Monday, December 24, 2007

Brian Setzer Orchestra at the Gibson Amphitheatre

It just doesn't feel like Christmas until I attend a Brian Setzer Christmas Extravaganza show. I have attended at least five out of six Brian Setzer Orchestra Christmas Extravaganza shows. I was also fortunate to be in the pit at the Greek Theatre to see Joe Strummer open for Brian Setzer Orchestra in 2001 as well as seeing last year's show.  The holiday spirit filled the air as I walked into Gibson Amphitheatre.

Dibbs Preston and The Detonators

Dibbs Preston and the Detonators started the evening with their rockabilly alternative country vibe. Ross Rhoades(Slap Bass) was plucking and slapping away at his upright bass. Dibbs (Guitars/Vocals) had his Fender Telecaster on ultra twang mode with an accompanying lap steel guitar player. Dibbs mentioned a few times in his set that he would be between Doors 8-10 of the theatre signing his new cd that you can order through their website via paypal.

Brian Setzer Orchestra

Brian Setzer has his own custom Gretsch guitar for a reason. He makes me want to quit playing guitar because he makes it look so effortless. The curtain raised to reveal the Orchestra seated in front of a screen that looked like a giant snowglobe with projected snow falling in the background. Brian debuted a new red sparkle holiday flavored Gretsch for a blazing version of "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus". It is a sight to behold to see the whole orchestra in action with Brian energetically leading them on. The song was extended with Brian ripping off a guitar solo that melted into a saxophone solo followed up by a trombone solo topped with a trumpet solo.

I shook my head in disbelief as Brian stunned the crowd with a scintillating version of "Honey Man" which is adapted from the classic song "Flight of the Bumblebee". I think I saw smoke coming from Brian Setzer's fingers at one point. Brian jokingly said "How about something easier?" as he started off the chords to the "Stray Cat Strut" . The screen behind the orchestra changed to the classic video playing in unison to the song. The song transitioned to "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch" and featured the Grinch running out on stage for a brief moment. "Jump Jive An' Wail" also had the video behind it playing along with Brian commenting that "It's MTV when they used to show videos".

The curtain would later drop to give the orchestra a well deserved rest as Brian downsized to an upright bass and small drum kit to take on some old classic tunes. "This Cat's On A Hot Tin Roof" was a crowd favorite and had some swing dancing breaking out in the pit area. "Gene and Eddie" showed that Brian didn't let up on the gas pedal as they zoomed through the foot stomping and hip shaking number. Brian dipped back into the Stray Cats catalog with "Fishnet Stockings" that ended with all three members laying their instruments on the ground as if they were dead. "Route 66" was next and sounded nothing like Depeche Mode's version of the song.

"Rock This Town" got the whole audience up out of their seats. Brian took a quick break before coming back out for the encore. I believe I raved about "The Nutcracker Suite" in last year's review so there is nothing more to add. Brian's two daughters were running across the stage at various points during the encore to the delight and laughter of some the Orchestra members. "Gettin' In The Mood" closed out the evening with a large ovation from the crowd. Brian was in such a good mood he even signed some autographs for some of the audience members in the front row . It seemed like Brian couldn't stop smiling. I knew I should have attended both nights.

Happy Hollows, Great Northern and The Spores at the Viper Room

It was a holiday party spectacular at the Viper Room sponsored by Indie 103.1 Monday Night's Check One,Two with another great line up consisting of the Happy Hollows, Great Northern, and The Spores. It seems like I have been going to the Viper Room every Monday for weeks now.

Happy Hollows

The Happy Hollows played a short but sweet set when I saw them with the Silversun Pickups in October. I was dazzled by Sarah Negadari's (Guitars/Vocals) rapid two handed tapping skills on her Gibson SG. I thought Charlie M. (Bass) was mimicking Steve Harris from Iron Maiden with his intricate busy bass lines. I remembered a lot of their songs from the time I saw them at the Wiltern which is a very good sign. "Colors" lives up to its name sake with the naming of various colors as they construct a sonic kaleidoscope to accompany the lyrics. Charlie led the band during "A Man A Plan A Canal" which had art damaged guitar lines meshed with a grooving bass line. "Monster Room" was a spastic jump up and down on your bed good time that closed out their set perfectly. Their EP "Bunnies and Bombs" is their latest release and on itunes.

Great Northern

Great Northern has toured relentlessly in support of their amazing debut album "Trading Twilight for Daylight". I can attest to their hectic touring schedule because I will have covered them eight times this year. I particularly enjoyed their set at The Belly Up and Hollywood & Highland. Great Northern were bathed in red lights as they worked through selections from their album. The song "Home" is as soothing a cup of hot chocolate on a cold evening. Solon Bixler (Guitars/Vocals) had his Fender Telecaster Deluxe alternating between his glistening and dusky tones. Great Northern also debuted a new song that started as a echo delayed loop with dual vocals by Rachel Stolte(Keyboards/Vocals) and Solon. Great Northern also re-released their prequel EP "Sleepy Eepee" available on itunes. Eight is not enough as I look forward to seeing Great Northern many more times in 2008.

The Spores

The Spores closed out the night with their self described "Doom Pop". Their sound featured moments of Queens of the Stone Age, The Lovemakers, Burning Brides and Hole with a dash of the theatrics. Greg Biribauer (Guitars) was rocking his Epiphone Flying V guitars for some peanut butter crunchy riffs. Eric Pearson (Drums) had his headphones to help guide his percussive onslaught. Molly Mcguire (Vocals/Bass/Puppets) appeared on stage in a Kabuki mask before she later moved onto her Fender Bass. As their show continued, the theatrics heightened with appearance by a puppet on stilts controlled by Molly as she used a megaphone for vocal distortion. The puppets were funny but I was more impressed with the music. Their album "Doom Pop" is available now and can be downloaded from itunes.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

FM 94.9 Holiday Hootenanny at the RIMAC Arena

FM 94.9 in San Diego does an excellent job supporting local music as well as upcoming acts. They have championed such acts like the Silversun Pickups, TV on the Radio, Ken Andrews and Sea Wolf during their "About the Music" series at the Belly Up. I enjoyed their Holiday show last year and was equally excited when they announced the line up for this year with Queens of the Stone Age, Pinback, Louis XIV, The Kooks, Mute Math and Rogue Wave.

Rogue Wave

Rogue Wave has been a favorite of mine since I saw them open for The Shins a few years ago at the Wiltern. I have an original copy of "Out of the Shadows" before it was re-released by Sub Pop records. Rogue Wave is touring in support of their latest album "Asleep at Heaven's Gate". "Lake Michigan" has rightfully earned a place on the airwaves and will ruminate in your mind with its catchy chords and sing along verses. Zach Rogue (Guitars/Vocals) sounded superb with his wistful vocals on "Publish My Love". I recently rediscovered "Descended Like Vultures" and have been listening to it frequently. After hearing a bouncy version of "Chicago X 12", I was thinking that I had to spin "Asleep at Heaven's Gate" more often to have it grow on me. FM 94.9 recently announced that they are sponsoring Rogue Wave for the "About The Music" series at the Belly Up and I will be there singing along.

Mute Math

Mute Math is a band I was not familar with. I will verify though that they put on an energetic live show. Paul Meany (Vocals/Keyboards) gets points for rocking the keytar. The world needs more keytar. I also can verify that Paul did a handstand on his Rhodes piano which is something you don't see at every show. Darren King (Drums) was a madman with headphones duct taped around his head as he physically assaulted the drums. Darren also managed to grab a drum and jump out into the crowd. The band played like their live depended on it. It was an entertaining show to say the least.

The Kooks

The Kooks were one of the main reasons why I wanted to attend this show as it was one of the few radio station shows they had scheduled for this year. I was impressed when I saw them at Spaceland back in October of last year. The Kooks are putting the final touches on their sophomore album entitled "Konk" which is due April 14th. After a lenghty intermission, The Kooks came out fiery hot. They played a handful of songs from "Inside In, Inside Out" like "Seaside", "She Moves In Her Own Way" and "Ooh La". I spotted many fans in the front row with brand new The Kooks shirts and singing along. The Kooks played with confidence beyond their years and sounded great despite having monitor problems. They played a new song "Time Awaits" that really demonstrated strong growth in their songwriting skills. I think 2008 will be a good year for The Kooks.

Louis XIV

Louis XIV received a hometown welcome as they appeared on the dimly lit stage. Jason Hill (Guitars/Vocals) was strutting around the stage with his Epiphone Gibson hollowbody. They played an assortment of songs from their debut album "The Best Little Secrets Are Kept". "God Killed The Queen" featured some good call and response vocals flanked with a thumping bass line. "Finding Out True Love Is Blind" also had the crowd moving as James Armbrust (Bass) was plucking on his Rickenbacker bass. They also played a new song "Guilt By Association" which had an old Queens of the Stone Age wirey vibe to it. I think there set was cut short a few songs due to the delay in getting the stage set up. I will be seeing them three times in a few months as they are opening for the Editors.


Pinback is another band that I enjoy but seem to keep missing when they play a show. I saw them a few years ago with The Album Leaf at the Avalon in Hollywood. Rob Crow (Guitars/Vocals) was decked out in his awesome Venom shirt and Star Wars cap to appeal to the inner death metal nerd in all of us. Pinback is supporting their new album "Autumn of the Seraphs" on Touch and Go Records. Rob Crow and Zach Smith blend their voices and instruments well as they worked through "Good To Sea" and "Off By Fifty". Rob Crow was switching between his Gibson Les Paul and a Fender 12 string Hockey stick guitar. I was amazed when a full pit broke out for "Penelope" off their classic album "Blue Screen Life". Zach Smith was performing the bass olympics with his energetic bass lines. They will be back on tour in February and I will try and catch them again.

Queens of The Stone Age

Queens of the Stone Age closed out the night in style with selections off their latest release "Era Vulgaris". "Sick, Sick, Sick" had the RIMAC shaking with its stuttering riff and earthquake drums. Mikey Shuman (Bass) was killing it on his Gibson Ripper Bass. Troy Van Leeuwen (Guitars) was playing his custom Yamaha guitar and a Fender Telecaster Deluxe. I also spotted Josh Homme (Vocals/Guitars) using a Clyde Fulltone White Wah Pedal. "Feel Good Hit Of The Summer" had its usual interlude where Josh incorporated some of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" into the song. "3's&7's" was another barn burner with the stage lights quickly flickering along to its foot stomping beat. Queens of The Stone Age blew out the arena when they closed their set with "Little Sister" and "Go With The Flow". I just wished that they had a longer set time to dip back into their older material but still a scorching set.