Show Review: Khruangbin @ Lodge Room

This is not what I expected.

March 30th, 2018
Kyle B. Smith

Image by Mary Kang

It started without a greeting. With some hammer-ons, some hammer-offs. It brought to mind a sitar. An opium den. Someplace ex-US. Laura Lee cooed a bit. This is what I expected. Loungey, but you know, cool. There were hot pink search lights scanning the crowd. Within two minutes, it was officially notarized that this was going to be all vibe. “Como Me Quieres,” it was. Then it was “Dern Kala,” and I don’t know what that means. But Lee and guitarist Mark Seer were front and center doing coordinated knee-bends. Ok, maybe this is a bit looser than I expected. Our greeting finally came as follows, “Los Angeles, California!” This led to “August 10.” Donald Johnson sat back behind his kit, all pocket. There was no rush in these songs. Psychedelia came courtesy of projected soap bubbles, just like they used to. Then those search lights were blowing highlighter yellow over the darkened Lodge Room. Things slowed a bit for “Friday Morning.” Yes, there were echoes of Floyd, and friends asking, “What would the masons think?” Then Seer – what a name – told us that the Texan trio were very humbled to be there. Then “Mister White” arrived, as did the wall-to-wall sensation that whatever the fuck the caricaturized DOPE is supposed to mean now, this must be it. Some of these songs off new LP Con Todo El Mundo could one day graduate to be indie jazz standards? Maybe not. I don’t care. Wait, no. They’re a house band in Jabba’s lair? No, I’m high. Wait, what? In any event, Khruangbin is a band of few words, many sounds, dreamy intros and quick transitions. But then somewhere past the midpoint of the seamless set was a whole James Brown element coming on strong. The sorta mystery of how this impressive sold out three-night run came to be evaporated with one of those soap bubbles, at which point the hipper-than-thou crowd assembled in Highland Park was simply fucking lit. This is not what I expected. Khruangbin had succeeded in turning a room full of typically staid Angelenos in to something out of a late night set at Bonnaroo. Musical shape shifting, if you will. The beer was cold. Egos were lost. Lead guitar was given room to breathe. Slippery solos never betrayed dexterity, even when they put some stank on it. Are those Shaft quotes? Ohhhhh noooo, ohhhh yessss here it comes, it’s your grandma’s quilted-together crowd pleasing, hip hop medley! “Footsteps in the Dark” (for some, Cube for others, I had to look it up), “Summertime,” “I Got 5 On It.” Better stop right now, or somebody’s gonna get pregnant (thank you Prince). After a long strut with the covers, Khruangbin returned to their intellectual property to cool things down before the encore. The first encore. The Donald, alone on stage, swiveled his chair away from his kit, to face a piano at the back of the room. Then a delicate little pecked number came out of nowhere like a bar fight. It did not fit the proceedings, yet somehow did. His comrades returned. It got tropical sounding, and balmy in the air. Clothes were coming off. The tune accelerated in to a foot stomping jam treading closely behind the Dead. A bit ersatz, but hey it’s Saturday night in what’s become a juke joint, and it’s clear that nobody cares. Especially when things dropped in to a straight modern funk disco hybrid. And then it was over, all too soon. The room started to empty. There were smiles, sweat, cups kicked around on the floor. Where’s the next party?? But those with ganas remained. For a while they clapped, and insisted and, yes, that second encore did happen. Cribbing from the Godfather of Soul a bit more with a pinch of The Doors, it was chemical cross-pollination. A helpful drug for when Khruangbin vamped over instructions directed to the remaining faithful to “make new friends.” Sure why not? And so everyone started talking to strangers. I turned to my right and met Tim. What a concept. Then, a call your Uber-hip warning, “We gonna hit it and quit it.” And Khruangbin wasn’t lying. Their crusade in the name of vibe was over.

More info:

Khruangbin

Show Review: Lucy Dacus @ Teragram Ballroom

Has Lucy Dacus ever told a lie in her life?

March 25th, 2018
Kyle B. Smith
Category: Review

Lucy Dacus came to the Teragram Ballroom Thursday night and played a show that was better than Cats.

On tour in support of gem LP Historian, the supremely understated Lucy Dacus was one member of a four-person outfit, each dutifully contributing an even share to the sturdy performance. There was nary a sour note. It was that type of impeccably clean sound where the negative space mattered as much as the instrumentation.

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Cornelius @ Fonda Theatre

The eclectic Japanese producer’s music exploration

March 22nd, 2018
David Fisch

Japanese producer Keigo Oyamada, also known as Cornelius, transformed the Fonda Theatre Tuesday night with an audio-visual performance in support of his latest record Mellow Waves.


Photos by David Fisch

Starting the show with a projected video welcoming the crowd, the white screen quickly fell away to reveal Cornelius himself and three members on a stage of cued lights and a backing screen of complete visual wonderment to accompany his eclectic music. With tracks like “Helix/Spiral,” “Drop,” and “Wataridori,” Cornelius brought a visually kaleidoscopic journey and an energy and instrumental charisma unlike anything I’ve seen as of late. Even the more monochromatic “In A Dream” was brought to life with mesmerizing flair. The talents of his band was unquestionable as they melded between electronic and prog rock and vocal automation via theremin.

This might very well have been the concert not to miss in 2018, and here’s hoping that Cornelius return to Los Angeles very soon so that everyone (including Scott Pilgrim director Edgar Wright, in attendance) can bask in such a creative and innovative musical event.

Check out the rest of our photos and watch/listen to “In A Dream” below.

More info:

Cornelius

Son Lux @ The Regent

A crisp night in support of Brighter Wounds

March 12th, 2018
David Fisch
Category: Lead Story, Review

What began as a Los Angeles bedroom project of sorts for Ryan Lott has turned into a fully-formed and smashing trio by 2018, as evidenced by Son Lux’s performance at The Regent in Downtown Thursday night. When Lott announced to the audience before the end of the set how endearing it was to be performing with his best friends, it felt earned, seeing the sometimes breathtaking musicianship they employed, as one solid unit of experimental beats and titillating soundscapes filled the room and the souls of the sold-out crowd.

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Festival Recap: Air + Style 2018

A spectacular kickoff to music festival season

March 9th, 2018
Lesley Park
Category: Lead Story, Review

Hot off the plane from Pyeongchang, Shaun White definitely can’t be accused of wasting any time post-Olympics. Upon touching down in LA, the three-time Snowboarding Halfpipe gold medalist hit the ground running overseeing preparations for Air + Style which under his tutelage has morphed into a multi-continental music, snowboarding, and skateboarding fest, the latter of which is a new addition to the roster following the IOC’s announcement that skateboarding would be added to the summer Olympics in 2020 (White himself is also avid skateboarder who has competed and medaled in both the Summer and Winter X Games).

Cut Snake’s smooth, tech house grooves and a series of food trucks were the first thing to welcome me to the venue which is divided into a Summer side and a Winter side both having eponymous stages along with corresponding snow and skate parks, respectively. The Australian duo’s languid, summery sounds provided a nice contrast to the ominous storm clouds overhead. Continuing Cut Snake’s theme of seductiveness, Mura Masa‘s sensual alt R&B filled the winter stage as the last rays of sun dipped below the horizon.

LAMB favorite Cut Copy was next up on the summer stage. Although the storm clouds above brought down a freak torrent of rain during their set, the crowd didn’t seem to notice or care as they were seemingly too busy shouting “With hearts on fire I reach out to you tonight!” You can lump me in with them.

After sampling little bits of Cashmere Cat, I decided to forgo the second half of the set to catch the Snow Finals which featured surprise appearances from decorated Olympians Chloe Kim, Red Gerard, and Kyle Mack, the latter of whom was competing.

Day 1 concluded with a literal bang from big room house maestro Zedd who brought all the big guns from a production standpoint. Fog machines, flamethrowers, and fireworks battered the senses in every direction which made for an enjoyable, albeit musically predictable, experience.

With the storm clouds passed us, Day 2 began on a more temperate note. Rising R&B star Tinashe took to the stage and mesmerized with her bangin’ dance moves and sultry vocals. Although the comparisons to Aaliyah are not entirely without merit, Tinashe is very much a force of her own and one to be reckoned with.

Continuing the theme of girl power (it was just International Women’s Day, after all), Sarah Barthel cast her own captivating spell on the winter stage along with Phantogram co-pilot Josh Carter. In between the breathy vocals of “Mouthful of Diamonds” and the grinding blare of “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore,” Barthel opened up to the audience about her sister’s suicide two years ago, “It’s okay to not feel okay,” she concluded before dedicating “When I’m Small” to her sister’s memory.

The breezy sounds of Washed Out paired perfectly with the skateboarders  practicing jaw-dropping stunts for the Skate Finals event. Future funk maestro GRiZ is no stranger to LAMB love, but his Air + Style set was on another level. In advance of his full live band show, the saxophone-touting producer added a guitarist to the mix which, paired with even grander visuals, made for a more complete concert experience.

The festival concluded with a standout performance from Phoenix, currently touring their sixth and latest album, Ti Amo, which was released last June. Barreling through crowd favorites “Lisztomania” and “1901,” Phoenix’s infectious good vibes was the perfect closer to an overall solid weekend of music. As is customary, frontman Thomas Mars surfed into the crowd for the finale, an encore performance of Ti Amo’s eponymous lead single.


 

Although we’re just a couple weeks short of spring and the slew of music festivals that seem to tumble out one after another as the months get warmer in LA (she said as the northeast gets pummeled by a freak snowstorm), Air + Style’s fusion of music and snow/skate athleticism—particularly so soon after a solid American showing in Pyeongchang 2018—make for a unique experience that can’t easily be found elsewhere. The comparatively small lineup and layout of the festival make it easy to avoid too many conflicts which is a huge plus, though I imagine that may change as the festival continues to grow. If you haven’t gotten a chance to check out this very worthwhile addition to the LA festival circuit, I recommend rectifying that the next chance you get.

 

 

For more info:

Air + Style

Night Lights @ The Regent

Indie pop rockers get crowd dancing

February 16th, 2018
Mary Bonney
Category: Lead Story, Review

After interviewing Night Lights at their Eat See Hear performance, I’ve been hooked on the LA-based internationally-bred indie pop band. Since that fateful summer day, these rockers recorded their latest EP Childish, released an energetic music video and kicked off a national tour with Mako and Caroline Pennell. Last Saturday, the band performed at downtown’s The Regent and got audiences dancing along to their infectious tunes.

All photos by Nathan Tecson

It was a hometown heroes welcome for these former Bostonians as they were met by enthusiastic cheers from fans and friends alike. Night Lights wonderfully balances their emotional lyrics with upbeat energy, as demonstrated by their video for the danceable earworm “Things That We Used To Know”.

Their hypnotic melodies intertwined with lush, swirling instrumentation. When the band swelled with energy, lead vocalist Mauricio Jimenez matched the crescendoes, going from belting on the floor to performing backflips.

This local group is quickly gaining momentum as their live performances match the energy captured on their recorded tracks. As they continue on their national tour, Night Lights are sure to hook audiences with their infectious pop bites and dreamy beats and ensuring 2018 will be their biggest year yet.

Check out the music video to “Childish” below.

For more info on Night Lights:
Facebook
Bandcamp

Phoebe Bridgers @ The Natural History Museum

A hair-raising set surrounded by dead animals

February 13th, 2018
Kyle B. Smith

Phoebe Bridgers haunts me. Her songs tell tales like a series of sad Polaroids strung together. It’s a dose of reality heavy enough to legitimately scare the wits out of you. Delivered with precision and delicacy, the dead calm in her songs also conjures hair-raising moments in her live performances. Never mind that she usually plays in a jet black dress that is worn over a near-transparent complexion, all whilst touring a breakout album that has a spooky ghost on its cover.

Phoebe Bridgers appeared live at the Natural History Museum as part of their wintertime First Fridays series, surrounded by a room full of dead animals. While the lifeless creatures stood still in well-lit diorama scenes, Bridgers opening set stayed the steady course of 2017 LP, Stranger in the Alps – the eight songs in her abbreviated set carried the weight of a delicate thud.

The aptly-named Rob Moose (violin), and local whiz kid producer Ethan Gruska (keys) were Phoebe’s collaborators for the evening. As is usually the case at First Fridays, a chatty and upbeat weekend-ready crowd drowned things out towards the back of the room. But myriad textures came to life closer to the action. From Moose’s plucked violin and Gruska’s subtle ethereal sensibilities, to Bridgers’ own multidimensional vocal spectrum, many moments rang clear as a bell to those paying attention.

The trio took “Scott Street” for a walk early on. The song is about as close as Bridgers treads to euphoria, with a collective walk down that ushered in a heck of a tension and release moment towards the tune’s end. Rob Moose’s string contributions hinted at strains of southern rock, before Phoebe took over with some woo-hoo coo’ing.

An electronic, knob-turning cacophony from Gruska gave way to Bridgers’ stoic delivery of the brutally honest confessional of “Funeral.” More unexpected Dixie-flavored sounds snuck in to the wrenching piece, arguably the best cut off Stranger in the Alps.

Those who have seen Phoebe Bridgers perform over the past year or two may have been caught off guard by the execution of “Georgia.” Once (and perhaps still a little bit) timid, Bridgers can now sing with a newfound command, harnessing power from the depths of her vocal range. As the song kept growing bigger, her voice blossomed with similar gusto. The outro flaunted a masterful intertwining of violin and Phoebe’s confident vocal projection.

Standing perfectly upright, Bridgers sang “Killer” sans guitar, and with her hands held together behind her back. From there, she quietly fell to her knees to tune her guitar, while Gruska and Moose gently volleyed an earthy, ad hoc jam back and forth. This led in to the finale of “Motion Sickness,” and yet another glowing example of Phoebe Bridgers’ less-is-more approach to her art.

Discovered mid-set was a bit of indie rock’s own natural history. Leaning against the wall, engrossed in the performance of one of his de facto protégés, was none other than Bright Eyes himself. He did not come forth to provide vocals on “Would You Rather,” as he did on the album. Instead, Conor Oberst opted to hang quietly to the side of the room, taking a place between other taxidermied creatures of the past, like some sort of diorama of 2005.

Setlist

Smoke Signals
Scott Street
Funeral
Georgia
Would You Rather
Demi Moore
Killer
Motion Sickness

Hippo Campus @ Fonda Theatre

The Minnesota quartet continue to rise

January 30th, 2018
David Fisch

I would suggest that it’s just a matter of time before Minneapolis-based quartet Hippo Campus breaks out, but by the looks and vibes of Friday night’s audience at the Fonda Theatre, I could have mistaken them for already having done so.


Photos by David Fisch

With a full-length under their belt and a score of singles and EP’s in the last few years and, most importantly, a delectable sound that is indie pop at its grandest, they sold out the venue top to bottom and commanded the stage left to right with an energetic performance that could easily pull both adoring fans and newcomers alike.

The band played just over an hour, performing their most popular tracks like “Way It Goes,” “Suicide Saturday,” “Buttercup,” and “Little Grace.” They were also supporting their most recent release, the warm glow EP, performing its three tracks.

The band will be out on the road in the U.S. for the next few weeks, and you can find those tour dates here. Check out the music video to “Buttercup” below.

More info:

Hippos Campus

Yung Lean @ Fonda Theatre

Cloud rap star and his Sad Boys stormed Hollywood

January 19th, 2018
David Fisch
Category: Lead Story, Review

Cloud rap is still an underground movement in the wider genre, but it’s appropriately hovering over the mainstream in its peripheral vision, grabbing attention of many young and up-and-coming rap listeners hoping to be swept in its narcotic beats and shrouded vocal effects. Swedish rapper Yung Lean, at just 21-years-old, is already a connoisseur of the craft, exploding on the scene when he was a teenager with sleeper hits “Kyoto” and “Ginseng Strip 2002,” raking up fans left and right, all who were likely in attendance at the Fonda Theatre Friday night, reveling in the guy’s moody raps and chanting in a sea of next-generation rave-makers.


Photos by David Fisch

Yung Lean performed in support of his latest full-length release, 2017’s Stranger, which makes the bold attempt at becoming the genre’s “concept” album. He appeared on a mostly empty stage, with just he and the mic dominating even as he barely appeared in the hazy and dark lighting. His face donning clown-like makeup and wearing all black, the audience ate all of it up.

His set was fairly straightforward, performing twenty-plus tracks for what seemed like forever given his music’s penchant to swallow you in its bass and encapsulate you in its hallucinatory mood. His DJs and touring rapper Thaiboy Digital, known as the Sad Boys, supported his performance as mostly background, allowing Yung Lean to enact his fairly new-found stardom on the masses of the venue’s floor.

Yung Lean hooks you in to his world and you have a tendency to stay there, which is why the crowd was eager to not be forced out by security to leave the venue when the show ended. Though he relishes in a subgenre that isn’t looking for big-time antics, Yung Lean makes the case that maybe you should take the deep dive into the thickness, and both myself and his devotees in attendance at the Fonda can get behind that artistic statement.

More info:

Yung Lean