Monday, July 30, 2007

Smashing Pumpkins at the Fillmore (7/25/07)

After a blistering two and a half hour set on Tuesday night, I was more then ready for another dose of Smashing Pumpkins. I was lucky enough back in the day to see them at the Kezar Pavillion in San Francisco for the Mellon Collie and Infinite Sadness club tour when they opened for themselves with an hour acoustic set followed by a two hour electric set that ranks in my top ten of all time concerts. I was hoping to hear "Cherub Rock", "Hummer", "33" and "Geek U.S.A" tonight. Would I be lucky enough?

Moving Units opened with their dance, post punk, electro rock music. I enjoyed their Moving Units EP which showed some promise but was a little disappointed with their full length "Dangerous Dreams" due to the poor production of the abum. Blake Miller (Vocals/Guitars) was so drunk on this particular night that he fell off the stage during the first song. If you have a chance to open for the Smashing Pumpkins I think you should probably lay off the sauce. The real star of this band is Johan (Bass) who was giving Peter Hook a run for his money with all the high bass notes he was playing. Their new album "Hexes for Exes" is due on October 9th.

Billy Corgan (Vocals/Guitars) opened the night with the wistful new ballad "Peace+Love". "Tonight,Tonight" featured some excellent keyboard work from Lisa Harriton. "Cherub Rock" was as smoking as I rembered it and Billy dropped the bombs on the solo part. "Starla" was a pleasant surprise with its intricate riffing and jamming solos. The ten ton hammer of "Superchrist" and "Doomsday Clock" completely slays and will leave your eardrums bleeding for more. Billy played "33" acoustically and I got the goosebumps. "Tarantula" is a sonic blast live and has Billy doing mulitple finger slides on the solo portion of the song which had me shaking my head in disbelief. "Death From Above" is one of the extra tracks off of Zeitgeist and was performed by Billy with piano parts by Lisa. "Hummer" was everything I wanted it to be and more. "Muzzle" sounded blissful and was a stirring song to cap my two nights of Smashing Pumpkins. Jeff Schroeder did admirable tonight and I spotted his Hughes and Kettner Amp heads along with a ton of rack gear including a Dunlop Wah rack. Both Billy and Jeff had a Rocktron MIDI pedal switcher. Billy Corgan was switching between his Fender Stratocasters with Lace sensor pickups, Gibson Toni Iommi SG and Schecter guitars. One of the coolest pieces of merchandise I have ever purchased was a large Smashing Pumpkins Flag that is adorned with the SP logo in black and white with stripes, It currently is across my guitar cabinet for added inspiration. I am counting the days untill Sept 13th when the Smashing Pumpkins play the gorgeous Pearl theatre at the Palms.

Smashing Pumpkins setlist at the Fillmore (7/25/07)
"99 Floors"
"With Every Light"
"Tonight, Tonight"
"Cherub Rock"
"Doomsday Clock"
"United States"
"The Leaving Lament"
"To Shelia"
"Blue Skies Bring Tears"
"Bullet With Butterfly Wings"
"That's The Way"
"Heavy Metal Machine"
"Death From Above"

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Smashing Pumpkins at the Fillmore (7/24/07)

The Smashing Pumpkins are one of my favorite bands. I bought a Fender Blender fuzz pedal and an Electro Harmonix Micro Synthesizer in search of the "Pumpkins" sound. As much as I would like to have the same pumpkins from 1994 up on stage, I realize its 2007 and things are different. I am just happy to see Billy Corgan(Vocals/Guitars) and Jimmy Chamberlin(Drums) back on the stage.

Idiot Pilot opened on this particular night. I thought screamo was dead. I was wrong. The security guard said it was the worst opening band he has seen in a long time. Ouch. They did have a nice Apple laptop though.

Zeitgeist takes a few listens to get the point. It is an overly bombastic, and over the top loud rock album. These songs need to be heard in a live setting because they were exponentially sharper live. Billy was channeling his inner Tony Iommi with his Tony Iommi Gibson SG Signature guitar pummeling the audience with a Drop D tuned supercharged new song "Superchrist". Jeff Schroeder (Guitars) was a capable and fleet fingered replacement for James Iha switching between a Gibson Les Paul, Fender Jazzmaster and Gibson SG. Ginger Reyes (Bass) had some excellent bass skills while Jimmy Chamberlin (Drums) is simply inhuman on the drums. "Doomsday Clock" was next and crushes live. "Stand Inside Your Love" was magnificent with Jeff using his Ebow. They pulled out the droney "The Areoplane Flies High" that I haven't heard since they played at the Cow Palace back in the day. "Drown" was one of the 5 songs I really wanted to hear and is one of my favorite pumpkins songs ever. "United States" was stunning and more ferocious live in all its feedback glory that had Billy bled into the Star Spangled Banner. "Daydream" dropped my jaw to the floor as this is a song that D'Arcy sang on Gish but Billy with an acoustic guitar had the Fillmore in a dead silence. "Rocket" acoustic sounded great proving that you don't necessarily need to hide behind distortion all the time. "Heavy Metal Machine" was still heavy as ever and took on a different form live. "Gossamer" was a 25 minute instrumental excursion into jam land. "Today" capped the night and like the lyrics suggest, "Today is the greatest day I ever known".

Smashing Pumpkins setlist for the Fillmore(7/24/07)
"Doomsday Clock"
"Glass and The Ghost"
"Stand Inside Your Love"
"The Aeroplane Flies High"
"Bullet With Butterfly Wings"
"United States"
"Crying Tree"
"To Shelia"
"That's The Way"
"Heavy Metal Machine"

Eskimohunter and Mezzanine Owls at Spaceland

Why break a streak of three shows in a row when Eskimohunter is in the midst of their free Monday Spaceland residency? I was also excited to see the Mezzanine Owls again after watching them rock at the Little Radio warehouse.

I got to Spaceland minutes before the Mezzanine Owls appeared onstage. Spaceland was more crowded on this particular Monday and a good sized audience was ready to be dazzled by the Mezzanine Owls. They are still touring supporting their debut album "Slingshot Echoes" but have been peppering their set with some spectacular news songs that showcase their growth as a band. I highly recommend you check out this album if you like droney fuzzed out guitars beautifully interlaced with blasts of melody. In a live setting, the Mezzanine Owls sound even bigger then on cd. Dan Horne (Bass) was playing his Gibson Hollowbody bass loud enough to rattle your chest while Jonathan Zeitlin (Guitar/Keyboards) was creating some sonic wizardry via his Korg MS2000 or effectively using a metal slide and delay with his Fender Guitar. It is only a matter of time before they blow up.

The Eskimohunter crew came out of the gates with their sonic guns blazing. Eskimohunter made their 45 minute set go by in seconds with a more hypnotic set. I could tell how much tighter the band sounded very early from the set. Chris Horgatron (Keyboards) was controlling his Apple laptop splicing in movie dialogue into the set for added textures. Jenni Tarma (Bass) reminded me of Melissa Auf De Maur as she was rocking out and bumping into Jason71 (Vocals/Guitars) during the set. John Riccardi (Guitars) was creating a huge wall of sound from his two pedalboards and incorporated an Ebow into a song. They are playing the Detroit Bar on August 16th but I will be in San Diego to see Autolux. I will hopefully catch them at Sunset Junction on August 19th.

Queens of the Stone Age at the OC Fair

The Queens of The Stone Age self titled debut album is a classic. I bought it when it first came out on Loose Groove records which was run by Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam fame. I have seen Queens of The Stone Age numerous times back in the day at the Troubadour and have witnessed their ascension to a seasoned rock outfit. I didn't think Lullabies to Paralyze was a strong effort from them. Era Vulgaris is a better step in the right direction but ultimately I think the loss of Nick Oliveri has had an impact on the band.

The Eagles of Death Metal know how to rock. The Eagles play a brand of sleazy garage rock slathered with innuendos and oozing with the sexy. Dave Catching(Guitars) was doing his best rock poses with his Gibson Flying V but Jessie Hughes (Vocals/Guitars) was the pulling all the limelight along with the crowd's attention to himself. Jessie would swagger across the stage coaxing the audience to get up and dance as they kicked down some serious rock n' roll tunes. Some of the highlights from their set included "Cherry Cola", "I Only Want You" and "Stuck In The Metal". Jessie and the rest of the band took a bow at the end of the show and in between songs I could hear Jessie let out some screams of excitement because he was rocking out so hard and the crowd was eating up all of it.

Queens of The Stone Age came out of the gate limping. I mean that literally in relation to Josh Homme's(Vocals/Guitars) knee problems as he shuffled out with the help a cane. Queens stole the show at the KROQ Weenie Roast this year, but didn't seem as tight compared to that prior show. It probably was due to the sound mix which was uneven throughout the night and the overall volume of the show was low. Queens need to be heard loud and clear. "Battery Acid" was extremely caustic as Michael Shuman (Bass) dominated his Gibson Grabber bass and turned that song instantly to one of my favorites off the new album. The set felt very short clocking in at barely over an hour. They should have played for at least an hour and a half but it could have been due to the Orange County curfew or the fact that Josh probably shouldn't be up there in the first place with his knee and all. Josh showed off some of his improvisational skills with the incorporation of the Violent Femmes "Gone Daddy Gone"  into the break down of "The Feel Good Hit of the Summer". Troy Van Leeuwen (Guitars) was business as usual rocking out in his suit and hovering over his keyboards at times. He used to play in Failure in case you forgot. I look forward to seeing them in Las Vegas at the Vegoose Festival.

Queens Of The Stone Age setlist at the Pacific Amphitheatre for the OC Fair (7/22/07)
"Monsters In The Parasol"
"Burn The Witch"
"Misfit Love"
"In My Head"
"Do It Again"
"Feel Good Hit Of The Summer"
"Go With The Flow"
"Into The Hollow"
"Make It Wit Chu"
"Little Sister"
"Battery Acid"
"3's & 7's"
"No One Knows"
"Song For The Dead"

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Daft Punk at the Los Angeles Sports Arena

I didn't go to Coachella 2006. I was in Las Vegas on the rail for Depeche Mode and She Wants Revenge at the Hard Rock Hotel. The only thing I heard about Coachella 2006 was that Daft Punk was amazing. It sounds funny but how can two french guys dressed up as robots rock a crowd? I was determined to find out.

One of the things I learned prior to the show was that there was no air conditioner in the Los Angeles Sports Arena. This sounded like trouble from the start. It didn't matter as Daft Punk obliterated the audience with an audio/visual spectacle that put many performers to shame. All the reviews that you read about this show are correct. You simply had to be there in order to fully understand and appreciate the electricity in the sports arena that night. It is a shame that the Los Angeles Clippers couldn't have tapped into that electricity for their duration at the Sports arena. I would have been dancing if I wasn't too busy taking pictures and video of the entire sports arena going bananas. I was far back on the floor but was relieved due to the exponential increase in temperature per every 10 people closer to the stage. I was also able to fully take in the light show and would not have appreciated it up close.

Apparently, the duo of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter have Ableton Live 6 running behind the pyramid as well a Minimoog Voyager rack effect. They were dropping beats like bombs and switching up loops throughout the entire set mixing in "Around The World" in various places while covering such songs as "Technologic", "Human After All", "Harder Better Faster Stronger", "Robot Rock", and "Da Funk". The duo came back for an encore and tapped into their inner Tron with red outlined suits and held up the triangle to the crowds delight. The clincher was upon their exit they turned around to show a lit logo of Daft Punk on their jackets that had the Sports Arena give a roar of approval as they walked off the stage. I can't imagine the adrenaline they must have had walking off the stage knowing they had just devastated Los Angeles in robot suits nonetheless. If Kraftwerk only had this technology back in the day who knows. I hope to see everyone at Vegoose. Daft Punk in Vegas? It would be illegal..if it wasn't in Vegas.

Sonic Youth at the Greek Theatre

The last time I caught a Sonic Youth show was at Lollapalooza 1995 with Pavement, Beck, and Hum. I mainly went to see Pavement and Hum but remembered that Sonic Youth played a good set. I never got into Sonic Youth that much from a guitar perspective because I heard they used a bunch of alternate tunings and obscure pedals. I could not pass up the last minute chance for 5th row center tickets for Sonic Youth at the Greek performing Daydream Nation.

Red Kross opened the show by performing their debut album Born Innocent. They were stalwarts of the power pop rock Los Angeles scene and have many admirers from the scene. Some of the admirers included Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon who were behind the pit watching the whole set unnoticed. They are fronted by Scott and Jeff Mcdonald who were hopping around the stage. It was entertaining but I wasn't feeling it.

The iconic cover of Daydream Nation was the backdrop for the orchestral noise that Sonic Youth emitted. As if I didn't see enough Fender Jazzmasters at the Adam Franklin show, Thurston Moore(Vocals/Guitars) and Lee Renaldo(Guitars/Vocals) had the Fender Jazzmaster market cornered with a few racks of Fender goodies. I mentioned that Sonic Youth incorporate alternate tunings but only recently did I discover on their webpage a full section explaining the different tunings that everyone uses on the albums. A guitar is normally tuned as EADGBE. The song "Teenage Riot" is tuned to GABDEG. There is no way I would have figured that out back in the day. The problem with all these weird tunings is that it creates weird songs filled with dissonance. Sonic Youth use the dissonance as an aural paint and couple it with feedback to create a dense canvas. I was impressed with the recreation of Daydream Nation and will dust it off out of my collection but I tend to enjoy music that I can recreate on my guitar so Sonic Youth frustrates me sometimes. Thurston Moore still sounded great in the vocal department and pulled out his drumstick occasionally to bang on his guitars. Lee Renaldo also sounded good and made me wonder why he doesn't sing on more songs. One of the highlights from the show was when Thurston and Lee met in the center of the stage crossing both of their guitars and creating a whirlwind of feedback and noise. Another highlight was I realized that Steve Shelley(Drums) is one of the more underrated drummers in alternative rock. I was impressed that they pulled Mark Ibold(Ex-Pavement) out for the encore to help out on the bass duties. There was a ring of irony seeing him play with Sonic Youth instead of Pavement. It made me wistfully hope for a Pavement reunion though.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Adam Franklin at the Echo

Adam Franklin and Ken Andrews are similar in some respects. Both fronted amazing bands in the 1990s (Swervedriver and Failure respectively) and recently adopted their names as a title of their solo project. I kick myself for missing the Hum and Swervedriver tour back in 1998 which would have been a display of epic sheets of guitar noise. Adam is touring with a full band in support of his new album "Bolts of Melody".

Benni Hemm Hemm by the way of Iceland conjoured images of Arcade Fire meshed with Sigur Ros with a stage full of people and instruments. They played a various batch of songs with different influences. The music seemed as cold as Iceland unfortunately. I will take a listen to their recorded tracks for a better judgement. I did get a nice promotional DVD of Iceland from the band.

Adam Franklin and his full band took the stage and immersed the audience with reverb washes and the dreamy tremelo guitar work of "Seize The Day". Adam would seemlessly incorporate his tremelo guitar work into the songs and make it look effortless. I was even more impressed that Adam used the skill very tastefully and did not make it gimmicky. His band was exceptional in handling all of its assigned duties. There were some moments of Fender Jazzmaster duelings sprinkled in the set. Another talent Adam displayed was his use of his Boss DF-2 Super Distortion and Feedback pedal in which he would keep his foot on the pedal to cause the last note to sustain unleashing a hurricane of guitar noise. I encourage you to check out Adam Franklin's album "Bolts of Melody" if you are into melodic guitar washed rock. I now need to find a Fender Jazzmaster to practice some tremelo work.

Adam Franklin setlist for the Echo
"Seize The Day"
"Morning Rain"
"Canvey Island Baby"
"Theme From LSD"
"Shining Somewhere"