Show Review: Gallant @ The Greek Theatre

His signature falsetto wows the crowd

June 2nd, 2017
Zein Khleif
Category: Review
LA Weekly

Looking for a new favorite artist? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! On May 29th I had the pleasure of watching Gallant open for John Legend at the Greek Theatre. To call Gallant an enthralling performer would be an understatement.
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Review: Frank Iero and the Patience – Parachutes

My Chemical Romance is dead long live the Patience

May 31st, 2017
Lex Voight
Category: Lead Story, Review

Its been almost five years since the demise of one of emo’s brightest and most enjoyable acts, My Chemical Romance, and its a specter that still haunts the collective scene as much as it does the band’s individual musicians. Examining the My Chem crew’s collective oeuvre, however, is getting more and more interesting with each passing release. The vast majority of that oeuvre, however, is due to the ever-expanding, ever-experimenting, continuously inspired Frank Iero.
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Show Review: Billy Joel @ Dodger Stadium

Legend brought hits, guest stars and LA stories

May 15th, 2017
Mary Bonney
Category: News, Review

Last Saturday evening, legendary singer, songwriter, pianist and bicoastal hero Billy Joel brought his memorable discography and unrivaled stage presence to a packed Dodger Stadium. The nearly three-hour set spanned the performer’s four plus decade career and, while Joel may be pushing seventy, his performance was filled with an energy and enthusiasm that brought tens of thousands of fans to their feet. Bros singing “Uptown Girl”. Older couples wearing “I love BJ” shirts. Young hipsters. Dads with daughters. They all flocked to downtown Los Angeles to see the man himself tickle the ivories and lull them into a sweet, piano-filled reverie.

All photos by John Bernstein

Flanked by his longtime backing band, Joel began with a simple, “1, 2, 3, 4!” and the high-energy “Moving Out” and “My Life”. A camera was suspended above Joel so fans could see his piano prowess up close on long, narrow screens hung in the same arrangement as the instrument’s keys.

Joel seemed to be in equal awe of the gravitas of his surroundings as the audience as he mused that his first performances in Los Angeles were at the intimate Troubadour. He admitted to seeing Elton John perform at the stadium and riffed a bit of “Your Song” before the ballad “Vienna” (voted on by audience applause as Joel “couldn’t possibly do all his songs” that evening).

Every member of Joel’s pitch-perfect, expert-filled band had a time to shine, whether it was trumpet player Carl Fischer in  “Zanzibar” or keyboardist Dave Rosenthal in “The Entertainer”, a song Joel explained was written while living on Mulholland Drive when he was “wrong and cynical” that reminded him “what an asshole I used to be”. Later, he explained the factually inaccuracies of “The Ballad of Billy the Kid”, also written during his time in Los Angeles in response to his desire to “write a movie soundtrack when no one was asking me to write them.”

The audience voted for “For The Longest Time”, to which Joel responded “Duh!” It was an impressive feat to tackle one of the most well-known a’cappella songs in pop rock history in a stadium, but the five-person backing vocal group led by Joel blew fans away.

Joel enlisted the help of surprise guest stars, beginning with P!nk joining him onstage for a jazzy rendition of the classic “New York State of Mind” followed by a performance of her song “Try”. Axl Rose also came to electrify the stage with his rocking “Highway To Hell” and later joined Joel for “Big Shot”.

But it was Joel’s hits that kept the audience moving in the unseasonably chilly air. Fans danced with each other during “Always A Woman”, tried to keep up with the lyrics of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and swayed along with “Piano Man”, one of the evening’s most warmly received songs. Fans illuminated the stadium with cell phone lights as Joel let the audience finish the final, familiar chorus a’cappella.

The encore began with hits “Uptown Girl”, “It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me” and “Only The Good Die Young”. The twenty-five song set culminated with “You May Be Right” and the audience sang along to, “I might be as crazy as you say, if I’m crazy then it’s true that it’s all because of you.” While it might seem crazy Joel is packing stadiums, his timeless music, unwavering talent and clear passion for performing ensures fans will pack the house to see him, crazy as they were at the beginning of his career to sing and dance along.

For more information on Billy Joel:
Official site

Show Review: Future Islands @ Apogee Studio

Samuel T. Herring is my spirit animal

May 3rd, 2017
Kyle B. Smith
Category: Lead Story, Review

Coinciding with this year’s edition of Coachella, there was a damn near month of top-notch shows from Santa Barbara to San Diego, and beyond.

On a recent Tuesday night in Santa Monica, Future Islands usurped the stage to record a robust 16-song live performance and interview with Jason Bentley for an upcoming broadcast on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic. Sandwiched between their Sunday sets at Coachella, Baltimore’s best is on tour to support new LP, The Far Field.

In many ways, the album is a continuation of the emotional magic on Future Islands’ 2014 breakout effort, Singles. The band’s performance, too, was in step with live appearances that made them famous.

You have William Cashion’s liquidy bass grooves, Gerrit Welmers’ masterful keys and buttons work hidden under a stoic presence, and then of course, the wild card of Samuel Herring as otherworldly front man with a Victor Price growl, and a cache of moves that will make your head spin. Altogether, it’s a emotionally dizzying experience, and a sort of wistful disco for hopeless romantics.

Future Islands preceded their set (and new album) opener “Aladdin,” as they do all shows – with a team huddle and handshake. Before you knew it, Herring was snatching imaginary stars from the sky, reeling them in, and then singing to them as they sparkled in his grasp. Cashion wasted no time in bringing the room up and down staircases with a trademark circular bass line.

During “Beauty of the Road,” Herring somehow melded cutting a rug with a mimed version of a hanging himself with a noose. But he let himself off the hook, resolving to lose himself with another hybrid concoction; a joker’s-grin-turned thousand-yard-stare of longing during the desperate refrain of “Time on Her Side.”

By the fourth song, “Walking Through That Door,” Mr. Herring had self-flagellated his own skull until a bright red mark appeared as backdrop to cascading beads of sweat. Ever loathe to rest, he turned outward and worked the front row like a politician, singing eye-to-eye with audience members, then lunging side to side like a skulking speed skater.

The set included all but one song off of The Far Field. Touring drummer Mike Lowry laid down excellent work on new one, “Day Glow Fire,” which segued in to “Through the Roses.” The latter contains an affirmation that could aptly sum up the resolve in Future Islands’ ethos: we can pull through, together.

Perhaps the high point of the LP, “North Star” kicked off with a Talking Heads head-bobbing groove, and then saw Herring battling the elements for his dear against a howling synth wind.

The latter part of the set reached farther back in to the catalogue for “Seasons,” the song which buttered the band’s bread, and a few particularly emotional cuts in the encore (“Black Rose,” “Tin Man,” and the wrenchingly beautiful, “Little Dreamer”).

The evening began with a discussion between Future Islands (Herring, Cashion, and Welmers) and KCRW Music Director Jason Bentley. Details are to be saved for the broadcast, but the conversation touched on Herring’s mom’s observation on the band, their unique relationship with fellow Baltimore artist Dan Deacon (and his Daffy Duck t-shirt), and Future Islands’ beginnings “in the neon days of the early 00’s,” as “wild feral children with crazy ideas.”

For a relatively brief exchange, the interview sheds much light on the history and inner workings of the group, and how the “succinctness of form” in The Far Field is a logical output at this point in their evolution. Listen in, and find out which new song contains a discrete shout out to James Taylor.

KCRW will broadcast portions of Future Islands’ set and interview on Morning Becomes Eclectic on Tuesday, May 9.

Future Islands is back in LA at the Greek Theater on September 19.

All photos by Brian Feinzimer

KCRW’s Apogee Sessions featuring Future Islands Setlist

Aladdin
Beauty of the Road
Time on Her Side
Walking Through That Door
Ran
Cave
Candles
Day Glow Fire
Through the Roses
Ancient Water
North Star
Seasons
Balance
______________

Black Rose
Tin Man
Little Dreamer

For more information:

Future Islands
KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic

Show Review: The 1975 @ The Greek

UK indie pop band brings 80s synth, screaming fans

May 1st, 2017
Mary Bonney
Category: Review

Los Angeles has become a second home to the UK act The 1975 since their debut with the perfectly packaged single “Chocolate.” The group previewed their highly-anticipated sophomore album I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It in LA before its release, performed to a packed Forum during the album’s promotional tour and even hosted a pop up shop last holiday season. Last week, the indie pop rock group played two evenings at The Greek Theater to accommodate Los Angeles fans that can’t get enough of these musicians from across the pond.

All photos by Stephen J. Branagan

Powerful winds whipped through The Greek Theater as instrumental music warbled to a crescendo to open then show. Screams erupted as frontman and multi-instrumentalist Matthew Healy took the stage with his signature swagger wrapped in a snug white hoodie for the funky “Love Me” followed by the debut single from their recent release “UGH!”

The set split their songs between their two LPs, balancing the “Change of Heart” followed by “The City” and the desperate “Lostmyhead” with 80s synth-pop ballad “Somebody Else”. Upbeat songs like “She’s American” were balanced by the slow burning “Robbers”.

John Waugh’s saxophone solos were woven through the set, reminding fans of the indie pop rockers R&B influences. Three synth keyboards were lined up downstage, perfect for songs like “Menswear” and instrumentals where Matty took to the keys to create hypnotic soundscapes during extended instrumental interludes.

Stage lights cycled through neon pinks, blues, greens and purples throughout the night, complementing the 80s vibes of their latest album. Their signature rectangles were suspended above the stage as screens displayed complementary images like black and white static, crashing waves and cityscapes through the evening.

A rainbow lit up the stage for “Loving Someone,” which was dedicated to the LGBTQ community. The 1975 has always been an inclusive group (denouncing Trump during our election season at their last LA performance) and Healy explained proceeds of a merchandise option would benefit charities in those communities.

Healy continued his tradition of asking fans to put away cell phones for the burning “Me”. I watched a sea of fans who had been Snapchatting and FaceTiming the show (Healy called out someone who was video chatting from the pit) respect his request and give their full attention to Waugh’s dramatic saxophone solo.

The one two punch of infectious tunes “Girls” and “Sex” ended their first set in a dance party, complete with sing a longs with thousands of screaming girls.

Encore began with “Medicine” as hundreds of cells phones returned, flashlights lighting up the arena. Healy brought the house down by conducting the crowd-turned-gospel-choir in the the soulful “If I Believe You.”

Their biggest singles “Chocolate” and recent earworm “The Sound” ended the evening, a night that was packed with over twenty songs. There was little downtime in between songs, but after the success of this group and their growing discography, fans got exactly what they wanted; to soak in dreamy instrumental interludes and the chance to dance and singalong to perfect indie dance pop on a summer night in Los Angeles.

For more information:

The 1975 official website

Show Review: John Mayer @ The Forum

The humbled icon returns to the spotlight!

April 26th, 2017
Zein Khleif
Category: Lead Story, Review

It’s by the grace of the Gods that I was able to attend John Mayer’s The Search for Everything Tour twice in the last three weeks. The first time, in Washington D.C., I spent the entire two hours with my mouth agape at the pure, unadulterated talent in front of me. The second time, at Inglewood’s The Forum on April 21st, my mouth definitely did not close, but it is with triumphant pride I announce I was able to keep it together just enough to take some photos and notes for this review!

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Show Preview: Molly House Records @ AKBAR

The queer dance party hits LA

April 24th, 2017
Lex Voight
Category: Review

Looking for great DJ’s, a community, or a kickass dance party? Molly House Records is having an Album Release party on 4/29.

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Show Review: Empire of the Sun @ The Shrine

Antipodeans awe and amaze Angelenos

Lesley Park
Category: Lead Story, Review

Coachella 2017 came and went, and with it came this year’s iteration of Localchella, a series of concerts in and around the LA area featuring some of the acts set to grace one of the many stages at the world’s premiere desert festival. Last Wednesday at The Shrine marked the Antipodean invasion with New Zealand’s Broods and Australia’s Empire of the Sun taking a brief hiatus from the sweltering Indio sun to dazzle Angelenos in between the festival’s two weekends.

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Show Review: Miyavi @ The Belasco

The biggest and best from Asia throw it down in LA

April 13th, 2017
Lesley Park
Category: Lead Story, Review

Ask the average Joe walking down the street what he knows about music from Asia and he’s likely to come up with one of two things: manicured and manufactured K-pop or the annoyingly stereotypical–and also kind of racist–Oriental riff. It’s a shame considering the largest continent of the world has produced some truly incredible rock musicians who can more than pull their weight against their more widely recognized American/British counterparts.

One of Asia’s better known, non-pop exports is Miyavi, the self-dubbed “samurai guitarist.” If you’ve seen the way his fingers fly on the fret of his guitar or heard his unique guitar slapping technique, you’d know it’s a monicker he’s more than earned. After making a name for himself as a member of visual kei rock band Dué le Quartz, he’s embarked on a solo career that has taken him all around the world, including an appearance at SXSW and LA’s very own Belasco Theater.

Kicking off the evening was Seoul-based Kiha & The Faces, who in their own marketing swag describe themselves as “witty like Talking Heads, psychedelic like The Doors, and catchy like The Beatles.” The influence of all three is noticeable in the quirky melodies and lyrics that frontman Kiha Chang writes. There are few who could craft a compelling song describing various smells, but you can count Chang among them.

Although they played primarily from their own catalog, they paid an homage to Talking Heads with a slick cover of “Once in a Lifetime” which the crowd enjoyed almost as much as they enjoyed singing “내 사람!” (“my person” in Korean) when the band played “Mine.” Any band who can get an audience to sing foreign phrases wins in my book.

Next up was Thai band Slot Machine, whose catalog I’ll admit to knowing nothing about going in, but who I was pleasantly surprised by. I’ve since learned that they are a huge phenomenon in Thailand with their sights set on breaking into the Western market. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if they proved to be successful. With an arena-caliber sound, Slot Machine was a charismatic force on stage.

While casting the role Mutsuhiro Watanabe for her film Unbroken, Angelina Jolie said, “I had this thought of someone who would have real presence…I thought a rock star.” The moment Miyavi stepped on the stage at The Belasco I could immediately see why she went with him.

Very few artists I’ve seen command the stage the way he does. His rapid yet somehow elegant movements coupled with the sheer skill he possesses on the guitar make it impossible to look away. Even while shredding the riff of “Afraid to Be Cool” like his life depends on it, he takes the time to give the crowd a hair flip and a sly smile.

An unexpected (but surprisingly good) cover of P.O.D.’s “Youth of the Nation” preceded a stylish romp through material from his newer releases (“Firebird” in particular with its anthemic-quality sounded particularly incredible live). Not one for predictability, Miyavi can switch gears into electric renditions of the Mission Impossible opening theme at the drop of a hat. He is a consummate rock star.

In the era of whitewashing controversies and harmful stereotyping of Asians, I can’t tell you how much it means to me on a personal level to have witnessed people who look like me defying those stereotypes on stage. These aren’t just bands who are “pretty good…for Asians.” They are great. Full stop. Props to Live Nation for putting this together and here’s hoping they continue to put on events like this.

More info:

Miyavi

Festival Review: Treefort Music Fest

The best music festival you have yet to hear of.

April 3rd, 2017
Lex Voight
Category: Lead Story, Review

For it’s sixth consecutive year, Treefort Music Fest is beginning to draw massive crowds for its amazing lineup of music and arts. With multiple stages and venues, comedy, art, performance, dance, and seminars, Treefort feels like a SXSW-lite.
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