The Strypes | El Rey Theatre | 3/31/14

IMG_4576

I don’t know what they are feeding their kids across the pond, but I would suggest that we bring whatever they have over there and start feeding it to our kids in the States.

It was a last minute decision, but having missed out on seeing Jake Bugg perform at The Wiltern, I decided that I wouldn’t miss out on catching The Strypes, a four piece blues/garage rock band from Cavan, Ireland , finish up their U.S. tour with a stop at the El Rey. Their music is a throwback to some of the great rock bands of the 60s and 70s … and they are only 16-18 years old.

The crazy thing is, if you didn’t know how old they were, I guarantee that you would have never guessed that they were so young. Their music is fast and loud, and they carried an attitude on stage that made them appear older than they actually are. It was an 18+ show, but it didn’t surprise me that that their audience was equally split between those still in high school, and those who grew up with music from bands like The Kinks (whose rendition of “Louie, Louie” they faithfully covered as their finale) and the Yardbirds. It no surprise that legacy artists like Elton John (full disclaimer, Elton is managed by the same company that manages The Strypes)  have been raving about the group for some time.

Their music is accessible by disparate age groups because though they perform with their naturally youthful energy and swagger that could make any pre-teen girl squeal, they also have the musical chops to impressively sound like that music form the glory days of classic rock-and-roll. I mean, the lead singer, Ross Farrelly (who I understand is only 16 years old) has a voice that quite faithfully covered classic by Bo Diddley, The Specials, Ramones and Kinks.

These kids are impressive. Their stage present and their seems to indicated that they have the potential to keep on making great sounding rock-and-roll for years to come. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that their sound doesn’t change too much with puberty.

The Strypes Setlist El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles, CA, USA 2014

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!

Forest Swords | The Roxy | 3/18/14

IMG_4292

Opening for How To Dress Well at the Roxy was a music producer from Liverpool, England named Matthew Barnes, know by his stage name, Forest Swords. I hadn’t put two and two together before, but as it turns out he produced How To Dress Well’s 2012 single “Cold Nites”. In digging up a little history of his discography, I discovered that his 2010, debut EP “Dagger Paths” received rave reviews across the board; named FACT Magazine’s #1 album of the year, given 8.4 rating on Pitchfork and called “one of 2010’s finest underground records” by NME. Critics have even compared his musical stylings to current stand-out recording artists like James Blake and Bon Iver. If that isn’t high praise, I don’t know what is.

If you are at all interested in music by Portishead or Massive Attack, you need to hit up his Soundcloud account to get a taste of what he’s all about.  I’ve embedded his track “Miarches” below for you to check out:

Backed only by a bass player, he performed a set of dark, brooding, atmospheric instrumental creations that had the audience mesmerized, caught in a hypnotic dreamscape. I realized that I was hooked to his music as I caught myself humming made-up melodies to his instrumentals. I immediately started wondering why I haven’t heard more of his production for other recording artists.

After the evening’s music ended, I made my way to the merchandise booth to purchase some music. Matthew was there shopping his wares and I made some small talk with him asking him whether he’s produced for others. He indicated that he had taken a break from music for a spell and was just focusing on his own projects for the moment. If I were a betting man, I’d put a few dollars on that changing sooner rather than later.

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!

 

Typhoon | El Rey Theatre | 3/6/14

IMG_4235

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:

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 10.25.59 PMI’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 websiteand 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!

Miner | El Rey Theatre | 3/6/14

IMG_4230

Excited that Typhoon’s management gave me permission to bring a DSLR camera into the El Rey to snap pics of the gig, I got to the venue early enough to stake out some territory and to play around with the settings of my new camera. While fiddling with my new  toy, a Silver Lake based folk band named Miner took to the stage, set up and started playing.

Miner is a friends and family affair, formed around the husband/wife duo of Justin and Kate Miner, along with Justin’s brother Jeremy, his cousin Amanda, and friends Justin Krook and David Schechtman. Perhaps it was that personal relationship they had with each other that gave their performance a certain air of comfort that made the performance feel more intimate than you would have expected at the El Rey. It could have been that … or it could have been the fact that I was up front. LOL. Either way, it was mellow, feel good music that any folk-lover would enjoy.

If you are a fan of The Heart And The Heart, The Lumineers or Of Monsters and Men, then you may want to check this band out. If you live in Los Angeles, and you enjoy any of the foregoing bands, then you should really follow them on Facebook to catch them when they play a gig in town. I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy it. If you’re the festival-going type, their tour schedule has three of them listed for this year: Lightning In A BottleSnowmass Mammoth Fest, and Bunbury Music Festival.

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!

Scars on 45 | Hotel Cafe | 2/28/14 (Photos)

IMG_4166

Scars on 45, a band from England, happened to be playing an early set at the Hotel Cafe when I went there to catch another band play. I hadn’t heard of them before, but for an early 8pm set, they definitely had the room packed with their fans.

Currently signed to o Atlantic Records’ Chop Shop Records label, Scars on 45 achieved some success when their single “Heart On Fire” was featured on the season 8 soundtrack to the popular television show , Grey’s Anatomy. They released an album in 2012, which Amazon.com ranked as number 7 out of 50 “Best Albums of 2012”.

They played a solid set and their adult contemporary, pop-rock sound reminded me a bit of Fleetwood Mac. Towards the end of their set, after thanking the appreciative crowd, they recalled a bit of the band’s recent history, finishing with a smile that they were all back where they were when they began, working on music in the same small room they started off in.

I wasn’t able to get any video of them performing, but I’ve included their hit “Heart On Fire” below, and the only photos I could take at the venue with my point and shoot (I should have brought my DSLR!) are of the vocalists of the band (Danny Bemrose and Aimee Driver). Enjoy.

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, then Flickr has disabled their embed option for WordPress, which totally BLOWS! If you can see the slide show below, hooray!