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

Destroyer @ The Regent

Singer/songwriter Dan Bejar imbues mystique

January 15th, 2018
David Fisch

A baroque minstrel wandering Earth for the last twenty-plus years, Dan Bejar has crafted some of the most poetic alternative music as his project Destroyer, most recently releasing his 12th studio album ken. With each new set of songs comes a new lens on his introspection of relationships, and that follows through to his live performances.

Continue reading…

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…