“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.
Howard Jones at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub | Sacramento, California | 5/13/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)
“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.
“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.
Heavy metal rock star and filmmaker Rob Zombie is offering fans a chance to bid on original movie props and costumes from his films, including Halloween 2 and Lords of Salem. There is a minimum bid of only $300 on each lot. In addition to authentic movie memorabilia are other opportunities, such as meet and greets during his upcoming tour and autographs. The crowdfunding campaign is scheduled to end on May 10th at midnight. Proceeds will go toward funding his next film, 31. [Read more…]
In a few weeks, U2 will be kicking off their first indoor arena tour in over a decade, in support of last year’s Songs of Innocence. The iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour will take U2 to 20 cities worldwide for 70 concerts over the next six months, with multiple dates in each city (from two to eight), running through November. Special shows are reportedly being planned for Dublin fat the end of the year to benefit the U2-initiated Music Generation project. [Read more…]
Florence + The Machine at The Masonic | San Francisco, California | 4/8/2015 & 4/9/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)
“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…]
Florence + The Machine To Play Special Two-Night Engagement at The Masonic in San Francisco Next Week
A surprise announcement came from Live Nation today that Florence + The Machine will be playing two nights next week at the recently renovated Masonic in San Francisco. The two shows will be April 8th and April 9th, with a special pre-sale at 10am tomorrow (April 1st) for those who pre-order the upcoming album, How Big How Blue How Beautiful, due June 2nd in the U.S. These small shows in San Francisco next week will precede their appearance at Coachella. [Read more…]
“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.
Kristin Hersh (of Throwing Muses) at City Winery Napa | Napa, California | 3/16/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)
“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).
Wolf Alice at Popscene at Rickshaw Stop | San Francisco, California | 3/13/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)
“We’ve got a couple more for you… party on, Friday night!” Ellie Rowsell’s preface leading into Wolf Alice’s encore at the sold out show at Popscene at Rickshaw Stop on Friday night in San Francisco. The alternative band from London put on a blazing show at a rare headlining stop in the U.S. on their way to SXSW. A relatively newer band, their debut album, My Love Is Cool, is due in June, and already they seemed destined for much bigger venues. I would be surprised to see them on a steep upward trajectory over 2015. While the four members skew quite young, they exude maturity and confidence in their music, and as great as their EPs released thus far sound, their music seems fashioned to excel in a live setting even more than the studio recordings. Even though they didn’t move around too much on the stage during their set, their music moved the crowd and they are one of the most exciting bands to come along in recent years. Definitely ones to watch, and to catch live if you get the opportunity.
Broods (The Evergreen Tour) at The Regency Ballroom | San Francisco, California | 3/7/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)
“If I was rich, I’d live here…” The modest Georgia Nott, chatting in-between songs about the beautiful houses she’d seen in San Francisco earlier in the day, at their sold out show at The Regency Ballroom Saturday night. It was a big step up in size from the shows I’d attended last year. Accompanied as always with her brother Caleb and touring drummer Joel Farland, it was indeed a much bigger stage this time around, which they filled with ease with their authentic set of fantastic pop music fueled by incredible melodies and heartfelt, thoughtful lyrics (and of course those soaring vocals!). Dubbed “The Evergreen Tour”, they are supporting their solid debut album released last year (which I ranked in my own Top Ten Albums of 2014). The kiwi duo are so young that I’m really excited to continue to follow them to see where their gifts take them next. I expect checking in on them in 2016, we will see them take on even larger stages and venues. One of the best new artists of this era, and they put on a fantastic live show – my highest recommendation.
The Airborne Toxic Event Plots Out Special U.S. Tour with Release of Two New Albums, “Dope Machines” and “Songs of God and Whiskey”
A few weeks ago, The Airborne Toxic Event released not one, but two new studio albums… Dope Machines, which has been expected since last year, as well as Songs of God and Whiskey, which was announced on their official Facebook page just one day prior. The former features more electronic/synthpop sounds while the latter is more in the direction of acoustic rock and roll. The select shows across the U.S. this month will be “very special audio/visual performances” and they have announced that they will be performing Dope Machines “front to back” as well as material from prior releases and other surprises. [Read more…]