Music legend B.B. King passes away at age 89 today. The “King of Blues” was born in Mississippi, and not only was witness to nearly nine decades of history, but was a key participant in it as well. [Read more…]
“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).
“Before I sing each song, if you’re ever thinking, ‘what’s going through his mind?’, I’m thinking: ‘sing from your ass, project out the back of your neck, and try and get your tits over your shoulders!'” Colin Blunstone, vocalist for The Zombies, giving the summation of his three anecdotes regarding decades of experience with singing techniques, offered to visiting students from The Royal Academy of Music. The concert at Harrah’s South Shore Room in Lake Tahoe last night marks the third time I’ve seen the band live in the past year (having seen them at the indigO2 in London and at Yoshi’s in San Francisco in 2013) and they are still full of surprises. Joined on stage with co-founding member Rod Argent on keyboards and vocals as well as rock veterans Tom Toomey on guitar, Jim Rodford (from Argent and The Kinks) on bass, and Jim’s son Steve Rodford on drums, the British Invasion band continues to prove that they are both music legends of the past as well as relevant today, with their mix of classics and all new music (with one newly polished gem previewed last night and due to be to be recorded in studio in the next two weeks). These guys are the real deal, and represent real rock and roll. [Read more…]
“The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware” – Henry Miller. Black Francis (AKA Frank Black, AKA Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV) had nothing really to say to the sold out crowd of about 300 lucky fans at the amazing show at Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur Tuesday night, but as an artist, he’s had plenty to say with his music over the years. And 2013 and 2014 mark the big comeback for the band, with their EP-1, EP-2, and EP-3 (with four tracks a piece) collectively comprising their first new album in over 20 years. Pulled together, their latest – Indie Cindy – somehow captures the sound and vibe of their pioneering work in the late 80s and early 90s, but with a contemporary vibe (though some would argue they were decades ahead of things back in the day). Currently playing live dates with their current touring bassist, Paz Lenchantin brings great energy, warmth, and sex appeal to the band which still features original guitarist Joey Santiago and drummer David Lovering, in addition to Black Francis at the helm of things. I’ve marked Pixies as one of my favorite bands since high school, and have seen them many times going back to the late 80s, and I’d have to say that not only was the show in Big Sur this week the best I’ve seen, it will probably go down as the best Pixies concert I will ever see. A sublime mix of venue, crowd, and energy, it was nothing short of magnificent. And since the two shows I saw in Los Angeles last year and Oakland a few months ago, it would seem that the band has come into their best groove ever, going without setlists and employing some keen (though at times glitchy) psychic powers among themselves. Like what Henry Miller was getting at, this is a group that is aware on many different levels…
“Oh… ‘elaborate’… I know that word… I’m elaborately fine!” The end of a funny exchange between Kristin Hersh and the audience, which began with her asking how we were doing, which was turned back to her, which resulted in a short answer – “fine” – to which someone else asked her to elaborate… There was a bit of chit chat between songs throughout the show, including a reference to a recent dog bite that nearly caused this short West Coast run of Throwing Muses dates to be canceled. But the trio of Kristin Hersh, David Narcizo, and Bernard Georges did indeed show up at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco last night to play to a sold out crowd of enthusiastic fans. While Kristin founded the band way back in 1980, and has produced a wealth of albums and songs over the years, the set list was heavy with their latest book/CD combo, Purgatory/Paradise, which was their first new studio release in a decade. They put on an electric show with great intensity, and I’m sure all in attendance felt fortunate to catch a rare appearance of the band that is legendary to those who have paid attention to music for the past 30 years.
Black Francis (AKA Frank Black, AKA Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV) usually has little to say to an audience during a Pixies concert, and unless I missed it, he had nothing to say to the sold out crowd at the Fox Theater in Oakland last night. The music he crafted with his band, originating in the late 80s, still sounds ahead of it’s time, and rocks harder than most of the material put out by bands yesterday and today. Yet in true anti-rock star style, after casually coming onto the stage Friday night and giving the crowd a friendly wave hello, Black Francis realized his shoe was untied and propped his foot up on the drum kit to rectify the situation before kicking into “Bone Machine”. The band has one of the best collections of songs for a band with such a short lifespan in its original incarnation (1986-1993, more or less). I personally love every song on their five studio albums, save one or two. As most are fairly short, some are played even faster live, so a Pixies concert always feels like some kind of a race of sorts to the end, and thus the chit chat engaged in by some artists is skipped over completely with the Pixies, though they always have a surprise or two none the less. The most unexpected moment with their stop in Oakland was the apparent lack of a set list, and after a satisfying encore, the house lights came up, band still onstage with fans exiting in a hurry, only to have the quartet break into a frenetic and rocking version of “Planet of Sound”, with house lights still up throughout. Funny enough, I asked the sound and light crew at the mixing board in the back about this when the show finally (finally) came to a close, and even they were surprised. In any event, a stellar show put on by one of my favorite bands of all time, played to a fascinating mix of fans old and new (some of the latter of which weren’t even born during their first run in the late 80s and early 90s). A true celebration of some of the best music of my generation. They’ve still got it. [Read more…]
2013 is maybe the best year since the early 90s to be a Pixies fan. Interestingly, having been in attendance now at the first two of three consecutive shows this week at El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles (and a fourth coming right after at the Mayan Theatre), the crowd overall skewed very young, which really underscores my long held belief that the Pixies were way, way, way ahead of their time, and also had bad timing (maybe in an alternate universe they could have had Nirvana-sized mainstream success). In any event, as I’ve often referenced in countless articles here on the Rock Subculture Journal, the Pixies are solid in my Top Three favorite artists of all time. Before going into recent and ancient history, the big question those reading this are probably wondering is, ‘how were these shows?‘ The short answer is, absolutely phenomenal. Everything one could hope for in a Pixies concert has been present in Night 1 and Night 2. With their new touring efforts and new music (music that is on par with their classic material), it is an awesome time to be into the Pixies, whether you were around back in the day or not. A time to celebrate, and the band and the fans all brought the party to El Rey Theatre this week.
“It sells more every year now than it ever did when it did first came out in 1968″… Rod Argent, keyboardist and vocalist, talking about the second studio album put out by The Zombies, Odessey and Oracle, as he and vocalist Colin Blunstone took the time between stretches of songs to provide some history and context into their “musical journey” through the history of the British Invasion band. After a stellar opening set from supporting band Et Tu Brucé, the two founding members of The Zombies along with rock veterans Tom Toomey on guitar, Jim Rodford (front Argent and The Kinks) on bass, and Jim’s son Steve Rodford on drums demonstrated with their performance why their legendary status continues to grow. Yoshi’s San Francisco was as packed as I’ve ever seen it, and the audience seemed to be swept away with their brilliant and timeless music.
I don’t go to very many hip hop/rap shows, but loved the artists that got their start (and really got that genre of music into the mainstream) in the 80s. My first ever concert, at the age of 14, was Run-DMC, Beastie Boys, and Ice-T at Cal Expo in Sacramento in 1987. So when I heard about this “Kings of the Mic Tour” earlier this year, and that it was headlined by LL Cool J, it was a must see concert for me. Unfortunately, the Bay Area show conflicted with other travel plans, but a date was added onto the end of the tour in Los Angeles at the Greek Theatre, so I knew that was the one to catch. I am certainly glad that I did attend that specific show Sunday night, as it seemed to be a special one on all counts (and clocked in at over four hours of nearly non-stop entertainment). However, the highlight for me took me back to that very first concert experience I ever had, as there was a special surprise guest… toward the end of the last set, Darryl McDaniels (from Run-DMC) joined LL Cool J on stage, and the two performed “Peter Piper”, which was amazing. Stunning for me, really. Overall, it was a very impressive and high energy show from start to finish by all artists involved, and it definitely left me feeling that I need to catch more old school hip hop shows, though I think the bar was set very high by this last stop on the Kings of the Mic Tour.
2013 is shaping up to be a great year for new music and exciting artists playing live dates, and AM & Shawn Lee are most definitely a part of both. With the release of their second collaborative studio album last month, La Musique Numberique, it is fueled by some amazing songs that translate brilliantly well in their live sets. The transatlantic writing and recording process (with AM in Los Angeles and Shawn Lee in London) produced an electronic and synth-driven collection of songs that fuse sounds from past decades (particularly the 70s and 80s) but sound as contemporary as anything else released in the past few years. As performers, both sides of the duo have a very relaxed style and great chemistry. As the climax to their “Sounds of Summer” touring album release party, it was a festive night at Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco last night, with a great crowd in an intimate venue. If you’ve never checked out their music, you are missing out and you can preview over at SoundCloud… awesome stuff!