Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Gardens & Villa/Crystal Antlers live

Gardens & Villa
Crystal Antlers
Casa De La Raza-Cesar Chavez Community Center
Santa Barbara, CA  
24 February, 2012

Club Mercy continues to deepen their impact on the live music scene in Santa Barbara, branching out beyond their usual venues to bring Casa De La Raza (Cesar Chavez Community Center) into the fold for a special homecoming show honoring S.B.'s own Gardens & Villa.

Garden & Villa, blog buzz favorites on the strength of their debut album on Secretly Canadian, are looking to blow up big...The question being: Will their fate be 'Toad The Wet Sprocket/Ugly Kid Joe,  or Katy Perry'.   They played a convincing set, sprinkling in a handful of new songs which seemed to give them an energy boost.  The main stage lights were down for all but one song of their set, and they spent a few songs coming to grips with an uneven sound mix, but once they hit their stride, the floor was a whirling mass of dancing bodies.  It will be interesting to see where they go next.

In the opening slot, Crystal Antlers, (from Long Beach), played their first show in Santa Barbara. Sweat was shed due to a van breakdown in Ventura, but they made it to the church on time and, sans sound check, proceeded to turn in a devastating set of off kilter jams, at times recalling everything from The Minutemen to The Who, but with their own particular stamp. Truly, a power trio to keep an eye on.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Viva Los Campesinos!

Los Campesinos
Parenthetical Girls
Echoplex, LA
10 February, 2012
Saturday night heralded the return of Los Campesinos! to Los Angeles, on the heels of their most recent LP, Hello Sadness.  The lines outside the Echoplex stretched around the corner, and the crowd buzzed in anticipation.  While in no danger of laying waste to the charts here in the States, they command a rabid cult, and said cult was out in force for this show. 
Ably handling the opening honors were Parenthetical Girls, (Portland, OR), who tuned up the crowd admirably, working mostly from their recent series of 4 EPs'.  Zac Pennington didn't let the second billing stand in his way, commanding the stage, (plus leaving it for the audience, more than once), and totally winning over the crowd.  Amber was a winsome presence, nailing down the musical side of things, and serving as the perfect foil. It was a shame to see their set end, and I highly look forward to catching them on their own.  Hats off to the headliners for being comfortable enough to have a strong band open for them.
The headliners hit the ground running with "By Your Hand", the lead cut from Hello Sadness, and the track of choice performed on the recent David Letterman appearance, then segueing neatly into a rousing rendition of "Romance Is Boring", (see below), title track of their previous LP.
The set was weighted with new tracks, but didn't stint on the old records, and the emotional highlight of the evening was the high energy "You! Me! Dancing!" into the grimly hypnotic "The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future".  All in all, an amazing evening, and a nice sign that even though Los Campesinos have absorbed new members, the heart still beats strong.
Post Script: LC! bounced back up to L.A. a few days later for an appearance on KCRW's 'Morning Becomes Eclectic', where you can see a live in the studio take on "Songs About Your Girlfriend".
  1. Encore:
  2. (courtesy of

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Wilco brings The Whole Love

Wilco returned to Santa Barbara with a show that sold out painfully quick at the historic Arlington Theater downtown.  Their last appearance here was at the much roomier Santa Barbara County Bowl, but given the Bowl season not opening until April, this was the next logical venue.  Turned out, for those lucky enough to score tickets, a perfect choice, for I have never heard the theater sound that beautifully balanced.

"Reservations", the final cut from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot served as the evening's opening song, and Nels Cline immediately served notice, garnishing the song tonally, but not overwhelming it, then stepping up his game with the band's segue into "Art of Almost" from their most recent effort, The Whole Love.

They proceeded to romp through their catalog at will, and it was the combinations of songs, ("I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" into "One Wing"), that struck.

Personal highlight of the night would have to be the soaring, transcendant take on "Impossible Germany" from Sky Blue Sky, a showpiece on the LP, but live, it churned into the coiled intensity reminiscent of Television's "Marquee Moon".

Austin based White Denim opened up the festivities with spiky jams that were tightly focused and in no danger of meandering.  The set was perfectly paced, culminating in an intense closer, the journey being the destination...

The band is capitalizing on a busy 2011, having released D, a full length LP, a live session cut at Third Man Records, and last fall's Takes Place In Your Work Space EP

Wilco setlist

Poster & Setlist courtesy of Wilco

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Charles Bradley's Golden Moment...

If I had to pick a 'feel good moment' from last year, it was seeing the hard won dreams of Charles Bradley come to fruition.  Not only was his debut LP "No Time For Dreaming", released on Daptone Records, but he hit the road for a string of shows with the Menahan Street Band that was joyously received, to say the least.
Now that golden moment is captured in the form of a documentary, Charles Bradley: Soul of America that will have it's debut at this year's SXSW Film Festival.  Have a look at the trailer below:

Had the pleasure of catching Mr. Bradley & The Menahan Street Band at Soho in Santa Barbara last fall.  It was an emotional night, and Charles performed a fiery set, capping it off by literally bringing the love to the audience, wading out for hugs at the end of his set.  It was hard not to be moved.