Thursday, September 6, 2012

Tallest Man On Earth @ The Glass House

Tallest Man On Earth @ The Glass House
with Strand of Oaks

Last night...

Old town Pomona on a balmy 83 degree evening, twinkly lights wrap the trees that line the narrow stone streets. This is also the artists' district of Pomona, sporadic street art reaffirming such. The now-LA native in me is thrilled with the amount of parking - excuse me, free parking, there is around the literally glass venue. I join the dozens in line, waiting to pickup their will-call tickets, or hoping that there are more available for purchase.

The Glass House seems more of a pop/punk venue to me than an indie-folk type place - but that probably speaks more to my poor taste in music as a youth than anything else. Mostly, except for a fun Presets show in 2009, I've really only seen forgettable bands here. But not tonight.

Tonight I see, for the third time, one of the best singer/songwriters out there, whom critics have dubbed the Dylan of our generation. Tallest Man on Earth is Swedish native Kristian Matsson. Physically a tiny waif of a man, but possessing a magically powerful voice that boasts a height and depth not of this world.

The two-piece band Strand of Oaks is the opener - same as when I saw Tallest Man in June at The Wiltern. But here in the Glass House I am a mere 15 feet from the stage, squished in with fellow music-lovers, easy new friends of the same serene goal. Tim is vocals and electric guitar and Chris is drums - together they create an unexpectedly rich, raw, almost wild sound. Before they take the stage, one of my new chummy neighbors asks if I know their music, and I take no pause at describing Strand of Oaks as sounding "like wilderness." As soon as this escapes my mouth, I giggle out loud at it, telling him that I don't really even know what that means. That it is more of the feeling their music gives me, specific to my experience with them in their live format. He either understands or he pretends to.

With three LPs of options, Strand of Oaks songs seem to start soft, slow, and then generally gain speed and momentum, building into a heartfelt experience, always an interesting story told. The down-to-earth qualities of these guys come out in some of their humorous and humble quips both during and in between songs; Tim speaks of his most likely currently sleeping wife back in Philadelphia, and how their song Maureen is about them meeting at an ice cream shop. Other songs boast playing out the murder of John Belushi's drug dealer (Daniel's Blues) or hanging out with the Kennedys (Sterling). Tim also amusingly admits he looks like someone who has been in the desert for too long; I just think he looks like the kind of person I generally make friends with.

These two gentlemen blow through their 45 minute set, the crowd showing them lots of love as they jam out hard on their very last song, Tim waving his long hippy hair around and Chris building up so much percussive energy. Their music and presentation feel real, raw, untouched. Refreshing in a world of produced and over-produced entertainment.

House lights off, much mumbling and squirming about as no one wants to leave their spot, knowing full-well the crowd will just move in, swallowing up any emptiness. Minutes later what sounds like the Swedish version of one of Kristian's songs begins to play, a recording, but it still gets the audience whooping and whistling, full of excitement. And then he walks out, black jeans, black tank. Simple, no bells nor whistles. And he launches right into a tune from his newest LP, There's No Leaving Now.

I don't recall everything he played, but I know he ran through many of my favorites including Love is All, The Gardener, King of Spain, Like the Wheel, and he encored with The Dreamer.

Kristian plays mostly on his many guitars, but did involve the piano for a couple numbers including The Dreamer. He ended up throwing a couple guitar pics to the crowd, and upon using a towel to wipe sweat from his brow, a silly male voice amongst the crowd asked "Can I have that?" The intimate room erupted in giggles, and Kristian flashed a smile and promised to pass it along once he was done with it.

His lyrics are true to folk style and wrought with whimsy, nature and wilderness metaphors, twisting together stories of self-discovery, love, and life.

I could write about his emotive power over me and my music-loving heart til the cows come home, but just go take a listen for yourself. And see him live if you can, always a wonderful experience!

until next time! xx

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Special Edition: IGoToFestivals! FYF 2012

Caked in dust and dirt, the temperature ticks up into the 90s. Colorful plastic sunglasses, spicy pie, Silverlake style unfolded and expanded, and a versatility in lineup the likes of which very few festivals can boast. FYF Festival (yes, that's F*ck Yeah Festival Festival) has easily slipped from an angsty one-day punk fest to the off-season little brother role of Southern California's beloved festival - you guessed it, Coachella. And yet FYF has maintained some of it's bite, some of it's angst.

Originally, FYF was a small local punk event in 2004 - crowded in the small quarters of The Echo, The Echoplex, and the Jensen Rec Center, to name a few. The festival saw very little growth until 2010, when word has it, operations ran amuck - shortage of waters and entrance lines taking hours to get through. But hey - opening day of Disneyland in 1959 saw shortage of food, bathroom flooding, and the hot ground swallowing ladies' high heels as the soft asphalt had not yet properly set, serving the idea that even the best must fail before achieving ultimate success. FYF has now - thanks in large part to the promotional gods of Goldenvoice - extended into an end of summer musical staple for Los Angeles folk - enjoying the two-day time slot at Los Angeles State Historic Park in downtown LA. Another smart move? FYF coerced the Metro to leave their lines open til 2 AM on both nights of the festival, encouraging festival-goers to get as silly as they please, without worry of who the sober drivers shall be. Thank you Los Angeles Metro - this was the first, but certainly not the last time I will use you!

Who I got to see...

Chromatics - electronic rock dubbed as "Italo-disco," which is post-punk electronic dance music rooted in the European dance/disco scene - an unexpectedly awesome set, more electronic than rock, despite what can be found of theirs on Spotify.
Tanlines - I only ventured over to their set for the first 3 songs, but was satisfied with the few I heard; dance electro pop, easy and fun.
James Blake - one not to be missed; he has an amazing voice, overlaid with synth and dripping in rich electronic melodies.
Purity Ring - I was rightfully excited to see this Canadian duo - beautiful electronic beats with a soft sweet voice and a light show extraordinaire, enjoyable to say the least.
M83 - honestly, I didn't think I cared for this band; my interest was waning after having briefly saw them at Coachella, but decided to give them another chance at FYF, and good thing I did - easily one of the best sets of the weekend, I was simply blown away - beautiful toe-tapping melodies, and nearly haunting, breathy vocals.
Simian Mobile Disco - FYF veterans, I saw them here last year - consistent UK electro duo, always a good fun dancing time.
Refused - another one that surprised me - while I couldn't handle the hardcore vibes of what I had found and listened to of theirs on Spotify, their live show was incredible - hugely talented Swedish musicians, and even lead singer Dennis' screamy vocals were impressive, called-for even, and I gave in to my inner-hardcore/punk, head-banging commenced.

Colorado friends came from Denver to attend this festival - they stayed in Hollywood with mutual friends, so I stayed too - couchin' it with the best of them. A bit of traipsing around Hollywood between the festival days was definitely in order, and we spent time oodling over the many records at Amoeba on Vine, where all of the FYF artists were highlighted prominently - music marketing at its finest.

Who I got to see...

David Cross - of AD's Tobias, the Never-Nude fame! The only comedian we made sure we saw over the weekend, and in the beginning it was tough to hear him over the bass of the nearby stages. But he went past his time to make up for it, and had us laughing at his witty, far-over-the-line humor.
Father John Misty - much more rock than I had expected, but still a decent amount of folk and an easy favorite of the weekend, due in part to lead singer Tillman's snarky remarks, telling the audience "F*ck Coachella - I don't want to go to the desert when I can get a slice of pizza right here." Amen, Misty.
Aesop Rock - it was my first time seeing the blue-eyed linguist Bavitz - and I was nothing short of swooning by the end. Quick-lipped quips, his lyrics are more like abstract poetry than anything else, and his DJ and fellow rapper performed flawlessly alongside him. A fan, sacrificed his hair, which they cut off seemingly blindly during one of their songs - this may make some sort of sense to his die-hard fans, but to me it was quite random to say the least. He is literally the only one I took photos of, mostly because I find him so dreamy, so here ya go...

Dinosaur Jr. - an impressively loud set, the levels easily in the red, distortion being one of their trademarks - but a crowd-pleaser nonetheless, playing their best alternative post-punk rock of the early 90's. We enjoyed this set from the neighboring beer garden, Bud Lights in hand.
Desaparecidos - I knew very little of this band...mostly that people were really excited to see them, and that people are in love with Conor Oberst (of Bright Eyes fame) and I'm pretty sure people think he poops gold; honestly the talent was obvious (I've seen Bright Eyes, and Conor is pure musical versatility, hitting the mark every time), and yet the post-hardcore vibe of this band is just not my style, but I stayed and watched the entirety of the set, clearly a favorite amongst many for the weekend.
Converge - YAWN. How did I get talked into this one? Mostly I just sat while these gentlemen played some intense "metalcore" and yelled into what sounded like a microphone that they must have previously swallowed...
Yeasayer - where have these guys been all my life? I was entirely unfamiliar with everything about Yeasayer, save for their name (headlining the S.S. Coachella this December) - and was thrilled when I was treated to a full psychedelic dance-party set, with elements of Middle Eastern music - movement, a must!
American Nightmare - I wasn't really into this; I just sat through a few songs whilst we waited for something else to start...though I gotta say, the vocals were, for my ears at least, WAAAAAY better than those of Converge (clearly metal and hardcore are just not my thing).
Beirut - listened only for a few songs - beautiful instrumentation of brass and stand-up bass paired with Condon's soothing vocals, almost better suited to headline a folk/bluegrass fest, but thrilled to see them in any place, especially since I missed them at Coachella this past year!
The Faint - so fun! One of my very favorites of the weekend, pure and constant electronic rock dance music - slightly punk, but mostly just pure movement and good times - another favorite amongst festival goers, as many have been enjoying these guys since the mid-90's.

Despite the dust in our lungs and the wood chips in our shoes, FYF was a success of versatile proportions - soaking up over 15 different sets that spanned the musical genres of folk, rock, electronic, hardcore, metal, and a little bit of stand-up comedy to boot! Best and cheapest festival to date, with a mere $80 spent for the two days total (a STEAL compared to Coachella's $300+ tickets). So next year, go see Coachella's little bitch of a brother - it's hot and dirty, but he promises spicy pie, excessive hipster fashions, and loads of great music on the cheap.

until then! xx

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Gumbo Brothers and The Pimps of Joytime @ The Santa Monica Pier

The Pimps of Joytime and The Gumbo Brothers @ The Santa Monica Pier

Last night...

Despite missing my favorite funk band, Orgone, play at The Mint this past Saturday, my week has still been chalk-full of pure peace and funk. It started off with The Mason Affair this past Monday, and then last night The Gumbo Brothers and The Pimps of Joytime spread the gospel of funk to the masses on the Santa Monica Pier.

The pier feels like an old carnvial, somehow frozen in time, with a Coney Island quality to it. For the Twilight Concert series, sponsoring vendors sell food on the pier near the stage setup, and scents of roasted corn on the cob and kettle corn waft through the crowds.

Concerts at the pier are the true mark of summer - early July through early September, free live music graces the pier every Thursday night. While many crowd on the pier to catch a glimpse up close, even more gather on the sands just south of the pier to picnic, listen, socialize, and enjoy. Usually I'm only a sand-dweller, on blankets, red cup of 2buck Chuck in hand laughing and chatting, but last night I was right up there on the pier, grooving on the soft wood, my hair breezing about in the sea salty night air.

The Gumbo Brothers are up first - these much-loved Venice locals cover the essentials of funk, jamming out on the sax, trumpet, bass, guitar, keys, and drums - as well as host smooth vocals that keep the crowd dancing infectiously. One of my favorite lyrics of theirs sums up this band's chill vibe..."free yourself with the funk, lose yourself in the groove," very much like the true essence of Venice. They boast "ass-shakin' funk" and true to their word, the crowd in front of the stage is dancing away all of their week's worries, lost in a pure bliss of brass, beats, and electric-infused melodies. Special guest, and veteran of funk, Neo Nocentelli (of The Meters fame) does a number with the Gumbo Brothers as they wrap up their set.

A quick break sees me back down to the sands, navigating through the crowds of happy buzzed folks enjoying the summer evening, refilling their red cups and passing joints, glow sticks and other fun light-up toys abound. I find my friends who are strictly part of the sand crowd, with their tiny pup and their bottle of wine (neither of which are allowed on the pier), and we enjoy the party atmosphere before I head back up on the pier.

Soon enough, The Pimps of Joytime (PJT), a Brooklyn-based funk band takes the stage. PJT are experts at mixing their clearly versatile talents of other types of music in with funk, including latin influences and afro-beat rhythms. Their percussion versatility gives many of their songs entirely different vibes, but all are tied together by toe-tapping, body-shaking melodies lead by both male and female vocals - giving the crowd a rich sound, and a true dance workout. Neo played with PJT as well, and it was all over too soon.

What is great about the pier concerts, is that even when the music stops, the party continues on the sand - frisbees and volleyballs being tossed about, declarations of skinny dipping, and the idea of no tomorrow - who needs Fridays anyhow? And those silly horse cops can't / don't do a thing about it! ;)

until next time! xx

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Mason Affair @ The Piano Bar

The Mason Affair @ The Piano Bar

Last night...

A warm evening, traipsing around the backstreets of Hollywood - avoiding the obvious nightly bustle of Cahuenga, Highland, Hollywood, and Sunset. Tucked away on Selma and Wilcox, an unsuspecting entry leads into The Piano Bar, a dark-red barn of a building - though it's tough to tell at night. We see our friends from The Mason Affair outside, going over last minute details for their set.

Jazzy funk spills out of the doorway; rich wooden interiors and low lighting, resembling the likes of a speak-easy - it's ladies night and the drink specials are abound - $4 for almost any wine or beer you like. But I keep it an entirely free night and slowly sip my way through a couple club sodas with lime, letting the music be the only thing to quicken my pulse (well, and the cute musicians, of course).

The Mason Affair: LA-based funk band; 8 wildly talented members, consisting of the trumpet (James Becaria), trombone (John Bisset), sax (Dan Gonda), bass (Devon Taylor), drums (David Celia), keys (Sam Gendler), guitar (Jay Logan, Mike Mason), and vocals (Mike Mason) - pure energy of brass, beats, and soul.

I've seen these gentlemen play many a time, good friends with a couple of them, but they've recently added some new members. This was their first show playing together, but no one could tell. Effortlessly they glide from one movement-inspiring tune to the next - getting people dancing both in their seats and out of them, boasting seductive lyrics and toe-tapping, head-shaking riffs. Mike's voice, sultry and sly, blends perfectly with the brass, strings, and percussion - each of which is featured briefly in moments of solo. The small area in front of the stage fills to the brim with dancers and drinkers, swaying and bopping to the infectious funk The Mason Affair produces.

A too-short set of only about 40 minutes, but they will return every other Monday night to The Piano Bar - a residency secured for the month of September. The crowd requests just one more, but the house music turns on and the boys begin to pack their things.

A back patio area, twinkle lights, clouds of cigarette smoke. We finish our drinks, schmooze over the show and the brilliant musicians we've come to know and love; summer feeling never-ending in the heat of the night.

until next time! xx

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Abby Posner @ Seventy7 Lounge

Singer/Songwriter Night @ Seventy7 Lounge
Abby Posner
Farai Futi
Wicked Saints
Tyler Suard

Last night...

In a back alley in downtown Culver City, a wooden peephole door and a shiny logo entrance you into Seventy7 Lounge - a glamourous and nostalgic venue, laden with leather cushioned seats, martini glasses, and absinthe fountains.

A quick hello to the doormen; another free show. We walk in while Wicked Saints are finishing up their set, having missed the first act, Tyler Suard. I looked him up after the show just to get an idea of his sound - he has a beautiful, unexpectedly deep voice, and his songs have a modern, alternative country vibe to them.

The Wicked Saints claim a four-person band, but tonight it was just frontman Paul McCarty, vocals and guitar, and accordian player Bobby Thomas. Known for their raw organic sound, these gentlemen created a mood more than anything - an idea of simpler times, and feeling at one with the wild. Their talents are somehow naturally preserved in this jungle of a city, and they sound like they could be found in some old ghost town, singing their souls out with Neil Young.

Up next was Zimbabwe native, Farai Futi - a young man with a soulful, dreamy voice, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. Soft, sweet, yet poignant, Farai's songs paint heartfelt stories of life and love. He played mostly his own very well-constructed songs - including the audience-pleaser "Smile." But also treated the audience to his own twist on "Don't Worry, Be Happy." And a happy crowd we were. In the vein of Ben Harper and Jack Johnson, I imagine some ideal listening to Futi whilst nestling in the warm summer sand, a fruity cocktail in hand.

Finally, the closing act and my dear friend, Abby Posner. I fondly call her Abnus and she jokingly calls me Jillian Michaels, trying even to adopt the fitness guru's voice and use of the term "buddy" in conversation.

An insanely talented Cal Arts kid and Colorado native, Abby is known for making everyone she meets smile and laugh - though it doesn't hurt that her spare time is spent refining those skills in an improv troupe. Her wickedly easy charm married with her many talents (vocals, guitar, banjo, mandolin, name a few!) create an unstoppable and irresistible force to be reckoned with. Abby boasts lyrics full of whimsy, wildlife metaphors a-bound, and a voice strong but gentle. She is also the frontwoman for the bluegrass band, Fearmia (known now as "Fiddle and Pine" - see my post on their show at The Mint, 8/20/12).

She calls up a fellow friend and musician, Shane, to croon away on his saxophone, giving Abby's indie-folk sound a jazzy twist. Kristen Cook was my date for the evening, but Abby calls her up for some sweet harmonizing during one of the numbers.

She played some of my favorites including "Moon," "Darkest Winter," and "The Rabbit Hole" - but be sure to catch her new stuff, due out in October.

**Please note, 77LIVE shows happen the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of every month @ 8PM. Always free, always 2 hour free parking. Contact Deron Wade for more info!**

until next time! xx

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

KCook @ Bar Lubitsch: An Ode To My Musical Roomie

Kristen Cook @ Bar Lubitsch

Alas, I was unable to attend last night, but I was there in spirit. Kristen has a residency with Bar Lubitsch, and it's clear they love having her - she spreads the love, the light, the music, wherever she goes.

The very talented David Celia (also the incredible drummer of The Mason Affair) accompanied Kristen last night, in the red luscious interiors (aptly named "Red Room") of this vodka bar venue.

I know her tunes like the back of my hand; having heard them in clips, being masterfully constructed - raw and emotive, straight from the secrets of her heart. Plinky plunked out on the piano, sung acapella in our living room, strummed out softly on her ukulele in the backyard or on a beach adventure. And then I've heard them live, in full glory - sometimes just her lone, strong voice, other times with a full band of musical friends for a rich, enveloping sound.

I don't know specifically what she played last night (though I know she rocked out on the electric guitar - you go woman!!), so I'll just speculate with some of my favorites:

"Makin' the Best" - I hum this tune to myself constantly - when things are good, when things are bad, it's hard to ignore the simplicity of this sweet song's message: life is a gift, live it up no matter what! Another with this same shiny, positive vibe is "Keep the Light Going."

"Longest Red" - if you ever make it to a KCook show - and you should - and someone yells out "Longest Red!" in request - it's me. This song saunters along in a sexy minor key with a seductive beat, touching on the everyday, and at times ridiculous, flirtations most girls experience at one point or another. The lyrics are fun, the idea easy, and it is, to this day, my favorite Kristen Cook original.

"It Broke" - goosebumps crawl up my arms when I think about this song. I know when it was written, the surrounding feelings. I also know my own at the time, and something everyone has felt and can relate to in life. This song is a beautifully poetic metaphor of the pain we all feel in our chest, that has nothing to do with physical health.

There are many more that I can go on forever about, but I'll keep some mystery until her next show. She's also killer at Johnny Cash (and sometimes June Carter) covers. Oh, and you'll be wild with glee if she treats you to her cover of Blackstreet's "No Diggity" - she knows every flippin' word!

**for you San Diego folks: she's playing Ruby Tuesdays @ The Ruby Room on 8/28 - watch her and other female-led acts kick some serious booty**

until next time! xx

Fearmia @ The Mint / Francisco The Man @ The Satellite

Thus far, the only criticism of my first post was that it was composed entirely of lower case letters. Honestly, I don't care either way, but if proper grammar is what the people want, then so shall it be.

Monday night...

The Mint at dusk; I grab a close parking spot, pay the cover ($10) - "Here to see Fearmia," I announce to the friendly, spectacled woman at the ticket counter. I love this venue. It's just a quick drive down Pico, a sweet 16 minutes from our apartment at this hour. No fake Hollywood folks, just locals, lovin' the live music. The rich interiors match the heavy dark IPAs and stouts that line the drink menu, and I fumble over a choice. Tecate light? My sister would shake her head at me in shame, but what can I do? I like them light and crisp. Plus those are always cheaper than the fancy darks.

A familiar face or two, conversation flows easily, drinks in hand, and we calmly await the blissful bluegrass that will soon fill the space.

Fearmia (soon to be "Fiddle and Pine") - originally a four piece band, tonight plays as a trio. Jesse is the fierce fiddle man, a true genius on the violin. Abby is front and center, generally the lead voice, guitar, banjo, sometimes she brings out her mandolin - effortlessly sharp and tight with each instrument. And Graham is master of the stand-up bass. All three have amazing voices that harmonize and blend together like a creamy bluegrass milkshake - twangy and delicious. They played some old, some new, some traditional bluegrass jam covers - the crowd hooting, singing, and clapping along. They have the time of their lives up there, with a justified confidence in their sound, making it look so easy and natural.

I'm lucky enough to know these musicians, and have been going to see their shows and hanging out with them intermittently for the last couple years - a great connection made by my roommate Kirsten when I first moved in with her. Abby will play solo shows as well, often in the same night and venue as Kristen plays her solo shows. And sometimes Jesse or Graham or Abby will play with Kristen during her shows. Everyone plays with everyone amongst these friends, a true melting pot of audible talents.

The set is a short 45 minutes, though I could have listened to them all night. I duck out, and the doorman calls to me, "leaving already?" "Gotta go to the Satellite," I shout back, realizing only after it pops out of my mouth that it sounds like I'm somehow above this venue. Never the case though, Mint - you are loved.

Over in hipsterville...

The Satellite is a twinkly-lit hole in the wall that opens to a deceivingly large space, with decor reminiscent of a late 90's prom. Shiny blue drapery and a disco ball; cute bearded hipsters crawling all over the joint. We flash IDs, no cover - gotta love Mondays at the Satellite.

We arrive just as LA Font (El-e-phant...get it?) is finishing their set. I enjoy jammin' out to the last tunes from these guitar-shredding indie rock boys, before the place goes up in conversation and PBR refills. We grab free little cups of ice cold water, muse about old times, our new lives, and then we plant ourselves close to the stage, waiting with bated breath for Francisco The Man.

Lead singer Scotty Cantino maintains stage-right throughout the show, leaving the center spot to his heavily bearded bassist, Nestor Romero. Brock Woolsey plays guitar stage left, and Abdeel Ortego kills it on the drums - blood, sweat, and tears come out of this man as he plays a wild, but tight set. The band has reverb-y, psychedelic, shoegaze qualities that have you swaying back and forth in agreement with their dreamy, somehow nostalgic lyrics. Scotty's voice is unmistakably unique - a little nasal-y, with an almost British quality to it, despite the whole band being from Los Angeles. They certainly deserve residency in this spot - see them every Monday for free at the Satellite!

until next time! xx