Posts Tagged ‘Music

12
Feb
14

The Livitation Acts in the Crystal Ballroom by Floater

 

Floater at the Crystal Ballroom

Floater at the Crystal Ballroom

 

On my way to Seattle and after leaving my friends in San Francisco I thought it would be novel and fabulous to spend a night in Portland to take in this magical city. There are similarities of Portland to Seattle but I find the topography a little more intense, more compressed, with the different bridges spanning the various water ways and the mountainous terrain set against the modern city’s architecture offer stunning views. On my frist drive through I found it to be dramatic and picturesque. This being my second visit to Portland I wanted to lock on to the for the night. I decided settled in a downtown motel for the evening with my sights on tuning in on the local night life.

After a few hours of reconstituting myself in the motel room I decided to make my way out and explore downtown Portland. Being famished and restless I had fine dinning and entertainment on my mind. I’m sure I spent the better part of an hour crisscrossing the grid of Portland trying to get a sense of the city by sniffing out where the action might be. My conclusion on my party skills was, “I still got it!” The meaning of this statement is I can still localize and suss out the cool stuff on a whim, like radar. I settled on neighborhood that an urban grid, that also included random diagonals that cross streets amidst old brick buildings. There were quaint cafes, hipstery shops and groovy dive bars shine and glow with burning neon that’s engulfing the active street life. I circled the area till I found the right parking situation and I began the defining hunt for coolness in earnest.

 

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The area was perched on a slops of the city and as I rounded the corner I saw the first evidences of alternative culture. People were hanging on the sidewalks, bundled up in thrift store chic and alternative gear. They were smoking cigarettes and weed in small clusters, while a line lingered near the of a rather historic looking old brick facade. At the time I was unaware of the Crystal Ballroom, which has been a local bastion of entertainment, surviving for nearly a hundred years with the venue celebrating its centennial. I drifted down near the door. I was a bit famished but more interested in what was going on with the people so dutifully waiting outside the door of this grand old establishment. I asked a young lady with her mother what was going on. Without hesitation she declared they were attending a Floater concert. We had a short chit chat and she and her mother recommended I should attend in the most enthusiastic manner.  It so happened that the Crystal Ballroom was celebrating “100 Nights” as part of their centennial anniversary. Floater was playing the 82nd night that would lead up to the culmination of the hundredth show performance on January 21, 2014.

After clearing the Crystal Ballroom’s threshold I headed up 3 flights of stairs to the grand ballroom. It was truly grand! Smoochknob was delivery a rockus alternative blend of Punk and New Metal. They were working the scary tough look but seemed to be big ole sweethearts, as they delivered a fierce throbbing and pounding set drenched searing guitar riffs. The drummer was the singer and he held the center stage. He was big guy sporting a shaggy mohawk. He had a lot of presence for a drummer. They were a manic group, roaming the stage grouping and disbanding to incite the audience with classic guitar showmanship, while actively engaging the fans for a lively energized set. They powered through to the end, properly warming everyone up for the oncoming performance by Floater.

 

 

Floater, now being long in the tooth with a devoted fan base, enter the stage in a very professional focused low-key manner pulling on and messing with their gear. There was the shuffling and slow positioning of the band members to their spots after a number of fan outburst of roars and cheers. These flurries of anticipation peaked in pandemonium when lead singer Rob Wynia moved to the mic and fellow band mates, Pete Cornett and Dave Amador, broke into the beginning of their set, firing off with the song Cinema. Before all this mayhem broke loose I had befriended a gentleman named Doug Griffith. Doug was the ultimate Floater fan. He recounted, to me, seeing Floater over one hundred times. He filled me in on some details of Floater by enlightening me regarding the band’s musical style and history. What it didn’t prepare me for was the out of control antics of their fan base. I was close to the front and to my right of the stage, when all hell broke loose! There was wave after wave of human flesh struggling and flailing appendages coming in my direction. It was posing a problem for my photographing the band and receiving some potentially serious personal injury and camera damage in the process. I’m a veteran of the Hardcore Punk scene from the 80′s, so the violence wasn’t out of hand or malicious, just very physically enthusiastic! The band laid out solid alternative Rock that blew the Crystal Ballroom up from the first song. The new song called “Light It Up” rumbled and then softened to a flow that led the mid-tempo “In transition”. The first 3 songs kind of encapsulated Floater’s sound. Doug informed me that they were well known for drifting into etherial and moody slower placed breaks mid-song. This is clearly how Light It Up had moved in and out of different tempos. There was an ever so subtle homage to a Pink Floyd vibe in their instrumentals during these slower tempo breaks. Nothing you could put a finger on, but hinting to such an inspiration and an undertow. Unlike Smoochknob, Floater tends to be more aloof and mystical in an arty way. At the beginning of “An apology” the band engaged a mind blow laser light show that was occasionally bathed in smoke. The band continued through their set with fan favorites like: Ghost In The Making, Weightless, Plastic Baby, Matadors and Danny Boy. The crowd ate it up and savored every song to move like marionettes toFloater’s charged mayhem with the intense songs and hypnotically swayed to the ethereal moments.  The band retired the stage amongst the howls and cheers. These howls and cheers grew louder daring Floater to return and lay out some more jams. The fans weren’t disappointed when Floater reentered the stage to bring things to a ferocious conclusion with a medley of Helter Skelter/Five To One bringing the house down!

It was an amazing  night in a great city of the North West. I finished the evening off downstairs and a little further down the street and around the corner where I entered Ringlers Pub. I finished the night with a tasty post concert beer and a rather delicious burger. It was all low-key delivered with a North West Alternative no worries attitude that turned out to be a surprising joyous exclamation mark to a very cool entry to Portland’s night life. A great band and a vital city that hit it on all the right notes!

Floater Photo Gallery at the jump Continue reading ‘The Livitation Acts in the Crystal Ballroom by Floater’

28
Mar
12

Alejandro Escovedo and Friends at the Continental Club: Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

I found myself for the first time in days able to take the morning on a slow start path. My host Mike was up and was kind enough to make coffee for us both. He had hooked me up with a great place to stay and inadvertently introduced me to new friends. We finally had time to get to know one another. Of course we related to one another how crazy Southby is and each of us recounted stories as it related to the previous weeks events. We stumbled upon the topics of Rhett Miller. Mike is a fan and a friend. We concurrently experienced The Old 97′s during the 90′s in Dallas. He remembered and recounted things I had long forgotten as he elaborated on Rhett’s career and talent to me. I could only endorse his sentiments with occasional flurries of my own observation of that time in Dallas. There was a part of me that wished we’d had this conversation 2 days earlier but it was such a good feeling to have this connection right then and there as we traded stories in his living room. It appears that Rhett played his last Austin-ish gig in Willie Nelson‘s cowboy town 40 miles outside Austin. That show would have been a sweet ride! Mike was totally cool and it was really nice to get to visit during the decompression part of SXSW.

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My next move was more exploration. I had Mexican food on my mind. It was the return to the taco theme I had earlier in the week. I cruised South Congress diverting to South 1st Street on a deeper level of exploration to happen upon El Tacorrido. The only Taco joint I know of that has 2 drive thrus. I was smitten! I wanted to use the drive thru but after a bit of a wait and a keen desire to hook up, I settled for the walk up solution. The menu was slightly different form most Tex-Mex feeds and that really drove my curiosity. I ordered a gordito and a breakfast taco. I explained it to my friend Jonas like this: “This taco stand is really different for Mexican food in Texas. I can’t say it’s truly Tex-Mex. I’m having difficulty pin pointing exactly the style but it’s more south and inland. Or in other words it’s not the kind of food you find on the border or made for American taste buds.” I was completely satisfied when I headed over to Bouldin Creek for my morning coffee. I spent a few hours organizing photos on my computer as a way to bide my time before the big send off show.

Soon the hour was upon us and I headed over to pick Karen up and to share a little pre-celebratory happy hour at her hotel. I have to say, I was a bit antsy now knowing how both Mike Mills and Peter Buck were showing for tonight’s performance at The Continental Club. I count myself extremely fortunate that the first year I attended SXSW I was made aware and got to experience Alejandro Escovedo and Friends at The Continental Club. I have Karen to thank for that! It’s a cozy environment and the place is ran well. Now it’s an irresistible tradition. It’s such a great way to say farewell to Austin and SXSW. As we rolled up Alejandro was outside visiting with folks. He’s very approachable and a nice guy. It was nice to be inside The Continental Club where Karen and I turned into fans. Miss Melvis was playing. We enjoyed the show but we considered another Happy Hour moment was in order out at my car. We scored the cups at Zen next door and we were on our way. You could hear the sound of clunking paper cups and a toast if you were close or maybe, just inside the red Ford Focus. It was a nice bottle of red wine. Usually, I’m not so inclined to drink red wine but this was pretty good stuff. We then joyfully returned to the club locked in for the rest of the night.

By the time we returned Jesse Malin of D Generation had taken the stage and was entertaining everyone. I continued my Happy Hour on a little longer by drifting to the back bar that I favor the most. I bumped in to Lenny Kaye as the star-studded event bubbled with a who who’s in the back. Again I moved up front I staked my place near the front when the young musical team called Ghost Wolves started a short and energetic set. Konya on drums/vox and Carley on guitar. They started out their set on each other’s instruments and then flipped after the first song. Karen wasn’t feeling it, but I was kind of feeling it. It was like Loretta Lynn singing for the White Strips. By this time Kimiko had join us. It was good to see her. She’s got a cool way about her. She was representing Rosie Flores who would play later that night. This was her reason to be at The Continental Club on this fine evening. She smartly drifted to the back to await for Rosie appearance. Karen and I were up front when Garland Jeffreys took the stage: I mean he took the stage hostage! This man knows what he’s doing! Photo op after photo-op. I’m not familiar with the man’s material but was I was surprised how much his music sound like early to mid Rolling Stones. He did a riveting version of “? and the Mysterian” 96 Tears. He was one of highlight of the evening: a ball of energy and passion. I drifted to the back as did Karen, eventually, where we sat near the threshold of the door. It was time to cool off from the hot and tightening room. Tommy Stinson was taking the stage, I guess, just fresh from the G&R’s tour. I was drinking beer in the back again. I managed to come up for Barfirld (The Tyrant Of Texas Funk). The brother was funky with ranch fresh Cowboy look. He kept it funky and showed us his James Brown dance, except no leg splits. It was good stuff: comedic and entertaining. Damn good drinking music. So I headed back and drank again. At this point Karen spotted David Fricke, I saw him too, from Rolling Stone at the back door. Before long Kid Congo Powers (The Gun Club and The Cramps) would attach himself to the stage and I was all over that! I’ve been wanting to see Kid Congo for years and tonight it would be consummated. How romantical! Kid Congo spread his freak flag far and wide in the Continental Club as I squeezed to the front to catch his much of anticipated act. The former Cramps alumni kept us all completely entertained. He refered to Lux Interior, no, not Nick Cave, at one point when he said there was visionary who told me, “One day Kid you will have your own band and you’ll call it Kid Congo and The Pink Monkey Birds”. I think his time in the Cramps were well spent because he kept us engaged in much of the same way the Cramps would have had they been there. After Kid Congo left the stage was about the time the lock down happened: no ins or outs! There was some speculation Bruce Springsteen would appear. I now believe it was for Mike Mills and Peter Buck. I headed to the back where I had to say hi to Kid Cango and take a few photos. I mentioned to him that Lux had jumped a couple of rows of people one time at the Spirit Club in San Diego and had tongued me. Then I told him that after that people thought I was pretty cool. That made him laugh. Then when I tweeted it, I found later, he had re-tweeted it on Twitter. I was honored he’d bother to do it and it made me laugh too. Then a little later I spotted Rosie and asked her for a photo or two. Once again I drifted to nostalgia. Rosie was at one time very much part of the LA Rock scene. She was one of the main forces in the Screamin’ Sirens. I know I’ve seen them perform. I think if was at Janice DeSoto’s club or maybe Cat House. But what was on my mind at that moment was the Hollywood Hillbillies. The band had a chicken in it. I loved it at the time. I mentioned Hollywood Hilllbillies to Rosie. Her response to me was she was in that band early on, for 3 weeks. I hadn’t remembered she was in the band. Then she qualified it by saying, “I was in the band before the chicken”. She knew about the chicken! That was a great moment. Only someone in the scene would know that! I chuckled. We finished and I decided to hang towards the back in stalker fashion. I was thinking when Mike and Peter enter I’d spot ‘em. At this point we’d entered the home stretch where Alejandro and the Sensitive Boys played till they closed the place down. It’s always one of the best parts of the whole proceedings. I had seen Lenny Kaye learning the word to a song while leaning up against a car. I know because I ask him. I thought he’d gotten a ticket and he informed me other wise. It must have been one of Neil Young songs because he performed an engaging version “Like a Hurricane”. I found myself singing along to “Like a Hurricane”. Then Rosie Flores was announced and join the fun up on the stage. Rosie sang, “If I Could Only Be With You” and then followed it up with a duet with Alejandro with a her and Dave Alvin wrote together called, “Goodbye Again”. The crowd was enthusiastic and riveted. In this time some how, some way, both Mike and Peter got past me. Strangely, Mike Mills started doing this hula move during the cover of a The Troggs “Love Is All Around”. Peter Buck was channeling Michael Stipe hiding in the back corner when Mike Mills strapped on his bass to lead us in a sing-a-long of “Don’t Go Back to Rockville.” I had waited all night for this moment and was pleased I’d made it. As quickly as they had arrived they departed. I pushed through the crowd to catch them, but poof, they were gone, gone, gone! Sniff! Alejandro finished the set with Waco Brothers member Jon Langford for a rousing version of The Clash‘s “Rock The Casbah”. Karen found me and indicated it was a good to leave. I agreed. It was a long week followed by a long day capped off by many amazing performances. It was now time to take the gold home and prepare for long travel day before us both. Here’s to next year: a bigger better SXSW and going for more Hipster Olympic gold!

26
Mar
12

SXSW: Songwriters, Performance and Super Stars

The morning came quickly, as they do for SXSW. I rose to greet my new roomie Robert Singerman at Mike’s place. After both of us did some organizing and necessary clean up Robert and I headed out to downtown Austin proper on different paths for a similar end. He had a BMI breakfast at the Four Seasons, while I would head to Bouldin Creek Cafe to load up on coffee, breakfast and dump my digital mass in my laptop in prep of Fader Fort’s MyMusicRx charity event. On our way to the Four Seasons our conversation turned to music. Imagine that! Robert is working on a number of projects. One, 88TC88.com, brings translated, approved music titles and distributes these songs for sale on mobile carriers with this international music, which is sold with the lyrics embedded in the media in Mandarin underneath, so the Chinese people can understand the lyrics from various languages. The reverse will happen in the future bringing translated Chinese muisc to an International market. He’s directs the Brasil Music Exchange in North America, a Brazilian Trade Office to increase sales of Brazilian music in the US and Canadian market. Then the conversation turned to Lil Wayne. Robert found Lil Wayne preformance had the same kind of energy as Angelo Moore of Fishbone or HR of Bad Brains. I mentioned I’d photographed HR at Sunset Junction a few years back. Robert asked if he was using. I said I didn’t see a glass pipe. HR was working an arabic camo look that night and he was in fine form for the show. Robert encouraged me to drop by the Cutting Edge Music Showcase at The Victory Bar & Grill later that day. Robert is involved with Eric Cager who’s the founder and Director of The Cutting Edge Music Conference. Robert, himself has been involved with bands we all know like: R.E.M., 10,000 Maniacs, Gypsy Kings, Fela, King Sunny Ade and Smithereens to name a few. This showcase would have an international flavor with an emphasis on NOLA talent. As we rounded the corner on Caesar Chavez that led to the Four Season I agreed to see him later that afternoon to check out the showcase that would prove to be my jumping off point for the days activities.

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I arrived at Bouldin Creek Cafe. Bouldin Creek Cafe is not more that a mile and a half away from the Four Seasons. I came to have coffee in a friendly and cool environment I had discovered through my friend Greg, an Austin native. I soon sent out a text to Karen to see if she was going to be on board for the MyMusicRx brunch at Fader Fort presented by Converse. I was looking forward to the event because it was going to be my first Fader experience. Once I was appropriately jacked up on coffee and finished with my computer activities I, excitedly, scooted over to the MyMusicRx for an open bar brunch. I met Katie, my truly lovely hostess, who was a combination of Nancy Steiner and Dita Demone, two women I adore, who was manning the door and who had put me on the list for MyMusicRx event. About this time I got a text from Karen who had just gotten up and started moving around. She had been up to 4:30am working. She had such a full plate from the previous day she couldn’t possibly make the brunch, but we’d hang out later. I completely understood! MyMusicRx people were smart about presentation at this event. They delivered the Tex-Mex cuisine on nice china and the beverages in the appropriate glasses for our drink of choice. The food was provided by Bon Appetit. The menu consisted of Strube Ranch Barbacoa kolache or the Vital Farm Eggs and Kitchen Pride Mushroom Kolache with a choice of Fiesta Tortias (whole wheat or flour) and either Smoked Hickory Bacon, Vital Farm Eggs and/or Richardson Farms Carnitas. The drinks of choice were Bloody Mary’s or Memosas. I choose the memosas because it make me feel pretty as my strolling beverage and the Strube Ranch Barbacoa Kolache and a Richardson Farms Carnitas with Vital Farm eggs on a whole wheat tortia suited my culinary palate. I repeated the Richardson Farms Carnitas with Vital Farm Eggs on a whole wheat tortia again and had many repeats on the memosas. From there I planted myself near a tall table were I engaged Jorge and a young lady in a toast with our memosas. We continued by making small talk before both bands played. After this I found a comfortable spot in a nice arm chairs where I could take it all in in repose: i.e., shooting photos and videos with ease while in line of the subject matter. All in attendance representing MyMusicRx concern were Rob Stone and Joh Cohen of Fader, Geoff Cottrill of Converse and Regina Ellis of MyMusicRx and Children’s Cancer Association. Rob Stone started off the proceedings by sharing his own story. Rob referencing his own bout with cancer, as a child, brought home the importance of MyMuscRx and Children’s Cancer Association outreach to children suffering with cancer to all there. He tied this in with how music had made a difference in his experience and how he wanted to share music with those suffering and fighting cancer. Regina was next up to explain how MyMusicRx had reached out to over 500,000 kids suffering with chronic illness and cancer out of the 20,000,000 of those currently suffering under those conditions. Regina pointed out how something as simple as purchasing your favorite song from i-Tunes could bring MyMusicRx experience to sick children everywhere. I was impressed by the 500,000 number reached when you take in account how expensive it is to reach out to others in hospitals and communities. I have to say that’s quite an accomplishment! Finally, Jon Cohen wrapped things up nicely by interjecting the importance of people getting involved and acknowledging those who were active in making this happen before he introduced the musical artist LP. From here on out the crowd would mix and would be entertained by both scheduled bands.

LP took the stage, as it were, as a 5 member ensemble. LP is a song writer who had written for such pop artist as Nas, Christina Aguilera, Joe Walsh and Rihanna. At MyMusicRx showcase features a 5 song Ep called, Into The Wild, she’s releasing via Warner Bros. in late April. I picked up her promotional DVD/Ep, while I was there and found it’s rather enjoyable. She pulled up to the mic with electric ukulele is hand, looking like a young Bob Dylan, but she sang with ease and great versatility, while still holding to the singer songwriter tradition. She has a unique and lovely voice. The girl has range! The backing band displayed musicianship I found to be polished, providing a flawless performance for LP. The sound, I guess, wasn’t right because the sound guy kept coming up and getting in the way of the performance, tweaking the sound. It was a solid performance and was perfect for what would be considered early in the day for SXSW. I recorded “Tokyo Sunrise” and I have included it as part of my article so you can discover the music for yourselves. After a short break and a brief introduction Yawn took the stage and introduced us all to their sound. A quick riff on what their sound is like would reference Vampire Weekend or Sigur Ros. This Indie Rock group has opened for the Kooks too. They provided naive sing-a-long harmonies, calypso rhythms in this percussive pop that lightened the room’s mood and made the room flow. They made networking an easy task with their marvelous soundtrack. We all eased in to more drinking and light socializing as the band played on. MyMusicRx brought together a great combination of purpose and music for a wondrous day starter for Friday’s SXSW experience. I went away ready for more fun and looking for more great entertainment.

My next hit was the Front Gate Morning After Party. I was off to South Congress again. Street parking was at a premium yet I found a spot a block and a half away. The party was being held in a parking lot. I negotiated the entrance, passed the stage where J Roddy Walston & the Business were setting up to find the open bar to continue my mamosa bender. Strangely, I wasn’t getting much of a buzz, except from awesome bands I was seeing play. More tacos too as I bellied up to the food line facing the stage. J Roddy Walston & the Business laid down the Bluesy uptempo Rock. While J Roddy Walston & the Business was too straight ahead for my taste the crowd, women closest, were relating strongly and the ladies were very much enthralled. All those boys had beautiful heads of hair: so we had a combination of hair lust/envy from the ladies as J Roddy Walston & the Business collectively waved their freak flag under the partly cloudy afternoon light. They would make a perfect Texas brisket and BBQ party band and I have to say they were! All of this allowed me to focus on my drinking. I focused on it for about an hour before I made my way once again to The Victory Bar & Grill for the Cutting Edge Music event Robert had invited me to. It so happened that my arrival at the Cutting Edge Music event, produced by Eric Cager, was happening in the back stage area I come to know the Day before for Miles Davis House. It was there that Robert spotted me first. He was feeling a little more uptempo from our early morning visit after he had the pleasure of a couple beers, as we all do at SXSW. By this time I was mildly buzzed and full. Robert offered me the Crawfish Monica and we continued to talk music. Robert pointed out that the city of New Orleans was hosting and supplying some of the talent of the event. Drastik (Truth Universal) was owning the stage with his NOLA style rhyme, while we were visiting. He had turned me on to Jerry Lindqvist earlier on our ride to the Four Seasons. Robert was kind enough to introduce me to a bunch of talented musicians that included Tiffany Shea, Ashley Fayth and Nanna Larsen as part of the International Songwriters Tour. He introduce me to Tony Moore who is the songwriter/producer and Zebra-man, who sets up a great singer-songwriter showcase every year in New Orleans, as well as in SXSW and books a great London venue too. I saw Tony play with a young and talented female singer before I headed out. He introduced me to Tiffany Shea first and from that point on she and I continued to talk off and on for as long as we could before they all headed out to their next gig and my slated arrival to see Rhett Miller. I discovered she was a fan of Rhett Miller too. So I decide that it would be a good idea to shoot her and her compatriots too. She was touring with them all and they were also staying with her in Nashville. By the way, this continued the theme of singer song writers started earlier in the day. I went for the fade to catch Rhett and while Robert was really engaged with a couple of folks I simply had to go. I wanted to make Rhett’s gig if at all possible.

The powerful parking gods was and were favoring me throughout my SXSW adventure. Free parking abounded and I locked in a spot 3 blocks from Sixth Street. As I move towards my mission to see Rhett Miller I crossed the second block where there was this long line. I figured that no line would be this long without a reason. So I inquired. I was told it was the Google Parking Lot Stage featuring artist like Jimmy Cliff and The Shins. They were at this moment letting non-badge holders in because the crowds were too thin. Snaps, my plans changed instantly. I love Rhett but I’ve never seen The Shins or Jimmy Cliff. The line was quick too. Before long I was sucking on cheap bad beer and downing energy drinks. Jimmy Cliff had a small ensemble with a drummer, himself and another fellow on guitar. I wasn’t feeling the raga drop or that I was in the midst of Reggae history being made right before my eyes. I’ve met the big boys of Reggae, that is Sly and Robbie many years before and they rang my bell. This was long before Reggae became a retro thing where Rasta bands covered seventies pop songs to make old white men happy. Back then the songs pinned were filled with stories of social change and revolution. So I didn’t expect that part of my soul to be feed on this afternoon. Jimmy Cliff put together a credible and solid set of his tunes. Jimmy closed out his set with Peter Frampton’s Baby I Love Your Way. It was a crowd pleaser. Black Star followed up while I drank more. I didn’t get interested until I heard Jean Grae bump up the rhyme a notch or two. I drifted down near the stage where I ran into Zachary and Alexandra for a catchup session. I decided to see if I could hook up with some Google jello shots down stairs and that path led me to Jennifer Tefft from The Satellite. After that little run in I returned to Zachary and Alexandra where Vince had popped out from backstage after Black Star’s performance. It was great to see him! Vince, Zachary and Alexandra were headed over the Jack White’s solo Third Man Showcase at The Stage On Sixth Street. Oh. how I wanted to go! I did what I could to weasel in but the crowds and badges prevailed. I knew what a treat they were in for, having seen The Dead Weather in August of 2008 at the Regency Theater in DTLA with a Third Man Records Pop Up Record Store. The Dead Weather killed that day and Jack White was about to kill at The Stage for all involved. I stayed and awaited for The Shins domination of the Google stage. James Mercer was first to move toward to the center of the stage and the crowd was at its maximum. The crowd noise raised in approval upon their arrival. I decide to hold a space to center right or to my left to photograph and video. The Shins keep a long and engaging set fill with catalog favorites such as Caring Is Creepy, Know Your Onion!, So Say I and closing with Phantom Limb. On most of the songs the fan sang along knowing the lyric and the tunes. On more than one occasion and previous to this show I’d mention I was going to catch The Shin. People response would nearly spontaneously as they would say: The Shins sounds just like they do on their albums. As if that were negative or a disappointment. Funny, that used to be the criteria used to know if a band was really any good and/or they were musicians. The Shins, surely, are not a jam band. So knowing the musician you’ve come to see have the proficiency and the ability to deliver on their own songs should carry the balance of their performance. The Shins music is held together with dynamic range, artistry and lyrical content that comes closer to poetry than most Pop music. So with this later definition clarifying performance. The Shins delivered, delivered and delivered!

I left the Google stage to head over to Sixth Street to The Stage On Sixth Street so I could be appropriately disappointed by stacked lines and an overcapacity room. I stood there for a while staring from the outside as if I was a member of an Indonesian cargo cult looking longingly, lustfully on a cargo plane. For the most part I’m not a fan of Sixth Street. It’s too crowded and usually not enough good stuff to keep you hanging on. I was hungry and there was a fast and cheap solution, Hoek’s Death Metal Pizza. Death Metal Pizza has a thriving business. Go there for the pizza and stay for the attitude! It’s the only place I’ve eaten at that’s generated Foursquare comments within minutes of my checking in and then a lengthy full-scale text conversation around the topic lasting nearly an hour. Don’t tell me that Death Metal Pizza doesn’t have some crazy witchy thing going on! Of course, I gobbled down the pizza and almost immediately went into a stupor. Sixth street had nothing for me now, as Jack White faded to the back of my brain. I headed to my digital friendly coffee shop Bouldin Creek Cafe. The idea was to recharge. I spent 2 hours there while transforming photos and videos. I left around midnight to see if I might find an easy score on parking for Rhett Miller’s next to last performance. I did a “drive by” by the Cedar Door Court yard and nary a parking spot to be seen. The heaviness of the day had definitely wore me down and with so many exploits already under my belt I wasn’t compelled to try to cash in on this one. Surely, I’ll see Rhett again. As the city descended deeply into some heavy partying I roll north-east to my digs to be reborn on the morrow once again.

SXSW Flickr Photo Gallery

30
Jul
11

Mishka: When the Raga Drops!

I was asked to photograph Mishka at the GRAMMY Museum some months back. All of this took place after a remarkable travel bender that started with SXSW in Austin Texas, then a bounce in San Francisco for Easter with friends and eventually ending in Seattle with a familial visit with dear my brother. So, once I touched down at LAX I had little more than two hours to make the GRAMMY Museum and Mishka’s visitation. I had made the GRAMMY Museum for a Miles Davis event some months back, so I had a tight bead on the location. It was the mass transportation variable that was going to make this a difficult hurdle to pass over.

So it all shook out just fine despite some tense moments. I was still able to catch Mishka‘s first performance where the kids are a part of the Grammy Jams program exposing children to music. Mishka, a father himself, did a family friendly set and answered questions for all these exuberant little ones. Later that evening Mishka played an acoustic set for an older crowd. After that set, Mishka was interviewed by Museum Executive Director Bob Santelli in the Clive Davis Theater, while taking a short break from supporting Kenny Chesney‘s “Going Costal” tour. The cosy environment of the Clive Davis Theater was a perfect setting for Mishka to talk about his upbringing, his new CD “Talk About” on JK Livin, his musical interest and influences. The interview revealed a thoughful artist raised on Bob Dylan and Bob Marley. He spent most of his youth and young adulthood growing up on a boat, living with his family, who sailed throughout the Caribbean, being exposed to Island life after his father quit the corporate world to live a more simple life. Mishka’s songs reflect those values intertwined with the spiriituality of the Rastas, merging them with the social awareness of the 60s and the modern concept of “Consciousness”. Afterwards, I spent a little time with Mishka and complimented him on his songwriting and tune smithing abilities. I could tell from the on stage discourse with Bob Santelli he wasn’t posing with his reggae drenched acoustic set. He is truly dedicated to the ideals of Rastafari and “Consciousness”. He truly has knowledge and understanding of the lifestyle. So I encouraged him to hook up with San Diego’s top Rasta, Makeda Dread. Makeda, in San Diego, was the primary promoter of Rastafarian lifestyle and “Consciousness”. She had San Diego’s first vegetarian restaurant and promoted Reggae concerts as seminal as any Punk Rock promoter during that period. She was instrumental in introducing me to Sly and Robbie, which I will be forever grateful! The time I spent with Mishka was validating on both a spiritual and emotional level. It was nice to see the Raga drop in the middle of such a pristine environment as the Grammy Museum.

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As things would have it my Mishka story wouldn’t end here. After a number of months performing the official Hard Rock pre-parties for Kenny Chesney’s “Going Costal” tour, once again, Mishka made a mainland connection for some special concerts and promotional shows in San Francisco and Los Angeles, continuing his support of his i-Tunes and Billboard Reggae charting album “Talk About“. I caught up with him at Rogers & Cowan, getting ready for a showcase for the Rogers & Cowan Summer Concert Series that Karen Sundell puts together to create awareness and interest in the emerging acts represented by the company. The Summer Music Series gives all involved a little hump day time to chill and take in the arts. I was looking forward to Mishka’s set. Everyone circled around him as he performed a satisfying, simple and to the point set of his newest songs from Talk About and old favorites. The room roared with appreciation of the performances of his songs “Give Them Love”, “My Love Goes With You” and closing his set with “Guy With A Guitar”. Soon he was off to yet another event in a week of back-to-back activities that wouldn’t end till he flew back home to Maui. While a farmers work is sun-to-sun, a musician’s work is never done.

For me there was one more chance to catch Mishka lay it down Raga style and that was at Hotel Cafe. Hotel Cafe is the Hub of the singer songwriter scene here in Los Angeles. Mishka had a prime spot to show his talents in a premier LA “Singer/Songwriter” hot spot. I’ve covered Carina Round and Walking Sleep here. I’ve enjoyed drinks and chit chat with Tom Livemore (Carina’s guitarist), Steve Fishman (James White and Hugh Cornwell) and Frank Infante (Blondie). So, Hotel Cafe has had some interesting and warm memories attached to it for me. Some time after my arrival, Mishka dropped in with guitar in tow and headed into the “Artist” area of Hotel Cafe.

I could tell things were a brewing, for sure, inside that room as I quietly sat at the table in the bar area of the establishment. It wasn’t long before Mishka took the stage with his guitar. He powered into his set. Something was different this night. As much as I enjoyed Mishka’s songs and previous performances this was a completely different kettle of fish. He was on fire! He was fiercely intense and ferociously committed to his art. He was vibrant and he rattled and glistened as I had never seen him before! His delivery of the songs was that of a showman and a Shaman. It was riveting, intoxicating and the crowd responded in kind. He started his set with “Long Road”, blazing deep into the set with “Higher Heights”, “One Tree”, “Talk About”, then followed with a sizzling rendition of “Above The Bones”. He shared comments and thoughts with the audience that brought them in closer as he pressed through the rest of the set. Everyone there hung with bated breath, and with anticipation, clung tightly to the edge of their seats as this show enveloped around them. As I learned later, Mishka does nearly all of his shows extemporaneously. Meaning, every show and/or set is done based on the feel of the room and the mood of that moment. So, he kept giving the people what they wanted and finished the set with “Stars Will Be Shining”. The whole show ran white hot. As the show concluded, it was as if the room was blasted with a bolt of cleansing air by of his stirring performance. There were enthusiastic yelps and cheers as Mishka left the stage. For all involved, the night concluded on a high note with some mighty Raga fever!

Mishka is a deeply committed and rooted artist that blends integrity, intensity and gifted song craft into something everybody can relate to. Talk About is his fourth album and there will surely be more from this deep well of creativity. So let the Raga drop!

06
Jul
11

Nervous Gender, The Dead Beats and Human Hands at the Bluestar

What was once the avant-garde is now the old garde but this doesn’t diminish the heat that Nervous Gender can generate as they proved last Saturday night when capping the night off with a line  up of bands that included: The Deadbeats and Human Hands. While Kraftwerk may have started the synthesizer movement , it must be said, Nervous Gender gave synthesizer music teeth. The bite Nervous Gender brought to the music arena defined what is now considered Synthpunk, Queercore and is foundational to what would be considered Industrial/Industrial Dance music today. I caught Nervous Gender for the first time at the Part TIme Punks Music Festival in 2008. I had wanted to see them for years and I was joyous to finally lock them in that night. I was impressed by their performance and gratified to finally hear such a legendary LA Punk play live.

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I’ve seen many shows at the Blue Star downtown. It’s a diner with tasty beers on tap and caters to the alternative/Punk crowd. After all it is a perfect fit. A bar on the inside with table seating to keep it on the DL and then there’s the outside patio with seating, a grill and a stage. A bit like the Echo patio but it’s a diner with big glass widows so you don’t miss any of the action. In other words you can view the band from the bar! For this night and for this line up brought out the nucellus, the core of the core, of the late 70′s and 80′s Los Angeles Punk Rock scene. Some in attendance was were Henry Peck, Lisa Riley, Lisa Murry, Bert Ferguson, Josie Roth, Debora Ballantine Ballabio, Ronald Schnier, Duchess De Sade and of course all the band member and a host of others churning in the midst of the Blue Star patio.

I had made it in time to catch Human Hands’ performance. A band that Bruce Licher of Savage Republic had release through his IPR Label (Independent Project Records) during the 80′s. I had produced and promoted a concert featuring Savage Republic at Backdoor at SDSU and this connection with Bruce Licher of Savage Republic and IPR introduce me to both Human Hands and Camper Van Beethoven. Human Hands was another band that I hadn’t caught traction on the first time around and I was eager to see them.  Thankfully, they were up first. Human Hands are a Punk band of guitars and rhythm section, that is more of a product of late 70′s sensibilities that don’t closely relate to Southern California’s early 80′s Hardcore scene. Thinking of Human Hands’ they are closer to Richard Hell and the Voidoids’ Blank Generation, than to Black Flag’s Rise Above. The crowd had gone from laid back to pumped as Human Hands mounted the stage. They delivered a beefy set that kept everyone on their toes engaged and dancing. They closed out the their set with “Sensible Guy” though there were calls for more of what was rocking the crowd.

The Deadbeats followed and the crowd became even more excited with this seminal Los Angeles Punk Rock band. As I fell back and listened I realized, they were more closely associated with the likes of Wall of Voodoo or Oingo Boingo. Quirky riffs, odd time signatures with stilted vocalizations and phrasing. The Deadbeats were a good fit for Nervous Gender. They blended well as a style bridge between them and Human Hands. They were somewhere in the middle of both bands styles.

Nervous Gender was on last, under the dark canopy of a midnight sky wrapped in stage lighting on Bluestar’s patio. After a steady stream of seminal LA Punk Rock we were now to be treated to a band as bedrock in importance as that of say, Tomato Du Plenty’s Screamers. Edward Stapleton dressed in black and with a more filled out band than any previous incarnation of Nervous Gender, I have seen, hit the stage like a prowling caged tiger. That is no surprise since they are a seminal Punk Rock ensemble. The set was tight as Edward and crew launched in to song after song of an eight song set. Starting off with “Monster”. Delivering the coup de grâce with “Fat Cow” that would put in Kraut Industrial Rocker to a test for authenticity and pedigree. Edward delivered till the very end, utilizing all the musical energy of Nervous Gender had in its reserve with inspired angst killed it by leveling the audience with “Gestalt”. The aftermath was a crowd that got what they came for and left happily after passing through the turbine like nexus of Nervous Gender’s raw delivery of angst driven Proto-Synthpunk.

30
Jun
11

Ruby Summer Shakes up the Pacific Design Center

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Like two sparkling glasses of Champagne on a giddy Thursday afternoon Ruby and Summer Spiro popped up at Roger & Cowan to perform their music as part of the Summer series that showcase new talent like, Ruby Summer, and to launch their partnership with RADD’s My Safe Ride. Ruby and Summer, as sweet and composed as ever, were dressed and ready for their showcase performance. In between photo opportunities I grabbed a bite or two of the wonderfully catered snacks behind the stage. Perched high above Beverly Hills these talented young ladies were about to take the stage for the creme of the creme of the entertainment industry and to introduce their music and partnership with RADD to an eager audience. As a humble writer/photographer I was there to take it all in and report.

As a crowd filled a large atrium deep inside the PDC the energy became palpable as the deliciously dress darlings filled that space to sing and dance with their special brand of beach Pop. I should mention these girls have music a pedigree that runs deep on both side of the family. Both their Father, Mark, is an accomplished producer/song writer and their Mother, Leslie, was in a band with her sister Kelly Bulkin and worked with Herb Alpert‘s A&M Records. Thus, Ruby and Summer have been involved in singing and performing from childhood.

So when they launched into their set they were on and hit it like seasoned professionals. It was wow from the beginning! They brought the boogie to Roger & Cowan as everyone started bopping to the beat and those sweet, sweet harmonies. Their set was about 40 minutes long and featured new songs from the Ep, Mermaids and Poets. They sang French Kisses (a favorite of mine and so Romantical!) and did a sassy synchronized dance to Midnight Queens, that was not mechanical, like lots of the more robotic Hip Hop choreography, but feminine, sexy and fun. They kept it dancy too and had a DJ to mix it up, keeping the energy high. Their voices were skilled, flawlessly delivered and beautiful. The set went about 10 minutes too long because these girls like to perform and the crowd was digging it! These songs are some of the most exqusitely penned Pop songs I heard in a long time. So when it comes to Pop, I’m generally more or less unimpressed and cynical. But these warm and perfectly catchy tunes loads effortlessly in the ears and sets well on the mind. Keep your eyes open for Ruby Summer full Cd release this fall, as a follow up to the deliciously fun Mermaids & Poets. This is the kind of ear candy that can burn white hot across the country  and capture America’s heart. Well played ladies. To continue on the topic of bubbly and effervescence, the essence of Ruby Summer,  I have to rase a glass to their festive and stylishly delivered beach music. I’m bought in to the beach, the sun and the fun of Mermaids & Poets that’s exclusively owned by Ruby Summer.

29
Jun
11

Scott Mellis at the Gibson Showroom

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I had met Scott Mellis a couple of weeks before at an art opening in Downtown LA at Arty Gallery. He was youthful, handsome and polite. I was able to get a couple of photos there of him and Ruby Summer, a sister duo, who were in attendance that night.

I’m always interested in new musical talent. So it was a no brainer when I was invited to Scott’s Cd Ep release party for his new Ep “Dancing For The Murder of Desire” at the Gibson showroom in Beverly Hills. After a misstep or two I found the Gibson Showroom. As I walked up the stairs I found a crowded room of rather attractive people listening to Chantelle Barry. Towards the back, where I was standing, I bumped into Scott near the catered table filled with confections, tiny cupcakes and light fare. We had a little chit-chat referencing the last time we saw one another. Scott is rather charming and this is reflected by his modesty and politeness.

Chantelle Barry soon finished their acoustic set and the crowd loosened up, drifting towards the open bar. This allowed me to move to the front the showroom to catch of the upcoming action from Scott. The Gibson Showroom is an excellent place to showcase talent, having an intimate and warm quality about it. Scott did justice to the room! Starting with the warm and melodic “Lioness” catching everyone’s attention as he crooned eloquently, while the band sustained the mood throughout the song and his set. Scott’s vocals would reach and grab every high note with passion, excellently executed tone with tuneful singing for every song. He has a marvelous range and at times you hear echos of Al Greene or Jim James, My Morning Jacket, as he lays out an evocative sound scape to everyone in attendance. He then followed it with the somewhat sardonic “Pretending We Were Famous”. Hailing from Australia, Scott kept it local too with the song, Girl From Echo Park and finished it with the whimsical, romantic and upbeat “Honey Bee”. The fans were delighted and the room was filled with enthusiastic applause to mark the end of his set. Photos and merry-making followed to close a warm spring evening with style.

 




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