There’s aren’t many bands that’d I’d see four times in one year. Hopeless Jack & the Handsome Devil is the only one that I’ll have on my list this year.
Not only are they really cool dudes, but their music also rocks. This year, I saw them twice at Ink-N-Iron and personally arranged for them to play a gig at the Garage. When they told me they had a weekday gig in downtown L.A., I didn’t hesitate to put it in my calendar.
I get pumped to see these guys live, because they have an absurd amount of stage presence. From Jack growling into the microphone, wildly dancing while jamming killer riffs, to Pete’s eye’s menacing, almost possessed, look while he smashes the drums, these guys, at least to me, embody rock and roll. As a wanna-be photographer, getting chances to shoot bands like this is a thrill. If I can capture a moment of the pure, unrelenting joy that these guys perform with … that’s something that would make my day.
I got to the venue a little early, and the fellas were our front hanging in their tour van. Jack was greeting friends and Pete was munching on a slice of pie from California Pizza Kitchen. I told Pete that I liked some of their pizzas, and he told me that he never realized that California Pizza Kitchen was an actual restaurant. He always assumed that it was just a frozen pizza. I got a chuckle out of that.
Set times were running a little late, and friends, fans and the band were getting antsy. Jack, while puffing on a cigarette, was already making plans for after the set.
“Tacos, man,” Jack said while flicking out his smoke, “I need tacos.” Taking recommendations from friends, he already had location in mind. In a Pavlovian kind-a-way, I started craving tacos too.
Got to meet some of Jack and Pete’s friends, including a photographer named Jason who was touring with the band as a friends and roadie. This was one of the dope pics he took at the gig.
The light was dim and I had put pump the ISO on my camera (even though I know that the pics always come out noisy at a high ISO with my old-ass camera), but I still think I got a couple decent shots.
Again, they rocked (check out the video clips below).
After they had packed, the band, and some of the fans, made a short trip to the late-night taco stand. While waiting to order L.A. deliciousness, we noted a multi-storied, retro-fitted building across the street that was for lease. We started talking about what we would do if we could afford to buy the classic looking building. As we sipped on horchata, and devoured out grub, we fantasized about which floor would be rooms and which floor would be the studio … but I think we were all in agreement about having the ground floor be a performance venue/club.
Dreams and tacos. A perfect end to a terrific night of rock-and roll.
Their performance from the night before must have been a warm up, cause they took it up a notch for their late afternoon set, and tore the stage up. Their music was loud and rocking; their energy relentless and unstoppable. As they played their set, more and more people kept trickling into the room. Clearly, it was the music that was drawing them in.
Now, I love taking pictures, but I’m far from a “professional”. I still tinker with settings during sets, and I end up taking tons of pictures – thank god there’s digital, or I’d be spending a years salary on film. I’ll kick myself in the ass every once in a while when I miss a shot. The featured shot of this blog post was a shot that I almost didn’t get. Granted, I had to mess with the photo’s setting to enhance certain aspects, but of all of the “imperfect” shots I’ve ever taken, this is one my favorites.
At that moment, the crowd was going nuts. It was the last song, and the crowd was whooping and hollering all throughout, watching the Handsome Devil standing over, and smashing, his drum kit. The finale reached its climax when he mounted his drum kit- all while playing – and on the last beat, jumped into the sky. I could feel the room hold its breath. Everyone’s eyes were fixated on the tatted up drummer leap through the air, and there was a collective exhale when he landed, followed by instant cheers from fans old and new.
To me, that moment was surreal. This two man band commanded a stage that 10 piece bands had occupied the other day, and they filled the room with an insane energy that people couldn’t keep talking about after it was all said and done.
I overhead people in the audience proclaim,”That was the best thing I’ve seen in a while,” and “That’s got one of the best sets of the weekend”. I wasn’t going to disagree.
The first set they played was a late night, after hours gig in one of the bars of the Queen Mary. In fact, it was so late night, that it was literally the last act to perform that day. Drunk festival goers who were lucky enough to book a room on the ship had all congregated to the bar to top off their buzz. They were in for a treat.
Hopeless Jack and the Handsome Devil ripped into their set and bar patrons took notice. Heads at the bar turned as soon as the loud blues/roots rock blasted through the speakers. The music must have attracted others from the down the halls of the legendary ship as more and more people kept filing into the room to join the party.
I spent most of their performance enjoying the show, so I didn’t take that much video or snap too many shots. I figured I’d make up for it, as they were going to be the first band that I checked out the next day.
The first time I saw Hopeless Jack & The Handsome Devil perform, it was at the Ink-N-Iron Festival in 2013, and I only caught the last few songs of their set. A two man band that plays hard hitting blues/roots rock; heavier hitting than the Black Keys, and more aggressive than Jack White. They are a band based out of Portland, so ever since I saw them for those 15 minutes live, I’ve been keeping tabs on their tour schedule to see when they would be playing in Los Angeles again.
I noticed on their Facebook fan page that they were playing gigs down the Pacific coast, but to my dismay, there was no scheduled gig for Los Angeles. Having had their album “Hopeless Love, Shallow Hearts” on repeat since I saw them that first time, I messaged them to as why they weren’t playing in L.A. They got back to me quick, letting me know that a show they had scheduled had been cancelled at the last minute, and that they were bummed they weren’t playing in Los Angeles. In passing, they also added that if I could find a place for them to play on the following Tuesday (which was in less than five days), that they would make the stop in Los Angeles to play. Maybe they were just throwing it out there for the hell of it, but bands should never underestimate the lengths their fans will go to make sh*t happen.
I logged off Facebook, and picked up my cell phone. The rolodex in my brain started going through the people I knew, and I started punching digits. After a few calls, I had a spot lined up. It was a make-shift venue … in fact it it would be the first time a band would ever be playing there … but a gig is a gig, and the wheels to make it happen went in motion.
When the band got to Los Angeles, they met up with my buddy Rob (hopefully, I’ll get a chance to tell some of his stories on this blog, because his life is total rock and roll) who offered to help out and work sound for the band. Even though the event was set up last minute, a decent sized crowd showed up to watch this hard-rocking duo from Portland do their thing. It was loud. It was raw. It was awesome.
That night, I not only got to appreciate some kick-ass music, but I also felt a sense of accomplishment. It was the first time I ever really “hooked up” a band with a gig, and – if we’re speaking frankly here- it felt good. It reinforced to me the notion that what indie band’s need most are fans that are willing to get the music out there. It’s gotta be something more than just posting a song on Facebook or sending out a Tweet (unless you have an obscene amount of friends and followers on Facebook or Twitter). If you’re a fan of an indie band’s music, and you are always wondering why they haven’t caught on with others, maybe you can help them out by being more proactive.
Setting up the gig was only part of the work. I also called and texted a bunch of people, and a handful of them made it out; letting me know afterwards that they were really impressed, bought merch, and even told me that they would let their friends know about the band. A fan here, a fan there … at the end of the day, even though it was a small gig, a fan is a fan. For me, that was perhaps the most gratifying part of the evening for me.
Hopeless Jack and the Handsome Devil are back in Los Angeles area for this years Ink-N-Iron Festival at the Queen Mary performing on the 6th and the 7th. The photos below aren’t very good, and I hope to have better pics (using a new camera) when I see them later this year. I’ve included their latest video in this post because it was loud at the gig and the sound in my video is a bit muffled. If you watch my concert snippets, a word of warning …. It’s LOUD. Lower your volume accordingly.
Unfortunately, the Flickr slideshow below is not available on mobile devises. 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, the Flickr has disabled their embed option for WordPress, which totally BLOWS! If you can see the slide show below, hooray!
I don’t have any tattoos and I don’t know much about cars. I’ve always tossed around the idea of getting a tattoo, and it’s still a possibility at some point, but I’ll just put in a pin in it for now. That being said, I attended the Day 2 of the Ink-N-Iron Festival, and joined the party to celebrate some seriously good music.
It was my first time attending the yearly event, and I have to give the organizers some serious props for making it a day that I’ll remember. Beautiful cars. Beautiful tattoos. Women in corsets and otherwise dressed up in pin-up outfits. It was clean. It was family friendly. It wasn’t too crowded. Very nicely done.
I drove to Long Beach from West Los Angeles, and I was slightly worried that I’d arrive a little late to catch the first band I wanted to see perform: Girl In A Coma . I’ve been following this band for a few years now, and I always go out of my way to catch them perform whenever they come to town. I remember when I first heard their music. It was sometime November 2011 when I was up late watching TV. I had “Last Call with Carson Daly” on, and they were the featured artists for the episode. Their music snippets piqued my interest and I Googled their music. Boom. Instant fan. You can check out the feature that I watched here: http://www.hulu.com/watch/302589 .
Thankfully, the Los Angeles traffic gods saw it in their good graces to get me to the Queen Mary on time.
Before closing their set, Nina announced that the band was planning on starting recording for their new album at the end of the year. It sounded like they closed their set with new songs, and when I got the set-list from Phanie (drums) the following night when I went to Nina’s solo gig at the Hotel Café (which was amazing, by the way, and which you can read about by clicking this link… do it!) it looks like their last two songs were new. The video clips I took with my phone don’t do the band justice- I need to buy a good camera that takes good video/audio clips… any suggestions? They are my favorite all-girl rock band.
The only criticism I had with the festival was that since it was so early in the day, the organizers should have let their fans into the VIP viewing area to watch the set. Other than that, no complaint.
One Eyed fool
Si Una Vez
She had a plan
Joanie in the city
I planned on visiting them at the artist merchandise booth to say, “Hi,” but having noticed that all of their other fans I was standing with announced that they were going to head over, I decided to hang back and walk around the festival grounds. I’m sure glad I did.
There was a band named Hopeless Jack & The Handsome Devil that also had a 2:00pm set time. I wasn’t planning on checking them out, and only stumbled upon their set when I decided to check out some cars at the Tiki-Drive-In Stage. As soon as I was within earshot of their music, I thought to myself, “Screw the cars, I need to see who the fuck is playing right now”.
It was raw, heavy, lo-fi, blues, garage rock. Two guys, one drummer and one guitarist. I hate comparing artists to other artists, but if I had to, I’d say they were The Black Keys, high on adrenaline, and drunk on whiskey. Simply based on what I was able to catch, which was only the last couple songs of their set, I was hooked. If you see the video below, there was some photo shoot going on, and for a minute, I didn’t want to get in the way. I stopped the video when I noticed another photographer up at the front of the stage. I walked through the photo shoot, and was able to snap a few cool shoots of the band with my phone.
When they finished their set, I had to catch them to buy whatever music they had. I purchased one of their CDs and their newly pressed 7’’ single of “Firefly” and “Pack My Bags”. The drummer, “Smilin’ Pete”, was the first to greet those who wanted to meet the band. I wanted to get the guys to sign the vinyl that I purchased, and I asked him whether “Hopeless Jack” would be coming out. Smilin’ Pete assured me that Hopeless Jack would be coming out in a minute. He explained that Jack’s music come from and is written from a deep, dark place and he always needs a minute to unwind after a set. Completely understandable.
When Jack came out, Pete introduced us and I told them that though I was only able to catch the end of their set, what I did hear (and saw) really impressed me and got my blood moving. They both autographed my vinyl and snapped a pic. Both guys were really humble and unassuming. I’ve been listening to their CD “Shallow Hears – Shallow Graves” and spinning their 7’’ Single non-stop since that weekend. I’m hoping they come back to the Los Angeles area for a gig so I can catch an entire set.
Afterwards, I head back to the main stage merchandise booth and the gals from Girl In A Coma were still taking pictures and signing autographs. I dropped by to say, “Hello,” and also to let them know I would be showing up the next day for Nina’s solo gig (which was amazing, by the way… wait, I said that already, didn’t I….), snapped a pic, then continued on with my day.
I checked out some of the vendors and marveled at some of the tattoos getting done. I hopped into an Ink-N-Iron photobooth that was free (very cool!) and walked onto the boat to explore the Queen Mary. It was getting closer to 5:00pm, and since I was already inside the boat, I realized that my musical choice was made for me: Kaleigh Baker it was.
I got up to the front of the stage and as the band was sound-checking, I had a brief conversation with a gentleman, probably in his late 50s-early 60s who asked me about Kaleigh’s music. We talked deep soul and early punk, and he suggested that I check out The Fleshtones. I suggested he stick around for Kaleigh Baker. We took each other’s advice.
Kaleigh Baker can sing. Her voice and vocal ability is unreal. The way she emotes the lyrics, and controls her voice to express the lyrics of her music is truly, in my opinon, on par with some of the leading female singers of our time. Sure, my comparison may be a little premature- after all, I only have this one set and her newest EP, “The Weight of It All”, to base it on, but I’m willing to put it out there. She’s got the type of voice that makes you FEEL something. The way it lilts. The way it crescendos. The way it belts. I can’t wait for her to record more music so I can see which direction she takes it.
I was able to catch up with her and some of her band mates after the set. Like the gals in Girl In A Coma, the guys in Hopeless Jack & The Handsome Devil, everybody in Kaleigh’s band, including Kaleigh, was extremely humble and appreciative. I had a weird moment of deja-vu when I was introduced to the guitar and bass players, as for some reason I felt like I’d met or seen them before. No … I wasn’t drunk. It was a sober day for me. And no, pretty certain that we had never crossed paths before. I bought a copy of Kaleigh’s latest EP from the keyboardist/horn player of the band (who I didn’t get a picture with, but was really accommodating with me asking a bunch of questions) and had Kaleigh sign it. Black Joe Lewis who? … lol.
Again, my iPhone video doesn’t do Kaleigh justice. Try Googling her. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
At that point, my phone was pretty much dead. I stayed in the boat to charge my phone. JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound were taking the stage, and as much I wanted to check his band out, I was relegated to sitting next to an outlet to charge my phone up. It took his entire set for my phone to fully charge, but from what I was able to hear, it sounded pretty good. It was funky, indie soul. From what I could hear, it almost sounded like they had Niles Rogers sit in with them for a song. Perhaps the unexpected surprise was when the band did a soulful/funked-up version of Blackstreet’s “No Diggitiy”.
My friends who were coming to the festival texted me that they were almost at there. I texted them back and told them I was going to grab a bite to eat, and kick it for them. When they arrived, and at the suggestion of the gentleman who I spoke with before Kaleigh Baker’s set, I suggested that we check out The Fleshtones.
The Fleshtones were one of the original punks bands. Like the Ramones, the Fleshtones came out of Queens. Though I wasn’t too familiar with their repertoire, when it comes to being able to catch one of the “original” bands of a particular genre of music, you simply can’t pass it up. They certainly drew a decent crowd, and played some songs that I actually really enjoyed.
One of the highlights of the set was when the one of members made reference to The Dirtbombs- who were actually influenced by The Fleshtones-playing the main stage. One of the members of the Fleshtones addressed the audience, “Why aren’t we watching the Dirtbombs? […] You want quality! […] You got quality right here!” It was a fun set, and I’m glad I checked it out.
In between the Fleshtones and The Dead Kennedys, my friends and I decided to check out the featured auto exhibit. I haven’t been into cars, but I’ll have to admit, I was impressed.
I’ll admit that I don’t know much about the Dead Kennedys music. In fact, the most I knew about the band was while in law school reading about the obscenity case against the artwork for their third album “Frankenchrist” Some of the songs sounded familiar, but I really felt like the levels were a bit off. Not enough vocals, maybe?
My friends wanted to see the next main stage act, Rocket From The Crypt , another band that I was not all to familiar with. They were quite popular when I was in high school, but I was kind of going through a Boyz II Men/Jodeci phase back then. My phone was running out of juice again, so I opted to head back into the boat to charge up before Iggy and the Stooges.
Iggy and the Stooges were schedule to open for Morrissey’s concert back in November last year, and I was really hoping to see them back then. Unfortunately, Morrissey had some medical issues come up and that November show was rescheduled for the March, with Patti Smith replacing Iggy as the opening act. Patti Smith was good, but she isn’t Iggy.
Iggy and the Stooges were awesome. I tried looking for their set list online, but I couldn’t find one. It didn’t matter though. It was seriously a “best of” set, with a couple songs off their newest album. “Raw Power”, “Fun House”, “Penetration”, “I Wanna Be Your Dog”. They did them all.
From the opening note, where I was standing, pictures and video shots were virtually impossible to take as a mosh pit had formed. During “Fun House”, Iggy started pulling up people from the crowd to dance on stage. It was a mad house on stage, and I pitied the stage-hand who had to make sure that women on stage didn’t molest Iggy while he was performing. A potential shit-storm turned into a raucous party.
Watching Iggy hump the speaker, throw his water bottles into the audience, and dance about on stage, was rock-and-roll incarnate. After most of the set, I needed to escape the crowd to find my friends. I bumped into Kaleigh’s band-mates on the edges of the crowd. They were equally impressed with Iggy’s stage performance.
When the set ended, my friends left to catch a shuttle back to their parking structure. I opted to hang out for a minute to decompress. It was a full day for hard hitting, musical goodness. The one day pass was definitely worth the price of admittance, and depending on who’s on the bill next year, odds are I will be attending again.