Category Archives: writing

Show Review: The Black Keys in Anaheim

The Black Keys @ Øya 2012

A crisp fall evening brought us to Anaheim to see The Black Keys, show number three in So Cal during their massive worldwide stadium tour.

Two nights earlier the duo from Akron, Ohio — also home to basketball superstar LeBron James, Alcoholics Anonymous, and the first breakfast cereal (Quaker Oats) — arrived in LA where they played back-to-back shows at the Staples Center.

To give you an example of how far the duo has come since their days back in rural Ohio, the LA dates were sandwiched between engagements from Justin Beiber and Madonna.

I hadn’t seen The Keys perform since 2008 when they came through the KCRW studio for their second live performance and interview with Nic Harcourt (the first time they came to the station was nearly a decade ago, in 2003).

I remember when they played the Roxy, and a few years later when they returned to dazzle the crowd at The Wiltern — a slightly larger venue with a capacity of roughly two-thousand.

I remember how thrilling the performance was back then, even when it took place in a tiny, sun-drenched recording studio early in the morning.

When Dan Auerbach (guitar, vocals) and Patrick Carney (drums) deliver their signature blues-meets-rock sound it always seems to immediately grab everyone in the room. Excessively hooky or not, it’s really hard to not pay attention.

And it’s not the music alone. Something about the concept of a strong musical duo produces a tight-knit and intimate energy that’s oftentimes hard to replicate. Think Jack and Meg, Alison and Jamie, even Matt and Kim.

Years later they infused the exact energy to the present tour, performing for tens of thousands of fans every night.

That night in Anaheim, the band seamlessly translated their reverb-laden, soaring rock sound to a stadium setting complete with trippy visuals, HD cameras, and the pricey beer and hot dogs to match (sadly, no cereal was present at this particular show).

This time around they brought bassist Gus Seyffert and keyboardist John Wood on board to assist on material from later albums. About halfway through the set, the group stripped back to the original twosome as they proceeded to dive into older material.

Perhaps it was a sigh of relief to witness a real rock show at an arena (the last two I saw were the Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga). Or maybe, it was the energy of the crowd I was vibing from. Or maybe, just maybe, it was the wash of the originality, the rhythm and sound, of what we drove an hour and a half to experience. The music. Completely original and synergistic, just as it was back then.

Show Review: Maximo Park in LA

shot with my iPhone 4GS

A mellow Friday night in Los Angeles, CA assembled a veritable mix to see two very different bands at the El Rey as part of the Moheak and Goldvoice Presents – local newbies The Neighborhood and Mercury Prize-nominated Brit-rock band Maximo Park.

Local teens, college kids, music supervisors, and what appeared to be family members of the band gathered to see The Neighborhood who performed songs from their debut album I’m Sorry…..

Not having heard the entire album prior — outside of considering the single “Sweater Weather” to be a catchy tune — the repertoire sounded surprisingly different from what was previously envisioned in my mind.

Their sound had a harder edge to it, and as the singer bounced around in a do-rag and gold chains, I couldn’t help but admire the new band and their seemingly quick ascent to mainstream popularity. It’ll be interesting to see which direction the band chooses to go in next.

Promptly after The Neighborhood ended their set, the Newcastle, England-based band Maximo Park took the stage. This was their last show as part of a short North American stint in support of their fourth album The National Health.

The band was in top form. Paul Smith, the effervescent frontman of the group, jumped across the stage commanding the show with his presence as he danced, yelped, sang, shouted, and chatted along the way. The show could have easily entertained thousands of people rather than the smaller occupance of the El Rey (not a sold out show). It was a treat. The band performed music from The National Health alongside older, familiar songs to Maximo Park fans – “Girls Who Play Guitars” and “Apply Some Pressure.”

All in all, a good night!

Bloc Party – Four

This post is syndicated from Indie Shuffle.

Sounds like: Kele, Friendly Fires, Two Door Cinema Club, LCD Soundsystem, Gang of Four

What’s so good?

By  | August 21st, 2012

The critically acclaimed, indie rock quartet Bloc Party are back with an unexpected new sound on their first album in nearly seven years.

The debut Silent Alarm (2005) introduced the band’s punchy, shouty, “almost-dance-music-but-not-quite” style that was welcomed by the music community with open arms. In a post-millennial blur of UK bands like The Libertines, The Kooks, and Maximo Park, Bloc Party ran the pack of being just talented enough, just cheeky enough, and just unpretentious enough to suggest something new.

Their unpresumptuous and approachable style made it easy to connect with fans while solidifying relationships with young party promoters across the globe. This led the band to eventually finding — and owning — their righteous place in the burgeoning indie rock community. Whether it was lead-singer Kele Okereke’s unique vocals or “Matt the drummer” and his elevated drum technique, Bloc Party ran a cool factor that has always been completely unique and untouched by any other band.

As evident on each album in their discography, the band has always excelled at nailing and even forecasting particular trends in music. The first singles we heard all the way back in 2004 were simple melodies driven by staccato-laden lamentation – not dissimilar from bands like LCD Soundsystem, The Rapture, and other Gang of Four-inspired groups also gaining momentum at the time. Their second album, Weekend in the City, was a nod to indie disco that continued to speak to the dance music crowd and indie hipster alike.

Fast-forward to now.

Four, the band’s first album since 2008’s electronic-heavy Intimacy, retains the sentiment. We hear Kele plunge deeply into lyrics surrounding fame, society, and relationships. The band goes on a relentless rock spree, gently acknowledging the resurgence of alt 90s rock and post-hardcore – without allowing it to take over their sound entirely.

The title track of the album, “Day Four,” is signature Bloc Party material. The listener hears steady drums, lilting, melodic vocals paired with soaring guitar and trembling bass. Other tracks like “We Are Not Good People” have the same listener double-checking the iTunes playlist to see if they’ve stumbled across an old Nickelback song.

While there are no immediate standouts, Four is a good listen. It’s well-rounded, confident, and a complete body of work that supports their natural evolution as a band, and growth as individuals.

Fellas – welcome back.

Review: Analogue Monsta

This post is syndicated from Indie Shuffle

Sounds like: Flying Lotus, Teebs, Nosaj Thing, Tokimonsta, Suzi Analogue

What’s so good?

By  | August 11th, 2012

The cultural scene in East Los Angeles has been exploding for quite some time, and in the electronic music community there’s one night commonly known as the place to be. It’s called the Low End Theory, and it goes down every Wednesday night at a unassuming location called The Airliner in L.A.’s Lincoln Heights.

Once a low-key local night attended by DJs and aspiring producers, art students and their significant others, the party has quickly grown to become a world-renowned launching pad for heavy-hitting electronic artists like Flying Lotus and Nosaj Thing.

Two of these talents have teamed up for a duo unlike any other. The group, aptly named Analogue Monsta, is comprised of Suzi Analogue and TOKiMONSTA. And together, they forge the perfect blend of emerging talent and nu-school artistry.

TOKiMONSTA is a producer at-large – a highly-sought after femme fatale whose textured electronic landscapes have just the right amount of deconstruction to elegantly cross genres while defying what we’ve traditionally come to define as mainstream appeal.

Like many of her peers in a similar genre (Flying Lotus for one), Toki has the flawless ability to deconstruct drum patterns, implement arresting bass lines, and keep the most cynical of listeners guessing at each turn. If the walls of the food truck begin rattling, it’s likely that Toki has just taken the stage.

Suzi, known for signature sultry vocals falling somewhere between Erykah Badu and the late Aaliyah, brings a new panache that is raw and defining of a new generation.

On “Boom,” Suzi Analogue’s vocals lend just the right amount of footing and upright persuasion to make each song on the full-length collaboration a thoughtful listen.

“Boom” is out now via Scion A/V.

Record Review: Virtual Boy

This post is syndicated from Indie Shuffle

Sounds like: Ratatat, Nosaj Thing, Caribou What’s so good?By  | August 2nd, 2012What happens when classically-trained musicians go head-to-head with electronic instrumentation? Answer: a place where theory clashes happily with informed chaos.

Meet Virtual Boy: the duo comprised of Preston Walker and Henry Allen, two former music students from Chapman University. Recent grads studying under the infamous talent and mad scientist Steve Nalepa, they’re part of the East L.A. scene that gave birth to the rise of other prominent electronic music artists like Flying Lotus, Nosaj Thing, and The Glitch Mob.

Regulars at Low End Theory and promoters in their own right for a new project called Team Supreme, Virtual Boy are part of a movement that shakes up electronic music in a big way.

The self-titled album, released earlier this year, is a thoughtful and meticulously constructed blend of the old informing the new. Each song flows into the next, sequenced and with a particular movement in mind – not dissimilar from material of the classical variety. The album remains varied yet consistent. Songs like “Empty Place” are arresting from the start, grabbing one’s attention with a deep bass line; while other tracks like “Memory of a Ghost” are haunting and slightly more textured.

The informed present of a musical past – the future is here.

You can grab a download of the first single from the album, “Memory of a Ghost,” in addition to remixes of Grimes and more at their SoundCloud page.

“Virtual Boy” is out now on Alpha Pup Records.