Apparently the Airliner held a little battle of the bands last night, various musical acts competing for a prize and some much needed recognition. But I wasn't there for all of that, I was there to witness Fire In The Asylum... This being my first time seeing them, I was not exactly sure what I was in for. The "music snob" inside of me was telling me to not expect much more than some bland metal band, while the "anti-snob squad" was telling me to keep an optimistic mind and not judge a book by the cover. Well... in the end, as always, the music did the talking, and I can safely say Fire In The Asylum turned me into a fan.
On paper, Fire In The Asylum is a three piece, made up of guitarist/vocalist Josh, bassist Roqui, and drummer Graham. But on stage, each member brings with them their own musical history and techniques to create an experience that fluctuates between various styles. The sonic body is made up mostly of hard rock, garnished with a metal exterior, but inside the hard exterior lays a warm heart made up of classic rock and blues influences. What impressed me was the seamless combination of all these sounds into coherent and affecting songs. One second they were head banging away, then the next it was an alternative rock chord progression, and then the next a bluesy solo, all while not skipping a beat. Josh also displayed some great vocal abilities, in step with the music, weaving in and out, screaming from one line into a falsetto on the next.
Fire In The Asylum's strength lies in their multiple dimensions. The trio has created a very wide and deep musical landscape, peppered with enough "pop" sensibilities to create a long-term future for themselves. As a fan, I am excited to see how far they go and to hear the music they will create. So in case I didn't get my point across, Fire In The Asylum put on a great show that rocked my socks off; they are definitely worth checking out.
And guess what? They also won the battle of the bands.
Smooooooooth! That's the first word that comes to mind when I think of Mayer Hawthorne. I saw him play at the Echoplex Tuesday night. It was a Stones Throw record label night and oh, what a night it was. I had been having a bad day and thought I might not make it to the show, but I knew that would be a very bad choice, especially since Tuesday night marked the last time... Mayer Hawthorne would be performing in Los Angeles until after his tour is through; there are no L.A. dates listed after 4-21 [sadness overcomes me]. Also, I knew how much better I would feel after seeing his performance--perfect shit-day medicine.
Mayer Hawthorne comes from Ann Arbor, Michigan and Los Angeles is very proud to claim him as our own (now that he resides here), actually, he's been here for the past couple of years. Tuesday night marked Hawthorne's first L.A. performance with his band, The County. They came onstage in classic black suits- reminiscent of the Motown singers that inspire their music. In fact, if I didn't know what year I was in, I would not know that Mayer Hawthorne and The County was not from the Motown heyday era.
Hawthorne opened the set with "Maybe So, Maybe No" this song is a soulful hit that will bring you to your knees. I've heard it is a cover, but have found no proof (so far) that it is and, even if it is, I bet they do it total justice. They keep it so cool, but just when we think that these guys are a fabulous carbon copy of your favorite sixties-soul band, they throw in a cover of M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes," their own rendition, of course. The crowd craved Mayer all night. We had to wait through two djs (that were really awesome, so it made the wait a little more bearable), and when he finally hit the stage with The County, we totally devoured 'em up. Having Mayer Hawthorne in L.A. is really a treat; we can now add him to our little funk-soul niche that we hit up when we want our funk-soul fix.
Mayer Hawthorne and The County is currently on a U.S.-Canadian tour with fellow Stones Throw artists: Peanut Butter Wolf, Dam-Funk, and James Pants.Luckily, his L.A. fans were able to catch him before he left. . . phew!His album is due out very, very soon. In the meantime, check out his stuff online. And, he currently has a really cool red, heart-shaped vinyl available for purchase for his single,"Just Ain't Gonna Work Out," which is a heartfelt break-up song that will send you runnin' to your mamma.
Oh man, do I miss the live-score series the Silent Movie Theatre did last February. There's just nothing else like seeing live music performed to giant moving picture. It's engaging and thrilling and a lot like seeing live theatre (but added bonus of being able to rock out). So you can imagine how badly I flipped out when I learned that Throbbing Gristle were coming to Hollywood to perform a live score to a Derek Jarman film. I was so excited I didn't even mind coughing up Ticketmaster fees...
First of all, if you're not familiar with Throbbing Gristle, wikipedia them immediately. This British, avant-garde performance art consortium were the godfathers of the Industrial music movement. Formed in the 1976, they haven't played Los Angeles is over thirty years. Over. Thirty. Years. When it comes to disturbing electronic synth noise-art insanity, Throbbing Gristle are legends.
Secondly, this performance wasn't your standard "oh look, let's watch these old musicians play their greatest hits while I drink $10 beer" concert either. Isn't it sad that I even have to make that disclaimer? Any time a "legendary" band plays, it usually means you see one original band member and then go buy your limited edition t-shirts. But Throbbing Gristle were all about breaking past preconceived notions of performance. With two modest folding tables facing each other on the stage, all four members started by sitting quietly and concentrating on the task at hand: movie scoring.
Derek Jarman's 1974 film, In The Shadow of the Sun, was a grainy pastiche of abstract and gruesome images. Over-exposed images of burning paper mingled with hooded figures and tarot cards. To see an 8 mm film blown up to gigantic proportions on three different screens was a feat of its own, but then there was the soundtrack. Throbbing Gristle created an immense, anxious soundscape. It was all synths and screeching sonic waves. Band figurehead Genesis P. Orridge (famed for his gaudy costumes and showmanship) used a white violin to make piercing cries. Sometimes the lower-register sounds would be so loud that my chair would start shaking. Why can't that happen at all movies?!
Anyway, the show itself was very abstract and very cool. After the movie finished, Throbbing Gristle were kind of enough to play "Persuasion" (one of their best known songs). So ok, sure, they played one of their greatest hits. And yes, the entire theatre went batshit crazy for it. But the live scoring made the show completely different from the rest of their North American Tour, and you could tell. The best thing about the night was how special it felt to be there. To quote a woman who I was standing in line with, "I had to be here tonight because... I may never get another chance to see Throbbing Gristle again."
Music, is the ultimate form of visualization and the pretty picture it can paint in one's mind. When you listen to The Grizzly Owls, their music creates a vastly rich landscape of musical sounds that combine the folk and country twang that has been like coffee for me lately. It is a new addiction that I cannot get enough of! Deeply lathered in the eerie vocals of Jenny Andreotti, this band creates a moment, like a steady procession through a scenic moment as it builds its sound...
Joseph Andreotti accompanies Jenny's vocals in such a sexy and subtle way through his use of guitar, dobro resonator and banjo(among others) and creates a pulse to the music that soaks in you like the desert sun. If there were boom boxes when Cowboys started coming to the West, I imagine their journey would have been set to the sounds of The Grizzly Owls. Their romantic inspired and so dam favorable twang and western caked sounds makes me a fan to the core. They have an upcoming show at The Echo on May 11th.
The other day as I drove around LA, trying to look cool, I had a-wait-I-might-be-cool -after-all moment, when on my iPod, a band that emailed me came up and my friends, said wow, we like these guys. Can you turn it up?...
I am talking about Winston Audio. This five-piece hails from Atlanta and is currently on a major tour. Winston Audio has that combination of killer carnal vocals with teeth bashing guitar riffs, that probably will wake your fucking neighbors at 3:30 in the am when you just don't want to stop your night. Yep I like these guys. And now that I think about it, I owe my neighbors one so the next band to be blown over the vintage speakers to annoy my neighbors will be Winston Audio. These guys are a habit worth having.
Music "reviews" suck. But I had to do this one because I really like these guys. So I'll put my own hesitancy aside for a second and say this: Rock out this week, listen to Winston Audio. Give yourself a treat. Winston Audio's "The Red Rhythm" grabs a hold of you and does not let go of you. So Solid. The whole album pretty much is shock rock infused guitar energy to the central nervous system that will liven up any moment. They are playing the Troubadour on May 21st!
In the last season finale of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Charlie wrote a musical to impress the love of his life -- even though she hates his guts. Once his friends from the bar found out, they throw their inexperience as actors to the wind, and demand to star in it...
If you'd ever seen the show, you kind of knew how the musical would play out: the egos shot off the charts; the music was creepy; and the characters' performances were laughably bad. Oh, and when it was over, Charlie's beau loathed him more than ever.
Last Friday, in an attempt to give fans a little something in between seasons, the cast performed The Nightman Cometh live at The Troubadour. They replicated everything from the episode, right down to the did-a-second-grader-paint-that? set. The fans turned out with a force. I knew the show had a strong, cult-ish following, but these folks were serious about their Sunny. The packed house chanted before the show started, roared when Danny Devito took the stage, and shouted along to the chorus of the musical's signature song ("Day Man, uhh-ahhahh!").
The Nightman Cometh gets its title from an earlier episode of the show, when Charlie and Dennis start a band, and write a song about a sexy, demon-like creature who torments Charlie in his sleep. He's defeated by The Day Man, a "master of karate and friendship." (Yes, it's as ridiculous as it sounds). The cast reprised their roles as The Nightman, The Day Man, a Princess(?), and an Evil Troll, played by Devito, the only famous actor in the cast, who thankfully never lets a little fame interfere with the absurd things he has to do on the show. Predictably, everyone was funny. The lines and songs I loved from the episode played well live. However, when the show started, it took me a minute to adjust. Save for one new song, they were re-recreating, line for line, everything I'd already seen on TV. Ultimately, though, I didn't care. The cast seemed excited to be there, and the crowd was clearly into it.
I've stood around at a lot of concerts and waited. Waited for the bands to get on stage, waited for the artists to sound check and sometimes (God forbid) even waited in line. Sometimes it can be fun watching your favorite artist's set-up their show. You catch a glimpse of that personal behind the scenes moment of tearing down and setting up, tweaking the knobs and strumming the strings, and of course the lovely vocal inflection mic check (Ayy ayy, one, two, check, check, aaayyy aaayyyy!) Yes, I've seen a lot of things while I've waited at a lot of shows, but tonight at the Knitting Factory I am witnessing a brand new and unique interaction take place between artist and fan. While waiting on stage for their technical difficulties to be cleared up, Florida rappers Bleubird and Astronautalis whip out their chap sticks and begin engaging in a creative chapstick placement competition with two young ladies in the front of the stage to pass the time. Interlocking arms, taking whiffs of the fragrant cherry aroma, and sliding the lubricant across the fans' lips as if drawing a nike swoosh are just a few of the interactions that take place. With everyone else in the venue watching and some of the girls being turned on, this was the only the beginning of the duos madness.
Before tonight's show got kicked off I was standing outside the venue talking with a DJ friend of mine. We'll call him Eric because that's his name. Eric and I were standing near his car when a certain walkie-talkie, laminate bearing gentleman came up to us asking if said car belonged to either one of us. "Yea" Eric responded, "It's mine." The walkie-talkie man proceeded to tell us we had to move the car to make way for the production trucks that would be parking along the street. Eric had a great spot on Hollywood blvd and didn't want to move his car but felt a bit more relieved when we found out it was for the HBO show Entourage. "Since it's Entourage I wont make a fuss about it" he mentioned to me, "But next time they need to put up some damn no parking signs."
I mention this story because it was proper timing when a few hours later, Bleubird is kicking off his set screaming into the mic "Fuck Entourage for the traffic jam on Hollywood boulevard...we don't need that traffic in our lives tonight!" I yelled in agreement and flashed Eric a grin. Next, faster than I could laugh out loud, Bleu and Astronautalis were breaking into an acapella of Green Day's "Do You have the Time" which- after the guitar noises- lead into a rap verse from Bleu at 200 words per minute. It was a dope and unique transition, smooth and captivating. Bleus rap style was like a Slug meeting an Eminem meeting 3 Bizzy Bones meeting one Rick Flair. Astronautalis posed as an awesome hypeman, never leaving his post in a wooden chair and interjecting punch lines to compliment Bleu's tangents and rants. They were Penn and Teller if the other one spoke. "We've been crushing Extenze pills and rubbing it all over our rap careers for months" Bleu yelled, " And have been getting bigger and stronger every single day", "Our myspace has a lot of girth" Astronautalis added.
At times, I wasn't sure if these guys were making up the material on the spot or if they were writing sketches from show to show. I really didn't care, their Flight of the Concords chemistry was refreshing and entertaining. Their songs were original and creative, with song titles like "Crybaby Crunk", "Clean Your Plate", "Read a book" (a homage to great American literature) and one of my favs, "Cum On Betty" which ended in the oral hygiene dance directions of "Brush your teeth, now brush your teeth, do the Listerine, do the Listerine, now try to finger floss, try to finger floss!"
Not many people are conjuring up the sort of creative vocab that Bleu and Astronautilis seem to speak with eloquence and ease. Singing "I'm your sexasaurus" to R.Kelly instrumentals and rapping memorable lines like "I'm a melting pot of what used to be hot now I'm blinded by the present" are just a few gems that are laid in the gold mine of the duo's music. There is a lot of something for everybody. And who else is ending rap songs with two minutes of (In Rick Flair's voice) WOOOO!!
Judging from the inside of the Second Street Jazz Club you can't really tell what's going on. The venue plays host to tons of different musical genres which are listed in bright lights above the club's entrance. Jazz, Pop, R&B, Rock and Hip-Hop are all welcome - yet tonight's hip hop crowd plays an odd juxtapose to the restaurant's bar-grill aesthetic. It feels more like a house party until I look at the stage. Equipped with mic stands, congas, turntables and a covered baby grand piano, the stage is set for tonight's guests who will mainly be sticking to the two tables and a microphone. I'm standing next to a friend who is playing with the featured guest of the evening, up and coming rapper Shawn Chrystopher. My buddy who is doing a feature tonight with Chrystopher plays piano and sings. His keyboard is set-up on stage and I make mention the use of the baby grand. "I spoke with the owner earlier about playing it" he responds, "They don't "bring it out" on Hip-Hop nights."
By the time Shawn Chrystopher hit's the stage, the room is packed and are awaiting the rest of the line up. Shawn is dead center, mic in hand ready to give the crowd something special, a look of anxious peace in his body language. We've all been waiting a while to get this ship sailing and I know Shawn is ready to steer it. "I made me hot, ain't nobody done shit!" The hook of his first song lay's an honest blow to the ears of the listeners, who aren't much more than an arm's reach from the MC. Shawn seems focused and in a precise zone as he begins spitting his rhymes to the fascinated audience. There is something intimate about his delivery. His play by play description of how he came from the bottom to the top is not off putting or cliché, but rather comes across as a confident boast of sincere triumph, complimenting his articulate and well understood delivery.
Shawn's original production (which were produced by himself) is a great mash-up with his writing and verbal swagger. One particular song selection gripped the audience, as he shared stories of personal family hardships and dealings involving his parents. The song's production was a simple piano build and rhythm, and bore no hook but was multiple bars of descriptive growing pains and tribulations.
I typically don't see too many rap love songs blowing me out the water but the hallmark quality rhymes of loving someone "Until the fish don't swim" and "The Summer's not followed by Fall" made even the badasses in the room gush with Hershey butterflies. Shawn's fearless honesty in his music is a reminder of what art is about, reminding you of the old adage of being true to ones self. His use of his platform doesn't seem motivated by the shallow shit- and the visual imagery of his words paint pictures that are captivating and relatable. I would check for Shawn's mixtape, "I wear glasses too" coming out on May 5th. If it's anything like his live show, you wont be disappointed.
Los Angeles weather confounds me. How did it go from 50 degrees to 90 in just four days?! The climate may be bipolar here, but I'm not complaining too much. Yesterday was a gorgeous day to spend out. I was going to see some punk bands play an early show at the Echoplex, but the weather was so nice I didn't feel like ripping stuff up. Instead, I was lured to the Echo's upstairs Country Music and Sunday Barbeque. Inside, I found beer, hot dogs, and Wreck N Sow playing full force. It was like a mini state fair in there!
Wreck N Sow were very, very old-school country. I'll admit it, I was a little hesitant at first. I mean, I enjoy Southwestern rock... but these guys were wearing matching overalls. Guitarist/banjoist Pierre Dupuy had a full-on billy-goat beard and Mike Stave played a fiddle. They sang funny, upbeat songs about wishing for billions of dollars and Tennessee family reunions (with lyrics like, "Uncle Keith has no teeth, so come with me if you want dance with a triple amputee!"). As upright bassist Randy Cochran admitted, "we're used to playing to the farm boys in Bakersfield." Hmmm. Was I too cool for this band?
Well, if you knew me, you'd say: "No Rachel, you're not too cool for any band." (And then I'd say, "Oh snap!" but that's another story). Anyway, there was no way I could look down my nose at Wreck N Sow's old-fashioned country sounds. I was too busy having a great time! I mean, I do go to a lot of really wild shows. And I have seen many a crazy, drunken mosh pit in my day. But the very best thing about Wreck N Sow? Seeing families with kids at the Echo, enjoying live music together. One little two-year-old was totally jamming along to the music. Everyone had a smile on their face, just enjoying the lovely Sunday afternoon that it was.
When I finally left the Grand Ole Echo BBQ (full of beer and hot dogs, no less), I saw a huge group of punk kids hanging around. For split second, I felt the total opposite of hardcore (softcore? That doesn't seem right...). But with Wreck N Sow's home style sounds still in my head, I was pretty glad I left my Doc Martins at home.