Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Joy Formidable at the Bowl

26 OCTOBER, 2013
The Joy Formidable returned to Santa Barbara, cashing in an upgrade from their last appearance at Soho to the spacious confines of the SB Bowl stage. When last we saw them, they made a rare club appearance at the venerable Troubadour in LA, roughly a year ago, getting back on the road in preparation for their January release, Wolf's Law. As the guests of Passion Pit, they were given a healthy opening slot that they tackled with brutal efficiency, not batting an eye at the guests drifting in, but keeping their focus on the job at hand. Their set was primarily of the new LP, with a few bones thrown at the end, including a showstopping take on "Whirring" to please the hard core. They always live up to their name onstage, and while the new LP is as polished and precise as anything they've ever done, it didn't detract from their live energy at all, as the new songs were stripped to their core, and the slower songs were dropped in favor of a short, sharp, shocked approach. Kudos to Passion Pit for having the faith in themselves to follow this group on stage, not an enviable task, as Joy Formidable once again showed that they are a force of nature as a live act.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Upset Runs For The Roses...

24 OCTOBER, 2013
With only a handful of shows under their belt, Upset set the table for their debut album She's Gone, released next week on Don Giovanni, with a blistering set that answered all questions. Leader Ali Koehler was a winning combination of humble and asskicking, making jokes about her guitar volume and the newness of the group, but don't be fooled: the veteran drummer from Vivian Girls and Best Coast might be standing up front for a change, but she knows the drill. Leading off with album opener "Back To School", they settled in quickly, taking "Never Wanna" at a breakneck pace that trumped the recorded version, and revealed the band's secret weapon, ex-Hole drummer Patty Schemel, who kicked the band forward at every turn, and whose fortitude undoubtedly allowed Koehler the peace of mind to proceed up front.
Shifting gears down to first single "Oxfords and Wingtips", where their harmonies won the day, and it wasn't long before audience members pushed forward to present the band with their first onstage flowers. The remainder of their nine song set maintained the energy. Jenn Prince, (La Sera), was lively on guitar, lending a sublime solo to the title track, and Rachel Haden played supersub on bass for this date. She was loose and right in the groove with Schemel the whole set, and one hopes that her schedule will allow this arrangement to be permanent. The seeds are there, and it's scary to think how overwhelming this band will be a few dozen dates down the road.

 Related news: In addition to their debut LP, Upset also appears on a cool split single of Guided By Voices covers, out now on Salinas Records, along with Screaming Females, Swearin', and Waxahatchee.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Putting On The Warpaint...

12 OCTOBER, 2013
Setting the stage for a grand return, Warpaint surfaced at the El Rey Theater on Saturday night, following a Friday night show in Pomona. The energy level was high at the sold out gig, with confirmation finally arriving about their new LP. (See all the way below for a trailer of their forthcoming collaboration with director Chris Cunningham: "Love Is To Die"...). Back at the 2012 FYF Fest, their premier of new tunes caused much excitement, and now it looks like the wait is finally over.
Of the new tracks, "No Way Out" was a standout, and old favorites "Undertow" and "Composure" got a frenzied reception. Warpaint is hitting the road internationally, heading to UK, Europe, Russia, and Australia for a spell that will keep them out into March of next year. I would not be at all surprised to see them make waves at Coachella next year, but that's one for Higher Prognosticators...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mugs Away: Cate Le Bon at the El Rey

12 OCTOBER, 2013
 Cate Le Bon hit the El Rey Theater Saturday night, the second of two dates opening for Warpaint, and road-testing new material from the forthcoming LP, Mug Museum. "Fold The Cloth" from Cyrk proved the ideal opener, and the eager fans were already applauding at the cold ending, when the band came back in and she ground out the groove to close. Grind is the operative word, with the band finding a comfortable medium between pastoral songs and a Velvet Underground chug. She debuted four songs from the new LP, "Are You With Me Now" and "I Can't Help You", followed later in the set by "Wild", (once again boasting a furious coda), and the delirious closer "Sisters". December through February, (post album release), she'll be hitting the road in earnest for a North American tour, and we'll catch back up in December in LA to see how things are progressing. Immediately following, the Welsh native will be headed back to the UK for her first tour since relocating to L.A.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Passion Play: Avett Brothers Live

10 OCTOBER, 2013
Rolling into the home stretch of their 2013 season, the Santa Barbara Bowl continued a year of gambling with edgier acts that sometimes bore fruit financially, sometimes not. Each event, however, was a building block in the solidification of their historic relationship with the city, and an attempt, not to give the people what they want, but what they need.
The Avett Brothers made their first headlining appearance at the Bowl, and they did justice to the venue, combining their tour-honed playing with lush vocal harmonies that combined with the fog drifting in off the nearby ocean to create memories for those in attendance. With a new album on the way next week, the Avetts were fine tuning new material, as good a demarcation between tours as can be had, since it can be said that they never truly seem to leave the road. Witnessing the evolution over time of the group has been a treat, from Coachella appearances in a tent (2007), to commanding the outdoor stage in 2010, to this very evening.
They were in fine form throughout, but seemed to find a higher gear with a trio of: older gem "Pretty Girl From Chile", the new "Vanity", and their live standard "Murder In The City". Touring cellist Joe Kwon was on hand, lending his verve to the set, shredding strings, and generally having a good old time. They finished the regular set out with a rocking "Kick Drum Heart", and got the crowd engaged on "I and Love and You". While the new-folk wunderkinds will come and go, the Avett Brothers remain, making their case for, as Dave Alvin termed it, American Music.