute elements of their art initiative. It was early in the morning, April 27, when I get an email from my sister saying that she had extra tickets for the BritWeek music festival at the Exchoplex that day, and asked whether I wanted to go in her stead. I immediately went into a crazed state to confirm some things.  In case you didn’t know, this is what happened at the Echoplex that evening.  As it turns out, the BritWeek artists had their venue changed to accommodate the Rolling Stones. I may have been a little deflated for a brief glorious moment.  After all, I thought I had a pass to see the Rolling Stones play! But when I did a little research as to who was playing at the First Unitarian Church, I got excited again.

IMG_3318The headliner for the evening was a seven piece London based band called New Build.  Two of the members are from the Grammy-nominated British band Hot Chip. I am a big fan of Hot Chip’s first three albums, and had also seen them perform recently at the Hollywood Bowl, so I knew- even though I was not familiar at all with New Build’s music- that the show would be memorable.

I got to the venue in time to catch the last two songs of Blood Red Shoes‘ set.  Sitting up in the “VIP” balcony section of the church, I noticed there were even better seats in the general admittance area, so after they had concluded,  I made my way down and up front.

I got settled in the pew seats up front as a band from Manchester named No Ceremony/// took to the stage to set up.  They are a three piece band fronted by a female bassist.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I love female musicians who can handle an axe.  And she, like her band, played with a precision and swagger that made me wonder how long this band had been around, and why hadn’t I heard of them before.IMG_0900

Though their stage demeanor is rather subdued, the visual elements of their show were quite stark and shocking. It’s a bit hard for me to recall what images were projected behind them, but it matched and morphed with the mood of their music.  I tried to a little research on the band the following day, but oddly enough, there wasn’t much “official” written about them.  As of 5/12/13, they don’t even have a wikipedia page up yet.  But I did find a little history of the band from the South By Southwest events calendar which I think appropriately describes them and their music:

IMG_0919“Their idiosyncratic sound, typified by chiming pianos, distorted synths and pounding kick drums, deftly explores the musical space between euphoric warehouse rave and melancholic, emotive pop. Glitched, machine-like cries and haunted, pure harmonic vocals interplay & counterbalance one another, creating a fascinating tension and atmosphere within the tracks.

Be it their music, or their artistic videos, striking artwork or direct website, all of which they create and control themselves, this juxtaposition of the inhuman and the soulful, of the aggressive and the beautiful, works to underpin everything NO CEREMONY/// do.”  Click here to read entire article.

After their set, I went to the merchandise booth to see if they had any music available to purchase. Unfortunately, they did not, which was a shame as I would have scooped up copies up for my collection.  I was about to heaIMG_0923d back in get ready for New Build when I noticed the lead singer of NO CEREMONY/// meandering about. Her name was Audrey (sp?), and we had a brief conversation about the band and her music.  She gave me a brief history, and went on to say that they were scheduled to keep touring with New Build throughout the Summer. Before ending the conversation, Audrey kindly let me snap a pic with her.  Did I mention that I have a thing for female guitar/bass players? lol. Instead of getting goggly eyed and asking for a picture, I probably should have asked her for the names of the songs they performed. D’Oh!

Video clips from NO CEREMONY///’s set are below:

I like Hot-Chip, but I’ve been quite disappointed with a few of the newer albums. Their older albums felt like a natural progression of the future of music. Their newer albums felt contrived, like they made the music how they thought it would make their fans feel.  That make any sense?

New Build’s live set felt like Hot Chip’s older albums.  Note that I say felt like, and not sound like.  There was something fresh and intimate in New Build’s songs and sound. Granted, their musicality was similar to Hot Chip in that elements from across the music spectrum permeated throughout the music, but there was something about this live show, that far surpassed what I saw at the Hollywood Bowl.  I can’t put my finger on it.  It just seemed like this band was having more fun.IMG_3333

IMG_0945The lead singer of New Build, Al Doyle, isn’t the lead singer for Hot Chip. He sings backing vocals for Hot Chip. But he certainly holds his own as a frontman. I particularly enjoyed his sense of humor. Making reference to the Rolling Stones taking over their original venue, he mentioned that his band and the Stones were going to kick it at the Comfort Inn after the show. I found that particularly funny and heartily laughed, to which he looked in my general direction, smiled and said, “It’s for real” before continuing into the next song. A copy of their setlist if to the left. To check out some other of my music treasure, click through here.

It was a terrific set, and this “last minute show” turned out be better than I had anticipated.  Cheer to the United Kingdom for always spawning fresh new musical talent.

Video Clips from their set below:

Just as an added bonus, here’a picture a friend took of me, taking pictures of the bands. I  really need a better camera … really …