Martin Gore of Depeche Mode (DJ Set) at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club | Santa Barbara, California | 6/27/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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Depeche Mode has been my favorite band since Black Celebration came out, so when I came across the new of this special DJ set show at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club in Santa Barbara, I was excited for an opportunity to see the man behind some of my all-time favorite songs express himself in a completely different setting.  Part of SOhO’s 20th Anniversary Fundraising Show Series, it did not disappoint.  Martin Gore played his unique style of live music for around two hours.  It was amazing to see the man at work, and being close enough to see his own facial expressions reacting to his own music.

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Live 105’s BFD 2015 at Shoreline Amphitheatre – PART TWO (MAIN STAGE) | Mountainview, California | 6/6/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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Live 105’s BFD 2015 festival at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountainview, California marked the 21st time that the annual event has been held.  Live 105, “The Bay Area’s Alternative”, had a well curated line-up of known and emerging acts, covering a wide range of musical genres that all fall under the “alternative” banner, including 15 local acts.  All of this resulted in a quick sell out for the entire show.  With a vast line-up, they managed to squeeze it all into one day, with two “Festival Stages” that alternated back and forth throughout the day (to mitigate any downtime – it was literally non-stop music) as well as a “Subsonic Tent” and “Soundcheck Local Band Stage”, which ran concurrently.  It all lead up to the “Main Stage” acts within the Shoreline Amphitheatre itself, which ran back to back through the night.  A fantastic show that seemed to come off without a hitch, playing to over 20,000 fans.  This article features my PART TWO coverage, which focuses on the nighttime “Main Stage” artists and performances.

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Live 105’s BFD 2015 at Shoreline Amphitheatre – PART ONE (FESTIVAL STAGE) | Mountainview, California | 6/6/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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Last weekend was Live 105’s BFD 2015 festival at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountainview, California.  Representing the 21st time that this annual event has been held, it sold out in advance of the concert date on June 6th.  Live 105, “The Bay Area’s Alternative”, had a well curated line-up of known and emerging acts, covering a wide range of musical genres that all fall under the “alternative” banner, including 15 local acts.  With a vast line-up, they managed to squeeze it all into one day, with two “Festival Stages” that alternated back and forth throughout the day (to mitigate any downtime – it was literally non-stop music) as well as a “Subsonic Tent” and “Soundcheck Local Band Stage”, which ran concurrently.  It all lead up to the “Main Stage” acts within the Shoreline Amphitheatre itself, which ran back to back through the night.  A fantastic show that seemed to come off without a hitch, playing to over 20,000 fans.  This article features my PART ONE coverage, which focuses on the daytime “Festival Stage” artists and performances.

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Meg Myers at The Boardwalk | Orangevale, California | 6/5/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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I usually open my concert review articles with a quote from one of the artists on stage that night, though with Meg Myers at The Boardwalk on Thursday night, it would have been words in reference to asking some loudmouthed people in the venue to shut up.  More on that in a moment.  In spite of the ongoing source of annoyance to those who showed up to enjoy the music and the artists who came to perform, Meg and her band put on a stellar performance.  I’ve been a strong supporter of Meg and her music since I first saw her open for the Pixies in Los Angeles two years ago, and she has continued to build on her works and cultivating fans who understand her and her music.  Her debut album, Sorry, is due next month, and it will be interesting to see how much it fuels her career and where it will take her coming into 2016.  The single, “Sorry”, has been a big hit for her.  She is, in my opinion, one of the most creative and interesting (and exciting) artists active today, and her live show is definitely one not to miss.

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MisterWives at The Independent | San Francisco, California | 6/4/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“Holy shit!  San!  Fran!  Cisco!  Oh my God.  Well, I may be really fucking tired…  I danced my ass off!  I have sit down so I don’t have a heart attack!  … just in case you missed what we were trying to say…  San Francisco, you are fucking amazing!”  MisterWives’ Mandy Lee, after coming back on stage for their encore, taking a seat behind the drum kit.  That encore opened with a “fucking amazing” cover of “Uptown Funk”.  This is the moment where they really showed off how each member of the group is an exceptional musician, as they went through an extended jam session that really showcased their music talents and ability to intuitively wander about a song and squeeze every last bit of sonic confection out of it.  I first saw the New York pop band performing as part of the KNPB television series, Cargo Live at Whitney Peak Hotel in Reno, and came away feeling that it was a band destined for a very bright future.  That feeling was cemented Thursday night, as they have matured even more as a live act.  Their debut album, Our Own House, has since been released, and fueled them through an hour and a half show.  The theme of the night, for them, seemed to be an earnest love for The City by the Bay, with Mandy becoming choked up at the love being showered onto the band throughout the concert.  They are definitely a young act with much larger stages waiting for them in the not too distant future, as long as they keep on doing what they are doing.

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Wolf Alice at The Independent | San Francisco, California | 5/14/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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I’d like to thank our two friends down here who have been down here all day; it was crazy for us to have any of you here in San Francisco all the way from London…”  Ellie Rowsell’s gratitude expressed to the two Wolf Alice fans who came a long way to see the UK alternative four piece play in the U.S.  I’d just seen their show at Popscene in San Francisco only three months ago, and I could not wait to catch another one of their dynamic live concerts.  Having since had an opportunity to get schooled in their music released to date, I have found Wolf Alice to be one of the most exciting newer bands recording and performing today.  With their debut album – My Love Is Cool – due next month, I am confident that their music will propel them to greater success and larger stages.  They have a real set of gifts and talents with their songwriting and originality, and the contemporary yet timelessness of their music which features some touches and influences that span many disparate music genres and eras.  They are the real deal.

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Howard Jones at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub | Sacramento, California | 5/13/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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You gotta keep believing in what you wanna do; don’t give up…”  Howard Jones on stage at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub in Sacramento on Wednesday night, playing to a sold out crowd in an intimate space holding about 450 fans.  He was reflecting back on when he was working in a factory as a very young man, and writing “New Song”.  His debut single – released in 1983 – is all about optimism… and that is in my estimation what the man is still about today, some three decades later.  Throughout his performance, he was beaming with joy and fun between each song, chatting with fans and tossing out anecdotes and familiar lyrics that can still be instructive today (“try and enjoy the here and now… the future will take care of itself somehow!”).  But it’s not just the classic tunes that had people moving.  Having released his 11th studio album this year – Engage – he is as creative and relevant as ever, with fresh new songs.  My own feeling is that in all this time since the 80s have come and gone, he best represents not just the style of music but the feelings of that era, and it is awesome that he continues to spread his work and message in live shows like this one.  Things can only get better, indeed.

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MS MR at Popscene at Rickshaw Stop | San Francisco, California | 5/7/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“My only birthday wish is to fucking bring the house down……”  MS MR playing Popscene at Rickshaw Stop on Thursday night, being a traditional Popscene show that runs late into the night, it literally became Lizzy Plapinger’s birthday at some point during the show.  When, exactly, was anybody’s guess, as she and her partner, Max Hershenow, blasted through hit songs and songs yet to be released at the sold out show in San Francisco.  Keeping with the duality of their performing and recording name, the old and the new songs split the exactly hour long set in about in half, giving fans a preview of the upcoming sophomore album, due out in July on Columbia Records.  MS MR easily sold out two shows at the much larger Fillmore last year (see past review), so it was special seeing them playing a smaller, intimate venue.  The new music is fantastic, and shows a lot of growth for the duo as the expand their musical horizons.  I ranked their debut, Secondhand Rapture, as my favorite album of 2013, so I really look forward to seeing how the studio versions of the full album measure up to the brilliant Popscene show this past week.

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Florence + The Machine at The Masonic | San Francisco, California | 4/8/2015 & 4/9/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“It’s so wonderful to be back in San Francisco.  It’s wonderful to be back in America, because actually the title of the record – How Big How Blue How Beautiful – was inspired by the American sky.  It was actually, in a text message…  I sent – I don’t want to break the mystery of it – but I sent to someone I really cared about a lot.  And this song was written about that time.   And about just how everything seemed endless, and beautiful, and that the world was a magical place.  And then if you hear the rest of the record, you may be able to tell that things got a bit… muh… but still, I feel like you come back to this feeling, always.”  Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine, providing an introduction to the title song of the upcoming album due out in June.  Playing two back-to-back shows at The Masonic in San Francisco, it was not only a set of concerts with new music, but seemingly a Florence with a bit of a different feeling.  I was lucky enough to catch two of their shows in 2012 (at the Mondavi Center in Davis and at the Hollywood Bowl), and the Florence I saw performing this week encompassed what I came to expect (an intense and phenomenal performer), but with flourishes of more joy than I’ve seen previously.  It made for even more captivating shows, as her and her incredible group of artists truly put on a masterful performance, with a mix of familiar and new.  I obviously attend a lot of concerts every year, but Florence + The Machine is one of the very few that can give me that adrenaline rush and tingle down my spine throughout – a real feat.  Being fortunate enough to attend both shows this week, while the set list was the same, the shows each had there own character, energy, and vibe.  With the preview of the new album, and the quality of the songs, it would appear that the band hasn’t hit any ceilings yet in terms of their gifts, talents and abilities, and I expect them to continue to soar in that big blue sky that Ms. Welch is so fond of…  in studio or on stage, they remain one of the top musical artists active today. [Read more…]

Colin Hay at Crest Theatre | Sacramento, California | 3/22/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“I’m happy to live in the mystery…”  One of a seemingly endless set of poetic and thoughtful comments made on stage at The Crest Theatre in Sacramento on Sunday night.  Part of a solo performance by Colin Hay, best known as the front man, vocalist, and guitarist for the Australian, early 80s, Grammy-winning New Wave/Rock/Raggae band Men at Work.  In 1983, the band had a number one album (Business as Usual) and a number one single (“Down Under”) and gained international fame with their music and quirky music videos.  Here we are, 32 years later, and Mr. Hay has cultivated not only an interesting career but an interesting life with insights and experiences that continue to guide him.  All this time later, there is no ego, no regret, and an incredible depth of self-awareness.  He seems to have a vivid and real view of the world and how it works, and seems quite settled and comfortable with who he is and his role in life as not just a musician, but as a storyteller and philosopher, with much of the latter coming in the form of brilliant comedy.  I’d been lucky enough to catch his Finding My Dance one man show in 2013, so I had an idea of what to expect, but his current tour supporting his latest album, Next Year People, was even better.  He is one of the most entertaining and gifted artists touring today, and I can’t recommend enough turning out for one of his shows if you have the opportunity.

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Clan of Xymox at DNA Lounge | San Francisco, California | 3/19/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“San Francisco.  It’s been a while.”  Ronny Moorings, to what appeared to be a sold out crowd at DNA Lounge on Thursday night, with Clan of Xymox’s first show in Northern California in over a decade.  Ronny founded Xymox/Clan of Xymox in the Netherlands in 1981, and remains the sole original member, singing all of the vocals as well as playing guitar.  A pioneer of Darkwave music, the mix of Synth Wave, Post-Punk, and Gothic Rock had it’s golden age in the 80s among contemporaries like Bauhaus, Joy Division, The Cure, Sisters of Mercy, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Cocteau Twins, and Depeche Mode.  A rare visit not only the San Francisco, but the U.S. in general, this was one of just a few shows in California this week.   With a playlist featuring classic and new Xymox songs, it was an incredible showcase of a unique style of music that Ronny has kept alive and relevant for over three decades now.

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Kristin Hersh (of Throwing Muses) at City Winery Napa | Napa, California | 3/16/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“I’m going to play really small tonight…”  Kristin Hersh at the start of her special show at City Winery Napa.  I would have to say that it was maybe the most quotable concert I’ve ever attended, filled with an endless number of interesting comments and observations throughout her set, which was a mix of poetry readings and music from her various projects recorded under her own name, Throwing Muses, and 50 Foot Wave.  The setting within the beautiful, candle lit venue seemed perfect (Kristin’s first words coming out to the stage and mic was, “it’s so romantic here…”).  Her comment about playing small was inspired by her own characterization of her setlist (“the tiniest setlist ever!“), which was about half the size of a Post-It Note, double-sided.  But Kristin always seems to do things different; her own way… and sees the world I think a lot differently from the rest of us, which makes her works all the more compelling (in words, sound, and delivery).  Quite the artist, it is interesting how she does not limit her expression to her incredible music, but also gives us glimpses into her world via words printed on paper (“I’m going to read books at you tonight…“).  She has a sort of funny, quirky, open, and honest presentation which is somewhat disarming, in that she will then tear into a raw and emotional (powerful) song that is a shock to the system.  A singular artist, I get the sense every show she does – even the “small” ones like last night – are quite unique journeys unto themselves.  Certainly one of the more gifted and unique artists of her generation (and a real pioneer in terms of creating new pathways for women in music), she is definitely worth turning out to see live if you get the opportunity, and I would say the solo show is even more interesting than the traditional Throwing Muses concert (like the one I reviewed about a year ago).

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