Friday, December 18, 2015

Pity Sex, December 18, 2015 at the Echo

Andrew goes to more shows than I do, and when we meet up for shows it's usually because we were going to go separately, but sometimes I can go because he has good taste in good bands to check out. I had a free Friday night so we met up to check out Pity Sex. I probably hadn’t heard of them save for an ad or a mention in the Weekly (it’s hard to miss that name) but there’s no reason to pass up a show at the Echo, the venue I most wish I’d visit more. Usually I’m there for big enough names that they pack out the place but the places gets some of the best up-and-comers on such a small stage that you know you couldn’t get much more intimate without knowing them personally. We were around the corner at Mohawk Bend having dinner and drinks so we missed Eskimeaux (rather on purpose, for the name alone) but also Colleen Green, a local gal who would have been part of the draw for us but we figured we’d see her again (which at least I did not). It was the first time I’d investigated a band on Amazon Music (then YouTube) to familiarize myself with them before the show, and they sounded better with the recorded versions. Scrappy, young bands can be electric in concert, which can easily be lost when recorded in the studio, but they can also get a little too sloppy live. But it could have also been the first glimpse of a band on the way up and we got to see them that close and without a big crowd, but apparently they dissolved after that (or didn’t, and just never came up on our radar again). Andrew and I kept going to shows at the Echo, though more without each other.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

TV on the Radio, November 14, 2015 at the Theater at Ace Hotel

This was the last in our series of TV on the Radio L.A. shows for their Seeds tour, and it might have been the best one, even though we could have been over it by then. Red Bull was doing some promotion of a series of concerts, and with some fairly impressive acts, and this one was best for us. They got one of our bands to play our city one more time, at least. Also, our friends were hitting the show as well, so we could make it an evening together, even though we could only meet up for dinner beforehand and had to sit separately. Carla got great seats, not far from the stage, and fairly cheap, and those factors might have spoken to how much most bands don’t need to roll through a town three or more times in less than a year but we’re big enough fans to go again. For all the shows on that tour we hadn't even had the album but they played enough older stuff, and switched up the set-lists so it wasn’t the same performance. This tour was also more consistent than those before and it was a good show and a good night out. It’s a shame if Red Bull didn’t do more of those shows, and hopefully didn’t get burned by a business plan that didn’t expect the difficulty of promoting a concert and maybe not turning a profit from it, but it was good while it lasted.

TV on the Radio’s set-list:
“Young Liars“
“Golden Age“
“Happy Idiot“
“Could You“
“Wolf Like Me“
“Staring at the Sun“

“Seeds“ (with Miguel)
“Adorn“ (Miguel cover) (with Miguel)
“Vitamin C“ (Can cover) (with Miguel)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Blur/Courtney Barnett, October 20, 2015 at the Hollywood Bowl

A friend of mine said some years back that if you were a Britpop fan (presumably from the ‘90s), out of Oasis, Suede, and Blur, you loved two of those but not all three. It’s stuck with me since then and I’ve found reasons to argue then not argue it. My love for Oasis is well-documented, but there’s some Suede stuff I don’t connect to, so I always figured it was them and that would automatically make me a Blur fan. But in considering most of their stuff I’ve had since early on, I can’t always be excited about listening to it. Some of it I’ve just gone with putting it on and took my fandom for them for granted. Looking at it closer, there were probably singles that I really liked, but some I hated (in particular “Boys & Girls,” which has taken me years and a Pet Shop Boys cover just to tolerate), and a lot of other material that doesn’t always move me. I’ve even seen them before, at a pretty lackluster show that wasn’t necessarily representative of what they built their name on, but Graham also wasn’t with them at that time, so they could get some slack, but provisionally. So all this could explain why I didn’t jump on getting Blur tickets for their Bowl show and would have been cool with missing it, but then Rachel came through with an extra on a free night and I went, almost like it was just any other show. It wasn’t a guarantee that I would have considered any show a bunch of my friends were going to, but being Blur helped. I rode over with Jen and the bunch of us got together before and picnicked, like usual for a Bowl show. Courtney Barnett opening was more of a draw than Blur themselves, and a coup of an opener, near her initial height, and should have been a big deal on her own. But part of her appeal is her slacker aesthetic and that’s hard to translate to such a massive space as the Bowl and she couldn’t fill it, especially with folks just wandering in and too cool and/or British to be taken over by her catchy songs about very pedestrian topics. It didn’t work but anyone could chalk it up to being the wrong venue for her and wishing to go back in time to see her at a more appropriate club (or, even better, a bar, if that could even happen) (and, for us, seeing more than just the second half of her set). Blur finally did their thing, even making a showing of putting in songs from their newest album, The Magic Whip like this was just another tour stop for an album so successful that everyone would want to hear the new stuff. They only did two shows in America, here (pulling a Tuesday night) and New York, so it could be assumed that this could have been a big deal for all the fans in the western half of the country, and a presumed showcase of new stuff might not sell well for those who are obsessed enough to only want classic stuff. And the new singles (if they even had any) didn’t catch on enough here to get more to fill the Bowl with, by my estimation from the cheap seats, about half full, and even most of those present lethargic at best, if because of L.A. cool or these fans not being the teeny-boppers they once were and were more content to stand back with arms crossed and hoping it would pick up and they would get more out of it than the just-enough that the band wanted to passively offer (even with Graham). We were dancing, helped when they wisely jump-started it with “There’s No Other Way” early on, even if that didn’t do anything for the field of empty seats where we were. No mention of Gorillaz, unless Damon’s lack of spirit could be attributed to having to drag along his old band when he could have played to more with the new, more energetic stuff by the ones who weren't Blur. If there’s an explanation for how Gorillaz got bigger in the States than Blur, it could be that he had contributors that actually still wanted to do the stuff, and material and a brand that could move with the time and stay fun and cool, instead of some stodgy English blokes with no big hit songs except for the “Woo Hoo” one that was completely unlike anything else they did and which had already been played to death and lost to the generation that would make them stars here. Not the show to polish their legendary status (if only somewhere else in the world) but the other show wrapped their series in less than a week and they could move on from whatever obligation they had, just like the States would go on with them only being a footnote in popular music from somewhere else. As for me, I got the Oasis side-projects and started getting more out of Suede.

Blur’s set-list:
“Music Box Instrumentals“ (PA intro)
“Go Out“
“There's No Other Way“
“Lonesome Street“
“Ghost Ship“
“Coffee & TV“
“Out of Time“
“Thought I Was a Spaceman“
“Trimm Trabb“
“Tender“ (outro: "Don't fall for Trump/He's such a chump")
“Parklife“ (with Fred Armisen)
“Song 2“
“To the End“
“This Is a Low“

“Girls & Boys“
“For Tomorrow“
“The Universal“

Courtney Barnett’s set-list:
"Avant Gardener"
"Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go to the Party"
"Small Poppies"
"Elevator Operator"
"An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York)"
"Dead Fox"
"Pedestrian at Best"

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Garbage/Torres, October 6, 2015 at Humphrey’s By The Bay

I actually hadn’t originally planned to see Garbage for their 20th anniversary show for their self-titled debut album. I won’t say I’ve seen them enough, though I’ve seen them plenty, and they’d already played most of it over all the times I’ve seen them since they played their first club show for those songs. But Corey got tickets for the San Diego stop and would have needed someone to go with, and since it was around the time of the wedding, it became another bachelor party. Though for my other bachelor party event we were drinking and carousing and partying, I didn't necessarily need to do all those things to celebrate the end of my bachelorhood, and just getting to see a show is totally fine. So I drove down for the evening and left the next day, and I got to see a new venue. Humphrey’s By The Bay is a place I’ve noticed many mid-range bands use as their San Diego stop. It’s basically the court-yard of a hotel that might as well be a concert venue for the open space, but it’s near the water so it has a romantic ambiance, then no seats (at least for that show), and most of all, it’s not a large place, much more intimate than most of the places those bands would play in L.A., especially the Greek (where I normally would have seen them). Maybe there are bigger places to play in San Diego, or maybe that’s just the size of the crowd they’re playing to, or their fair-weather fans there for the hits have drifted away, but it fit well for the show. A run-through of their first album is fairly unnecessary, as those songs are still cherished enough to play well and enjoyed even still in their standard set, but if they can sell a show with it, they might as well. They only get one year to celebrate an anniversary. It might be more encouraging to get old-school fans out to see that album since they might not be getting as many new ones with new material. It was a trend for a while for bands to play whole albums and they did pretty well with them, at least as a reason to tour without new stuff that was grabbing anyone like it once it did.  For that night they laid on the strategic nostalgia, opening with “Subhuman,” their first, pre-album single (and what would have gotten me to the show if I'd known they were going to play it), then stopping half-way through to play a set of era-appropriate B-sides, which was a treasure enough to make it a show unique from every other time we’d seen them, even the very first. The album, played chronologically except for the mid-set pause, could have been said to have come in remixed cuts, some heavier than others, or could be said to have been updated into new versions, since they’ve been playing those songs for 20 years and have found new arrangements and ways to make them fresh to play. It might have thrown those fans who wanted to hear the album just as they have for two decades -- which doesn't make much sense since they already have it that way -- but it sounded fine to me, especially as I get to hear the evolution of those tunes (“Vow”) and the few they rarely play ("A Stroke of Luck"), haven't in years (“Fix Me Now”), or I haven't heard ("Dog New Tricks"). Then of course an encore with some tracks from other albums, maybe some hits, as per the usual for bands doing this.  The whole thing was unnecessary but if this keeps them going and helps to get new music out so we can get a new show next time, it’s good enough. It’s not likely I would be completely content with anything but a show of rarities and deep cuts anyway, so any time they’re playing the hits in a standard set is a version of another show anyway, though the change of scenery did more than anything to change up the familiar formula.  And I finally got “Subhuman” (albeit heavily remixed).  Torres opened, which we didn’t feel we had to give much attention to, so we wandered for a bit, not drinking, but partying in our own way. And plenty fantastical, to be in a setting close to the water with a great band that has held up all these years.

"Alien Sex Fiend" (20 Years Queer video intro)
"Only Happy When It Rains"
"As Heaven Is Wide"
"Not My Idea"
"A Stroke of Luck"
"Girl Don't Come"
"The Butterfly Collector" (the Jam cover)
"Trip My Wire"
"Stupid Girl"
"Dog New Tricks"
"My Lover's Box"
"Fix Me Now"
"Kick My Ass" (Vic Chesnutt cover)
"Driving Lesson"
"Push It"
"Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!)"
"#1 Crush"

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Front-242/Youth Code/High-Functioning Flesh, September 27, 2015 at Avalon

My social life during college almost completely revolved around a night or two a week at Club Metro in Rubidoux, just outside of Riverside, rarely meeting girls, having our first drinks, and discovering a lot of music. We never went on the heavy goth/industrial nights, not as much as Corey did, but the usual KROQ nights early in the week would mix in the dark but  more accessible stuff that didn't get on the radio and that was my first exposure to a lot of that stuff. I felt a kinship with the goth scene, even if I didn't dress the part (though my concert shirts and Converses made me stand out from them just as they tried to stand out from normal folk, so maybe we were just understood each other). For the industrial stuff I usually didn't go past Nine Inch Nails but I gained a familiarity with some of the rest and while I came to like a lot of it, some I just didn't come around on. And when we didn't completely dig something it became a mark and Corey, who was immersed in the scene and everything in it, became the easiest one. The track we ridiculed most was the one with "FIRST YOU LOCK THE TARGET", which was ridiculous to us that someone would put those words to coarse, pre-programmed Euro-junk. I don't recall dancing (or what one might charitably call "dancing") to it, but maybe. Maybe I would have come around to it by being around it longer (or getting with a girl who was into it) but I let it stand knowing it was Front-242 and that it was Corey's thing. Years later, long after Metro had closed (which was also years after I'd been there), Front-242 were (still?) a touring entity (or making for a reunion) and they came to the States. As if anyone had to ask, Corey was in, even coming up from San Diego for it. As this was in a line of Corey's high hopes with an extra ticket, I said I'd take it, mostly for an evening to hang out with Corey. I'd also only been to what was once the Palace a scant few times since it had morphed into Avalon, if there was even a reason for that. It wasn't a concert venue like it used to be (or at all), as they probably discovered they pulled more cash by being a dance club, though not for any scene I would go anywhere near (and maybe still not even if I were in that age-range). Apparently they would accommodate the occasional band, though it probably didn't hurt that they could be considered a dance thing (in some world, if not this one) and that it was on a Sunday, which is probably usually dead for a club. I hadn't been near a goth scene in years -- the last was maybe Club Perversion those few times (and however long ago that was) -- and had rarely of late been out for a night in Hollywood save for straight to the Fonda, but it wasn't too dissimilar than it used to be, if the crowd was considerably older, and wider, and daddier or mommier, and their make-up choices were even more ill-advised than they were 20 years ago. I had covered my bets and dressed in black anyway. Corey doesn't go to a lot of shows so he tries to get there in the time it says on the ticket, as if the headliners would deign to go on anywhere near that time (says the guy who thought he could time Morrissey). But it gave us plenty of time to hang out and catch up, and for Corey to search for former Metro-rats and for me to people-watch (since every once in a while the look actually works). Youth Code and High-Functioning Flesh opened, and we heard a snippet enough to catch the one that was only a few generations away from a Euro-goth/industrial band that I didn't know in the first place and the other sounded like NIN (as if any of them wouldn't). Seeing them could have been adventurous but Corey, being unfamiliar with them (they were never played at Mero), was content to hang outside (there's a joke there about vampires but I'll skip it). Closer to midnight it was time for Front-242, bringing the same electronica that seems as ridiculous as DJs passing off canned beats that could have been programmed weeks ago and the show performed by hitting PLAY. The music actually wasn't bad -- there's a reason these guys are respected as pioneers in their field -- though if anything was a facsimile of an original or echoes of remixes, it was lost to me. Also nothing I would dance to anymore (as if I could pick it up back in the day anyway) but I was cool to be part of the crowd that were actually there for the performance. The stage could have used more of a visual component, except for some abstract image shot up on a screen, since the focus -- the two guys in front singing/growling/barking -- were old enough to not only be parents like most of the audience but probably more like grandparents (and perhaps beyond). Paunches, jowls, and all, they at least made the effort. If they were going to be out on stage, they couldn't hide it (especially since they hadn't established the use of helmets from the beginning). Maybe it's not even important how they look, and it was enough respect for them to not care how they'd aged, but there was a time when guys that old playing some version of rock music -- and not even playing live instruments at that -- would have been laughed if not forced off a stage (much less trusted). But as it was, it was about the music and the respect and, presumably, saying that had seem them, nowhere near their height but before they became dust. It was also enough to know I wasn't carrying any lingering remnants of Metro, outside of the music I picked up and followed, wine coolers and Midori sours, and friends that would have worn eye-liner so you could have on a comfortable Offspring T-shirt (since it was 1993).

Front-242's set-list:
"Body to Body"
"Take One"
"W.Y.H.I.W.Y.G." (no break before next)
"Master Hit"
"Triple X Girlfriend"
"Quite Unusual"
"No Shuffle"
"Commando Mix"
"Im Rhythmus bleiben"
"Welcome to Paradise"

"Tragedy >For You<"
"Punish Your Machine"

Friday, August 28, 2015

Float Fest, August 28, 2015, at the Cool River Ranch

A summer trip to see Brian, who lives near Dallas, that could have possibly been going to Austin turned into my official bachelor party there once Seth got involved.  Staying in the city to party was great (as long as we stayed away from 6th Street and the kids) but it could be great to go outside of Austin too. Of course we had to check out a music festival, whether or not the weekend was contingent on one happening in the first place (I was just happy to be there). Austin might have a music festival every weekend but we got a good one with Float Fest. Most festivals are a good enough time, with music and drinking and carrying on, but this one was even fun, with the added component of river-rafting. Brian's truck broke down the morning of, before we even got out of Austin, so that left Seth and me with a 46-minute Uber ride, including back-roads near the site, which all turned into its own adventure. No matter that we would eventually have to figure out a way back that night, assuming all the Ubers would be taken up for the long drive back to town. But even just Seth and me is a party (see: Lincoln, late 2004) and we decided to do up the day, as if there was any other choice. After a ride on a rickety, very-used school bus to the top of the river, we took a few hours to lazily raft down, fighting a few floating snakes and spiders but with plenty of Miller Lite. To answer the most popular question about the show: No, there were not bands playing on the river -- they were all on site at the end. So it was a music festival with optional river-rafting and however much you want to mix those -- certainly something you couldn't get in a lot of other places, especially in southern California. The river trip was fun enough to do again, as it was still the height of the day, but we made our way around the concert site, an inviting place since, being Friday at a modest festival, it was nearly empty. Not much exaggeration: it was the most sparsely-attended music festival I've ever been to, by a long shot. It could have just been a middling festival that hadn't established itself on a greater scale, competing with all of Austin's other events, so far outside of the city, and on a Friday. So we got our fill of local brews and slip n' slide races and wandering the easy, wide-open space. There weren't a lot of acts to be there for -- it was all about that night's headliners -- so we decided when we got there to pick one and go crazy like we were big fans. We went with Robert Ellis, who played about halfway up the bill, and whose performance we were able to walk up close enough to to touch the stage, and even to heckle the band and have the keyboardist play along. But the guy was actually pretty great, enough for us to be embarrassed that we had to use him as a distraction for the day. It wasn't long after that that Esquire magazine ran a feature on him. After that was probably more Fireball shots until the night, when we ate and listened to Bright Light Social Hour at a distance (not enough to make an impression), and maybe Dr. Dog could have been something if our un-sober attention had drifted that way, but mostly it was the wait for Local Natives. To be honest, I'm not necessarily a big fan. Carla loved them from before we got together, and we'd seen them, and Seth knew them well enough to want to be in for their show. They might not have the album I want to put on but live, on that day, with that much alcohol and the bro-magic of a bachelor party weekend, they were fantastic. They played enough material that we knew (they were touring their second album, which neither of us had) and even a covers (though a predictable one). Being among a crowd sparse enough to not get cajoled while enjoying the main stage act was a rare pleasure. The relatively-few people there were also into it, likely real fans, and the vibe was contagious. Maybe it could have been any band and still have been a good time, but the fact that it was actually a good band that were fun live put it over the top to be one of the best moments among many great moments that weekend. And great to see L.A.-locals (if not natives) do so well in another city. Once the set was over we had to figure out a way back to the city, without an Uber (which, even if there was one, would be 10x the usual rate). Obviously we did, and that was an adventure too, as you could expect with the Seth & Mar Show.

Local Natives’ set-list:
“World News“
“Wide Eyes“
“Black Balloons“
“Sea of Years“
“Warning Sign“ (Talking Heads cover)
“Fountain of Youth“
“You & I“
“Whatever We Want“
“Camera Talk“
“Heavy Feet“
“Who Knows, Who Cares“
“Sun Hands“

Saturday, August 22, 2015

FYF Fest, August 22 & 23, 2015 at L.A. Sports Arena and Coliseum, Exposition Park

It wasn't much of a question if we'd go to FYF Fest or not, since it was the big summer, concert festival event of the year with our friends, but it helped that they had a strong line-up, even with a last-minute change in headliners (which worked in our favor). Since it was at the L.A. Sports Arena for a second year, they had worked out the kinks from the previous year, namely the bottlenecks to get from stage to stage and for the crowd to get in (even though it still took us a while, compared to the year before, when we accidentally jumped ahead in line). There was some hope on the horizon that this new home could work, to accommodate all the stages and people, and less dust than the historic park even if we had to drive. We got in early enough for Badbadnotgood, either to see an act when we had no other conflicts with or just to go inside the Sports Arena and get out of the height of the heat of the day. Their brand of new jazz couldn't get many people moving, and it was maybe a little much for any to have to consider so much about their music in the middle of the day. But they were getting around, so just outside of my orbit; I had high hopes for Dinosaur Jr., after having my face blown off by them two years before at the same fest, and now being prepared for their onslaught. Unfortunately, it was just another performance by them, flat by the standard I held them at from last time. They were solid enough, but they just rolled through their set, the only real electricity coming from how good the songs were, and that didn't require any particular effort, and it seemed like they didn't feel a need to bring it. Maybe they can turn it on and off, maybe any act can, but it was a disappointment after seeing them really bring it, even if it was only once; we spent most of the day wandering, until the evening, for Savages, another anticipation of ours. Carla was more familiar with them, but I rarely have a problem with tense, snarling, gothy girl groups. They were a little too cool to really be savages, but it still worked for them. They even noted that they were playing some songs they were still recording, which seems to be a rarity in an age of anything being put into the world as soon as it's recorded, usually unofficially. Though that next album didn't seem to go far so this might have been their height, but what it was was a highlight of the fest; Bloc Party are pretty well past their peak but they still have enough pull to tour well on new material and get an evening slot at festivals. I was still into them, getting new albums even if I couldn't tell them apart from past ones. Their base sound, of precise guitars and snappy drums and fresh production, always gets me. I didn't even know what album they were touring on but I probably got it. Apparently I was only keeping up with the albums because I didn't know they had a new drummer, a chick, who held up her end ably, and they sounded as good as they ever have, maybe even better when their sound gets out into the open night air. We only saw the end, which was enough, as it was singles I didn't recognize, but it was good enough to check in with them; Frank Ocean headlining didn't cause much excitement in our quarters. I, for one, was only tangentially familiar with him (and that was mostly from the Lonny Breaux album I got just to know him for the show, then I found out I got the wrong one). It probably wasn't bad but as art for the younger crowd, I need something with more bite, and this one didn't do much for me. The rest of the line-up was good enough that it didn't necessarily need him, but that would still leave a vacancy of a good top tier. We could have survived with or without him, as the worst that could happen would be we'd go home early, assuming there were no other acts, so when they replaced him with Kanye West, that was only extra, and a lot extra. With or without the music, he's one of the biggest names in this age. Heck, my parents know who Kanye is (though for the wrong reasons). He might be one of the few things that Carla & I disagree on, but he's as much a musical genius as we've had in the modern age, as far as I'm concerned. If rock music isn't going to bother being exciting anymore and new rock stars are lame, at least let him have a go at it. He's probably even too big for a local music festival that used to be a punk thing, but it certainly made a stake at standing alongside any of the others, especially since they were able to get him at nearly the last minute. Even if his name at the time was more from being a celebrity than a musician, it was misguided to forget that he had made his name on his impressive musical ability. For whatever reason he did it -- maybe charging his emergency rate, or to prove that he really could hang his name on his music like he says he can and didn't have to rely on the rest of the noise -- he brought it. It takes some courage to make yourself vulnerable as the only one on the stage, with only his DJ somewhere off-stage, but it wouldn't be the first time he's mixed up bravery and hubris. But when he can put on a performance like he did, he can do as he likes. You may not like Kanye's music (which is crazy since he's usually the top of the game in his class, so that's your problem) but what he has he cranked to the max that night.  It was just him and the music, and he knew it, and everyone else did, and he played as hard as anyone could. He never brought up the rest of the crap that seems to surround him, which he invited of course but that's just part of that world -- he was there for and with the music, and even if everyone else was aware of the rest of the static, he didn't put it out there and no one else seemed interested anyway (even if they were there hoping for a train-wreck. Did they expect him to bring a reality show on-stage? Though if he made a few fans from the curiosity of his circus, then maybe it was worth it). Though even a headliner gets only so much time in their set, and he was aware of it. By the time we got over there he was already winding it down, even though he had plenty of time to do several songs. But he had so many hits left to play, he told us, and he made a point of burning through as many as he could, down to the last seconds he had, even if some were left as snippets or he abandoned a few part-way through when he wanted to jump to the next one. It was a harried, dizzying spell, putting down more effort than most would bother, and more spontaneously than most rock shows. With as much money and fame as he had, he didn't have much to prove, and he could have left FYF out to dry, but he seemed dedicated to show that he could be as great as he said he was. Maybe he didn't pull out the stops all the time, but that night he pulled it off. Frank who?; the Jesus + Mary Chain could have been the headliners, at least for this crowd, and seeing them shunted to a side-stage was disappointing but probably appropriate. They were a high-point for the line-up, but by the end of the day, we were about done. We saw enough of their set to know it was their usual thing, which is generally electrifying, but with so many other bands co-opting their sound for so long, we were more than familiar with them one way or another, so to our exhausted spirits we could sacrifice them to leave. Missed: Metz (after everyone made a big deal about them a few years ago, but they were too early), Cold Cave (I was good, having seen them before), Flying Lotus (if for only the Thom Yorke connection).

Sunday was, of course, more of the same.  Carla and her feet had had enough of the previous day so I went it alone, riding in with Rachel and Jen but wandering on my own for much of it and meeting up with the others as it happened.  
The first half of the day was a bit sparse, with my first act being Spiritualized in the indoor sports arena.  They're a good band, maybe even better than flogging Ladies & Gentlemen... far more than it had distance, but they're unextraordinary on stage as a full band. Credit that guy with taking a chance when it was just himself and a string quartet, no matter how nap-worthy, but that wasn't the case here. But a decent way to ease into the day; I probably remember more of what I was drinking (beer) in the garden more than Toro Y Moi. It was probably some nice vibes for the afternoon but at the time forgettable enough that I shot portraits of everyone in our group that was there, who showed up in number enough for this but I'm not sure why; dark came quickly, and with it choices for what to see, so by default there was the main stage and Flume, who I guessed was a DJ, but he actually got it going and earned the spot. I'm not opposed to DJs and whatever they're doing, it's just not what I'm there for. But I can always appreciate good tunes, no matter where they come from or how they're made. Flume sounded good, enough to hang around for, even if there was even less to look at than the average band (since his visuals, obligatory anymore for any act who performs just standing there, were just blandly standard psychedelic graphics). Then he brought up Lorde, which was notable just that she was there, even if their collaboration went right through me. She looked like any other concert-goer so maybe we saw her earlier in the day and maybe that was her intention, but the moment was enough to make that dude's show stand out for the day; the other big anticipation of the day was a gamble, a band I had barely ever heard of and only knew by reputation: Death Grips.  In a short amount of time they had accumulated their own notoriety, or even infamy, which wasn't so unappealing for a band peddling horror-rap. That was enough for me (even if it that point they mostly stood out because I thought they'd already broken up, so maybe it was convincing that it was a big deal that they were back together, if not that they had even existed in the first place). Through the haze of blinding, maroon lights, they crushed the stage, screaming vocals that could be heavy-metal or grindcore or punk if it was human at all. That dude would have been scary enough but the performance sealed the deal. If a band could ever be terrifying, and not campy like so many have fallen to (sorry, Marilyn Manson), this was it. It was something to build on, if they even cared, and if they could stay together long enough to keep it going. At least we got that night, and they were as good as any cautious anticipation could expect; of course the main reason to be there, as for anyone, was Morrissey. It seemed a shock when he was announced on the line-up but then it made perfect sense, and seemed strange that he hadn't done it before.  He hasn't been big enough to headline Coachella, though he had been on the main stage multiple times, including the first year. And with the Latino population of southern California that loves him so much, he'll fill any local venue that will have him, and he might as well be the biggest name at a local festival. As good as it is to see him on a festival line-up, as well as inevitable, I'd probably seen him enough by that point and I wasn't waiting around for him to trudge out an obscure Smiths chestnut to make my life complete. That said, he had been playing "Speedway" on this tour, and while that was not necessarily quite enough to go out of my way for one of his shows, if I was already there I'd see him, if I wasn't planning to already (and I probably would be anyway).  Obviously there was a Morrissey crowd -- gothy, Latino, Brit-mod, over-aged (though not usually more than one of those) -- and there was reverence, even if there was some nervousness about if he was actually going to play the show. It's doubtful that anyone even noticed that the food vendors near the stage weren't selling anything with meat (and maybe the rest of the place but we didn't notice for beyond that area). On my own, I got in position. It was the usual Morrissey performance -- at this point he's not going to change what works, save for what songs he's picked and what shirt is going to be sacrificed to the crowd. The band, as ever, were faceless but diligent and it sounded as good as it ever does. "Speedway" was early, as I knew it would be, and it bought the biggest surprise: he surrendered the song to one of his band members, who sang/spoke it in Spanish. It was an interesting change-up but that's one that I just wanted performed, not monkeyed with. Luckily, I've seen it before, played straight. But it was a good attempt to bring out one of his best tracks (and one I hold even over the Smiths catalog) even if it went right over the crowd. Seeing it also meant that I was free to leave, so I wandered off. I was good with missing out on any Smiths high-points later on, since I'd also likely seen those as well, so I'd had my fill of Moz and I was good for the day; there wasn't much to see after that, after the other stages were shut down either to not compete with the headliners or because they were done for the day, so I started heading to the exit. But made a stop at Thee Oh Sees to cap it off. I had gotten into them, for at least one album (Mutilator Defeated At Last), after Rollins had played a track of theirs on his show which was sufficient to blow me away.  I didn't have enough appreciation for them to stick around long, and they seem to play the festival and local venues pretty regularly so I'd see them again. So a sampling, maybe even caught "Web", then I was done with the festival for another year. Missed: Belle & Sebastian (who I'd seen enough of, even though I'd keep getting their albums. A festival is probably not the best place to see them anyway (even though that's the only places I've ever seen them)).

Morrissey's set-list:
"The Queen Is Dead"(The Smiths)
"Alma Matters"
"Kiss Me a Lot"
"Staircase at the University"
"World Peace Is None of Your Business"
"I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris"
"Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before
"(The Smiths)

"First of the Gang to Die"
"Everyday Is Like Sunday"
"The Bullfighter Dies"
"Meat Is Murder
"(The Smiths)

"Now My Heart Is Full"
"I Will See You in Far-Off Places"
"What She Said
"(The Smiths)

Kanye West's set-list:
"No Church in the Wild"(JAY Z & Kanye West cover)
"Black Skinhead"
"Niggas in Paris
"(JAY Z & Kanye West cover)

"All Day"
"Can't Tell Me Nothing"
"I Don't Like
"(Chief Keef cover)

"(Big Sean cover)

"New Slaves"
"Blood on the Leaves"
"Upper Echelon
"(Travi$ Scott cover; with Travis Scott)

"Antidote"(Travi$ Scott cover; with Travis Scott)
"(with Rihanna singing from the pit)

"10 years of hits in 10 minutes": "Jesus Walks"/"All Falls Down"/"Gold Digger"/"All of the Lights"(with Rihanna)/"Touch the Sky"/"Good Life"/"Only One"

Bloc Partys' set-list:
"The Good News"
"Hunting for Witches"
"Positive Tension"
"Real Talk"
"Waiting for the 7.18"
"Song for Clay
" (Disappear Here) (Kele's "Tenderoni" Intro)

"One More Chance"
"This Modern Love

Dinosaur Jr.s' set-list:
"The Lung"
"Start Choppin'"
"Watch the Corners"
"Feel the Pain"
"Just Like Heaven
"(The Cure cover)

"Little Fury Things"

Death Grips' set-list:
"Come Up and Get Me"
"Inanimate Sensation"
"Get Got"
"I've Seen Footage"
"You Might Think He Loves You for Your Money but I Know What He Really Loves You for 
It's Your Brand New Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat"

"Hustle Bones"
"Lock Your Doors"
"The Fever (Aye Aye)"
"No Love"
"Big House"
"Anne Bonny

Savages' set-list:

"City's Full"
"Shut Up"
"I Need Something New"
"Sad Person"
"I Am Here"
"She Will"
"Hit Me"


Flume's set-list:

"Tennis Court"(Lorde)
"Turning"(Collarbones; Flume Remix)
"Some Minds"
"You & Me
"(Disclosure; Flume Remix)

"Warm Thoughts"

Saturday, July 25, 2015

TV on the Radio/Boxed In, July 25, 2015 at the Annenberg Space for Photography

KCRW has done a series of free summer shows, and we got one that we'd make the effort for.  Even when a free show has talent that you'd want to see, usually everyone else knows and it gets to be a crazy scene, and more often than not pulls a crowd much greater than expectations and becomes a real horror show.  But maybe KCRW could coordinate one of their own, and maybe we could get there early enough to get a good place in the crowd.  Generally, just for the trouble, we'd rather pay to see a show that isn't a hassle than a free thing that's miserable throughout but Vanessa and Tana were interested in seeing TV on the Radio and we had the Saturday afternoon free.  We got a good place on the lawn in front (due to accidentally cutting  in line -- so many people to get in meant a bit of crowd disorder (though worked out for us -- accidentally) -- and having a view-line and a place to sit and not being jostled by the crowd can always make a difference.  Meeting up with the girls, we spent a lot of the afternoon, while Jason Bentley spun some tunes (who's great but is so ubiquitous for us that we can take him for granted), folding paper cranes for our wedding coming up and drinking wine.  Boxed In opened, and they (or just one guy) were good enough to have sympathy that some Brits would have to expend an effort at making a splash in the States for a free show that might be disregarded by people wanting to get in to something that they don't have to pay for.  KCRW might have been holding them up at the time -- and maybe this could have been more for them -- but their name didn't come around much later. After a few hours in a relaxed atmosphere, chalked up to a crowd that respects each other as much as college radio, TV on the Radio turned in a show that could have been good enough to pay for. I've gone on about how inconsistent their shows are, and this one didn't set anything on fire, but it was good enough to put it on the level of the other decent times we've seen them. It didn't even seem like an abbreviated set (at least not compared with one at a festival or the recent one at the Fonda that started late). They even had Cullen Bohanon off to the side on trumpet and percussion.  Maybe it was more about the afternoon spent with friends, especially after the other two times we'd seen them recently, but whatever KCRW put into that show and series, it felt like a gift to their listeners in L.A.

TV on the Radio's set-list:
"Young Liars"
"Happy Idiot"
"Golden Age"
"Could You"
"Wolf Like Me"
"Blues From Down Here"
"Staring at the Sun"


Friday, July 17, 2015

L7, July 17, 2015 at the Fonda

L7 were yet another band I missed back in the day.  (Judging just from how times I’ve started entries with that line, especially lately, it might seem like there were a lot of bands I missed, which is approximately the case, except that there are a lot of bands I’ve been into in different periods so proportionately it doesn’t come to so many, but more the case that a lot of shows we go to anymore are to see bands I didn’t catch originally, with the trend of reunions by ‘90s bands, some of which I missed at the time and won’t make the same mistake again.)  They were on my radar from Bricks are Heavy, though at the time Nirvana was as much grunge as I could get into (if not sludge, as could be more appropriate), but I got attached to Triple Platinum: The Beauty Process, but too late, though I remember an ad for an L.A. show they did on that tour that I might have been able to swing (if I could have convinced myself that I might survive an L7 show.  When my brothers and I used to play a game in picking who on MTV would win in a fight against each other, L7 was always the trump card that ended it).  I might have even seen them for Slap-Happy, had they done an L.A. show for it, if they weren't already disregarded by then.  When they became yet another ‘90s band to reunite (and the third, in under a year, comprised of mostly women and that I loved but missed the first time), I was already in.  I would have taken the Echo show, of course, but the Fonda was just as good, and even better for being on a Friday night.  So I finally got to see “Shitlist” by its originators, which easily made the show a victory, even if they also didn’t go near The Beauty Process, which would have been disappointing if the show hadn’t been so representative of them at their snarling best, years be damned.  If they had or hadn’t aged well -- looking rough was always part of their visual aesthetic -- the music still stood up.  (Who ever thought they were really ever going to go major-label, mass-market big?  As if a band could make it big just on their music, especially something that heavy and pissy and, above all, female.  Their music was abrasive enough to stop their rise before they started, but it’s a testament to how badass and awesome they ever were that they went as far as they did.)  Which is more than I could say for myself, since I drank enough before and during to be only barely able to remember being at the show.  (The goal, as I learned, is not to go straight for the beer with the highest APV just to get your value in drunkenness.  Also, limit drinking while taking antibiotics (my next-day self exclaimed).)  Skating Polly opened, and maybe we could have checked them out -- and maybe we did -- but I could have been saving my coherence for the main act (or using the time to drink more).

L7's set-list:
"Fuel My Fire"
"Diet Pill"
"(Right On) Thru"
"Freak Magnet"
"One More Thing"
"I Need"
"Mr. Integrity"

"American Society" (Eddie & The Subtitles cover)
"Pretend We're Dead"

"Fast and Frightening"

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Smokey Robinson/L.A. Philharmonic, July 4, 2015 at the Hollywood Bowl

The 4th of July show at the Bowl is always an option for the holiday, and I always look forward to seeing who will be playing there that night because it’s not only often a possibility but the show on that night is always a great event, sometimes not even for the main performer (we saw Josh Groban one year, remember) but for the fireworks and the grand event of one of the best nights of the summer in a place where they make such a big deal out of it.  There’s also the attendant picnic before, or even during, the show, even if it’s been just me & Carla, but even better when we have more of our drinkers' group out.  This year, Rachel offered tickets from her LiveNation contacts and we were in.  We got a good-sized group out, with the usual great food and wine to share before the show.  The performance by  the philharmonic has become pretty rote by now, though still impressive, as any performance by such a magnificent and large orchestra can be, but the fireworks are still a sight, even if they’re the same every year, and this coming from a fellow who is not easily impressed by a fireworks show.  This year's musical performance was the Smokey Robinson, and even though it didn’t completely matter who was playing as long as we were seeing a 4th of July show, it was still great to witness a living legend.  He’s slower than he probably was in his hey-day but he still has plenty of moves, and enough hits to pack a show with songs that every person knows and enough swagger to make ladies swoon.  Unfortunately, his set seemed far too short, even shorter than most bands get in sharing a bill with the orchestra.  It’s hard to complain since we’re there for the whole night and not just one performer, but at least it was enough to get in and out without it dragging.  We probably wouldn’t see Smokey on his own (at least not without our parents), and seeing a truncated show in place of a full one was a mild let-down, but seeing the man while he’s still with us, along with friends and fireworks and wine and the rest on such a slendid summer night, was great for another holiday.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Sleater-Kinney, May 1, 2015 at Palladium

For as much as we've been big fans, Carla & I had never seen Sleater-Kinney together, though only because the group had been broken up for the beginning of our relationship.  (Though we had seen them separately, at numerous shows, well before we knew or knew of each other.)  We had been fine keeping up with Corin’s solo work, and I would have gotten into the Wild Flag album if I had been able to find it more easily, since we don’t lament a band being broken-up or on hiatus (as it might as well be either), but it would have been nice to see a band we adore so much together finally, if to have that as part of our shared history at last or just to see the band one more time.  S/K did one better, coming back with a new album, No Cities to Love, that we dug, perhaps cementing that this wasn’t just a lazy cash-grab reunion and that they were actually a force again instead of just another show.  An album might have been necessary, since they didn’t have enough hits (or really, any) to flog for anyone who would pay, but it was material as strong as most of the rest of their stuff, to continue the trajectory they had been following pre-hiatus, if not just picking up right where they left off.  The new stuff had also turned down their screeching fury in favor of virtuosic precision, which was a little less punk rock but their sound was aging as well as they were.  The fans probably would have been happy with trotting out all the old stuff -- as if there was a rush to get out the new stuff -- but everyone was just pleased they were back together, whether or not they turned out much worth hearing, so getting a decent show was just a treat.  They had always been indie-rock royalty, as fickle and relative as that description could be, but they still had enough cred to be able to ably fill the Palladium, and without having to bother with cashing in one some kind of ‘90s nostalgia reunion (as if there had been a call for them to lower themselves to such a thing).  Even Carrie being more famous these days for Portlandia didn’t stand up to the blast of volume and power they were putting out, as they always have had.  There was not necessarily any promise that they would stay together or put out more new material, but that night, to have them back together and laying it down as intensely as they ever had, we were fortunate they had decided to do it in the first place.

Sleater-Kinney's set-list:
"Price Tag"
"What's Mine Is Yours"
"Youth Decay"
"A New Wave"
"Get Up"
"Surface Envy"
"All Hands on the Bad One"
"Bury Our Friends"
"No Cities to Love"
"The Fox"
"No Anthems"
"Light Rail Coyote"
"Words and Guitar"

"Gimme Love"
"Dig Me Out"
"One More Hour"
"Let's Call It Love"
"Modern Girl"

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Replacements, April 16, 2015 at the Palladium

I don’t know why I didn’t just jump into buying a ticket for the second night of the Replacements’ stand at the Palladium.  The $70 each for two tickets the night before might have made me hesitant at the least, or maybe the concern of getting burned by seeing the same set two nights in a row, to say nothing of it potentially being the third time, after Coachella).  I knew in my mind, somewhere closer than the back, that I would wind up at both nights, and if it was all the same songs anyway, that probably would have been fine anyway.  And I would have been there for at least one of those shows anyway, even if this hadn’t been the fourth night of four consecutive nights of shows.  (Then Coachella that weekend, so that would have been seven nights straight of shows, surely a record, but we weren’t going to the fest anyway, with or without my week of concerts.  We went to Vegas instead.)  It didn’t take too long before I just went in for it, and found a second-hand ticket for $35, an easy sell at less than face value, but considerably more than I would have paid if I’d waited until the night of the show when people were just throwing away tickets.  Andrew and his people hadn’t shown for a second night so I was there on my own, just as well to absorb the music.  And much the same show as the night before, with about half the set-list switched out, so this was the other side to what they’d been playing (though neither night had "Another Girl, Another Planet," which gave the Coachella set a great advantage).  I wouldn’t hold one night over the other based on what they played, but it would have been a bummer to be somewhere else where they played just one night and one set, and missed what they were playing elsewhere.  As it turns out, even with longer sets, based only on what they played, Coachella still ruled over all that I saw (to say nothing of it just being a more noteworthy event and their being much looser, funner, and more rambunctiously the Replacements).  Then it ended and they moved on.  The tour was billed as “Back By Unpopular Demand,” which is endearingly self-effacing but maybe not far from the truth, as evidenced by not only selling out the venue over two nights but also leaving it empty enough that people were throwing away tickets.  They might have done better at just one night or a smaller venue, but that just doesn’t seem worthy of their playing the L.A. market.  Maybe the demand for the reunion was fueled by a contingent not as big as they were excited and loud (also since even if their legendary status has gotten some kids to check them out, they could still be considered old guys, and those hard-living years has made it hard for them to age well, at the same time that rock n’ roll, and especially what they’re playing, is only barely holding on).  But whatever it was and however it happened, they came back together and made a pass at a run-through and lasted longer than some thought they would, maybe putting the legend to rest while they're somehow still living (at least most of them), and leaving the fans, especially those who didn’t have them the first time around, as satisfied as they could be, and the members could go on to do whatever they were going to do next (even if that wasn’t much, but also not Guns N’ Roses) without having to think about having to do it again (unless they need that money more than they thought.  But even if they come back and don’t leave again, they have more songs than the Pixies). Opening was Together Pangea, but even if I knew anything about them, I was coming from work.

The Replacements' set-list:
"I'm in Trouble"
"Kissin' in Action" (Snippet of "Iron Man" (Black Sabbath))
"Little Mascara"
"Color Me Impressed"
"Love You Till Friday"
"Maybellene" (Chuck Berry cover)
"Treatment Bound"
"Take Me Down to the Hospital"
"Waitress in the Sky"
"Achin' to Be"
"Kiss Me on the Bus"
"I Will Dare"
"Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out" (snippet of "3rd Stone from the Sun" (Hendrix))
"Sixteen Blue"
"The Ledge"
"I'll Be You"
"Whole Foods Blues"
"Can't Hardly Wait"
"Bastards of Young"
"My Boy Lollipop" (Barbie Gaye cover)
"Never Mind"

"Ghost on the Canvas" (Paul Westerberg song)

"Left of the Dial"
"Alex Chilton"

"I Want You Back" (The Jackson 5 cover)