Chet Faker. Girls love him. Guys wish they could write music like him.
I saw Chet Faker earlier this year at The Roxy. Musically, there is no question that Nicholas James Murphy a/k/a “Chet Faker” has the musical goods. His sound (soulful, downtempo electronica) is baby-making music, plain and simple. It’s still early in his career (he’s only released one full length album, “Built On Glass” and a couple of extended plays) so it’ll be interesting to see how his sound develops going forward.
What I was more interested in observing this time around was his actual stage performance. At the Roxy, Chet Faker spent the length of the performance behind his keyboards under dim lights. On a couple of songs, additional musicians took the stage to perform as part of a backing band. This time around, with Red Bull as the sponsor of the event (and presumably a bigger budget), that his stage performance could have bit could a bit … more. The lighting at Mack Sennett Studios was definitely a step up from The Roxy’s lights, but on the large stage, it was again Chet behind his keyboards.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love his music. I even brought my LP copy of “Built On Glass” just in case I could catch him for an autograph. But truly memorable musical performances are not only auditory; there has to be a visual component to it as well … for me, it takes both aspects to make a show complete. Chet looked so isolated on the large stage. I was really hoping that he could have hired a backing band play his arrangements, or at least a some video screens to actually see what he was doing at the keyboard consoles. I mean, you can see moving around behind his instruments, but it would have been so much more effective if there were more “action” on stage. I mean, take Flying Lotus, for example. Flying Lotus performs behind his consoles, but he’s got an elaborate laser/lighting show going on around him simultaneously.
I’m not suggesting that Chet Faker needs some intricate laser light show. I just wish I could have seen what his hands were doing. There musicality and artisanship in watching a professional maneuver a drum machine and keyboards. It would have been nice to see the action on the keys.
If you are the kind of person who likes to check out new bands in concert, it would behoove you to not limit your perception of said band on just one performance. Personally, if I even slightly enjoy new band’s performance, I do my best to try and catch them again at a later date. There are a myriad of reasons to do this: (i) because a band that you are waffling on just could have had an off night, (ii) different venues offer different atmospheres which could really impact a band’s performance, or (ii) over time, said band’s performance could have gotten better or worse.
This time around, they had an energy and stage presence that I don’t recall from the first time I saw them perform. Joaquin Pastor, the lead singer, seemed to exude a subdued confidence that I don’t recall noticing the first time around; actively interacting with his band through the set. Maybe it was because he wasn’t wearing sunglasses this time around, and you could really see the music’s emotion in his eyes. Whatever it was, it was something that I noticed.
His bandmates, likewise, seemed to have more energy as well, and under the heavy purple lights, I found myself enjoying their onstage movements … and their music … especially when the rhythm picked up.
I was hoping to catch the guys after the show to ask them whether or not they would have agreed with me about comparing the two shows, and their own personal thoughts about their performance, but I wasn’t able to. Oh well. I suppose I’ll have to make it a point to go see them again.
Opening the 29th Red Bull Sound Select 30 Days In LA concert at Mack Sennett Studios was the R&B duo denitia and sene. Denitia Odigie and Brian “Sene” Marc use synthesizers to bring out a pulsing rhythm over which they croon and coo over. Their latest release, “the side fx. EP” was released by Red Bull Sound Select.
As an opener for for Chet Faker, their performance was a solid appetizer. Although there were a couple of moments where the vocals could have been better in tune with each other, the soothing effect that their music had over the audience definitely brought the sultry and seductive air to the venue.
Matthew Houck, a native of Athens, Georgia, is Phosphorescent. His music can be described as indie country and it has drawn favorable comparisons to Bob Dylan, with publications like the London Evening Standard declaring him “the most significant American in his field since Kurt Cobain” (source: Allmusic.com).
His last album, “Muchaco”, was released in 2013 was critically well received and perhaps a bit more experimental than his earlier output. Americana sounds incorporating electronic instrumentation doesn’t necessarily seem to a logical fit, but it works. Backed by a full band, the instrumentation didn’t obscure the singer’s voice, which can be described as “soulful folksy” and seemed to inflect a deep rooted emotional history of life spattered with hardship.
I’ve read that his songwriting, especially his lyrics, is superb. Since I was consumed with adjusting settings on my camera throughout his performance, I frankly couldn’t focus on the stories being sung. But based on what I heard, I’ve definitely earmarked his music to listen to in the future.
Kyle Field is Little Wings. He’s been called a “musician’s musician” and his music has influenced a lot of popular artists (i.e. Feist’s named her film, Look At What The Light Did Now, after a Little Wings song). Continue reading →
I’m a sucker for new R&B music. When I heard KCRW play Shy Girls’ Shy Girls’ “Voyeur’s Gaze” on Morning Becomes Eclectic in 2013, I was hooked. When I saw that they were opening for a band named Phosphorescent, I immediately bought a ticket. I had no idea about the headlining act, but that didn’t matter. It had been close to a year since I saw them perform, and I was jonesing to see them perform again.
The performance was short, but it was everything that I anticipated: smooth vocals over a tight knit band playing music with an 80s and early 90s R&B vibe.
The first two times I saw Shy Girls perform live, they didn’t play the song that hooked me in the first place, “Voyeur’s Gaze”. When I had asked them about why didn’t perform that song since it was the song that KCRW decided to spin, they indicated that the arrangement was a bit too complex for them to play live. They remedied the omission this time around and it was, to my complete satisfaction, performed as a song in the middle of their set.
Apparently, I was the only one in the audience excited to hear the tune. Instinctually, I yelped out a very audible, “Yes,” when the opening vocals and keyboard chord progression were played. I got a few giggles from some of the audience members around me, and under my breath, but audible, I felt it necessary to qualify my blurt with, “Can’t help it, it’s my favorite song of theirs.”
I soon realized that the crowd wasn’t here to listen to Shy Girls smooth R&B jams. I further deduced that headlining act’s style of music was at the opposite side of the spectrum because if the audience wasn’t feeling what Shy Girls was putting forth on stage that night … well, they were here for something else.
And it’s a bit of a shame. Shy Girls is a Red Bull Sound Select artist. I would have thought that Red Bull, the host of the concert series, could have done a better job at procuring a line-up that was more consistent. I went to the Chet Faker 30 Days In LA show later in the month, and I can easily say that Shy Girls would have KILLED IT if they were one of the opening acts for that evening’s music. In fact, switching James Supercave from the Chet Faker night, with Shy Girls would have been my choice.
The highlight of the evening was when Shy Girls’ covered Brandy’s “Sittin’ Up In My Room” (a demo recording of which is above). It was simple and sublime. It was a performance of an R&B classic that anybody with an inkling of appreciation for type of R&B music would have loved. I just wish more people could have truly appreciated it.
VIDEOS:The Instagram videos that I uploaded somehow got corrupted. 😦
When I heard that Elvis Costello was performing at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, I was jealous. Bills had to be paid, among other expenses I committed too, and I made the economical, yet regretful, decision not to spend my money on tickets.
Fate seemed to be tempting my spending urges when it was announced that another date had been added to accommodate the demand for tickets. Still strapped for cash, I tried my best to avoid all email ticket alerts and social medial notices to remind me of my regretful frugality. Flash forward to a week before the concert and a close friend of mine … out of the blue … asked me if I wanted to be her guest to the second concert … for free. Apparently, fate likes to play games with me. Either that, or Karma saw fit to reward my dedication to music.
I have a storied and emotional connection with Elvis Costello’s music. Back in college, I purchased my first Elvis Costello CD. It was a greatest hits album of his work with The Attractions. After my first listen, I was hooked. “Pump It Up”, “Radio Radio”, “Accidents Will Happen”, “Man Out Of Time” … with 21 stellar cuts, it’s definitely on my list of best CDs I purchased in college.
The first track of that album, “Alison”, ended up being a song that I played on repeat after my college sweetheart broke my heart. Though I’m still not sure whether that song was particularly apropos to having a broken heart, the lyrics have always made me get misty eyed.
“I’m not going to get too sentimental like those other sticky valentines, ‘cause I don’t know if you’ve been loving somebody. I only know it isn’t mine.” …. <sniff sniff> …
Elvis was also responsible for one my greatest working experiences ever. After passing the bar exam, I was working in a small boutique law firm. We represented a production company that was producing a live-to-tape concert series for VH1 classics named “Decades Rock Live”, an hour long program that featured a legacy artist who was then paired with modern day recording artists to perform each other’s songs. One of the artists we featured was Elvis Costello, and he had requested to work with Fiona Apple, Billie Joe Armstrong and Death Cab for Cutie.
Though I had spent virtually all of my time behind the computer and phone at my desk, in the office, to negotiate and draft agreements, I was asked to go on location (The Trump Taj Mahal) for the taping of that episode to handle production matters. It was an experience that reshaped my opinion of the work that I was doing. Being in thick of it all, watching how the episode got taped, watching the artists figure out creative logistics and watching their genius bloom on stage, was n0t only eye-opening but extremely soul-satisfying. Being able to attend the after concert party was pretty cool too.
To be able to see Elvis at the Hollywood Bowl, along side the Los Angeles Philharmonic, was amazing. I’ve always know that Elvis was musical genius. To see his work performed with orchestral arrangements was … to put it simply … sublime.
In between songs, he threw in stories about the meaning of the works he about to perform. He told us about how “Accidents Will Happen” was written on the way to Mexico, how “Veronica” was written about his grandmother who suffered from Alzheimer’s, how he wrote “Shipbuilding” (a song about giving jobs to veterans after wars) 30 years ago and Chet Baker playing on the original recording.
The most poignant moments of the concert, for me at least, occurred at the end. He closed his set with a heart-tugging rendition of Burt Bacharach’s power-ballad “God Give Me Strength”. He left the stage, but I knew that he would be called upon to perform an encore.
He prefaced the encore by thanking Linda Ronstat for covering the song on her debut album; thankful that he was able to earn enough money with the song to keep his music career going. Then he performed “Alison”.
I sat back on the Hollywood Bowl bench and let it his performance consume me. I wasn’t reminiscing about anything in particular. I was focused on the music. On the arrangement. Then I notice that the arm holding my camera was slightly trembling. The next thing I knew, my vision got blurry.
It doesn’t happen very often, but a performance moved me to shed a tear. I wasn’t anticipating it. It just happened … but you know what? Beautiful music … It can do that to a grown man.
Ben Folds opened for Elvis. I got into Ben Folds’ music when a member of my a cappella group arrange a Ben Folds Five song, “Evaporated”, for our group to sing. Like Elvis, Ben Folds’ musical knowledge far superior than the norm.
During his set, he took the time to emphasize the importance of symphony orchestras, joking that, “some towns have symphony orchestras, and some don’t … and the ones that don’t suck.” He also acknowledged the problem with the music industry today, indicating before the performance of a piano concerto he wrote, that he was only able to create his work with the help of a generous corporate sponsorship with Acura, and how a record label in today’s economic landscape would have never given him the resources to create what he did.
I was hoping he was going to perform “Kate” (my favorite Ben Folds Five song) with the orchestra, but I can’t complain. His performance was superb.
I was obviously wasn’t approved for a photo pass for this concert, but I hope that you can get an idea of the concert with the pictures I was able to snap with my small Sony point and shoot.
Performing in front of a crowd of 18,000 at the Staples Center sounds like a daunting task. Performing in front of a crowd of 18,000 alone? I think it would take a little more than imagining the crowd naked, no matter how good looking, to get over the nerves I would probably have. Ed Sheeran, with just his guitars, did it with the ease of a seasoned pro.
Though I probably would have enjoyed seeing him perform in a smaller venue more, there was absolutely nothing I could criticize about the performance that I saw. His voice, his musicianship, his stage presence … it was on fully display, revealing to me why his hordes of fans (mostly young girls/women) love him so much.
Whether it was his playful banter with the audience, mesmerizing use of his loopers and pedals to create percussive instrumentals for rousing numbers, or his thoughtful lyrics coupled with his mellifluous tenor voice during tender moments, he had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand.
Perhaps the most tender moment was before his performance of “Afire Love”. He reflected somewhat jokingly about the often times futile effort to get a rowdy person in an audience to be quiet with a “Shhh.” He asked the audience to be absolutely quiet for the following song, a request that was relatively acknowledged, save but the one or two overzealous fans who thought, I suppose it was the most opportune time to profess her (or his … I really couldn’t make out the gender of the voice) love for Ed. It was the first time I’ve ever heard the Staples Center so quiet … you could hear a pin drop.
Another highlight was during Ed’s encore, when he surprised the audience with a special appearance by Gary Lightbody, the lead singer of the British alternative rock band Snow Patrol. Together, they performed Snow Patrol’s hit song “Chasing Cars”.
I’ll be honest, I’ve always shrugged Ed Sheeran off as a Jason Mraz knock-off. I mean, I’m not really his target audience … and there are plenty of singer-songwriters who I grew up that have had the same kind of musicality and/sound, but Ed Sheeran’s performance really opened my ears up … opened them enough to give his music a chance with a clean slate.
I wasn’t approved with a photo pass for this concert, so all of the following photos were taken with a Sony Cybershot G, point and shoot camera.
Opening up for Ed Sheeran was a band that blew my mind earlier this year when I caught their performance at Coachella. As it would be unfair to call Ed Sheeran a Jason Mraz clone, it would be unfair to call Rudimental an electronic dance music. Though they use a significant amount of production tracks in their live performance, they also perform with a full band, and multiple vocalists. Their performance opening for Ed Sheeran was entertaining, however, I did feel like it wasn’t as raw and as drum’n’bass heavy as what I saw at Coachella, but I’ll be following their development because their music is just to fun to ignore.
THOUGHTS:The National. What a great way to end a perfectly sublime music festival. I’ve only seen them perform live once before, and that was a short set for Jimmy Kimmel Live. This time, I got a chance to see them perform an entire set … something I’ve been dying to do for the longest time. It’s taken me about 7 years to see them in all their glory, but it was well worth the wait. Performing music that is beyond heartfelt, with fans singing along all throughout their set, with Matt jumping into the crowd during “Mr. November” singing with the crowd, it was as intimate as a large music festival could get … and I doubt that I’ll ever experience that kind of thing ever again. Amazing.
THOUGHTS:I’m a big fan of Cults’ music. I saw them earlier this year at the Santa Monica Pier, and was excited to get the chance to shoot them again at First City Festival since I wasn’t completely satisfied with the pics that I had snapped on the pier. There were a few moments of decent lighting, but during the start of their set (the time photographers are allowed into the pit), the lights were heavy on blue, pink and purple … just like the last time I shot them! Oh well … them the breaks. Hopefully, I’ll get a third chance to shoot them. I need some keepers for my collection!