Ramblings of a Redhead Music Snob

Life & Music in New York, My City

Expecting You – A Night of The Great Lake Swimmers

Posted by xneverwherex on June 14, 2015

Great Lake Swimmers
The Weather Station
The Chapel
6/10/15

Toronto’s Great Lake Swimmers were in town for their sixth studio album A Forest Of Arms. The band’s melancholic folk sound was perfect for The Chapel. The 5-piece band sounded as tight as ever and it was a perfect venue for the band. The acoustics were made for bands like them with their variety of instruments and just filled up the venue.

The band started their set with their first song off the new album “Something Like A Storm” which is just beautiful. Its a perfect way to start the set out as its so catchy and you find yourself stomping your foot in time with the music. The set comprised a good chunk off their new album, which is quite the listen. I cannot get enough of it so hearing it live made it even more awesome. As with prior albums/songs – they all have these beautiful song titles and its so fitting of their style.

It was also interesting to hear that the band now has an electronic sound. You could easily hear it but it was hard to know where it was coming from. And while my friend was convinced there couldnt be any electronics, the sound doesn’t lie. The drummer, Joshua van Tassel, was adding the electronics which were perfect. Of course, the stand outs were hearing Miranda Mulholland on violin especially on songs like “One More Charge at the Red Cape” along with the upright bass of Bret Higgins. She really tore it up on stage and rocked out on the violin which one doesn’t see all too often. Most the cheering came for Erik Arnesen on the banjo and electric guitar who was just brilliant.

But, the real stand out is Tony Dekker, lead singer and acoustic guitar. His voice is just so pure and heart-felt. The harmonies between him and Miranda are just beautiful. You can just feel the ache of their songs. It was also great to hear “Talking In Your Sleep” performed as a band off of Tony’s solo album.

Of course, it was great to hear their earlier popular song “Your Rocky Spine“. It has to be one of the most gorgeous folk songs ever written and just evokes so much feeling. And my favorite song off their new album “Expecting You” which is even more beautiful live. Its nearly heartbreaking. It also happens to sound even more beautiful with all their instruments coming together — the violin strings just sound too perfect.

The only real complaint of the show had nothing to do with the band, but with the crowd. For a band that is not that ‘noisy’, the crowd sure could have learned how to shut up. It never ceases to amaze me how many people go to songs, (especially folkier bands), and have the audacity to talk through the whole show almost as loud as the band. Regardless, the show was still awesome.

The band ended their show with an encore performed in the center of the audience to an acoustic version of “Still“. With no mics and just the crowd to add vocals it was pretty special as it became one big sing-along. And it couldnt have been a more fitting way to end the show.

Plus, just found out the band is playing on my birthday in NYC at the Bowery Ballroom. NYC crowds can be interesting, but I have to say this is beyond tempting.

The Weather Station opened the set. Apparently the band was all in Toronto, so it was just the singer of the band Tamara Lindeman. She had a Joni Mitchell-esque style to her sound and as a singer-songwriter was really great. She has amazing vocals and has these really beautiful emotional songs. Her songs have a sadness to them and were so melancholy. She was a fitting opener for GLS. And to make it all the more impressive she was playing on a jazz guitar.

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Panic Is Perfect – Live 105 BFD

Posted by xneverwherex on June 9, 2015

Live 105 BFD Festival
Shoreline Amphitheater
June 6, 2015

It was a hot hot sunny day in Mountain View over at the Shoreline. Somehow we got there early enough that the lines werent too painful, yet still managed to take forever to get inside. Ive yet to figure out their security system (its insane!) and how possibly taking every single thing out of a woman’s purse is at all productive. Oh, its a pen, let me look at it. Oh here’s your unopened water bottle, so let me open it for you and throw away the cap. Ive heard of ridiculous things, but seriously, this was the worst.

Actually, that was not the worst. Whoever thought of this venue and setup needs to seriously re-think their day job. Having the dance tent on top of the other stages and all the music going on at the same time was awful. The bleed through was non-stop and between songs you could just hear the thumping of the dance tent. Some performers were getting upset about it (not much you can do), but it just was bad. Its also bad that the two “smaller” stages are next to each other – and while theyre not having performances at the same time (thankfully it alternates), it just means the crowd is insane in one small blocked off area and going in and out, let alone to the ‘other’ stage soon became a clusterphuck of magnificent proportions.

With that being said – lets go on. This was all about the music. Instead of discussing bands in order, I will start with my favorite shows. Of course, theres always panic at shows of not seeing who you want and at a certain point, I just gave up and didnt even care. But the hands down best set of the night belongs to a band that I don’t particularly like (nor hate) but by far they know how to put on a show. Panic! At The Disco killed it! The band by far was one of the biggest surprises of the night. Now I knew their show would probably be big and insane, but I really was not expecting their energy and the excitement for the band. It was hard to not be jumping around. Lead singer, Brendon Urie, is really charismatic and him and the band were jumping around the entire stage and it was contagious. Their light show added to the overall dance-y rock feeling. And to make it all the better, I think by far this was the band that most people were there to see. And everyone around me was out of their seats and singing and jumping along. Some kids were way serious about it too and insisted on taking video of the entire show and not even enjoying it.

Probably the most impressive part of their set was Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody‘. Its hard for most people even to be able to pull off some of those high notes, but Brendon has incredible vocal range and got it just perfect. The band also decided to give a 30-second clip of a hardcore metal show and really went off for a good 30 seconds with loud screeching guitars and headbanging music. After that, they closed it out with their single ‘I Write Sins Not Tragedies‘ and to say I barely recognized that would be an understatement. But it was impressive and the backflip in the middle of the song by Brendon was f’ing brilliant. The band was just insanely impressive and one very worth seeing again.

Of course, closers Modest Mouse put on one hell of a show. The band sounded so incredibly tight and have superior musicians. Isaac Brock, frontman and multi-talented instrumentalist, was in top form and sounded better than ever. Their song intros were quite long but when they would finally get into their song the pay-off was so worth it. It was pretty much a singles list from the band, but I couldnt have asked for a better set. They gave the crowd just what they wanted and even after performing single ‘Float On‘ and people expecting it as the last song, the band still continued on. And the song never sounded better, just filling the venue with everyone up and dancing.

And with all the many instruments, the band always manages to sound so tight. I love the varied instruments from trumpets to fiddles, banjos and the other instruments that appear. I just love the song ‘Ocean Breathes Salty‘ and on a nice cool night outside, it was almost perfect hearing it. The band were as awesome as always and I wouldnt have expected anything less.

One of my favorite bands played earlier on in the day – The Kooks. And man how I missed them. Sadly, the crowd mostly talked through their set and it was way too short but Ive always loved them and their energy. Luke Pritchard was as engaging as ever and tried to get the crowd going with sing alongs, but it didnt always work. He mentioned that he’d play an older song and it was quite sad how no one seemed to recognize “She Moves In Her Own Way“. I was just glad to hear earlier songs like ‘Ooh La’ and set-ender ‘Naive‘. While the band may not have sounded the best, they are always ones to watch for me. I never get tired of their music and its always a good time.

I was finally lucky enough to see Iceland’s Of Monsters and Men. The band who seems to play here all the time, sounded was great as I had expected them. Their set which seemed all dark and hazy due to their darkened lights totally fit the mood of the band. I didn’t realize how many band members were in the band and how many instruments were used. It seemed like a bunch of people on different drum sets, lots of different back-up vocalists and a range of brass instruments. In actuality, its probably just 7 of them, but their sound just filled the nighttime air and it was pretty beautiful. Somewhat moody and atmospheric they were quite the band. While I will always think theyre a somewhat lesser version of Stars, it still made for an engaging set. The harmonies are just beautiful and the back and forth interplay between the male and female always is just beautiful. Definitely a band I will need to see in a club at some point.

Atlas Genius sounded incredible and put on a really fun set. Sure, their music is all over the place and some of the songs got annoying, but on stage they were tight. Its a pity that their super dance-y guitar rock didn’t translate with the crowd (who were perhaps recouping from the major rays), because in any other place everyone would have been dancing. Their songs are all so very catchy and dance-y with lots of great catchy hooks and great harmonies. Songs like ‘If So‘ had people singing along and of course their first single ‘Trojans‘ had even more people singing along. This is one band who is made to play in clubs and I really need to catch them in that sort of environment.

Other bands included: WATERS – the very catchy indie-pop band from SF. I was standing with the guitarist and drummer (Marc Campbell and Etienne Bowler) of Misterwives during their set and he was super into it. Their show was just awesome fun (turns out theyre touring with Misterwives). Their songs were just pure catchy fun filled with catchy choruses. There was lots of crowd participation with sing-alongs and clapping along.

New York City’s Misterwives definitely did not let down. Im just so bummed that their next show here has been sold-out forever. They had one of the most awesome live performances of the day. The band was infectious fun with lots of solid dance performances happening on the stage as all the band members had their shots at showing off their dance moves. Their bassist just killed it and had all the moves. Lead singer, Mandy Lee, clearly took some cues from Gwen Stefani and was rocking the short shorts and half tops and really working the crowd. She had a moment too that was all about female-empowerment which was pretty awesome and rarely seen.

Their band has a definite No Doubt vibe with lots of ska infused songs complete with a brass section to really make the ska beats happening (think early No Doubt – not whats going on now). Their sax player was just genius and him and the trumpet player really add to the bands sound. It really made for a great set in which they had the crowd dancing to their very dance-y songs. It was just pure energy and it was great that the band and the crowd all could feel the same energy. Its a band that needs to be see again and will probably become huge at the rate theyre going.

Of course, Im a sucker for violinists – and Alan of Curious Quail killed it. Man could he rock out on the violin which was truly awesome. The band is from San Jose and is thankfully playing a small mini-tour on the west coast that should be awesome. Had a really great indie-rock/pop sound and had a really tight set with songs that were easy to get into and had you tapping along in no time. There were some great harmonies between the woman on bass and the lead singer. The singer had a really strong powerful voice. Was one of the best bands I saw on the local stage.

Andrew St. James was a pleasant surprise. I had crossed him off the list after not really getting into what I had heard, so it was just a fluke that I was exhausted and was looking for some grass and shade. He had with him a stand-up drummer and another guy. It was a pretty alt-folk act and he has a very Dylan-esque sound. He had such a great voice and it also helped that he was amusing as he yelled at the crowd for not applauding him on stage (bold move). He then commanded attention that was very well deserved.

K.Flay was someone that I just happened to catch in the dance tent. She is quite the talented rapper and has one hell of an awesome drummer. And with speaking of drummers – the drummer of 21 Pilots worked it and was insane. Along with a hanging mic the duo put on one hell of a set that was super high energy.

The Family Crest, another SF band, put on a really awesome set. They have so many different instruments including violin, cello, flute and piano. They were super tight with some great harmonies. A band very well worth seeing again!

Cold War Kids who I just want to like definitely put on a solid rock performance. But like always, I just find the band so boring and leave me wanting for more. Perhaps seeing them at a festival doesnt do them any justice, but its just one band that I could definitely be fine without seeing again.

Dangermaker from SF was one of the loudest bands I saw with heavy loud guitars and keys for good measure. The band just rocked out and had nice layers of guitars. And that lead singer could sure hit his high notes.

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Tell Me Its Not Over – Starsailor/Embrace

Posted by xneverwherex on June 4, 2015

Starsailor/Embrace
Slim’s
June 3, 2015

It felt like a reunion show of sorts, with these lovely bands of the late 90’s and 00’s. Its hard to watch these guys, not just as they age (we all do), but as the gigs change. At one point they were slated to play The Fillmore and then were bumped to Slim’s where it wasnt even a packed house. Seriously – its a pity. But at the same time, as a fan of the band, it meant a much more intimate show.

Starsailor It felt like a lifetime since I had seen Starsailor – a lifetime quite possibly being September 11, 2006 – a show that will live forever in my mind for the date alone and also seeing it in NYC. Its hard to pull off a show on that date – esp when it was just 5 years to the date. But I also had been lucky enough to see James Walsh perform a solo set, shortly before announcing the band’s hiatus. 5 years is a long time for a band to go away (even moreso now with videos on demand and everything changing in a heartbeat) and I am sure the band didn’t know what to expect on coming back. But here they were, filled with an audience who remembered the band from years prior, a little bit older but loving the band just as much.

James Walsh joked about growing old – getting fatter, losing hair, etc. – but his voice has held up quite beautifully. To this day, there are few artists that I put in his category of the greatest voices ever. Actually, between him and Kelly Jones of The Stereophonics, I am not sure there is a better voice out there. The band came out and jumped into “Poor Misguided Fool” which sounded as beautiful as ever. And wasting no time went directly into “Alcoholic” which was more heartbreaking than I had remembered it. It was quite awesome as the whole crowd sang along.

James wasn’t so talkative (when you compare him to Danny of Embrace), but he was having a really great time and was getting the crowd to sing along. Joking about if we didn’t know the lyrics how easy the part was – and demonstrated it for us (of course, it was just ooooh’s and aaahhhh’s). He introduced his band mates as the show progressed. Also, tried to not engage in a war of sports as a guy in the audience was talking about their football team winning 5 championships – and he wanted a high-5. James was pretty amusing and finally said something like ‘no way – I am not getting into a war about sports at a show – someone always gets mad’. Definitely one way to shut it down; although the guy wouldnt stop for a bit.

I was loving their faster, “harder” edged songs on James’ electric guitar. Their music had never sounded better to me. The show just could not possibly go on long enough and songs like “Fidelity” were just way too short. I loved that Danny had asked James to play “Fever” and so he dedicated the song to Danny and it was quite sweet. And Fever sounded just amazing! So glad it was put on the set. James’ high notes on “Lullaby” couldnt have sounded better. It felt like he should have been playing for a much bigger crowd. I loved that he asked about playing a new song, and if we wanted to hear it, and then he remarked about how he loved people singing along to a song that was just released a couple days before (thank you youtube)! And “Give Up The Ghost” is seriously that good! I am loving this new song and hope it brings new life to the band.

But one of the things Ive always loved about James is how honest he comes across. He remarked that when he started, their label probably would have dropped them if they only had one popular song, so it was a relief when their second song was a hit that they released. (Good Souls? quite possibly). The ending of the show was just insane playing some of their more popular songs. “Tell Me Its Not Over” is one of the most heart-wrenching songs ever and with the tempo of Barry banging on the piano its just soars and makes the song that much more upbeat. The audience was very into it and lots of hand clapping and singing along. Probably one of my favorite songs these days. Plus, its now getting ‘mixed’ and James is adding some other songs into it – such as Taylor Swift’s “Trouble” and I think part of an MGMT song was thrown in. And to end the show with “Four to the Floor” and of course “Silence is Easy” which is sounding as rocking as ever and closing it out with “Good Souls” — wow! Its great that the audience was so into it and he mentioned how we were so much a better crowd than Anaheim the night before and they were having such an amazing time.

Even if this were the last time I saw them (hopefully not!), I will forever have these awesome memories of the band. And of course, it all now lives on forever on youtube.

Embrace co-headlined the show and started off the night. And there were a lot of people in Embrace t-shirts which was pretty awesome. Danny McNamara, lead singer, is *the* ultimate front-man. If you ever wanted a band to be so full of energy and putting their hearts into a set, you couldn’t ask for a better band. The band, having been around since the brit-pop days of the 90s from the UK, seems to have somewhat fallen by the wayside. Steve, bassist, looked cooler than ever coming on stage with big sunglasses and the same floppy hair from the day. Most the band seemed like it never aged with similar hair styles. Like James said, maybe they got a bit older and fatter, but this band was looking awesome.

EmbraceThe band started off with the ever catchy ‘Protection‘ and after performing it asked how many of us even knew who they were from back then. Then obviously commented that we were all too young to remember them. The crowd missed the part of saying that the band was clearly too young to be that old. It was amusing. He asked how many people actually had their other albums and remembered songs from it. And of course, everyone knew their music and was singing along.

Danny worked the stage and kept prompting the crowd to move forward. Edging towards the very front of the stage he kept chastising the back of the room and told them they needed to be part of it; plus the sound stopped at a certain point and they just couldnt possibly hear the loudness from that far back. He was amusing but mostly just loving every minute of it. The band was just so excited to be playing you could see it all on their faces. As Danny would just look at you, his piercing blue eyes just melted you. I felt like I was 18 again crushing on a band.

Come Back To What You Know” took me back to my 20’s. I dont think I had really listened to The Good Will Out since what seemed a lifetime, but I could still picture their album – the front picture Ive never forgotten. Mickey was just awesome on the keys and in songs like the very dance-y “Quarters” it showed off his playing. And it also led into one of the many San Francisco stories. Mickey has a love of San Francisco and talked about wanting to move here as he so loved it here. Of course, real estate prices here is no ones friends, and Danny suggested he do a swap with someone at the show. Simply brilliant. They also talked about sitting at a pub and an 8-year old boy doing karaoke and singing ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco’, but the poor kid had a lisp and couldnt say it. It segued into the band playing ever-catchy ‘Save Me‘ which had the crowd singing along.

One of the highlights was hearing Danny sing “Gravity“. It is one of the most beautiful songs and interestingly enough it wasnt even written by the band. It was written by one Chris Martin and team (aka Coldplay), who gave it to the band. And the song is so suited for them. Afterwards, Richard, guitarist and brother of Danny, sang the band’s new song ‘Refugees‘ which is a bit more electronic but with a rock edge featuring Richard’s falsetto which is nothing short of impressive. There was so much pressure and he joked about how nervous he was, so insisted on tuning his guitar for a bit, for fear of f’ing it up. Just watching Danny watch his younger brother was pretty sweet. It just reminded me of watching a proud family moment. And right after that going onto play one of my favorite songs ‘Ashes’ which people had been screaming out for. And everyone started jumping around with hands in the air singing along. It was one of those moments that you can imagine happening in an arena with everyone sharing that moment. So it wasnt quite like that, but it still had that feel and the band seemed pretty excited even as Danny kept motioning for people to ‘dance and sing’ and mostly to keep coming forward.

It was heartbreaking to hear Danny talk about how it might be the last time they ever play SF and he’d see us in the after-life. The crowd went nuts and so he suggested everyone getting their mates to their gigs so they could keep on doing this. And sure the band sounds like an homage to those other bands – The Charlies – Stone Roses – and any other 90’s band from the same era/area – and theyre all trying to still be here and keep playing. But there was something special about last night, hearing both bands talk so lovingly about the other. Danny commented on watching Starsailor the previous nights and how one show was really great and the other one was as good. The crowd chuckled. Definitely no love lost with these 2 bands.

So hearing these songs live, was really awesome. I still have a fondness for their music and while never was a huge Embrace fan, their live show is just brilliant. I wish I had thought to see them awhile back as I imagine their shows would have been nothing short of incredible. With that being said, their new song is a force to be reckoned with off their latest EP (from 2014) titled Refugees – and perhaps the tides will change and there can be a resurgence for Embrace.

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The Mountain Goats – the greatest music trade in craigslist history

Posted by xneverwherex on June 3, 2015

The Mountain Goats
Blank Range
The Fillmore
June 1, 2015

True story. If it wasnt for nameless and countless friends, Id probably still be wondering who this band was. Lets rephrase that. Years ago in NYC, a guy I was dating at one time but turned into an amazing friend, invited me to a Mountain Goats show. I have no clue why I didnt go, and the only reason I know this is because I was searching for Mountain Goats and found an email exchange. The more interesting thing was, he wasnt the first guy to invite me to the band. For whatever reason, I always associated them in a category I deemed ‘guy-rock’. Moral of the story – never underestimate the power of guys youve dated who end up becoming good friends. They probably have better taste in music than you.

Even truer story – Id be lying if I said I didnt know who John Darnielle was. Of course I knew who he was, who didnt. I lived in NY – we lived, talked, breathed music for years. Did I also ever mention how I was in love with Superchunk – one of the most awesome 90s ‘real’ indie bands operating a real indie label (Merge Records – home of one John Darnielle). So there I was in NYC at The Music Hall of Williamsburg seeing Superchunk yet again for another countless time and the band starts playing ‘Digging For Something’ and this guy in glasses is pogoing around the stage singing along and having a great time. Mac ends the song with ‘John Darnielle everyone’ and of course, crowd goes f’ing crazy!

John Darnielle - The Mountain GoatsBut I digress, here I am years later – a lot older – definitely less wiser – and again out with a guy I previously used to date – who is a good friend with way better taste in music than myself. And at this point — an even dearer friend in Asheville — is posting lyrics from The Mountain Goats and turns out has ‘Heretic Pride‘ tattooed on his arm. I knew this had to be a sign. Two very important people in my life were having these emotional experiences with the band. At this point, I was pretty sad that The Fillmore show had sold out, but turned out there’d be a second show at Great American Music Hall. So I wasted no time and bought tickets – and later lucked out to swap them for The Fillmore. Probably the greatest music trade in craigslist history.

I had started listening to their music religiously and was transfixed by the lyrics. The outpouring of his heart was something I could relate to all so well. I had cried one too many times listening to ‘Waving At You‘ that when he played it, it was impossible to not grab my friend. I could have turned into a ball of tears at that moment, but there was something so ridiculously beautiful and cathartic about hearing it performed live.

The band came out to the ever catchy ‘Blood Capsules‘ and in an instant the crowd was alive. Everyone seemed to be so into it — lots of dancing and moving around, lots of singing along, some hands in the air. It was a perfect crowd for a perfect show.

John was at his finest. He was oh so talkative with plenty of stories about pro wrestling and they were perfect introductions for the songs off of ‘Beat The Champ‘. At moments I felt I had gone back to the 70s and was about to watch a wrestling match on tv — there was always the villain and the good-guy. But as John said – in real life – there is no possible way to be the villain. I mean sure you can, but you cannot just hate people and feel no sympathy, lest you be labeled a sociopath. Such a perfect introduction for ‘Foreign Object‘ about a good guy going bad and a bad guy going good and eventually being stabbed in the eye with a foreign object. Honestly, I wasnt sure much could eclipse stories like that.

But then there was John Vanderslice and talk about Tiny Telephone Recording Studios in SF and of course SF’s own John Vanderslice was there to play on ‘Heel Turn 2‘. It was one of the most beautiful songs from the show last night. And John Vanderslice has got to be one of the coolest cats ever. It was too bad that they didnt do one of the songs that they recorded together, but who cares, this song was perfect.

And how can any show at The Fillmore not get some sorta mention of the Grateful Dead. And John did not disappoint. He talked about hating on the Dead while he was still into the black eyeliner goth scene (ala Bowie) – and sure everyone loves to hate on the Dead. But musically they are geniuses, perhaps not lyrical wise. So of course, a cover had to be played. It was pretty awesome as it was just John and his guitar (part of the 3 song solo part – which did include ‘Waving At You’) playing ‘Friend of the Devil‘ – which is actually quite a great song. He also played ‘Straight Six‘ for the first time ever and managed to do quite a bit of tuning before playing and joked about doing that to prolong playing the song.

The Mountain GoatsAmong stories galore, one of the best shows ever was played. John is an incredible frontman. He was so impressed with the crowd and amazed at how quiet we were during the slow songs (you could have heard a pin drop) and also how energetic it was at points. It was almost too perfect to have it all in one, that at moments I wanted to pinch myself to make sure it was real. Plus, his other band members are insanely awesome – Jon Wurster, drummer of Superchunk and tMG – bassist Peter Hughes, who is simply f’ing awesome and has some pretty sweet bass lines – and mostly the multi-talented Matt Douglas, who plays nearly every instrument but was pretty sweet on the sax and clarinet! (why oh why arent there more clarinets in bands!)

And naturally, he ended the show by talking about encores (which most people know I really detest). The silliness of them – and how if you come out – typically you perform 2 songs, and then maybe leave again and come back to do another 2 – and its this huge deal or the other way – you come out for an encore and just play and play another long set. So as he said he’d be playing a long set for the encore and we’d all appreciate it. And there is nothing ever wrong with that especially when you get to hear ‘This Year‘ which might be my mantra for the year. And it was quite an encore and I could have been happy with that. But the crowd never stopped and got louder and louder and surprise – he did a second encore. The second encore included the Gladiator songs performed back-to-back which is a rarity and was pretty amazing! And it was a perfect way to close out the night.

I have loved Beat The Champ from the moment I heard it. All of the songs are so beautiful and I love the stories about the wrestlers and hearing them performed live was perfect. Of course, throw in older songs, never before played songs, a cover, and John Vanderslice a second time (he played during the 2nd encore) and you get a perfect show. As a friend emailed me today, “I’m glad you are now a member of the church”.

“i am gonna make it through this year, if it kills me.” – john darnielle

Set List:
Blood Capsules
Cry for Judas
Animal Mask
Foreign Object
Get Lonely
Heel Turn 2 (with John Vanderslice)

John Solo
Straight Six (first time played live)
Waving at You
Friend of the Devil (Grateful Dead cover)

Full band
Fire Editorial
Luna
Stabbed to Death Outside San Juan
The Young Thousands
Love Love Love
Never Quite Free
Up the Wolves

Encore 1
Southwestern Territory
The Legend of Chavo Guerrero
The Diaz Brothers
Hast Thou Considered the Tetrapod
This Year

Encore 2
Amy AKA Spent Gladiator 1
Spent Gladiator 2
No Children

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Black English – #OtherCoastConfiguration

Posted by xneverwherex on May 30, 2015

Black English
Vela Eyes
Meet Me In Orbit
(Upstairs @) DNA Lounge
5/29/15

Echo Park’s Black English (fka NO) played a couple of shows across the States leading up to today’s Bottlerock Festival. If I had been paying attention and noticing all of their #’s – I would have realized the show would be a bit different.

Black EnglishThe band is currently playing this small “tour” as a 3 piece band with Spike on drums and Laura Burhenn (of the Mynabirds) on keys. Naturally, you still have Bradley on guitars/vocals. Hence the othercoastconfiguration tags. It seems fitting as the band just finished touring with Yann Tiersen in Europe and the Psychedelic Furs across The States and Canada.

While it definitely lacked some of their bigger sound with the missing guitars, this worked out pretty well. I wasn’t sure how some of their more anthemic songs would sound, but with Bradley’s amazing vocals coming together with Laura’s it gave a nice change to their sound. I really was enjoying their harmonies and their voices had a beautiful blend. I felt at times that the keyboard was too overpowering and somewhat distracted from the songs, but overall it worked.

Suzanne” (Leonard Cohen cover) which features Laura sounded gorgeous. As the music goes from Bradley singing to Laura and then the two of them harmonizing together the song couldnt sound more beautiful. Of course, it was all about their hits off of El Prado and Bradley’s baritone did them justice. Even without the crescendoing guitars his vocals do wonders on setting a tempo — he had the crowd clapping along to ‘Stay With Me‘ and lots of fist pumping to ‘Leave The Door Wide Open‘. The crowd was very into the show with some people showing off their dance moves and most people just clapping and singing along and moving to the beat of the music.

Regardless of #othercoastconfiguration – the band surprisingly worked amazing as a 3-piece. Once you rearrange a few songs and add more keys and throw down some percussion – you get a pretty awesome ‘new’ band. Chicago, LA, NYC and SF were all pretty lucky to have them come through — hopefully theyll be back soon. And even more surprising, it was only the band’s second show in SF (which seemed to be a theme of the night).

San Francisco’s Vela Eyes put on an entertaining set. They have a 90’s vibe with one hell of a kick-ass singer. She tears it up not only vocally, but in her mini-dress and knee high socks really works the stage with some pretty great kicks. They have a Blondie kind of rock edge and blends a lot of styles together with some songs having a more shoegaze 60’s wall of sound and others just pure rock-n-roll. The other woman on keyboards adds backing vocals which are a nice blend (although at times hard to hear). Personally, I loved when she wasnt on the keys and was playing her guitar — loud fuzzy and lots of reverberation. They were quite good and well worth seeing.

And while I do love Black English, I cant help but say how excited I was to see Meet Me In Orbit on the bill. All of a sudden, the show was *really* worth seeing. Their first show ever (opening for Public Service Broadcasting), blew my mind away. So I figured they had probably played another few shows and were going to become huge right away, but was pleasantly surprised to hear it was only their 2nd show ever (along with Black English – albeit this was just their second show in SF). I arrived early enough to hear the guys (Jared and Brandon) finishing up their soundcheck. I only had one thought – it was going to be much louder than I had remembered.

So seeing their second show, I figured I’d be happy if it were even as good as the first (which was great!) and it was so much better. Its hard to say if the songs were more polished, or if the crowd which seemed to be all there for them was just more into it, but everything just seemed bigger and better. Their lush chillwave/dreampop sound filled the venue. “Last Time” sounded gorgeous and the crowd just swayed along to the music. Their electronic sound was just perfect with Jared’s vocals filling the room. And while a lot of the songs were more laid back with the chill vibe – they definitely have the more upbeat electronic songs to get the crowd moving.

Meet Me In OrbitThey just released their first EP Traveler with 5 songs. The music will take you on a trip and let you get away to the past for just a bit of time and what a lovely time it is. If you haven’t yet seen them (and odds are with only 2 shows you probably haven’t), the next time they do play (and hopefully a tour will come soon), be sure to not miss them.

Check out “We Are Grown” which reminds me of a cross between Chvrches and Little Daylight.

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The Singer Addresses His Audience – The Decemberists

Posted by xneverwherex on May 5, 2015

The Decemberists
Lucius
The Greek Theatre
5/1/15

Portland, OR The Decemberists were in town for their latest release What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World. The band performed one of their best shows ever to a sold-out crowd in Berkeley. It was the bands first time playing at The Greek, and they had never sounded better. The acoustics were fabulous in the amphitheater and their sound filled the venue.

The Decemberists

The Decemberists

The setlist focused mainly on their newer material (which is nothing short of awesome) but also had a few songs from the impressive Hazards of Love. Overall, they did a song here and there from their prior albums. Of course, its always great when they are playing songs from their earlier material. Plus, Colin Meloy wanted to focus on California and all things/songs California – which meant we got the ever fitting ‘Grace Cathedral Hill’. He also seemed to start to wax poetic about Los Angeles before commenting on the rivalry between the two areas. Regardless, it was pretty awesome to hear ‘Los Angeles, Im Yours’.

Of course, any Decemberists show without the charm of Colin Meloy, would really not be a show. Colin was in great form and oh so talkative. He talked about writing the song ‘Calamity Song’ and how it was much better when it was initially written to be “Hank Eat Your Oatmeal” which is obviously a classic. Written to get his son to eat oatmeal, the song was just that line but oh so precious. And of course, the worst song to ever be written ‘Dracula’s Daughter’ is always pretty awesome even if its just a small clip.

But really, there were two major highlights of the night. The first and very unexpected surprise was the band performing “The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won’t Wrestle The Thistles Undone). I really didn’t think I would ever hear it again live after seeing it performed with Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond) back in 2009. Nor, did I ever think it could be that impressive. If you’re not familiar with the song, right about now you need to be hearing it. But, Kelly Hogan KILLED it! Thats an understatement, Kelly (Neko Case’s partner in crime aka a vocalist in her current band) has a wonderful voice. And her addition to the song was nothing short of beautiful. So that was a very pleasant surprise. Plus, it turns out some friends know her and couldn’t have enough praise for her and how thankful/excited she was. Seriously, this is beyond awesome.

And if that wasn’t enough, ’16 Military Wives’ (which I just love), got all the better. During the ‘la di dahs’ towards the end of the song Colin had a lot of crowd participation from getting the audience to sing along, to engaging all parts of the amphitheater from the very front to the grass on the hill. He singled out a few people getting them to do individual performances plus also in typical Colin format, telling the crowd to be quiet because ‘Im a professional’ and naturally he can do it better. But one of the best parts was when he told the crowd to stop singing and be quiet and don’t think about the song, but think about the song ‘Sailing’ from Christopher Cross and to sing it to yourself (which naturally he did) and then forgot the lyrics and of course, it couldnt have been more amusing.

The Decemberists

The Decemberists

The band was tight and the back-up vocalists were awesome. Chris Funk was having a great time as always switching it up from the banjo to the guitar to some mandolin. Colin, vocally, has never sounded better and of course the harmonica playing was all the better; but seriously no concert is ever complete without Jenny Conlee – naturally kicking ass on the accordion and piano. But all the better when she adds her vocals to a song and Colin will typically take a moment to applaud her. The crowd just loves her!

Sadly, the band was running out of time which meant they had to cut their set short. Always a pity as theres so much material to want to hear. Of course, no show is complete without having ‘The Mariner’s Revenge Song’ as the finale/encore. So of course, with roughly 15 minutes left before 11pm, the band announced it would be their last song and dove right in. And the song was as fun as always – with a couple practice rounds of screaming … how often are most of us eaten by a whale, so you definitely have to prepare. He said us Californians would probably be more used to dealing with this (sharks in an ocean??) and gave us a practice round. Of course, it wasnt quite good enough but with 2 rounds we were ready to go. And just like that the quintet began the journey. It felt like you were on a ship going down, and you could feel the crowd going back and forth like being on the ocean. As the song continued, soon enough the whale (which seems to have grown), came out and swallowed us all. Obviously, there were survivors (hence the song), and the song continued. Nate Query on stand-up bass and Chris on mandolin and of course Jenny providing backing vocals all sounded amazing! The song just couldn’t possibly have been better.

The show was just brilliant. Ive now seen the band a handful of times and this show might have been the best. The band was in top form and Colin just seemed so happy. And of course, the crowd loves him. Berkeley ended up being a great night for them.

Plus, Lucius opened. The two women who sing (who dress the same, yet aren’t sisters) also sounded really great. The Brooklyn based band has an indie-pop-folk sound with some of the most beautiful harmonies. They also at times sound like a 60’s girl band and add a bit of guitar and you get a perfect pop band. They will definitely get big and opening for the Decemberists is sure to help them out. A perfect complement to the Decemberists and it made for a special night.

Set list:
The Singer Addresses His Audience
Cavalry Captain
Down By The Water
Hank Eat Your Oatmeal/Calamity Song
Grace Cathedral Hill
Anti-Summersong
Make You Better
The Wrong Year
The Island
Los Angeles, I’m Yours
Carolina Low
The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won’t Wrestle the Thistles Undone) w/Kelly Hogan
A Bower Scene
Won’t Want for Love
The Rake’s Song
16 Military Wives
Dracula’s Daughter/O Valencia
A Beginning Song

The Mariner’s Revenge Song

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I’m In Love… With That Song – The Replacements

Posted by xneverwherex on April 14, 2015

The Replacements
John Doe
Masonic Auditorium
4/13/15

20+ years later and The Replacements were back in San Francisco for the “Back By Unpopular Demand Tour”. The much-adored Minneapolis ‘Mats broke up all too soon in 1991 and it was hard to imagine that this day would come. It was even harder to come by with a ticket to this oh so sold-out show which seemed to have sold out in mere minutes of their onsale time. But pretty much any price would have been worth it to see them. I had pretty much given up on going to the show and opted for a ticket to another reunion show Ride over at The Warfield. But my heart was always in it to see The ‘Mats.

Mats

Mats

It was interesting to see them in a nice, polished club with ushers at the doors and ‘bartenders’ in their tuxes selling way overpriced drinks. But I will say the sound at The Masonic was pretty amazing. While I cant say Im a huge fan of Nob Hill (is anyone really?), it was a pretty sweet venue and one Id gladly go back to. So it was amusing when Tommy Stinson commented about how they used to play in the ‘lowlands’ (referring to the I-Beam in the Haight). And naturally Paul Westerberg could barely remember it. And that was just the kind of show it was.

Some bantering about the songs, the area and how we needed to break the Portland curse. And if that wasnt broken after that, Im not sure what would have unbroke it. The band started out the night just right with ‘Takin a Ride‘. The crowd was jumping and bouncing and it was pure energy with lots of fists punching into the air. It was hard to go wrong when that was just the opening song. Of course, it was over all too soon with what felt like 2 minute songs of pure raw-punk energy. Headed right into ‘Favorite Thing‘ kept the audience moving and it seemed that energy would never stop.

The band sounded as great as ever. Sure, theyre a little older (or a lot!) as we all are. Forgotten lyrics, shortened songs, clips of songs that didn’t finish, and even Paul singing ‘Androgynous‘ from inside of a tent. It just would not get better than that, but of course it did. While the band didn’t necessarily have hits, they did manage to play a lot of their more popular songs along with their deeper cuts. It should have appealed to nearly everyone in some way, shape or form. They really mixed it up with playing songs from their early albums Hootenanny and Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash plus their later albums.

And best of all, the band still had that grittiness/dirt to them. They still had an edginess to them and Paul might be a little grayer but hell a lot of us are now and he still sounds as great as ever. The energy from Tommy on bass is still electrifying. Dave Minehan on guitars was f’ing brilliant. He had so much energy and was an awesome fit. (Original ‘Mats guitarist Slim Dunlap is recovering from a stroke; while original drummer Chris Mars ixnayed the reunion tour). On drums was Josh Freese who was pretty kick-ass having played in oh so many other bands. Its a great fit and they seem to have chemistry.

The show was one of those things where it was either going to be insanely awesome or it would just suck. Thankfully, it was f’ing brilliant. I couldnt have asked for a better time, better company and a most awesome crowd. Everyone singing to “Bastards of Young” is one of those moments that will be hard to forget. The excitement of finally hearing “Kiss Me on the Bus” live was beyond awesome. Plus, Paul playing “Skyway” acoustically was just gorgeous. And then you add in other popular songs like “Ill Be You“, “I Will Dare” and of course the final encore of “Alex Chilton” along with the entire crowd singing along and it might be one of the most perfect sets.

Mats

Mats

I may regret not taking more photos (really hardly any), but hell if it was way back when none of us would have even had them. It was nice to see for most the set that there werent a whole lot of people recording/filming every second of it. We were all caught up in a time and moment together, and fuck it, why bother trying to replicate it. It will never be better than that moment. With that being said, the photos on here are all from Ben Graham and theyre quite a fitting way to remember the show.

Opener John Doe (of X) opened up the show and like many a punk-rocker these days, he has gone the alt-country-folk route. And they were quite good and the woman in his band had amazing vocals. He changed the lyrics to a song to reflect a SF club and that was a nice touch. And he even played some X songs as well so that is a pretty cool thing. Plus, its f’ing John Doe opening and it seemed a very fitting opener.

Set List:
Takin a Ride
Favorite Thing
Hangin Downtown
Treatment Bound
I Don’t Know/Buck Hill/I Don’t Know
(Elvis “Little Sister” tease)
I.O.U.
“Poetry Tent” (Paul reads in a tent to “Take Five,” Brubeck
Androgynous
([with Paul singing from inside a tent)
Kissin’ in Action
((with Tommy playing Black Sabbath Iron Man intro at the end))
I Will Dare
Kiss Me on the Bus
20th Century Boy / Bang a Gong (Get It On) / All Shook Down
Nobody
Take Me Down to the Hospital
I’m in Trouble
I Hate Music
If Only You Were Lonely
I’ll Be You
The Ledge
Color Me Impressed
Maybellene
(Chuck Berry cover)
Anywhere’s Better Than Here
Sixteen Blue
Can’t Hardly Wait
Bastards of Young
Within Your Reach
Seen Your Video

Encore:
Skyway
(Paul solo acoustic)

Encore 2:
Left of the Dial
Alex Chilton

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Ibeyi

Posted by xneverwherex on April 3, 2015

Ibeyi
Flo Morrissey
The Independent
4/2/15

Ibeyi, the much-hyped SXSW band from Paris, had finally emerged in San Francisco. Ibeyi, meaning twins in Yoruba, had to be the most adorable twin sisters I had ever seen perform. I guess one word that kept coming to mind while watching them was ‘precious’. And their set was just that (which is not to take anything away from how brilliant they are).

The sisters came out to the stage to a crowd that was beyond excited to finally be seeing them perform. They kneeled down and picked up the candles on the stage and lit them before starting their first African chant. Add some traditional Cuban drums, and the beats came alive with Naomi keeping a consistent beat throughout the show. Coupled with sister, Lisa-Kaindé, singing in Yoruba (a bygone Nigerian and Santeria language) and the show was already that great.

The show felt at times voyeuristic as we watched the sisters perform chants and folk songs for the Yoruba gods. Lisa-Kaindé talked a lot about the gods and who they were and how they were a part of the songs. It felt like we were almost invading this sacred world, but the way they made the audience a part of it was nothing short of special.

Ibeyi

Ibeyi

The blend of Afro-Cuban, French music set to drum beats was a minimalist sound but simple and beautiful. With the piano playing of Lisa-Kaindé against Naomi’s drum beats and the strong vocals it was so easy to get lost in the music. The sultry dance moves as they glided across the stage just added to the ambience of their music. As the twins went into their single ‘River‘, they dedicated it to the gods (possibly Oshun and Shango – one was definitely for the water and the other earth) and had the crowd sing along “wash my soul again” as they sang “I will come to you river”. The end result was just beautiful as the crowd became a part of their show.

The crowd, who was filled with lots of very polite women (someone even complimented Lisa-Kaindé’s dress), would apologize each time they bumped you or wanted to squeeze in and take a picture. And it felt all too fitting with the sisters on stage who had that same vibe to them. They were all too thankful to be playing and so excited that the crowd was so into them. The crowd was electric and sang along to most of the songs as well as continued with the clapping as instructed. Songs like “Oya” just stood out with the gorgeous piano playing and warm/strong vocals against the simple percussions keeping up the beat. And “Ghosts” is nothing short of spectacular. You can just feel the pain in their voices as they harmonize together and come together as one. The pianos and drums together with their chanting and vocals just makes for a beautiful song.

In short, this is a band to see. While their music itself is simplistic, when they perform together its really something beautiful and magical. The twins come together as one and take us into a world that rarely we get to see. Its usually hard to translate that into a live performance but theyve managed to do just that. In a nutshell, its just precious and will take you out of your own world/life for just a bit.

Opener Flo Morrissey came out to a very loud audience. She was soft-spoken and picked up her guitar and played a short acoustic set. She had some good songs and her vocals are nothing short of impressive – strong and powerful – but she just couldn’t compete with a crowd that was far louder than her. It seemed most the time you could barely hear her singing but Im sure in the right venue she would be pretty awesome to hear.

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Go! (Public Service Broadcasting)

Posted by xneverwherex on April 1, 2015

Public Service Broadcasting
What Up Mang
Meet Me In Orbit
(Upstairs) @ DNA Lounge
3/31/15

Its been a year since Public Service Broadcasting had been around, but amazingly enough they’ve already released their 2nd album. Aptly titled The Race For Space, the band has now surpassed where they started from. This new album is pure genius and it feel like it could just take us up into space.

Public Service Broadcasting

Public Service Broadcasting

London boys J. Willgoose, Esq. (always looking lawyerly in a bowtie and corduroy) and Wrigglesworth, the bad ass on the drums, always know how to put on an incredible show. While the band doesnt talk at all, their computer certainly makes for a 3rd person of the band. With lovely quips ‘thank you San Francisco’ or ‘We’re so glad that we are finally playing (majorly long pause) Upstairs the DNA’, the computer has a personality of its own. The two guys clearly have an awesome time playing together and it shows all over their face with lots of big smiles.

Mostly their show is all about the music. The Race for Space is just that. It felt like we had gone back in time to when JFK was in office – there was a need to get to space and see the unknown world, get to the moon – and hearing it all looped over their music was something pretty special. The band has managed to do one hell of an impressive feat with getting the astronauts and NASA’s original broadcasts and communications between each other. The band has some amazing footage from times lost and has incorporated it into one hell of a visual display. Between the visuals and the aural sensation, at points it felt like we were there.

Single ‘Gagarin‘ is a fun disco-infused electronic song that really got the crowd dancing. People were there for fun and the tiny little upstairs was a great place for everyone to get a bit hot and sweaty dancing to their music. ‘Signal 30‘ off their first album is still a catchy piece with much heavier guitars and drums as cars go flying down the road with the announcer talking about ‘driving too fast – no drinking and driving’. It just works and with all of their songs you feel like youre transported into this whole different world of theirs. I still get a bit misty eyed every time they play ‘Everest‘ just imagining being there — with the most gorgeous mountain ever. Its just hauntingly beautiful.

With that being said – their new music combined with some of their most awesome tracks off the other album – makes for one hell of a show. You just dont want it to end.

Meet Me In Orbit

Meet Me In Orbit

Its only fitting that Meet Me In Orbit (with perhaps one of the best names ever!) was one of the show’s openers. The San Francisco band played their first show ever last night and the crowd was so into them. The band is bringing their own dreamy, spacey electronic sound which is catchy and dance-y and like PSB, just takes you away. It was hard to not want more from the band, but with such few songs you take what you can get. Thankfully, their first EP gets released on April 7 – and if youve missed really good dream-space-pop that you can just close your eyes and dance to – then make sure to get this. They’re one of those bands that you expect to be big and to hear much more from because they are THAT good!

What Up Mang

What Up Mang

What Up Mang! managed to bring some pretty cool kaleidoscope disco psychedelic beats from the Lower Haight to SOMA. The band was definitely out there and were having a great time and I never would have thought Id say that disco and psychedelic music could go together, but it seemingly blended all too well together. Plus, they had some great blissed out harmonies. The lead singer was quite the dancing machine and she was enthralling to watch. Plus, they even managed to have a crazy cover of Billy Ray Cyrus’ ‘Achy Breaky Heart‘ and they made it even better by slowing it down and adding some heavy Hawaiian luau beats. So if you ever just want a fun night out, this band will deliver, plus youll end up dancing the night away.

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On A Mission w/Black Violin

Posted by xneverwherex on March 26, 2015

Black Violin
Yoshi’s Oakland
3/22/15

Couldnt have picked a better venue for Miami’s Black Violin to play. Yoshi’s is a sweet little jazz club that doesn’t leave space for dancing, but is great for a very intimate performance. The sound couldn’t possibly have been better and as it was all chairs and tables, the sightlines were great.

Of course, right from the on-set the band went against Yoshi’s “rules” and told everyone to take pictures and videos and to tag everything with @BlackViolin. They also encouraged everyone to stand up and dance and their shows were not made for sitting. Sadly, there really wasnt much room to stand nor dance, but people did what they could on occasion.

Black Violin

Black Violin

The duo consisting of the always wide smiling Kev Marcus on violin and Wil B on viola are nothing short of impressive. From seeing them at a small hip-hop club last year at SXSW to seeing them at a jazz club, the band doesn’t disappoint.

The band started out with their classical music “Brandenburg” showing just how talented the two of them are. It quickly moved into some hip-hop numbers along with their DJ throwing down the beats and a drummer who was simply sick. The way the guys move between genres and making it sound so flawless is pretty amazing. The wah-wah effects pedal used with Kev’s violin is pretty sick and not something that you see a lot. It gives the instrument such a full on sound taking it far away from a traditional violin sound.

Im a big fan of their renditions of popular songs and just how amazing they sound with violins and their vocals. It helps that they encourage a lot of audience participation with hands in the air, encouraging lots of dancing and of course, singing along. Its a bit of a bummer when the crowd is pretty silent to a song like Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky“, but then again hearing Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars “Uptown Funk” on violins is nothing short of impressive. Of course, the crowd was mostly singing along and a few of us had our hands in the air or were dancing. “Radioactive” and “Stay With Me” were also pretty cool, but Im a bigger fan of their original numbers. “The Mission” is a highly catchy song with great beats/synths and Kev plucking his violin like a guitar and will have you tapping your foot in no time. But the band is most impressive when they perform their song “Freestyle” which is exactly as it sounds – just them performing on the fly, feeding off the energy of the audience and never the same. Its pretty cool to see what they come up with. Of course, after it was done Wil asked for someone to be sure to post it as it was one of the more awesome Freestyles. This is where the band excels fusing classical with hip-hop and making it all sound so fresh and new.

The band had now been touring for 65 days straight and it seems theyre hitting up everywhere. So if they haven’t yet hit your city, its a crime to not see them. Push yourself into a genre you probably weren’t necessarily aware of and enjoy some violin for a night. It will blow your mind. Now, if theyd just start playing the club circuit and then you could have a real party!

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