Monday, August 24, 2009

Green Day at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas

Green Day at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas

I have lots of fond memories of attending Lollapalooza in 1994 in San Diego. It was headlined by the Smashing Pumpkins and the Beastie Boys who both turned in amazing sets.

I was excited to see those bands but was particularly interested in showing up early to catch a punk band from Berkeley called Green Day. Green Day was on the verge of breaking big and rambled through a batch of songs that was one of the many highlights of the day.

It was thrilling to be in a full arena of crazed screaming fans/kids at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas to watch the Berkeley trio put on a full on rock show lasting two plus hours and blazing through a two page setlist.

"21st Century Breakdown" kicked off the chaos as I needed a skateboard to keep up Billie Joe Armstrong (Vocals/Guitars) who was bounding around the stage. It didn't take long for him to run out into the bleachers to play guitar in the midst of the adoring fans. Green Day never relented throughout the evening as they tackled "Know Your Enemy".

I find it interesting that they employed Butch Vig on their latest album. 21st Century Breakdown is constructed like a huge arena rock album and plays out like one brilliantly. Billie Joe doesn't use an army of guitar pedals and may not be the most talented guitarist but he sure as hell knows how to write songs and perform them live.


It would be remiss to not mention his comrades in arms Tre Cool (Drums) and Mike Dirnt (Bass) who make up the engine and wheels of the driving machine that is Green Day. The only thing missing was a Tre cam to show all the funny faces that Tre would make while he was drumming. Mike would pace the stage with his Fender bass tearing through song after song.

"Holiday" was an explosion of fireworks and a barrage of power chords with the crowd furiously chanting along. Green Day may be one of the best in business in terms of crowd interaction by pulling up fans on stage to play guitar or to sing along giving a few lucky fans the time of their life.


One of the many comical events occurred during "Longview" when a female fan was unable to recite all the lyrics to the song leading to a really young fan who replaced her and owned the stage. I give him an 8 out of 10 on the stage dive after he finished the song.

The hits didn't stop as they ran through "Basket Case", "She", "American Idiot" and another fan assisted "Jesus of Suburbia". Billie did slow things down momentarily for an acoustic lead ballad of "21 Guns" and "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" which I never would have predicted back in 1994. I am only surprised they aren't playing a bigger place than the Forum for the Los Angeles stop.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Chemical Reactions

Film School

I still frequently spin the sophomore album Hideout by Film School and anxiously await their next release. In the meantime I have been digging their contribution to the Love and Rockets tribute album "An American Dream". I was flattered they asked me to do some promotional photos and I was pleased with the above result.

No Doubt

Check out the excellent overview by Albert Ching in OC Weekly of No Doubt's historic run of 4 nights at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine. Pick up the print edition which includes an assortment of my photos.

IO Echo

IO Echo continue to make waves on the local and national scene. I am sure you may have spotted their commercial for the Palm Pre? They also landed the super juicy gig of opening for Nine Inch Nails at the Wiltern on September 5th. I will be there for sure to see how they hold up for the demanding Nine Inch Nails fans.

A Place To Bury Strangers

I have received intel that A Place To Bury Strangers are destroying eardrums and ensnaring fans in Europe as they prepare to invade the States with their new album Exploding Head. I can't wait till they hit the Casbah (October 15) and the Echo (October 16).

Monday, August 17, 2009

Street Scene in San Diego Preview

Its the 25th anniversary of the Street Scene in San Diego happening on August 28th and 29th. Unfortunately, the Beastie Boys have cancelled their tour due to MCA's bout with cancer but the line-up is still quite impressive. Some of the bands I look forward to catching include:

Modest Mouse

Silversun Pickups

No Age

The Faint

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sky Saxon Benefit at the Echoplex

It was a true celebration of life at the Sky Saxon Benefit at the Echoplex. I knew little about Sky Saxon except for his contributions to the '60s psychedelic garage rock of The Seeds. By the end of the evening, you could almost get a sense that Sky's free spirit was somehow smiling over the touching tribute.

On a side note, The Smashing Pumpkins website recently announced that Billy Corgan and the Spirits in the Sky will play six shows between August 26 to August 31 in Los Angeles. I hope to catch a few of those shows.

Djin Aquarian
Djin Aquarian opened the evening with a Source Family benediction and a "Star Breathing Exercise" as a tribute to Sky Saxon before playing some songs on his acoustic guitar accompanied by a violin player.

Spirits in The Sky
Mike Byrne (New drummer for Smashing Pumpkins)

My original impression was that Spirits in the Sky would close out the evening but when I saw Billy Corgan's custom Fender Stratocaster waiting in the wings I knew something was up. Billy would eventually appear using a Gibson Hollowbody guitar to attack "Spirit In The Sky" and "900 Million People Daily (All Makin' Love)".

Billy stated they were going to do another Seeds cover but was informed the Seeds were going to play the particular song before introducing "Freak". Kerry Brown was on the drums for the first two songs then Mike Byrne switched to the drum kit for the "Smashing Pumpkins" tune. It was interesting seeing Billy onstage with street clothes playing guitar and having fun without the intense scrutiny of having to perform as Smashing Pumpkins. I can't recall a show in which I saw Billy smile so much.

Strawberry Alarm Clock
It was unfortunate that a sizable amount of the crowd exited after Billy left the stage. I wasn't going to give up that easily and was interested in seeing how the night would unfold. Strawberry Alarm Clock was up next and Billy was on the side of the stage rocking out throughout their set which included "Incense and Peppermints".

Electric Prunes
Who doesn't know the one and only Rodney Bingenheimer? Rodney proudly introduced the Electric Prunes who unfurled their wild psychedelic swirls of song. Their guitarist had a sweet purple Fender Stratocaster dialing up some trippy tones with his Digitech Space Station. Billy would later came out and play guitar on "Wind-Up Toys" and laughed after realizing his small guitar amplifier was without a microphone for most of the song.

Simon Stokes band

Didn't really catch the titles of the songs they played but Simon Stokes has some sweet pictures of him with Timothy Leary on his Myspace site. Trip out!

Mike Randle
Mike Randall played a Love song as a tribute to Sky Saxon.

Sofiziel played with Sky Saxon in Europe and recanted some small anecdotes about her times with Sky.

YaHoWhA 33

This wasn't listed on the original program but Kerry Brown (Drums) and Billy Corgan (Bass) joined Djin Aquarian onstage for a free flowing bass driven psychedelic grove jam.

Nels Cline

Nels Cline blew me away when I caught him at the Wiltern with Wilco. Nels was phenomenal performing one of his bizarre instrumental freak outs yelling into a toy megaphone and using delays on his guitar. I am convinced Nels is on a whole other planet in terms of "conventional" guitar playing.

The Seeds
It was approaching close to 1am by the time the Seeds had taken the stage. I just snapped a few pics before heading home. I needed to preserve some energy for Stephen Malkmus at the Echoplex.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Elefant at the Henry Fonda Theater

Elefant? Really? How many years has it been since I last saw them? I remember seeing them twice. I caught Elefant at the Wiltern when they opened for Morrissey and at the Henry Fonda Theater for a co-headlining tour with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

I was under the impression that they had broken up since Diego Garcia (Vocals) had started his own Myspace music page and posted a few solo tracks. Maybe Elefant was embroiled in some record label legalities or they were on an extended hiatus? I thought headlining a show at the Henry Fonda after an absence of a few years was a little overzealous but liked them enough to see what they had to offer.

Love Grenades

Love Grenades were determined to make your heart explode with their sultry electronic dance pop numbers. Elizabeth Wight (Vocals) was the focal point of their energetic set with her flowing dress and occasional microphone chord tosses.

Love Grenades have already released an EP Tigers in The Fire and are in the studio with Sam Sparro working an a full length album that is tentatively scheduled for November. The mix at the Henry Fonda was a little heavy on the bass but crowd was very receptive to their set. I will probably check them out again at a smaller venue to form a better opinion.


The familiar beat of "Make Up" energized the fervent crowd in the front of the Henry Fonda as the number of camera flashes behind me was impressive. Diego Garcia (Vocals) sauntered out and gave a quick wave before channeling some of Morrissey's stage mannerisms.

My expectations were not that high seeing that the band has been dormant for about 3 years. The last show I saw at the Henry Fonda in 2006 was near the end of their tour and the band was razor sharp. Diego still had his characteristic croon during "Tonight Let's Dance" but later would point the microphone out to the crowd during the closing moments of the show possibly indicating his voice was waning.

Mod (Guitars) was all over his Fender Jazzmaster filling in the spaces not occupied by the thundering bass of Jeff Berrall (Bass). I didn't have my usual earplugs which could explain that I still found the mix to be bass heavy with Diego's vocals slightly buried.

The new songs "Cereal" and "Olio" sounded alright but probably could use a little more aural sheen. Elefant caught me off guard by playing "Eleanor" which was featured as a bonus track from their earlier album. "Sunlight Makes Me Paranoid" was the highlight of the evening with Mod cranking out the guitar parts.

"Misfit" was the crowd favorite and right choice to close out the night as everyone in the front row seemed to magically pull out their digital cameras at the same time to video the whole song. It was also worth noting that even few folks in the balcony were dancing along for most of the encore.

Their performance overall was spotty at some times but impressive given that they have been away from the scene for so long. I did spot Diego smile a few times during the evening which to me indicated that he was as pleasantly surprised at the turn out as I was. My main question is will Elefant recapture the buzz they had before their hiatus?