Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lab Report 2009: The Year in Review

I thought 2008 was insane. I was wrong. 2009 was epic.

Total number of concerts for 2009: 205.

Average of seeing a show every 1.7 days.

Total number of reviews/photos for Amateur Chemist: 67.

Total number of contributions to OC Weekly: 65.

Total number of contributions to Stereogum: 68.

Assuming a concert lasts roughly 3.5 hours, I listened to live music for approximately 30 days of the year.

Highlight shows throughout the year by month:

January: Hum at the Double Door.

This was the first indication that 2009 would be special. I flew by myself to see my favorite band reunite in the freezing cold of Chicago. I nearly died of frost bite trying to find a cab on New Years Eve, but it was completely worth it. I have been dreaming about seeing Hum live for thirteen years and it was a dream come true. I disqualified this show from the "Best Of" awards because it was in a class by itself.

Runner up: Thorns of Life in Eagle Rock.

If you do some research, you will know why I call this blog Amateur Chemist. It was awesome seeing Blake's lefty Les Paul and Big Muff distortion pedal back in action.

February: Puscifer at the Pearl Theater.


3 shows of Puscifer along with 3 nights of debauchery in Las Vegas. I would say more..but can't.

Runner Up: Jane's Addiction at the Echoplex.

I only wished they started the open camera policy for the tour at the Echoplex. Regardless, I was lucky to be there.

March: Cut Copy at the Glass House.

Cut Copy was in sharp touring form and shattered the Glass House. The whole place was going bonkers. I would bet big on the next Cut Copy album.

Runner Up: PJ Harvey and John Parish.

PJ Harvey has a distinct energy of her own. You have to witness it live in order to understand.

April: The Presets at the Glass House.


I think it was my seventh show in a row (including Coachella) and I still managed to drag myself out to Pomona to see the Presets. It was worth it as it rivals Cut Copy for best show of the year held at the Glass House.

Runner Up: Ratatat at the Hollywood Palladium.


Guitars, synthesizers and a crazy light show? Yes.

May: Nine Inch Nails at the Santa Barbara Bowl.


I read my review again and still can't figure out what made the Santa Barbara show so special. It just was.

Runner Up: School of Seven Bells at the Detroit Bar.

I was front and center for the guitar and synthesizer washes of School of Seven Bells. I still listen to the album frequently and anxiously await their follow up album.

June: The Prodigy at the Grove of Anaheim.


It was loud and vicious. It was saddening that this tour didn't get as much press as it should have. They were in top form and played to the crowd as if it were a stadium.

Runner Up: Metric at the Wiltern.

Fantasies is a fantastic synthesizer fueled album and Metric brought it to life as it was one of the more electric shows at the Wiltern this year.

July: Dirty Projectors at the Troubadour.

I was familiar with only a few songs prior to the show. I was floored by their technical precision and was instantly sold. Anyone who dismisses this band has not seen them live. I think their upcoming show with the LA Philharmonic will be epic.

Runner Up: Jarvis Cocker at the Wiltern.

It's Jarvis. A true entertainer with his assortment of dance and ninja moves. What more really needs to be said?

August: Judas Priest at the Gibson Amphitheater


My concert addiction can be traced back to 1984 with my first concert at the Long Beach Arena to see Judas Priest. I still can't believe I took some of those photos. I think I lost a bunch of followers on Twitter because I live blogged the show.

Runner Up: Depeche Mode at the Santa Barbara Bowl and No Doubt at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater



Depeche Mode are legends. One of the many highlights of the year. No Doubt put on an energetic show and sold out arenas across the nation without releasing an album. From a photography standpoint, No Doubt was definitely one of my favorites to shoot with a plethora of lights and action.

September: Nine Inch Nails at the Henry Fonda Theater


Best show of 2009. The setlist, Gary Numan, Danny Lohner and the energy was unbeatable. If you were there, you would completely agree.

Runner Up: Mew at the Detroit Bar


Another amazing night at the Detroit Bar. Mew is stunning live.

October: U2 at the Rose Bowl


I was one of 28 photographers for a concert attended by nearly 100,000 people. I still remember seeing the entire floor of the Rose Bowl bounce during "Elevation". Even though it was broadcasted on Youtube, you can't recreate the feeling of being surrounded by thousands of people with Edge's delayed guitars echoing at maximum volume.

Runner Up: The Horrors at the Detroit Bar and A Place To Bury Strangers at the Echoplex.



Both bands made my short list of top albums of 2009. I highly recommend picking up The Horrors album Primary Colours and A Place To Bury Strangers album Exploding Head.

November: KISS at the Honda Center


Nostalgia seems to be the theme of this year. KISS put on a full blooded rock show. Yes, they want all your money but they rocked harder than people one third their age.

Runner Up: Them Crooked Vultures at the Wiltern


Them Crooked Vultures have criminally been left off a lot of "best of" lists this year and its because those people didn't see the band live. It is nearly impossible to capture the sound and intensity of Them Crooked Vultures in recorded form. Watching Dave Grohl drum was worth the price of admission alone.

December: Morrissey at the Fox Theater in Pomona


Morrissey himself said it was his fourth favorite show of the year. I fully agree. The setlist was magnificent and I will always remember "Cemetry Gates" and "Why Don't You Find For Yourself?" back to back. I have seen 30+ Morrissey shows in my life and this was top five for sure.

Runner Up: KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas Night 2


Muse owned this night. Metric, Phoenix and Vampire Weekend were the added bonus.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Zaza and In Waves at Spaceland

Zaza and In Waves on the same bill was simply genius. It was unfortunate though that more people were not on hand to witness the tidal waves of reverb and delay at Spaceland.

Zaza captured my attention early this year when they played with IO Echo at the Echoplex. I implored everyone to download their stunning EP Cameo for free, but the window of availability closed quickly when it was picked up for release by Kanine Records.

What immediately shocked me was the songs were barely recognizable from their EP, as Zaza had completely restructured their songs by adding more hypnotic layers to the already dense songs. Even though my play count for the EP exceeds fifty plus listens, I still can't positively identify which songs they played.

Danny Taylor (Vocals/Guitars) had his trusty Yamaha hollowbody recreating the oceanic ripples of delay while Jennifer Fraser (Bass/Keyboards) had her Rickenbacker bass doling out the subsonic frequencies. It was pitch black inside Spaceland which made taking photos a Sisyphean task. Zaza is in the studio working on their full length album which I anxiously await.

In Waves
It has been over a year since I last caught In Waves open for A Place To Bury Strangers at the Troubadour. In Waves have had me as a fan since I first saw them in 2007 at the Viper Room. They have been in a holding pattern this year but look to emerge in 2010 with a debut album tentatively titled Tropical. After hearing their set at Spaceland, it was evident that they were well rehearsed.

While Delano Duran (Drums) was fairly new to the band one year ago, he really shone with confidence throughout the evening adding various cymbal flourishes and extra drumming muscle. In Waves also added a keyboardist to the fold, but it was difficult to hear any keyboards in the mix. In Waves worked through an eight song set with some of the highlights being "Careful Talk", "Sometime After" and "Wallow".

I luckily scored a preview copy of Tropical and can say without reservation that it will blow minds in 2010 when it gets released. Jimmy Vincent's vocals and mercurial guitars are positioned in the middle of the mix rightfully sandwiched between Tim Gregorio's steady bass lines and Delano Duran's driving drum patterns. If I had a label, I would sign them without any hesitation. Who will win the In Waves label sweepstakes? I wish I knew, but when it happens I will post it here.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Mew at the Henry Fonda Theater


Mew put on one of my favorite shows at the Detroit Bar back in September. They didn't get a chance to headline a show in Los Angeles as they had opened for Nine Inch Nails at the Hollywood Palladium a few days prior. This was remedied when they closed out their US tour at the Henry Fonda Theater.

The Outline

Didn't know too much about The Outline when they appeared on stage. Opening for Mew is a difficult task, but The Outline did give it their best with some post rock tunes featuring various shading with synthesizers. Graham Fink (Vocals/Guitars) was utilizing a Rickenbacker guitar for a shimmery tone that reminded me of a more upbeat version of the Editors. The crowd responded well to their set but I will have to take a listen to their recorded material to form a better opinion.


It was back in April 2007 that I caught Mew at the Henry Fonda Theater. Realizing that it might be another two and a half years before I see Mew again, I fought off my exhaustion from my busy weekend to make it to the Henry Fonda.

After some intro music, the members of Mew took their stations for "Hawaii". The song plays like two Mew songs fused together because when it hits the 2:14 mark, Jonas Bjerre (Vocals/Guitars) kicks his voice into the third dimension for a woozy spoken word chorus backed by lush vocal harmonies. Hearing this live is quite intense.

Mew quickly switched gears to the hard driving "Circuitry of The Wolf" that dissolved into "Chinaberry Tree" as Jonas nailed the high falsetto notes. Bo Madsen (Guitars) seemed to have troubles with his monitors and walked off stage for a bit but quickly came back in with his Fender Telecaster.

Strobe lights flickered intensely with the drum hits of Silas Jorgensen as the unique visual of a cat playing a violin projected on the backdrop during "Am I Wry? No". The theme of songs from their vastly underrated album Frengers continued as they played "156".

The bizarre time signature live wire guitars of "Introducing Palace Players" completely messes with your head in the best way possible. Does one move to the beat of the drums, guitar or bass? They are all doing something different time wise but Mew magically paste it together. "Beach" is dictated and driven by a humming bass line and the hiss of Silas's hi-hat carrying Jonas's vocals into the upper stratosphere.

Jonas would take center stage behind the keyboard for medley of songs that had a majority of the theater in silence. The band would return and I was elated to see Bo grab his Danelectro baritone guitar for a mind blowing extended version of "Special". I never get sick of hearing that song. Their energy on stage did not waver when they followed it up with "The Zookeeper's Boy", "Apocalypso", "Saviours of Jazz Ballet". Could the night get any better?

"Repeaterbeater" kicked off their encore with a strong start but "Snow Brigade" had people leaping off the ground in excitement. "Louise Louisa" ended the evening on a somber note but exhilarating nonetheless. Never hesitate to see Mew live if you have the chance, you will not regret it.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Metallica at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas

Metallica at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas
Metallica at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas
It was nearly one year ago that I witnessed Metallica destroy during the first leg of their Death Magnetic tour at the Forum. The scheduling gods were with me as I capped my Las Vegas run of The Cranberries at the Pearl and Morrissey at the Joint with a monstrous show of Metallica at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.

Volbeat at the Mandalay Bay Events Center
Volbeat at the Mandalay Bay Events Center
Volbeat at the Mandalay Bay Events Center

I had to do some research on Volbeat. Hailing from Denmark, Volbeat reminded me of a metal tinged version of Social Distortion. It wasn't surprising that they asked the crowd if they liked Johnny Cash before rolling through one of their country tinged hard rock tunes. They played a decent set but did resort to covering a few notes of Slayer to get some cheers from the crowd. I guess you do whatever it takes to get the crowd ready.

Machinehead at the Mandalay Bay Events Center
Machinehead at the Mandalay Bay Events Center
Machinehead at the Mandalay Bay Events Center
Machinehead at the Mandalay Bay Events Center
Machinehead at the Mandalay Bay Events Center
Machinehead at the Mandalay Bay Events Center

Machinehead was loud and fired up. Robb Flynn (Vocals/Guitars) let the beers and riffs fly as he crushed through "Imperium" with his Gibson Flying "V". "Ten Ton Hammer" is still one of my favorite metal riffs that hits like a jackhammer to the chest as I could feel my feet being massaged by the subsonic bass frequencies. Robb explained how excited he was to play Las Vegas since he recently came to the Mandalay Bay Events center for a UFC match and now his band was rocking the arena.

"Now I Lay Thee Down" had both Robb and Phil Demmel (Guitars) come together for a blaze of fiery fretwork as both were two handed tapping a dueling solo near the end of the song. It was a shame Machinehead didn't have time to do more songs as they wrapped their set with "Halo" and the punishing "Davidian". It reminded me that I need to partake in a full Machinehead set soon.

Metallica at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas
Metallica at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas

In case you missed the memo, Metallica is back in full force. The tickets for this show sold out in minutes as it has been five years since Metallica has played Las Vegas. Lasers illuminated the rectangular stage as the members of Metallica lurked in the shadows moments prior to opening their set with "This Was Just Your Life" from the Rick Rubin produced album Death Magnetic.

"The End of The Line" was another thrash gem that tonally recalls the vintage "scooped mids" crunch that Metallica has patented. The crowd really went nuts when they hit the opening notes of "Ride The Lightning". James Hetfield (Vocals/Guitars) had eschewed his usual armory of trademark ESP guitars for a shiny golden Gibson Les Paul. I frantically paced the stage with Kirk Hammett (Guitars) when it came time for him to lay down the blistering wah drenched solo.

Metallica at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas
Metallica at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas

After "The Memory Remains", old school fans were delighted again with another Metallica classic "Fade To Black" which brought back memories of me sitting down trying to figure out the chords on my first guitar(a Fender Squier). Robert Trujillo (Bass) effortlessly slays every bass note with surgical precision as he methodically crept across the stage throughout the evening.

A double dose of Death Magnetic tracks, "Broken, Beat, and Scarred" and "Cyanide" gave way to the "D" tuning of "Sad But True" as the coffins above the stage descended once more. It was pyromania during "One" which immediately recalls their classic video which images extracted from the movie Johnny Got His Gun.

Metallica at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas
Metallica at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas

The pyrotechnics gave way to more insane laser action during the skull crushing riffs of "Master of Puppets". The machine that is Metallica kept destroying by launching more pyro for "Fight Fire With Fire" and then visiting the black album for "Nothing Else Matters" and the specially constructed for arena rock staple "Enter Sandman" to close out their main set.

Metallica continued to dig into the past with their staple cover of the Misfits "Die, Die My Darling" . Everyone started to act like a maniac during a furious rendition of "Whiplash". The house lights turned on to illuminate the crowd for a giant sing along to "Seek and Destroy". It is fitting that they ended their set with the song, as their next destination for destruction was Anaheim.