I don’t often watch late night talk shows these day, but when I did I usually tuned in for the musical guests. Now, this list is by no means comprehensive. I obviously haven’t watched the over 4000 episodes David hosted, so this is a list of the performances that I watched and that I can recall either actually made me WANT to go out and buy the band’s album or impressed the hell out of me.
When I heard that John Robert Cocker p/k/a “Joe Cocker” passed away two days before Christmas, my heart broke a little.
Ever since Snarky Puppy beat my favorite neo-soul band of 2013, Hiatus Kaiyote for the Best R&B Performance Grammy this year, I had to look them up and figure out who they were.
I’ll admit … the first video clip supporting their release of “Family Dinner- Volume 1”. It was Lalah Hathaway singing a song titled “Something” … and she harmonized with herself… let me say that again … SHE HARMONIZED WITH HERSELF!!!
That video was mind blowing, and I’ll have to admit the music, separate from the mind-blowing vocal gymnastics performed by Lalah, was pretty damn good.
Based out of New York, the band is led by Michael League, a Grammy Award-winning bassist. It’s players are part of collective that features nearly 40 musicians. They affectionately refer to themselves as “The Farm” and for this evening, they had 9 of them play at The Troubadour.
With the 10 players cramped on the stage, their music, which is a fusion of jazz, rock and funk, was loud and funky. I won’t lie, though … if you were hoping for some vocalists to jump onto the stage to join them for a song or two, you would have been disappointed. It was an all instrumental set with only the audience singing along with the chants on a song … the name of which totally escapes me, but you can see the video below.
I’m not one to complain though. When you have that many talented musicians on stage, it’s easy for me to get lost in some robust, Grammy Award winning music.
One of my favorite female rock vocalists is Nina Diaz. Usually the front woman for the punk rock band Girl In A Coma, she’s decided to take a little hiatus from the band to record some music solo. The results are a set of music that is wrought with emotional expressions of melody that act as confessional.
KILLER COVER: BON IVER COVERS BONNIE RAITT
I featured this cover in a prior blog entry, but Bon Iver does a heartbreaking cover of Bonnie Raitt’s classic “I Can’t Make You Love Me”. Chills.
MUSIC INSTA-BABE: VICTORIA JUSTICE
Victoria Dawn Justice (born February 19, 1993) is a singer-songwriter who actually got her start in the entertainment industry with acting stints on various Nickelodeon shows. Follow this beauty on Instagram: @victoriajustice.
THE WORST TWITTER POST OF THE WEEK
This Twitter post made me think twice about following TMZ. Unfortunately for me, I do get some decent news from them every so often. But this? Maybe they were going for funny. Maybe they were going for sexy? It just made me go away.
THE MOST IRONIC TWITTER POST OF THE WEEK
There was a memorial tree planted near George Harrison’s (of The Beatles) grave that was killed by …. wait for it …. wait for it …
“No cue cards, no teleprompters, and no second takes–legendary funnyman Sid Caesar pioneered live television sketch comedy with his 1950s sitcoms Your Show of Shows and Caesar’s Hour. This classic sketch is “Argument to Beethoven’s 5th,” Sid Caesar and Nanette Fabray play a married couple in a argument with pantomimed action and the dialogue is classic music.Enjoy! (Taken from the video description on Youtube”
MONSTER MASH-UP: MILEY CYRUS & MUMFORD & SONS: “LITTLE WRECKING BALL”
MUSIC NEWS/STUFF YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT
During the Alternative Press Music Awards, the Black Veil Brides won the award for “Most Dedicated Fans”. When Andy Beirsack accepted the award, he subsequently gave the award to the a fan. Sincere fan appreciation or PR ruse? It was a cool gesture, so I’m hoping it’s the later.
The UK’s privacy laws for celebrities are much more strict that the privacy laws in the US. Case and point? Adele’s son was awarded a six-figure sum for damages in a lawsuit over paparazzi photos. Will this news encourage other stateside celebrities raising families to move their residence across the pond? Only time will tell, but if I were a celebrity, I would consider it.
Apparently, silly parodies of popular songs can still sell records. Just ask Weird Al Yankovic. His 14th studio album, “Mandatory Fun”, sold a whopping 104,700 copies in its first week, making it not only the number 1 album of the week, but the first comedy album in 54 years to debut at number 1 as well.
Do you have a StubHub! account? Well … just may want to check up on it. Apparently, cyber thieves hacked 1,000 StubHub acccounts, and may have bought ticket on your dime! Well, that’s another reason for me to purchase tickets at the box office (the other being that there isn’t a dam service charge!).
I’ll give it up for Avicii. I was skeptical of the last album (an album mixing EDM with folk/country music), but he pulled it off. News is that he’s starting to recruit for his next album, this time featuring artist’s like Jon Bon Jovi, Wyclef Jean, Chris Martin and Serj Tankian. I can’t lie … I’m interest to hear what it sounds like.
THE YOUTUBE MUSIC VAULT
Santana in his prime. Doesn’t get much better than this.
There’s so much music out in the world today, it gets a bit hard, even with Spotify, or other similar streaming services, to find music that really speaks to you. I’ve always believed in the notion that the music finds you, and sometimes when it finds you, it leaves a lasting impression that can stick with you for the rest of your life.
In September of 2013, a buddy from college posted this status update to his Facebook wall:
I’d never heard of the band, so I stared Googling a bit to see what got my buddy all excited to post something other than pictures of his beautiful family on Facebook. I found some videos on Youtube, and started streaming tracks, all while reading some articles and interviews that I found about the band.
The music was quite impressive. I loved the lush orchestral sound and the musicality of the players on the tracks, the complex arrangements, and dour lyrical content of each composition that I heard. Even when belting out the melody, I could hear a subtle vulnerability in the lead vocalist’s voice that gave the music way more personality than the pop dribble that you hear on terrestrial radio today.
I pulled up an article from Paste Magazine’s website, and I learned that Kyle Morton, the founder and lead singer of the band, suffered through multiple organ failures as a child caused by a serious case of Lyme. Apparently, he used those near-fatal, life experiences as a basis for the music written for Typhoon’s latest release, “White Lighter”. That’s not to say, however, that the music is dreary in any way. In fact, the music off of “White Lighter”, even with its heavy lyrics, is lively, boisterous and anthem-ic. An excellent, in-depth, review of “White Lighter” can be found on MuzikDizcovery’s website which, in my opinion, accurately states that the album has “two big dynamics at play […]: the first a reflection on death, typical for Typhoon; the second, a bit newer for the band, what 20th century philosopher Victor Frankl would have called a “tragic optimism” in the face of mortality,” and concludes that “White Lighter is that rarest of albums, an entire lifetime captured in music”.
Doing a little more research on what the MuzikDizcovery article mentioned, I looked up Viktor Frankl and his thoughts on “Tragic Optimism”. I found a quote from Mr. Frankl that seemed to succintly sum up his general thoughts on the topic:
“In brief it means that one is, and remains, optimistic in spite of the “tragic triad” […] which consists of those aspects of human existence which may be circumscribed by: (1) pain; (2) guilt; and (3) death. This chapter, in fact, raises the question, How is it possible to say yes to life in spite of all that? […] After all, “saying yes to life in spite of everything,” […] presupposes that life is potentially meaningful under any conditions, even those which are most miserable. And this in turn presupposes the human capacity to creatively turn life’s negative aspects into something positive or constructive. [W]hat matters is to make the best of any given situation. [T]ragic optimism […] is an optimism in the face of tragedy and in view of the human potential which at its best always allows for: (1) turning suffering into a human achievement and accomplishment; (2) deriving from guilt the opportunity to change oneself for the better; and (3) deriving from life’s transitoriness an incentive to take responsible action,”
I was drawn to Kyle’s music because the more I knew about what the music was about, the more it felt like I was being told a personal story through music. With kids today seemingly leaning more towards the EDM and dance scenes, we have to remind ourselves that lyrics matters. Understanding lyrics matter. Understanding why those lyrics were written matter. Once you have an idea of why, or what inspired, an artist to write a song, there’s so much more enjoyment that you can get out of it. After all, did you know that “Hey Jude” by the Beatles evolved from “Hey Jules”, a song McCartney wrote to comfort John Lennon’s son, Julian, during his parents’ divorce? Gives the song a bit more depth, doesn’t it?
I kept looking up video clips of the band, and discovered why their sound was so full: there can be anywhere between 10 – 14 band members onstage to performing at any time. From violins and guitars, to trumpets and horns … the size of the band was enough to get me excited to look up their tour schedule to see if they would be playing in the area. As fate would have it, they had scheduled a gig at the El Rey, and I immediately purchased a ticket.
Comfortably fitting 11 players on the El Rey stage, the band’s performance was everything that I anticipated. Like the band before them, you could feel the camaraderie between the players in the band, and like a well-oiled machine, they played the music from the recordings to a tee, if not better. The sound was lush and grand, the lyrics personal and longing; it was a musical contrast that exhibited the superb live musicianship that proved that the ticket was worth the price of admission.
Going back to knowing the meaning and lyrics of music, before the set, I got into a little conversation with a couple standing next to me. I brought up the meaning behind the band’s latest album. Half way through, they thanked me as I’m guessing that my little music tidbit may have actually enhanced the concert experience for them.
Personally speaking, I was particularly moved when Kyle sang the lyrics, “Cry, pining for the things that I could have been […] I could have been a gold digger, I could have been a fun slinger, I could have been a little bigger, I could have been an old ringer” from “Hunger and Thirst” and “Now I’m as old as you were when you had me, should I be afraid? Should I start a family” from “Young Fathers.” Something in the lyrics of those two moments made it difficult for me to breath.
A few lighthearted moments came towards the end of the set when the band covered “With a Little Help From My Friends” and right after the band came back on stage for the encore when Kyle told the audience that, “I had a little Spinal Tap moment back there. There are a lot of curtains here,” alluding to the scene in Spinal Tap where the band gets lost backstage.
After the band had finished their set, and the crowd had dispersed to head home, I hung out for a little bit to see if I could catch Kyle for a moment to ask him about music, and also to have him autograph the LPs I had tucked in my backpack. He was gracious enough to do so, and was very appreciative that I had purchased his vinyl records. I told him that I had been following a lot of good bands from Portland. He acknowledged knowing of a couple of the bands I listed, and he went on to suggest that I check out a couple others named Genders and Wild Ones (I think his girlfriend plays in this band).
As soon as I let Kyle go, and as I am walking away from the theatre to my car, I receive a call from my mother. Calls from your parents, past midnight? Never a good thing. As it turned out, my father had a minor heart attack and was en route to the hospital. My heart skipped a beat. I ran to my car, and drove at reckless speeds to be at my dad’s bedside in the ICU.
The whole drive down to the hospital, my mind was racing with thoughts of mortality. The lyrics that had moved me during the set, came back into my head during the silent drive south. New lyrics also started to penetrate, as I started to think about the line “When am I gonna feel better” from “Common Sentiments”.
As it turns out, the minor heart attack that my dad had was the sign we needed to reveal that my dad needed to have quadruple bypass surgery. The surgery was successful, and I’m currently aiding my father in the long road back to regaining his health. Since the operation, I’ve been playing the tragic optimist, doing what I can to make life better for both my father, and myself.
Upon retrospect, I feel like that my discovery of Typhoon’s music, and the act of going to see them live, was destined to be. It all happened when I needed something tell me that if you seek it out, you can find optimism in tragedy. Sometimes, the music finds you. Sometimes, the music becomes so intertwined with your life, it takes on new meanings and significance. These days, every other night, I’m drawn to pull the “White Lighter” disc out of its pristine sleeve, and I’ll let it play me to sleep, finding it again each time.
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, the 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!
The video clip above released on Youtube back on December 20, 2013, but I just stumbled upon it. I’d never heard of BINKBEATS until now, but I’ll have to say that he’s impressed me with this 7 minute video. Performing all of the instruments himself, he’s able to recreate some of J Dilla’s unique sounds live to create a wonderful “live” video that mixes in four of J Dilla’s beats: “Make’em NV”, “E=MC”, “Wont’ Do” and “Fall in Love”. I’ve found videos of the foregoing tracks that you can check out, and compare, below.
Well done BINKBEATS. I’m sure J Dilla would be happy.
If you are visiting Los Angeles, and music is your thing, hitting up a show at the Troubadour (or another iconic performance venue) should be on your list of things to do. If you are a Los Angeles resident, and you haven’t been to the Troubadour … shame on you. I kid … kind of.
With a maximum capacity of 400, the Troubadour has hosted music royalty like Elton John, Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen, Guns N’ Roses, Radiohead, Prince, Nine Inch Nails, and the list goes on. Hell, even John Lennon and Harry Nilsson were kicked out of the club for heckling the Smothers Brothers back in the 70s. Needless to say, the tiny, iconic venue has a lot of history. As soon as I heard that The Robert Glasper Experiment was playing a gig there the Friday before the 2014 Grammy Awards, I immediately purchased a ticket.
Now, I was lucky enough to catch his performance at the Roxy in 2013, so I knew that it was a going to be a show filled with musicianship (and a special guest or two) that couldn’t be missed. That show at the Roxy was amazing, and my only regret was that I didn’t have a camera good enough to take pictures in a low lighted setting. That experience made me invest in a new camera that could.
Armed with a capable camera (you can check out some of my concert pics at my Instagram account [@Methodman13]), I got to the Troubadour with the hopes of staking out some prime real estate for the show, only to be told by the bouncers that I couldn’t’ bring my pocket sized, point and shoot camera into the venue. I could respect the policy for the show as they apparently were filming the evening for Robert’s forthcoming documentary titled “Of Dreams To Come: Robert Glasper” [To learn more about that project, head over to the website www.ofdreamstocome.com for more info]. Of course, the first thing I noticed when I got inside were people who had snuck their cameras into the venue, using the their flash no less. A bit of a bummer, as I literally had front row “seats”; but I learned that if I’m ever asked if I have a camera on my person, I am going to say, “No.” Little white lies never killed anybody, right?
I wasn’t going to let my not being able to bring the camera into the venue put a damper on the evening, and apparently the music gods saw fit to bless me with some great music karma. Let’s see ..
1. For the first time … ever … a group of three taller gentlemen, standing at least 6 feet tall each, offered to move around to give me an unobstructed view of the stage. Yeah, I’m short, and yeah, I totally appreciated that. It was a very cool gesture.
2. As expected, the music was beyond amazing, and special guests like Javier Starks, Algebra Blessett (who sang “Calls”), Wayne Brady (who covered an amazing version of Coldplay’s “Yellow”), Grammy Award winning songwriter PJ Morton (performing a song he co-wrote with Robert called “No Worries”), an amazing vocalist and Grammy nominated artist B. Slade, prolific trumpeter Keyon Harrold, and Malcolm Jamal Warner joining the incomproble Lalah Hathaway to perform a moving and powerful cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Jesus Children of America”, made the evening’s performance that much more memorable.
3. I stood next to a pair of wonderful ladies who grooved with me throughout the set, even nudging my shoulder when songs hit magic moments of musicality, and who Robert poured drinks to from the stage (more to come on them later).
4. As soon as Robert ended his set, I took a chance, called out his name and asked for the small piece of paper that I noticed was resting on one of his keyboards. That small piece of paper was his “partial setlist”, and he gladly gave it to me.
5. My friend Terrace Martin was at the show, and happened to be on stage at the end of Robert’s set after I received the setlist, and I was personally introduced to him.
6. Robert spent time after the set greeting his fans, friends and family, so I waited until the crowd dispersed a bit before I approached him to ask for his signatures on my three Robert Glasper LPs. I started to apologize for interrupting him, when one of the wonderful ladies, who happened to be standing next to Robert at that moment, looked at him and basically vouched for me. THAT was freaking awesome.
If there are forces that control the destiny of musicians and those who love music, they were definitely watching over me that evening. Word can’t describe my glee when it was all said and done, and it’ll take a lot for the other concerts I plan on going to this year to compare. Hopefully, the music gods will be keeping an eye out on me …
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A tip for any avid concert goer living in Los Angeles: ALWAYS find a concert or two to go to during Grammy Week. During the week immediately preceding the awards ceremony, amazing musical talent from all over the world flocks to Los Angeles to join in the celebration of music, whether to attend the ceremony as a nominee, to perform in the city of angels to showcase their own musical abilities for the throngs of A&R, talent agents, talent managers, critics and fans who happen to be in town to celebrate music with them or to just play gigs with their friends.
Opening for Terrace Martin at the Virgil, were three acts: Quiz, Yung Miss and Yancy Deron. Each held their own, performing their sets admirably and with good energy, positively setting the table and mood for the evening’s headliner. Below are video clips of their performances and a slideshow with some pictures from the evening. I was particularly impressed with Yung Miss’ set. Her vocal ability had a rawness that evoked memories of a younger Lauren Hill.
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