Friday, February 29, 2008

The Henry Clay People at the Prospector

The Henry Clay People have been a causality of numerous concert conflicts as I even inexplicably managed to miss their residency at the Detroit Bar. It was also difficult to miss their show with Death To Anders, The Happy Hallows and The Transmissions last week. I made amends to the good folks of The Henry Clay People as I dropped in at the Prospector to catch their show.

The Year Zero

Despite what you might originally suspect The Year Zero are no way related to the highly overlooked latest album from Nine Inch Nails. I had heard from LA-Underground how amazing The Year Zero was and it turns out they are correct. I was hoping for some Jawbreaker action seeing a lefty Gibson Les Paul but instead was happy to hear lush dream pop that shimmered and shined like the stars in the sky. "New Day Dawn" was stunning with its moonlight shiny guitars and sweet vocal harmonies. "Counting Planes" was another dose of dream pop that had me sold. I will have to check them out again.

Forcefield On

I last briefly caught up with ForceField ON when they played the Viper Room in December of 2007. The horn section was scaled down to two for this performance but the energy level was not. Jesse Wilder (Vocals/Guitars) led the charge with his heart on a sleeve lyrics and backed by the trombone section. Jesse Sisk (Guitars) was channeling moments of Burning Airlines and Hey Mercedes with his guitar riffs. "Adios Victrolas" is a good example of their unique mix of horns and slide guitar work. Forcefield On has a new album due out in March and will play the Prospector again on March 22nd.

The Henry Clay People

I can only say that The Henry Clay People gave a spirited performance. It was full of spirit and spirits if you catch my drift. I will concur with Reid's concert review that the set was a whiskey fueled good time. The vibe was eerily similar to The Hold Steady's show at the Detroit Bar. The Henry Clay People started the evening with a rambling version of "Working Part Time" which was recently released by Jaxart records. Joey (Vocals/Guitars) was pointing his Fender Telecaster in the sky like an antenna trying to broadcast his guitar sound across the world as he rambled through the song. The spirit of their performance was intoxicating as you couldn't help but be in a good mood while watching them destroy the stage. When they requested cover songs from the audience, I was tempted to yell out some Archers of Loaf but the Replacements and Pavement requests got through very quickly. Their cover of "Summer Babe" by Pavement would have made Stephen Malkmus smile as they out paved Pavement. "Andy Sings!" was other rollicking good time as the antics continued to be chaotic. I should have requested Dinosaur Jr. as Andy was playing a Fender Jazzmaster with a Big Muff distortion pedal. Joey would later ask the audience if anyone could play guitar to which an audience member willingly helped out and played the chords "A" and "E" on a song that reminded me even more of the previously mentioned Hold Steady show. I have to give credit to Noah (Bass) and Eric (Drums) for being the sober rhythm section and keeping pace with Joey and Andy. The hang over from the Henry Clay People still hasn't subsided.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Liars at the El Rey Theatre

Ever since I interviewed Angus from Liars, I was really looking forward to their show at the El Rey. I was expecting a toned down show compared to their opening slot opening for Interpol at the Forum given the extent of Angus's back injury. I am happy to report I was wrong in my suspicions as the Liars took no prisoners with Angus Andrew (Bass/Vocals) showing few signs of back anguish. Angus was neurotically collapsing and pacing the stage like a maniacal Joker in his magenta suit. It was chaotic, vitriolic, punk and noisy. It was my kind of concert.


IMA GYMNIST is the direct distillation of teenage alienation, frustrated youth and disenchantment. The raw punk bass thrown against Red Bull fueled drumming connected with the audience. IMA GYMNIST breaks the "supposed" hardcore rules in that the band has a female lead singer and nary a guitar player in sight. It was a bludgeoning blast of screams, casio keyboard bleeps, dangerous drums and blistering bass. I felt like I was watching the band rehearse instead of play a live show as it was so raw. The band did meekly ask if their parents had made it to the show. The crowd member next to me jokingly said that their parents probably drove IMA GYMNIST to the show because they looked so young. IMA GYMIST has a seven inch release available on Olfactory records entitled "So Freakin Juicy".

No Age

When I saw No Age at the Fonda opening for Battles, I mentioned that they had the art damaged vibe of Liars. It was ironic to see them open for Liars but after seeing their performance but I don't think they will be opening up for other bands much longer. One of my spies in the crowd mentioned that they overheard some kids expressing their disappointment that No Age was playing such a large venue as the El Rey and not the Smell. No Age is on the fast track for the Wiltern, so the kids better get used to disappointment. The crowd ate up No Age's set as the pit would eventually break out in front of the stage as they started into "Everybody's Down". Randy Randall handed his Gibson SG out to the crowd as they ripped off the strings from his guitar for a furious ending as the crowd transformed into piranhas dining on the feedback. No Age will be coming out with a new album entitled "Nouns" on Sub Pop records due on May 6.


Liars had a lot to live up to after No Age's set but one could tell early on that Angus Andrew (Vocals/Bass) was feeling the Los Angeles crowd and wanted to give them something special for a tour ending show. "Leather Prowler" was a fitting opening song as it places you in the middle of a jungle with its tribal drums and guitars that stalk you like a tiger hunting its prey. The unabashed death march of evil was unfurled as "Clear Island" pounded your eardrums and rattled your skull. The screams from the crowd for Angus not to hurt himself went on deaf ears as Angus convulsed and gestured wildly across the stage. I was impressed how close Liars was able to replicate the sounds from album as the driving guitars sounded just as fractured as the recording. It was difficult not to take your eyes from Angus as his stage presence is beyond commanding. "Houseclouds" had its snake like slithering drum shuffle with Julian Gross (Drums) keeping himself busy. "Drum and The Uncomfortable Can" was another lesson in drumming with its industrial tinged beats."Freak Out" was perfect with its menacing dark surf vibe and hollow guitars roaring in the background. Angus was still out of control falling all over the stage and knocking over his mic stand and his stool. I was worrying that Angus would throw out his back again they way he was working the stage. "Pure Unevil" was a highlight of the set for me with its marching drums and haunting vocals as Jarrett Silberman (Guitars) was scraping his Gibson SG for bizarre guitar tones. "Plaster Casts Of Everything" turned the El Rey into a mosh pit as the crowd feverishly thrashed about. It was at this moment that the volume and intensity was at its apex. In an excellent display of setlist dynamics, the Liars followed up the primal intensity of "Plaster Casts Of Everything" with the dark lullaby of "The Other Side Of Mt. Heart Attack". This show was light years more intense and confrontational in comparison to their Forum show. I would recommend you don't miss the Liars live show when they come by to destroy your home town.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Stellastarr* Interview with Shawn Christensen

I thought Stellastarr*'s second album "Harmonies For The Haunted" was criminally overlooked. The whole album is solid and such tracks as "Sweet Troubled Soul" and the delay and reverb soaked gem "Love and Longing" still remain in heavy ipod rotation. Shawn Christensen (Vocals/Guitars) was nice enough to answer a few questions before their stop at the Troubadour this Wednesday. I recommend you pick up your tickets here.

AC: I enjoyed some the new songs you played last year at the Troubadour. How is the new album coming along?

SC: We're somewhere in between recording and mixing.

AC: Who recorded and produced the album? How was that process?

SC: We're working with Tim O'Heir again, who produced our first record. It's always nice to work with someone you're comfortable with and really understands the band.

AC: I read an interview that said you had some throat problems that may affect your singing intonation. Were these problems resolved?

SC: I had to change my approach a little bit for various medical reasons. The pain is gone now, but I was very close to having surgery.

AC: "Love and Longing" is one of my favorite Stellastarr* songs. Any specific memories or notes from the recording of that song?

SC: Many memories. First of all, I had written two choruses that the band wasn't thrilled about. Then, I wrote another chorus that they loved and I downright hated it. I would be singing it and thinking, no way could I live with myself if this becomes the definitive version. Then, after I kicked and screamed and slaved over new ideas, I basically came into the studio the day to record vocals with nothing. No lyrics, melody, nothing. So I adlibbed that long noted chorus, andthat's what we ended up recording. Wrote some quick lyrics, sang them, and that's what made it to the record.

AC: I like the guitar interplay between Michael and Shawn. Do you write your guitar parts separately or is it a more collaborative process?

SC: Half the songs begin with a Michael riff, and the other half I come in and format and he comes up with things after word, Our general rule is that we are never allowed to play the same thing at the same time. No exceptions.

AC: What are some of the guitar pedals that you employed on the new record?

SC: Boss Reverb, Digital Delay and Big Muff fuzzness. Not much else.

AC: How does the songwriting process work in Stellastarr*?

SC: I'll come in with a formatted song, and then put it through the Stellastarr* factory. Or Michael or Mandy have a riff or bassline and we'll build it from there. Obviously, those songs take a little longer because the band needs to choose the direction of the riff and find the vision.

AC: If you could tour with any 4 bands, who would they be?

SC: Beatles, Dylan, Pixies and Bowie.

AC: What are some of more memorable concerts you have attended and/or
performed at?

SC: The Fuji Festival in Japan was great. The Chemical Brothers came on stage and blew me away. Also, Kraftwerk at Coachella was pretty intense.

AC: What are some of your preferred guitars to use on tour and while recording?

SC: Fenders nowadays. I thought my Les Paul sound was too gritty for the Harmonies record so I switched over to Tele's and Strat's. I try to stick with the cleaner sounds now in order to have more room to screw it up properly with the pedals.

AC: One of the new songs was entitled "Keyboard". Any favorite keyboards?

SC: I'm not a big techie when it comes to keyboards. Usually Arthur plays those parts. We split writing them, but in the case of that song, he wrote keyboard riff and we liked it enough t turn it into something. It sounds pretty good, I think.

AC: Amanda's background vocals are excellent, Any plans for Amanda to sing on some new songs?

SC: There are a couple songs where we sing the lead together. We'll be debuting those songs at the shows this week.

AC: What is your current status in terms of record label? What direction are looking to go?

SC: More control over our product and image. Better residuals and Marketing. The money you get back from record sales on Major Labels is dismal.

The Album Leaf at the Detroit Bar

I am extremely glad The Album Leaf love the Detroit Bar as much as I do. I have managed to catch the Album Leaf at the Detroit Bar two other times in prior years and they always have the sound dialed in. This particular night was no exception as the Album Leaf sounded spectacular.

What Laura Says Thinks And Feels

What Laura Says Thinks And Feels passed the test again with a even better sounding set at the Detroit Bar. It is always interesting for me to see a band that I am not familiar with twice in a row because if I remember the general structure of the songs then I will purchase the cd. What Laura Says Thinks and Feels played a too brief thirty minute set that seemed to have them kicking it in high gear before their time limit hit. Jacob Woolsey (Percussion) was up to his usual noise making antics pulling out an instrument that I can only remember from the days of Cake. Unfortunately, I was not able to get a setlist to report what specific songs they played but I recommend you check out their website for some spins. I quickly remembered they played "Couldn't Lose Myself If I Tried" after hearing the first few notes on their website.

Kill Me Tomorrow

Kill Me Tomorrow rattled the audience's eardrums with a solid batch of primal tunes. Dan Wise (Guitars) understandably was wearing a Velvet Underground shirt that makes a good reference point to their overall sound. The similarity of Zack Wentz(Drums) to Eugene Hutz from Gogol Bordello is uncanny but mostly involves the crazy mustache. Zack was leading the tribal romp on one of their new songs "Social Security". The core of the sound is primarily constructed with the raw bass lines of K8 Wince and Zack's drums but Dan's guitars sew up the songs make them whole. My curiosity was piqued enough to investigate future releases from the band.

The Album Leaf

The Album Leaf travels with their own sound mixer because their sound is so complex. I would like to tip my hat to this gentlemen because the Detroit Bar was sounding top notch on this particular night. The Detroit bar happens to be a bit darker inside compared to the Echo and this worked to the Album Leaf's advantage in the visual department as one could clearly see the variety of images projected on the white backdrop. I would also like to report that their projectionist had a Korg Kaoss Pad Entrancer. The Album Leaf played a similar set to their Echo Show which was fine by me. "Shine" did exactly what its named for as Timothy Reece (Drums) nailed the slightly off drum beat. "Brennivin" from their "Seal Beach EP" was dreamy with its programmed electronic drum glitches interspersed with soaring keyboards and Matthew Resovich's (Violin/Keyboards) stunning violin talents. "Red-Eye" from their album "Into The Blue Again" was well received from the audience as the Minimoog Voyager made a guest appearance. The Album Leaf is off to Japan for a few dates and I eagerly await their new album.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Album Leaf at the Echo

I was disappointed that I had a concert conflict the last time The Album Leaf were in town at the El Rey Theatre. I did manage to catch part of their set at San Diego Street Scene. I was honestly surprised they booked a show at the tiny Echo but I didn't think about it twice as I snatched up a ticket. I think the first time I saw The Album Leaf was at the Wiltern in 2002 when they opened for Sigur Ros.I also traveled to Arizona in 2003 to catch Sigur Ros and the Album Leaf at Nita's Hideaway.

What Laura Says Thinks and Feels

It is close to impossible to open a show for the Album Leaf because their music is so different and ambient. What Laura Says Thinks And Feels hailing from Tempe, Arizona stepped up to the challenge with solid results. What Laura Says Thinks And Feels combine elements of southern soul rock spliced with Beach Boys vocal harmonies and adept musicianship. Danny Godbold (Keyboards/Guitars/Vocals) traded vocal duties with James Mulhern (Vocals/Guitars) to further mix up their sunny soulful songs. Jacob Woolsey (Percussion) was the secret ingredient to their musical potion as he added different forms of percussion via metal bowls, glasses with water and assorted weirdness to the mix. They will not be unsigned for long.

Kill Me Tomorrow

Kill Me Tomorrow hails from San Diego and had a lot of interesting equipment on stage that had me intrigued before they went into their intoxicating set. K8 (Bass) had a black Rickenbacker bass that she ran through a Pro Co Rat distortion pedal for a growling bass tone. Dan Wise(Guitars) had a Line 6 Delay and Filter pedal set up for his hollowbody guitar. Dan's guitar tone was in the piercing realm of the reverb like the Raveonettes. Zack Wentz(Drums) had a stand up drum kit assembled as he flailed away while singing their surf noir crime punk tunes. I was amused they titled their setlist "KMT Hits".

The Album Leaf

The Album Leaf appeal to my synthesizer side as they have synths galore on stage combined with Jimmy LaValle's classically trained Fender Rhoades piano playing. I don't want to estimate the dollar amount of gear on stage but between the MiniMoog Voyager, Moog Little Phatty, Moog Prodigy and the Fender Rhoades could easily get you a decent car. They opened with "Into The Sea" from their latest release "Into The Blue Again" with its hypnotic piano lines and atmospheric synths filling the room. "Always For You" is one of the rare songs from The Album Leaf that includes singing and is a great example why they need to sing on more songs. "Writings on the Wall" starts off like a piano lullaby before the crying violin sounds fill out the song. Drew Andrews (Guitars/Keyboards) was behind his synth station switching between Fender Telecaster Deluxe and his Alesis Keyboard micron. Matthew Resovich (Violin/Keyboards) had a Electro Harmonix POG in his pedalboard for his violin which is an absolutely insane idea. "Wherever I Go" is another song with vocals from all members of the Album Leaf and ranks as one of my top Album Leaf songs. I was secretly hoping to hear "Story Board" from their second album "One Day I'll Be On Time" but haven't heard the song live in years as Jimmy used to play guitar on the song. The Album Leaf are a must see live act because it is a rare combination of visuals and music that ultimately satisfies the senses. I was even more excited to catch them the next night at the Detroit Bar.

The Album Leaf setlist for the Echo