Monday, June 30, 2008

Lightspeed Champion at the Glass House

I was devastated when the Test Icicles cancelled their US tour and subsequently broke up soon after. Their album For Screening Purposes was a cross between Franz Ferdinand and Slayer with equal parts thrash and dance rock. Devonte "Dev" Hynes would later resurface with his toned down project Lightspeed Champion. Dev and company closed out their U.S. tour at the Glass House in Pomona on a scorching day.

The Explorers Club

The South Carolina troupe known as The Explorers Club were seven people strong on stage as they unfurled their sunny batch of '60s inspired pop. The inevitable comparisons to the Beach Boys immediately came to mind. I did detect a little bit of Supertramp during their title track "Freedom Wind". A variety of instrumentation hit the stage as they used a mandolin, lap steel guitar and two keyboardists. They used a Nord Electro, Roland XP 50 and a Yamaha keyboard to dial in the variety of organ and mellotron patches to accentuate their sixties influenced sound. The Explorers Club stacked vocal harmonies to the top of the Glass House as they played a number of tunes from their album Freedom Wind. They ended their set with a scorching cover version of "Johnny B Goode" and a backflip off the drum riser from Dave. It was a good way to start the show.

Flowers Forever

Flowers Forever is the project of Tilly and the Wall member Derek Pressnall (Guitars/Vocals). Derek requested that the house lights be turned off as some spooky cardboard cut outs of demonic heads remained illuminated for the rest of their set. Flowers Forever proceeded to romp and bash through a set of evil surf tinged tunes. Derek was relentlessly bashing on his Fender Stratocaster as rapid bursts of strobe lights was flash to add to the dark atmosphere of their set. Flowers Forever have a self titled release that came out in February of this year and most songs are barely over three minute mark. Some of the tracks I enjoyed included "Wet Diamonds" and "Black Rosary". The songs seem to have been written in a stream of consciousness. It was extremely hot in the Glass House but it did not deter the energy put out by Derek and his bandmates. Derek is currently going back on tour with Tilly and The Wall.

Lightspeed Champion

Dev Hynes came out in his trademark fuzzy cap and started to sing the opening lines of "Galaxies of The Lost". The thrash guitars and screaming vocals of Test Icicles are now replaced with swooning violins, lazy acoustic guitars and floating keyboards. Falling Off The Lavender Bridge is Lightspeed Champion's debut album that showcases Dev's ability to write concise power pop songs. Mike Siddell (Violin) provided the lush violin parts throughout the night while also helping out on occasion with bass and guitar duties. Anna Prior (Drums) flawlessly handled the drums and provided the backing vocals that were originally recorded by Emmy the Great. The multitude of instrumentation on "Dry Lips" was difficult to recreate live but the essence was prevalent. Dev's energy on stage in infectious as he traded between his electric guitar and his Yamaha acoustic guitar affixed with a Star Wars logo.

"Everyone I Know Is Listening To Crunk" was charmingly funny due to the lyrical content and propulsive acoustic riff. Dev went behind a Nord Electro to play the keys for "No Surprise(For Wendela)". The show paused momentarily as someone from the crowd stated they loved his blog. Dev thanked the patron but mentioned his blog was a bit sketchy. Dev showed off his love for Weezer as he expertly covered "Susanne" which was originally on the Mallrats soundtrack. Dev upped the ante when he did an ultra rock rendition of the "Imperial March Theme" that bled into the "Star Wars Theme". "Midnight Surprise" closed out the night demonstrating that Dev could sing as well as play guitar.

Friday, June 27, 2008

YACHT at the Samueli Theater

Check out my review of YACHT and Mika Miko at the Samueli Theater for OC Weekly here. My slideshow is here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Make Music Pasadena 2008

It was hot. I mean really hot. The temperature did not ward off a large number of people coming out to enjoy a free display of music put on by the Make Music Pasadena organizers. I could only last from 12:00 till the end of the Raveonettes set as I think I came down with mild heat stroke on the hottest day of the year to date.

The Plasticines

A touch of France kicked off the festivities at the Toyota Matrix Antics/Filter Magazine stage in the form of The Plasticines. It was like watching the Donnas if they hailed from France and had a dash of Franz Ferdinand. The ladies of the Plasticines had a bundle of energy for it being over one hundred degrees Fahrenheit. They did a raucous cover of Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'" as they wrapped up an hour set. The ladies of the Plasticines knew their gear opting for a Black Les Paul Custom Guitar along with a Rickenbacker bass.

The Switches

The "Special Guests" of the day turned out to be The Switches who would be playing later at the Wiltern opening for She Wants Revenge to close out the Nylon Magazine Music Tour. I am sure they couldn't bill the Switches on the program as it would violate contract obligations of playing two shows in the same city. It was a pleasant surprise to see them but most people didn't know who they were. The Switches still turned in a great set playing a batch of tunes such as "No Hero", "Snakes & Ladders", "Lovin' It", "Every Second Counts and "Drama Queen". I was lamenting the fact that I didn't have tickets to their show later in the evening but was glad I caught their show at the House of Blues San Diego.

Division Day

The festival took a turn to the local as hometown heroes Division Day were up next. I last caught up with Division Day at the Detroit Bar as they were winding down their tour for Beartrap Island. Division Day played "Colorguard" and "Ricky". I was transported back to 1982 with their cover of Roxy Music's "More Than This". "Reversible" closed out their set with its slick jet engine flanging that wins me over every time. Division Day is currently writing a follow up album which I am sure they will road test in a couple of months around town.

The Little Ones

The Little Ones have had me cheering for them since I saw them at the Orange County Museum of Art back in 2006. The Little Ones recently released Fallen Tales & Ferry Gates which has been holding me over until they release their full length album The Morning Tides. "Oh, Mj!" kicked off their sunny batch of songs as a larger crowd had started to formed in front of the barrier. The sun was at high noon and blaring directly on Ed Reyes (Guitars/Vocals) who was still smiling widely as he strummed his Rickenbacker guitar. The sing along chorus of "Unlock The Door!" had a salsa like rhythm with multiple forms of percussion accenting the song. My note taking ability started to wain as the heat was oven like. I did remember that they played "Face The Facts" and "Lovers Who Uncover". The Little Ones are off to England for a few festival dates and will probably be back to push their new album that is due in August or September.


A free Autolux show was a good majority of the reason why I endured the heat. "Audience No 2" is a new song available for download on their homepage and only teases fans who anxiously await their new album Transit Transit. Autolux had to have been melting in the direct sunlight but they managed to melt ears with their hot lava eruption of sound. A new instrumental piece entitled "23 Watt" rang out as Greg Edwards (Guitars) had his silver taped Gibson SG reflecting brightly in sun. Carla Azar (drums) was blinded by the sunlight as she blinded the audience with his expert drum fills during "Subzero Fun". "Blanket" and the characteristic drum shuffle of "Turnstile Blues" were crowd favorites. Eugene Goreshter (Bass/Vocals) had his Fender precision bass at ground shaking frequencies. Even amidst the mind numbing heat and the dehydration, "Headless" was an oasis in the desert as the waves of sound were life saving. Autolux's set was hot in more ways than one.

The Raveonettes

I was torn that I couldn't catch The Raveonettes at the Detroit Bar earlier this year. Lust, Lust, Lust is an amazing collection of fuzz guitars and blissful vocal harmonies from Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo. I think it is the strongest Raveonettes album to date as every song pleases your ears. Sharin Foo (Guitars/Vocals) was not performing with the Raveonettes as she is pregnant. It took her sister Loui Foo and an accompanying guitarist Lisbeth to replace Sharin as the Raveonettes continue to tour. Loui did a fine job harmonizing with Sune as they worked through the Raveonettes catalog. Sune was playing a shiny Fender Jazzmaster that was a Nokie Edwards reissue from the band the Ventures. I predict the Fender Jazzmaster will make even more waves now that Kevin Shields from My Bloody Valentine is back in action. I would think Sune is due for his own Raveonettes Jazzmaster model the way he weaved sheets of fuzz and feedback. Some of the highlights from their set included "Blush", "Love In A Trashcan", "Lust", "Red Tan", "Twilight" and "Aly, Walk With Me". I staggered back to my car for an emergency Gatorade for rehydration and to increase my blood sugar into a normal range. I hope the weather is more forgiving next year.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Rilo Kiley at the Greek Theatre

It was a picturesque night for a rock show at the Greek Theatre as Rilo Kiley played to a warm home crowd. I haven't seen Rilo Kiley live since I saw them open for Coldplay in Las Vegas a few years ago. Jenny Lewis (Vocals/Guitars/Bass) had the crowd in the palm of her hand by the end of the night with her honey soaked vocals.

Benji Hughes

A slick blues guitar riff did not properly prepare me for Benji Hughes. Benji's guitarist was wailing away on his Fender Telecaster with a Fulltone Tube Tape Echo fluttering away before Benji hit the stage. The mood changed considerably when Benji unveiled his lounge singing style replete with tongue in cheek lyrics. Benji did his best impression of a crooning Morrissey with "All You Gotta Do Is Fall In Love". Some of Benji's song titles include "Tight Tee Shirt", "Waiting For An Invitation" and "You Stood Me Up" to give you a better idea of where he is coming from. Benji really needs to be seen live in order to gain a better understanding of his songs. A Little Extreme is Benji's five song EP that you can download from itunes.

Lavender Diamond

What is so funny about peace, love and understanding? Nothing according to Becky Stark (Vocals) from Lavender Diamond. Becky usually greets audiences asking for world peace and general good natured comments about preserving the environment. In the song department, Lavender Diamond is a folk leaning quiet outfit led by the wide ranging operatic vocals from Becky. Imagine Our Love is their latest release on Matador records. In one of the many diatribes by Becky throughout the night, she mentioned she met Jenny Lewis the third day she moved to Los Angeles. It pays to make friends in this city.

Rilo Kiley

The subtle country twang of "Close Call" kicked off the evening in high spirits as Jenny Lewis and company took to the stage. Jenny was channeling her twang through a weathered Fender Telecaster Deluxe as Blake Sennett (Guitars/Vocals) was complimenting her sound with a Fender Telecaster. A sultry bass line and retro flavored funky guitar riff tipped off the audience as Rilo Kiley shaked out "The Moneymaker". Vocal harmonies came out in full force as "Dreamworld" sounded flawless. The Greek Theatre when mixed correctly is probably one of the best sounding venues in Los Angeles. This night was no exception as the combination of dialed in sound with perfect weather made a stunning hometown welcoming for Rilo Kiley as they closed out their tour in support of Under The Blacklight.

Blake did a knock out version of "Ripchord" that sounded full on his electric guitar. I was impressed by Blake's guitar playing throughout the night in that in he was filling all the right spaces in the songs. Jenny wandered across the front of the stage during "The Absence of God" with the spotlight quickly following her every move as were most of the males in the audience. "It's A Hit" was performed with a sense of vigor and urgency. "Silver Lining" was highlighted by a large number of inflatable balloons tossed out into the crowd with silver confetti stored inside. Jason Boesel (Drums) got involved in the action as he popped one of the balloons to the crowd's delight. "Portions For Foxes" closed out the night with jangly guitars surrounding Jenny's wispy vocals. It is hard to believe that this would be their last show in awhile, but I wouldn't mind hearing the new Postal Service album.

Rilo Kiley setlist for the Greek Theatre (6/18/08)
"Close Call"
"The Moneymaker"
"Capturing Moods"
"Breakin’ Up"
"Does He Love You?"
"The Absence of God"
"With Arms Outstretched"
"Hail to Whatever You Found in the Sunlight That Surrounds You"
"It’s a Hit"
"A Better Son/Daughter"
"Silver Lining"
"I Never"
"Pictures of Success"
"Portions for Foxes/and parts of Spectacular Views"