Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Review: She & Him at Hollywood's Vista Theatre

She & Him & the Ghost of John Bonham
Vista Theatre
April 29, 2008
-Daniel Grant

Last night at the Vista Theatre, the quirky and low key sounds of She & Him (Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward) were, unfortunately, drowned out for most of the evening by the ham-fisted drumming of a sideman who seemed to have wandered in thinking he was auditioning for a spot in a Led Zeppelin cover band. Deschanel and Ward ran through almost all the tracks from their recently-released album, Volume One, along with a couple of old covers, to the strong approval of the sold out audience during the rather brief 50-minute set.

Deschanel's delicate and warbly voice was at its best on the opening track from the album, Sentimental Heart, on which she accompanied herself very simply on the piano and didn't have to compete with the misguided and poorly mixed heavy rock accompaniment that marred most of the rest of the set. In another miscalculation, Deschanel's former boyfriend, actor Jason Schwartzman, joined the band on stage for two numbers. On one of the Schwartzman numbers the actor actually took over guitar-playing duties from the superbly talented Ward with his own rudimentary playing.

Deschanel and Ward would do well to take a few cues from the evening's openers, Lavender Diamond, who mine a similar quirky vein to much better effect through a subtlety of playing missing in the seemingly ill-rehearsed She & Him set. A sound check probably wouldn't have hurt, either.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Review: Portishead at the Mayan

Portishead Rehearsal At The Mayan
April 24, 2008
Written by Hova Escobar
Photo Credit: Guido

A sense of anticipation filled my Thursday, knowing that within the next few hours, a band that I've admired for so long and waited almost 10 years to see was finally playing in Los Angeles. Ever since the announcement of Portishead headlining Coachella was made, there's been a buzz about how the gap in time between albums and touring was going to affect the sound of the band. The even bigger buzz came a few weeks ago when news broke about a rehearsal at a "secret location" a few days before Portishead's Coachella debut. I was one of the fortunate ones to get an email on Monday that this show was to take place at a more intimate venue than the desert oasis of Indio; the show would be at The Mayan in Downtown Los Angeles.

I made sure to get there early before the scheduled 7pm set. A few people were already there by the time I pulled up. In the email, there was a sense that only industry and VIP were invited to the rehearsal. I was delighted to find out later that Los Angeles fans of Portishead were randomly selected from their online mailing list to attend this intimate event. Those chosen stood in a line that snaked around the right side of the building. The label line on the opposite end was much smaller and was let in a little earlier than the fan line. Once inside the venue, you could see that the stage set up was stripped down without any flair. If anything, the most interesting thing on stage besides the DJ set up was the skull wearing a Lucha Libre mask. Getting to the front of the stage was easy. It seemed that people in the industry line that were let in first were more concerned with getting their drinks than securing a spot near the front. Maybe that was a good thing because I was surrounded by those waiting in the fan line filling me with the relief of not having to put up with the beeping of Blackberries and irrelevant conversation.

Once the venue was filled up, there was a sense of anticipation as to what the rehearsal would entail. Would it be sound checking? Would it just be pieces of songs? Dare to dream it would be a whole set. Even then you wondered if it would mostly be songs off their anticipated 3rd album "Third." With the clock just past 8pm, Beth Gibbons, Adrian Utley and Geoff Barrow walked to the stage to the sound of deafening applause and cheers from a partially filled Mayan Theatre. Beth thanked the crowd for coming before starting us off with tracks off their new album, "Silence" and "Hunter," and then dropping "Mysterons" on us from their debut "Dummy."

With every song that was played, you could feel the energy of anticipation set free from those of us who wore out our Portishead albums. We finally felt the release of hearing those songs live right in front of us. The band surprised the crowd by continuing to play material from "Dummy" and "Portishead." We heard "Glory Box", "Sour Times", "Cowboys", "Seven Months", "Wandering Star", and "Over." Probably the biggest surprise of the night for me was how well the songs translated from album to live. For me, the transcending track of the night was a song I disliked on the new album, "Machine Gun." After hearing Geoff Barrow manning the drum pads to bring the industrial thumping of the song and the mix of instrumentation, I quickly converted from hater to fan.

Famously shy lead vocalist, Beth Gibbons, wasn't much for small talk. If anything, the times she did attempt to talk to the audience, she was drowned out by applause and screaming from fans happy to hear her engage them. One fan even brought a sign asking the band for Coachella tickets, which got a chuckle out of Beth. The other side of the sign, flipped later in the set, revealed a request for the band to play at the fan's wedding, which Beth with a smile responded, "Of course I will play!"

What started as "practice" for Coachella ended up being an intimate affair. I didn't have to worry about sweaty, drunk people or being too far from the stage to hear anything. The fact that most of the show's audience were fan club members of Portishead cheering on their beloved band was a rare sight indeed. A connection between fan and audience that energize each other is a rare sight in this city. During the encore, Beth came down from the stage to shake hands with the audience, with one of the lucky ones being yours truly, thanking her for a night I would never forget.

The night ended and so did the band's long streak of years played on this side of the pond. They moved on to Coachella, and a writer that blew off any notion of even going to the festival now wanted another Portishead fix. According to their Island Records rep, no tour is scheduled in North America beyond Coachella. For now, those in attendance of the show and at Coachella will be lucky enough to catch Portishead while they can. I walked out of the venue with a buzz, hugging fellow fans, screaming at each other in disbelief about what we just witnessed. There were even people after 8pm that just showed up and walked in! Turns out that after the guest list attendees were let in, it didn't matter who came after since the venue wasn't filled and it was a free event. I guess it never hurts to try, right? What hurts now is the question: When will I ever see Portishead again beyond Coachella? That's something that only time will tell. All I have to say is Radiohead, you better bring it, because right now I know who #1 is on my shows of 2008.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Review: Love and Rockets at the Glasshouse in Pomona

Love and Rockets
Glasshouse in Pomona
April 22, 2008
-Ben Blau

Love and Rockets made their live return at the Glass House in Pomona. The legendary rockers formerly from Bauhaus blew away a packed crowd from the very first chord, opening their set with “Ball of Confusion.” The band ran through a 13 song set consisting of material mostly from their second album, “Express,” spanning about 1:40 including a rousing cover of The Clash’s “Should I stay or should I go” introduced by Daniel Ash as only fitting as part of the band reforming as their only encore song.

Although troubled by sound problems throughout the evening, the band remained unfazed and in high spirits with David J joking to the security to move a bit so that they were able to read their lyrics because their memory was definitely gone, saying, "But we can still read!"

The band consisting of all original members Daniel Ash, David J, and Kevin Haskins sounded extremely tight showcasing their ability to improve upon the great sounds they created decades ago. I was very very impressed with this show in many areas, first off to keep it cool with such a terrible sound system was nothing short of amazing. During “Holiday On The Moon,” the sound cut to only half volume leaving the band helpless, however they continued on as everyone expected them to stop to wait for the sound to be fixed til about the last 30 seconds of the song when the sound finally had come back to full strength. These great songs, originally recorded back in the early 80’s, have a brand new feel to them with extra teeth and transtions added into parts never thought to even be needed to be improved. DO NOT MISS THIS BAND AT COACHELLA!!!!!

Love and Rockets is playing the cluster fuck of a festival on Sunday, April 27th

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Review: RJD2 – 04.09.08 (Henry Fonda)

RJD2 – 04.09.08 (Henry Fonda)
-Ben Blau

I think for the sake of the artists I will leave both openers nameless. The first opener performed solo which is difficult to pull off and this guy wasn’t anything out of the norm. The second opener was even worse, opening up with the standard under-whelming hip hop DJ and MC stage setup. These guys were plain and painful to listen to the point that I had to take a trip to the roof for an extended smoke break. Finally, I began to inhale the breath of fresh air we know as RJD2 began with just Ramble John behind 3 turntables and a drum machine controller playing actual vinyl records from his vinyl collection. The crowd came to life as the he dropped into the second song of the set “Smoke and Mirrors” before the rest of the band joined to really open the set up, although the band element was a good variation for the set, it seemed to be a bit dull in comparison. Throughout the set, which consisted mostly material from “Dead Ringer,” the band would mix it up quite a bit between DJ elements and band elements and the occasional drum machine solo to themes of old Nintendo games like Zelda and Mario Bros to closeout the encore. I consider DJ’s like RJD2, who still use VINYL to be very talented and would put him right up there with DJ Shadow.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Shows for tonight and tomorrow night

A lot of people have been looking forward to new material from Mister Carl Jordan of The Western States Motel. Well, cats and kittens, the time has come. Head over to Spaceland tonight and catch some of his new material, piping hot from the recording studio. He goes on at around 10pm.

For a little of history in the making, check out Sorry, Nelson at Tangier's Lounge tomorrow night.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Sonic Treat of the Day: The Kills' Last Day of Magic

The Kills would like to know where you were on the Last Day of Magic, asshole! Take a listen to this lovely little treat. Yummy, isn't it? Now, if only Jaime would stop fucking Kate Moss and start fucking...nevermind. Just listen and enjoy, okay!!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Review: Guns N Bombs/Digitalism at El Rey

Guns & Bombs

The problem with DJ’s & DJ sets these days is that there are so many of them and if you have seen one, you have seen all but a select few. With all of the advancements in technology, the art form has really lost its spark, in my opinion. This electro duo ended up only being one person at last night's show, which was a bit of a surprise. The song selection was decent throughout the set, but Johnny Love finally got the crowd grooving towards the end of his set as the venue had just about filled completely.


The electro duo from Germany came to play and play they did. Backed by 3 large horizontal flowing screens with their patented artwork, the guys rocked it right from the beginning running through most of the tracks from their debut album. Jence was a busy man quickly moving around the stage to operate several different controllers while Isi held down the percussions. Both rocked out the whole set appearing to be genuinely excited to play, from which the crowd fed off of coming to a climax with Pogo ending the set. They did come back out for an encore in which the treated the crowd to a new unknown track with small blends here and there from Pogo complimented it very well.

All in all, these guys get better each time I have seen them. In my opinion they are creating some of the best electro punk out today, although they have not gained mainstream attention like Justice has. I still believe that they have the upper hand and will surpass them in time.

As for the venue, Goldenvoice have really done a great job putting the El Rey back together. The sound is much more solid and fuller than is has been before. I had been to a show a while back where the security was absolutely awful, however that was not the case at all last night. The security was really mellow and easy going which really is a big thing for concert goers these days.

-Ben Blau

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

MSTRKRFT's Bounce...extended version!!

How fucking hot is that?

Oh yea, music. Right, right. MSTRKRFT released Bounce today and it's as sexy as the single's cover. GOOD GAWD!! Take a listen, love it, go on, love it some more, and then go out and buy it.

Visit our friends at RCRDLBL to hear the track.

Digitalism and The Black Keys come to Los Angeles

If you're in the mood to shake that ass tonight, my buddies, Jence and Isi, are in town from Germany and will be tearing it up at The El Rey, with guests, Guns N Bombs.

The Black Keys plan to rock the faces off of fans at The Wiltern tonight, as well. Not only is the new album a straight up "Fuck yea!" but their website is just too much fun. Visit it. I promise you will love it.