Monday, April 22, 2013

Japandroids/Cloud Nothings, April 22 at the Glass House

It's not often anymore that I discover a band from hearing them around me.  I don't usually get new music from the radio and most print music magazines are dead, so I depend on bands I already know or recommendations from friends.  I heard Cloud Nothings at a party, playing on an iPod.  I immediately dug them and hurried to get Attack on Memory, which is every bit as good as it was that day.  We also saw a bit of them at FYF but it wasn't the full experience.  They were one of the highlights of that year's Coachella but we didn't go, so they were a band to seek out for a local show, and with Japandroids (yet another band I would have missed if not for Carla) that was an easy sell.  I don't know why everyone complains about going out to Pomona, it's not that far.  And there are at least two really great venues there, within a block of each other, with plenty of parking, and one, the Glass House, is one of the best places for punk shows ever.  Just because the place is a bit of a drive is no reason to hate, and it's because of its location that bands can play just outside of L.A. enough that it doesn't violate some kind of proximity clause in their touring contracts, so they can do an L.A. festival, which somehow includes Coachella, then a show here on the way or between weekends.  Both bands came from a place of some minimal but very noisy rock so they fit well with each other, though in different places.  Cloud Nothings might have gotten signed being similar to Nirvana (a grungy, shoe-gaze three-piece; the shaggy, long-haired singer who seems like he'd rather disappear) -- if bands get signed for being similar to Nirvana anymore -- but without easy pop sensibilities and just a heavy, dense barrier of sound that is a lot more welcoming than most bands make it.  Japandroids are more energetic and fun, maybe with some songs that are more accessible, but at its base it's still just two guys making as much noise as possible.  They've been around along that they might have gotten signed for being more similar to the White Stripes than the Black Keys and they might have been fashioned after DFA1979, but that's all only superficial and it's worked well enough that these guys can get in front of bigger crowds.  Both bands said they were at or near the end of their touring cycles, and it was easy to tell that they were exhausted, though their punching through their set, at a quick pace so they could get it over but the speed adding acceleration and not suffering for it.  We were with Andrew, which was appropriate since it was his iPod I originally heard Cloud Nothings on, as well as Heather and Tana, all of them not often venturing to Pomona, especially not on a Monday night, but doing it for a great show, which it was.

Japandroids' set-list:
"Adrenaline Nightshift"
"Fire's Highway"
"Rockers East Vancouver"
"The Nights of Wine and Roses"
"Wet Hair"
"Evil's Sway"
"Younger Us"
"Continuous Thunder"
"Young Hearts Spark Fire"
"The House That Heaven Built" 
"For the Love of Ivy" (The Gun Club cover)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Evens, April 17 at the Vex

I didn't know Fugazi back in the day. But Carla did, and not only was she a fan but she was an avid one. When a group of us would play the game of trying to out-impress each other with concerts we've seen, Carla plays the Fugazi card and usually wins. Shortly after we met she got to working on me to get into them (including one New Year's car trip to San Diego when she put on an album or two and my mind was blown). Now I realize what a grave mistake it was to have overlooked them. I had heard their name but back in the '90s I was into the mainstream alternative scene (yes, that existed) and real punk rock was still fairly beyond me. But I corrected that mistake by gobbling as many of their albums as I could from Amoeba. Now they always appear on my concert festival wish-list, as much as Carla says they would never do that. So we only have the ghost of what is left of Fugazi, namely Ian McKaye's projects. The Evens were playing the Coachella '14 we didn't go to but they played a local show on the other side of L.A., in a non-conventional warehouse space that usually hosts art shows. It was a big, empty space, large enough to hold shows, and the sound was good, so it's a shame they don't do more there (or at least anything that we would get out to see). The Evens are just McKaye on guitar and his wife on drums, which was enough for a fine performance. I didn't know any of the songs but there was that formidable punk spirit, not raging and angry so much but rough and forward enough to dispel the notion of a quiet and complacent floor-gazing singer-songwriter you might expect from such a minimal set-up. Though it all only makes me want to seek out more Fugazi stuff. Then the kid in the back who kept heckling the band, who turned out to be their son. And it was a fairly special show, as apparently they don't tour much (there were less than a half-dozen shows they played before the end of the year). Also a great value, with tickets being $8, though I'm told that was a Fugazi thing too, to make their shows as accessible as possible. I've been to cheap shows before but I'd never been to one, and not too many for any price, that was done before 10, as that one was. We were back home in the time before we have dinner on some weeknights. Though it was welcome in our age and lifestyle of needing to be in so we could make it to work the next day, it was fairly un-rock n' roll. But Fugazi never followed rules anyway. So I'm learning.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How To Destroy Angels, April 10 at the Fox Theater

When the line-up for Coachella '13 was released we made the momentous decision to not go.  We had been on the fence about it anyway, maybe a little worn-out after doing the festival for so long (every single year up to that point in my case) and we were maybe looking for an excuse to skip one year and break our streak.  The line-up for that year was that excuse.  I actually didn't think it was a horrible line-up, and it probably would have been great out there, but even I'll admit that it wasn't nearly up to the standard of years before.  We probably could have made a go of it but we decided to sit it out.  Our usual crew might have been an easier sell, just to have the weekend out in the desert, but we decided to do another festival, which ended up being Outside Lands in August anyway.  In the years before, around the Coachella festival we had toyed with the idea of seeing the bands in the much smaller local shows they would often play, so we put that into effect.  That way we could get a more concentrated show, cheaper (overall), and usually a fuller set, even if it wasn't all in one place.  We did three shows and How to Destroy Angels was the first.  I hadn't planned to see them but Carla scored tickets the day of and we were off.  As much of a fan as I've been of Reznor and NIN all along, I was a little cold on HTDA.  I always loved NIN for the anger and the angst, which was perfect for me in college.  Without having to do it purposely, that rage cooled as I got older, and it probably did with Reznor as well.  HTDA is still moody but it's more atmospheric and like a sound-scape, which is what Reznor was trying to pull NIN toward but it didn't seem to take well (I never did bother with the Ghosts I-IV album(s)).  That there's a female singer didn't bother me.  I remember hearing years ago that Reznor had always wanted to put together a band with a female singer but clearly that couldn't happen until he met and married who is, presumably, who he had in mind. So it's a fulfillment of a project he had on a burner for a long time, and I wouldn't fault him for stretching out and pursuing other forms of art and music, but the new band just didn't stick much with me.  Reznor also put himself in the background of it as much as he could, but his wife didn't really step up to be the front of the band, probably knowing that she couldn't shake the fact that he was still back there.  It's a band that might have tried to exist without a front-person but it created a vacuum and everyone was looking for Reznor anyway.  Live, he came out a bit more but never to a NIN level.  Really, it was just a little thing.  Thinking it was going to be a copy of NIN, even one with a lady singer, is going about it the wrong way, and it's unfair.  But the music on its own, comparatively, was flat.  I was hoping for something else, something with some more angst and fuel behind it, not something that could be out-takes from a soundtrack with some words tacked on.  But the live performance, their first as a band, they did as much with as they could: a gloomy but electric, rather spectacular light-show with rich visuals behind them (Reznor can afford it) and music that could deeply envelope even a casual listener.  But they didn't move much and generally they were obscured by sheets or screens in front of them, which didn't reveal much of an individual identity for the performers or the band as a whole, though it might have helped.  I don't know if the other big NIN fans found a different thing in HTDA but they at least gave it a chance, as I did.  And if a person was into it, being a NIN fan or not (we'd be on to the next generation now anyway), then they probably found just what they wanted in the performance. It wasn't for lack of Reznor trying, even if it was harder to sell to anyone who already knew him.  I don't know how well the show stood up in the desert but there in that relatively intimate setting, it did well enough, for what it was, which wasn't NIN but at least it was Reznor (who went back out again as NIN just the following summer, though we ended up skipping it at Outside Lands).  DIIV opened but we missed him/them.

How To Destory Angels' set-list:
"The Wake-Up"
"Keep It Together"
"And the Sky Began to Scream"
"Ice Age"
"The Believers"
"How Long?"
"Welcome Oblivion"
"The Space in Between"  ("Between the Spaces" rework by SONOIO)
"The Loop Closes"
"A Drowning"

"On the Wing"
"Strings and Attractors"
"We Fade Away"