Tune-Yards @ Moroccan Lounge

LA is burning…with unique sounds

December 8th, 2017
Melissa Karlin
Category: Review

It was a fiery night in more ways than one this last Wednesday in Los Angeles. From the new Moroccan Lounge, found among the warehouses of downtown LA’s Arts District, Tune-Yards’s Merrill Garbus enthralled and immersed an excited audience in an earthly world with powerful lyrics, looping vocals and a sense that somehow, we were actually in the world’s coolest yoga class – we had just all had forgotten our mats.

As the set began, the base bellowed out, reverberating in the space like a scared gong, so heavy and intense the hairs on my arms shook. We were bathed in sound, anointing the collective as we entered the mystical, real and playful world of Tune-Yards. Merrill’s cropped hair complete with long bushy bangs covering her eyes, worked together to paint the picture of some kind of mysterious leader. As the lights reflected upon her and around it, it was as if she, of Tune-Yards was an intense prophet here to show us the righteous way. But, then a sly smile crept in, a laugh, and suddenly it is revealed that this is a woman who is incredibly happy to be doing the work she doing. There was a real love for the audience and the audience loved her, swaying and dancing and talking to her, her talking back to them. It was a warm world we had all stepped into.


Photos by David Fisch

But it’s not even that Tune-Yards actually is creating a world. The music of Tune-Yards is a remix of all sorts of musical cultures in the world – Western Pop, African, Jazz, Techno, Island, rap, spoken word but all bleeding together with biting political poetry. At one point, Merrill wailed out a sound that sounded like the start of the Jewish New Year, before bouncing around to deep rhythms intersecting with each other. Through it all, there was such an intense but playful joy in her performance. She rolled through some of her most popular tracks like “Water Fountains” and “Gangsta” with exuberance. They were like remixes of themselves, a call and response.

They also broke out a ton of new stuff which will be on the new record I can feel you creep into my private life, out on January 19th. It was all really interesting and exciting. I’d almost say it was like “world music” meets techno, deep rhythms and beats all layering on top of each other creating a texture that I want to describe as red earth. There’s something about it that felt primal and real and of dirt and I mean that in the best way. Like when you dip your hands into soil and the residue is left in your finger nails. It’s not always comfortable but in the end it was kinda nice. She cried out that “I have white girl skin and white girl hair” and that she uses a comb made especially for that hair. At the start of the show a lyric off the new album literally said, “California is burning” at which point she looked up and crossed her hands over her heart and the audience cheered.

I’ve always loved the way that Tune-Yards juxtaposes incredibly joyful sounds and happy rhythms with powerful political and environmental poetry. But seeing this in person, as people bounced around with her, had conversations with her and reacted to these songs, it struck me as being even more powerful. The words aren’t hollow and neither are the rhythms. They work together and that’s a part of the joy.

Didn’t get a chance to see Tune-Yards this time around? Don’t worry! They’ll be back in February for a two-night engagement at El Rey, so you can bounce around with the best of ’em in an actual ballroom. In the meantime, check out their latest single/video “ABC 123” off the new record below.

More info:

Tune-Yards

Miya Folick @ Moroccan Lounge

The rising singer-songwriter’s EP release show

December 7th, 2017
David Fisch
Category: Lead Story, Review

Santa Ana singer-songwriter Miya Folick has been rising in indie circles for the past couple of years for her staggering vocals and deep-felt lyrics, releasing two EPs in that span including the recently-released Give It To Me. It’s a hot ticket to get to see her perform live; indeed, her sold-out show at the Moroccan Lounge in support of the new EP was plenty fire, considering the venue houses only so many people.


Photos by David Fisch

She and her merry minstrels performed an hour’s worth of material from her two EPs, including tunes she stated she wouldn’t ordinarily perform live, but the LA crowd was lucky enough to receive her keys/synth player. There wasn’t much to the stage other than flowers strewn across it and performance artists dancing to two tracks, but it didn’t need much more than that. The spotlight was literally all on Folick, whose voice was impeccable and her look stark.

From quieter songs like “Strange Darling” to more bombastic like “Trouble Adjusting,” Folick looked to be soaking in the moment as she shared these very personal songs with a devoted audience. She closed with a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock,” whom she most certainly owes a debt to in regards to her vocal style.

Miya Folick will no doubt be taking to bigger stages as she has a voice and presence that can take her pretty much anywhere, but as experienced at the Moroccan Lounge at this very moment, to see and hear her in the small, beloved rooms will be the most surefire way to get her music into your head and heart.

For more info:

Miya Folick

Hundred Waters @ El Rey Theatre

The indie trio debut a new visual show in LA

December 4th, 2017
David Fisch
Category: Lead Story, Review

The music of Hundred Waters is hard to pin down. It’s at one point art rock, with breathtakingly organic instrumentation and unusual structures, and then electronic at another, rhythmically tying together moments of repetition and manipulative effects. They make music that doesn’t fit neatly in any category, which that’s perfectly fine with me. It’s their unique blend that makes them devilishly attractive, and that which you would think might translate into an equally unique live experience when they perform.

You would be right because their performance at El Rey on Friday night was as such: truly unique. Continue reading…

FM-84 and The Midnight @ The Globe Theatre

Sold-out debut LA show ignites the night

November 20th, 2017
Mary Bonney
Category: Review

Last Saturday night, refurbished movie palace The Globe Theatre came alive when synthwave artists FM-84 and The Midnight made their Los Angeles debut to a sold out crowd. It was only the second show for the double billing of 80s-inspired, cinematic synth pop acts who, as independent artists, previously sold out their debut concert in San Francisco earlier this year. Both performers and concertgoers celebrated in disbelief what they were hearing and seeing live as the nostalgia-fueled evening stretched until 2am.

Colin Bennett, also known by the moniker FM-84, came onstage as his signature neon sun lit up the stage. Vocalist Ollie Wride struck dramatic poseswihle embracing the theatricality of the music and sky-high notes in his vocal register. The crowd sang along to the soaring “Wild Ones” and ballad “Let’s Talk” but it was hit “Running in the Night” got the largest reaction.

The Midnight hinted at this Los Angeles debut performance in an interview with the LA Music Blog earlier this year and producer Tim McEwan (who calls Los Angeles home by way of Denmark) began the evening with pulsating, synth-driven instrumental tracks “Nocturnal” and “Collateral” off the pair’s recently-released third album NocturnalVocalist and lyricist Tyler Lyle, who had traveled from the east coast, joined McEwan onstage for noir-tinged city ballad “Crystalline”, fitting given the venue’s downtown locale.

Saxophonist Jesse Molloy elicited cheers every time he performed powerful, burning sax solos in the majority of The Midnight’s songs. Fans were elated to see frequent collaborator singer/songwriter Nikki Flores join the pair onstage. Flores lent her vocals to the duo’s most melodic, summer-soaked tracks “Jason” and “Light Years.” I complimented Flores backstage and she gushed, “I’m just such a big fan of their music and they couldn’t be nicer guys.”

Oftentimes, Lyle would be overpowered by the crowd as fans reveled in singing along with the nostalgia-driven anthems “Days of Thunder” and “Comeback Kid”. McEwan controlled waves of lush soundscapes while surrounded by an explosion of television screens that utilized retro visuals when their colorful laser light show wasn’t in full effect.

“Los Angeles” saw fans raise their “hands like a gospel choir” for the first time in the city that inspired the dreamy, deep cut. The Midnight may be influenced by decades-old songs, but the duo has brought that synth-filled, imagery-driven music into the present, asking,”If we live forever, let us live forever tonight”.

Flores rejoined Lyle onstage for  “Sunset” and the crowd began one last, energetic dance party before the performance came to a close and fans begged for one more song. The crowd would have to wait, however, for that encore until The Midnight’s next hometown show. Based on the thunderous sing-a-longs, euphoric cheers and merchandise flying off the shelves, they won’t be waiting long.

For more information on The Midnight:
Official Site
Official Facebook

Ariel Pink @ The Regent

It’s just gonna get weird from here

Melissa Karlin
Category: Review, Staff Pick

HE DIDN’T PLAY “JELL-O.”

I think I’m literally the only person who was disappointed by that fact. I mean, he played other tracks I love like “White Freckles” and “Round & Round.” But not “Jell-O.” And that’s my review.

Continue reading…

Rhye @ Moroccan Lounge

The debut of new songs to swoon to

November 9th, 2017
David Fisch

The downtempo R&B stylings of Rhye were something of an enigma back in the early 2010’s, releasing singles of androgynous vocals and soulful chill with underground raves before finally releasing a full-length LP in 2013 in the form of Woman. With the exception of touring in the following year, Rhye has been fairly quiet – that is, until this year, when the band resurfaced with a similar release strategy that once again began the hype machine of high anticipation, leaning on superb singles that hinted at a brighter energy and expanded scope.

While information of a new full-length follow-up is pending, Rhye will be back on the road with a formally announced tour heading into 2018. In the meantime, though, the LA-based band made a sold-out stop to test new material and perform older songs at the Moroccan Lounge, which is rapidly making the case for becoming LA’s best venue for intimate settings, devoted crowds, and outstanding acoustics.

Continue reading…

M. Ward at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Minutiae ruled the night

October 30th, 2017
Kyle B. Smith
Category: Lead Story, Review

There was something of an underlying nautical theme at M. Ward’s show at the Walt Disney Concert Hall Wednesday night. As the story goes, in designing the building, Frank Gehry found aesthetic inspiration in his love of boats. So when M. Ward got things cooking during second song “Poison Cup,” his trademark bow legged shuffle made it look like he was losing his balance and bouncing around the galley of a ship battling rough waters.

But this was the storm after the calm. The set began with distinguished gentleman Ward’s “Lullaby + Exile,” a song that goes for the heart’s jugular with the gentlest of ease.

M. Ward is a musician’s musician, one who moves to make every last drop of a solo or a lyric coherent and meaningful. Set him down in the Disney Hall, and suddenly it felt like you were sitting in Studio A of Capitol Records with control room headphones on.

As he sang “Well a trance is a spell, with a thrill wrapped up inside it, and try as you might to fight it, love will get you in the end,” there was infinite musicality packed in to his utterance of “spell.” And that was just one word of one song. The night unfolded beautifully from there.

“Slow Driving Man,” another slow song about slow things, was slowed down even further on this night. It was subdued af, yet totally entrancing in its deliberate pace. In “Time Won’t Wait,” the headliner flirted with the front edge of the stage during a solo that took the shape of a signature Matt Ward solo where angular sections are cobbled together with a touch of magic to create a whole that is fluid and groovy.

Similarly, in the sneakily sordid “I Get Ideas” or solo acoustic jam “Duet for Guitars #3,” Ward effortlessly snuck in harmonics as easy as if they were blinks. In “Duet,” Ward’s spidery right hand opened and closed like a fan, as he alternated between pluck and strum, bounding about the stage.

A two-song run on the piano included the melancholy “Vincent O’Brien,” and wrenching take on Daniel Johnston’s “Story of an Artist.” In introducing the cover, M. Ward dipped his toes in political waters with the edict “Now is the time to defend the artists.”

With an attentive audience and the acoustics of the room so dialed in, minutiae continued to rule the night.

Ward strapped on a harmonica for “Fuel for Fire,” but added only a requisite pinch in favor of unnecessarily gratuitous servings. In “One Hundred Million Years,” he stood with sly posture, his body shielding a guitar that was turned away from the front of the room.

“Rave On” started solo, and ended with digital looping that welcomed the band back to the stage finish off the song. Towards the end of “Chinese Translation,” M. Ward brought the band to a halt, leaving only he and the warm tones his Gibson electric to make any noise.

After a brief respite, the band faded back in to the proceedings with such evenness and precision, it sounded like someone reached to turn the room’s volume dial up.

Although the Hall was shamefully(!) undersold, those who did venture to DTLA caught one of the stronger local double bills in recent memory.

Rhiannon Giddens opened the evening with a hell of a set of music that drew from a variety of genres and instrumentation, and one that never turned a blind eye to difficult chapters of American history. Instead, her music took them head on, sharing with the audience stories of from where certain songs came, and injecting them with vibrant new life.

“At The Purchaser’s Option,” lead track off of Giddens’ 2017 LP Freedom Highway was a prime example. After a slow creep percussive intro, her voice soared through verses that told the haunting tale of an African-American slave, a mother forced from custody of her own child. For the tune, Giddens aimed for period authenticity, plucking a banjo that is a replica of one made in 1858.

The barefoot Giddens had a divine and commanding presence that matched her musicianship. On “Fiddle Tunes,” she provided a glimpse of a rare musical high wire act: playing the violin and singing lead vocals at the same time.

Giddens’ propensity to change things up from one song to the next was shared by her band. The group – the same crew that recorded Freedom Highway – swapped out their instruments on nearly every song. Album producer Dirk Powell shape-shifted from keys, to guitar, to impressive lead vocals, to the squeezebox – or something just like it.

Patsy Cline’s “She’s Got You” proved to be the centerpiece of the set. The timeless kiss off tune provided Rhiannon Giddens an opportunity to showcase her far ranging vocals, and for drummer Jamie Dick to relentlessly work his cymbals to amass a whooshing wall of sound.

M. Ward Setlist

Lullaby + Exile
Poison Cup
The Sandman, The Brakeman and Me
Slow Driving Man
For Beginners
Time Won’t Wait
I Get Ideas
Vincent O’Brien
Story of an Artist
Duet for Guitars #3
Fuel for Fire
One Hundred Million Years
Rave On
Chinese Translation
Never Had Nobody Like You
___________________________________
Moon River (with Victoria Williams)

Rhiannon Giddens Setlist

Spanish Mary
Fiddle Tunes
The Love We Almost Had
At The Purchaser’s Option
(unknown)
We Could Fly
Jack O’ Diamonds
Creole Tunes
Children Go Where I Send Thee
She’s Got You
Freedom Highway
That Lonesome Road/Up Above My Head

Moses Sumney @ El Rey Theatre

The Inland Empire’s rising soul star sheds light

October 23rd, 2017
David Fisch
Category: Lead Story, Review

It’s felt like a long-time coming for Moses Sumney, whose work has rippled through the indie music scene for at least the past three or four years. Most of his work rides on his incredible and spine-tingling falsetto, but his music and lyrics contain a blue hue and solitary veneer that drive his vocals to a bittersweet beauty.

His full-length debut Aromanticism finally saw daylight earlier this month, and I was able to catch him performing in its support at his hometown and final U.S. show for the year at the classy El Rey Theatre.

Continue reading…

Nick Murphy & Washed Out @ The Shrine

A night of smooth music turns full-on rock concert

David Fisch
Category: Review

Nick Murphy went by the name “Chet Faker” until last year when he decided to pursue his solo effort under his own name. This was merely cosmetic, as the music Nick has produced in the past year under his new (actual) name has transitioned over pretty smoothly from the intimate electronics of earlier work to the expansive, more guitar-oriented sounds that still retain the intimacy and penchant for chill.

Continue reading…

Protomartyr @ Moroccan Lounge

Detroit post-punk arrives in LA with precision

October 17th, 2017
David Fisch
Category: Review, Staff Pick

My initial appreciation of Detroit post-punk rockers Protomartyr came upon an album download of Under Color of Official Right and seeing them at the small but hearty Bootleg Theater in Silverlake in 2014, where the musicianship on display was a thing of beauty and leader Joe Casey was drinking beer and wallowing in his precise rants about everyday life. Much was the same at the Moroccan Lounge Monday night, perhaps with an extra case of beer and a few more people, but with two new albums released since then and an even tighter edge and studio-like clarity, the band has sounded better, performed as ferociously, or felt as meaningful as this very moment in time in their existence.

Continue reading…