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