Henry Rollins: Keep Talking, Pal

Hope from the hot animal machine

February 19th, 2019
Lex Voight

Growing up in DC as a quiet, angry, alienated teen with an encyclopedic knowledge of cinema and an obsessive interest in music, my discovery of the oeuvre of Henry Rollins, renaissance man, was something of a revelation. My first encounter of him was actually through the cinematic medium–popping up in bit parts like Bad Boys 2 or Johnny Mnemonic or a handful of other roles, knowledge of him happened almost through osmosis before a school administrator I was friendly with placed “Smile, You’re Traveling” in my hands.
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2018: The Year Emo Went Inward

Navel-gazing with the 00’s Emo crowd

January 20th, 2019
Lex Voight

Emo has always been somewhat of a inward-looking genre. From Rites of Spring, to Capn’ Jazz to American Football to the emo boom of the mid 00’s, the genre has seemingly always been identified by the feelings of the lyricist, acting as something of an avatar for the audience to project on to and through. But rarely, perhaps with the exception of the self-parodying song names of bands like Fall Out Boy or Panic! At the Disco, has emo gotten as obviously meta and self-legacy aware as we saw from 2018, for both good and ill.
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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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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.


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Young Fathers
Algiers

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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Preview: Dessa at the El Rey

Dessa is coming to break and mend your heart.

May 5th, 2018
Lex Voight

Doomtree’s MVP Dessa is coming to the El Rey on Wednesday, May 9th. The songstress is touring in support of her triumphant third full length Chime (though that “third” is arguable, counting her stellar reimaginings of her work). Chime is already easily one of the best records of the year; full of her deeply humanist, heart-rendingly empathetic songwriting.

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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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Khruangbin