Snoop Dogg just dropped one of the hottest new music videos I’ve seen in a while. Directed by Francois Rousselet, the video for “So Many Pros” uses the artistic stylings of vintage movie posters from the late 70s and 80s, and it pays off visually. Check out the video below! Continue reading
For those of us unfortunate souls who weren’t able to make it out to the desert this year for the music explosion that is Coachella, watch selected streamed performances here … from ALL THREE CHANNELS! The show starts now!
“[…] When Future Islands walked out on stage, you could tell that the crowd that was unmistakably on a mission to move and be moved. Singer Samuel Herring began with speaking a heartfelt introduction that bonded us both and served as preparation for a ceremony of unabashed intimacy.
[…] Between primal outbursts of energy, blessing the crowd, eating his own sweat, and a Hulk-like tear through his shirt, the shamanistic vocalist prodded out our repressions as he shared with us his confessions. Balloons released from above as the night came to a close and Future Islands made sure there wasn’t a single thing you hadn’t danced out by playing three encores. By the end of the performance, the air was thick with the sweat of released emotional baggage […].
“[…] The band’s musicianship gave gravity to the group’s spacey nature and I appreciated the strength of their live show; they gave their all and played an enthusiastic set. I would however like to hear them develop the journey of their songs instead of relying on technological filters as a vehicle to drive the music home. […] Their stamina to float into the ether and keep the dance vibes rolling made for a truly dancy, trancy, synthy indie time at the Wiltern.”
“[…] Joey, Troupe, and Nick (bass, vocals, guitar) heralded three part harmonies that maintained the attention of an audience caught off guard by the band’s naïve appearance and subdued interactions. […]. Troupe’s ambitious vocal range sailed smoothly through the heart of every song, and as a singing trio they were just as solid and as much of a centerpiece. Their quick paced songs were brought down to hip swaying tempos at times, adding an aura of unexpected intensity and edge to the band’s otherwise sonically friendly climate. But despite their seemingly shy demeanors reminiscent of Death Cab for Cutie, but edgier, the four guys from Austin performed a confident set of hook-heavy pop rock.”
Written by G.Bonilla and D. Lee
There was a line almost 2 blocks long waiting to to get into the venue before doors had opened. Future Islands, who were playing club gigs last year, are now selling out storied venues like the Wiltern.
It’s not easy for bands to break through. Sometimes it can take years. Sometimes it never happens. It took 8 years, but Future Islands finally got the exposure they deserved when they made their network television debut on March 3, 2014, on The Late Show with David Letterman, performing the lead single “Seasons (Waiting On You)”. That’s how I discovered them. That’s why I’ve seen them three times this year.
We entered the storied venue and as the others spent time visiting Red Bull affiliated booths and activities in the lobby, we stepped into the performance room to set up shop to find a good view. As we made our way up front, walking towards the relatively empty orchestra pit, a security guard stopped us to give us wristbands to enter the space up front. Typically at the Wiltern, orchestra pit passes are given to those waiting in line for the doors to open. Thankful, for whatever reason, that they gave them out, first come-first served, to whose who ventured to the front of the stage before the show started.
The first band to take the stage was Red Bull Sound Select artist, SPEAK; an art rock band from Austen, Texas.
The muted look of black attire and prescription glasses camouflaged the three guys and drummer out on stage. They quietly took the stage and meekly addressed the audience. They didn’t have to say a word. They introduced themselves to the audience by digging into their instruments. With a different palate to offer, SPEAK took a detour from the synth-pop lineup of the evening. Elaborations on four-on-the-floor beats and pop progressions were accompanied by synth lines but not driven by them. That’s not to say that the band was unfamiliar with how to hook a bait; the oscillating melodies that stamped each of their songs are proof of their knack for knowing what sticks.
Joey, Troupe, and Nick (bass, vocals, guitar) heralded three part harmonies that maintained the attention of an audience caught off guard by the band’s naïve appearance and subdued interactions. That’s not to say that there was a timidity in their sound. Troupe’s ambitious vocal range sailed smoothly through the heart of every song, and as a singing trio they were just as solid and as much of a centerpiece. Their quick paced songs were brought down to hip swaying tempos at times, adding an aura of unexpected intensity and edge to the band’s otherwise sonically friendly climate. But despite their seemingly shy demeanors reminiscent of Death Cab for Cutie, but edgier, the four guys from Austin performed a confident set of hook-heavy pop rock.
The second band, another Red Bull Sound Select Artist, Rose Quartz, is a synth band Denver, Colorado.
As the veil of darkness on stage lifted to reveal stacked bulks of vintage looking synth gear, the duo known as Rose Quartz (who perform as a foursome live with the addition of guitar and drums) went into what I would describe as dancy trancy synthy indie.
Their cyclical progressions and repetitive vocal lines gave the performance a chanty element and plenty of landscape to dance to, making their set sound like one long song. Build-ups usually plateaud onto lyrical incantations while vocal effects trailed through musical changes that hopped back and forth between two or three chords. Again, dancy trancy synthy indie. The band’s musicianship gave gravity to the group’s spacey nature and I appreciated the strength of their live show; they gave their all and played an enthusiastic set. I would however like to hear them develop the journey of their songs instead of relying on technological filters as a vehicle to drive the music home. We couldn’t ignore that the progression of their songs lacked a story, leaving listeners pretty much where it all began. Nonetheless, their stamina to float into the ether and keep the dance vibes rolling made for a truly dancy, trancy, synthy indie time at the Wiltern.
Rose Quartz was a decent appetizer … but we were ready and anxious for Future Islands to take the stage..
When Future Islands walked out on stage, you could tell that the crowd that was unmistakably on a mission to move and be moved. Singer Samuel Herring began with speaking a heartfelt introduction that bonded us both and served as preparation for a ceremony of unabashed intimacy.
There seemed to be shaky start as within a few seconds of their opening song, Sam gestured abruptly to kill sound and apologized of for the synth malfunction. It was as is he was teasing and taunting the brewing hurricane that the music was stirring. The audience was more than willing to forgive the incident even before Herring made a comment on the beauty of second chances. If anything, the technical difficulty proved to show the humanity in the circumstance and fit right in with the prevalent theme of their music.
They picked up just as powerfully as the first attempt, and it soared from there. Between primal outbursts of energy, blessing the crowd, eating his own sweat, and a Hulk-like tear through his shirt, the shamanistic vocalist prodded out our repressions as he shared with us his confessions. Balloons released from above as the night came to a close and Future Islands made sure there wasn’t a single thing you hadn’t danced out by playing three encores. By the end of the performance, the air was thick with the sweat of released emotional baggage. Walking back out into the city was the perfect cool down for the collective dance party we’d all just had.
“[…] The singer managed to hold some notes in the upper register that were compelling and reinforced the emotional tone of the composition – a pensive, meditative, self-reflective vibe. […] The band is a group of pretty young looking dudes from Melbourne and they sound a helluva lot better than they look. When I talk about ‘looks’, I don’t mean their physical appearance. I’m talking more about their stage presence. They’re like high school AP music kids: super-preoccupied with hitting each note right, everyone staring at either their instruments, their fingers, or the floor. […] [T]hey really do start to draw you in as they layer slow building guitar riffs over a building keyboard over building drums until it’s a damn powerful wall of music filling the space inside that little church […].
As much as I like Jay Z, I really can’t stand what he did to Alphaville’s chart topping single from 1984 “Forever Young”. Alphaville’s recording was a song of my youth. For me, it was a song played as the one of the last songs at summer boarding school dances (the other being Don McLean’s “American Pie”) where groups of friends would gather in a circle on the dance floor to sing along and reminisce of the memories they had made the past few months. In my opinion, what Kanye and Jay Z did to that song was a bastardization of the original, and I always flip the tuner on the radio if it starts playing. Sure, it appeals to the modern day youth, but to me? … they should have left good enough alone. I mean the Jay Z rap? … ugh. Just terrible. Terrible lyrics. Terrible sentiment. Just … ugh.
Below are are videos of Alphaville’s original recording and Jay Z’s version. You be judge.
When I noticed that Dirty Loops did a cover of “Forever Young”, I was bracing myself for the worst. I mean, these fellas are amazing musicians, and in the other covers I’ve heard them perform, they usually flip the arrangement into something breathtakingly crazy. I was keeping my fingers crossed when I pressed on the Youtube player, hoping that that they’d keep it somewhat laid back and mellow like the original. I was pleasantly surprise.
Yes, their arrangement is impeccably complex. The bass line? Ridiculous. The vocal runs? Effortlessly fluid. The chord progressions? More sophisticated than a bottle of your finest bottled of scotch. These guys haven’t let me down yet, and I’m glad they did such a phenomenal, and unique, cover of Alphaville’s original. FYI, I didn’t need a chaser.
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.
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.