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


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.

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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.

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M. Ward at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Minutiae ruled the night

October 30th, 2017
Kyle B. Smith
Category: Lead Story, Review

There was something of an underlying nautical theme at M. Ward’s show at the Walt Disney Concert Hall Wednesday night. As the story goes, in designing the building, Frank Gehry found aesthetic inspiration in his love of boats. So when M. Ward got things cooking during second song “Poison Cup,” his trademark bow legged shuffle made it look like he was losing his balance and bouncing around the galley of a ship battling rough waters.

But this was the storm after the calm. The set began with distinguished gentleman Ward’s “Lullaby + Exile,” a song that goes for the heart’s jugular with the gentlest of ease.

M. Ward is a musician’s musician, one who moves to make every last drop of a solo or a lyric coherent and meaningful. Set him down in the Disney Hall, and suddenly it felt like you were sitting in Studio A of Capitol Records with control room headphones on.

As he sang “Well a trance is a spell, with a thrill wrapped up inside it, and try as you might to fight it, love will get you in the end,” there was infinite musicality packed in to his utterance of “spell.” And that was just one word of one song. The night unfolded beautifully from there.

“Slow Driving Man,” another slow song about slow things, was slowed down even further on this night. It was subdued af, yet totally entrancing in its deliberate pace. In “Time Won’t Wait,” the headliner flirted with the front edge of the stage during a solo that took the shape of a signature Matt Ward solo where angular sections are cobbled together with a touch of magic to create a whole that is fluid and groovy.

Similarly, in the sneakily sordid “I Get Ideas” or solo acoustic jam “Duet for Guitars #3,” Ward effortlessly snuck in harmonics as easy as if they were blinks. In “Duet,” Ward’s spidery right hand opened and closed like a fan, as he alternated between pluck and strum, bounding about the stage.

A two-song run on the piano included the melancholy “Vincent O’Brien,” and wrenching take on Daniel Johnston’s “Story of an Artist.” In introducing the cover, M. Ward dipped his toes in political waters with the edict “Now is the time to defend the artists.”

With an attentive audience and the acoustics of the room so dialed in, minutiae continued to rule the night.

Ward strapped on a harmonica for “Fuel for Fire,” but added only a requisite pinch in favor of unnecessarily gratuitous servings. In “One Hundred Million Years,” he stood with sly posture, his body shielding a guitar that was turned away from the front of the room.

“Rave On” started solo, and ended with digital looping that welcomed the band back to the stage finish off the song. Towards the end of “Chinese Translation,” M. Ward brought the band to a halt, leaving only he and the warm tones his Gibson electric to make any noise.

After a brief respite, the band faded back in to the proceedings with such evenness and precision, it sounded like someone reached to turn the room’s volume dial up.

Although the Hall was shamefully(!) undersold, those who did venture to DTLA caught one of the stronger local double bills in recent memory.

Rhiannon Giddens opened the evening with a hell of a set of music that drew from a variety of genres and instrumentation, and one that never turned a blind eye to difficult chapters of American history. Instead, her music took them head on, sharing with the audience stories of from where certain songs came, and injecting them with vibrant new life.

“At The Purchaser’s Option,” lead track off of Giddens’ 2017 LP Freedom Highway was a prime example. After a slow creep percussive intro, her voice soared through verses that told the haunting tale of an African-American slave, a mother forced from custody of her own child. For the tune, Giddens aimed for period authenticity, plucking a banjo that is a replica of one made in 1858.

The barefoot Giddens had a divine and commanding presence that matched her musicianship. On “Fiddle Tunes,” she provided a glimpse of a rare musical high wire act: playing the violin and singing lead vocals at the same time.

Giddens’ propensity to change things up from one song to the next was shared by her band. The group – the same crew that recorded Freedom Highway – swapped out their instruments on nearly every song. Album producer Dirk Powell shape-shifted from keys, to guitar, to impressive lead vocals, to the squeezebox – or something just like it.

Patsy Cline’s “She’s Got You” proved to be the centerpiece of the set. The timeless kiss off tune provided Rhiannon Giddens an opportunity to showcase her far ranging vocals, and for drummer Jamie Dick to relentlessly work his cymbals to amass a whooshing wall of sound.

M. Ward Setlist

Lullaby + Exile
Poison Cup
The Sandman, The Brakeman and Me
Slow Driving Man
For Beginners
Time Won’t Wait
I Get Ideas
Vincent O’Brien
Story of an Artist
Duet for Guitars #3
Fuel for Fire
One Hundred Million Years
Rave On
Chinese Translation
Never Had Nobody Like You
Moon River (with Victoria Williams)

Rhiannon Giddens Setlist

Spanish Mary
Fiddle Tunes
The Love We Almost Had
At The Purchaser’s Option
We Could Fly
Jack O’ Diamonds
Creole Tunes
Children Go Where I Send Thee
She’s Got You
Freedom Highway
That Lonesome Road/Up Above My Head

Moses Sumney @ El Rey Theatre

The Inland Empire’s rising soul star sheds light

October 23rd, 2017
David Fisch
Category: Lead Story, Review

It’s felt like a long-time coming for Moses Sumney, whose work has rippled through the indie music scene for at least the past three or four years. Most of his work rides on his incredible and spine-tingling falsetto, but his music and lyrics contain a blue hue and solitary veneer that drive his vocals to a bittersweet beauty.

His full-length debut Aromanticism finally saw daylight earlier this month, and I was able to catch him performing in its support at his hometown and final U.S. show for the year at the classy El Rey Theatre.

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Nick Murphy & Washed Out @ The Shrine

A night of smooth music turns full-on rock concert

David Fisch
Category: Review

Nick Murphy went by the name “Chet Faker” until last year when he decided to pursue his solo effort under his own name. This was merely cosmetic, as the music Nick has produced in the past year under his new (actual) name has transitioned over pretty smoothly from the intimate electronics of earlier work to the expansive, more guitar-oriented sounds that still retain the intimacy and penchant for chill.

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Protomartyr @ Moroccan Lounge

Detroit post-punk arrives in LA with precision

October 17th, 2017
David Fisch
Category: Review, Staff Pick

My initial appreciation of Detroit post-punk rockers Protomartyr came upon an album download of Under Color of Official Right and seeing them at the small but hearty Bootleg Theater in Silverlake in 2014, where the musicianship on display was a thing of beauty and leader Joe Casey was drinking beer and wallowing in his precise rants about everyday life. Much was the same at the Moroccan Lounge Monday night, perhaps with an extra case of beer and a few more people, but with two new albums released since then and an even tighter edge and studio-like clarity, the band has sounded better, performed as ferociously, or felt as meaningful as this very moment in time in their existence.

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Flying Lotus 3D & Thundercat @ Hollywood Forever

The Brainfeeder labelmates raise eyes and the dead

October 16th, 2017
David Fisch
Category: Lead Story, Review

This past weekend saw a lot of big music events happening in the Southern California area. It’s that mid-October surprise when the masses of music greats come together and perform before the looming winter arrives and there is considerably much less of it around (though SoCal can hardly be called an area with seasons).

Of these events, one of the most anticipated was having Brainfeeder’s founder and LA’s electronic golden boy Flying Lotus officially premiere his 3D tour (it technically debuted for the first time at this year’s FYF Fest) as part of the Red Bull Music Academy Festival Los Angeles. Along with the bass maestro and labelmate Thundercat and some comedy bits from the great Hannibal Buress, the night of artists who made 2014’s You’re Dead! and purveyors of that imagery performing on the Fairbanks Lawn of Hollywood Forever Cemetery sounded like the best and most conceptual mashup music and visuals since I don’t know when – and it pretty much was.

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Blue Hawaii @ Moroccan Lounge

Canadian duo hits the Arts District’s newest venue

David Fisch
Category: Review

The owners of the recent movie-house-turned-concert-space Teragram Ballroom in downtown turned another small space into a venue called the Moroccan Lounge, and with its neatly placed staging area next to its low-lit and vibey dining/bar area, it felt like the right spot to showcase the electronic Canadian duo Blue Hawaii. After a four-year gap between albums, they released Tenderness earlier this month, and they are out touring in support of it.

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The Flaming Lips & Mac DeMarco @ The Shrine

Both play up psychedelia in their own ways

October 9th, 2017
David Fisch

All photos by David Fisch

It might seem odd at first to pair a guy who often sings acid-tripped songs in their purest and simplest ways with another guy (and band) who often sings about battling robots and warding demons in sings at their most gargantuan, but their quest for love and continually morphing forms of psychedelic rock easily tie them together. Mac DeMarco and The Flaming Lips on the same bill, in hindsight, makes so much sense, and though they didn’t necessarily share the stage together, the wavy flows of their energy were combed together across three hours at The Shrine Saturday night.
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