Monday, April 30, 2007

Arctic Monkeys at the Troubadour

My usual strategy during the season of Coachella is to head to Vegas and see some good bands in smaller venues in a controlled climate. For example, Depeche Mode at the Hard Rock last year was spectacular and I even made it to the rail. I was pleased to see the Arctic Monkeys added a last minute show at the Troubadour Sunday night.
My streak of no opening bands was perpetuated yet again as the Arctic Monkeys were the only act scheduled to come on at 11:00. After a short delay, they appeared on stage and jumped right into "If You Found This It’s Probably Too Late" off of Brianstorm single. I have seen the Arctic Monkeys before at the Wiltern and was impressed how accurately Alex Turner (Vocals/Guitars) would deliver the songs while banging the heck out of his Fender Duo-Sonic. I had not gotten a chance to listen to the Favourite Worst Nightmare as much as I wanted to prior to the show but my initial impression is that its a more mature album. My suspicions were confirmed as Jamie Cook (Guitars) had an elaborate pedal board to change up some of the guitar tones. Even though I didn't get a picture of Alex's setup, I spied a Hughes & Kettner Rotosphere pedal along with a Danelectro Reel Echo Tape Simulator Pedal. Matt Helders (Drums) did an impressive job propelling the tunes and giving them an edge. It may seem difficult to believe but I think they played the songs even faster live than on the cd. I was fortunate enough to grab the setlist but would like to add that they threw in "Flourescent Adolescent" before the last song. The crowd was left screaming for an encore to no avail. 

Interpol at the Joint

My ears were still ringing from Tool when I went to see Interpol at the Joint. I almost got kicked out of the show after taking three pictures on my camera. No photos tonight. My mood was depressed but it made it a perfect environment for an Interpol show. The new Interpol album "Our Love to Admire" is due 7/10/07 and is another highly anticipated release for this year.

Tool did not have an opening band on Friday night which didn't bother me that much. When I found out Interpol had a DJ opening for them, I made it a point to show up when Interpol was due to hit the stage. Paul Banks (Vocals/Guitars) approached the microphone with a Fender Jazzmaster and I suddenly thought that Interpol was going to get shoegazer on me. I was wrong as he launched into the icy notes of "Pioneer To the Falls". I was extremely impressed how well Interpol performed considering that they just started their tour. Carlos D (Bass) was practicing his militant stomp across the stage as Sam Fogarino (Guitars) was very business like in his suit and tie which matched his guitar riffs. Paul did return to his trademark Les Paul Custom guitar but did deviate to a sweet Flying V which he used on the "Take You On A Cruise". Both Sam and Paul used E-Bows on the intro. "Stella was a Diver" was excellent as the whole pit in front of the stage moshed around. The concert seemed to have went by in seconds when they closed with "PDA". Hopefully I can acquire a ticket to some radio station festival show which features Interpol in a few weeks.

Interpol Setlist from The Joint in Vegas:

Pioneer To The Falls
Obstacle 1
Say Hello To The Angels
Slow Hands
Leif Erikson
The Heinrich Manuever
Not Even Jail
Take You On A Cruise
Stella Was A Diver...

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Tool at The Pearl in Las Vegas

It was funny when a Tool fan started talking to me before the show and asked me how many times I had seen Tool. I remarked that my third ever concert was Tool, The Melvins, and GWAR at the Hollywood Palladium in 1992 and I have seen them at least 20 times.

I was extremely excited to see this show since it was held at the Pearl at the Palms. The intimacy of last nights show will be difficult to top. The Pearl was electric last night as Tool shook off the cobwebs to deliver a thunderous set. I was impressed by the sound system at the Pearl but thought that Maynard's vocals could have been a little bit louder. The Pearl itself is an stellar venue that seems a bit smaller than the Wiltern back in Los Angeles. One of the highlights of the night included Maynard J. Keenan (Vocals) commenting, "Moshpits...huuhh" in his Beavis and Butthead voice. My favorite tunes included "Sober", "Forty Six & Two" and "Jambi". Adam Jones (Guitars)did have some technical problems with his talk box but it still was a scintillating performance. Adam pulled out an electric razor to place on his strings to conjure some alien feedback before crushing the audience with the riff from "Sober". His two Diezel Amp heads were on display running through Mesa Boogie cabinets. The technical abilities of all the band members is a site to behold in a live setting. They did not announce any Los Angeles dates, so I made sure I secured two nights in San Diego hoping that this would not be their last tour.

Tool Setlist from the Pearl In Las Vegas:
"46 and 2"
"Rosetta stoned"
"Wings For Marie"
"10,000 Days"

Friday, April 27, 2007

Jesus and The Mary Chain at the Glasshouse

There are a few bands that I missed back in day. Jesus and The Mary Chain were one of those bands. I still bitterly remember Lollapolloza 1992 selling out one person before me. After meeting a small army of colleagues at the immensely overcrowed "bar" a few doors down, we went to the glasshouse to see some legends perform.

I thought there would be a larger roar when Jesus and Mary Chain appeared on stage. Most people where probably still in shock that the band made it this far. The opening chords of "Never Understand" rang out and I was entranced. The distortion and feedback from William Reid's guitar setup was not what I imagined but still was impressive. William was playing his hollowbody Gibson through some Orange Amps and had a Crowther Audio Hot Cake pedal combined with a Dunlop Wah Pedal. One glitch the band encountered was a restart of "Cracking Up" as Jim had miss timed the intro vocals but covered it up when he mentioned he originally didn't sing on the song. One thing that impressed me the most Jim Reid's vocals sounded timeless given all the years. The new song "All Things" sounded great and gives me a glimmer of hope that they will release a new album in the future. All of the songs sounded superb but I felt that "Blues from a Gun" had a extra singe of flame on the track. The highly rumored appearance of a movie actress turned out to be Annie Hardy from Giant Drag. Unfortunately, her vocals were turned down to an undectectable level. It was good to see Phil King and Loz Colbert onstage again. I don't think a Lush reunion would ever happen, but there still maybe hope for a Ride reunion. I am keeping my fingers crossed that the Smashing Pumpkins "Reunion" will be just as good if not better.

Jesus and Mary Chain Setlist from the Glass House:
"Never Understand"
"Head On"
"Far Gone and Out"
"Happy When It Rains"
"Some Candy Talking"
"Between Planets"
"Blues From A Gun"
"Cracking Up"
"All Things (New Song!)
"Teenage Lust"
"Just Like Honey (Annie from Giant Drag on background vocals)"

Autolux at the Casbah

My first show of 2007 was Autolux at the Little Radio New Year's Party. While most of my friends don't remember this show, it was a spectacular way to start the year. Autolux has been busy recording the follow up to their classic album "Future Perfect" which is due this summer.

HEALTH hailing from Los Angeles opened for Autolux with their off kilter feedback noise rock. They played odd time signature tunes with mathematical precision that included microphonic feedback and suitcases of effects. As an admirer of noise rock and feedback, I was impressed.

Autolux started the set with "The Science of Imaginary Solutions" which featured Carla Azar (Vocals/Drums) providing some shuffling drum beats along with her airy vocals. Greg Edwards (Guitars) did an excellent job conjuring up a storm of fuzz and distortion from his rig. Some of the more interesting effects in his chain were two vintage Crowther Audio Hot Cake overdrive pedals. His setup was very complex as he switched effortlessly between channels on his VHT amp. Greg also was using his volume pedals and his Line 6 expression pedal all night to get different textures to his tone. If Tool wasn't playing in San Diego, I would be at their Glasshouse Show on May 3 with Midnight Movies and the Pity Party.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Klaxons at the Echoplex

I was fortunate to see the Deadly Syndrome do their sound check prior to their set, but it was because the Echoplex was running so late. The Deadly Syndrome had quite an odd stage setup with cardboard cutouts of ghosts placed on the stage. They played a good set that reminded me of Pavement, and the Rentals. They fall into the category indie alternative pop. I think they toured with Oh No! Oh My! which would have been a great bill. Their new album "The Ortolan" comes out September 11, 2007.

I didn't see any glowsticks in the crowd, but the Echoplex was packed for a show by NME dubbed "Nu-Rave" band The Klaxons. After a huge delay in opening the doors and a longer delay after the Deadly Syndrome finished their set, the Klaxons appeared on stage. The Klaxons were supporting their recently released debut album Myths of the Near Future. Pushing ensued as they broke into "The Bouncer" off of their EP Xan Valley. I started to have flashbacks that I was in a Slayer pit. James Righton (Keyboards/Vocals) was sporting his Dr. Dre t-shirt as his kicked out some acid laced synth lines via his Korg X50 with his Korg Kaoss Pad 3 tucked underneath. Jamie Reynolds (Bass/Vocals) was holding his own on his Rickenbacker bass and interacting with the crowd. Unfortunately the mix at the Echoplex has yet to be refined as the drums were loud and the guitars were not loud enough. The crowd did not seem to care as they enthusiastically danced along to such tunes as "Gravity's Rainbow", "Golden Skans", "It's Not Over Yet" and "Magick". The Klaxons did a great job getting the crowd into it and did the obligatory "This was the best show of the whole tour" commentary. The only disappointment was with their beer selection with Corona Extra bottles littered across the stage. I know for a fact they have better beer in England.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Monsters Are Waiting at the Orange County Museum of Art

The third Thursday of the month means a free show down at the Orange County Museum of art. I can't say enough about this event as I have caught quite a few good bands(Silversun Pickups, Mellowdrone, The Little Ones and Darker My Love) going deep behind the orange curtain.

Last time I caught Monsters Are Waiting was when they opened for Stellastarr* at the Troubadour. I commented back then how much their live set has improved and I would like to reaffirm that statement as they played a solid set. Annalee introduced "Ones's and Zero's" as a working title of their new song and it rocked as the tempo sped up to climax at the end with a vicious drum flurry. "Endless" was another new track that featured a bass line taken from the Peter Hook(Joy Division, New Order) playbook. The band kept the spirit of Manchester alive by conjuring up The Stone Roses cover "I Wanna Be Adored". They closed the set with "Christine" but unfortunately didn't play my favorite song "Last Goodbye" but will be back in July with Maximo Park.

I also saw the guys from Satisfaction loitering around the museum. They used to be in the band Smile which you may remember had the song "Staring At The Sun". The fuzz guitar and bass on that album is exceptional and a worthy pickup if you want to hear some classic '90s fuzz.

Pictured above is the Monsters Are Waiting pedalboard. Pedal of notable mention goes to the Ibanez L.A. Metal distortion/fuzz. Straight out of the '80s, but sounded good to me.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Silversun Pickups at the Silverlake Lounge

The Silverlake lounge has a listed capacity of 176. Don't tell the fire marshall but I believe max capacity was exceeded Tuesday night. It was the Fold's 10 year anniversary and a "special" guest was making an appearance. The first surprise was that I actually found a spot in the parking lot. The second surprise was a blistering performance by the Silversun Pickups.

The Pity Party was worth price of admission alone as they kicked out some fuzz jams that ensnared the audience. I was impressed by Hesienflei's abilities to play drums, sing and manipulate basslines via her Yamaha DX7. M (Guitars/Vocals) did a sufficient job conjuring fuzz from his Fender amp. I was so entranced I forgot to take pictures. Catch them on May 3rd with the super bill of Autolux, and Midnight Movies. I was also impressed when they listed Failure, and Kraftwerk as influences on their myspace page.

Castledoor came up with a blend of indie rock combined with a tinge of country. They also had a sweet Access Indigo Virus synthesizer on stage combined with a Nord Electro. Nate Cole (Vocals/Guitar) was dancing around the small stage and led the group through a cheeky cover of "Cry Me A River". Check out their EP "Follow The Dove" on itunes.

Silversun Pickups(SSPU) were finally revealed as the secret surprise guests to the delight of the packed house. After their taping on the Jimmy Kimmel show, they played a full set that shows how tight a live band they have become. Joseph Lester had a new Keyboard rig that features a Korg MS-2000, and an M-Audio Axiom that was controlling a Roland Phantom XR module. Brian Aubert (Vocals/Guitars) had a new pedalboard and used a Fender Jaguar during the set. They rocked the house with selections off of "Carnavas" and closed with the brilliant "Common Reactor". Do yourself a favor and buy this album as well as catch them at Coachella.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Shins at the Orpheum Theatre

My weekend of Shins goodness continued on Sunday night as they played a sold out show at the Orpheum. The Orpheum theatre is located in downtown Los Angeles and was one of the few venues I have never attended. The Shins played a great set at KCRW but not everyone in the crowd seemed to be enjoying their set. This was not the case tonight as it was packed with dedicated fans.

It appears that the Portland scene (Modest Mouse, Stephen Malkmus, The Thermals, and Wet Confetti) has been gaining a lot of traction recently. Some other rising stars from Portland are the husband and wife duo of Viva Voce. The last time I saw Viva Voce was when they opened for the Silversun Pickups at the Echo and they delievered a great set. Their set at the Orpheum was a repeat performance with Anita Robinson (Guitars/Vocals) cranking out the riffs on her double neck Danelectro guitar. Kevin Robinson (Drums/Guitar) provided the banging drums and the witty commentary. Check out their Barsuk release "Get Yr Blood Sucked Out".

"Wincing The Night Away" has been one of the standout releases of 2007. Some of the highlights from the night included "Australia","Turn On Me", "Kissing The Lipless", and "Phantom Limb". The Shins have also added Eric Johnson on stage as he supplies additional keyboards and some nice pedal steel guitar work. Anita Robinson also came out for "Phantom Limb" to provide backing vocals and Kevin Robinson provided some cowbell during one of their songs. Some critics have complained that the live show is lacking. I don't expect pyrotechnics or elaborate dance moves at a Shins show. The Shins just play their songs and give thanks to the crowd. I could not ask for anything more.

Monday, April 16, 2007

KCRW A Sounds Ecletic Evening at the Gibson Amphitheatre

If you haven't turned in your taxes I suggest you make a quick contribution to KCRW. Nic Harcourt does a superb job of curating excellent talent for their annual fundraiser to help digitize their music collection. I have been fortunate to attend some shows in the prior years that have featured such bands as Death Cab For Cutie, Damien Rice, Beck, Coldplay, and Franz Ferdinand.

Bitter:Sweet started the festivities with their dreamy hodgepodge of jazz, trip hop, and electronica. It came off as a blend of Jem and Portishead. They received huge points for bringing an actual harp on stage which they combined with a DJ and a keyboardist. Shana Halligan used her sultry voice to captivate the audiences attention very early in their set. They received a warm response from the crowd.

Breakestra started the party machine with some funk jams in the vein of Ozomatli, Fishbone and a touch of James Brown. Mix Master Wolf(Vocals) was howling out his vocals and pacing back and forth on stage getting the audience out of their seats. Breakestra had a good groove throughout their set and one could easily identify that all band members were proficient musicians.

The Cold War Kids represented for Long Beach with another passionate performance. The Cold War Kids don't really need anymore blog posts but their live show will address any doubters of their talent. Carlos from the Sparrow Love Crew represented as well on "Saint John" to give it new meaning to a "banging" track. Check out Sparrow Love Crew's Myspace page to become familar with "Naidu" and my favorite "The Business". The Cold War Kids have a few days off then head to the U.K. for more touring.

Rodrigo Y Gabriela took the whole audience by storm. I can honestly say they melted faces off with their nylon string acoustic guitars. The best comparision one could make would be if you mixed Sepultura, Slayer and Iron & Wine together. Gabriela used her acoustic guitar as a drum at various points of the set with her rhythmic tapping. Rodrigo earned points for sprinkling in the riffs of "Bombtrack" and "Enter Sandman" into their set. They both even threw up the devil horns which I had to return in kind. They closed their set with a jaw dropping rendition of "Stairway to Heaven". A standing ovation from the crowd must have been a high point in their burgeoning career.

Travis was the special surprise guest which was fine by me. They debuted tracks from their album "The Boy with No Name" which comes out on May 8th. It appears to be a return to form as I enjoyed "Selfish Jean" and "My Eyes". I was a little bit lost after "12 Memories" but that was partly because "The Invisible Band" was an excellent album. Other tracks from their set included "Sing" and the shimmery "Driftwood". Fran Healy (Vocals/Guitar) belted out the songs as usual but commented that he was amazed by the Rodrigo Y Gabriela performance.

U.K. sensation Lilly Allen sauntered on stage with her breezy reggae tinged pop songs. It was not my cup of tea but I was impressed by her vocal range for someone who is so young. Lilly also had a good stage presence as she engaged the audience and had an aurora of confidence about her. One thing that had me laughing was her reference to a "colostomy bag" in her lyrics. How does she know what a colostomy bag is?

The Shins closed the evening with selections from their solid new album "Wincing the Night Away". The Shins are masters of melody as they possess an uncanny ability to make their songs sound fresh using classic chord progressions. Marty Crandall switched off between bass and keyboards and made his usual wisecracks. Stand out songs included "Phantom Limb", "Pam Berry", "Kissing the Lipless" and "New Slang". Overall, an excellent night. Thanks to KCRW.