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.

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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.

Show Review: Chromeo @ The Palladium

After a 4-year hiatus, the Funklordz return

August 13th, 2018
Lesley Park
Category: Lead Story, Review

It’s hard to believe it’s been four years since I last caught Chromeo. Fresh off the heels of the release of 2014’s White Women, their memorable stop at The Shrine had the City of Angels dancing to their signature blend of electro-funk well into 1 in the AM.

In the intervening years since, the Canadian duo have relocated to this fair city of ours and followed up White Women with the infectiously catchy Head Over Heels, an album chock-full of feel-good funk anthems that were seemingly crafted especially for summer parties which boasts even more collaborative efforts than its already-loaded predecessor.

Friday’s sold out show at The Palladium was a testament to how dearly missed the self-proclaimed Funklordz were. Any shred of dubiousness that may have existed in that department was quickly drowned out by the deafening chants of “Chromeo-oh oh” sung in time by the audience as Dave 1 and P-Thugg took the stage.

The appropriately-titled “Come Alive” kicked off the 1.5-hour dance party. Although co-collaborator Toro y Moi was (sadly) no where to be found during it, the crowd didn’t seem too disheartened. A couple songs later, “Bonafied Lovin'” launched everyone into a frenzy that didn’t stop until the pair had stopped playing.

Mind you, at this point there were still 14 songs to go.

Although it was to be expected that Chromeo classics “Fancy Footwork” and “Jealous (I Ain’t With It)” elicited extremely vocal responses from the crowd, I was surprised by how well-prepared the crowd came to belt out newer tracks like “Juice” and “Bad Decision” considering that Head Over Heels was only just released two months ago.

Many valid criticisms can be made about LA crowds generally, but I’m happy to report than none of those stereotypes were present this time around. The stifling, 3,700-capacity Palladium was packed with singing, writhing bodies that were thoroughly engaged from start to finish. It’s been a good long while since I enjoyed a show with a crowd this good (though to be fair, it’s hard not to be engaged when you have a frontman like Dave 1 who is as charismatic on stage as he is musically talented).

If you’re playing songs that fall anywhere under the gigantic umbrella of dance music and if you work under the assumption that there is no truer metric how good your live shows are than your ability to turn a venue into a temperature and humidity level equivalent of a Bikram Yoga class, Chromeo passes with flying colors. It’s impossible to have anything but an amazing night with them unless you’re deathly allergic to fun.

Here’s hoping that the next stop in LA doesn’t take another four years to come to fruition.

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Album Review: Slothrust – The Pact

Punk-adjacent for the win.

August 2nd, 2018
Lex Voight
Category: Review

Punk elitism has always been a thing, for both good and ill. On one hand it has been partly what keeps the punk scene fiercely apart, a refuge for the alienated, lost, dejected, and hopeful. On the other hand, it can be used as a bludgeon, clumsily batting away friends and allies because of some perceived slight to its equally perceived intellectual superiority. Ultimately the punk should be a bout inclusivity, but apart. Its a oxymoron-ic contradiction, as so much of humanity is.
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Kevin George – Fortina EP

Is emo rap growing up?

July 31st, 2018
Lex Voight
Category: Review

I suppose it was inevitable, even before Drake became the mega powerhouse he is beating out the likes of no less than The Beatles for records and sales, that his brand of emotional rap and r and b (best exemplified by his sophomore release Take Care) would have a ripple effect through genre. It’s still strange to me to think of Drake as an established artist, almost an elder statesman of the music industry who’s songs are already being covered, remixed, and recovered by artists in ways that folk songs were passed along. He has interwoven his songwriting into culture itself, and thus his influence would only surprise people like me who live under very particularly-shaped rocks.

The recent infusion of so-called emo and cloud rap is in no doubt due in some small part to Drake, as much as it is how popular across the board the mid 00’s emo phase was. Drake has perfected and branded himself the emo-rap king and minting himself fortune and fame. While he may not have invented the genre, or at least not purposefully, his success necessitates a lot of imitators, emulators, and those who will take his sound to its next evolution. And we have begun to see those changes with artists in that scene. Similar to the emo scene of the 00’s, however, we have seen a blowback to the genre label itself; artists distancing themselves from a moniker that has blown up too quickly to, in the minds of many, have paid its dues and focuses way too much seemingly on image.

Regardless, Kevin George stands firmly in the midst of this tide. His sound is unrepentantly an adaptation of that same emo r and b genre, but his approach is a surprisingly mature one when so many similar sounding acts are getting into all sorts of ridiculousness. From his boldly confident artwork that shines for its understated simplicity, to his self-assured choices in songwriting. There are no gimmicks here, just a new and raw talent, which, in this day and age of face tattoos to gain attention and “stand out,” is a surprisingly daring move in a genre that seems to place so much importance on superficiality. Throughout the record Mr. George deftly integrates contemporary trap beats with cool-as-silk r and b, creating Weeknd-esque pop.

Horse Feathers — Appreciation

Easy rock done right

May 21st, 2018
Lex Voight
Category: Review

The Eagles can be a polarizing band.

With just enough country influences to not quite be rock, enough rock to not quite be folk, and a kind of omnipresence that can, at times, be cloying, the “easy-rock” band has as large a legion of haters as it does of avid fans. 

I, for one, fall into the former camp, which makes Horsefeathers’ Appreciation all that more remarkable by taking the template of folk-influenced easy rock and country and turning it into something that is soulful, enjoyable and deeply charismatic.

The 70’s rock and folk influences are immediately evident but gone are the cloying vestiges of the 60’s movement-gone-wrong that many of the folk-rock bands of the era fell prey to. In its place is a soulful, earnest effort that straddles its many influences with aplumb. 

Review: The Distillers @ The Observatory

The Distillers vs. The World That Didn’t Change

May 7th, 2018
Lex Voight

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”– Terry Pratchett
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Django Django/Tank and The Bangas @ Fonda Theatre

Fans got a little rhythmic mix on Wednesday night

April 23rd, 2018
Melissa Karlin
Category: Lead Story, Review

A double bill can be many things. It can be two things related but different coming together for a night show. It can be two unrelated things that sort of make sense so they are slapped together. Or it can be as it was Wednesday night at the Fonda Theatre: two opposite ends of the spectrum coming together to tell a story.

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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.

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