Friday, January 18, 2013

Yo La Tengo at Amoeba, LA

17 JANUARY, 2013
As a precursor to their tour promoting the brand new LP, Fade, on Matador Records, Yo La Tengo has booked in a short series of in store celebrations to kick things off, including Fingerprints in Long Beach, Easy Street Records in Seattle, and Amoeba stores in San Francisco and Los Angeles. I went in-depth on the album for The Owl Magazine, and positively drooled at the prospect of hearing these songs live.
The Amoeba Music superstore on Sunset bucked the trend of the decaying industry to survive and thrive by appealing across the board to people who love music. Still amused by my last encounter there with an old Japanese woman in the jazz section who spoke no english, but by pointing at the albums in her pile and watching her face light up, we were speaking the same language.
Hoboken's own Yo La Tengo alternately softly charmed, and rocked the faces off of the all ages crowd at Amoeba. They were lined deep, and the huge Sunset Strip building was filled to capacity.  Ostensibly to promote their new LP, Fade, the band went off script as usual, making room for covers and whatever they wanted to do.
After clearing the air with a kickoff rocker, they went mid-tempo for "Is That Enough", took it all the way down for a hushed "I'll Be Around" that brought the store to as close to a dead silence as I've ever heard, as the boisterous crowd grew reverent. Drummer Georgia Hubley provided very subtle shadings. Another from their seemingly inexhaustable bag of covers featured bassist James McNew on lead vocals, and served to set up the set-piece, so to speak. Moving back into volume dealer mode, the band locked into a bracing run through album opener "Ohm", Ira Kaplan ending the song in a hail of feedback that continued over the applause at the end of the song. He cut the feedback to one droning noise that the band used to instantly segue into album closer "Before We Run", with Georgia taking the vocal lead, and ending the show on a triumphant note.

At the artist's request, there was no video shooting, but here's a related little gem, and a taste of the new album...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Birds Of A Feather: Jennifer O'Connor/Chris Brokaw live

12 JANUARY, 2013
In the midst of a brief co-headlining West Coast tour, Jennifer O'Connor and Chris Brokaw landed in LA, setting up shop at Eagle Rock's Permanent Records for an afternoon in store before the evening's main event at the Bootleg Theater. The diversity of the day pretty much encapsulated the run of dates, which included the Olympia Library and the previous evening's gig in a Merced living room, (which was pronounced by O'Connor as one of the best gigs thus far).
The in store was fun and intimate, with a handful of toddlers rocking out down in front to enliven the proceedings. O'Connor led off, and a few songs, including a sublime "Hidden Hills" from her latest, I Want What You Want, was joined by Brokaw.  After a short break, Brokaw took center stage, starting acoustically, then switching to electric, (sending the toddlers scurrying), stilling the room with "The Apetites", the centerpiece from last year's Gambler's Ecstasy. O'Connor returned to help finish off the proceedings.  A perfect taster for the evening ahead-many thanks to Permanent LA for hosting.
Jennifer O'Connor, NYC based singer/songwriter, is currently working on her fifth album.  She made a splash with The Color and the Light on Red Panda in 2005. Subsequent LP's Over The Mountain, Across The Valley, and Back To The Stars, (2006), and Here With Me, (2008), saw her deepening her sound, and 2011's I Want What You Want was released on her own Kiam Records.
Chris Brokaw cut his teeth in the Boston scene, drumming with Codeine, then moving to guitar with Come for four albums in the 90's. Afterwards he became a go-to sideman for countless musicians, and branched out into soundtracks and collaborations, also making time for solo albums Incredible Love and, most recently, Gambler's Ecstasy. Having recently relocated to Seattle, hopefully we'll be seeing more of him. Interestingly, both artists spent time at Matador Records, although in different decades.
The action shifted over to the Bootleg, with Brokaw opening and once again splitting his set between acoustic and electric, and there upon managing to drown out a particularly conversational crowd.  "Danny Borracho" more than did the job, and O'Connor lent evocative harmonies to "Into The Woods."  Casting aside brute objectivity, Brokaw's dipping into the back pages for his Come song "Recidivist" reduced me to a tiny puddle of Wayne.  Starker and even more menacing done solo, if that could be possible.
O'Connor took the closing spot for the evening and ran with it, sticking heavily with the latest album, and also previewing a new song from an album due in the fall.  In the middle of her set, she brought out Brokaw, and he spun ghostly twangy lines that made her "Always In Your Mind", from Here With Me, one of the high points of the evening.  Finishing up on her own, she negotiated audience requests, diplomatically settling on one in her comfort zone.  With her final pair of songs, she let the audience have the tempo choice: slow/fast or fast/slow.  The audience went with the latter, and it was on a haunting note that the night ended. It was a fulfilling night from two artists executing their own visions, and striking sparks when they played together. It would be interesting to see where an album together would take them...

Lucy, House Dog at the Bootleg

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Ghost In The Machine

On this, the occasion of his 66th birthday, David Bowie chose to drop the cake directly in our laps...Do Not Pass Go, and Don't Even Think About Those Two Benjamins..."Where Are We Now" appeared entirely without warning this morning, and the reception it's gotten on its viral trip thus far is heartening, to say the least.  Working again with Tony Visconti, it's an understated gem, and whets the interest for The Next Day, the full-length release in March.

An acquaintance with his Berlin-era works is the key to fully appreciating this. In some eyes, the Berlin Trilogy of Heroes, Low, and Lodger are considered his high-water mark in a career of high-water marks.  I giggle to think of today's auto-tuned art-pop wannabees, wondering to themselves just how he makes it look so damned easy.