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

Monday, August 20, 2012

where to begin

how does a healthy artsy addiction start?

well, my warm and fuzzy feelings for live music were robustly nursed when i made the move up to los angeles, some 31 months ago now. when i lived in orange county, the idea of going to see a show was never at the top of the list. a rarity that usually meant i was there to support a friends' band, carrying drum heads through the back entrance of a dive bar. there just wasn't a whole lot to see, or so i thought. tickets to stuff i knew and mustered some sort of interest in were expensive and i was a perma-broke college student. i also listened to a lot of obscure, older music - many of the bands were long gone, never to tour again. plus all of the good shows are in LA - who knew :)

the first three months of la living were done in true hobo fashion - crashing in on my good friends' (a couple) 1 bedroom hollywood apartment. quarters were tight, but their couch was heavenly and they were wonderful enough to put up with me. half of the couple is one of my best girlfriends j, who at the time worked as the publicist for an indie record label based in santa monica. she knew about most shows, most of the time. and she had opportunities to go to many of them, so occasionally, i would venture out with her...get a little time away from my couch-home.

many times, the shows were free and even though i rarely knew the artists playing, i always had a good time - jammin' out and bouncing around by the end of a set, whistling and woo-ing for just one more! i could go in, exhausted from a long day, possibly cranky and hungry, and my mood would always become elevated. i noticed a bliss, a real release, at these live shows. they were usually smaller venues...the bootleg, the viper room, the echoplex, and so on...and there is just an intense amount of energy circulating in small spaces like those. magical, palpable, emotional energy - jutting out of these artists and shooting out to the listeners, where it would meld and create more, from whatever energy the crowd gave up. lights lowering, beads of sweat on their faces, breathy smiles, and a sense of peace, knowing they were creating something that might touch even just one person that night. goosebumps, teary eyes, the biggest outpour of expression. it's all very romantic, the live show. a meeting between music-maker and listener, a too-sweet connection that makes it so easy for a dreamer like me to fall head over heels.

other friends i've met up here have a special place for live music in their hearts, and many of them are musicians themselves. after those first three months, i moved in with my now current roommate and one of my best friends (yay craigslist win!). she is a musician, and so in hanging out with her, i've seen even more shows, met even more musicians, and music-enthusiasts alike. la breathes entertainment, and live music is the loud, driving pulse.

i've just been trying to get as much as i can, and can afford, ever since. luckily there are A LOT of free shows, you just have to know where to find them. pouring over countless music show emails from venues, looking artists up on soundcloud or spotify, excited at the potential of seeing them all in a live format. true foreplay for the live-music junkie.

this blog will cover the live shows i go to, simple as that. who, what, when, where...and then the color. the dreamy, bright, bold, sparkly stuff that makes live music so much more than it appears to be.

i'm going to leave you with a list of only *some* of the incredible musicians i've been lucky enough to see play live over the last 2.5 years, as well as some photos of a few of them.

until next time! xx

kristen cook
the living sisters
massive attack
glitch mob
beats antique
portugal. the man
roger waters (the wall)
mumford and sons
arcade fire
the chemical brothers
norah jones
randy newman
fitz and the tantrums
little dragon
fear mia
city city
the presets
arctic monkeys
snoop & dre
the black keys
explosions in the sky
ben harper
ziggy marley
boys noize
the mason affair
milo greene
the punch brothers
swedish house mafia
girl talk
toots & the maytals
damien marley
tallest man on earth
abby posner
willie nelson
sean hayes

EOTO @ the el rey

ziggy marley @ reggae night, the hollywood bowl

roger waters' "the wall" @ the coliseum

abby posner @ room 5

fitz & the tantrums / ben harper @ the hollywood bowl

kcook and co. @ irish times

willie nelson @ the pacific amphitheater

tallest man on earth @ the wiltern

MiMosa @ exchange LA

ill.Gates @ exchange LA

ben harper @ del mar race track

radiohead @ coachella '12