Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Mellowdrone at Spaceland on Valentine's Day

Jonathan Bates in Infrasonic Studios working on the new Mellowdrone album (Photo by Celeste T)

I last caught up with Mellowdrone at the Orange County Museum of Art back in October of 2006. I missed their early show at the Echo back in December but have Valentine's Day plans to see them at Spaceland. The real reason I mention this show is that not only that I am a fan of Mellowdrone, but it is a good chance to bring a can of food as a donation to the Los Angeles Food Bank for a discounted ticket. If you are too chicken to ask that someone special on a date, the crafty Mellowdrone folks made it easier for you by making old school Valentines that you can print out here. Come out and show some love and stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Mellowdrone.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Jim Ward at the Paul Gleason Theater

Jim Ward

I was fortunate enough to see At The Drive-In before their untimely demise. It was a chaotic and visceral performance that made a larger impact later in my memory when the band broke up soon after. Jim Ward soldiered on to form Sparta who immediately won me over when I saw them open for Weezer at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Irvine in 2002. This admiration was permanently solidified when Sparta covered Jawbreaker's "Kiss The Bottle".

Nico Stai

Nico Stai opened with their introspective indie folk tinged rock. Nico Stai (Guitars/Vocals) had has vintage Gibson guitar howling as he plucked away during "Like Alcohol". Jeff Evans (Guitars) was armed with a Fender Telecaster Deluxe as deftly added clouds to the gray skies of Nico Stai's songs. "The Song of Shine and Shame" was one of their many standout songs that made me want to catch a full set from them. It is no surprise that they will be playing Indie 103.1's Monday Night Check One..Two at the Viper Room on March 31st.

Jim Ward appeared on stage with a lonesome Gibson Acoustic guitar as he started to strum "Without A Sound". I was already blown away because I figured he would only play selections of his new acoustic based album "Quiet". Jim has a very powerful voice live but I think his guitar playing and song writing skills have been criminally overlooked. "Taking Back Control" sounded even more powerful as an acoustic number. Jim also managed to include the chord fragments of "Breaking The Broken" to make the song sound very full.

At the end of his mini Sparta set, Matt Schmitz from Sleepercar joined Jim on acoustic guitar as they tackled "Take It Back". Sleepercar is another project that Jim is involved in. Sleepercar plays like a Texas infused version of Wilco and are worth checking out. Jim also took time out to reassure the crowd that Sparta was still alive and well and that they would continue on but he needed another outlet for his other musical endeavors. I applaud Jim for branching out. He mentioned that he got the idea for his acoustic based project seven years ago while messing around with an Old 97's riff.

"Take It Back" was the first foray into Jim's solo album "Quiet". Jim and Matt harmonized well on vocals and guitars as they worked their way through the jangly number. "Easier Said" was an emotionally heavier song that played like a Texas hymn. "On My Way Back Home Again" had Chris Weinrich come out to play pedal steel to augment the country vibe of the songs. Chris had a Boss Digital Delay and small Boss Looping pedal to add some space effect sounds to characteristic pedal steel. It was amazing to Chris play the pedal steel up close as he conducted an informal clinic. The vibe in the room was very relaxed as the pedal steel guitar was gently crying during "Mystery Talks". The instrumentation was taken to new levels when Chris later came center stage for a ukulele solo during "Coastlines" that couldn't help but put a smile on everybody's face. I don't know who was smiling wider, the crowd or the performers.

Jim Ward setlist for the Paul Gleason Theatre Late show (1/25/08)
"Without A Sound"
"Taking Back Control"
"Breaking The Broken"
"Take It Back"
"Easier Said"
"On My Way Back Home Again"
"Mystery Talks"
"Wed Nites"
"Heavy Weights"
"Broken Promise"

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at the Key Club

Baby 81 was one of the top albums of 2007 and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club toured relentlessly in its support. I managed to catch a few of those shows at the House of Blues San Diego, Wiltern, Greek Theatre, Shoreline Amphitheatre and their video shoot for "Berlin" at Little Radio. The announcement of a few final shows to close the touring book on Baby 81 led me to immediately purchase tickets for their show at the Key Club.

The Key Club was beyond packed as I was unable to secure a decent vantage point on the floor which led me upstairs for a bird's eye view. Peter Hayes (Guitars/Vocals) came out with a lone Gibson acoustic guitar as he delicately strummed out the chords of the B-Side "Grind My Bones". Peter's guitar slidework was excellent as always giving the song an enhanced loose vibe that would linger for the duration of the night. Unfortunately, some of the upstairs patrons must have been drinking quite heavily as one audience member was yelling in between each song the same string of profanity laced encouragements. "Complicated Situation" highlighted Peter's guitar abilites mixed with some passionate harmonica playing. The full band joined Peter on stage to a large round of yells and howls from the crowd. Robert Levon Been (Bass/Vocals) triggered some feedback loops that decayed into the dark blues of "Shuffle Your Feet". The fuzz started to rain inside as much as it was pouring outside with the start of "Love Burns". I never get tired of hearing "Berlin" even after the fact that they played it twenty times at the video shoot. "Weapon Of Choice" accelerated the pace of the show and was another clinic in how to effectively play slide guitar. "All You Do Is Talk" had Peter reaching for his violin bow to use on his guitar to start the song. The harmonizing of vocals with Peter and Robert on "All You Do Is Talk" was memorable enough that I didn't have to write it down as a note. "666 Conducer" had a more organic loose vibe to the song with bursts of noise and feedback in all the right areas. "Six Barrel Shotgun" is one of my top five BRMC songs and was stretched out to a mini noise jam. Peter triggered his tremolo pedal to start off "Red Eyes and Tears" before Robert dived into the forboding bass line. "Sympathetic Noose" was played by Robert solo and was followed by the Bob Dylan cover "Visions of Johanna" instead of his other Bob Dylan cover "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll". "American X" was epic as always with an extended feedback ending. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club convincingly closed out their set with a fierce version of "Spread Your Love" and "Whatever Happened To My Rock N Roll (Punk Song)". I hope they finish their new album quickly so they can go on tour again.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club Setlist at the Key Club (1/24/08)
"Grind My Bones"
"Complicated Situation"
"Shuffle Your Feet"
"Love Burns"
"Weapon Of Choice"
"All You Do Is Talk"
"666 Conducer"
"Six Barrel Shotgun"
"Red Eyes And Tears"
"Ain't No Easy Way"
"Sympathetic Noose"
"Visions Of Johanna"
"As Sure As The Sun"
"American X"
"Took Out A Loan"
"Killing The Light"
"Spread Your Love"
"Whatever Happened To My Rock N Roll (Punk Song)"

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Teenagers at Spaceland

The Teenagers recently landed a slot on Coachella, so I figured I better see them at Spaceland before they become too big to see at a small venue. The Teenagers are doing a mini tour in support of their recently released album "Reality Check". It turns out I got a Coachella sneak preview.

Run Run Run with David J from Love and Rockets

Run Run Run had their trademark lights and smoke machines set up before they dived into their anthemic rock. I last caught up with Run Run Run in September and mentioned they had a British rock influence similar to Echo and The Bunnymen. I would like to add Love and Rockets as an influence as they brought out David J from Love and Rockets to perform a white hot version of "No New Tale To Tell". David J has been a busy guy with the reformation of Love and Rockets playing Coachella as well as his stage production Silver For Gold based on Edie Sedgwick at the Met Theatre starting in March. Run Run Run played a solid set with tracks from their album "Endless Winter" and from their new EP "Good Company". Xander Smith (Guitars/Vocals) had a slick black Gibson Les Paul custom loaded with P-90s soapbox pickups as the lights flickered with each of his guitar riffs. They have really honed their live show and played a tight set.

The Teenagers

The Teenagers played beyond their age as they led blasted through an electro post punk set. "Starlett Johansson" started their set with its rapid distorted guitars and tongue in cheek lyrics provided by Quentin Delafon (Vocals). Quentin was pacing the stage and posing for some of the cameras in the front row. Dorian Dumont(Guitars) was sporting a Korn t-shirt while cranking away on his black Fender Jaguar while his Fender Deville amp was blasting out power chords. I love the synths on the record and was slightly disappointed they didn't have a synth player but the duel guitar attack made up for it. Michael Szpiner (Bass) had his Leonard Dicaprio shirt on as he pounded away on his Fender Bass during "III". Quentin's french accent is very noticeable on the album but while he was singing at Spaceland it disappeared. "Make It Happen" was another propulsive jam with a few mini guitar leads sprinkled amongst some floating synths. "Homecoming" was the crowd favorite of the night as Quentin pulled a young female audience member on stage to complete the duet. The female audience member seemed to have enjoyed herself as she cried out "I Love My English Romance!". The Teenagers reminded me of a young Killers in that they have a lot of good songs but need a few more shows under their belts to really sharpen their live act. I would still circle my Coachella schedule for a time slot with the Teenagers.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Sparrow Love Crew at the Detroit Bar

Matt from Delta Spirit

Monday night residencies continued to roar on as I stayed local to drop in on the Sparrow Love Crew at the Detroit Bar. My first encounter with the Sparrow Love Crew was almost a year ago at the Detroit Bar. I managed to keep a close eye on them by reviewing their shows at Spaceland, and the Detroit Bar in June and August.

Matt Vasquez from The Delta Spirit came on stage in disguise holding a spinning arrow sign advertising that the Sparrow Love Crew were free on Mondays. A mash up of Queen "We Will Rock You" and Snoop Dogg's "Drop It Like Its Hot" blared over the speakers as The Sparrow Love Crew stormed the stage with a party starting version of "Naidu". Sparrow Love Crew are difficult to characterize but mix and mash elements of Electronica, Hip Hop, and Indie together for a tasty treat. "Monsta Boogie" is ferocious and has all members trading off lyrical duties effortlessly as Dj Opi Styles scratches up a storm in the background. "Nightlife" has a Depeche Mode influenced synthesizer pulsating beat before switching gears into a dance floor inciting riot. They followed up "Nightlife" with another hot jam that seemed to have taken samples from the video game Galaga. DJ Opi Styles didn't get to use his home built Theremin too much but did dazzle the crowd with a trip hop scratching solo that bended a sample of droney guitars. "Who's That?" showcased their MC skills as they had the crowd at the Detroit Bar jumping. A potentially fatal error occurred mid set as the beat dropped out in the middle of the song. The Sparrow Love Crew went acapella and continued the song as some members started the vocal beat box. The crowd roared in approval at the ending of the song to verify how much they enjoyed the acapella version. I would like to see them at a Spaceland residency to test out the Los Angeles crowd because they already have all of O.C. in their back pockets. The Sparrow Love Crew are finishing up their seven song debut EP that will grab the attention of a lot of record labels.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

NAMM at the Anaheim Convention Center Day 3

Billy Corgan from the Smashing Pumpkins

Moogerfooger Paradise

Nightmare from Elm Street Freddy Guitar with red guitar strings

Matrixsynth on the Moog Little Phatty (Excellent sounding patch as well)

Peter Hook (Joy Division/New Order) and Page Hamilton(Helmet)

Pigtronix Effects

I am still sorting through photos from NAMM but will add more words and links soon.

The Parson Red Heads at Spaceland

The onslaught of Monday residencies in January continued with a lot of difficult decisions to make. I had to opt for The Parson Red Heads. The deck was stacked high with support from Everest, the Mezzanine Owls, and Light FM.

I have a problem with Everest. They are too good. If Everest takes off, what will happen to the other stellar bands they play in? Davey Latter (Drums) is an integral part of Great Northern with his rock solid drumming. Jason Soda(Guitars) and Russ Pollard(Guitars/Vocals) help make the Watson Twins one of the more underrated bands on the Los Angeles scene. I won't even start about Rob Douglas and Joel Graves and their contributions to Earlimart. Everest is not far from The Watson Twins with their endearing alternative country roots. "The Trees" is one such polished gem in their arsenal with its propulsive guitar riff with acoustic countermelody. "Rebels In The Roses" is another quiet acoustic spun jam that places you on a back porch during a hot summer day with a large glass of lemonade. I was also envious of Jason Soda's Fulltone Tube Tape Echo and extraodinary guitar playing skills. I will catch them again with the Radar Bros. next week.

Mezzanine Owls have had my attention ever since I caught them at Little Radio during Summer Camp. Jax is lucky to be releasing their new EP which features "Snowglobe" and "Ghost Ship". Since I have seen the Mezzanine Owls five times previously, I can testify that this was their best show yet. The new songs were louder, faster and played with strong conviction. Jonathan Zeitlin (Guitars) was abusing his tremelo arm that it popped out. Jonathan was undeterred as he banged on his guitar even harder. I highly recommend you go to their myspace page and check out "Snow Globe". It has all the essential ingredients in all the right places. The song opens with a Korg MS2000 shower of sound mixed with a thumping bass line coupled with a soaring guitar line blended to perfection with Jack Burnside's vocals. I hope the world is ready for the flight of the Mezzanine Owls.

The Parson Red Heads have gained momentum since I last caught them in September of 2007. Their album "King Giraffe" finished on a number of "Best of" local releases in 2007 and landing a Spaceland residency is a good way to start your year. It was difficult to track them again with their massive stage presence but the music is still the focus point as they produce a lost chapter of Sixties inspired sunshine pop seasoned with kick of country. If you attend a Parson Red Heads show expect a lot of clapping, tambourine shaking and a good time.

Light FM came out throwing punches. "16 Below" immediately grabs your attention with its propulsive bass line and siren like guitars. Josiah Mazzaschi (Guitars/Vocals) had a perfect blend of distortion and overdrive coming out of his Gibson SG. Josiah's use of octaves and occasional use of the Wah pedal reminded me a tad bit of Ned's Atomic Dustbin. "Save The Drama" played like a cross between the Rentals and Weezer with its swirling synth action and crunchy guitars pinned with a tight song structure. "Switchboard Control" was a showcase for Kim Haden (Synths) an she dialed up some synthesizer goodness on her Korg MS2000. Light FM plays with the Pity Party on February 4th for a super stacked line up with The Happy Hollows and Rademacher at Spaceland. It looks like February residencies will be bustling.