Sunday, June 12, 2016

Violent Femmes, The Observatory, Santa Ana, CA

Violent Femmes @ The Observatory (Santa Ana, CA)

The Violent Femmes, photo by Chad Keller
Do you like American Music? Well, you and many others, at least that is what the Violent Femmes proved after playing 3 sold out shows in just 2 days around Los Angeles last weekend. The Femmes have been absent from the scene for over a decade, but with the release of their first studio release in 15 years, We Can Do Anything, The Femmes are out on the road and selling out one venue after another.

A packed crowd amassed at Orange County’s Observatory on Mother’s Day to enjoy America’s favorite folk punks. The band walked out onto a stage littered with every manner of instrumentation and percussion prop including a xylophone, a cajon, a large Weber BBQ, an 8 foot tall baritone saxophone and over 14 different versions guitars, violins, and mandolins. The staged looked more like the best flea market ever than a place for the 5-piece to rock the house.

The Violent Femmes played a career-spanning set for over 2 hours including all the favorites ("Blister In The Sun", "Add It Up", "Kiss Off", "Gone Daddy Gone"), but they also dove into much lesser-known cult favorites such as "Breaking Up", "Dance MF Dance", and even "Color Me Once" from The Crow Soundtrack. Their sound was clean, clear and as tight musically as any fan could ask for. We have seen a growing trend of nostalgic bands from the 80s and 90s reuniting to tour lately, some often doing more harm than good by putting their spurs on and jumping back in the fight (**cough**, Guns N’ Roses, B-52's, **cough**). This was not the case with the Violent Femmes. Not this tour, brother! They sounded no different than they did on their self-titled album released back in 1983 and had energy to burn on stage. They were able to bring a completely mixed room of aging hipsters and crowd-surfing teens to a frenzy and play over 22 songs by the time the night was through. Given their current momentum, their latest album title says it all for The Violent Femmes, We Can Do Anything.

The Violent Femmes Setlist

Blister In The Sun
Kiss Off
Good For At Nothing
Country Death Song
We Can Do Anything
Prove My Love
Traveling Solves Everything
Breaking Up
Jesus walking on the water
Color Me Once (The Crow)
Freak Magnet
Hallowed Ground
mother o mother of mine (acapella)
Dance MF Dance
I Held Her In My Arms
Gone Daddy Gone
Add It Up



American Music

They'll be doing the Lord's work by touring various festivals and headlining gigs this summer:
June 14 Millvale, PA
June 15 Richmond, VA
June 17 Camden, NJ
June 18 Brooklyn, NY
June 19 Ashbury Park, NJ
June 21 Washington, DC
June 23 Norfolk, VA
June 25 Fredrick, MD

Sunday, May 8, 2016

VCR + Killed by Health + Hey Lover + Cheese Puff May 5, 2016 The Boreal, Eugene, Oregon

VCR is a Eugene band, and the audience was young and warmed up for VCR's fuzzy bass, catchy guitar riffs, garage rock-pop with creative leads sprinkled throughout the performance. The drummer has great control with heavy sticks, while the bassist knows exactly what 'lay down the groove' means.  They got the younger crowd members to fo-mosh as most of the crowd bobbed their heads and twitched their feet, this band is the first in a while that has proven to me you don't need a pedal board to write a good rock song.  Okay, so you still need distortion, but they kept it down to the basics.  Sometimes leaning to southwest rock influences and sometimes straight to pop, VCR is going to establish themselves as a rock steady band.  Their songwriting style, especially lyrical style, brought back memories of the Pixies live (and not just because the bassist is a girl), but because they interacted well with harmonies and vocal trade-offs.  

Oh, and they do my favorite thing where they all switch instruments . . . although this part of the performance could use some fine-tuning, it was still fun to watch, and I don't think they intended for anyone to take it seriously anyways . . . that's part of their charm.

Hailing from Portland, OR, Killed by Health can only explained as this as eclectic, majestic rock with raw shiny shoes. Who said a band had to be technical to get the room moving anyways. Like Dinosaur Jr., they were willing to turn up the room a bit, untamed and with the presence of lyrically undisguised strong character. There were moments on the cusp of the other side. With the lead voice traveling from guitarist, to bassist, to the other guitarist you are sure to be entertained. Their stage presence is that of a band who's been playing together for years although I think it's only been a few shows for the group.  They are rowdy enough to hop off stage, making them set-up to be a great festival band.

Hey Lover, also from Portland, OR is a garage-punk-pop, melodic with bold intentions would appeal to The White Stripes fans, but with less serious vocals and 60's reminiscent poppy hooks. I have to admit I was immediately jealous of the bands' gold pants. Their lyrics were catchy, and, although maybe too 60's pop for some of the crowd, the song topics were on-point for the current generation. I hope they come back to Eugene again soon!

Cheese Puff  from Eugene, had a young sound although none of the players are all that young. Strong riffs but not leaning too far from standard rock. I'm sure soon you'll be able to catch them at Black Forest or Old Nick's if they stick to it. I hope they continue to embrace the punk and remember that dynamics are not in a direct relationship with tempo while leaving any butt-rock jams at the practice space. I'll go out to see them again to see how this plays out.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Underworld @ The Fox Theater - 4/13/2016

Underworld is royalty in underground electronic music and rave scenes and they don't seem to mind not becoming sensations like recent EDM "superstars" such as Calvin Harris and Avicii. In case you were in a coma during the 1990’s or happened to not be born yet, Underworld formed circa 1980 with principal members Karl Hyde, Rick Smith, and now Darren Price since 2005 after Darren Emerson’s departure in 2001. 

Supporting Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future, and 2 days before they took to the desert for Coachella, lucky Angelinos were able to see the band in full action outside of festival traffic and time constraints for over 2 hours of electronic bliss at the much smaller and much closer 2,000-person venue located in Pomona, CA.

Hyde, Smith and Price took the stage and launched immediately into 2 consecutive tunes off of Barbara, Barbara. The tracks (unfamiliar to most) were immediately well received by the sold out crowd of nostalgic UK ravers and expats all jumping simultaneously to the beat. Barbara, Barbara might be the more somber and emotive of albums, but it still delivers the same personal touch and layered electronic complexities that Underworld fans have grown to love for over 30 years. Almost every song off the new album made an appearance at some point in the night, but the overall set was so well structured that there was never too long a wait for a classic banger or other strong hit from the past including "Juanita", "Push Upstairs", "King of Snake", "Jumbo" and "Two Months Off". Fans were also treated to some rare, off-beat tracks that don’t often make it to the stage in shorter festival performances such as the trip hop-infused "Ring Road", "Eight Ball" from The Beach Soundtrack, and a first-time taste of a new remix of Dirty Epic aptly named “Dirty Club.” As Hyde introduced the track to the crowd, he boasted, “We’ve never played this next track live before. You are the first.”
The evening's crescendo was an all DJ display as Smith was left on stage alone and feverishly live-remixed three consecutive tracks live free of vocals. The crowd danced away as the lights dimmed and The Fox Theater seemed to transform into an underground London rave. "Rowla" bent and modulated until it became "Rez". "Rez" climbed and climbed analog staircases until finally Hyde retook the stage and jumped into the vocals of "Cowgirl" and the crowd lost their minds. 

The night was capped off with the signature anthem of "Born Slippy". Hyde’s vocals were simply amazing. Every word clean, crisp, and never at a loss for air for the entire 2-hour marathon of sound, which is amazing since all 3 men are now in their mid to 50’s.  Underworld has not lost a step since 1994.  They brought down the house in Pomona and now head off to back-to-back weekend performances in the 100 degree California desert.

See Underworld at 7:35 pm in the Sahara Tent on Friday both weekends at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Happy Birthday, Thom Yorke!

To my families chagrin, October 7th will always be celebrated in my house because it is Thom Yorke's birthday. While he hasn't yet stopped by for cake and a hug, all of us wish him a very radical day and all the best in general!

Here's an acoustic performance of "Fake Plastic Trees" from "120 Minutes" from 1995.

Purity Ring, HANA Show Review

Purity Ring, HANA 
McDonald Theatre
Eugene Oregon 
October 4th, 2015

HANA came onto the stage to a crowd unfamiliar. Mostly, the crowd consisted of the people under 21 while those over 21 were watching from the McDonald lounge or were still at another watering hole downtown. Her set design was simple consisting of nothing more than some sound activated L.E.D. lights behind parasols and what looked like beaded curtains strung about in the background. The electronic beats came as a refreshing breath to the room and by her first vocal line the crowd was in.  
     HANA walked from one point on stage to the other carrying a persona, like an anime character I wish I had known of before. While demeanor was confident, her vocal didn't always cut through the mix as much as I would have liked, watching a trained vocalist that held the attention of the room reminded me that this EDM movement gives a new place for female artists to shine. Her talent for creating beats that trickle in like a rainforest afternoon shower and her primal vocals, at points hypnotic, will give DJs that simply stand behind their booth a new challenge. And oh, did I mention she totally killed it with a cover of "Here Comes The Rain Again" by Eurythmics!
     The crowd began to shift as more people showed up in the set break. Girls in Japanese-styled school girl outfits, guys wearing animal masks, light up fingers, and girls wearing what I euphemistically describe as "Cochella wear" filed in when it hit me. The Canadian duo of Purity Ring have struck a chord with the American audience by mashing up the surreal and the cool.   
     Megan James, an artist in her own right, had created a futuristic sci-fi vibe with the hair and outfit of a Japanese pop star.  As soon as the music began I felt a music box on steroids with vocals from reverb air had opened in the room.The spherical sounds panned from the stage to my ears and back. It was like being in a snow globe with the arctic lights triggered by Corin Roddick while Megan's vocal lines dripped down to us like icicles. Their dynamics were a favorite for me, moving like a tide luring you in.  
      A strong crowd-pleasing point of the show was when Megan walked up spiral stairs behind Corin to have her silhouette in front of a full moon. Her voice was a wolf's call to dance. And dance we did. The light show alone was worth the ticket price, Purity Ring's art is priceless.
  If anything, the show was a bit short, but don't they always say leave the crowd wanting more? 

Purity Ring has a few more shows in the US and Canada before heading over to Europe:
October 15 San Francisco, California 
October 22 Toronto, Canada
October 24 Halifax, Canada
October 27 Sheffield, UK
October 28 Cambridge, UK
October 29 London, UK
October 30 Utrecht, Netherlands
November 1 Antwerp, Belgium
November 2 Luxembourg, Luxembourg
November 3 Paris, France
November 4 Koln, Germany
November 5 Prage, Czech Republic
November 6 Warsaw, Poland
November 8, Stockholm, Sweden
November 9 Oslo, Norway

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Congrats, Karen O!!!!
One of our very favorite people, KO from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, her solo music work and general kickass behavior, announced via instagram that she gave birth to a baby boy in late September. Not many kids have the right to say their mom did the songs for "Where the Wild Things Are," but this guy already has one of the coolest moms ever. As her first official "Mom move," she introduced the little squirt to the world by playing a Roberta Flack song. She said:

Shortly after we brought him home I held him in my arms and listened to Roberta Flack singing this tune I felt my heart exploding in my chest with a love I couldn't begin to put into words so Roberta's will have to do for now. "The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes
And the moon and the stars were the gifts you gave
To the dark and the endless skies, my love

To the dark and the endless skies"

Bound to be light years ahead of his same-aged peers in fashion and prose, we send Karen, her husband Barnaby Clay and their little fellow all the best! (Also that lots of good songs come to her quickly because we need more of her music, stat.)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Review: Coffee Plant Roaster Eugene
Finding the right coffee shop is hard. It’s even harder to spill the espresso beans on a place that is great-because sharing means potentially dealing with more people. Eugene isn’t huge, but it isn’t that small either. Because of the large student population, coffee shops have long aimed for the University area to support undergraduates on their way to crippling debt by feeding them coffee and free wi-fi. But this means a patron has to endure the stories, the flashcards, the weird entitlement of one person taking up a table for four because their backpack, laptop, jacket(s), books, and phone barely leave room for their fancy, too-sweet coffee. Some of us are older, and drink coffee black, and just want to pout and pretend to work in peace. Unlike the university crowd, we know the sad truth that whatever we’re writing isn’t going to be the next great American novel, the meeting we’re going to have might not even pan out to a good project to distract us from our day jobs, and sometimes being alone in public is such sweet delight that our hearts would break if we were forced to chat instead of staring into space. Maybe these folk could be called “hipsters”, but let’s err on the side of generosity and instead call them “people”.
For the time being, there is a haven for such people. Far enough down West 11th to dissuade those without transportation (well, until that EmX expands) and not too close to any major high school, Coffee Plant Roaster has taken enough lessons from Albina Press and Water Avenue Coffee to make sure the above “people” feel right at home. With chalkboard accents and wood panels, Coffee Plant Roaster is bright and inviting to those that know how to spend copious hours in coffee shops. There’s a rock collection to the left and a wall that houses art to the right (currently they are featuring Janale Peterson’s reclaimed pine wood burnings). The staff is nice enough, having enough tattoos and piercings for me to trust them but not so much joie de vivre that I think I’m at a Dutch Bros. Their house coffee is CPR, a strong, nutty brew with a little bitter finish. The more you look around, the more little details you’ll find that show these people are pretty serious about their succulents, cold brew and skinny jeans. But then again, so am I. With enough outlets that you can stay past your battery life, feel free to look for cheap flights to far away places, eat some food that is made on-site and wonder what why you don’t have a book agent.
Do me a favor and don't tell anyone.

Monday, May 25, 2015

BCG’s - Angel Lust EP

From Los Angeles, the BCG’s have emerged to concoct a disturbing and ferociousness groove that thumbs its nose at any sense of conformity.  The BCG’s are not for the faint of heart. What they are is a full contact musical experience landing somewhere between thrash, disco punk and horror pop. They have the creepiness of The Cramps, the energy of The Misfits and the dark synths of Praga Kahn. Their debut release, Angel Lust, is deranged, hostile, and really catchy.

Joel Zimmerman is violent on vocals, disobedient, belligerent and disorderly. He sounds like Steve Bays of Hot Hot Heat on both LSD and amphetamine simultaneously. Joel has the energy that could power a small city or summon the ghost of a 22-year-old Jack Grisham in a séance. The rhythm section of BCG’s is Mikey Cabral laying down thick bass lines akin to The Strokes at certain times and Korn at others. Jose Roldan jams in the swanky guitar fills and effects while Francisco Hernandez bangs on deep tom tom drums that produce big timpani-styled booms and the keys that slice through the choruses of these songs like bombs falling from the sky in a WWII air raid.

The BCG’s make an art out of lyrical exhibitionism. Their words are dark, scoffing and hell bent on targeting underbelly aspects of life and putting them on display for all to see. With themes such as drugs, cutting, and pedophile priests, the BCG’s take archetypal mockery to a whole new level. What happens when our heroes are flawed? What happens when the systems that we trust fail us? What happens when our frustrations hit a boiling point? Well, the BCG’s are there to witness it with apocalyptic funk and groovy horror sounds as they deliver their clever narratives on the world as they see it.

“I like to look at myself cry in the bathroom mirror, while sliding my fingers over your pink razor…I like to leave bloody fingerprints when I shush your swollen lips” (from Sid & Nancy Boi)

The underground punk scene is not dead anymore with the BCG’s on the job. Along with the rest of the Records Ad Nauseam army, they are slowly pushing through the surface and poking their fingers into the eyes of every pop fodder machine that exists in this YouTube generation. These are the next wave of kids taking the pop model and any preconceived notion of wide-appeal sound and tossing it in the wood chipper. You can’t listen to Angel Lust and not have a reaction. It is the stuff of frustration, disorder and the inevitable lashing out that occurs under that pressure…the makings of any good riot.

Angel Lust by BCG’s is available for purchase and immediate download at: Angel Lust EP

Also, be on the look out for the BCG’s collaboration with Terminal A on the forthcoming single “Klaus Barbie Dreamhouse.”  Check out Records Ad Nauseam for more info.