Friday, December 4, 2009

the Airborne Toxic Event, December 4 at Walt Disney Hall

Usually a band has to have more than one album out before they do a big, important show. The Airborne Toxic Event didn't have massive success with their first, self-titled album, at least not relatively, as they still played mid-way up the bill at big festivals but they were able to play places bigger than Spaceland at least. How they got to play the Walt Disney Concert Hall is beyond me. Even playing a hometown show at that place should have been beyond a a band that had had, at best, modest success (despite my well-publicized love for them). Not that it mattered what they did to get there anyway. It was the last date on a string of tours (this leg beginning near L.A., and of course I was there) and the band seemed excited and energized for a special show. The Disney Hall is where the L.A. Phil plays winter shows and it's not generally where rock shows happen but I know that there have been electronic acts there like Air and M83 in the few years since it had opened. I had never had reason to go there, which was a bit of a shame because it's a really nice place. Airborne could maybe justify a unique show there that night since they were playing with the Calder Quartet, which was mostly just having strings in the first half of their set, which was mostly acoustic. Then after an intermission (something else to set it off from the standard rock show) a high school marching band entered, playing, from the back of the place to the stage, followed by the band, and a cover of the Ramones' “Rock n' Roll Radio”. Usually they can just rely on the strength of the songs – and that's enough – but this time there was something infused into the performance, from guests to a feeling of joy and wonder at playing such a show (which was pretty good for me in particular since there wasn't much reason to keep seeing the same show I'd been seeing before). Honestly, if it hadn't have been a show at the Disney Hall, I might have skipped it (though, knowing me, probably still not). But I knew that this show would have to be something extraordinary. Besides, I'd never been to the Disney Hall and this was a good excuse to go. They played new songs and the surroundings gave the music a different texture than it sounded in a dingy club or the middle of a field. And it was an appreciative and audience, maybe skewing a bit older than their usual shows, perhaps relatives of the band. It set out to be a special show and it was. There are certainly worse ways to cap off a few years of a seemingly-neverending tour. The next time they play that place they can have the full symphony. Or, as their trajectory might suggest, they'll headline the Hollywood Bowl.

I seem to have misplaced the set-list that I recorded. However, I've read that they're going to release this show on DVD in a few months and it will be easy not see what they played, as well as experience the concert itself (on your TV screen at least).

Monday, November 16, 2009

Brenden Benson, November 16 at the Bottleneck

Sometimes you just wind up at a show. I was in Lawrence, KS for a few days for some time off and visiting Seth Jones and his merry band of brigands and we looked around for shows going on that weekend. Not much going on in town, or even in Kansas City, but we were in Lawrence during the day at a football game and drinking the entire time and we probably would have wound up at the Bottleneck anyway, despite who was playing that night. It just so happened to be Brendan Benson, someone we knew of, at least from being part of the Raconteurs. But let me emphasize again that we had been drinking all day and generally hanging out with each other and playing pool and I was hitting on a chick and drinking more was more of a consideration than seeing the show, which would have been a spectacular performance if it had been an ordinary bar-band, but we were hoping for some Raconteurs tunes, and I wouldn't hold it against him that he didn't play any, but there wasn't much to engage us more than what just a good local band would do. However, he ended on a cover of Tom Petty's "American Girl" which was enough to have us dancing. It was a good night. I even remember a lot of it.

(Alternate review including set-list and photos.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Electric Six, November 11 at the Key Club

Why yes, I'll see the Electric Six every time I possibly can. This time Vanessa went along. I don't know if she was really a fan of the band from before then or if she just wanted to go to drink but we had a great time. It was a show that I've seen before but, man, I could see that show once a week and never get tired of it. The band is tight, honed sharp from years on the road playing clubs like this, and Dick Valentine might be the best frontman currently alive, if you're into that kind of music, kind of heavy metal-disco with tongue planted in cheek. All of that is fine with me. It's a good combination and one that's hard to pull off, especially with any consistency. As big of a fan as I am I won't say that every single album of theirs is genius but they know what their best songs are and they always put on a good show. It also doesn't hurt that their songs are short and it seems like they play for hours when they really just have an hour and a half or so like anyone else. However, this night was a bit different. The band put on another great performance and I think Vanessa was converted to a fan, if she hadn't been already. The song they sandwiched between “stop” and “continue” in “Improper Dancing” that night was INXS' “Never Tear Us Apart” which was performed more playfully than INXS ever did but still a lot more serious than the Electric Six usually are (which is part of doing the song on a goof). The band did an encore ("the 'Dance' trilogy" as Dick noted) and left the stage and the house music came on and the crowd started to leave but for some reason the lights didn't come on and the roadies weren't clearing the band's gear. We hung around for a bit, just to see if anything would happen, and Percussion World even passed by us and I asked if they were going to do more and he said that he wished they could but they couldn't and I told him that they weren't clearing the stage then it was like he remembered something and hurried back backstage. A few of the members of the band wandered back on stage like they were going to get something going, Dick had even taken off his suit and put on a T-shirt (that said “Don't taze me, bro”) but they just didn't start back up. We stuck around for a few more minutes then decided it was late enough and took off. We even asked the bouncer if the band was going to play more and he said to not bet on it. Vanessa and I left the place and crossed the street to where we parked and only by the greatest coincidence looked back into the Key Club and saw the band back on stage. We rushed across the street and back into the place and the band kicked back into it again. Most of the crowd was gone but the Electric Six doesn't need a packed house to melt faces. Dick announced they would play “five more songs, one for each member of the band” (except himself, obviously), though I don't know if those songs corresponded to individual members of the band. And play they did, rolling out probably the rest of the songs they usually play on tour but had rotated out for this night's performance. We ended up getting most of Fire that night and some extras. I'm not usually confident that Electric Six shows can top the awesomeness that they always are but that night they certainly were. They went above and beyond. And I'll be there next time to see them play as well.

Electric Six's set-list:
I thought the first song was off the new album but the vocals were really low in the mix early in the show and I couldn't make out the lyrics better than "listen" and "said" and I couldn't find the song on Google and I didn't remember it when I listened to the album again trying to find it
"Dirty Ball"
"Down at McDonnelzz"
"Jimmy Carter"
"Egyptian Cowboy"
"Improper Dancing"/"Never Tear Us Apart"
"Danger! High Voltage"
"Slices of You"
"Body Shot"
"Formula 409"
"Steal Your Bones"
"Gay Bar"
"Gay Bar Part 2"
"You're Bored"
"I Buy the Drugs"
"We Were Witchy Witchy White Women"

"Dance Pattern"
"Dance Epidemic"
"Dance Commander"

"Naked Pictures"
"Randy's Hot Tonight!"
some song about raining lies and forty days and forty nights
"Getting into the Jam"

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pixies, November 5 at the Palladium

The second Pixies show, with Ahmed and Gary, drinking way-overpriced beers (made easier by the drinks we also had before the show). Same concert as the night before, with little variation beyond the band playing tighter, no screw-ups from Kim, and a bit more straight-faced. The encore, however, was completely different, including "The Holiday Song", one of my very favorites, and one I had only seen them play maybe once before. Another great show but by this point I was glad to have skipped the third show, as the only way they could have changed it up was in the encores, most likely with songs I've already seen them play (though it would have been worth it for "I've Been Tired" or "Dig For Fire" or "Levitate Me" or "Letter From Memphis" but I wasn't going to hold out hope for that).

The Pixies' set-list:
"Dancing the Manta Ray"
"Weird at My School"
"Bailey's Walk"
"Manta Ray"
"Wave of Mutilation"
"I Bleed"
"Here Comes Your Man"
"Monkey Gone to Heaven"
"Mr. Grieves"
"Crackity Jones"
"La La Love You"
"No. 13 Baby"
"There Goes My Gun"
"Gouge Away"

"Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)"
"Into the White"

"The Holiday Song"
"Nimrod's Son"

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pixies/No Age, November 4 at the Palladium

The Pixies performing Doolittle, my all-time favorite album (by a country mile)? Yeah, I'll be go to that. Hell, I'll get tickets for both nights (later a third added but I passed on it). The first night I was solo, getting there in time to see No Age, who changed my mind. I had tried to get into them earlier in the year and I just couldn't get my head around the noise. For whatever reason that night it clicked with me, or maybe it was just that they seemed more focused, in a place where I could enjoy them, or they were on their best behavior opening for their heroes. The Palladium's floor is a wide-open space, half-full by the time I got there, and I was able to move up most of the way by the time the Pixies went on, getting within a few feet of the front barrier when they hit the stage and the crowd crushed their way in. I was surprised by the people around me, mostly kids, which isn't a surprise to be in the thick of the crowd for a rock show, but the Pixies were big (the first time) before most of them were born. And those kids were as crazy about the band as anyone else in the crowd (except for the guy older than me who asked if whatever they just played was on Doolittle. Well, duh, dude, that's what they're playing. Then he said he didn't really listen to that album and I realized that I did not need to pay attention to him). The show started with a film, apparently the one by Fellini that Black Francis took inspiration from, with close-up eyeballs being sliced, which got the crowd going, but it went on for about 15 minutes and I just didn't see the point, even as an introduction. The band took the stage and they confounded the crowded by not diving into Doolittle but by playing some Doolittle-era b-sides. The crowd was patient but even I'll say that those non-Doolittle tracks from that time were not their best. A smart move? I can't tell. That immediately-post-Doolittle era might be when you could say that that was when they started their downhill climb (one that Frank Black has yet to recover from). But the crowd was grateful, though they almost exploded when Kim started the baseline to "Debaser" before stopping when she realized that they had planned to play another song or two before that. Kim was particularly loose that night, as was the rest of the band, but better to tighten later than start tight and have nowhere to go after that, I suppose. Once Kim starting playing the right song at the right time, "DOOLITTLE" appeared larger than life on the screen and the crowd, as they say, went wild. Kids half my age were crawling over each other and pushing to the front, a few mosh pits broke out, and everyone was dripping sweat -- an appropriate show of appreciation. True to their word they played the whole album, then a few more B-sides, then left the stage. They played it as well as it could be, not adding any flourishes but not having a keyboardist either (like they did when they originally toured the album). To be honest, I couldn't see the point in making a big deal that they were playing the whole album, since they played most of it every night when they were touring after reuniting. The one exception was "Silver, which they've never played (but which I could skip, if I had to pick any track), and filling in a few of the tracks that I missed at the other shows I had been to (somehow I'd never heard "La La Love You" live up to that point). The encore was a few songs from the other album, which was fine but too short for my tastes. Doolittle is something like 36 minutes long. Yes, filling up a set-list with B-sides is appropriate, as is playing a few other tracks for anyone who wasn't as obsessed with the album as I am (though I wouldn't understand how someone could be like that). As far as I was concerned, playing Doolittle was just a starting point and they couldn't have gone anywhere from there, though they didn't try to go far, which was fine with everyone and I certainly won't complain.

The Pixies' set-list:
"Dancing the Manta Ray"
"Weird at My School"
"Bailey's Walk"
"Manta Ray"
"Wave of Mutilation"
"I Bleed"
"Here Comes Your Man"
"Monkey Gone to Heaven"
"Mr. Grieves"
"Crackity Jones"
"La La Love You"
"No. 13 Baby"
"There Goes My Gun"
"Gouge Away"

"Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)"
"Into the White"

"Isla de Encanta"
"Where Is My Mind?"

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Silversun Pickups/Dandy Warhols/Matt & Kim, November 3 at the Gibson Amphitheater

I was minority obsessed with the Silversun Pickups for most of the year (including awarding their Swoon my #2 of the year) and seeing their hometown show was a given (despite that I had not seen them before in L.A. proper). The tickets were (relatively) cheap ($30 before Ticketmaster fees) and there were other bands included in that as well. I got my own ticket and got a pit-seat, which I thought was lucky but apparently it was pretty easy to get such a ticket for the show. The show was heavily advertised up to the day (in the Weekly, at least, so it was visible to me but the newspaper also sponsored the show) and it didn't even sell out (and it was probably so advertised because it didn't. If it had sold out they could have stopped their advertising campaign). Part of the amphitheater was actually sectioned-off, which I'd never seen before. Apparently the Silversuns can't sell out 5,000 seats even in their hometown and with a half-dozen other bands in the line-up. I got there in time to miss Dengue Fever but I saw Matt & Kim, a bundle of energy and confetti on a stage completely empty except for them and their drum kit and keyboard, and who invited everyone down to the pit, which was probably hell for security to get them out of there when they were done (not that the entire audience couldn't have fit in the pit anyway). I had a seat and ate popcorn then went to the pit, which was about 80% empty and probably only got about half-full at the peak of the night. The Dandy Warhols seemed to be an odd pairing with the rock professionals of the Silversuns but they came on cool and focused, a departure from being the shambling, disorganized -- but brilliant -- mess I've seen them be in the past. The druggie-slacker vibe is a little sad now that they're all close to their 40s but they've stayed together anyway and now they rely on their songs, focusing that night, at least on, ...Come Down (as they should). Zia looked sexy as usual, all in a black jumpsuit and looking like a spy. They're still an opening band even after all these years or just better headlining a club or playing halfway up the bill at a festival. The Silversuns are where it's at, exploding onto the stage in fuzz guitars, a heavy bass, and a drummer going crazy with a cymbal that's about 10 feet up (which can't be easy but looks kinda cool). The Silversuns have been great and consistent enough that they've gone far beyond the lazy Smashing Pumpkins comparisons (though the Pumpkins not putting up a fight makes that easy) and now they just concentrate on rocking out. It was firm set, starting strong, but no surprises, except for "Kissing Familes," which I've seen them do every time and it should be expected by now but I'm always excited and shocked and amazed and surprised when they play it. Brian is still a bit of a shy frontman but when they rock as hard as they do, they can leave banter and desperate charm for bands who don't have the volume.

The Silversun Pickups set-list:
“Growing Old Is Getting Old“
“Well Thought Out Twinkles“
“Sort Of“
“There's No Secrets This Year“
“The Royal We“
“Little Lover's So Polite“
“It's Nice To Know You Work Alone“
“Future Foe Scenarios“
“Kissing Families“
“Catch and Release“
“Panic Switch“
“Lazy Eye“

“Creation Lake“
“Common Reactor“

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Bob Mould Band, October 19 at the Troubadour

The Bob Mould Band didn't put on another incendiary show like they did at Coachella but they didn't have to. Once I saw them at the festival, though, I knew I had to check him/them out again for a full show. I've been a big Sugar fan since the early '90s but never got to see them when they were together. The Coachella performance was amazing, and was all that I could ask for. Maybe Bob had more to prove there or he knew that he had a more captive audience that might be there for other bands and he wanted to really sell himself to them or he was pissed about having such an early slot. Whatever it was, I could be a fan for life just for that Coachella performance if nothing else, though that's not to say that there was a thing in the world wrong with the Troubadour show. Just as many Sugar songs and, predictably, more from his newest solo work. I didn't have any Hüsker Dü stuff until just before this so I didn't know any of that, though what he played of it (seeing the crowd's reaction to it, knowing that that was the classic stuff), was great. I'd love to get a set-list so I could see what I heard but didn't realize the greatness of at the time (except that I recognized "New Day Rising" toward the end) but I couldn't find anything. Bob's solo stuff was always hit or miss with me, as I always liked the raw volume of Sugar and his stuff without them is sometimes too acoustic or too experiments, but he mixed it all up together really well, starting with Sugar tracks, going through solo stuff, and ending with mostly Hüsker Dü. As a retrospective of a career up to this point, it was well-rounded and sounded great and in a great venue for it. Opening for him was Spiral Stairs, the other guy from Pavement, and it was a likable set but I never got around to investigating the music more.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Thom Yorke, October 5 at the Orpheum Theater

I found out that Thom Yorke was playing a solo show in L.A. just two night before the tickets went on sale, and even then I only lucked into the information and probably wouldn't have found out otherwise (thanks, Consequence of Sound!). Now, you know I'm a big Radiohead fan, even more for the weird, experimental stuff they do, but Thom's solo album usually just goes through me. Frankly, I probably could have lived if I missed the show, but seeing Thom on his own, especially when he wasn't doing a full tour at the time, seemed interesting. What put me over the top was that he had Flea on bass. How does that happen? I thought I'd give it a shot. I was working at a place in Hollywood and planned to get in at 10 a.m., which was also the time when the tickets went on sale. I called my mom to see if she could go on to get tickets for me but she was busy that morning. It would have been easy enough to get to work early but there was street-cleaning that day so I had to park a few blocks away and didn't get in and on the computer until after 10, and didn't even think about it until a quarter after. I'd been to the Orpheum Theater before and knew it was a tiny place and that those tickets would go quickly but I'm not the kind of person to just dismiss it and my curiosity got me to see if the tickets had, indeed, gone that quickly. I logged on to the site to look around and clicked on the event and somehow tickets were still on sale. I clicked through to get a pair and they came up with something in "BOX R", whatever that was. Well, they were tickets, so I went for it. And I got them -- a pair of tickets for a Thom Yorke show a tiny fraction of the size of a place he would normally play at. Surely I'd get someone to go with me or I could scalp them later. I didn't give my amazement at getting tickets too much time but I had to line up someone to go in less than two weeks from then. I started e-mailing and texting around, a few passing interests (Vanessa was almost a go, and she realized later that she should have taken me up on it; Jerry, the only bigger Radiohead fan than me, was out of town), but on the off-chance I texted Seth, who is in Kansas with a wife and kid, and he was interested. We got on the phone and talked it over. By the end of the day he had booked a plane ticket to come to L.A. for two days, to make it to the show. He flew in on the Sunday before and, amidst a flurry of activity, we spent Monday in Hollywood before heading downtown for the show. Thom had played the Orpheum the night before and also a secret show over the weekend and the only thing I read was that he played all or most of The Eraser. Turns out we had box seats, like the ones that presidents get shot in. The Orpheum is such a small place that we could have been in the last row and still have been closer than we'd ever been at any Radiohead show, but the box seats were right off the stage, and we happened to be in the second row of them (after assuming we could push our luck to the very limit and mistakenly thinking we were in the very front, mostly because there was no one sitting in those seats when we got there, but we ended up making friends with the people in that section. We found out that they had paid a few hundred dollars for their tickets). We could have jumped off the seats and been on the stage, we were that close (though from that angle we couldn't see the right third of the stage. I didn't even know Thom had had a guitarist the whole time). Some art-thing called Lucky Dragon opened. Probably the most obscure local band that Thom had heard, fair enough. Finally Thom's new band went on stage, including Flea, and knocked out The Eraser in its entirety. Suddenly the entire album, seeing it performed there in front of me and feeling a part of it, inside of it, it all made sense to me. Not that a live experience should be necessary to enjoying an album but it definitely opened it up to me. Thom's band were mostly studio guys and it showed but that stiffness contributed well to the sterile, sometimes airless spaces of the nooks and crannies of the album. The band included his producer, the legendary Nigel Godrich, defying some kind of record-making rule of producers playing live shows, but it makes perfect sense, in trying to recreate those soundscapes, that there couldn't have been a person brought on that could do it better than the one who helped create them in the first place. It was a high-wire experience, trying to redo live what had been done in the confines of a studio but it worked. Even with Flea, who played other instruments as well as the bass, showed amazing constraint, to the point where you wonder why he was there in the first place, if for no other reason other than just wanting to be part of the music and because he's a superhuman musician. A short break then Thom and company came back to do more stuff, including Radiohead b-side "Paperbag Writer" and some new tunes which were welcomed by the crowd (a rare feat, since they usually only want the stuff they know already. Clearly there were a lot of serious music fans in the audience, which shouldn't be a surprise since The Eraser wasn't exactly a huge hit and wouldn't really turn on any casual Radiohead fan). Drinks before the show, drinks after the show, it was a great night. It was amazing to have Seth come out just for a show but I think it was worth his while. Thom knows how to put on a show, even when -- or maybe especially when -- he's on his own.

Thom Yorke's set-list:
"The Eraser"
"The Clock"
"Black Swan"
"Skip Divided"
"Atoms For Peace"
"And It Rained All Night"
"Harrowdown Hill"
"Cymbal Rush"

"Lotus Flower"
"Open The Floodgates"
"Super Collider"
"Paperbag Writer"
"Judge, Jury & Executioner"
"The Hollow Earth"
"Feeling Pulled Apart By Horses"

Thursday, September 17, 2009

the Airborne Toxic Event, September 17 at the Fox Theater

The Airborne Toxic Event started their fall '09 tour in Pomona. I don't know how long they've been touring or how many times they've played in L.A. or the local area since I got into them late but considering my well-publicized obsession without them, of course I had to go to the show, even though I had to leave work early and drive the 40 minutes from Santa Monica to Pomona. I'd never been to the Fox Theater before but apparently it had been re-opened recently after being renovated and they booked some good artists (many of whom have also played in L.A. on the same tour but this is outside that area so they could do another show nearby -- apparently a contractual thing). The Fox is nice, well worth the drive, with local, free parking. Also not as much of a scene, not being so close to Hollywood, and maybe attracting a younger, more excited crowd. The place doesn't have the same grimy charm that goes so well with a rock show as the Glass House across town but as a theater doing concerts, it's pretty great. Openers the Henry Clay People had a lot of energy but I wasn't there for them. Airborne were early in their tour, less fresh then they should have been but still solid, already tour veterans, less for years touring but for the impressive volume of shows they've already played. They're big enough to headline a tour on only one album -- and one that's less than 40 minutes long -- and there were even some tracks from their album that they didn't play. They might be better served for promotion by opening for a bigger band on a bigger tour but they seem to be doing fine on their own. They had to fill their set with covers, which was fine, but it showed more clearly than it needed to be that they don't have enough material for a whole headlining show. Fortunately they're not afraid to play new or unreleased stuff, which was plentiful and still sounded like their familiar stuff. I convinced some friends to go see them on another date in another city and it didn't go nearly as well for them as it did for me. But some people just have no taste.

“Does This Mean You're Moving On?”
“Something New”
“This Losing”
“This Magic Moment” (Ben E. King)
“Girls In Their Summer Dresses”
“Sugarcube” (Yo La Tengo)
“This Is Nowhere”
“Letter to Georgia”
“Wishing Well”
a song about singing me anything, and cool, love, long, boring, boxes, young
“Sometime Around Midnight”
“Googbye Horses” (Q Lazzarus)
new song
“Missy”/”Ask”/”Panic” (The Smiths)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Nico Vega/the Silent Years, September 8 at the Roxy

Sometimes you just have to get out for local shows. Especially when Noa wants to hang out. I don't know why she wanted to see Nico Vega but she invited me and I'll go out to see a show when I have the night free and I have someone to go with. I don't know what the band was about -- some post-glam, tribal thing whose songs changed so much from each to the other that you couldn't tell if any of them were any good. The singer might have been named for the band but she was trying way too hard to be the next big Hollywood thing. I doubt they'll ever get beyond L.A. but they sure play around town a lot. You probably don't need to hear of them again. But the highlight of the show was opener (if it was actually a headlining show for Nico Vega) the Silent Years, an indie-pop group a la Fountains of Wayne that I'd never heard of but were worth seeing and I wish we had gotten there in time to see more of them. As it was, it was a night out with Noa and we drank.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The National/Cass McCombs, August 29 at the Wiltern

The National had played Outside lands in San Francisco on Friday so it was easy enough for them to play a one-off show in L.A., maybe to cover their traveling costs or just to make getting out worth more than one show. I've never seen them as a popular or well-known band (they opened for Modest Mouse opening for R.E.M. two years before) but they'd played just about every American festival for the last year and I certainly won't complain about any venue they play in town; if they can sell the Wiltern then it's good to be in the company of so many people who have great taste in music. The shows I'd seen there recently had started at 9:15, and there wasn't a set-time posted on Twitter, so I got there closer to 8:30, just in case, but I was informed at the door that they weren't going on until 10:30. There isn't anything to do in the area so I got a decent place on the floor and stood. I had some text-messages to get me through but it was mostly something close to meditation. I thought the opener, Cass McCombs (a band, not one person, apparently) might be a good distraction but it wasn't much to talk about; kinda low-beat roots-rock, minus an overly hippie vibe but more denim jackets. Finally the National went on and all was forgiven. They didn't do much new stuff, if any at all, but they played every simmeringly-intense song like it had been a hit. Matt Berninger always seems to be a few short verses away from breaking down but that could be an effect of the music, a show, or the wine he was swigging. The band is appropriately tight and the performance worked well in the dim lights and minimal stage set-up. And indeed, enough people there knew they were in exactly the right place to be.

The National's set-list:
“Start A War“
“Mistaken For Strangers“
“Secret Meeting“
“Baby, We'll Be Fine“
“Slow Show“
“Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks“
“Squalor Victoria“
“All The Wine“
“Apartment Story“
“Bloodbuzz Ohio“
“Fake Empire“

“Green Gloves“
“Mr. November“
“About Today“

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Franz Ferdinand, August 27 at the Palladium

Vanessa and I had the Franz Ferdinand tickets from the Dead Weather show two nights before and we had texted Ahmed and Rachel and they were in for the show as well. Like I did for the other show I rode my bike to the NoHo subway station and rode to the Hollywood & Vine stop, to meet the others for a drink before the show, which of course led to more drinking at the show. I hadn't had high expectations for the show; if the ticket had cost more than $10 or if Vanessa wasn't so excited about it I would have skipped it. Franz's performance at Coachella in 2006 was definitive for me, enough that I didn't feel I had to see them there again in '09 and I wasn't really into their new album at the time anyway. But it didn't matter at the show, since it'd didn't matter what the songs were or how they'd played them in the past. The place exploded into a free-for-all dance-party (at least for us, aided by being fairly intoxicated). They played all the best stuff from the first two albums with an invigorated energy that would make you think it was the first date of the tour, and not just a stop since they were in town opening for Green Day, and the new stuff took on a life of it own well beyond how it was captured on the album. The venue itself, the Palladium, was also a revelation. It had always been my least favorite place to see shows, for various reasons, but it had been remodeled the year before and this was my first visit since then. (And I hated the old version so much that I didn't want to go to the new one until I had to.) The new place was a vast improvement, with an interior that looked brand-new, a superior sound-system, and bouncers as pleasant as anywhere else. Suddenly the place became one of my favorite places for concerts and I would eagerly go there again. We left and were on such a high that bacon-wrapped street-dogs seemed like a good idea, then we got on the train and split up. When we got back to NoHo I talked Rachel into going to Big Wang's for more beer (for me, not her) and when I went back to the station I found that my bicycle had been stolen. It was a lot of mixed feelings, that horrible, dirty feeling of being violated, but on top of a great night with friends and a great show, and I was also pretty drunk. It took me a few days to recover from it all.

Franz Ferdinand's set-list:

"Bite Hard"
"The Dark of the Matinée"
"No You Girls"
"Van Tango"
"This Fire"
"Turn It On"
"Can't Stop Feeling"
"Walk Away"
"Do You Want To"
"Take Me Out"
"What She Came For"
"The Fallen"

"Darts of Pleasure"
"Auf Achse"
"Lucid Dreams

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Dead Weather, August 25 at the Wiltern

Monday morning I sent an e-mail to my concert buddies saying that Austin City Limits for this year (in October) probably wouldn't work. Vanessa e-mailed me back saying that we should try to catch the Dead Weather when they were in town. I didn't know if she was joking so I asked her if she knew that they were playing the Wiltern that very night. She said we had to go, and I was in, so she went there before the show to get some scalped tickets and I rode my bike to the train station then took the train to the Wiltern. Vanessa had the tickets so we had time to get drinks at the restaurant next door, then some other drinks when we got into the place and during the show. They were selling tickets for the Franz Ferdinand show on Thursday for $10 so we got on that. As for the Dead Weather show itself: you keep wanting to see Jack White's new group as a band but you can't help but experience it as being Jack White, even when he's behind the drums and singing barely half the time. It never hurts that the rest of his band melt into the background. Even snarling vixen Alison Mossheart (more in her element in the Kills) can't quite keep up. Jack finally completes being a one-man band by becoming a full-time drummer for a while, making you wonder why he collaborates with anyone else at all. The band seemed to try to cover themselves with volume and strobe-lights for a while, until Jack started singing and the crowd got into it. It seemed like this band had a lot of hype behind them for a while, and the music is probably great, but it seemed that everyone moved on right after, eagerly anticipating Jack White's next, other new band. As it was, none of the songs sunk in with me, though I admit to not being familiar with this material at that time. But Vanessa and I were drinking and having a good time so the rest didn't matter so much.

The Dead Weather's set-list:
"60 Feet Tall"
"Bone House"
"Hang You From The Heavens"
"You Just Can't Win " (Them)
"So Far From Your Weapon"
"I Cut Like A Buffalo"
"Rocking Horse"
"I Can't Hear You"
"No Horse"
"No Hassle Night"
"Will There Be Enough Water?"
"Forever My Queen" (Pentagram)
"Treat Me Like Your Mother"
"New Pony " (Bob Dylan)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunset Junction, August 23 in Silver Lake

Sunset Junction was more being at a street-fair with friends more than a concert. I love street-fairs and I like to visit and support local events but the year's line-up of music acts didn't really turn me on but Vanessa and Rachel wanted to go so I was in. There were probably better days for me: I was hung over and had been up with a girl the previous night/morning. But hanging out with Vanessa and Rachel is always a good day so I got better. I'm not so concerned about the political debacle between the event and the local residents, and I know the festival has changed since its early days (when it was free) and there was probably something to be said about 76% of the crowd being very gay men, but I was more concerned with just hanging out and seeing stuff (but not eating stuff since I wasn't up to it, and not buying anything because Vanessa got the hat I would have bought before me). As far as the music we sampled a few acts: Arrested Development, Morris Day & the Time (which might have had more weight if I had seen Purple Rain for the first time sooner than six months after this), a few others I can't remember, but we only watched for a little while then moved on. The music might give a centerpiece for the event but there's plenty of other stuff to do there on a beautiful California summer day, surrounded by all sorts of L.A. and Hollywood's residents.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Lollapalooza, August 8 & 9 in Chicago

Lollapalooza and Wizard World Chicago were the same weekend -- one way or another I was going to be in Chicago the first weekend of August. The original plan, as orchestrated with Seth and including Bart and possibly others, was to do both events... somehow. Lolla's Friday line-up was the weakest and with less of a crowd that would be the best day for a comics convention, then Saturday was good for Lolla but Sunday was even better as far as I was concerned. Seth had to bail at the last minute though Bart was still in, even though he isn't much of a comics fan. I flew in on Wednesday and stayed with my cousin, then went to Rosemont (on the outskirts of Chicago, nearer to the O'Hare airport) to check into the hotel and meet up with the others and register for the convention. It all turned out to work fine: Friday was the convention, though by the time we got down there we had about three hours to get it all in. I had just done the big San Diego convention two weeks before and didn't have any great (or even good) expectations for another one, so I didn't care about missing the greatest part of it. I thought about getting up early to hit the convention for a little bit before the concert over the weekend but I just couldn't get it together. Then I heard afterward that the convention turned out to be pretty good after all. Oh well.

Bart was still in for Saturday so we headed over on the train (a nice benefit for being in town and Chicago having a suitable mass-transit system). We got in, no problem, and apparently it had just rained so the ground was muddy but the air was clear. I got Bart to see the Living Things, putting on their reliable brand of cock-sure, politically-tinged rock, and I think I converted him into a fan; In turn he got me to check out Miike Snow and they were interesting enough (with or without masks) to check out and enjoy when I got back home; Ida Maria brought shame to the organizers for putting her on a side-stage so early in the day but was sexier than anyone there -- band or spectator -- fanning her ever-present gold dress in the heat and showing lots of luscious skin. As it wasn't enough she closed with "I Wanna Be Your Dog", which tried desperately to win the competition for sloppiest cover, though it's the rare song that sounds better when it's the messiest it can get (though never possibly messier than the original); Glasvegas seemed out of place in the sun but at least they didn't look like douchebags when wearing sunglasses appropriately, when outside not inside. And getting from one side of the park is a pain, making me miss "Geraldine", which they inexplicably played first again; TV on the Radio have nearly made their name on inconsistent shows but this was one of the good ones, if a bit mellow (enough that I was able to take a short nap but you really can't blame me: it was hot and I was tired and we had been drinking since we got there); The choice of headliners that night was a tough one: Tool or Yeah Yeah Yeahs. (If it had been the Beastie Boys like was originally planned, this would have been an easy decision.) I might have gone with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, even after seeing them twice that tour already, and I've seen Tool even more than that, but Bart had never seen them and needed to so that wasn't a problem for me. They're the type of band that, while solid musicians, if you've seen then show, with the planned, filmed visuals and rigid set-list, you're probably good for a while if you're not a huge fan. And I'd seen the show. They play so tight, and of course they're tethered to the film playing behind them, that the performance seems staid and sterile and, if the music wasn't so great and you weren't waiting to see if Maynard would do something weird, would probably be fairly dull. Though I hadn't seen them on their previous tour so almost half the material was new to me in a live setting, though the older visuals were the best ones, and ones I'd seen repeatedly before. And in case they needed it, they pulled out "Aenima" which would win over my review that day (though a bit incongruous played outside of southern California). And credit Maynard with keeping it interesting, this time dressing, for some reason, as a cop (lost to us, for how far back we were standing). Then the show let out and Bart and I took the train back to the hotel to meet up with our friends who had been there for the convention, and there's a story about naked women in the opposite hotel wing but that's for somewhere else.

Sunday was when Bart flew back so I was left to do the best day of the show alone. I hurried in to see the Airborne Toxic Event in time and ended up catching some of Bat for Lashes. Also, the dickhead at the gate didn't want to let me keep my ticket -- apparently it was more important that it gets thrown away after it was scanned (or the guy the day before was cool enough to let me keep that day's ticket) -- so that didn't start the day well. But Bat for Lashes were great, laying down celebratory hymns that miraculously worked as well under the sun than at night; Another sold set from the Airborne Toxic Event at the height of the day's heat (which was also particularly humid as it had rained the day before), and good to see that people clear across the country from L.A. also appreciate them. They got a good crowd, playing the main stage; The Raveonettes were also great, turning in some promising tunes from their forthcoming album but also including "Attack of the Ghost Riders"; I had seen Neko Case recently so I ditched the later part of her set. Even in the wet heat she was lovely. Seeing her I happened to be near the autograph tent while the Airborne Toxic Event were singing and with herculean effort I avoided approaching them and making an ass of myself. The wisdom of age (and knowing my own tendencies), I suppose; I didn't know Passion Pit at the time but I'd read everywhere that they were the new, great thing so I checked them out. It's easy to feel like an outsider when everyone around you knows the music and you don't but it was so joyous that it was easy to get caught up in it; The two main draws of the festival for me were on Sunday: Lou Reed and Snoop Dogg. I like both gentlemen (Lou Reed for his Velvet Underground stuff and Snoop Dogg because he's Snoop Dogg) but they hadn't played any festival I'd been to recently and I probably wouldn't go to one of their individual shows. As luck would have it, they were both playing at the same time. If I had known Lou Reed wouldn't be bothering with any of his best (or decent) stuff then I would have seen Snoop. I knew Lou was a notoriously prickly individual but I had held out hope. His set, which started 15 minutes late (which wouldn't normally bother me but this was a festival. I don't care if it was an equipment problem. Shit like that affects the entire day, for everyone), began strong with a rocked-up version of "Sweet Jane", which would have set a great pace if the rest of it wasn't sub-par solo material and songs about New York, while played with a crack backing band, were the kind of stuff that gives legendary-but-post-peak musicians a bad name. By the time he got to his tenth minute of feedback for some song, I was done with it and with him. I didn't think he had much set left but apparently he closed with "Waiting for the Man". Ha, you got me, Lou. You fuckhead; I've become so proprietary with the Silversun Pickups that it didn't seem right to see them rocking a show outside of southern California. They started strong and ended strong. It's great to see a rock band that doesn't feel compelled to play a bunch of ballads for whatever reason that bands play a bunch of ballads at a summer festival for tens of thousands of people; At that point in the day I could have left, having to decide between headliners Jane's Addiction and the Killers. Tough choice, and I wouldn't really win either way. I went with Jane's, taking my time getting over there. I watched from the back, some freakish, messy, and ill-advised circus of a show, Perry throwing everything at the audience like he needed to distract from the music or just burn headliner money. As I sat, having not much else to do, I wondered why I'm not a bigger fan of Jane's: Navarro is one of my favorite guitarists, Perkins is a remarkable drummer, Avery was back with the band, and the songs are a bit druggy (a little embarrassing and forced nowadays when the band is supposed to be sober) but perfect for their place and time. It occurred to me: I can't stand Perry Farrell. He's a crappy singer and an annoying performer, and he's such an irritating clown that I want to slap his irritating clown face every time I see it. On the best day his awful singing could have been compensated by his outlandish behavior but that was 20 years ago when everyone was on drugs. Now, I respect the man greatly: he nearly invented the sustainable American rock festival and he changed "alternative rock" in the early '90s. But I cannot stand the man himself. The band played versions of their tunes even more monstrous and rocked-out than they've been before (though, unfortunately but understandably, nothing from the underrated Strays), even making "Been Caught Stealing" tolerable, until Farrell stomped out whatever fire the songs had with the ear-piercing bullshit coming out of his mouth. I probably missed something but I just felt I had to leave, even before the festival was officially over. I went back to the hotel and took a nice, long bath.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Bat for Lashes, August 31 at the Henry Fonda Theater

I didn't know Bat for Lashes well but Vanessa wanted to go so I was down for it. I had seen half of their/her set at Lollapalooza and it was energetic and good but I knew that they weren't meant to be out under the Chicago afternoon sun. I got a copy of Two Suns and really dug it. It's subtle, serious music but intense lyrics and delivery, something along the lines of a dreamy but troubled Sinead O'Connor, and all translated live in the best way possible. And I always notice good female drummers, especially when they seem attractive (though at a distance). I didn't really know about the hippie, Native American, wolves-at-night visual thing but it's only an accompaniment to the music, which is fantastic. Rachel went along and I don't remember that we drank much there (since Vanessa and I have been tot he Fonda enough to know that drinking there can be a pricey and disappointing proposition) but we drank at the place next door beforehand and that got us through, though it certainly wasn't necessary to chemically alter our brains to get the trippy vibe.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Glasvegas/Ida Maria, July 28 at the Henry Fonda Theater

I wanted to see Glasvegas, Vanessa wanted to see Ida Maria. I pegged Maria as a shallow opening act but she ended up steling the show. Glasvegas were great, turning in a good rock show for one of the best albums of the year, though there was a feeling of desperation, especially from the frontman who was trying to channel Joe Strummer to a nearly embarrassing degree, and working against a thick Scottish accent in the singing that would be impenetrable to American audiences who are too lazy to decipher that kind of thing. The drummer was also a surprise to me, having about a third of a full drum-kit that I had taken for granted, when hearing it before the show, was a full one. They use it well, then. I never really considered a connection between Mo Tucker and Meg White but this is a continuation of that and seems to work just fine. Opening with "Geraldine", far and away their best song, was a bit puzzling to me but the rest of their set almost rose to the same level. Maria never sucked up to the audience or forced them to join her party. She was amazing, being even more fun and sexy but never fluffy or lightweight and looked like she was having the time of her life -- or just drunk. If the two groups' music wasn't so different, Glasvegas should have been afraid that their opener would blow them off the stage. It turned out that maybe they both coaxed their best performances out of each other.

Glasvegas' set-list:
"Lonesome Swan"
"It's My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry"
"Polmont On My Mind"
"Fuck You"
"Flowers & Football Tops"
"Ice Cream Van"
"Go Square Go"

"Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime"
"S.A.D. Light"
"Daddy's Gone"

Monday, July 27, 2009

Jarvis Cocker/Little Joy, July 27 at the Wiltern

How old is Jarvis Cocker? Whatever you want to say, he's still got it. He still writes great songs (though not nearly as great as Pulp's great days) and he still knows how to charm an audience (though not as massive as he would get in England, instead settling for a modest but ravenous sold-out crowd at the Wiltern; at least he's touring the States, which he didn't really do last time). And he has a beard now. But it's still a good show, especially being amongst aging Britpop fans from the '90s (like myself). This is a show I got a ticket for only a few weeks before, and I opted for a seat, in the balcony, instead of on the floor like I could have done, but ended up at the front of the section, and the Wiltern isn't gigantic, so I did the right thing. Of course everyone was there to hear Pulp tunes more than anything and of course everyone waited until the last second of the encore for it and of course he didn't play any old stuff but I can't imagine anyone being too terribly disappointed by the performance.

Little Joy opened and I got there in time to only see the last song or two but they rocked out a lot harder than I thought they would have. Their album is really sleepy (though still pretty good) but live they really crank it up (as well as having a lot more people on stage than they probably needed to create the music originally). They certainly didn't sound a thing like the Strokes but at this point Fab can pretty much do whatever he wants. Was Fab even playing at that show? I don't know. It doesn't really matter.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Rick Springfield, July 13 at the Pacific Amphitheater

I wouldn't have gone to see Rick Springfield if Alicia hadn't invited me. And I certainly wouldn't have gone to the O.C. Fair if Alicia hadn't invited me to see Rick Springfield with her there. I've never had much of a positive experience at country fairs, especially ones in California, and I was fine living a life where I'd never have to go to another one. But my apprehension was unwarranted and the two of us had a great day at the event, with Alicia's sister and Alicia's sister's friend. The concert started just after dusk, early enough to go back into the fair for an hour or two after the show was done. Obviously the house-wives wanted to get back home early but it would suck for good rock bands like Blondie (who also played at the fair that summer) to have to play so early. Springfield puts on a fine show, playing to the over-the-hill ladies in the front row and anyone who has known of him over the years, though there was a refresher course on video that played on the screens before the show in case anyone didn't know that he was mainly known for being on TV. I wouldn't have advised the cover of "Jet" midway through the set, though I commend him for not dragging out "Jessie's Girl" as the set closer (leaving I-don't-know-what for the encore). Though he did drag out "Don't Talk To Strangers", another, much lesser, hit, to about 15 minutes, leaving him plenty of time to wade into the audience, held aloft by manic women who will never wash him off their hands. He was also shirtless for most of the performance, and if I look that good at 60 (or so he claims he is. I still don't believe it), I'll be shirtless more often as well. The show was overly practiced and a bit stiff and he would probably be bored senseless by it if it wasn't for the desperate women screaming his name and throwing bouquets of roses at him (which he would shred against his guitar, which I've never seen and thought was cool but it didn't really show appreciation). The day at the fair was better than the evening at the concert but it was still enough of a reason to go.

Rick Springfield's set-list:
"Mr. PC"
"What's Victoria's Secret"
"Affair of the Heart"
"Living in Oz"
"I Get Excited"
"Venus in Overdrive"
"I'll Miss That Someday"
"Love is Alright Tonight"
"Don't Talk To Strangers"
"Love Somebody"
"Human Touch"
"Jessie's Girl"

"I'll Make You Happy"

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Andrew Bird/Ra Ra Riot, July 11 at the Greek Theater

The only thing I knew about Andrew Bird is that he didn't set me on fire when I saw part of his set at Outside Lands but, shit, I'd go see Barenaked Ladies and Metallica if I was going with Vanessa, Noa, Andrew, and Leeza. We had a picnic before the show in the park next to the Greek (I brought chicken wings from Hooters, Vanessa and Noa brought wine) so, heck, I was ready to see anything. Vaenssa got tickets for everyone right after they went on sale, though we still had seats near the farthest row, just in front of where they sectioned off the seats that didn't sell. I don't know what that's about but it's bullshit.

No real comment about Bird's performance itself since I have no reference but it was a lot of whistling and music loops. As far as the show went, I really went to see Ra Ra Riot, whose album I liked but their live show didn't really make me like them any more. They were a little flat, betraying how they sound on a studio recording.

Then the 10:30 curfew and everyone went their separate ways on a Friday night.

Andrew Bird's set-list:
Fiery Crash"
Opposite Day"
Fitz and the Dizzyspells"
Oh No"
A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left"
Fake Palindromes"

"Weather System"

Thursday, July 9, 2009

the Old 97's/Rhett Miller, July 9 at the Henry Fonda Theater

The Old 97's always put on a solid show, even if it's usually the same. Their newer songs have gone a bit downhill over the years, always somewhere between power-pop and alt-country, but they still play like they've always been big stars, especially due to singer/songwriter Rhett Miller's exuberance and charming, aw-shucks modesty that people keep showing up to see them yet again. I don't know if they had new material to tour or if it was only to support Rhett's new solo work, as he was also the warm-up act. From Twitter I found that the Old 97's weren't going on until after 10 and I didn't need to see Rhett's solo act (especially since I had seen him solo recently), so I showed up (finding no street-parking but opting for the lot next to place, which sure was convenient, but it damned well better be for the $25 I paid) and saw just the end of his opening act, which could have been an Old 97's set, for the music and as much as the crowd were into it, except that he was on stage alone with only a guitar. I've seen Rhett play solo shows before, in the intimate setting of Largo (so intimate I didn't even get a concert ticket for it) and this wasn't nearly the same but it wasn't supposed to be. I met up with Erin, who had gotten within 10 feet of the stage, and we chatted until the Old 97's went on, which included a refreshed but grateful Rhett. And it was another solid show, not particularly notable except that they got done just after midnight, so it's a good thing I didn't take the subway (though it would have saved me that $25).

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Death Cab for Cute/Tegan & Sara/New Pornographers, July 5 at the Hollywood Bowl

If you haven't been able to tell by now, I'll go to just about any show. I'm a sucker for shows at the Hollywood Bowl and of course I trust Vanessa for her music taste (and ability to drink). She got tickets for us, along with one for Noa, and I don't really care what I'm doing if it's with those two. I'm not a Death Cab for Cutie fan but I admit I hadn't seen them when I had the chance at various festivals over the years and, playing with the L.A. Philharmonic, I looked forward to a special show that might change my opinion. But really, I was going to see openers the New Pornographers and Tegan & Sara. The three of us took our time picnicking outside and missed most of the New Pornographers but I didn't mind, since I've seen them before, they're not an amazing live band in the first place, Neko wasn't singing with them, and I was fairly full of wine. Tegan & Sara did a fine set but even they had to admit that they were way out of place in such a gigantic space (and looked positively tiny on stage). At that point, and with more wine in me, I anticipated Death Cab, and I suppose for a fan of theirs it was a splendid show but to me it was just as boring as anything I've heard by them. And a symphony playing behind a band might make the show a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle but it's not going to make it any more exciting. And when they played their own material as just the band I wondered what having the Phil did for them in the first place. And I never figured out which was the guy who wears glasses in the band, making pretty much all of them as uninteresting as their music.

Death Cab For Cutie's set-list:

"Marching Bands of Manhattan"
"Your Heart is an Empty Room"
"The New Year"
"Crooked Teeth"
"President of What?"
"No Sunlight"
"Summer Skin"
"I Will Possess Your Heart"
"Little Bribes"
"The Sound of Settling"
(with the Los Angeles Philharmonic:)
"I Will Follow You Into the Dark"
"You Can Do Better Than Me"
"Grapevine Fires"
"Title and Registration"
"A Movie Script Ending"
"Soul Meets Body"

Tegan & Sara's set-list:
"Dark Come Soon
"I Bet It Stung
"Walking with a Ghost"
"Hop A Plane"
"Living Room"
"Like O Like H"
"Burn Your Life Down"
"Where Do the Good Go"
"Call it Off"
"The Con"
"Back in Your Head"

The New Pornographers' set-list:
"My Rights Versus Yours"
"The Laws Have Changed"
"Use It"
"All the Old Show Stoppers"
"Mass Romantics"
"Sing Me Spanish Techno"
"The Bleeding Heart Show"

Thursday, July 2, 2009

She Wants Revenge/Living Things/Great Northern/Rocco DeLucca/the Honorary Title/Nico Stai, July 2 at the Echo & Echoplex

As I've said before, L.A. is a great place for unordinary shows, shows put on for benefits being common, with one-off performances by usually local bands. I don't know the person that this show was put on for to help but it had some great bands, mostly local, and I hope the person benefited. Vanessa and I just knew that we liked the bands that were playing and it would be a night out, which I reckon is all you need. We started out at happy hour at the French place nearby, knowing that it was close to the place but not realizing it was a short walking distance from the Echo/Echoplex, a place that somehow both of us had missed going to (though I dimly recall maybe going there once, maybe maybe). The place was confusing since there's an entrance on Sunset Blvd. for the Echo and another on Glendale Blvd. for the Echoplex, two clubs in the same building which are usually separate but as it happened, for this show, it was free to pass between the two, for two stages, one upstairs (the tinier Echo) and the downstairs (the Echoplex, a decent size). Both excellent, fairly intimate venues, once you figured out how to get there.

Vanessa didn't love Great Northern last time but I dug them, so we saw only part of their set, enough to see that it was a bit more solid and maybe just better in a space larger than the Roxy; The Honorary Title apparently was/is one guy and a guitar and nothing more notable than that; Vanessa went mostly to see Nico Stai, who she lusted after the last time we saw him; I don't know what Rocco DeLuca was about. This guy opened for U2?; The Living Things are one of the best live bands going, if not overall best bands, touring today. These guys' live shows put most headliners to shame. You want rock n' roll, well here it is. This band was who I came to see and even though they were playing to only about 50 people, they acted like they were putting on the heaviest set of their their career and they didn't disappoint. You get the feeling they're putting every ounce of their beings into the performance, whether it's for two people or an arena (where they should be). It's ferocious and dirty and has a message, all of it colored by monster riffs, a confident swagger, and a performance so tight that it can go as loose as they want because they can spare it; She Wants Revenge have worked their hometown of L.A. hard, enough to headline over Placebo for the local date on their joint tour and probably enough to make everyone in town sick of them but they were still big enough to play last at this one and in a space small enough that the place got packed by then. They closed the show, and with enough material from their first album to mostly forgive playing more from their second. But I've missed most of their other shows (sometimes purposely) so this was mostly new to me. I don't even care that they sound just like Interpol (who sound just like Joy Division. Hey, the similarity actually helps). By that time we were done with the extended show and for Vanessa to get home in time to go to work the next morning. We were even there early enough to get street-parking, which surely would have been impossible if we had gotten there after the show started.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Spinnerette/Har Mar Superstar, June 24 at the Troubadour

Spinnerette were actually tighter in concert than they are on CD, the reverse of what is true for most bands. And Brody Dalle is a goddess with a guitar, no matter what band she's in. And Har Mar Superstar is a spectacle, necessary to be seen to be believed. Another show with Vanessa, another night of drinking. She didn't even know what band we were seeing, and I hadn't heard anything besides the Ghetto Love EP, but it turned out to be a solid night of excellent rock.

Spinnerette's set-list:

"Valium Knights"
"Bury My Heart"
"All Babes Are Wolves"
"Baptized By Fire"
"A Spectral Suspension"
"Distorting A Code"
"Sex Bomb"
"Driving Song"
"Rebellious Palpitations"
"A Prescription For Mankind"
"Ghetto Love

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Art Brut, June 18 at Spaceland

I have no idea how Tana and Jamin got into Art Brut but the first time I was at their house they were playing them on their stereo and it was at that moment that I knew we would be friends. Art Brut were playing a residency at Spaceland and the Echo so we went, along with Vanessa. Rumspringa and Voxhaul Broadcast, both, I think, local bands, opened, and they didn't mean much but Spaceland is always a good value, packing in a lot of bands into one night, and you never know where one of them might go (or if you have to see them again, or if you become a friend with someone in the band by accident). Art Brut aren't for everybody -- their sound is loud and fast and somehow beyond pop and punk and yet maybe closer to what both of those genres will be in the future. Eddie, the singer, forgoes singing for talking, which would be disconcerting or even off-putting for some, until you realize that rap music has the same mode of vocal delivery, and sometimes it's more about what's being said rather than how it's being said, here talking about comic books and awkwardly getting with girls like he's still a teenager. And once you get over the speak-singing, it's pretty easy to enjoy the band, though doing that is generally asking a lot of an unadventurous listener these days. The band is tight and fidgety, British kids as punk it gets in England anymore. Drinking at the show is dangerous since the music moves so fast, you may find yourself clocked upside the head by neo-British punk (an approach from the same direction that the Streets took American hip-hop) that is moving way too fast and too loud for anyone to follow with any precision. Agreeing with Spin: one of the best live bands touring currently. Ready, Art Brut?

Monday, June 15, 2009

the Von Bondies, June 15 at the Viper Room

Weren't the Von Bondies supposed to be really big? They had a great song ("C'Mon C'Mon") that became the opening of a popular TV show and people seem to know them even now. But the last time through town they played a small place and the Viper Room is even smaller. But with a band like that, the smaller the place, the less the space can contain them and the more they'll tear it apart. They're a bar band too good and catchy to be a bar band but hey, if they have to play in a bar, they're going to do that and do it exceptionally. This was the only L.A. date on the back of an incredible album (Love and Hate and Then There's You), their first in some years (due to record label troubles), and it's a shame they couldn't capitalize on it or play some summer festivals, like how they built their name to that point. But hopefully with various troubles behind them they'll be more frequent with releases and find bigger venues to burn to the ground.


"Broken Man"
"Going Down"
"Pale Bride"
"Tell What You See"
"She's Dead To Me"
"Pawn Shoppe Heart"
"This Is Our Perfect Crime"
"No Regrets"
"Accidents Will Happen"
"The Fever"
"Shut Your Mouth"
"Been Swank"
"It Came From Japan"
"Not That Social"
"R & R Nurse"
"Lack Of Communication"
"C'mon C'mon"

Friday, June 12, 2009

Neko Case/Jason Lytle, June 12 at the Greek Theater

As much of a fan as I am, I was thinking that Neko Case was going to be a diva, coming on stage and coldly -- but powerfully and beautifully -- singing her songs then promptly walking off at the end of her last note. But she was warm and appreciative of the crowd, and even more powerful and beautiful. Strangely her back-up singer did most of the between-song banter but at least it was funny. Jason Lytle, formerly of Grandaddy, opened and it was very Grandaddy-ish (which is to say that it didn't do a whole lot for me). Strangest thing: the show got out at 10:30 since apparently the Greek has a curfew. Vanessa and I were left to wonder what we should do, never having gotten out of a show so early. So we went and drank.

Neko Case's set-list:
Maybe Sparrow"
"People Got a Lotta Nerve"
"Hold On, Hold On"
"The Pharaohs"
"Middle Cyclone"
"Deep Red Bells"
"I Wish I Was the Moon"
"I’m an Animal"
"Prison Girls"
"The Tigers Have Spoken"
"Margaret vs. Pauline"
"Polar Nettles"
"Red Tide"
"Don’t Forget Me"
That Teenage Feeling"
"This Tornado Loves You"

Vengeance Is Sleeping"
"Star Witness"
Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth"
Magpie to the Morning"
"Knock Loud"

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rhett Miller, June 10 at the Grammy Museum

Erin invited me to the Rhett Miller show and she's a bigger fan than I am. He did a show at the Grammy Museum but it was less of a performance and more of a Storytellers interview thing which was seeing him answering questions and talking about his music and inspirations and stories and such, in a very intimate performance, with only about a hundred people in attendance. But of course being a performer he had to play some songs so he did a few solo and acoustic and ended with "Timebomb", his regular band the Old 97's' best and loudest song not quite fitting played just on a guitar by himself but an interesting experiment. He hung out afterward to sign CDs, and he was pleasant, enough to almost dull the fact that I paid $20 for a CD just for him to put his name on. The Grammy Museum was also nice. I had never been before. It was shiny and new and it seemed fairly limited in what it had on display but I hope that it can be something that will be worth returning to in the future, along with the solo and intimate shows they put on there.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Metric, June 8 at the Wiltern

Metric has a large fan-base in L.A. but I never would have thought they would sell out the Wiltern. They're a band that you'd think would have a string of hit songs but they do okay with just being a solid indie-pop band and touring a lot. Their best shot at a hit song, "Combat Baby" (from a past album), they didn't even play that night (which can be forgiven because it's old -- forgiven because these things happen and good songs don't become hits, not so much forgiven because they didn't play it). But the crowd was into it and I'd say it was a successful show. However, I was with Noa and we were super-drunk off our asses and I don't remember it much. But I remember it was a good show. And that they didn't play "Combat Baby".

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Youth Group/Nico Stai/Useless Keys, May 19 at the Troubadour

Vanessa wanted to see Nico Stai because she saw him on YouTube and thought he was cute. I heard the Youth Group album was good so I downloaded it and while I didn't think it was great at the time, I could check them out. Of course we drank considerably before the show. Vanessa also thought the singer of the Useless Keys, a local band, was cute, despite -- or maybe because -- he was about half her age. Apparently Nico Stai had a song on a TV show and, for the first time I'd ever been to a concert, not only was the crowd not mostly male but it was overwhelmingly female (and, unfortunately, mostly my age, from what I could tell). Most of the not-packed crowd cleared after him and then it was Youth Group, who had a bit of a down-beat, James-type vibe, and they didn't sell me any further on their music but I didn't mind them. A night out, in any case, and Vanessa owed me a show for a band she didn't know anything about.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Giant Drag, May 16 at the Troubadour

I had gotten the ticket for the Weenie Roast and gave it some thought: that would be during the day and the Giant Drag show would be at night -- couldn't I do both? I'd just have to leave early (I could miss Weezer or the Kings of Leon) and high-tail it back and hope for no traffic. So I got a ticket for both and crossed my fingers that I could make it work. I thought it would be close so I left the Weenie Roast with a few hours to spare and still had time to stop in for drinks at a friend's party in Burbank. I got to the Troubadour during the opener, in time enough to go to the upstairs bar and have a drink. (I very rarely drink alone but I wanted to celebrate pulling off my plan.) This show was actually an event, being the third or so time that Micah had rejoined the band, and they weren't doing any other shows. They're local (Silver Lake) but they hadn't played in a while and you never know how many more shows they may do or if they will even do any more (despite there only being two people in the band (usually)). Really, if it had to come down to it, I would have picked this show over the Weenie Roast. And Annie didn't disappoint. It'd been four years since Hearts & Unicorns so there was some new stuff but she's a gifted performer and she knew how to balance the set. In-between banter about stopping smoking and label troubles and whatever else she wanted to talk about in that squeaky, little-girl voice, along with the music, and I, for one, was mesmerized. If the White Stripes can play arenas, I don't understand why Giant Drag can't at least get more material to be distributed.

KROQ Weenie Roast, May 16 at Verizon Amphitheater

After the Doves show, I stayed in Orange County overnight (though the drive back home and back to Irvine again wouldn't have killed me) then having lunch with Josh before heading over, I got to the KROQ Weenie Roast. This used to be an amazing festival show that alt-rock radio kings KROQ would put on through the year in the '90s with bands you wouldn't believe, and I didn't go to any of those then (though not for lack of trying), but most of the shows have gone to crap, getting some big names but generally nothing I would want to see (though I went to one a few years ago, when they had some bands worth seeing). And people still go to the show and it still sells out. This year I already knew about the Giant Drag show for the same night, and I thought I might be able to get a ticket for the Weenie Roast, so I felt I had to decide between the two. But Weenie Roast tickets usually sell out instantly so I figured I would leave the decision to fate, try to get a ticket and if it didn't work then go to the Giant Drag show in L.A. instead. I went online when the Weenie Roast tickets went on sale, within a week or so of the show, and as quickly as I went to the LiveNation site, one came up (just one, since I decided it would just be easier to go alone). The best seat was in Loge, which is usually where I sit when I'm there, or worse, and it's fine but it's nothing to fight for. So there was Loge and Terrace behind that then the Lawn. I could pass. But I hung around the site, just to see how quickly it would sell out, for my own curiosity. Sure enough, next it was down to Terrace and Lawn. Half a minute later, just Lawn. But I kept going and refreshed the page and somehow an Orchestra seat came up. I don't know how these things work but I know an opportunity when I see it so I jumped on it and got the ticket. Row Q, most of the way up the section, off to the side, but still closer to the stage than any other time I've been there. So not only did I get a ticket but I got a really good one. As it turns out, when I got there, early enough to see White Lies (the first band on the main stage), barely anyone else was there and I saw no reason to be a goon and stick to my assigned seat. I nonchalantly walked to the front of the section, to the third row (not wanting to be too obvious about it), and watched from there, then Cage the Elephant, which were some ridiculousness, but the singer had a lot of energy, singing while walking up through the middle of the place (and within feet of me). The two bands I had come there to see, the Airborne Toxic Event and the Silversun Pickups, were next, and I got to see them from that close but the seats had started to fill with tools so I moved it back, finally going to my seat, to see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs turn in another great performance. They seem to change up their set for every show, never relying too much on the first album and "Maps" but having the confidence to push their new stuff, which is better than the crowd wants to pay attention to. I wasn't there for Weezer, especially seeing their disappointing and way-too-big show just a few months before but here, the size of the amphitheater was perfect for them and it reflected on Rivers, who, while also not playing guitar but rather jumping around the stage and singing, seemed like he was actually having a good time, which lightened the mood of everyone on stage, giving for a better performance than they've probably done in a while. Apparently Josh Freese was on drums, playing below his ability, but leaving Pat to play guitar and hey, man, whatever. Weezer switched from being the last act on the bill of the end of the day to instead around 5, and I don't know what went into that decision but a more than noticeable portion of the audience cleared after that, maybe more than half. It also made it so I didn't have to stay until the very end (if I even felt like that much like seeing Weezer) so I could leave to get back to L.A. in time. I stuck around to see the first half of Jimmy Eat World's set, which was mostly from Bleed American, which is all I would want to see, but it's sad that the band has to rely on material from such a while ago. I had no problem missing Rancid and Kings of Leon, who are apparently a big enough draw to play last, but I heard some of their set on the radio later that night and they sounded all right. As it was, I left in time to get back to L.A., went to the parking lot, which was devoid of people, and some girl walking in asked for my ticket, thinking it might work (I would bet my teeth that it didn't), but I gave it to her anyway, leaving one of the rare times that I didn't keep the ticket to a show. Of course I'd say the best performance of the day was the Airborne Toxic Event, even though they changed it up by making about half of their set new or unreleased stuff, or at least stuff I hadn't heard, which was an odd decision, being the only time they'd play such a big show for KROQ and playing a set that might not play to the crowd who, at best, only know the stuff on the radio. Though it was the first spark of life in the crowd for the day when the band went into "Sometime Around Midnight", though I suddenly realized I'd have to share that song with a lot of people, whether I wanted to or not.