Monday, March 31, 2008

Glasser at the Echo

The thing about attending multiple shows in a row is that I am left with little time to write up the shows. I was going to rest but received a hot tip that I needed to check out Glasser. I am glad I didn't stay home as Glasser turned out to be quite the spectacle.

Early Dolphin

Early Dolphin was up first with their folk psychedelic rock that featured Clay Guccione (Vocals/Guitars) gently fingerpicking his Fender Jaguar guitar while occasionally stepping on his Choral Flange pedal for some swirling effects. Early Dolphin's songs were so new that Clay was reading the music or lyric sheets on a music stand. "Go Where You Want To Go" was their sun drenched California pop song that made some audience members gently sway. Early Dolphin will be dropping by Koo's Art Center in Long Beach on April 24th.


I was politely told by Matt Popieluch (Guitars) to clear the front of the stage to make room for the dance troupe known as Body City who were providing dance choreography to the music of Glasser. I thought to myself two things. First was that Matt has to be the busiest guy in Silverlake fronting Foreign Born, his solo project Big Search, moonlighting in Cass Mccombs, and now playing guitar in Glasser. The second thing was that the Echo was already packed and that free space was at a premium. Cameron Mesirow (Vocals) is the mastermind behind Glasser and apparently composed the songs via Garageband. Cameron is backed by two female singers who add layers of harmonies to the ethnic folk Feist/Bjork hybrid music. Cameron seemed to tap into all the instruments that you would normally pass over to make compelling and catchy songs. "Apply" is one of those songs that had jungle like bongos rumbling as Cameron's voice weaves a dreamy soundscape. It was difficult to pay attention to everything as I had to avoid the interruptive dancers in front and try to focus on what was happening on stage. Matt's guitars were more prominent in the live setting versus what you hear on Glasser's myspace page. I was intrigued by the performance and will be looking out for future releases from Glasser.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Film School at the Beauty Bar

After surviving the sonic storm of noise from Airiel and Film School at Spaceland, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see them again at the Beauty Bar in San Diego. I did feel guilty for missing the Film School in-store earlier in the day at M-Theory Records as I had prior commitments but was ready for another sonic assault.

First Wave Hello was scheduled to open but it turned out that it was a solo set by Jacob Turnbloom (Vocals/Guitars) who mentioned that First Wave Hello had broken up to my dismay. I enjoyed catching First Wave Hello opening for Ken Andrews and still listen to "The Lord & It's Penguin". Jacob had his lone Fender Telecaster as he played various First Wave Hello tunes. "Healthy Amount of Self Loathing" had a darker resonance then normal as Jacob used some pedal effects to fill out the songs. Jacob has a new project with Eric Flynn from First Wave Hello entitled TexasInstruments which lists Moog, Kraftwerk, and Hum as influences. I can't wait to hear what they come up with.


Airiel knocked me off my feet when I saw them at Spaceland. The twin Rickenbacker guitar attack of Jeremy Wrenn (Guitars) and Chris De Brizzio (Guitars) is massive. I wouldn't have believed they used a capo on some songs if I didn't see it with my own eyes. Chris had a small cadre of pedals that included a Death by Audio Armageddeon, Death by Audio Evil Filter, Moogerfooger Freqbox and a Boss Pitch Shifter. Jeremy had a Boss Digital Reverb, Line 6 Delay, Death by Audio custom made Fuzz Wall, Vox Wah, Boss Flanger and a Digitech Space Station. It was pedal heaven. I honestly was lost in the barrage of feedback, and melody as the swirls of sound were hypnotic as they were drowned in red lights. "Mermaid In A Manhole" is a highly recommend tune from their album "Battle of Sealand" as it combines the right mixture of guitars, vocals, bass and drums. Airiel is going to go to the UK to tour with Ulrich Schnauss and will blow minds on a nightly basis. I wish I had another UK trip planned.

Film School

I hope you got the impression that Film School played one of their best sets at Spaceland. I thought it would be difficult to top that set but Film School managed to match the intensity while playing to a fairly packed audience at the Beauty Bar. After reviewing eight shows of Film School, I think I may have almost run out of adjectives to describe how good they are live. One aspect of this show which was slightly different is the colored visuals would randomly highlight the individual members for a intriguing visual show. "11:11" was mind blowing with high pitched squeals and mind numbing feedback. "What I Meant To Say" closed out the night with storms of noise that resonated in my head during the long drive home. Film School will be playing at the Continental Room in Fullerton on April 3rd before embarking on a US tour with British Sea Power. I am currently wrestling with the debate of seeing The Cure at the Hollywood Bowl or Swervedriver with Film School at the Henry Fonda on May 31st. I hate concert conflicts.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Black Ghosts at the Detroit Bar

The Black Ghosts gave a performance that will haunt the memory of all those who were in attendance at the Detroit Bar. The Black Ghosts is a collaboration between Theo Keating and Simon William Lord who add their touches of darkness to create some pulsing dance floor burning anthems. The Black Ghosts performed a hybrid DJ set with Simon deftly taking on the vocal duties for some of the songs. I was highly impressed with Simon's voice and think it sounds even better live. "Anyway You Choose To Give It" was outstanding with its arcade ping pong bass line and ghoul like synthesizers. The lights were flickering along with the sporadic camera flashes as the smoke machines were working overtime. The crowd was absolutely eating it up as The Black Ghosts were hunkered over their laptops and throwing up their arms as the audience danced with reckless abandon. "I Want Nothing" was another primal romp that elevated the ambient room temperature to well above boiling. Simon would later close out the evening adding his characteristic vocals to the the omnipresent "We Are Your Friends" that was a highlight for all in attendance. The Black Ghosts were so good it was scary. I will have to wait later this summer for a full length release from the Black Ghosts but was able to pick up their recently released mixtape with a slew of remixed tunes to tide me over.

Film School at Spaceland

It was an extremely busy Thursday night as a plethora of bands were in town. Some of the options included Vampire Weekend at the El Rey, Bon Iver at the Echo, Eskimohunter and Low Vs. Diamond at the Troubadour and the Henry Clay People at the Detroit Bar. I still had to pledge my allegiance to Film School who brought along Airiel and Famous Amos. This billing would rival Holy F*ck and A Place To Bury Strangers as one of best show pairings of the concert year.


I had heard that Airiel used some an assortment of Death By Audio Pedals in their twin guitar assault so I had high expectations in the guitar tone department. Airiel exceeded these expectations with a sonic wall of sound as expansive as the Great Wall of China. Airiel recently released their album "The Battle of Sealand" which soared into constant rotation on my ipod after seeing their set. Airiel is led by Jeremy Wrenn (Vocals/Guitars) who has a characteristic vocal delivery somewhere in between Ken Andrews of Failure and Stephen Brodsky of Cave-In(Antenna era). Airiel started off with a rocket blast of "Thinktank" which had moments of Year Of The Rabbit, Stone Roses and My Bloody Valentine which immediately appealed to my ears. "You Kids Should Know Better" was another canon blast of soaring guitars and sonic acrobatics as Jeremy unleashed a tidal wave wah drenched solo. It immediately made sense that Ulrich Schnauss made a guest appearance on their album for the track "Sugar Crystals" adding his vast soundscape magic. I immediately signed up to see them again in San Diego.

Film School

Film School were as tight as ever fresh off their blitzkrieg of high profile shows at SXSW. Film School continues to up the ante with an intense visual projection show that augments their already massive sound. I was tricked by the opening squalls of noise and feedback as the band slowly transitioned the sheets of noise into the driving tune "Compare". The visuals were a kaledoscope of swirling colors intermittently mixed in with altered live footage of the band members various instruments. I have seen many Film School shows and this was quickly moving to one of the top performances after just a few songs. "Sick Hipster Nursed By A Suicide Girl" continues to blow my mind and eardrums. Film School should put out a live CD with a few new tracks to amplify the buzz surrounding their live shows. Greg Bertens (Vocals/Guitars) was intensely focused during the performance and would wildly swing his Fender Jazzmaster around for cascades of feedback and noise. Greg seemed to be teetering on the verge of insanity by almost destroying his guitar but it was more exciting to see Greg walk the fine line of insanity and compelling performance. Lorelei Plotczyk (Bass) had her Fender Mustang bass growling for the intro of "Lectric". Dave Dupuis (Guitars) was all over stage holding up his G&L guitar at various points while ferociously strumming his guitar. Greg introduced "He's a Deep Deep Lake" as a song they haven't played in awhile and I couldn't have been happier as it was a much noisier and dense version compared to their Spaceland version way back in August of 2007. I was glad it would only be a two day wait until I would see them again in San Diego.

Famous Amos

Famous Amos from the streets of Brooklyn had the difficult task of filling up the late slot at Spaceland which can be pretty rough. Spaceland had morphed into a ghost town but I was rewarded for my diligence. I was impressed by Jason Amos's guitar setup that included a Death By Audio Fuzz War and Interstellar Overdrive Supreme. If you haven't figured it out by now, I am a slight guitar pedal nerd so it didn't take long to identify Matt Conboy (Drums) banging on the drums as one of the pedal makers at Death By Audio. I remember seeing Matt in the DVD "Fuzz: The Sound that Revoultionized the World" when they did a spot on Death By Audio. I did enjoy one of their tracks "Our Modern Houses" which had hints of Archers of Loaf sprinkled with the Pixies and Sonic Youth. I didn't see any recorded stuff for sale but will keep an eye out if they come back to the West Coast.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Nada Surf at the Henry Fonda Theater

I remember picking up the first Nada Surf album "High/Low" at a record store after seeing it was produced by Ric Ocasek from the Cars. It was a world of devoid of mp3 blogs and Myspace. My qualifications for purchasing new music were driven by some of the following attributes: if the album art looked cool, if it was produced by someone recognizable and if the band was thanked in the liner notes of another band that I liked.

"Popular" would later land in the buzz bin on MTV and Nada Surf was propelled into the mainstream. I have always kept close tabs on the band and even ordered the import of their second album "The Proximity Effect". Nada Surf recently released "Lucky" which is another fine addition to their catalog. I recommend you hunt down the bonus disc version with four extra tracks which has Juliana Hatfield doing a guest spot on vocals.

Sea Wolf

I last caught up with Sea Wolf at the Belly Up when they played for San Diego's FM 94.9 "About the Music Series". Sea Wolf's album "Leaves In The River" was on such heavy rotation that I had to stop listening to the album so I wouldn't completely get sick of the album. The album has crept back into rotation after seeing their set at the Henry Fonda. Alex Church (Vocals/Guitar) was brimming with confidence as he strummed his Martin acoustic guitar. Sea Wolf has continued to tour incessantly and this has paid big dividends as this was a extremely strong set. "The Cold, The Dark, & The Silence" is one of my favorite songs in the Sea Wolf catalog and sounded sharp as Alex plucked out the riff on his guitar. The Henry Fonda theater was whisper quiet as Sea Wolf tip toed through "Black Leaf Falls" with its delicate piano notes accompanying Alex's voice. "The Rose Captain" was cello heavy as April Guthrie gently sawed her cello. "Song For The Dead" has morphed into a fast paced acoustic rocker that had Scott McPherson (Drums) banging away on the drums. "You're A Wolf" elicited the most cheers from the crowd and I saw a few people frantically opening their phones to record the song or call their friends to have them listen. I thought "You're A Wolf" would close out the set but Sea Wolf left the crowd with the song "Black Dirt" as the audience was extremely warmed up for Nada Surf.

Nada Surf

When the curtain lifted, a series of reflective mirrors and an energetic Nada Surf where playing the notes to "Hi-Speed Soul". I should also mention that the song is the inspiration for Hi-Speed Soul Records based in San Diego that has re-released the Nada Surf EP "Karmic" as well as Adam Franklin's solo album "Bolts of Melody".

"Happy Kid" had a good majority of the female fans on the rail singing along as their eyes were glued to Matthew Caws (Guitars/Vocals) who was decked out in a top hat. The sound was dialed in at the Henry Fonda as Matthew got the crowd to sing along during "Weightless". "Killian's Red" imposed silence over the crowd as Matthew feverishly plucked out the ringing notes. "I Like What You Say" is one of the many examples of how Nada Surf can take a few simple chords and make them sound fresh and new with their infusion of harmonies. "Inside of Love" had Matthew place a capo on the second fret of his Gibson Les Paul as all the couples in the room swayed along.

I remember reading somewhere that Nada Surf referred to "Popular" as a golden ball and chain which I thought was funny as well as being appropriate. It is still nice to hear the song as the tempo is accelerated to possibly make the song end sooner or give it a more rocking vibe. I would like to think they opted for the rock vibe. Matthew was switching between a custom black Gibson Les Paul and a gold top Gibson Les Paul.

"Ice On The Wing" and "Are You Lightning" sounded excellent live and fit nicely into the Nada Surf catalog. I was floored by their version of "Stalemate" as it is one of my favorite songs from the first album. It got a little crazier when they morphed the song into Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart". I was completely sold at this point. Lisa from Sea Wolf came out for some assistance on the accordion during "Blonde On Blonde". Nada Surf knows how end a show as they closed out the night with "Always Love" and the party inciting bash of "Blankest Year". I had heard reports that a bunch of people made it on the stage at the show in San Diego but the Henry Fonda security staff wasn't having it. Nada Surf is wrapping up their tour in the States before heading out for a European tour but I hope they swing back for a winter tour.

Nada Surf Setlist at the Henry Fonda Theater (3/19/08)
"Hi-Speed Soul"
"Happy Kid"
"Whose Authority"
"What is your Secret"
"Killian’s Red"
"I Like What You Say"
"Inside of Love"
"Fruit Fly"
"80 Windows"
"Ice on the Wing"
"Are You Lightning"
"Do It Again"
"Beautiful Beat"
"See These Bones"
"Blizzard of ‘77"
"Stalemate/Love Will Tear Us Apart"
"Blonde on Blonde"
"Always Love"
"Blankest Year"