Monday, December 9, 2013

Lissie, December 9 at the Fonda

On a Saturday afternoon we were driving to Carla's parents house listening to KCRW and they had a giveaway for Lissie tickets. I don't use my membership perks enough and I happened to be a member at that time, so I called called up and there were the tickets. Not really so much a contest, just a call-in. But we got the tickets and it was as good as buying them. We had considered going when they went on sale but we'd seen her relatively recently so we skipped it. But if the tickets were free, why not? The show was similar to the one at the Masonic Lodge, except that her songs felt a little more lived-in. Plus she played more new ones, which didn't seem as personal as the older stuff, though the production on the album (Back to Forever) was better and it translated well enough to a live setting. She herself might be making a point of not selling out and going pop, but her music made an effort to be more accessible. She may not have moved much further up in the world after breaking out with her first album and since the past shows, but at least she got to the Fonda, which is still pretty good. Lissie's set-list: "Bully" "Record Collector" "Sleepwalking" "Love in the City" "The Habit" "When I'm Alone" "They All Want You" "I Don't Wanna Go to Work" "Little Lovin'" "Everywhere I Go" "Shameless" "Shroud" "Further Away (Romance Police)" "In Sleep" "Oh Mississippi" "Hold On, We're Going Home" (Drake cover) "Pursuit of Happiness (Nightmare)" (Kid Cudi cover)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Chelsea Wolfe/Anna Calvi, November 16 at Royce Hall

I heard Anna Calvi the first time on KCRW and her voice seduced me right away.  An amazing, powerful, breathy voice will always get me, but they're rare.  Carla also had her on her radar (Calvi's "The Devil" was the first in some playlist Carla had on her phone to use as an alarm so for months the opening chords of that song was what we woke up to) but we found out too late about her Troubadour show a while before.  We kept looking out for her doing another show in town but when it was announced she was doing a show opening for Chelsea Wofle we didn't jump on it.  We generally keep our Saturday nights open and most of what we do on those are last-minute, and we weren't necessarily so eager to see her have to do an opening slot.  But the day of the show we found we had that night free so we got second-hand tickets and went.  Carla had gone to UCLA so it was a chance for her to revisit the campus and show me around, so the night had a bit of extra magic for us.  We liked Chelsea Wolfe enough -- we'd seen her at FYF and she was fine but we didn't jump to get her albums -- but we were there for Calvi, no matter how truncated her set turned out to be.  (She was touring for her second album, One Breath).  As it turns out, the show could have actually been a co-headlining thing, since they both seemed to get in a full set, but Wolfe got the later slot because it was her home-town.  Fair enough.  Royce Hall was a wonderful venue for both -- a place known for its precise acoustics but only infrequently hosting anything approaching a rock show -- so it showcased their voices and music well, but it was a space too large for even their combined L.A. fan-bases could fill.  The place was mostly empty, probably the most sparsely-attended show in a larger venue (read: not a bar) that I've ever been to.  But if the performers knew they were playing to an audience too small for the place, they didn't show it, and they still filled it with great sounds.  Both acts go toward gothy chamber pop, a little more goth for Wolfe, a little more chamber for Calvi, both of them not quite pop but not really all rock either.  A bit difficult to classify, but neither have need for any of those concepts.  Wolfe got some elevation on the back of Florence's astounding mass popularity though both have their own unique things.  Though maybe most of the audience was there to see Wolfe, Calvi was the star of the show for us.  In the studio she can tweak her voice or at least let it rest when she needs but live she had to put it all out there, and she did.  Every song was like it was sent to the back row (or at least to the balcony, where we were) and she sang like it was the only show she's ever done.  Only a foolish band would try to top a voice like that, and it would be her greatest crime to not commit to it wholeheartedly, and she put all the power she had into it.  Even without the crowd that both acts deserve, they at least got the appropriate venue, maybe the best place in L.A. for them (though the Bowl would work too).  If that was their peak then they might not get to play that kind of space in town again, but for that night it was exactly the right place.  And for the record: It might have looked like I had fallen asleep (the only time I would have ever done that at a seated show), but with eyes closed and relaxed there in that spacious place, it was easy to drift into the dark magic of those lush sounds.

Chelsea Wolfe's set-list:
"Feral Love"
"We Hit a Wall"
"House of Metal"
"Tracks (Tall Bodies)"
"The Waves Have Come"
"Pale on Pale"

"Echo" (Rudimentary Peni cover)

Anna Calvi's set-list:
"Suzanne & I"
"Sing to Me"
"I'll Be Your Man"
"Piece by Piece"
"Carry Me Over"
"The Devil"
"Love Won't Be Leaving"

Friday, October 18, 2013

Sleigh Bells, October 18 at the El Rey

We'd seen Sleigh Bells at various festivals and they were always great.  Not so much of a main course but as a side dish they were fantastic.  I might have missed them if not for Carla, though I could have run into them somewhere else and they might have made an impression if not a deep mark.  As it was, while I'd check them out at at festival, I probably wouldn't have gone out to see them for their own show.  But it was a Friday night, Carla was out, and I was finishing up at work when Rick texted me and said he had an extra ticket for the show.  I didn't have any reason not to go.  It's hard to turn down a concert, especially on a free night, though it might have been more to hang out, since he and I hadn't done that in a while and it's always a good time. On our way we stopped at a Rite-Aid to pick up a pack of ear-plugs -- I've never felt older in my life but I rolled with it.  We got in before they went on (skipping the Doldroms), maybe enough time to get up close like we used to but ended up staying in the back -- we knew the volume would overcome us anywhere in the facility anyway, and we'd already seen Alexis up close on SNL.  The crowd was fairly young -- I don't keep up with popular music enough to know how they rate, even in the indie world. I don't think too much about the intended audience when I get into a band, and I can't assume that any band I'm into will fit in my age range. I just like the music. But if the audience reflected the band then it was led by Alexis screaming and jumping and thrashing about the stage. The walls of the venue were stacks of amps, making for volume approaching MBV levels. This is a band outfitted for festivals and large spaces, and this night they were crammed into the El Rey which, to its credit, somehow continued standing after the show. I ended up being grateful for those ear-plugs. Age brings wisdom. I'll let the kids go deaf. The band, as always, were over-caffeinated and over-amplified and I wouldn't expect anything less. The show was noticeably short, over in just over an hour, which could be for any number of reasons we won't find out, whether for a curfew for the crew or for the kids or whatever. It was satisfying, even if I still don't know why she has her bean & cheese in a drawer. Thanks again to Rick for the ticket!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Simple Minds, October 15 at the Orpheum Theater

I grew up on Simple Minds. Back when I was a pop-radio-loving kid they were a modern-rock band that seeped into the mainstream just enough that I could see there was another world out there. I even caught a few of their songs that weren't "Don't You (Forget About Me)", which I wasn't always a big fan of anyway. They had great videos on MTV. I didn't get any of their albums until years later, Real Life for "See The Lights" then the '93 greatest hits after that, and I had a few others but lost interest beyond what I stared with. When they were still touring the States, after their biggest peak but when I was old enough to go, I still might not have made a huge effort to see them, such was my limited fandom. A concert-friend had told me that they were great live so they were on my radar but by then they weren't coming back around much. So when they did a modern-day U.S. tour I was in. It was proposed to be a greatest-hits show but it wouldn't have mattered to me if it was or wasn't anyway. What they played were hits but most of them big anywhere but the U.S., and even those that got through to America were mostly for the nostalgic set. There was plenty for real fans, and it might have played better elsewhere but there was still enough of a crowd with enthusiasm to eat it up. I don't even count myself as a real fan, as I know only slightly more than the rest of the crowd, but what I was familiar with was enough to carry me the whole way, and the other stuff sounded great enough to be hits (just not here). For me, just to hear one song from Real Life made it. They still play a show like they're a big, relevant band, and Jim Kerr still brings the swagger even when he's aged only slightly better than everyone else. They're still significant enough to play the Orpheum, which is always a prestigious place to be, and not tiny, even if they're in considerably bigger venues in Europe and elsewhere. Maybe putting off touring the States and building anticipation worked, though if they're not going to have any more hits that get through, it's good they pulled the trigger to make the trip before they (and their audience, and their hits) get any older. They even did "Don't You (Forget About Me)" outside of the encore like it was just another song to play, and in Europe it probably is, though here it's good it just happened to come near the end since that, more than likely, was their (American) peak.

Simple Minds' set-list:
"Broken Glass Park"
"Once Upon a Time"
"Up on the Catwalk"
"All the Things She Said"
"Mandela Day"
"Let the Day Begin" (The Call cover)
"Glittering Prize"
"New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)"

"I Travel"
"Someone Somewhere in Summertime"
"This Fear of Gods"
"She's a River"
"The American"
"Love Song"
"See the Lights"
"Don't You (Forget About Me)"
"Promised You a Miracle"

"Theme for Great Cities"
"Sanctify Yourself"
"Alive and Kicking"

Friday, October 11, 2013

Bon Jovi, October 11 at Staples

Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet is one of the first albums I ever had, during my formative early-teenage years. (I had Thriller before that so that was my official first album but that seemed more like a novelty for the time and what everyone had anyway.) I got the Slippery cassette in 7th grade as a gift from a friend who lived next door, who seemed much cooler than me because he knew Bon Jovi and I barely knew them from MTV, but before they went super-nova a year later. Back then hair-metal was still coming up and it was the thing at the time anyway. (It might have been a golden age for "alternative" music but that was about as far away as could be for me at the time.) Tango in the Night and Invisible Touch were constants for me in 8th grade, every day after school while I did dishes and waited for Jem to come on, but I rarely ever put on Slippery, for fear that anyone would catch me during that time when the backlash had begun and my cool friends deemed him (not usually them, as a band) as -- quote, unquote -- gay. Typical middle school. After that I kept being a Bon Jovi fan, openly displaying my love for "Wanted Dead or Alive" and New Jersey in high school (with a different set of cool friends), even when that wasn't a good time to be a fan. I got those albums eventually on CD, and I even got the new ones for a while but they never had the charge, and certainly not the nostalgia, that those early ones had for me. Even though I had moved beyond hair-metal just as Bon Jovi had (though they could hardly be considered any version of "metal"), I had moved beyond them in any genre. I still played those early two albums, and kept their first greatest-hits, but that's as far as I ever went again. I would still admit, without irony, to being a fan, at least for those bygone years. In my adult life I could have made any effort to see them in concert, but I was already well past the time when it would have been the best to go (as if I actually could have in middle school or early high school). Just to do it I wouldn't have gone alone, though I would go if I had friends who were interested, but who did I know that would want to go to that show anyway? Well, Tom, as it turns out. He suggested getting tickets and I couldn't say no.  I didn't even have to go on a goof; we made an evening out of it with Carla and Tati, got dinner at Trader Vic's before, and might even have gotten there on time. There might have been times when Bon Jovi might have played bigger places than Staples Center but they wouldn't play a place smaller than that, even 20-odd years past their greatest peak. Few bands can keep up that kind of momentum for that long, and they might be the only band that survived that hair-metal era intact, though they had the advantage of being more of a pop-rock band and willing to shift to go along with trends (since they didn't have a lot of artistic integrity to sacrifice in the first place). Jon himself also didn't destroy himself with the excesses of the halcyon days, and he always seemed to have a good business sense to keep the music and the company that was the band going. That didn't make for the best art, and even their best moments were way too broadly accessible, but he kept the whole thing rolling strong. That same sense of business and pushing ahead comes out in the show, when they charge through the songs, with more routine than heart in the music, but professional enough that they could satisfy anyone who would consider themselves a fan. They started strong with a few early hits and ended and encored with more and what I could assume were their biggest post-'80s hits, but the middle was a long slog. There was probably enough for post-'90s fans and anyone who cared about stuff from their newest album, but there was barely anything I felt I needed to know. Tati and I had a regular conversation as we were waiting the songs out. That sequence only showed how they've moved through changing genres, for better or worse, but a countrified album or two at least means they can keep doing shows with the old songs (whether they want to or not -- sorry, there are still plenty of lapsed and casual fans that still want to hear your best stuff, even if it was from decades ago. The price you pay for keeping it going as an aging rock band). The biggest disappointment was the absence of Richie Sambora, who had quit part-way through the tour just a short while before this show. It was probably over money or ego, which are ridiculous reasons to stop a good thing from going, especially when all parties involved already have more of enough of each, but at least they didn't try to pass it off as anything regarding creativity. The band was still solid, and the scab guitar player might have been technically just as good, but there was always something about Sambora tempering the band with another creative head, that there was another talented musician around to make it an actual band and not a solo act, which would not have been as appealing (since it's easy to quickly get too much of Jon Bon Jovi). Inevitably Sambora will come back to the band and maybe he'll inject some heart and excitement back into it, and maybe the reunion would be celebration enough to get some interest in the L.A. date. But it would take a great night out with a good friend, and I can't count on anyone much in my life for that more than Tom. If only I could have taken my 8th-grade self. He may or may not have liked the later songs but at least he could have seen that it wasn't an issue if Jon Bon Jovi was gay or not.

Bon Jovi's set-list:
"That's What the Water Made Me"
"You Give Love a Bad Name"
"Raise Your Hands"
"Lost Highway"
"Whole Lot of Leavin'"
"It's My Life"
"Because We Can"
"What About Now"
"We Got It Goin' On"
"Keep the Faith"
"Someday I'll Be Saturday Night" (acoustic)
"Thick As Thieves" (acoustic)
"(You Want to) Make a Memory"
"Born to Be My Baby"
"We Weren't Born to Follow"
"Who Says You Can't Go Home"
"I'll Sleep When I'm Dead", with "Rockin' All Over the World", "Jumpin' Jack Flash", and "Start Me Up" snippets
"Bad Medicine/"Shout"

"In These Arms"
"Wanted Dead or Alive"
"Have a Nice Day"
"Livin' on a Prayer"


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Stereophonics, October 10 at the Fonda

I admit I am a slave to the Stereophonics. It's based mostly off their earliest stuff, but I got in too late for them while they were maybe cool and now they're a dad-rock band at best in Europe and almost completely obscure in America. But as long as they're doing shows means I'll probably go and I'll still get albums even though it's been years since I've really connected to a new one. There's not much reason to see their shows now since they're going to play progressively less off my beloved You Gotta Go There To Come Back, if any at all, but I'm still a fan. At least they're consistent with their newer material barely registering a memorable single, much less to offer anything for anywhere but England, but they still keep trying to crack the U.S. Their shows here might be some kind of obligation but probably more hubris to think they maybe this time they'll really do it. Yet they keep playing smaller venues, bottoming out at the Fonda, which isn't a tiny place, but there must be some kind of contractual thing to play there and nowhere smaller, since they didn't even sell it out; they could sell out stadiums overseas. I can be thankful that they always play an L.A. date, for as much good as it does them, and I usually seem to go. This was the tour for Graffiti on the Train but it might as well have been for Keep Calm and Carry On (which they didn't tour the States for), as if a more popular title was needed, for as much as I remembered the new songs or even cared. I wanted to say that I was there for the early stuff but I've already heard most of that a few times already by now. I thought maybe the new stuff would register, and it did fine but nothing that stuck out anywhere near to the old material. But it was a good enough show. Carla got to see them, and that's probably enough for her for as long as I'm a fan. It's a shame that the Stereophonics will probably never play a bigger place in American than the Fonda since they're a good band when they want to be, better live than most of their recorded stuff, and Kelly is a capable and charming frontman, but it's just as well since they're just churning out new stuff to hang on, and they and their fans keep getting older. The English music scene can be fickle so maybe they could turn it around with a good single, like another "Dakota," and that could translate to some cache in America, but until then their cycle will probably keep grinding away like it has for the last few years. And I'll probably still go to their L.A. date. The Wind and The Wave opened this show but we missed them.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Mark Lanegan, October 4 at the Troubadour

I wasn't planning to go to the Mark Lanegan show but Cidney bailed so Carla so had the extra ticket and I took it up. I have no problem seeing Mark Lanegan, whether solo or with his band or with another group or when he shows up to a Greg Dulli show because he was hanging around anyway. Lanegan's voice might do something to the nether regions of ladies but I can only wish to appreciate it in the same way, so for me, a male rock n' roll fan, it goes through my ears, not my panties. This night it was just Lanegan and an electric guitarist and that was it and that was enough. It was putting the voice right front and center. Lanegan might not like being in the spotlight but maybe he doesn't have a problem putting his voice out there. Maybe this was a show as a supplement to a full tour and he was just staying out on the road, which is what he does anyway. It's a shame Lanegan can't make enough of a living to not have to be such a road dog but maybe for this show he at least didn't have to divide up the revenue with a band or big road crew and could just ride along and do a minimal show. And it still worked, but that isn't hard when his voice is the star of the show. Of course the place was packed and hot and sweaty but on a Friday night so that was fine. He was touring for a covers album, Imitations, which blended in so well that it was hard to tell that he had a chunk of songs that weren't his own in there. But he's got a quite a catalog of material from dark places to pull from so we can go both metaphorically and figuratively. I wasn't familiar with everything but hearing that voice growling whatever he too or came up with was fine enough for any performance. 

Mark Lanegan's set-list:
"When Your Number Isn't Up"
"The Cherry Tree Carol" (traditional)
"One Way Street"
"Don't Forget Me"
"Where the Twain Shall Meet" (Screaming Trees)
"The Gravedigger's Song"
"Phantasmagoria Blues"
"Can't Catch the Train" (Soulsavers)
"Mack the Knife" (Kurt Weill cover) (first performance ever)
"You Only Live Twice" (Nancy Sinatra cover) (first performance ever)
"Autumn Leaves" (Yves Montand cover) (first performance ever)
"Resurrection Song"
"One Hundred Days"
"On Jesus' Program" (O.V. Wright cover)

"Wild Flowers"
"Halo of Ashes" (Screaming Trees)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Stars, September 19 at the El Rey

I've followed Stars since the beginning but I've missed some shows of theirs in town.  Carla & I had talked about seeing them the last time they were in town, at the Wiltern, but ended up not going (as we had a special night at my place, of all nights, but it was worth it).  We tried to make up for it by seeing them on this tour, for the North album (and got tickets on Stubhub for $39 each, nearly a steal). There was some dancier material but it still had their brand of melancholy and just enough playfulness to get through, just like any other day in real life. I can connect to that.  It's always great that they can feature such a survey of all their material, and the stuff from their worthy most-recent album, but by this time they have enough stuff behind them that they don't have to bother with their oldest stuff, that they might be sick of after all these years, though I still miss not hearing anything from Nightsongs (which would have fit at the El Rey).  I can't fault them for going by their whims, especially when it still makes for an enjoyable show.  It was another pleasant night out for us, dining before the show at the suitable Tex-Mex place across the street, then home afterward. Trails and Ways opened the show but we missed them.  The El Rey sometimes seems lonely, offering some of the only neon on Wilshire at night, but they know how to put on a good show, also much like Stars.

Stars' set-list:
"The Night Starts Here"
"A Song Is a Weapon"
"We Don't Want Your Body"
"The North"
"Window Bird"
"Your Ex-Lover Is Dead"
"Do You Want to Die Together?"
"Set Yourself on Fire"
"The Loose Ends Will Make Knots"
"The Light"
"Bitches in Tokyo"
"Take Me to the Riot"
"Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It"

"My Favourite Book"
"The Theory of Relativity"
"Elevator Love Letter"

Friday, September 13, 2013

Local Natives, September 13 at the Greek

Almost by force of will, Carla got me into Local Natives. They couldn't mean as much to me as they did to her but I certainly had no problem with them.  We missed them at their other festival slots, even though they seemed to have been on the road for years, the length of our relationship, up to that point.  They played the Greek as their very last date on their very long tour, a home-town show almost to thank L.A. and the rest of the world for being so kind to them.  They did well, and there's a feeling of pride for seeing one of our own favorite and local bands do so well (even if I didn't know them when they were playing clubs around town).  We decided to be a part of that celebration, though it was the day of, so we went right to SeatGeek to look up tickets.  We got a deal for $99.50 on decent seats and away we went.  Wild Nothing opened the show, an energetic, fun group that were probably like the local 'Natives themselves when they started out. They didn't seem to come up in the same amount of time so they might just wash away with other opening bands but they gave it a shot.  The Local Natives put on a good show that night, something gracious and thankful, showing their gratitude to a crowd that supported them, probably a lot from the very beginning, and they made sure to get it all out and not leave anything on the road.  Hopefully they got time off after that, after spending so long trying to make the popular music thing work and for what they put out to stick.  I don't remember a lot of it since I wasn't quite as familiar with them and they didn't do much more to win me over any more than I had been.  But Carla had a good time, and connected back to that time when their music has meant so much to her.  And you can't beat a show at the Greek on a pleasant autumn night.  Also, a helpful, easy thing to get tickets, especially at a good price, when we decide at almost literally the last minute to make it to a show.

Local Natives' set-list:
"World News"
"Wide Eyes"
"Warning Sign" (Talking Heads cover)
"You & I"
"Black Spot"
"Shape Shifter"
"Camera Talk"
"Mt. Washington"
"Wooly Mammoth"
"Black Balloons"
"Who Knows, Who Cares" (acoustic, different version)

"Heavy Feet"
"Sun Hands"

Sunday, August 25, 2013

FYF Fest, August 25 at Los Angeles Historic Park

FYF Fest is just a regular thing for us now.  It's a convenient festival for us to get to and plan for and most of our friends are into it.  It becomes more of a weekend to hang out with everyone, but the constantly phenomenal line-up never hurts.  We got tickets and were excited about it but at the last minute we had to cancel going Saturday on account of a funeral.  We gave our tickets for the day to Tana and they had a good time.  We've gotten used to the reality of having to miss shows sometime.  It happens.  We missed the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV on the Radio, Flag (most of Black Flag but most notably without Rollins), the Locust (reuniting), Deerhunter, the Breeders (performing Last Splash), and Metz (who we didn't know but everyone was going crazy over).

It's unfortunate that so many bands at FYF are fairly obscure and not local, often good but not big enough names that they'll likely ever be heard of again.  That's just the nature of a music festival, but especially for one that prides itself on its (mostly) non-mainstream fare.  FYF is about the music and how it is right now, not about how big the bands are or might be, after all.  But they have a pretty good track record of picking some bands that become something.  So there's always plenty to see and hear and that a future favorite band is early in their career out there.  As it is, though, often there are just bands filling the time and space before or between other bands or playing in the background or just providing a respite while having a beer.  Fear of Men were most of those for us, at best a warm-up as we got in and had our first drink of the day in the neighboring beer garden.  If I saw them around again, I'd check them out, though.  I think I even looked them up on Spotify at some point.  But at the time on that day, they were just a filler festival band for us; much the same about the Orwells, who I don't remember anything about; Chelsea Wolfe, though, was a stand-out.  Her name was getting around L.A. and she was just starting to break out, as far as she went.  She was a (relatively) big deal at the time, though she went on during the day, which kinda went counter to her aesthetic.  Not just how hot the band must have been under all the dark clothing and how the fog machine didn't work as well in the sunlight but also how her slightly-gothy, chamber-pop (a la Florence + the Machine) just couldn't bear playing during the day, and in L.A. to boot.  There were better environs for her but she did what she could with what she had and I'd like to think that she made an impression since she deserved it; I think the other kids were excited about Poolside but I think we just passed by them/him/it; I'd heard about Kurt Vile for a while but we didn't make a concerted effort to focus on him.  When we wandered by there was some scrappy, scratchy pop-punk that I never followed up on, but I left it to chance that he would find me eventually; also heard about How to Dress Well, and seemed like it added another edge to FYF's ever-burgeoning range, but we also must have been drinking at the time; I dig No Age, especially live, but it's too easy to take them for granted.  It seems like they play every festival in L.A., as they should if they have the opportunity, and they could probably function as FYF's artists-in-residence.  So, as much as we like them, we mostly skipped them, or watched them so minimally that I don't remember any of their performance.  But we'll likely get to see them again; I don't even remember Glasser but I had it in my notes that we saw them at least for a bit.  How much did we have to drink out there?; I've had Yo La Tengo recommended to me numerous times over the years but I just haven't been drawn to them.  The farthest I go is enjoying tracks they have on Matador compilations.  This day we might have walked by them to get from one beer garden to another and I might have plucked out a few tunes they did but nothing I remember and nothing that will make me any more likely to seek them out (though that's nothing against them); Washed Out were an expected highlight for me, one of the bands I really wanted to see.  I'm not always a fan of so-called chillwave but that's only because I don't want to try to take on yet another sub-(sub-?)genre.  But I quite enjoy easy, relaxing music that can wash over me while I'm doing something that's only marginally more involving (like work).  Washed Out, one of those hip bands that everyone seemed to latch on to for a while (maybe thanks to making the Portlandia theme), were one I got into as well.  I couldn't be sure how they would translate live, since those relaxing washes could lose every nuance in a field as well as being drowned-out by any nearby band with a guitar, but they did just fine: they keep the skeleton of the songs and the tones, they just reproduced it all with some volume.  It all hung together well and they were as good as any other band out there no matter the volume, maybe marginally better just because they offered more than just three-chord punches.  They also had a prime spot in the line-up, a bit after sundown, where they didn't have to compete with sweat and sun-produced lethargy and with the air a good deal cooler, to better match their sound; the only reason I might have been interested in Les Savy Fav was to catch their cover of "Debaser" which was my only point in interest in seeing them at Coachella years ago.  They didn't bring it this time either.  (And please be careful if you do a Google search for one of those performances.); I would say we missed MGMT if we might have had any intention of seeing them, which we did not.  It's amazing that they're placed high on a festival line-up among so many other better bands; Beach House were there?  Another time they didn't register to me.  They just seem to get buried in my attention when on a festival bill.  I think we were having a beer during their set.  Maybe there were a lot of people who showed up for them, perhaps more for their place on their inexplicably high position on the bill rather than their popularity; My Bloody Valentine were the biggest shock of the line-up, and a big draw for us, though by the time they came on, late Sunday, we were just about done for the weekend.  We both had to get up for work the next morning and it didn't seem worth it to make it to the end then have to fight through the crowd in addition to our battle with exhaustion.  Being there for the full set, up against the punishment of their immense volume, is not always advisable.  We were smart enough to bring our own ear-plugs, and took the ones offered at the show as back-ups, and we saw plenty of kids there who didn't bother -- too bad, since they probably didn't get to hear '14's FYF Fest.  I'd already seen them twice, and Carla had somehow survived the El Rey show, and they weren't playing new stuff, so there wasn't much reason to stick around (especially so we could duck out of the last song, which usually goes for 20 minutes, give or take 10).  It was great that they were there.  That was a huge coupe that probably gave FYF the cred to book other big bands in later years.  But for us we could take our enjoyment in just knowing they were there and we happily saw enough of them.

My Bloody Valentine's set-list:
"I Only Said"
"When You Sleep"
"New You"
"You Never Should"
"Only Tomorrow"
"Come in Alone"
"Only Shallow"
"Who Sees You"
"Wonder 2"
"Feed Me With Your Kiss" (false start)
"You Made Me Realise"

Friday, August 9, 2013

Outside Lands, August 9 - 11 at Golden Gate Park

We had skipped Coachella for the year (the first year ever missing for me) so we decided to replace it with another festival.  It was a reason for Carla & me to take a vacation, giving us an activity to ground us when we went out of town.  The rest of the year was a lot of work so we both weren't thinking much of vacations but a long weekend away seemed like it could get us away.  The girls (Vanessa, Noa, Rachel, Ghazaleh) were talking about doing Outside Lands and that sounded good to us.  We weren't completely so into in the line-up, but only because we'd already seen so many of the bands there before.  And we knew we could party together or do our own thing on our own if we wanted.  Being in San Francisco, and together, was active enough.  We decided to drive up there, along the 1, which always promises to be a high point of a trip up north, and it was.  We got to stretch out our short vacation a bit more, though we didn't need my truck to get around in.  The festival itself turned out to be just part of our activities, as we ended up seeing more of the city; there were a few acts we went in to see, though we didn't leave much to get out of it beyond that.  Most of the bands we saw we thought we'd see some other time, whether we eventually did or not, but seeing a few of them there in that environment made for some unique experiences.  We wandered for a while after getting in the first day, and mostly strolled the grounds when we weren't looking right at a band.  We got together and watched Band of Horses, which left no impression on me but we had a good time with the girls; Nile Rodgers of Chic had a great year after the Daft Punk thing and I rather wish I had listened in more than just passing by on the way to the potty, since he/they sounded great.  There should be more disco in the world; we stopped by to see what Wavves are about but we didn't get much from them; for Friday it was our plan to see The National.  By now you should know that that band means something deeper to Carla & me and they were up to our expectations, as always.  It was a harder set, like they were trying to rock a little heavier to keep up with the rest of the bands there, and Matt was a lot looser, perhaps, I would guess, because he had been a touch inebriated.  But in those circumstances, and since it made for a more unanchored, funner performance, he could be forgiven.  He's a professional.  The set, with the Kronos Quartet playing with them, leaned toward the newer songs, which, I had realized too late, I was mostly unfamiliar with since I hadn't gotten the new album (though I remedied that shortly after we got home).  My enjoyment of the set didn't suffer in the least for it.  A predictably great set, and one that made getting in and out of the festival for the day worth it; both of us had seen Paul McCartney before so, as monumental a deal as that would be for anyone, for us it wasn't as much as seeing him the first time.  We were more concerned elsewhere.  But it was still great to see him.  And it's not like he's not going to play plenty of songs.  He even switches it up every tour so there's a variety, among his own solo songs with the Beatles and Wings songs.  It's not like he's going to play a bad Beatles song, and there are surely enough post-Beatles songs he plays for the hardcores.  There's no reason he has to keep going back to songs from over 45 years ago since he should have the freedom to play a few new ones, which he does, though he never overdoes it.  As he usually does, he played for three hours, right up to the curfew, and there was never a lack for material.  We watched most of the set, coming in and out of it as we wandered, stuck around for the best bits, including the encore, which was mostly the same as the last time each of us saw him.  But a sterling performance all around, and one fitting for the legend he is.  He wasn't the main attraction there for us but he would be at the top of the list for other things we never mind to see.  Then we went out with the girls and drank, partying for as much as we'd planned for the weekend.

We made it in on Saturday with no great expectations save for the one band we were there for.  It seems like someone recommended the Growlers so we checked them out for a minute; Jurassic 5 were the other big deal for the festival us.  We'd missed them at Coachella -- one of the few acts that would have drawn us there if we'd decided we would go -- and we had no guarantee they would come through L.A. with another show (though ridiculous to think now).  I usually had a casual relationship to their music, often just listening to what Rick was playing frequently when we were hanging out, and the only album I had was Strength in Numbers (apparently not even their best one).  Carla was a serious fan and it was important to her to see them there. A friend told me once that they're the rap group that people who don't like rap could listen to and I wouldn't disagree with that.  They have a broad appeal, rooted in hip-hop but an accessibility that makes them close to the rock music they're surrounded by and which becomes their base from their DJs' picks. They certainly rock out like a rock group, and put on a party even when it's the middle of the afternoon and thousands of cantankerous North Californians aren't sure if they're drunk yet or not. Lots of white people jumping up and down and plenty of a party.  A good time for all, and certainly paying off their draw, especially for us.  Though strange seeing a band from my own town for the first time in San Francisco.  But they're not so localized that they would seem alien, and there's something about them that has a world-wide appeal, if by way of the American west coast; we were expecting to see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at FYF later in the month so we weren't so dedicated to seeing them but the girls wanted to go so we did that.  It very quickly become a mid-field dance party to beat out the gloomy San Fran weekend afternoon and we had a blast.  They were touring for Mosquito but they mixed in plenty of It's Blitz! so it was some dance-y material and we got down.  (A good thing, too, since we weren't able to see them later on.)  Even when they're phoning in a performance, the songs are good enough to carry them through.  And you can't beat anything you can dance to when you're with those girls; we looked at Grizzly Bear for the moment as we were leaving.  That subdued, rustic sub-genre has never done much for me but Carla digs them, and it was a good way to bring us down and get us out.

Saturday night as we were leaving we made the decision to skip Sunday.  Of course we wanted to hang out with the girls but we were often so separated from everyone that it might not have happened that we would have all been able to get together in the first place.  We had planned for our trip to be filled by the festival but once we got there we wanted to give more time to seeing the city and being in the metropolitan part rather getting more of the park.  We missed Hall & Oates (the main attraction for the day, having seen them before and hoping for a better set, but not enough to have us go in for the day), Vampire Weekend (which we could live without), Matt & Kim (always a great show but short), and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (Carla isn't a fan, and I'm not a big one), so we didn't feel we missed so much.  And we ended up having a great day in the city, as was the weekend, and as was the festival, once again, for however much we gave to it.

Missed, on the days we were there: Smith Westerns (probably because they went on too early), Yeasayer (I would have seen any other band instead); Phoenix (not keeping us around for the rest of the day); Nine Inch Nails (I'd just seen them at Lollapalooza and didn't feel a need to see them again).

"Eight Days a Week" (Beatles)
"Junior's Farm" (Wings)
"Magical Mystery Tour" (Beatles)
"Listen to What the Man Said" (Wings)
"Let Me Roll It" (Wings)
"Paperback Writer" (Beatles)
"My Valentine"
"Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five"
"The Long and Winding Road" (Beatles)
"Maybe I'm Amazed"
"I've Just Seen a Face" (Beatles)
"San Francisco Bay Blues"
"We Can Work It Out" (Beatles)
"Another Day"
"And I Love Her" (Beatles)
"Blackbird" (Beatles)
"Here Today"
"Your Mother Should Know" (Beatles)
"Lady Madonna" (Beatles)
"All Together Now" (Beatles)
"Lovely Rita" (Beatles)
"Mrs. Vandebilt" (Wings)
"Eleanor Rigby" (Beatles)
"Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" (Beatles)
"Something" (Beatles)
"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" (Beatles)
"Band on the Run" (Wings)
"Back in the U.S.S.R." (Beatles)
"Let It Be" (Beatles)
"Live and Let Die" (Wings)
"Hey Jude" (Beatles)

"Day Tripper" (Beatles)
"Hi, Hi, Hi" (Wings)
"Get Back" (Beatles)

"Yesterday" (Beatles)
"Helter Skelter" (Beatles)
"Golden Slumbers" (Beatles)
"Carry That Weight" (Beatles)
"The End" (Beatles)

"Gold Lion"
"Art Star"
"Under the Earth"
"Heads Will Roll"
"Soft Shock"
"Cheated Hearts"
"Date With the Night"

"Fake Empire"
"I Should Live in Salt"
"Don't Swallow the Cap"
"Bloodbuzz Ohio"
"Sea of Love"
"Afraid of Everyone"
"Conversation 16"
"Squalor Victoria"
"This Is the Last Time"
"I Need My Girl"
"Mr. November"
"Terrible Love"

"Back 4 U"
"I Am Somebody"
"Harlem Shake" (Baauer cover; part of Cut Chemist's mix break)
"Quality Controlv
"Concrete Schoolyard"
"Jurass Finish First"
"In the House"
"Red Hot"
"A Day at the Races"
"Verbal Gunfight"
"What's Golden"

Friday, August 2, 2013

Lollapalooza, August 2 & 4 at Grant Park

Jones, Bart, and I were on the fence about doing another Lollapalooza but we all knew that if it were the right line-up, and for one band in particular, then we'd probably do it. They announced the bands and there they were, and we said we'd do it, so we were in. We made arrangements, which then, after doing a few of those trips, we knew what we needed to do and were only booking flights there, and Jones took care of the hotel(s, as we switched halfway through) and we were set. We all got there Thursday night, Jones there on business, and we settled in, with drinks, getting our spirits and livers ready for the rest of the weekend.  As for the festival, as it was a dudes' weekend, there was no end to drinking.  Figure probably 1.5 Miller Lites for each of us for every band noted here, including, and often especially, and probably another one for each use of the word "wander".  We might have gotten a (relatively) early start but our earliest act was The Neighbourhood and we got there in time and they were a good way to start the day.  I'm not particularly a fan but the other two were, and I didn't find much beyond that song about the sweater, which is fairly atypical of the rest of their material.  Also another time that I've gone to another city to see a band from L.A.; between acts was wandering to peek at some other bands: Emeil Sande was one but I don't remember a thing about them. Atlas Genius was another wander, and I recall seeing them on a line-up for a KROQ show but the only thing notable about them at that show is that there was an unreasonably large crowd for them in relation to the fairly small stage they were playing. And hard to find Jones and Bart among so many people. Brick + Mortar were okay, another two-piece though I can't see why anyone could get signed on the backs of DFA1979 10 years later; Ghost B.C. should have been in the line-up of every festival that summer (and nearly were).  They had it all: old-fashioned, Satan-worshiping heavy metal, with a great flair for theatrics -- they have something even for festivals that don't have music.  They play the kind of stuff that hasn't been around for a while, or at least stuff that isn't usually worth much paying attention to.  We can look at it ironically now, especially with an aging alt-rock crowd, but that's some great head-banger stuff.  Even better that they have a show for the stage, with the band dressed in priestly robes and the singer, all in full make-up, blessing the audience at some point.  That he got around in a Pope hat is notable enough, though it made it easier that he could be immobile and sing preacher-chanting-like and not have to move very much.  The visuals were enough, he didn't have to be active.  It was a great show to see.  I don't remember much of the music but that was almost beside the point; I wouldn't have thought Jones and Bart would be fans of Crystal Castles so it was probably me who wanted to check them out, even though they hadn't blown me away when I'd seen them before.  There wasn't any reason to think they were extraordinary when they started, until Alice appeared and, looking like the biggest, highest/most-drunken mess I've ever seen, fairly literally dragged herself across the stage, up the microphone, arriving just an instant before she started singing/screaming.  From there she was swept up by her own fury, shrieking and bounding about the stage with the blips and boops around her from the backing track (no telling if anyone was playing anything live) and eventually re-igniting something resembling a human being, if more a whirlwind than a person.  One of the most frenzied performances of the weekend, if not the year.  If I wasn't particularly a fan before I was then, if not for the music but for the performance, even though it couldn't be the same show they put on every time (at least not in that state, since she couldn't possibly survive long); Imagine Dragons were another band we had no interest in but we probably brushed by them.  They probably played that "Radioactive" song that I always thought was "Ready to rock you"; then the main event: Queens of he Stone Age.  The band we said would get us to go to the festival if they played.  And they did not let us down.  They tore into the set with a cool ferocity, just detached enough that they weren't seeking approval from the crowd but were glad to set them on fire.  They could have played Like Clockwork... and that would have been fine, one of the rare albums that breeds more anticipation for new stuff than old stuff (which we'd seen numerous times already anyway), but they trotted out some old songs, even starting with one of their bigger songs, to ignite the crowd right off and to make the most of an unfairly abbreviated set time.  At this point in their touring cycle they had played enough shows that they had worked out any rust but they weren't exhausted, so we got them at just the right time.  They really burned it down, and made any effort from that weekend worth it, even for that one performance.  Smashing, as always. As if they would ever let us down; all of us are Nine Inch Nails fan but they weren't the main attraction for us that time.  We've already lived with them for so long and we just wanted them to continue the momentum that QOTSA had ignited.  Trent started off with an empty stage and some new songs, building up to a set that was sparse but visually innovative and songs that we knew, but at that point it was rote.  Not bad but we kept waiting for something explosive.  The abbreviated time meant a condensed set, which was understandable, but a soggy middle of slower, atmospheric material that just made us bored and sleepy.  It kept going, one dirge after another, and we kept waiting for the next song to pick it up, but it dragged on.  He even did some stuff off The Fragile, so it wasn't like he was under an obligation to do all the slow songs off the new album.  After a full day of great acts and the fury of QOTSA, we were let down.  We kept edging toward the exit with each slow ramble until, just as we were almost gone, he broke out "Wish" and raced with rage toward a more fitting end.  He almost redeemed himself but those songs mid-way were really a drag.  We wouldn't expect the entire set to be like the last few songs but he could have paced it better.  Trent might not have been phoning in but he could have used more advisement about the material to include (though he liked the performance enough to include some of the songs on a live EP).  We officially moved on once he started in on "Hurt" and it was satisfying enough.  But for the day, it really was about QOTSA and most anything but NIN.  Then, in the evening, it was back to the hotel and, of course, more drinking.

We had planned in advance to skip Saturday. As far as the acts went it was the weakest day, and we wanted to give ourselves a day to do other stuff around the city. That included a Cubs game (or trying to get in, since we did not, as we were victims of fake tickets) and the most substantial drinking we'd done for the weekend (and that's saying something, compared to how much we drank at the festival) and the deep-dish pizza I get every time I'm in the city. At the show we didn't see Matt & Kim, Local Natives, the National, Haim (though I wasn't familiar with them at the time), the Postal Service (thank goodness), and Mumford & Sons, but those are all bands we already know, and I don't think we missed much.

I took my time getting in on Sunday (he hotel being across the street gave me the ability to move freely) but Jones and Bart headed in to see Jake Bugg, who they said was boring; we heard a bit of Alex Clare while we were waiting but there was no reason to pursue his stuff beyond that day; for us the big act of the day was Baroness.  I admit I didn't have much interest, after not getting much out of them a few years before, but Jones and Bart were excited to see them, probably because they were the heaviest act on the bill for the day, maybe the only heavy act, and they seemed like a good aftermath to QOTSA from the other night, though in the middle of the blazing Sunday afternoon sun.  And they were heavy, and loud, and more heavy.  With a good, early buzz on, we banged our heads and rocked out.  We might have been roasting in the sun and on the verge of sloppily drunk but they were the best act of the day, up there with what we saw on Friday.  It was a shame that anyone had to follow them, and that was pretty much all of the acts for that day; after Baroness it was a come-down and a bit of a let-down, a lot of wandering, but more drinking and good times hanging out.  Two Door Cinema probably had something to do with something, and Alt-J didn't sound as great as I'd been led to believe they were (though could be an acquired taste), but Vampire Weekend picked it up again.  I can't say I ever got into their sound (a little too poppy for me, and their claim to African rhythms by critics always kind of perplexed me) but it was a breezy, sunny set that had a lot of people -- a lot of people, maybe more than there should have been -- on their feet, including us.  Though we might have spent a lot of that time playing frisbee; I forgot that Beach House were there and that apparently we or I watched them for some amount of time.  That probably sums up their set up; Jones and Bart are not Cure fans.  I can understand that, though I can't relate, in probably the same way some can't relate to their music.  They're not for everybody, especially for those two.  But I always look forward to seeing Robert Smith & co., even if I forgot it at the time.  I'm a fan, of course, but I'd seen them a good deal by that point.  I felt like I'd already experienced their range of songs on CDs and live, as they play a whole lot of songs in their shows, which are usually upwards of three hours, and they're one of the better live bands around, if you're a fan.  But even though I discovered them relatively late in their lifespan, I’d been to a number of their shows, with a lot of songs packed into each, and I figured I’d seen pretty much all there would be to see.  This wasn’t planned to be a special show for obsessive fans, just another festival slot, and not even for new material (as if anyone would want any of that).  I was just going along with the momentum because I was a fan and I was there.  For them to impress me, they would have to take it a bit farther and it didn’t even occur to me what that could be.  Little did I realize but the year was somewhere around the 20th anniversary of Wish, probably their most underrated album, if not one of the most underrated albums by anyone ever, and one that means a lot to me personally.  That album was the start of me as a Cure fan.  I pretty much knew only their radio singles by the end of high school but I needed CDs to fill out my first big stereo, my graduation gift, and I jumped in with that album, assuming it would be the thing to have since it was new, and since Rolling Stone gave it 4 stars.  “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea” was the first song played by a stereo that got a whole lot of use throughout a lot of years.  And from there I've always been close to that album, and from there I went forward to the crappy new stuff and backward to the stuff that is probably better but Wish always will have a place in my heart.  It would be too much to ask that they would play the whole album at a festival but they did the next best thing, leaning toward tracks from it throughout their set.  The casual fans might not realize they were favoring that album and the obsessive fans might have been poo-pooing it, but they still played surely enough singles and less-popular numbers from their catalog to satisfy the people in the crowd.  Considering they only had a set-time of two hours, they had a lot of songs to pack in and every one would count.  Maybe I’m making a lot out of a half-dozen songs played from Wish out of 26 total, but I’d like to think they were doing it on purpose.  (They also played about as many as from Disintegration but that's expected.)  Most of the main set was mid-career, t
he encore mostly early hits, and they eschewed anything from the last 20 years but for a few of the best tracks.  That was fine with me.  I was expecting just another Cure show and it turned out to be probably the best I’ve seen, based on the set-list but also just overall.  It’s a shame Jones and Bart aren’t fans because they missed out.  But the rest of the weekend made up for it.  And they were probably drinking during the last set, for which I shortly joined them after I crossed the street from the park, back to the hotel, and down for another beer.

missed: On Friday it was Smith Westerns (conflict with Ghost), New Order (conflict with Queens -- easy choice, and they didn't play anything I haven't seen them do before
), Frightened Rabbit (barely overlapped with Queens, and we were just waiting for NIN and they were just across the field but we still didn't bother), the Killers (because they're the Killers, so it would have been about any other act instead), and Lana Del Rey (who I didn't really know but she was hot stuff at the time.  I would have been curious to see how hot); on Sunday it was Tegan and Sara (conflict with the end of Baroness), the Vaccines (conflict with us wandering around), Grizzly Bear (conflict with us half-watching Vampire Weekend), Phoenix (conflict with the Cure), Cat Power (ditto).

Queens of the Stone Age set-list:
"You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire"
"No One Knows"
"My God Is the Sun"
"Burn the Witch" (with drum solo)
"Sick, Sick, Sick"
"First It Giveth"
"The Vampyre of Time and Memory"
"If I Had a Tail"
"Little Sister"
"Make It Wit Chu"
"Smooth Sailing"
"I Sat by the Ocean"
"I Think I Lost My Headache"
"Go With the Flow"
"A Song for the Dead"

Nine Inch Nails set-list:
"Copy of A"
"Sanctified" (reworked version)
"Came Back Haunted"
"March of the Pigs"
"The Frail"
"The Wretched"
"Terrible Lie"
"Closer" (w/ "The Only Time" breakdown)
"Gave Up"
"Help Me I Am in Hell"
"Me, I'm Not"
"Find My Way"
"What If We Could?"
"The Way Out Is Through"
"The Hand That Feeds"
"Head Like a Hole"

The Cure set-list:
"Pictures of You"
"The End of the World"
"In Between Days"
"Just Like Heaven"
"From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea"
"The Walk"
"Mint Car"
"Friday I'm in Love"
"Doing the Unstuck"
"Fascination Street"
"The Hungry Ghost"
"Wrong Number"
"One Hundred Years"

"The Lovecats"
"The Caterpillar"
"Close to Me"
"Let's Go to Bed"
"Why Can't I Be You?"
"Boys Don't Cry"

Vampire Weekend set-list:
"White Sky"
"Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa"
"Diane Young"
"Everlasting Arms"
"Boston (Ladies of Cambridge)"
"Ya Hey"
"Oxford Comma"
"Giving Up the Gun"
"Hannah Hunt"
"One (Blake's Got a New Face)"

Crystal Castles set-list:
"Love And Caring"/"Plague"
"Wrath of God"
"Alice Practice"
"Black Panther"
"Vanished"/"Transgender"/"Untrust Us"/"Cryptocracy"
"Not in Love" (Platinum Blonde cover)

Ghost B.C. set-list:
intro: "Masked Ball" (Jocelyn Pook song)
"Per Aspera ad Inferi"
"Con Clavi Con Dio"
"Prime Mover"
"Secular Haze"
"Stand by Him"
"Satan Prayer"
"Year Zero"

"Ghuleh"/"Zombie Queen"
"Monstrance Clock"

Baroness set-list:
"Take My Bones Away"
"March to the Sea"
"A Horse Called Golgotha"
"Green Theme"
"Swollen and Halo"
"Board Up the House"
"The Line Between"

The Neighborhood set-list:
"Female Robbery"
"Everybody's Watching Me (Uh Oh)"
"Let It Go"
"A Little Death"
"Sweater Weather"