Pixies at Henry Miller Memorial Library | Big Sur, California | 4/15/2014 (Concert Review)

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“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…

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MS MR at The Fillmore | San Francisco, California | 4/14/2014 (Concert Review)

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“You’re one of the first cities that really, really supported us.” Lizzy Plapinger, the “MS” half of MS MR showering the crowd at the sold out Fillmore in San Francisco Monday night with some sincere gratitude.  I’d seen the break out duo twice at The Independent last year, and as their success continues, they have stepped up from supporting at the Independent, to headlining multiple shows there, to now headlining multiple shows at the historic Fillmore, where they opened for Marina and The Diamonds a few years ago.  As has been my experience seeing the band evolve, the “MR” half, Max Hershenow, seemed as thrilled as ever to step away from his keyboard a few times to dance and provide some backing vocals on Lizzy’s mic. I personally ranked their incredible debut studio album, Secondhand Rapture, as my favorite release of 2013, so they certainly won me over as a fan.  While they always sounded amazing live, they seem to grow in confidence with each new tour, while maintaining that humility and earnestness which is somewhat rare in the contemporary music scene.  This was their best show year, and while it clocked in at just under an hour, to me that was just perfect, and I applaud that they keep the studio length of the songs rather than trying to stretch them out to fill out more time as some young bands succumb to when touring with just one album under their belt.

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Prince with 3RDEYEGIRL at Fox Theater | Oakland, California | 4/24/2013 (Concert Review)

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“You know how many hits I got?”  The genius at work on his keyboards/samplers toward the end of his initial set (in the midst of a freestyle mix/onslaught of some of the best pop hits of my generation – “When Doves Cry”/”Nasty Girl”/”Sign ☮ the Times”/”Pop Life”/”If I Was Your Girlfriend”/”Housequake”/”I Would Die For You”/etc…).  All culminating in a mind blowing rendition of “Purple Rain” (in which Prince made a comment about how he will never get tired of that song).  I don’t know if it was just a fantastic audience at the Fox Theater last night, or if Prince simply had the power to bring us to life and in perfect unison with his music, but this one off, last minute (instant sell out) show was certainly one I won’t forget.  I’ve never seen the Fox that rocking before (and I’ve seen many shows there) and I would even go so far as to say last night’s show blew away his set of shows played at the relatively tiny DNA Lounge last year (see review Night #1, Night #2).  As epic as those were (and I counted the two I went to among the very best of the nearly 100 concerts I attended last year), this one bested them on nearly every level.  Truly a musical genius at work alongside the brilliant 3RDEYEGIRL, as though they came down from some other planet for a few hours to illustrate another way of life.  Words really can’t describe, and without photos to aid in retelling the experience, it was really something you would have had to have been there for to fully appreciate and understand.

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Another Planet Entertainment Brings Prince with 3RDEYEGIRL to Fox Theater Oakland on Saturday, March 15th

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It all started with a late night tweet from the official Fox Theater Oakland Twitter account tonight, announcing that Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL will be playing the venue this Saturday, March 15th.  On the heels of epic shows in England and most recently a 4-hour gig in Los Angeles, it looks like Prince will be heading to Northern California to follow up on last year’s four shows across two nights at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco. [Read more...]

Pixies at Fox Theater | Oakland, California | 2/21/2014 (Concert Review)

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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...]

Imagine Dragons “Into The Night Tour” at SAP Center| San Jose, California | 2/13/2014 (Concert Review)

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When I last saw Imagine Dragons in concert, I was packed into a small club with about 500 other fans, pressed against the small stage, with frontman Dan Reynolds dripping sweat onto those of us in the first few rows.  Fast forward just one year later, and now the band is easily selling out the 17,000 capacity SAP Center in San Jose (which even the Rolling Stones had trouble filling last year), and striking less successful music bands with envy (more on that later).  With their performance Thursday night, it was fascinating seeing how they’ve built up a fan base, yet retained their modesty.  At one point, during an ad lib, Dan became a bit self conscious about what he was saying, stopped himself, and confessed, “it’s because of you – you make me nervous…”  Honesty and earnestness is rare in rock stars these days, but I have a feeling that it is something innate in this one, and will always stay with him.  While photographing the first few songs at the start of their set, watching from a couple feet away, I saw Dan pause at one point and briefly stare out across the massive audience before him, and get choked up a little in the same way he did a year ago talking about the charity they were supporting for that small gig in San Francisco.  These are definitely genuine guys, and it certainly comes through in their music and performance.  Definitely one of the must see tours of the year, as I suspect they will get even bigger once they release their sophomore album.

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Hotel/Resort Review: Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn & Suites – San Diego, California

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This is part of a continuing series of my impressions and experiences staying at various hotels and resorts while traveling to attend concerts worldwide. This stay was during my recent trip to San Diego in January 2014. This review is for Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn & Suites in San Diego, California. [Read more...]

Hotel/Resort Review: Hilton London Tower Bridge – London, England [REVISIT]

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This is part of a continuing series of my impressions and experiences staying at various hotels and resorts while traveling to attend concerts worldwide. This stay was during my extension trip throughout Eastern Europe and London in December 2013. This review is for the Hilton London Tower Bridge.  I have stayed at this property multiple times, so this is an updated review. [Read more...]

The Pack A.D. at Brick & Mortar Music Hall | San Francisco, California | 2/5/2014 (Concert Review)

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“It started off really nice today, and then just went to rain, and that is a Vancouver day as well, so I feel like I’m at home…”, In-between songs, The Pack A.D.’s Maya Miller, drummer and chattier of the Canadian garage rock duo just before singer/guitarist Becky Black threw down the familiar opening guitar riff for “Big Shot” off of their stellar new album, Do Not Engage.  The pair played through quite an extensive setlist at Brick & Mortar Music Hall Wednesday night, but they play their songs probably twice as fast at the typical band, so the blazing set was over sooner than all in attendance might have hoped.  The dimly lit venue was truly electrified by their blazing music, and they are armed with fantastic songs that seem crafted to be played live.  I just discovered this band last month with the release of their fourth studio album, and absolutely love Do Not Engage.  Now, having seen them play live, they have made me a fan.  Amazing show, and I’d personally seek them out if they roll into a town near you…

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Frankie Rose at Rickshaw Stop | San Francisco, California | 2/4/2014 (Concert Review)

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You know you are at interesting show when the singer asks, in-between songs, for the audience to shout out their favorite taquería on the count of three.  Frankie Rose, singer-songwriter of the band of the same name, has roots in San Francisco, and packed Rickshaw Stop on Tuesday night with her special retroesque mix of fuzzy guitar and synth dream pop.  Supporting her latest album, Herein Wild, the set included a mix of old and new, which illustrated the evolution of her sound.  All in all an excellent show…

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Ash at Popscene @ Rickshaw Stop | San Francisco, California | 1/30/2014 (Concert Review)

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“We’ve got a few more songs here for you here…  if you fucking want them!”  Tim Wheeler, vocalist and guitarist for Northern Ireland’s alternative band Ash, which was born in the early 90s, yet seems to bring the best of that vibe forward in their music today.  An enthusiastic crowd of fans packed Popscene at Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco last night, and they certainly wanted those few more songs that finished out a pretty lengthy and extremely impressive and rocking set.  For a loud, ripping show, the sound was absolutely phenomenal, and these music veterans of the alternative music scene certainly are masters at the live show.  It really exceeded my expectations, and was just a fantastic concert showcasing their unique brand of rock and roll.  As one of their first shows on the West Coast of the U.S. in 9 years, they certainly came back to make a statement.

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Berlin Featuring Terri Nunn at Saint Rocke | Hermosa Beach, California | 1/24/2014 (Concert Review)

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Berlin Featuring Terri Nunn kicked off 2014 with their first live date of the year at Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach, California, just as they did last year (which is a show I caught and reviewed as well).  The biggest difference between last year and this year is that their amazing new album, Animal, came out this past September.  While they have been playing some of this new material in their shows in the past few years, somehow it felt much more seamlessly intertwined into the set, maybe because now I’m so familiar with the songs.  Like last year, it was another stellar show with excellent supporting artists, and Saint Rocke is a great little venue.  I think more than most bands, Berlin gets what their music is about, how it affects people, and the power a live show can have on celebrating life and living it with some passion.  They definitely bring it all out on stage and they are one of those bands that can carry you along with them vicariously. [Read more...]