Sunday, February 25, 2007

Nine Inch Nails and Ladytron at the Manchester Apollo

Greetings from Manchester, England. I decided to take a vacation from Los Angeles concerts and go on holiday in the U.K. Ironically enough, Nine Inch Nails are in town with Ladytron opening. Sounded like a good vacation to me. The Manchester Apollo is a cool theatre about the size of the Wiltern theatre back in Los Angeles. The venue has a no camera policy so I figured I would take good notes instead. Ladytron opened up first with "High Rise" and continued to raise the energy level with "International Dateline" and "Destroy Everything You Touch". Ladytron had a movie screen behind them showing old footage from various flicks. The crowd cheered them on but one could sense the building anticipation for Nine Inch Nails. Chirping noises soon rang out through the P.A. system and the marching anthem of "Pilgrimage" stirred the crowd into a frenzy. "Mr. Self Destruct" got the crowd going early with the triple guitar assault of Alessandro Cortini, Jeordie White, and Aaron North. Trent was circling the stage like a predator anticipating the destruction of his prey. "Last" was astounding as it has not been played on recent tours. All of the band members were sceaming the chorus to make the song as visceral as it is on the cd. "Sin", "Burn", "Terrible Lie", "Something I Can Never Have", "March of the Pigs", "Wish" kept the momentum running high. "Ruiner" was another surprise with Aaron nailing(no pun intended) the guitar solo. Alessandro added some flavor with octave chords on guitar during the song. At prior shows in the United States, people would always scream during "Hurt" and ruining the song. The rendition that I heard tonight was the quietest version yet. Aaron North was jumping, stomping, kicking, and slipping all over stage with a great performance. This was a great opening night for the U.K. tour and I have a feeling it will only get better.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sparta, The Movies, The Press Fire at the Echo

The Press Fire

The Movies


Early shows are good ideas in my opinion, especially when I can be home at 11:00. The Echo listed a show time of 6:00pm for the nice line up of Sparta, The Movies, and The Press Fire. The Press Fire were up first and had a slew of band members on stage. Mi Jin Gregory(Keyboards) was rocking the Roland Juno-D adding textures to their indie punk songs. I likened them to The Sounds because of their incorporation of keyboards, punk like guitars, and rapid fire vocals courtesy of Nicole Hajjar. The cowbell even made an appearance during their set. Their album New Dress, New Rules was produced by Tony Hajjar(Sparta) and can be found on itunes. The Movies were up next and were quite the spectacle. Silversun Pickups are big fans of this band and even covered "Creation Lake" on their Pikul album. Brian Cleary(Keyboards) was sprinkling keyboard lines via a nice Kurzweil PC 88. I haven't seen a Kurzweil on stage since the days of Fear Factory. They reminded me of the Talking Heads with some Kraftwerk like electronic bleeps and bips percolating thru the songs. Timothy James(Vocals) was pacing around on the short stage while managing to mix in some onstage jumps. Timothy was also trying to entice the monitors to feedback by waving his microphone in front of them.The Movies lyrically are hillarious. Check out such gems as "If I Had the Cash", "Ed", "Timothy James" and "Nam". One sample of their lyrics taken from "Nam" was "When we were in Vietnam, we partied in Saigon". The Movies will be playing the Viper Room on 2/26. Sparta hit the stage to a rapturous applause and the opening chords of "Untreatable Disease" rang out. Just like Stellastarr*, Sparta has had some record label problems before finally partnering with Hollywood records for their latest release "Threes". Besides the fact that "Threes" is their third full length release, I imagine that it is a reference that bad things happen in "Threes" in terms of the departure of Paul Hinojos and Jim Ward(Vocals/Guitars) mentioning at prior concerts how he wanted to dissolve Sparta completely at one point. Sparta always puts on a superb performance and tonight was no exception. Unfortunately they didn't play some of my favorite songs "Rx Coup", "Vacant Skies" but masterfully played "Air", "Taking Back Control", and "While Oceana Sleeps". "Guns of Memorial Park" was remarkable due to the hyperkinetic drumming of Tony Hajjar. His drumming is highly regarded and it was easy to see why. Jim Ward played almost every make of guitar as he switched between a Fender Telecaster, Gibson Hollowbody, Rickenbacker, and an Ibanez Jet King. Both Jim Ward and Colin Keeley(Guitars) were stomping on their Line 6 Delay modulation pedals all night to help augment their sound. Sparta is now going out on tour with mewithoutyou and Aloha so catch them while you can.

Everybody Else at the Orange County Museum of Art

I almost forgot about the free Orange County Museum of Art concert series that occurs on every third Thursday of the month sponsored by Indie 103.1. Everybody Else stopped to showcase their jangle rock/pop songs. Named after a Kinks B-side, Everybody Else plays straight up power trio rock drenched in harmonies. Austin Williams was thumping on a nice Fender Mustang Bass and Carrick Garety(Vocals/Guitar) had a rocking Fender Mustang. Mikey McCormack was punishing his drums all night with a vengeance that cost him a crash cymbal. Carrick also used an E-bow on one of the songs that produced Mellotron like notes. Stylistically one could detect a hodgepodge of influences from the Beach Boys, Cheap Trick, Clash and the Strokes. Song highlights included "In Memoriam" and "Meat Market" and "Rich Girls/Poor Girls". Some upcoming free shows include Venus Infers and Monsters are Waiting which I recommend you attend. It is difficult to beat a night of free art and music. What else are you going to do?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Albert Hammond Jr. at the Troubadour

Love was in the air on Valentine's day at the Troubadour.The love fest was started by Har Mar Superstar. When I say Har Mar performed a stripped down set, I mean it literally and figuratively. Armed with just a DAT(Digital Audio Tape) machine, Har Mar danced around on stage with his R-rated Justin Timberlake, Maroon 5 and Mickey Avalon hybrid rap/dance/disco/funk songs. Har Mar worked the audience well and had time to go to down into the crowd to order a Patron shot of tequila from the bar mid song. When I saw Morrissey and he lost his shirt there was a large cheer from the audience. Har Mar received more cat calls then cheers and I tend to think they were on the sarcastic side. I have to say I liked his band the Sean Na Na's better. Did you know that both Har Mar Superstar and Albert Hammond Jr. have opened for Incubus? Albert Hammond Jr. was up next and delivered the goods. I have heard the new album over on NME and was impressed, but I have admit his live show was even more convincing. I usually worry about a guitarist stepping out for a solo album but Albert definitely has the skills. His backing band also featured the guitar work of Steve Schiltz who fronts the band Longwave. Steve was rocking a sweet Fender Jazzmaster thru his Hiwatt stack. Albert Hammond Jr. was rocking his trademark Olympian white Fender Stratocaster with two Jekyll and Hyde Overdrive pedals. The Jekyll and Hyde pedal has two channels with one channel modeled after the classic Ibanez Tubescreamer 808 and the other an all out distortion channel. Apparently the Artic Monkeys use the same pedals. Stand out tracks from the set include "101", "In Transit" and the smoking closer of Hard to Live(In the City). The set was really quick (approx 45mins) and I could see Matt Lazano (drums) tell Albert in between songs that the song they had just played was really fast. If Albert Hammond Jr. decides to go solo, it would change the Strokes and signal the death knell of Longwave. Hopefully all bands will remain intact. Check out his album Yours to Keep on March 6th. You can also boost your indie rock credentials if you can identify the cover songs on the setlist.(one hint: not white).

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Stellastarr*, Monsters Are Waiting, Minipop at the Troubadour

The Troubadour was a packed house for the sold out lineup of Minipop, Monsters Are Waiting, and Stellastarr*. Minipop started the evening's festivities and caught my attention early. Minipop hails from San Francisco and plays a blend of Coldplay and Cranberries style indie dream pop. Tricia Kanne's vocals weren't loud enough but the tight pop structure of their songs did manage to cut thru. One of the guitarist's had a Line 6 Delay Modulation pedal that was used quite judiciously throughout the set that reminded me of some U2 guitar lines. The guitarist also handed his guitar to a young audience member to add some textural feedback to close out their set. In retrospect, I should have picked up their EP. Highlights included "Fingerprints" and "Like I Do". Check them out when they play with Midlake at the Troubadour in March. Monsters Are Waiting came up next and played a convincing set. I haven't seen them in a couple of months and was impressed by how much their live show has been honed to a nice tight set. They also did a cover of "I Wanna be Adored" by the immortal Stone Roses. Annalee (Vocals) also introduced a new song that has me anxiously awaiting their next album. Stellastarr* came out and had the crowd enraptured early on. I am glad I went both nights as on this particular night the band came out with more ferciousness. The new songs "Warchild", "Coming Down", "The People" and "Keyboard" sounded excellent and come across as a nice blend of styles from both of their albums. You can check out "Warchild" on their myspace page. If I had a record company, I would sign them up now.

Stellastarr* at Safari Sam's

At the last minute, I decided to venture up to the Hotel Cafe to check out Tom Morello(Rage Against The Machine) performing under the moniker of The Nightwatchmen. Apparently 250 other people got the same idea and the line was huge. The comedy continued when the doormen mentioned that the guest list was 120 for a venue that holds 200 max. Things were looking bleak. I decided to avoid any more tomfoolery of getting in and rolling over to Safari Sam's to check out Stellastarr*. My luck changed as I drove into the parking lot and a space magically opened up. I missed Monsters Are Waiting but realized I would see them again tomorrow and I have seen them many times before open for She Wants Revenge. Stellastarr* came on within 10 minutes and opened with "Warchild". One of the things I enjoy about Stellastarr* is their judicious use of guitar lines with delay. The guitar interplay between Shawn Christensen and Michael Jurin is extremely effective and ultimately very catchy. Amanda holds down the low end with some loopy and crawling basslines. Amanda also earns points for playing bass without using a pick and her angelic background vocals. Arthur Kremer also throws in some interesting fills and even tosses in some 80's metal drumstick twirls for entertainment. "Sweet Troubled Soul" was played and the crowd reacted with great enthusiasm. Their set consisted of a lot of the 1st album "Jenny", "My Coco", "In The Walls", "No Weather", sprinkles from the 2nd "Stay Entertained", "On My Own" and some new stuff with "Coming Down" standing out as a great new song. I hope Stellastarr* gets signed to a better label since being dropped by RCA records. Most fans are divided on which album they like better. I tend to lean towards the 2nd album with "Love and Longing" being a perfect example of their use of delay. Shawn's setup included a Fender Telecaster running thru a Fender Twin Reverb with a pedal setup of a Boss Digital Delay, Boss Digital Reverb, and a Boss Hyper Metal. Micheal's setup was a Fender Jaguar thru a Vox AC 30 running with an MXR Phase 90, A Boss Multieffect pedal and a Digitech multieffect pedal. I guess I will check out The Nightwatchmen at Coachella.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Morrissey at the Pasadena Civic (Night 3)

I was excited about the last night of Morrissey's three night stand because I had a much better seat down in the orchestra. I cruised by the merch booth to see they were sold out of the Morrissey tie and money clip which would have been a nice pick up. Morrissey merchandise has always been really cool. Does anyone remember the Morrissey pillow case that had a picture of him with the quote, "Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me"? Kristeen Young opened the show and was unfortunately not received well by the rabid fan base of Morrissey fans. I guess they don't understand she is on his Attack Records label handpicked by Morrissey himself. She reminded me of the Dresden Dolls in that it was just her with a keyboard and a drummer. Her voice was a hybrid of Bjork, and Tori Amos. Kristeen pounded on the keyboard and gave it her all which was very commendable in the face of a hostile environment. I would see her again if she played her own show. The lights dimmed and some screen tests of Jimmy Dean and Richard Davalos from East of Eden were shown. The band soon sauntered across the stage and opened with the shimmery chords of "How Soon is Now?". The crowd went crazy. I was secretly hoping Morrissey would play one or two different songs but eventually Morrissey played the same set with the omission of "I'll Never Be Anybody's Hero Now". Morrissey was not nearly as chatty compared to the night before. Some funny highlights include him introducing the band and then himself as Chester Bennington(Linkin Park). I think that just made Chester's year. Morrissey also eluded to the Super Bowl and that his money was on the "Denver Omelettes". He thanked the staff at the Pasadena Civic for having to put up with hearing his voice for 3 nights in a row as well. Morrissey also mentioned how great Pasadena was because it had a Bristol Farms and a Rite-Aid which was followed with a "just kidding". I didn't take notes as I was too busy taking all the music in. Morrissey also had a spotlight on him all night which made photograph taking a challenge. Morrissey really understands how to work an audience and had everyone in the palm of his hand. After the encore of "First of The Gang To Die", I could see a lot of audience members sneaking down to try to make a rush and a push to the front of the stage for a little invasion. They would be disappointed as the house lights went up and Frank Sinatra echoed through the auditorium. Hopefully, Morrissey will be back soon and they will get their chance.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Morrissey at the Pasadena Civic (Night 2)

Peter, Bjorn, and John finished their set in Long Beach around 8:00 pm. I proceeded to speed up the 710 freeway to Pasadena and make it into my seat at around 9:10 pm. I missed all of Kristeen Young but was happy that I would catch all of Morrissey. I unfortunately had the worst seat in the house, as I was up in the balcony in the last row. The upside was that I was able to take a lot of video footage. Most of my friends were unable to go to the show and I was given instructions to take a copious amount of notes. I had printed the prior evening’s set list and was ready when the opening chords of “Panic” started. A superb Smiths song that was delivered with great passion. Morrissey’s voice still sounds amazing and I have been seeing him since the infamous Hollywood Bowl show back in 1992. “First of the Gang to Die” was next and sounded splendid. He lifted his shirt when sang the line “Bullet in his Gullet” which had the crowd cheering loudly. “The Youngest Was The Most Loved” sounds very dynamic in a live setting and featured some good drumming by Matt Walker. “Pasadena is me” was the alternate opening line to “You have Killed Me”. It also featured acoustic guitar by Vincent Jones who was pulling double duty on keyboards. “Disappointed” is one of my favorite Morrissey songs and featured a cutting guitar solo from Jessie Tobias (remember when he was in Red Hot Chili Peppers?). The crowd did a excellent job of adding in the “boos and cheers” section of the song. Morrissey also changed the lyrics again with “my whole life confused” instead of “in ruins”. Morrissey is never afraid of playing B-sides when he tours and played my favorite B-side “Ganglord”. He also changed the lyrics to “get your fat a@@ back to the ghetto”. The next two songs were “I’ll Never Be Anybody’s Hero Now” and a spectacular version of “William, It was Really Nothing” which featured some sweet guitar work by Boz Boorer. “Irish Blood, English Heart” is quite the barnburner and had good synchronization between the lights and the opening guitar riff. “I Will See You In Far-Off Places” featured the lyric change of “If George W. Bush doesn’t kill you”. A double whammy of “Girlfriend in a Coma” and “Everyday is Like Sunday” had the crowd hanging on every word Morrissey was singing. Morrissey also commented on how “Everyday is Like Sunday” was an old song that was from the era when “KROQ used to play me”. I wasn’t the only one in audience laughing to that line. “In the Future When All’s Well”, and “I’ve Changed My Plea to Guilty” slowed down the tempo a bit. “Let Me Kiss You” is another great live song that marked the 1st shirt that Morrissey took off and threw into the crowd. “The National Front Disco” is one of the many great songs from “Your Arsenal” followed by “Dear God, Please Help Me” which featured Jesse Tobias banging two cymbals together throughout the song. The shimmering tremolo chords of “How Soon Is Now?” whipped the crowd into a frenzy. “I Just Want To See The Boy Happy” was introduced my Morrissey as “Get off the stage” and had Boz Boozer killing it on the sax. “Life is A Pigsty” is probably one of my favorite songs off “Ringleader of the Tormentors” and sounded even better than the recorded version. The acoustic breakdown during the song was pulled off flawlessly. Matt Walker and Vincent Jones were pounding on a huge Bass drum during the ending of the song. Morrissey also lost his shirt again during the song. For an encore, “Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” had the crowd enraptured. “Don’t Make Fun of Daddy’s Voice” seems like a very tongue in cheek closer that only Morrissey could get away with. Morrissey lost his shirt once more as he threw it into the crowd that had the audience members looking like a bunch of piranhas feasting on food. Other Morrissey tidbits included his mentioning the passing of tower records and apologizing for the high ticket prices due to the Kristeen Young’s hair and makeup budget. He also asked the crowd “Why do you scream for Me?” and then mockingly answered with “I’m 65 years old”. Morrissey also jokingly lamented that another year has passed with no Grammy nominations and no awards except… “You” which was met with a large cheer. Congratulations if you managed to read all of this review, and apologies to those who couldn’t make it.

Peter, Bjorn, and John at Fingerprints Records in Long Beach

Peter, Bjorn, and John finished up the "whistle stop" tour of the states at Fingerprints Records in Long Beach. I was too busy rocking out to Helmet to go to the Roxy show. I figured I would check them out at Fingerprints to see them play an acoustic set. Acoustic sets are great in that they are very telling how good the songs are stripped down. Peter and Bjorn were very affable guys on stage and joked around a bit. The stage setup was minimal with two acoustic guitars(Fender/Taylor) and a Roland electronic drum pad for drums and synth samples. They played a great rendition of "Paris 2004", "Objects of My Affection" and of course "Young Folks". Peter had asked the crowd if anyone had seen the show the night before and only a handful of people responded. Watch the video above of "Young Folks" to hear live whistling and not the backing track that they used at the Roxy. I also particularly enjoyed the synth wash samples that they incorporated into the song. Fingerprints records handed out a cool Peter, Bjorn, and John poster and held a signing afterwards. I had to jet before the signing because I needed to zoom up to Pasadena to catch Morrissey.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Helmet at the Troubadour (Night 2)

Night number 2 of Helmet at the Troubadour was a great way to end the mini tour of California. The Troubadour was more packed than the previous night when Totimoshi hit the stage. They continued to impress me with their bludgeoning riffs and foot stomping grooves. I was glad to see the audience really give Totimoshi some L.A. appreciation. Tony's vocals weren't dialed in as they were the previous night but overall a great opening act for Helmet. Helmet opened with "Like I Care" and got the crowd going early. Other additions to the set list included "Smart", "Monochrome", "Birth Defect" and an additional song "Just Another Victim" due to a fan's request. Page had singled out John Tempesta in the crowd who was "drummer number 5" and continued with some good natured heckling. After the concert ended, Page stuck around and signed a bunch of autographs for some lucky fans at the front of the stage. I included a picture of Page Hamiliton's pedal board above. It is a Custom Audio Electronics designed board with MIDI switching. Some of the effects Page uses include a Digitech Whammy Pedal, Vox Wah, Ibanez TS-9 with 808 mod, a Korg digital delay rack, VHT Valvulator, and a Roland volume pedal. Check out the Custom Audio Electronics website for some other rigs they have designed. The Troubadour also handed out a cool Helmet poster ironically with a bunch of helmets on it. Overall a crushing set that will please all the Australian fans down under on their next stop.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Livewire Synthesizer Modules at NAMM

Earn your degree in synthesizer modules by viewing the video above courtesy of Livewire. I asked about which modules are placed in Alessandro Cortini's EAR Performance synth. I was particularly impressed with the Chaos Computer....It had a Gaussian Computation switch!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Helmet at the Troubadour

The Troubadour is always a good place to see a show. The sound mix at the troubadour is usually spot on. Totimoshi benefitted from the expert audio engineering at the Troubadour as they put on one of their best sounding sets. Tony Aguilar's Gibson Challenger was rumbling with riffs that poured out like molasses. He had two Mesa Boogie cabinents and a Carvin Quad X series preamp. I suspect that his guitar is tuned down to "B". Meg Castellanos had some problems with her bass setup early on, but quickly regained her form after a song. Their album Ladron will be released on Volcom records soon so check it out. Some of the Totimoshi highlights include "Ladron", "The Hide", and "Viva Zapata". Helmet was up next and crushed the crowd as usual. The band had some extra fire on stage tonight and really kept the energy level high. Some highlights include a seething version of "Blacktop". "Milquetoast" is a live favorite and the band gives it their all during that awesome outro. "Tic" was amazing as Page conducted a feedback symphony standing in front of his VHT setup. Page also turned his guitar upside down and was using his pick to scratch the coils to obtain a metallic feedback scratching effect. I was also excited that "Exactly What You Wanted" was played as it is one of my favorites from the album "Aftertaste". Page also hinted that he wanted the guys to learn all the Helmet songs so they could do some shows in which they would play the whole album start to finish. How awesome would that be? If this occurs, you will see pictures and the review here.