Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bon Iver, Bon Iver: live, live

22 APRIL, 2012

Fresh from his dual weekend turn at Coachella, Justin Vernon brought his Bon Iver road show to the Santa Barbara Bowl for a surprisingly intimate Sunday night show.  He didn't hesitate to exploit the full dynamic range of the Bowl, taking full advantage of his beefed up touring unit to press the outer limits of the local noise restrictions, or performing simply with guitar to a rapt and hushed audience.  The songs from last year's "Bon Iver, Bon Iver", on Jagjaguwar, were ably fleshed out live, growing beyond the LP versions.

The elephant in the room, of course, is For Ever, For Emma, and he artfully seeded the set with songs from that LP from the middle of the set on, not allowing it to overshadow the newer material. The rearrangement of "Creature Fear", (below), shows off just how far he's come, evolving from it's home recorded origins into a jazzy strut that explodes into a noisy conclusion.

The highlight of the evening was a stark reading of "Re: Stacks".  His acoustic version was a brave choice, given the size of the audience, and the highest compliment one can give is the lack of the usual talkers that destroy quieter songs.  He silenced them all.

Keep your eyes out for an upcoming Austin City Limits that the band is taping at this very moment!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

tUnE-yArDs live: Merrill In Your Face!

15 APRIL, 2012
Merrill Garbus, (AKA tUne-yArDs), descended upon Soho Santa Barbara fresh from working over the crowd at Coachella.  The touring version of tUnE-yArDs includes bassist Nate Brenner & two sax players, who not only replicated the record, but gave it added warmth & oomph.  If you've yet to experience this entity, there is plenty below to keep you entertained.  Suffice it to say, it was a night of magic, and I'll fall back on the sounds and pictures to tell the story. 
tUnE-yArDs is making the rounds on W H O K I L L, their second LP, and a comparative nuclear detonation, after the charming lo-fi world folk of the debut, Birdbrain.  It is polarizing stuff, and it seems if you lean towards the Talking Heads circa Remain In Light, the Dirty Projectors or Bjork, it should be right up your alley.

Also of note are two of the Mimi Cave produced videos for "Bizness" and "My Country", starring kids from the San Francisco Rock Project.  They are currently conducting a Kickstarter to raise money for a lending library of instruments for the kids, if you're so inclined.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Queen For A Night: Florence and the Machine live

14 APRIL, 2012
I keep thinking of Florence and the Machine as 'our little secret', having caught her a few years back at Coachella as she burst into our concsiousness.  As the sold out crowd at Saturday night's Santa Barbara County Bowl show would attest: The secret is out.

This was the official kickoff of their North American jaunt, and if their subsequent Coachella reception is any indication-it should be an amazing tour.  The band just released an 'Unplugged' record, but there was nothing unplugged about this show, which leaned heavily on material from last year's sophomore effort Ceremonials, and featured a full complement, the two drummers and backup singers adding to the majesty of the songs.

Clad lithely in a catsuit topped with an amazing cape, Florence reared back and let the Voice do the work, bouncing exuberantly around the perimeter of the stage, scarcely able to contain her excitement.  It is so good to have her back.

Only If For A Night   iTunes Link
What the Water Gave Me  iTunes Link 
Cosmic Love   iTunes Link 
Dog Days Are Over   iTunes Link
Between Two Lungs   iTunes Link
Heartlines   iTunes Link
Leave My Body   iTunes Link
Shake It Out   iTunes Link
Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)   iTunes Link
Spectrum   iTunes Link
You've Got the Love   iTunes Link 
Lover to Lover   iTunes Link
Never Let Me Go
No Light, No Light
Opening duties for the show were handled splendidly by Dev Hynes, (the artist formerly known as Lightspeed Champion), whose current gig is billed as Blood Orange.  His one man guitar with laptop samples routine started pleasantly enough, built to a slow boil, ending with a nasty raveup that got the early arrivals' full attention, and surely won him new converts. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Radiohead/Other Lives in Santa Barbara

12 APRIL 2012
Radiohead once again made the trip to Santa Barbara County Bowl on a stormy Thursday evening, serving as a warmup for their Saturday headlining spot at Coachella.  Fortunately, they seem attached to a place that they've far outgrown-this being their 3rd appearance there, and the audience braved the elements that turned the night into an unforgettable show.
One way to read the set is as a powerful response to the mixed reviews that greeted last years TKOL. My personal theory is that the avalanche of music available now and the amped up time cycle has led to sloppiness in reviews from not enough quality time spent listening, in the rush to judgement.
TKOL (to me) is the purest distillation of Radiohead, and really came to life the most in the live renditions of the songs.
To translate the rhythmic complexity of the LP, the band brought aboard Portishead's touring drummer, and the experiment definitely worked.  "Good Morning Mr. Magpie" was an unexpected full frontal assault.  The new songs that have appeared during the tour, "Staircase" and "Identikit", surfaced, as well as post King Of Limbs single "Supercollider".

The rain held off for awhile, and when it did make its appearance, it served to heighten the mood, notably during "Lotus Flower", and "These Are My Twisted Words".  It also served to remind one just how often rain comes up in Radiohead songs...The mood was lightened in the first encore during a breakdown in the intro to "Separator", as it was so eloquently put from the stage: "There's a mouse under my pedal".
They slipped in "Planet Telex" at the end of the first encore, and finished out the night with an always epic "Paranoid Android".  Not surprisingly, despite Mother Nature's best efforts, the seats were full of the hardy faithful to the end.

01 “Bloom”
02 “15 Step”
03 “Morning Mr. Magpie”
04 “Staircase”
05 “Codex”
06 “The Daily Mail”
07 “Myxomatosis”
08 “The Gloaming”
09 “These Are My Twisted Words”
10 “Pyramid Song”
11 “Supercollider”
12 “Lotus Flower”
13 “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi”
14 “Feral”
15 “Little By Little”
16 “Idioteque”
encore 1:
17 “Separator”
18 “Nude”
19 “Identikit”
20 “Planet Telex”
encore 2:
21 “Give Up The Ghost”
22 “Reckoner”
23 “Paranoid Android”
 Also, here is the entirety of their Coachella set:

Other Lives, (from Oklahoma), carried out the opening duties with vigor.  Their last Santa Barbara appearance was at Soho, opening for The Rosebuds.  In the fall they opened for Bon Iver, and have spent the spring working across the States with Radiohead.  Their open, cinematic sound-which made such an impression in a small club, took on a new life here. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Heaven Will Now Go To 11: R.I.P. Jim Marshall

Jim Marshall, The Man Behind The Stack, has passed away at 88.  His battle with cancer was ended with a series of strokes.  The working drummer invented his first amp in the '60's, and by the end of his storied career had been awarded the Order of the British Empire.  He was nicknamed the 'Father Of Loud", and as founder of Marshall Amplification, he was the power behind the throne for generations of guitarists, from Jimi Hendrix to J. Mascis, and leaves a proud legacy, and a company that states: "Where he is going is about to get louder"...

(photo of J. Mascis courtesy of Gordon Withers, Washington, DC 2010)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Citizen Rollins

 Henry Rollins took a moment from his gallivanting around the world to touch down and spend some quality time at SLO Brew in San Luis Obispo, sharing his observations, pithy and otherwise, doing his standard two hour plus, no break, no water, barely blinking spiel to a house of diehards who eagerly lapped up the wit and wisdom of Citizen Rollins.
The evening swung between hilarious and heartbreaking, Rollins riffing off an Abraham Lincoln speech to lightly touch on the current election, bemoaning the loss of entertainment value as certain candidates are shed from the process, extolling the wonder of Austin, Texas, Planned Parenthood, and Tom Waits and Omelettes...
The second act, as it were, worked off of letters he's received, The Joy Of Turning 50, what a badass Dolly Parton is, and life in the van, before turning to the final stage, and the highlight of the evening: his most recent travels to North Korea and Haiti.  His travels are always a good reminder of the universal currency of humanity-no matter whom the leaders of a particular country are, there is joy to be found among the people.
And so ended another peek into the endlessly fascinating world of Henry Rollins.

If you want to keep up with Henry, he is still doing his radio show, having migrated from the late 103.1 FM to his current home of KCRW.
If you've never had the please of live inundation in Mr. Rollins vision, here's a taste:

Monday, April 2, 2012

Live: Cults/Spectrals

 24 MARCH, 2012
 Spectrals is Louis Jones, a young Englishman whose debut album came out last year on Slumberland.  It's low frills melodic rock, with the observational acuity and sly wit of Nick Lowe, and musical flourishes reminiscent of the Smiths.  If there's a pocket comparison, call him Kurt Vile's English cousin.

Set started with no fuss, just plug in and go...The flying bass player provided a nice visual foil for the leader as the set progressed.
As evidenced by the poor keyboard player during "Confetti", (seen below), it soon became evident that they were fighting forces beyond their control-a balky sound system that conspired to plague their set.

However, the band fought back gamely, with good humor, and finished on a high note. 
It's always enlightening to see how a band responds to adversity, and Spectrals passed the test with flying colors.  It was a treat to see their first tour of the States, and I hope they'll return soon.

 Cults emerged from the darkness to graduate to barely lit, and slammed out a powerful set, bringing the songs from their first LP alive with a vengeance. Madeline Follin is a confident presence onstage, but that was probably lost in most of the club, if I could barely make her out from 8 feet away.

The set was under an hour, but delivered with a sharpness that intensified the songs delivered, including a cover of Leonard Cohen's 'Everybody Knows', that, (no kidding), prompted an older couple to throw up their hands and flee.  The band actually acquitted themselves well on what's become something of an indie standard since Concrete Blonde covered it.

San Diego's Mrs. Magician opened the night with an impeccably tight set of tunes that relied on today's standard indie trope, reverbed surf guitar.  They managed to find a way to make it their own, and their debut album should be seeing the light of day this month.