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.