Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cleared For Takeoff: Jason Lytle live

21 OCTOBER, 2012
 Soho Santa Barbara, in conjunction with Club Mercy, rose to the occasion for a second straight night, with the appearance of Jason Lytle.  After a packed, and rather vocal, house for Beth Orton the previous night, this show was criminally ill-attended, and it was totally their loss.  Lytle seemed to dispense with a set list, making it up as he went, and pulled off what turned out to be a very special night.  The maximum number of people I counted over the course of the night was 18, but they were blessed, as Lytle gave stunning renditions of tracks from his brand new LP, Dept. Of Disappearance, the previous Yours Truly, The Commuter, as well as grabbing Grandaddy tracks from his past, and throwing in a breathtaking, (and relevant), cover of the Beach Boys "In My Room".  It was nice to finally see Grandaddy back in August, and lay that particular ghost to rest.  Grandaddy favorites included "Jed's Other Poem (Beautiful Ground)" and "Underneath The Weeping Willow" from Sophtware Slump, as well as "I'm On Standby" from Sumday.  Working with only one other player, he worked on guitar and keyboards, occasionally switching off to a piano.
To see Lytle unleash one of his finest works, and then see it performed in a small club is the veritable frosting on the cake.  Rather then dwell on the town folk who couldn't get up off it for this show, I'd rather shine a light on the two youngsters who drove all the way up from LA just for this!  Hopefully, their memories of the show rival mine.  One of the benefits of the sparse turnout, however, was the ability to curl up at the foot of the stage, and when Lytle's keyboards were at full burble, it was like being inside your own spaceship. 

Opening the show, and setting the tone for the whole evening with a heartfelt performance in front of even less people, was Sea Of Bees.  The Sacramento based project is masterminded by multi-instrumentalist Jules, and onstage was joined by Amber for thrilling harmonies.  "Gone" and "Take" from the current LP, Orangefarben were the highlights of the night.  Next up for them is a trip to the U.K.

 Jason Lytle: Dept. Of Disappearance-out now on Anti-
Sea Of Bees: Orangefarben-out now on Team Love
Lytle/Sea Of Bees split 45 is available for pre-order here
It will be released 11/23 for Record Store Day's 2012 Black Friday Celebration-
There's only 500, so you might not want to sleep on it

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Long Time Coming: Beth Orton live

20 OCTOBER, 2012
In an embarrassment of riches for Santa Barbara, a stretch of three days of top.shelf singer/songwriters hit town.  First up was Beth Orton, fresh off a six year hiatus, celebrating her new LP Sugaring Season on Anti- Records.  Getting married, having kids, breaking writers block, and moving towards more of a pure folk vision all influence this triumphant return to action. 
Soho being a restaurant, as well as a music performance space, is never more evident than on a Saturday night, and after a hello, she immediately called out the audience for talking over the opening act, (her husband Sam Amidon).  It was a nice piece of work, and a far cry from her stage nervousness in days past.  Having cleared the air, she launch into Sugaring Season's opening track "Magpie", and the spell was cast.  Over the course of the evening, she worked in dollops of her back catalogue, including a luminous reading of "Pass In Time" from Central Reservation, but the evening's main focus, as it should be, was on the current.  Joined by Amidon on violin for a few tunes, she maintained her intensity throughout what turned out to be a winning evening.

Sam Amidon provided the opening honors, and in a short set, managed to give a clean accounting of his talents, spinning esoteric stage patter while maintaining a deadpan expression.  He dropped in a John Martyn cover, before switching off to violin, transforming scratchy noise into an intense jig.  After which, he switched off to banjo for a bluegrass excursion, then dropped a cover of Tears For Fears' "Head Over Heels", which seemed to grab the crowd's attention briefly.  His allusion to a babbling brook in the intro to his last song was lost on the three middle aged matrons in front of me, tongues apparently loosened with alcohol, who babbled on ceaselessly, toward the ends of time.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Spreading The Gospel: Jeff The Brotherhood live

17 OCTOBER, 2012
Jeff The Brotherhood
Nashville noise rockers Jeff The Brotherhood brought their travelling circus to town to bring the word on their new LP, Hypnotic Nights.  Along for the ride were fellow Nashville denizens Diarrhea Planet and LA's Colleen Green.  Over the course of the tour, all the bands seem to have found their niche to make it a perfect night out for the garage rock afficionnado.
Jeff The Brotherhood hit the stage and played a structurally shambolic but musically hyper tight set, taking requests from the lovable young rowdies in the front, and just plain getting it on.  Even in the noisy recesses of the Velvet Jones, you couldn't keep down their melodies, and ultimately that will be what keeps them on the road to what could be a slow steady Black Keys style rise to stardom.  With stark lights cutting through a belching smoke machine and amps on full, Jeff The Brotherhood ran roughshod across their catalogue and put a punctuation mark on an excellent evening.

Diarrhea Planet
 In the run up to the show, my major question was: "Can anyone possibly live up to the name Diarrhea Planet?"  The answer turned out to be affirmative.  It started with cramming four guitars onto the tiny stage, aping bad metal mannerisms-these guys punched all my hate buttons, but I could not hate. "Welcome to band practice..." was a sample of the droll in between song patter, and it all worked.   The key word here is fun-these guys were genuinely enjoying being up there.  They transcended the Skynyrd-isms to achieve a state of drunken grace that rivaled the Replacements.  Turns out that it's a Diarrhea Planet, and we're just living on it.  (If only the threatened cover of James Brown's "The Big Payback" had materialized...)

Colleen Green
A lady, her bass, and a drum machine-what more do you need, really. LA based Colleen Green is making waves and winning hearts opening this tour.  On first blush, it's tempting to try to fill in the blank spots on the canvas, and imagine how it would be to have other instruments there, but as the set winds on, the sneakiness of her melodies becomes apparent, and then the realization is, how easy it would be to bury them. While Green has played in a variety of formats, the live versions were a revelation, and losing the buzzing guitar and stripping off the effects on her vocals added a nice bittersweet tinge. The set, spanning her LP Milo Goes To Compton and EP's Green One and Cujo, was short but sweet, with the final song standing out as the highlight.  It occurred to me that even with two thirds of the bands remaining, it would have been very easy to listen to Colleen Green the rest of the night.

Jeff The Brotherhood

Jeff The Brotherhood

Jeff The Brotherhood

Jeff The Brotherhood

Jeff The Brotherhood
Diarrhea Planet
Diarrhea Planet

Diarrhea Planet
Colleen Green

Colleen Green

Colleen Green

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Peter Gabriel Returns To The Santa Barbara Bowl

09 OCTOBER, 2012

On a beautiful fall evening at the Santa Barbara Bowl, Peter Gabriel returned to grace the stage.  Having been here for the first time last year with his orchestral tour, this evening's business was a look back to the album So, played in its entirety, and then some, by his band from that era: Tony Levin, Manu Katché, David Rhodes, and David Sancious, along with the backing singers who served as his opening act.
Each player brought his own special magic to the proceedings: Rhodes guitar added fire and grit, and E Street Band veteran Sancious ruled the roost from behind his keyboards, adding a notable swing to the arrangements, especially on "No Self Control".  The reputation of the rhythm section, Tony Levin and Manu Katché certainly precedes itself, the only question being: would the pairing of the two on the same stage leave enough oxygen in the atmosphere?  Levin was a focal point throughout the evening, and Katché handled percussion duties with great aplomb, doing intricate things effortlessly. 
The show was billed as "So-Back To Front", and Gabriel came out to introduce the format with a sly reference to a multi-course meal, explaining the sets of acoustic and lesser heard music, a full band set, and finally, So in its entirety.
The acoustic set began with a beautiful unfinished song, then proceeded to Secret World era songs, before the first jaw-dropping moment of the night, a harrowing "Family Snapshot", from his third solo LP.  Other highlights of the first two sets were a crowd aided "Solsbury Hill", and a transcendant take on "Washing Of The Water".
The So portion was fascinating to audience watch.  By far his most commercially successful effort, the audience gave full vocal support to the hits "Big Time" and "Sledgehammer", but its easy to forget that this album sprung from a dark period in Gabriel's life, as "Don't Give Up" certainly pointed at. The major set piece, "Mercy Street", featured Gabriel singing flat on his back, curling into a fetal position, but managing to maintain complete control over the audience.
An unexpected bonus to the So set was the inclusion of the rarely heard "This Is The Picture (Excellent Birds)", originally a duet with Laurie Anderson.  The night's final surprise was an onstage appearance from actor John Cusack and director Cameron Crowe, who's inclusion of "In Your Eyes" in a pivotal scene in "Say Anything", not only ensured the classic stature of the song itself, but gave a healthy second wind to an LP already in release, and Gabriel was effusive in his thanks.  As a movie town, Santa Barbara certainly ate it up.
No matter what the program, it seems, a Peter Gabriel show will close with "Biko", and this was no exception.  The echoes of what may be Gabriel's finest moment rang around the surrounding hills, long into the night.

John Cusack, onstage at the Santa Barbara Bowl, photo courtesy of Peter Gabriel

 Peter Gabriel is offering recordings of all* of the shows from this tour as part of his Encore Series.
*The caveat, of course, being this show..."Due to arena restrictions, the Santa Barbara show will not be part of the Peter Gabriel 2012 Encore Series."

Monday, October 15, 2012

Space Is The Place: The XX At Hollywood Forever Cemetery

13 OCTOBER, 2012

Hollywood Forever Cemetery has a knack for booking artists that thrive on atmosphere, and in the case of this particular show, could they have picked any act more atmospheric?  The XX have made an indelible impact on the music world in a very short time, and their appearance came on the heels of a brand new LP, Coexist.   Properly tuned up by two support acts, the sold out crowd was straining anxiously when the lights finally dimmed.
Space is a major concern to The XX, and they made the most of it, using the silences for suspense before the dynamic shifts that wowed the crowd.  The band, Oliver Sim, Romy Madley-Croft, and Jamie Smith, managed to work in healthy chunks of both their albums, and their onstage demeanor has grown more assured, evident from the opening "Angels" onward. 
All in all, a triumphant return to Los Angeles, and a nice table-setter for their gig the following day at the Treasure Island Music Festival in San Francisco.

Angels/Heart Skipped A Beat/Fiction/Crystalised/Fantasy/Basic Space/Missing/Reunion/Sunset/Night Time/Swept Away/Shelter/VCR/Islands/Chained/Infinity+Intro/Tides/Stars
(courtesy of Setlist.FM)
middle support act John Talabot
 See the brand new XX video for "Chained" below:

2:54-Live At The Hollywood Forever Cemetery

2:54, an up and coming English quartet, was given the place of honor opening for The XX on Saturday, 13 October, at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.  The sound was exquisite, and the band more than did justice to the songs from their self-titled debut LP from this year, (out on Fiction-UK, Fat Possum-US).  Colette and Hannah Thurlow are the driving force in the band, augmented by the steady rhythm section of Joel Porter and Alex Robins.
"Scarlet" and "Creeping" were the high points of the set, but, like their LP, the band never drifted far from its comfort zone, maintaining a relatively high bar throughout.  Their first LA appearance was at the Troubadour in June, and they managed to bookend this trip with an in-store at Amoeba Records.  Looking very forward to their next trip to the States.