Sunday, March 31, 2013

As Falls Veronica, So Falls Veronica Falls

29 MARCH, 2013
While not a patch on the Motown Revues of yore, the Slumberland caravan of stars made it's way down the west coast, landing at the venerable Troubadour for friday night's billing of Veronica Falls, with San Francisco's Brilliant Colors and Golden Grrrls from Glasgow supporting.
Veronica Falls continues to evolve as a touring unit, giving over most of the first half of their set to material from their stellar new LP, "Waiting For Something To Happen". Like the LP, their live takes show a band consolidating their strengths, and sharpening their attack. The guitar swirl of "Teenage" and "Broken Toy" were early highlights. By midway through, they started unleashing songs from their self-titled debut, and the crowd happily ate them up. "Beachy Head", their ode to a suicide destination, garnered an enthusiastic response. It was a pleasure to see the growth in the band since their last visit to LA last year, and if the performance is any indication, you can set a high ceiling on them. They're very close to perfecting their particular strain of 'mope and go', and it will be interesting to see where they venture next.

Brilliant Colors did a short, sharp set, blazing through tracks from their two LP's to date, offering up an unceasing level of intensity. Lead guitarist/singer Jess Scott is a compelling presence, holding court for what was, for me, an all too brief set. They'll be off across the pond next week, heading to the U.K. for a brief tour.
Brilliant Colors
Brilliant Colors
Golden Grrrls made the most of their set on their first trip to the States. The Glasgow outfit focused heavily on their self-titled debut, and had a nice early turnout for their set. Their infectious jangle set the tone for the whole evening. For you East Coasters, they'll be doing a string of dates next week with Sea Lions.

Golden Grrrls
Golden Grrrls
Golden Grrrls

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Unsinkable Specials

22 MARCH, 2013
Rising up in Coventry, England to spearhead the Two Tone Movement in the late '70's, The Specials preached a gospel of unity, a devotion to old ska and reggae, and cast a jaundiced eye at the Thatcher-bedeviled state of the nation. While shorn of founding member Jerry Dammers, and with Neville Staple stepping back for health reasons, it was not untoward to expect the group to be a shadow of itself. But, this is the Specials, and the flame still burns. Powering through a lengthy set resting heavily on their two albums and fistful of singles, the men showed all the energy of yore, and kept a frightening pace, turning the floor of the Ventura Theater into a seething dance party.
Stateside appearances by the band have been all too infrequent...most recently in 2010 they did a short tour around an appearance at Coachella. This year it was popping up at SXSW in Austin that found them tacking on some west coast gigs, including this one.
The faded glory of the Ventura Theater, in a city that's seen it's fair share of gang-related issues, turned out to be the perfect place to see them. All their touchstones were present and accounted for, from "Do The Dog" to "Too Much Too Young" to "Rat Race" to "Gangsters" to "Monkey Man", song after song in an unending rush. For the most part, they let the music manifest the message, but made a point to have the youngsters in the frenzied front lifted into the photo pit, then, in a touching moment, brought up onstage, and blessed with a dedication to them of: "A Message To You, Rudy".
Their epic English #1, "Ghost Town", was a fitting encore, and they polished off the night with their untouchable cover of "The Guns Of Navarone", causing one last wave of dance commotion on the floor.

 Coachella 2010

 Kicking off the evening was San Diego's Little Hurricane, a guitar(s) and drums duo that made a hellacious racket in service of debut LP, Homewreckers. Most people would plump for the obvious White Stripes comparison, but for me it was more like Two Gallants crossed with a dose of Sabbath sludge for good measure. Very much look forward to seeing them again.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Noise Pop 2013: DIIV

02 MARCH, 2013
On the second of two sold-out nights at San Francisco's Brick and Mortar Hall, DIIV lived up to their billing, putting an exclamation point on the 21st edition of the Noise Pop Festival. Last time we caught up with DIIV, they had just crawled off a flight back from Europe and worked through a set opening for Wild Nothing in Santa Barbara that was rough, but gave ample evidence of what was to come. The LP Oshin was a mere template for the live sound, and the roughness of the show gave it energy.
With the Brick and Mortar gigs, DIIV as a headliner did nothing to duck the spotlight, embracing the challenge with a full band that's honed the enlarged sound into a battering force, including some new material for the hardcore. Leader Zachary Cole Smith displayed his usual kinked sense of humor, performing the first chunk of the show in a ski mask. Aside from new material, the highlight of the show was "Dowsed", prompting a frantic thrashing in the pit up front. All told, a nice sendoff to Austin (***) for DIIV, and a nice momentum builder for their upcoming round of high-profile opening gigs.
(***) In a series of posts on his Twitter feed, Zachary Cole Smith made his feelings on the whole SXSW scene abundantly clear:
DIIV (@DIIV): Hi Austin. Fuck SXSW. There... I said it. Here, the music comes last. 5 minute set-up, no sound check, 15 minute set. The "music" element... all a front, it's the first thing to be compromised. Corporate money everywhere but in the hands of the artists, at what is really...
ust a glorified corporate networking party. Drunk corporate goons and other industry vampires and cocaine. Everyone is drunk...
..being cool. "Official" bureaucracy and all their mindless rules. Branding, branding, branding. It's bullshit... sorry. -Cole
For the record, i'm actually having a blast at SXSW

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Noise Pop 2013: Wax Idols

02 MARCH, 2013
After the smoke cleared from SISU's thoroughly satisfying set, I was ready to kick back and enjoy the rest of the night, looking quite forward to seeing DIIV again, and not quite aware of what was about to hit me. Oakland's Wax Idols hit the stage, and 'took no prisoners' is putting it lightly. Frankly, the entire set was a blur of sweaty goodness for me, and fortunately I had the presence of mind to roll tape and take pictures. The reconstruction is hazy, but thus: Fronted by Heather Fedewa, (AKA Hether Fortune), the band blazed through a set that basically premiered their new LP, Discipline + Desire, out 26 March on Slumberland.
Leading with the LP's unholy trinity opening sequence of "Stare Back", "Sound Of A Void", and "When It Happens" in a mad rush, before falling back on older single "William Says", and a measured, (compared to the preceding), take on "Human Condition", from debut album No Future, (2011-Hozac). Bassist Amy Rosenoff shines, in that laconic Billy Zoom poker-faced way, while new drummer Rachel Travers holds down the fort with power and grace. Guitarist Jennifer Mundy completes the lineup, and her interplay w/Fortune is compelling to watch.
Dipping back into the new LP for "Ad Re Ian", "Scent Of Love", and "Stay In", they brought the ten song set to a rousing conclusion with last year's 7" "Schadenfreude".
Based on the evidence of this set, they appear to be primed for a breakthrough this coming week at the annual SXSW bash in Austin, Texas. Attendees take note, this is a band to put on your must-see list...As for me, we'll cross paths again in LA down the road, and hopefully I'll be able to give a more lucid account.