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.

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For more info:

Black Lips

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

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.

More info:

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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Coheed, Taking Back Sunday @ FivePoints

All-star alt rockers bring favorite hits

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

Call it alternative rock, call it emo, just don’t call it over. For the first time on a full tour together, legendary bands Coheed and Cambria and Taking Back Sunday shared the bill this past Saturday as decades-long fans flocked to Five Point Amphitheater in Irvine on the southern California stop of the summer event.

One of our longtime favorite pop punk acts The Story So Far opened the show at the intimidate amphitheater as sunset. It was decidedly more mellow performance compared to previous shows, either a natural maturation of stage presence or slight exhaustion on the penultimate stop of a twenty eight-city, mainly outdoor tour.

All photos by Stephen J. Branagan

Frontman Parker Canon’s vocals held their same raw, emotional energy, heard in songs like “Empty Space” and “Roam” and he traded throwing fans into the crowd for shaking a tambourine. The group played songs off their new album Proper Dose (set for release September 21st) before closing with their powder keg mosh pit inducing “Quicksand”.

A band that needed no introduction that night, Taking Back Sunday took the stage with their signature opener “What’s It Feel Like To Be A Ghost?”. The seventeen song set list was packed with what are now defined as classics, tracks like “Timberwolves at New Jersey” and “A Decade Under the Influence”.

Lazarra’s voice has held up through years of screaming emotional counterpoint melodies with friend turned foe turned friend again John Nolan. Fans and band alike have grown up with and through each other, reflected in the gang vocals audiences sang together, “I just wanna break you down so badly, I trip over everything you say.”

“Beat Up Car” and “My Blue Heaven” showcased the band’s ability to crafty hard-hitting ballads and a light show complemented up tempo songs like “Liar (It Takes One To Know One”). In true raised-on-Warped-Tour fashion (RIP), the audience exploded with the one-two punch closer of gang vocal-inducing emo standards “Cute Without the ‘E’ (Cut From the Team)” and “You’re So Last Summer”.

Closing act Coheed and Cambria has been rocking with fans for over twenty years but they still can’t get enough. The crowd chanted “Coheed” until the prolific band appeared. The troupe opened with the first two tracks from their upcoming ninth studio album Vaxis – Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures and frontman Claudio Sanchez led fans with his powerful, head-banging solos.

His vocal acrobatics continued through beloved favorites like “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3”, “Blood Red Summer” and “A Favor House Atlantic”. An industrial backdrop and their symbol emblazoned in neon made every song more theatrical as fans sang along to the apocalyptic-tinged songs.

With a final flip of his coif of curls, Sanchez began closer “Welcome Home”.  It was an appropriate song for so many fans who came to feel at home with these musicians. While lyrics that may have carried fans through their teenage years may have changed their meanings, their emotional impact on audiences felt just as strong… and just as fun to scream back to those who wrote them.

For more information:
Coheed and Cambria
Taking Back Sunday

The Empire Strikes Back @ The Hollywood Bowl

We’ve got a good feeling about this one.

August 14th, 2018
Melissa Karlin
Category: Review

It’s a movie that starts with a bang. A blast of horns creating a rush of energy that is there to announce the adventures and drama to come. At the Hollywood Bowl for four performances this past week, this blast was also the announcement for the start of a unique kind of concert. It was a movie screening with a twist, because the score to Star Wars: A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back was being performed live by the LA Phil. With conductor and film music composer David Newman at the helm, the LA Phil took the audience through the magic of the film from start to finish (with an intermission…because that’s a lot of music to play).

(Note that the images are from the Tuesday August 7th performance of Star Wars: A New Hope due to licensing, but you’ll get the idea. All images by Dustin Downing)

I was in attendance at The Empire Strikes Back performance and screening on Thursday night, sitting there alongside an excited and enthusiastic audience, blown away by how the live orchestra created a kind of new life for a score I have listened to a thousand times. I’ve probably listened to the score more times than I’ve seen the movie. This performance was the coming together of something special because the audience is allowed to engage with the incredibly iconic composition in a multitude of ways.

When I spoke with the maestro of the evening, David Newman, in preparation for the performance, he mentioned that there is something kind of rock and roll about this kind of concert. And there was. When The Imperial March began, the first time it is heard in the movie, the crowd literally lit up – with lightsabers. They began swinging them up and down to the beat of the march, almost like people rocking the sign of horns at a metal concert. It was electric.

And there’s a reason for that. Think about this: this piece music, The Imperial March, the famous imposing sign of impending danger and doom, that moment when everyone lit their light sabers and joined in, this is the music’s first moment EVER. Before that it didn’t exist in the Star Wars Universe. It didn’t exist in the popular lexicon. It’s this theme, it’s that moment that exemplifies why this score, like the movie itself, is a fully realized expression of what Star Wars is. The score is confident, expressive and romantic, it knows what it is and it’s not shy, pulling from the first film and lifting it into a stratosphere we couldn’t have even known existed. Experiencing it live, a full orchestra creating the score alongside thousands of people made this a simultaneously a different, familiar and emotional occurrence.

There were times when I would be watching the orchestra with one eye on the screen above them, curious to witness how David conducted and kept everything in sync. It was an exercise in precision and passion. Then there were micro-moments, where I’d experience the music and the movie in a multitude of ways all at once. For example: the asteroid field scene. This is a perfect four minutes of music and I was overwhelmed by all the ways I could engage with it. I would look at the orchestra, excited to see how they performed it. I would look to the movie screen, you know, just to make sure Han, Leia and Chewy make it out ok again (spoiler alert: they sort of do?). And then, weirdly, I just closed my eyes. I let the live performance just wash over of me. I felt each individual element coming together, all the instruments melding into a perfect expression of why the score for this movie is so enduring. There truly was something to the liveness of the performance that felt different. It felt epic and warm, like a hug you didn’t know you needed.

And then, like the world’s most unprofessional music writer, there were times that I simply got lost in the movie, because it truly is one of the best. Luke having to figure out his shit with Yoda and it turns out he never does and this is why Luke Skywalker is my favorite character because he is such a mess. Han and Leia trying to make it out of the Empire’s pursuit while also admitting to themselves that their love runs so deep. Darth Vader on the hunt for his son and killing underlings left and right. That really delicious ham sandwich that is the Emperor. The wonderful Lando and his Cloud City that is also straight up the dream interior design of a really groovy house. I couldn’t help but get caught up in it along with everyone else. Like the pull of a planet, it just would draw me in.

But I think that was the magic of this performance. It allowed for you to choose your own adventure.

Learn more about the LA Phil.