20 Years of Murder By Death

Coming to The Regent Theater Valentines Day!

February 6th, 2020
Lex Voight
Category: Lead Story, News

I have spilled endless amounts of (proverbial) ink decrying my deep and passionate love for Murder By Death, and already have some (literal) ink planned to just hammer that love home. It’s crazy to think that I have been listening to this band for 15 years. To commemorate their TWENTIETH year of being an active, touring band, Murder by Death have embarked on a 20th anniversary tour, which promises to hear some deep cuts from their stellar oeuvre.
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Show Review: Jason Isbell @ Disney Hall

Under the tattered yet durable banner of Americana

February 4th, 2020
Kyle B. Smith
Category: Lead Story, Review

I’m not sure where Jason Isbell lives. If pressed, I’d venture to guess that he and Amanda Shires reside below the Mason-Dixon, in some Southeastern state, in a music-filled home that is hugged by a wraparound porch. But once they took the stage at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Isbell and Shires interacted as if it was their living room.

Pitched as “An Acoustic Evening with Jason Isbell,” the billing lied. Emanating Springsteen/Scialfa vibes, Isbell played all but one of nineteen songs with Shires. They first emerged from the wings holding hands. And that is how they entered and exited all night; after the set, before the encore, and at the end of the show. In between, they whispered to each other off-mic, like parents making decisions in front of the kids.

This proud intimacy crept in to their renditions of Isbell’s songs. In “Traveling Alone,” the couple each pivoted 90 degrees on their boot heels to end up singing while facing each other. The pared down stage production allowed for Isbell’s lyrics to command the room, with minimal lighting barely reaching the stage.

In today’s genre-less world, we are left to cobble together our own characterizations of nascent, hybridized genres. With Isbell’s drawl, and Shires’ fiddle, some might lean towards country. But it’s hard not to eventually land under the tattered yet durable banner of Americana.

The majority of these tunes felt restrained, whittled down to fit the quietude expected in the Disney Hall. But in “Flagship,” the couple worked up the song to bit of a rollicking jam, as if they were cutting loose out on that porch. “Elephant” included a call and response between the couple, Isbell dropping quick and dirty melodic riffs that Shires answered faithfully with her bow.

“Tour of Duty” had some slick picking as well, enough to obscure the deeper meaning of a song that on its surface feels like an anthem to living the good life. In another quid pro quo, husband and wife traded leads until everything boiled over in to a welcome foot stomper.

It’s hard to believe that Isbell’s redemption record, Southeastern, came out nearly seven years ago. The LP marked the beginning of a new chapter in his life – sobriety. The songs smell like the booze stained carpets he left behind, and are more evidence of the blurring of those pesky genre lines.

These tracks, particularly the monstrous and important “Cover Me Up,” has no single home on FM radio in 2020. It can be found on NPR, or at Stagecoach. At Disney Hall, it had a glorious trajectory, with Isbell brandishing his own voice like a weapon; a dagger to our collective heart. “Live Oak,” another cut of Southeastern, also appeared. The story of existential crisis told in the lyrics became intertwined with desperate, elegant cries from Amanda Shires’ violin.

The set included a selection from Shires’ catalogue, the distinct “Parking Lot Pirouette,” which she sang with a bit of Joanna Newsom’s pixie sneer.

To the delight of die hards in the room, Isbell elected to play a handful of new songs off a forthcoming LP, including some about (surprise) parenthood, and another that he had never played before.

One new cut is Jason Isbell’s attempt to emotionally sort the tragic loss of a friend who had taken their own life a few months ago. As performed, it was the sound of a couple grieving together. Once again, Isbell and Shires drew us in to a private corner of their world, with Isbell singing, “What can I do to help you sleep? I’ll work hard, I’ll work for cheap.”

Setlist

24 Frames
Hope the High Road
Traveling Alone
[new song]
Flagship
Live Oak
Elephant
Parking Lot Pirouette (Amanda Shires cover)
Tour of Duty
[new song]
Something More Than Free (performed by Jason Isbell solo)
Alabama Pines
Last of My Kind
Pancho and Lefty (Townes Van Zandt cover)
[new song]
If We Were Vampires
_________________
Speed Trap Town
White Man’s World
Cover Me Up

Photo assistance: Jamie Callahan, Spyral Art

Preview: A Tribute to Ray Charles

An amazing amalgamation of musicians pay tribute

January 27th, 2020
Lex Voight
Category: News

On February 8th, The Teragram Ballroom will be hosting the third in an annual tribute celebration honoring a legendary musician. This year’s honoree is none other than blues/soul great Ray Charles, who’s songs will be played by a cavalcade of incredible musicians. An incredible group of artists will come together to perform the wide ranging catalog of Charles, supported by an LA based rhythm section that goes by “Family Company,” a string section, horn section, and background singers.
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SHOW REVIEW: ENCHANTMENT BY ANGEL OLSEN X VAGABON

A gem at the Palace Theater

December 11th, 2019
Kyle B. Smith
Category: Lead Story, Review

Not many shows happen at the Palace Theater. It’s a blink if you miss it venue, tucked in and among the theaters and jewelry shops on Broadway, and an appropriate setting for a gem of a show Thursday night, Angel Olsen with Vagabon. Continue reading…

La Dispute/Touche Amore return to LA

This Friday 13th at the Belasco!

December 9th, 2019
Lex Voight
Category: News

Two of post-hardcores brightest stars of the last decade plus have undeniably been friends La Dispute and Touche Amore. The two main pillars of the briefly (and self-deprecatingly) titled “last great wave” have embarked on a co-headlining tour that will be coming through LA and stopping at the Belasco Theatre this Friday the 13th.
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SHOW PREVIEW: SYLVAN ESSO @ DISNEY HALL THIS WEEK!

Guitar Jedi Meg Duffy’s Hand Habits will open

November 13th, 2019
Kyle B. Smith
Category: News

Hello Angelenos and welcome to the dark days of fall. If you’re looking for a unique show to help close out your year, head on over to Disney Hall this Thursday or Friday to see Sylvan Esso present “WITH.”

This special performance will find the duo “expanding on their emotionally wrenching electro-pop with warm full-band arrangements. Performing in collaboration with eight of their favorite musicians, Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn will reimagine their music from the ground up – a wholly exceptional experience.”

Following the breakout success of “Coffee,” Esso returned in 2017 with sleeper LP, What Now. From the percussive electronics of “Die Young,” to the heartbreaking and meditative “Slack Jaw,” it is an album with a colorful and diverse palette. As observed by Martin Anderson, their music “pushes air.”

For the “WITH” performance, expect the Sylvan Esso Band to include Meg Duffy (Hand Habits, more below), Dev Gupta (Mr. Twin Sister), Matt MacCaughan (Bon Iver), Molly Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig (Daughter of Swords), Adam Schatz (Landlady), Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak, Flock of Dimes, Bon Iver), and Joe Westerlund (Megafaun).

Guitar Jedi Meg Duffy’s Hand Habits project opens the show. Fresh off a solo set at Hollywood Forever opening for Aldous Harding, Duffy’s warm and detailed textures are certain to be well-received by the impeccable acoustics of Disney Hall.

For tickets and more information, click below:

Thursday 11/14 Sylvan Esso presents “WITH” at Walt Disney Concert Hall, with Hand Habits
Friday 11/15 Sylvan Esso presents “WITH” at Walt Disney Concert Hall, with Hand Habits

SHOW REVIEW: BRANDI CARLILE PERFORMS JONI’S BLUE

She wanted to get it just like Joni

October 17th, 2019
Kyle B. Smith
Category: Review

Shortly before performing “River,” Brandi Carlile remarked that she “wanted to get it just like Joni.” That she did.

On Monday night at a very sold out Disney Hall, Carlile appeared to perform Joni Mitchell’s landmark 1971 LP, Blue in its entirety. Ruminating about the significance of this kind of album is a fool’s errand; its far-reaching and enduring influence is immeasurable. It is airy, warm, pure, and endlessly personal. It is an album of place, color, and memory.

So there we were in the bowels of the great ship Disney to hear Carlile bring these songs to life. Fueled by an obvious reverence for Joni, she did so with an impeccable attention to detail.

Mitchell’s trademark mezzo-soprano inflection does the lion’s share in establishing the character of her songs. Brandi Carlile had to have spent many hours in practice as she replicated nearly every contour of Joni’s voice on Blue verbatim.

Though prepared with perfection in mind, the performance itself felt surprisingly loose. When not seated at the piano for a couple tunes, Carlile moved about the stage and past the monitors to engage the room like a Vegas lounge crooner in her bright blue suit and tie.

In all, there were 13 musicians that helped bring Blue to life, including a string quartet, and Los Angeles’ own duo Lucius, who joined on a playful rendition of “Carey” and the regretful “This Flight Tonight.” Tim Hanseroth, a longtime member of Carlile’s band, helped out the homage; he revived the Appalachian dulcimer on lead track “All I Want,” as Carlile sang of intimate quotidian memories.

As the evening progressed, Brandi Carlile offered a variety of heartfelt anecdotes as to why she wanted to take on this daunting one-off show, describing the LP as “the gateway drug” to Joni Mitchell’s music.

She also called back to 2005, when T Bone Burnett played Blue for her. At a time in her life when she was looking “to be tough, spit, swear and cuss,” the album taught her “how much toughness there is in femininity.”

Carlile’s vocals stood out most on jazzy title track “Blue” – for which she received a standing ovation – as well as “California,” in which her easy flow lyrics were basically rapped. But no moment hit harder or deeper than the pin drop silence during “A Case of You.”

She handled the first half of the song on her own, sounding as punch drunk as Joni once was. The strings snuck in midway through. Towards its end, Carlile held the microphone a few feet from her mouth for certain phrasings, helping to create the depth that comes with a sonic third dimension.

As she sang out, the melodies that decorate the song carried Brandi Carlile around the stage as if she were floating.

The yearning “River” was the Blue song that Carlile made most her own, taking a bit of melodic liberty on the Christmas-related song that she performed alone at the piano. As she introduced it, she cited its impact in licensing listeners to grieve during a celebratory time of year that often is an emotionally difficult time.

The encore included two thoughtful, if disparate, selections. Carlile chose a song from late in Joni’s career (2007’s “Shine”) to illustrate that “nothing about Joni Mitchell began or ended with Blue.” The tune took the room to church, wishing mercy upon both the deserving and undeserving.

Before playing the last song, she referenced something Joni Mitchell once said about her own songs. That if you find her in her songs, then she hasn’t done her job; it’s when you find you in her songs, that her work has been done.

And with that, Brandi Carlile came full circle by looking within to play her own song, “Party of One” as the evening’s coda.

When all was said and done, the crowd went wild with enthusiastic praise and yet another round of standing applause. But it was only the second loudest ovation of the night. The biggest roar came just before the show started when an unexpected guest was escorted in to the Hall.

Clad in a red jacket and wide-brimmed black hat, and moving gently to a seat with cane in hand, it was Joni Mitchell.

Setlist

Blue

All I Want
My Old Man
Little Green
Carey
Blue
California
This Flight Tonight
River
A Case of You
The Last Time I Saw Richard
—————————————
Shine (Joni Mitchell song)
Party of One (Brandi Carlile song)