Sunday, March 25, 2007

Beck at the Echo

I was really excited to catch Helio Sequence, Dirty on Purpose and The Besnard Lakes at the Detroit Bar but managed to receive a cryptic e-mail about going to the Echo and being surprised. The surprise was that of the one and only Beck. Beck stole the KROQ Acoustic Christmas Night 2 show last year with his veritable hit parade set. It is different when you go to a Beck secret show because it is more low key and without the puppet show. It seems that very few artists have played as many secret shows as Beck. I think he did two last year at the Element(it rocked) and at the Echo as well. The set started out with funky version of "Think I'm In Love". Other highlights included "E-Pro", "Nausea", and "Black Tambourine". I also managed to snap a photo of Beck's pedalboard. It consisted of a Z.Vex Super Hard-On, Digitech Whammy pedal, a really old Boss Delay pedal, a newer Boss Delay pedal, Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail Reverb pedal which he used quite judiciously, and the requisite Big Muff Fuzz Pedal. The only complaint was the set seemed to go by in seconds. So when is the next secret show Beck?

The Bravery and Foreign Born at the Troubadour

Will The Bravery avoid the sophomore slump? I went to the Troubadour looking for the answer. Foreign Born opened the festivities with their indie rock vibe. They have been playing a lot of local shows recently and continue to improve their live set. Their stage setup has been enhanced with 2 lighted signs signifying "Foreign" and "Born". I also enjoyed "Union Hall" with the use of their "Change Shakers". Foreign Born will release their full length album "On The Wing" in April. The intro synth sequence to "An Honest Mistake" by the Bravery is one of the more recognizable synth sequences in the past couples of years. John Conway(synthesizers) rocks an Access Indigo along with an Apple laptop but added a sweet Rhodes Electric Piano to his setup. John ended up using his Rhodes piano more on the new songs rather than his Access Indigo. The new songs from the upcoming album "The Sun and The Moon" were more rocking and featured less synthesizers. I have to give credit to the Bravery for not making a sequel to their first album, yet leaving the music immediately recognizable as that of the Bravery. A picture of Michael Zakarin's pedalboard is above which included a Jekyll & Hyde Ultimate Overdrive pedal just like Albert Hammond Jr. It must be a New York thing. Overall, The Bravery will manage to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump as displayed by their rocking set.

Bloc Party at the Wiltern

Luckily for me, Bloc Party was playing two nights at the Wiltern. My first impression of the new album was not a good one. After repeated listens though, I think the album holds up. The problem is that "Silent Alarm" was so good. The Like opened the evening's events with their dreamy indie rock like songs. Tennessee Thomas was pounding on drums all night and even broke her drum foot pedal which she threw at Charlotee Froom(Bass). Elizabeth Berg had a good guitar sound running through Orange amps. They played some new songs that showcased their improved writing skills. Final Fantasy was next and happens to be a one man violin band composed of Owen Pallett. I suspect he used a Boss Loop Station as he would sample a violin part and start stacking it on top of each other to create a mini orchestra on all his songs. As Darth Vader would say, "Most Impressive". Bloc Party had a minimal light setup and let the music do the talking. Kele Okereke's voice is an instrument itself. Russell Lissack was channeling Johnny Greenwood with his Fender Telecaster and his arsenal of guitar pedals. Gordon Moakes did an impressive job on "Waiting for the 7.18" playing the Xylophone. Show highlights included "Hunting for Witches", "I Still Remember", "Banquet", and a blazing version of "Like Eating Glass" that actually gave me chills. Kele walked down into the crowd and worked the audience very well. The tough L.A. crowd even screamed out the opening lines of "Helicopter" during the encore. Unfortunately, they did not play two of my favorite songs from the new album "Sunday" and "Atonement" but it was a superb show. Just give this album a few more spins to let it sink in and you will not be disappointed.

The Fratellis at the Troubadour

It was ironic that after just coming back from the U.K. that four British bands would be playing on a Monday night in Los Angeles. The options included Amy Winehouse at the Roxy, Bloc Party at the Wiltern, The Horrors at the Echo, and The Fratellis/The Pipettes at the Troubadour. I opted for The Fratellis/The Pipettes. I had seen adverts all over the underground promoting The Fratellis album Costello Music. La Rocca opened the festivities with their Irish anthems led by Bjorn Baillie rocking out on his Epiphone Casino running thru an Orange Amp. I enjoyed their set and after some research was not surprised that they were on Dangerbird records(home of the Silversun Pickups). If Dangerbird had stock I would probably invest in it due to its recent signing of Sea Wolf and all of its other bands on the roster. I will pick up La Rocca's debut "The Truth" soon. The Pipettes came up next. As the Amateur Chemist, I was impressed by the name The Pipettes as it hit close to home. The Pipettes came up with their '60s inspired Motown girl pop. Some of the songs played were "I Like a Boy in Uniform", "One Night Stand" and "Your Kisses are Wasted On Me". It was interesting to note that Jon Falcone was wearing a Blink-182 shirt to match his Mark Hoppus Fender Bass. If I told you about a band that was featured in an ipod commercial and the lead singer/guitarist had an afro you could answer Wolfmother or The Fratellis and be correct. The Fratellis recently took home the NME award for British Breakthrough Act and are invading the states. John Fratelli did a great job ripping out the riffs on his Fender Telecaster and thru a Hiwatt stack. I also detected a Small Stone phaser that he would use to sprinkle some color on his solos. It was a straight ahead rock show with little to no banter in between songs. When John did talk though, it was a thick Scottish accent that was difficult to decipher in the first place. Stand out tracks included "Chelsea Dagger", "Flathead" and "Henrietta". I think they might have been a little road weary from the blitzkrieg of South by Southwest but I am still looking forward to their shows opening for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club in May.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Presets and Crystal Castles at the ExPlx

While everyone was at SWSX, I was fighting my jetlag at the ExPlx to see The Presets and Crystal Castles.The ExPlx is located below the Echo and recently opened. It is a lot larger and nicer than the Echo in addition to a decent soundsystem. Crystal Castles opened the show with their glitchy/electronic mashed up sound. The mix was awful unfortunately as Alice's vocals were difficult to hear and the new soundsystem was clipping during their set. Their tracks on myspace sounded better. I did particularly enjoy one song that featured Ethin on vocoder via his MicroKorg. The Presets delivered a stunning set that had the whole place jumping and dancing. I haven't seen that much movement since The Rapture at the Astoria in London. I still am jealous of their double Korg MS-20 setup along with a laptop running Ableton Live 6. The Presets know how to get the party going with their incorporation of samples from Kraftwerk, Pet Shop Boys, and Daft Punk blended into their set. Stand out tracks included "The Girl and The Sea", "Down Down Down","Are You the One?". I highly recommend their debut album "Beams" and if you are down with remixes then check out "Re-Sets".

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Rapture at the London Astoria

One of the few good luck stories from my trip to England was seeing Rapture at the London Astoria. I checked Ticketmaster U.K. and found out that The Rapture were playing but unfortunately it was sold out. I happenend to eat dinner close to the Astoria and walked by the venue after the concert had already started. Within seconds, ticket scaplers magically appeared. I ended up paying below face value for the ticket due to my shrewd negotiation skills. The London Astoria is a fair sized venue roughly the size of the Hollywood Avalon and it was packed. After paying my respects at the Keith Moon Bar, I strolled upstairs to get a decent view of the show. The cigarette smoke had filled the room and made picture taking a challenge. Rapture has quite the following in the U.K. and the crowd was going crazy all night as they were treated to songs from Echoes and Pieces of People We Love. During "House of Jealous Lovers", the entire floor of the Astoria was jumping up and down. Other highlights included "Whoo!Alright-Yeah Uh Huh" and "Sister Saviour". The Rapture will be touring with Daft Punk so make sure you get those tickets now because it will be an amazing show.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Nine Inch Nails and Ladytron at the Brixton Academy Night 4

I didn't plan on going to this show. Due to unforeseen circumstances though, I was able to attend this concert. Since it was a last minute decision, I had a balcony seat. For those who are following the viral marketing of the new Nine Inch Nails album, I managed to grab an "Art Is Resistance" flyer that was taped to the balcony railing. It was interesting watching the show from above versus being on the rail. The sound was mixed to perfection. One could also see the bands play keyboard from my perch which was enlightening. Ladytron was up and played the usual stellar set. Apparently the night before, Alessandro Cortini came out to add some extra synth flavor to "Destroy Everything You Touch" but no such luck for me tonight. I also missed "The Becoming" from Nine Inch Nails which happens to be one of my favorite songs. I did manage to take a fair amount of video from the show and have "The Fragile"" video as an expensive souvenir for the memory of attending the show. Nine Inch Nails gave another scintillating performance as always. Aaron North jumped into the crowd during "Down In It" which surprised some audience members since he usually jumps during "March of the Pigs" or "Head Like A Hole". I also was able to see Aaron North's $1200 Fulltone Tube Tape Echo machine which made me green with envy. Overall, a great show to end my Nine Inch Nails vacation that was one for the memory books. Cheers to all the friends I met on the way!

Cold War Kids, Two Gallants, and Delta Spirit at the El Rey Theatre

Wednesday night provided two intriguing options. The options were Grizzly Bear and Foreign Born at the Troubadour or Cold War Kids plus very special guests at the El Rey. I had just seen Cold War Kids at the spaceland a few weeks ago but decided to try my luck on the special guests. Delta spirit opened the show and sounded even more confident than the prior show I reviewed at the Detroit Bar. One of the measures that I take into consideration when reviewing bands is how quickly the set goes by and if I can remember the specific songs played. The Delta Spirit won a lot of fans over with their high energy blues rock. The sound was mixed well at the El Rey and one could hear all the separate instruments blend together into one harmonious voice. They played "Trash" and "People Turn Around" with some Cold War Kids jumping on stage to help out. The Two Gallants were up next and had a Black Keys/White Stripes vibe in that it was just a guitarist and a drummer. They had some technical difficulties with their guitar but managed to soldier on. I think I was too distracted by how good the Delta Spirit was to really concentrate on the Two Gallants set. The Cold War Kids soon stormed on stage and brought down the house. It was very impressive to see how easily they worked the audience. The crowd at the prior show at Spaceland was enthralled. The crowd at the El Rey was enraptured. "Hang Me Out To Dry" and "Hospital Beds" were fiery and spirited to say the least. During "Saint John", Nathan Willett called for some audience members to help him with the song and somebody obliged by jumping on stage. I was a bit skeptical about seeing how a band could jump from Spaceland to the El Rey so quickly but believe the hype kids..Cold War Kids that is.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Machinehead and Trivium at the Grove of Anaheim

On the night before my departure to London, I decided to catch a concert instead of pack. I couldn't resist the metal barrage of Trivium and Machinehead. Machinehead came on to deliver a bludgeoning set of old school thrash/groove metal. The crowd was extremely enthuiastic for Machinehead as it has been years since they played the L.A./O.C. area. Machinehead also debuted some new songs off of their new album The Blackening which comes out on 3/27. They will also be touring with Megadeth on the "Heaven and Hell" tour this April. Rob Flynn(Lead Vocals/guitar) was stomping around stage with his BC Rich guitar and imploring the crowd to have a few beers with him. As excited as the crowd was for Machinehead, the crowd went nuts for Trivium. Trivium sounds like Metallica circa the Master of Puppets era which is a very high compliment. Matt Heafy (Lead Vocals/Guitar) was amazing on guitar and slaying the crowd with his razor sharp riffs. The song "A Gunshot to the Head of Trepidation" was a guitar lesson in thrash metal. I think the top picture explains how good this concert was. I left before Lamb of God because I figured I should pack and actually go on "vacation".

Nine Inch Nails and Ladytron at the Brixton Academy Night 2

Night 2 of Nine Inch Nails and Ladytron was preceeded with another Year Zero listening party that featured sandwiches and tea. Ladytron opened and performed their 30 minute set with their usual confidence. I always enjoy Mira's performance of "Fighting In Built Up Arenas". Ladytron's setlist was consisted of "High Rise", "True Mathematics", "He Took Her To a Movie", "Soft Power", "17", "International Dateline", "Fighting In Built Up Arenas" and "Destroy Everything You Touch". After Ladytron finished, the music before Nine Inch Nails featured a remix of "Survivalism" which was interesting. Nine Inch Nails came out and delievered another blistering performance that featured the debut of a new song "The Beginning of The End". It is a rockier version of the song as opposed to the more electronic tinged album version. The piano ballad of "La Mer" also featured Alessandro Cortini adding some theremin like effects via his French Connection keyboard. Trent Reznor took a prolonged tea break prior to his rendition of "Hurt" which is understandable since he was still recovering from the set the night before as well. Trent dedicated "The Hand That Feeds" as a love poem to George Bush. Originally this was going to be my last Nine Inch Nails show but due to unforseen circumstances I caught the last show in London.