Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Kooks at the Wiltern

The line of fans snaked around the Wiltern going well past the Denny's as The Kooks and The Morning Benders traveled up the coast to play another sold out show. Both bands sounded great at the House of Blues San Diego and I had even higher expectations for this particular show as the Wiltern usually sounds great.

The Morning Benders

It is hard to believe that this was the tenth time I have seen The Morning Benders since I originally caught them at the Viper room in November of 2007. The Morning Benders continue to impress me every time I see them live. Chris Chu (Vocals/Guitars) had an aura of confidence surrounding him as he charged through "Loose Change". The Morning Benders played a similar set but I have to mention that "Patient Patient" may have surpassed "Damnit Anna" as my favorite Morning Benders song. The Los Angeles crowd reacted just as strongly as the night before in San Diego and I honesty wasn't surprised. I can't recommend their debut full length album Talking Through Tin Cans any higher as it will finish in my top 10 releases of 2008.

The Kooks

The Kooks have deftly avoided the sophomore slump with the release of new album Konk. "Mr. Maker", "Do You Wanna" and "Sway" are some of my particular favorite tracks on the album. I also recommend you pick up the bonus disc version that has an extra nine tracks. As much as I love catching shows in San Diego, The Kooks kicked into another gear for the Los Angeles crowd as the pit at the Wiltern was actively moving and dancing around. Luke Pritchard (Vocals/Guitars) fed off the energy from the crowd as he frantically paced the stage. The setlist for this show was similar to the House of Blues San Diego show but I wasn't complaining as it was a good mix of old and new material. The white screen behind the band changed colors throughout the evening to add a striking visual element to the auditory delights of the night. Dan Logan (Bass) has done an admirable job replacing Max Rafferty as if he has been playing with the band since its inception. "Shine" was the highlight of the night with a good majority of the crowd singing along. Luke's acoustic encore resonated with the crowd as he managed to make the Wiltern as comfy as the Troubadour with his demeanor. I hope you have tickets when they hit your town because the venues are only going to get larger.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Kooks at the House of Blues San Diego

The Kooks kicked off their U.S. tour at the House of Blues San Diego in grand style with the help of The Morning Benders. I was excited to see the bands in action again as I previously reviewed and enjoyed both bands at the Troubadour and Echo.

The Morning Benders

After recently catching their successful record release party at the Echo, I was curious to see how The Morning Benders would fare in front of a larger audience thirsty for the Kooks. The Morning Benders quenched the thirst of the audience with a hearty selection of tunes from Talking Through Tin Cans. The House of Blues soundsystem was in perfect tune with The Morning Benders as the mix was simply majestic. "Crosseyed" had a slower then usual intro before quickly picking up speed. The Rhoades keyboard was loud and clear for a bouncy version of "Boarded Doors". I heard some girls behind me debating about which band member was cuter during "Grain of Salt". The Morning Benders breezed through their set like touring veterans, as I felt sorry for their merch guy who was swamped at the end of their set. The snowball effect continues to amplify the buzz for the Morning Benders.

The Kooks

It didn't take long for the chants of "The Kooks" to start from the balcony of the House of Blues. It started to feel like a sold out show as the floor was completely packed and the crowd was anxiously waiting. The slashing chords of "Always Where I Need To Be" kicked of their set as the crowd started jumping up and down near the front of the stage. Luke Pritchard (Vocals/Guitars) was thoroughly enjoying the larger stage as he often walked back and forth while dancing around. The Kooks wisely arranged their setlist by alternating new and old songs into the mix. Hugh Harris (Guitars) had his trusty Gibson hollowbody guitar firing on all cylinders as he demonstrated his advanced guitar wisdom. Luke switched to an acoustic guitar for a lush version of "Sway" from their new album Konk. Luke dedicated "See The Sun" to a trio of girls up in the balcony as all three were wearing matching new Kooks shirts. Paul Garred (Drums) was a madman behind his drum kit with cymbals consistently moving. Hugh also impressed me when he went behind the keyboards for "Shine" as their roadie filled in with some acoustic guitar. Luke came back out by himself with an acoustic guitar as he tackled "Seaside" and "Jackie Big Tits" to the delight of the crowd. I was glad I had a ticket to the next night at the Wiltern.

The Kooks setlist at the House of Blues San Diego
"Always Where I Need To Be"
"Eddie's Gun"
"Ooh La"
"Time Awaits"
"One Last Time"
"I Want You"
"She Moves In Her Own Way"
"Mr. Maker"
"See The Sun"
"Do You Wanna"
"Shine On"
"See The World"
"You Don't Love Me"
"Jackie Big Tits"
"Stormy Weather"
"Sofa Song"

The Cult at the Grove of Anaheim

Check out my review of The Cult at the Grove of Anaheim over at OC Weekly here. The slideshow is here.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Ghostland Observatory at the Detroit Bar

Even though it was scorching hot, Ghostland Observatory gave an energetic performance that was quite memorable at Vegoose. It was extremely cool to see Ghostland Observatory at the Detroit Bar as they usually play larger venues like the Henry Fonda in Los Angeles.

If you only heard Ghostland Observatory before actually seeing them live, you might think it was a five member ensemble. Instead, Ghostland Observatory is a dynamic Austin, Texas duo. The caped synthesizer crusader Thomas Turner had an impressive keyboard setup that included a Yamaha Motif and a Korg MS2000 that pumped out electronic goodness all night. Aaron Behrens (Vocals/Guitars) was a madman pouncing all over the stage as the ladies parked in front of the stage were transfixed. "Stranger Lover" was sultry vocoder filled jam that really turned up the heat as Aaron dispensed some distorted notes on his Fender Telecaster. The crowd was screaming louder then Aaron for "Sad Sad City" as the dark synthesizer bass line snuggled with laser gun blasts of synthesizer. I knew Ghostland could rock a festival but I was even more impressed with their energy in a smaller venue. The band got lost in the groove of "Midnight Voyager" as the pulsating beat and sultry guitars never let up. Ghostland has been touring in support of their album Robotique Majestique that is laden with gushing synthesizers and brimming with Aaron's energetic vocals. "Heavy Heart" was another dance inciting riot that had Aaron frequently singing directly in faces of the adoring fans in the front as they danced away. Ghostland came back for an encore of "Silver City" that can only be described as pure synthesizer bliss. I was expecting Ghostland to play for about an hour but was they never let up as they went on for an hour and a half giving the crowd all that they could ask for. If you like synthesizers as much as I do, do not miss Ghostland Observatory when then come through your town.

Sleepercar and Gran Ronde at Spaceland

Gran Ronde has been in the midst of a Tuesday residency at Spaceland for the month of May and I could not pass up the huge line up of them playing with The Republic Tigers, Sleepercar and Aushua.

The Republic Tigers

I was not to familiar with The Republic Tigers, but quickly was intrigued by what I was hearing. The quiet psychedelic pop tinge of "The Drums" turned some heads from the bar as a large crowd had already started to form at Spaceland. My immediate impression was an indie experimental pop based Pink Floyd. I heard some similarities with The Shins but with more electronic effects bubbling through the songs. "Buildings and Mountains" had stacked vocal echoes combined with propulsive acoustic guitars that gave way to a delayed drenched guitars as the Republic Tigers moved into pop bliss territory. The Republic Tigers will be out on tour with Nada Surf and have a new record out entitled Keep Color on Chop Shop records which is an imprint of Atlantic records.


I was really impressed with Jim Ward when he stopped by the Paul Gleason theatre for a semi solo show. Jim is now touring in support of Sleepercar which highlights some of Jim's Texas roots. I remember seeing Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top at a Sparta show and that they both hail from Texas. Sleepercar released their debut album West Texas which sizzles with pedal steel guitars and a distinct alternative country flavor as Jim mines the past influences of Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers. Chris Heinrich (Pedal Steel/Guitars) almost stole the show at the Paul Gleason show and continued to astound me with some smoking pedal steel playing on "Fences Down". "Wasting My Time" is a perfect mesh of alternative rock and country as it fluctuates flawlessly between both genres. The lullaby ringing chords of "Wednesday Night" builds like a snowball rolling down the hill until bowling you over with its huge chorus. I walked directly to the merchandise booth after the set to purchase my copy of the new album.

Gran Ronde

I will admit I was excited when I saw two huge pedal boards placed on the ground as Gran Ronde was setting up their gear. Neil Parek (Guitars) had a Line 6 Pod connected to a Midi foot controller. Chris Pearson (Vocals/Guitars) had an assortment of pedals that included a Boss Tremolo, Line 6 Delay and a MXR carbon copy analog delay. Gran Ronde lived up to my pedal expectations with soaring guitars and well crafted songs that recalled the sonics of some of my favorite British bands. "Set It Off" from their album Secret Rooms lived up to its title as the dueling guitars continually climbed into the stratosphere while the bass and the drums anchored the ground. The tempo momentarily slowed for "Gold" as Gran Ronde demonstrated their knowledge of moody atmospheric ballads. "Run Me Over" was a dynamic closer to their set as the guitars went into winding staircase mode. Gran Ronde will close out their Spaceland residency this Tuesday May 27th.


It has been a few months since I caught up with Aushua. Aushua is gearing up for a west coast tour opening for Thrice and have recently released their EP No Harm Done on itunes. Nathan Gammill (Vocals/Guitars) was on the far left of the stage as he belted out the title track of their EP as Eric Newyear (Guitars) cranked up the reverb on Fender guitar. The marching band drum beat from Lee Newyear (Drums) for "Reverberation" never sounded better as Phil Newyear (Bass) added a complimentary bass line. I have been a big supporter of Aushua since I saw them in September of 2007 and they continually hone their live show as "Sister Saves" absolutely rocked. I have the EP and anxiously await their full length debut LP.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Gigantour at the Long Beach Arena

Dave Mustaine of Megadeth from NAMM 2008

A symphony of destruction from Megadeth, Children of Bodom, In Flames, Job For A Cowboy and High on Fire as the Gigantour show rolled through Long Beach Arena. Check out my review for OC Weekly here. The huge pictorial slideshow is here.

Film School and Everest at the Viper Room

The pairing of Film School and Everest at the Viper Room proved to be to good to pass up as I have reviewed both multiple times. Both bands are located far apart on the sonic spectrum but therein lies the beauty of the Monday Night Indie 103.1 sponsored Check One.Two.. curated shows.


Castaneda fired up the crowd and their synthesizers with their dark wave influenced pop rock. "Pixels" was the first tune they offered that was propelled by their drummer who was rocking out with a full knee brace on. I don't think the doctor recommended he bash the drums for rehab but he was unfettered as the guitars diced the airwaves. Rob (Synthesizers) had a Korg MS2000 stacked on top of a Roland Juno as he washed the audience with various synthesizer patches. "Perfect & Pretty" was another good mesh of atmospheric synthesizers laden with hazy guitars centered around the crisp vocals of Vega (Guitars/Vocals). Your next chance to see Castaneda will be at Spaceland with Gran Ronde on May 27th.


It seems like only yesterday that I reviewed Everest at the Spaceland opening for the Parson Red Heads. A lot has happened since this time as their debut album Ghost Notes has hit the streets on Neil Young's Vapor Records. Everest had a lot to celebrate as it happened to be a birthday celebration for Joel Graves (Guitars) complete with a cake brought out from the crowd. I feel vindicated for mentioning in prior reviews of Everest of the guitar wizardry of Jason Soda as he nailed a solo during the show that garnered a huge ovation from the crowd and a wide grin of approval from Russ Pollard (Vocals/Guitars). "Into Your Soft Heart" and "Rebels in The Roses" were well received by the crowd as the Viper Room was packed to the gills. Everest will be back at Spaceland on June 16 opening for the Afternoons and I highly recommend this bill as it may be the last chance to see Everest for free.

Film School

What can I say about Film School? I have covered them numerous times and honestly never get sick of seeing them live. Film School had just drove in from Colorado as they were wrapping up their cross country tour with British Sea Power. I know I mentioned how sharp they are live and they continue to add new elements to their live show. "Sick Hipster Nursed By Suicide Girl" wrapped the audience in a fog of noise as the lights were out in the Viper Room. Greg Bertens (Guitars/Vocals) continues to surprise me with his dynamic stage presence as he was literally scraping the paint off the Viper Room walls with his Fender guitar. Greg even handed his guitar to an audience member as he violently tweaked his pedals for a storm of feedback. Film School will be back on tour opening for the mighty Swervedriver at the Henry Fonda on May 31st. I can't wait to hear Film School on the Fonda house system. Bring your earplugs.