2018: The Year Emo Went Inward

Navel-gazing with the 00’s Emo crowd

January 20th, 2019
Lex Voight

Emo has always been somewhat of a inward-looking genre. From Rites of Spring, to Capn’ Jazz to American Football to the emo boom of the mid 00’s, the genre has seemingly always been identified by the feelings of the lyricist, acting as something of an avatar for the audience to project on to and through. But rarely, perhaps with the exception of the self-parodying song names of bands like Fall Out Boy or Panic! At the Disco, has emo gotten as obviously meta and self-legacy aware as we saw from 2018, for both good and ill.
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Snapcase @ the Observatory

A night of unlearning

Lex Voight

With the number of times I can call a band “legendary,” one might think that the hardcore scene is nothing but legends. But here again, is the monicker accurate for the Buffalo hardcore stalwarts Snapcase. Gather together a large group of the bands who have influenced the most recent crop–your Converges, your Modern Life is Wars, your Have Hearts–and ask them the bands that influenced them. Nine times out of ten, Snapcase would be name dropped. The Victory band’s Lookingglassself and Progression Through Unlearning are seminal hardcore touchstones–eternal classics that cemented their legacy in the hardcore hall of legends. This was hardcore approached in a new way–angular, intelligent but lacking none of the brutality of their peers. This was a new way of doing things that created a sea change in the scene at the time and spread their influence beyond the confines of the genre.
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On Jeff Goldblum and the Myth of Hollywood

A joyful emcee and a night of jazz

December 26th, 2018
Lex Voight

Growing up, those of us who don’t live in or near LA are taught, through media, two opposing myths of Hollywood. The first is an unattainable dream–an olympian pantheon where heirs and heriesses mingle with publicly worshipped demigods. Where socialites and producers clink champagne glasses in ostentatious Gatsby-like homes. It of a world apart–above and away from the cares and worries of the real world, untouched and unsullied by plebeian influence. The other is the jaded nightmare of hollywood–the crabs-in-a-bucket competition, the horrors of the casting couch and backroom deals, the narcissism and desperate pandering. And both, while true in degrees, whats struck me most after living here for the majority of a decade is not witnessing either of these opposing worlds, but in the mundanity of the wide liminal space between dream and nightmare.
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Iceage / Black Lips / Surfbort @ The Regent

Mosh Ado About Something

November 15th, 2018
David Fisch

There’s an exhilarating rush knowing that you’re about to be surrounded with living, breathing music and wild personalities for an hour or more. Sure, it’s likely the band you go there for that gives you those feels, but sometimes it’s the venue. Some of the best ones have this storied allure of being small but feeling large and procuring energy from like-minds and enjoyment in togetherness.


Photos by David Fisch

It’s how I feel about The Regent in Downtown, and it might be why Danish toughs Iceage performed there twice in the same year during the same album-touring cycle. Though you might expect the band to put on the same show, you’d only be partially right: the set was mostly the same, with most of the material devoted to this year’s Beyondless. But the energy was more tense and, in a sense, controlled, like the band had refined what was otherwise an already formidable concert act from months before.

The crowd was also more riled up, given the co-headlining of Atlanta’s dependable garage punk rockers Black Lips (who played material both old and new) and the fervent speed punk stylings (and wow-ings) of Brooklyn newcomers Surfbort. It made for a night at The Regent another one of giddy joy, in which moshing is par for the course and the bands put on a display of power in a room that handles it nicely.

Photo Gallery:

For more info:

Iceage
Black Lips
Surfbort

Young Fathers / Algiers @ Fonda Theatre

Two doses of experimental soul and something else

November 12th, 2018
David Fisch

The 2010’s have proven to be the most remarkable showcase of indie experimental hip hop and soul, birthing some of the most ingenious acts who have traversed new compositional territory and blending genres so outside the realm of hip hop that it might not even be considered hip hop at all. To witness two of those acts on the same bill is something of a wish come true.


Photos by David Fisch

Scotland’s Young Fathers and Atlanta’s Algiers appeared together Friday night at The Fonda Theatre in Hollywood for a brief U.S. tour, and while their studio recordings offer good insight into their instrumental drive and meticulous dexterity and conceptual thought, their live performances are another thing entirely, reverberating all of that energy into two sets that easily topped this year’s list of best concerts experiences.

Although they were only allotted a 30-minute set, Algiers made the most of it with a rapturously seismic performance, supporting one of 2017’s best efforts overall, The Underside of Power. The piercing dramatism of “Cleveland” and the industrialist gospel of “Cry of the Martyrs” and the post-punk fury of “Animals” brought out the wild of just about everyone, with vocalist Franklin James Fisher and bassist Ryan Mahan frequently exchanging close-ups as if they each wanted something extra out of their performances, more-so than the crazy energy already emanating from the stage presence.

Similarly, Young Fathers were just as if not more electric, the trio entering the stage in complete darkness before completely bursting through the strobes to “Wire” from this year’s Cocoa Sugar. The album was only slightly indicative of what a performance we would get, with its wide array of grooves and punches that could translate into a strong live show. What we got instead was something else, something otherworldly, in which this collective gathered to perform to all of their strengths with “we are not worthy” shining confidence.

The mostly bare stage felt larger than life when the colorful strobes against white hit the audience in blinding fashion, mixed together with the band’s impressive movements during “Old Rock n Roll” or “Get Up” or any one of their songs. They treated the audience to perhaps their most recognizable of the bunch, “Shame,” but they also gave their performance some refreshing nuance with tracks like the slow-burn “Lord” and the thick and sticky “Toy”

Both acts provided full-bodied performances that rank up there with the best this year has to offer, with their recent studio efforts ranking among the best in indie experimental music this decade. Your best best is to see them this month, together under one roof, sonically pleasuring the senses.


Photo Gallery

For more info:

Young Fathers
Algiers

Cloud Nothings @ The Teragram Ballroom

Going back to basics with “Last Building Burning”

November 5th, 2018
David Fisch

Cleveland-based punk rockers Cloud Nothings shot right out of a cannon in the early 2010’s as ones to watch, and as I have been watching them since the release of 2012’s Attack On Memory, it’s been a pleasure watching leader Dylan Baldi continue to hone and craft some of the most compelling and honest songwriting the genre has had to offer so far this century. Seeing them again on this new touring cycle for their latest record Last Building Burning has only reminded me of the strengths the band has, pulsating speeds of fury in tight compositions that are candy-sweet.


Photos by David Fisch

The band performed the album in its entirety, front-to-back, at The Teragram Ballroom Friday night. In addition, they performed tunes from previous works Here and Nowhere Else and Attack On Memory. With slamdancers swirling to “Pattern Walks” and “Stay Useless” and getting caught up in saying “I thought there would be more than this” as a newly-minted 30-something, it was fun to see a compact crowd rollick with the same drive the band had procured six years earlier.

Last Building Burning is out now on Carpark Records.

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Cloud Nothings

Festival Recap: Life is Beautiful 2018

Downtown LV’s premier festival enters 6th year

October 4th, 2018
Lesley Park
Category: Lead Story, Review

While walking aimlessly around a scorching, 100-degree Downtown Las Vegas, it occurred to me that the last time I had been here was 4 years ago at the markedly less sweltering 2014 iteration, a turning point that marked the moment that Life is Beautiful was given the number one spot in my running list of favorite festivals. With its great lineup, chill crowd, amazing food, and impressive appearances from the likes of Cirque du Soleil and other Vegas mainstays, it managed to outdo what had already been an impressive inaugural year back in 2013.

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Interview with Ancestors

LA based post/doom/psych band on their new album

September 26th, 2018
Lex Voight

RIYL: Isis, Neurosis, Sights and Sounds, This Will Destroy You
What does life feel like?
Not the bones, marrow, and sinew of our physical beings. Not the multitudes of forms around us. But a life, lived through—the process and the emotions.
Do you hold a metaphor of it in your head?
For me, life is a big pile of dirt.
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Review: KCRW World Festival @ The Hollywood Bowl

With Grizzly Bear, TVOTR and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith

September 25th, 2018
Melissa Karlin
Category: Review

Everyone all over the internet (and I suppose real life) is talking about how summer is over. But not TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe. No, instead on Sunday night he wished the audience at the Hollywood Bowl a happy “second summer” before singing out a song about climate change. It’s a statement that radiated, much like heat does off the black top of a paved road in the desert in August, throughout the bowl, creating laughter and knowing sounds of uncomfortable agreement. It was an “Oh dayum, he went there” moment, but felt as though the artist on stage was pulling in our own anger and frustrations and using it to create performance. Because the audience was the community of KCRW listeners and indie music lovers who were just grooving to the unique sounds of three acts.

Now, at first glance, it may seem like Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, TV on the Radio and Grizzly Bear are vastly different kinds of performers, how can they possibly work on the same stage!? But each one flowed together, much like differing textures experienced at a museum exhibitions. These performers are labeled “art rock” by other music journalists for a very legitimate reason, even if I personally find that this label is quite reductive. This even though, it made sense. Each of these artists, these performers, these groups…they holistically came together to create a show, telling their own stories, but the through line was a kind of energy of experimentation and exploration in sound and story.

Beginning with Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s lopping electronic sounds, she employed three dancers. They moved at discomforting angles, wide eyed and with a primordial gaze. Limbs flailed with a shudder that was affecting and expressionistic, their movements flowing with the music at once interpreting and performing the sound.

Next up, TV on the Radio, performing an energetic set of bright colors and bombastic indie rock that they do so remarkably well. Each song has a different vibe, a different sound, but they tie it together through their specific texture. They played some of their “newer” tracks like “Happy Idiot” and “Trouble” but also classics like “Wolf Like Me” and “Shout Me Out”. Their energy and momentum felt like something that would be in a stadium show, inspiring people to rise from their comfortable terrace garden seats and shake their bodies to the beat of the music.

And then came Grizzly Bear, the perfect band to see while being surrounded by trees. Before describing the wondrous sounds, I just want to give a shout out to the lighting designer, because whoever that is, is a genius. It was incredible and immersive, and my photos really do not do it justice.

The band, who has been saying that this tour might actually be one of the last for a good while, were electric. The echoing croons of Edward Droste and Daniel Rossen washed over the outdoor stage, as they were bathed in back light that moved as an extension of the sound. They played mostly music from their first three full albums, hitting the indie hits like “Two Weeks” and “Knife” but also their most recent stand-out “Four Cyprusses”. The highlight though was the fact that Grizzly Bear performed songs that one might label a deep cut. These are the ones that truly affected me. Like “On a Neck, On a Spit” which blasts off after quiet beginnings. In the end, this set was a retrospective, a band celebrating their achievements and art, because they just might not have the chance to do it again soon.

Learn more about Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
Learn more about TV on the Radio
Learn more about Grizzly Bear

On Murder By Death and The Other Shore

On their 8th effort, MBD heads for the stars.

September 2nd, 2018
Lex Voight
Category: Lead Story, Review

Theres a gentle susurration, as if an orchestra is warming up. The swell of an accordion before a guitar is plucked delicately and you are thrust headlong into a new (old) world. Thus begins the new opus from Murder By Death, storytellers extraordinaire, and what follows is 40 minutes of bliss that pulls influences from the veteran band’s discography to spin a tale that spans years and lightyears.
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