VANISHED EMPIRES

Dedicated to classics and hits.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Compiled Show Reviews: 2009-2011


Show Review: Wavves @ the Echo (4/15/09)

First of all, Wavves sold out the Echo. Wow. I'll be the first to admit that I totally slept on Wavves, but given his grand total of two shows in San Diego, can you blame me? Yes, I know he was in Fantastic Magic.

Before I went to the show I'd had the first record in my ipod for a month or so. Didn't make much of an impression, but you know, 8.1 on Pitchfork. I mean, fuck, right?

Based on what I'd heard from people who had seen him and from what was on the record, I expected a kid with a guitar and a ipod back up, a lot of noise and feedback and vocals that I couldn't understand. Instead, I heard a very accessible two-piece act (singer/guitar, drums) with solid musicianship and catchy songs.

And did I mention he sold out the Echo on the Wednesday night before Coachella? And that he's 20 years old? He's got the new record on Fat Possum, and he's touring Europe this summer. Incredible.

Wavves success leads me to ask the question, "Why even bother with the local music scene?" And I will be answering that question in oblique fashion over the next several months- let's call it a summer project. My thinking on this subject has evolved considerably since I stopped blogging about music.

So congratulations to Wavves on his success! And if you need any legal advice I'm here...

Oh- and he's got a blog. (GHOST RAMP)

Show Review: Sunday Times, Roxy Jones, Pizza! & Northern Towns
5/25/09\


Junior Metro (ex-Fifty on Their Heels) has a new band and it's called Sunday Times. Sunday Times was the focal point of a mixed local bill at the Soda Bar on Friday night, and I wanted to make some observations.

Soda Bar: Hard to argue with the sound system, management or the crowd. Friday night's gathering was mixed-hipster, "tough guy" with a smattering of normal folks who cleared out early. Later on in the night the bar area was dominated by mixed guy/girl groups and a large tough guy group w/ at least one member who might have actually done some real prison time. The physical layout of the stage splits the crowd into two groups- which is different for sure.

Pizza!: They used to be called "The New Motherfuckers" in a past life. They were/are a cool group that sound like "early talking heads." They also produce- for example Tyler did the new Abe Vigoda EP. They played a good set and the crowd was into it. They are always fun to have around.

Roxy Jones: This is Peter Graves (booker of Soda Bar band)- he sings and plays guitar. I had expected it would be soft indie type stuff but it was instead fairly raw, angry rock-flavored indie- hints of the Replacements or Bob Mould. That kind of style. Roxy is dropping a 7" sooner or later this year so that's something to watch out for.

Sunday Times: This is the new Junior Metro project. They'd played a couple of times around town but I'd held off so as to give them more time to form up the sound. Sunday Times sounds... more clash-y and less buzzcock-y but if you dug Fifty on Their Heels you'll like Sunday Times, too. On the other hand, if you hated Fifty on Their Heels, this is also not going to be something you like.

Northern Town: Opening band; showed up 20 minutes late ("We were recording") played a spirited set that sounded like they listen to a lot of the Clash (Who doesn't?) and reminded me quite literally of So So Glos with so cal Ska bros instead of Brooklyn hipsters. They had some fans out. They left after their set.

Show Review: Sunday Times, Northern Towns & Los Sweepers @ the Casbah
6/16/09

the sweepers at auto cinema, mexicali, mexico

There is no reality but consciousness. In the beginning, right before the big bang, all matter was in unity and all living beings yearn to experience that oneness, that unity. We all want that: To be at one with the universe & to surrender our consciousness and live in blissful harmony for eternity.

The photo above is from the last Los Sweepers show I saw: at the "Auto Cinema" in Mexicali, Mexico on May 11th, 2007. Things I can remember from that night: crossing the border on foot, walking into Mexicali. Driving to the auto cinema. The air burning my throat. Temperature of 100 plus. Watching Slab City perform after midnight.

Last night, Los Sweepers sounded alot better then they did in Mexicali circa 2007. Credit the Casbah sound system for sure. I don't know, garage isn't really my thing, but people dig it for sure and my thought is that Los Sweepers should get together with Andrew Sess/Beaters and record. I bet Andrew could do a really good job recording them, and it would be interesting to hear the result.


I mean can we talk for a bit about white bands ripping off So Cal/Mexican border culture? Black Lips recording in Tijuana- rip off. Let me tell you something about Black Lips in Tijuana- those guys are clowns. Why don't you watch that video I linked to?

Tyvek naming it's interstitial tracks after El Centro and Mexicali- rip off. The band Calexico? They're not from Calexico, they're from Tucson. So let's give Los Sweepers a shot: they are an authentic Imperial Valley area Mexican American garage rock band. Also, they play covers which should be good for all the passive listeners out there.

Northern Towns: My second show w/ Northern Towns. This time I learned that the burly, charismatic front man is actually English, which makes his vocals a little more creditable I guess. I again noticed that Northern Towns has what I would call an above average local band draw. That is to say- they drew a noticeable amount of people who were there to see them specifically. Their performance was very muscular, aggressive punk that combined elements of mod/ska (basslines), late 70s punk rock (jam cover) and some songs that def. reminded me of Fugazi. Honestly, it's a well executed blend of unfashionable genres.

I think the thing with bands that work in non-hipster genres is when it works, it works, you know what I mean? You just have to kill it at the box office with your draw, and then what are people going to say? They aren't going to say anything. They want your audience to come to your show- that's a good thing and 95% of bands don't make it that far. Northern Towns has already made it that far. They should try to get some shows in the beach towns since I'm pretty sure all the Sublime and Slightly Stoopid fans would go nuts. I'm not entirely positive that they have the mix exactly right- seems like Sublime fans would want "more ska" but then what do I know? Nothing. To me Northern Towns occupies a similar space that Delta Spirit did (in a different genre/fan space, obv.) I'll be interested to see "what happens" with the recordings and how they are distributed.

The Last Blog on Earth had this to say about Sunday Times yesterday, "If you’re into Apes of Wrath and Soft Pack and desperately miss The Prayers, then Sunday Times are your new favorite local band. Clever post-punk that sounds like a cross between Dead Milkmen and The Jam." That is a quip! I literally can't say it better myself. I think Seth has perfectly encapsulated the appeal of Sunday Times. Also, Junior's new song was a real hit- no title. Clean that baby up and record it.

Show Review: Woven Bones, Sunday Times, Anasazis @ Soda Bar
6/27/09


         I was impressed both by Woven Bones and the people who came out to see them: many of whom I didn't recognize.  I think the paid door was maybe 75, but most of those people actually seemed to be there to see Woven Bones.  I heard one gentlemen inquire of the bartender whether "the band from Austin was about to play."  I don't know how else to explain that encounter other then someone reading about the show in City Beat:


A great local showcase, but stick around for Austin’s Woven Bones, who combine the creepiest parts of Jesus and Mary Chain with Queens of the Stone Age-style riffage. I’ve almost reached nĂ¼-shoegaze saturation point, but these guys are just too catchy to care.

          Here my observation about their performance:  their songs are v. catchy and accessible and of the sort that would appeal equally to garage fans and 80s/90s british distortion/drone rock fans.  They elicited a positive reaction from the jaded San Diego crowd.  The power of the music eclipses the fact that the stage presentation is minimal- three piece playing their instruments in place.  I was surprised to see the number of pedals involved- that's a positive in my book because it shows that they are working with a palette of sounds.  The drumming is extremely simple but it's counterbalanced by occasionally complex bass line and layers of fuzz/distortion.  

        I purchased three of their seven inches: two on Florida's Needless Records and one on Chicago based Hozac Records.  After listening to them I thought the A side on the Hozac records 7" was really good, but the other two seven inches make them sound like a more-or-less straight up garage band and I think more of the electronics/distortion should be added to make the sound "pop" as they say.  If they are going to do slow songs they need to amp up the atmospherics, just slowing down the fast tunes doesn't work so well.  I think emphasizing the heaviness and darkness of the sound is a winner.

    But the bottom line is that I would certainly be interested in hearing what they could do on a long player at some point.  It makes sense that they would gather up the 7" tracks for that record- though not all of them.  I think the purpose of buying 7"s is the hope that the band will put out a killer full length record.

    Sunday Times actually played after Woven Bones and the crowd thinned out noticeably.  Shame on you, crowd!  Junior has def. written some tuneful songs this time around, and I would suggest that he focus on getting some good recordings of one or two of them and trying to get an out of town label to put it out on a 7" rather then playing more gigs in San Diego.  Without at least one good record, that is going to end up being a waste of time.

    New-ish San Diego buzz band Anasazis were the openers (Heavy Hawaii cancelled) and they are certainly on the "K records" side of the lo fi spectrum.  Similar in design to Christmas Island, the lead singer has a Buddy Hollyish look that might generate some notice.  Also, Mario Orduno is totally into them, so they'll be able to get good shows in the area.  I look forward to hearing the records- which is the same thing I feel about Christmas Island.  I thought the live show was refreshing, but I probably would have to hear recordings to really get into the sound.

   Soda Bar continues to impress.

Show Review: Strange Boys, Coathangers, Heavy Hawaii, Anasazis @ Casbah 7/6/9



This band has a US tour starting next week: it looks like a real death march. This was my second viewing after receiving extremely positive word-of-mouth. This time I thought I noticed improvement in the drumming style. It was more Crystal Stilts and less Beat Happening. If you're going to do the lo fi thing I think you need to get the drum sounds right- I see similar questions that need to be addressed by Christmas Island. I think it needs to be put out there that the lead singer of the Ansazis, who I believe is Chris Rosi (as supposed to Chris Eck, who also plays guitar and sings) looks like Buddy Holly. That's just a fact and I'm sure photographs will confirm it. But I'm here to report that they had a crowd that showed up (relatively) early to see them perform. The audience enjoyed their music.

Here are some Anasazis dates for my out-of-town readers: playing the Smell in Los Angeles, CA on July 13th; New York City on July 24th at Don Pedros.


Has zero friends on myspace, which is just awesome. How fin is that? This is the best scene band ever- it's a three piece that features a cat on harmonium. The sound is v. Animal Collective, Deerhunter w/ wierd modulation on the vox that will appeal to some and irritate the haters. I liked it, crowd liked it. This is a band that should, ideally, put out three seven inches: first one in Chicago on Hozac Records, then one in New York on Captured Tracks, then one locally. That is the scene triangle right there. I promised my wife I wouldn't blog about the 'scene' but again, I just wanted to throw that idea out there: release all three seven inches in succession #1 in fall, #2 right before end of the year (for top 10 lists), #3 in the spring, tour w/ all three to sxsw and enjoy your Stereogum band to watch feature next May.

Joking aside, I really enjoyed Heavy Hawaii, recommend them to all and dig on the whole mystery angle. I support mysticism and wierdness by music acts.



Olympia/DC style girl punk from the ATL, this band had me in mind of Slant 6 and Bratmobile. They feature a keyboardist that ads a certain panache. Although I think I actually wanted to see Coathangers more then any other single band, their set left me with questions. Questions that didn't prevent me from buying all their merch and generally considering them adorable, but questions. Questions about the songwriting, mostly. I didn't hear any hits. I doubt they give a fuck about hits, and certainly they had a bigger crowd then 95% of like acts touring through the area, so it's hard to dish out any criticsm. I mean, I listen to the full length all the time.


I haven't been tracking on this band, and their set got pushed past midnight so I stayed for maybe a song or two. I want to point out that I saw many people carrying around the vinyl they brought, that the crowd was bigger then for any like event I've been to the Casbah at over the last several years, and that this was on the Monday after the fourth of july.

How to explain the high attendance? I have no answers. I suppose it's a "peak" on the sine wave that is amateur music enthusiasm. I would say that shows of this type are drawing more amateur music enthusiasts who have historically been unfamiliar with the Art Fag sound. I think that interest has been 'sparked' by the commerical success of similar artists.

I think the local bands who are involved here need to reach out to indie labels in other key markets- specifically nyc and chicago and use that relationship to generate interest there, and then use the cross current to spark national interest through the blogs.

Show Review: Beaters, Best Coast, Pearl Harbour 
@ The Whistle Stop San Diego CA
7/9/09

Pearl Harbour

SHOW REVIEW
Mario Orduno Presents
Beaters
Best Coast
Pearl Harbour
@ The Whiste Stop, July 17th, 2009 FREE


July is a magical month in southern california. The temperature at the beach is in the low 70s and the temperature in the communities just off the beach varies between 65 and 80. People often comment on how nice the weather is in San Diego, but it's most advantageous aspect is its mildness. The two best days in weather-terms are a cool summer day with sunshine and a warm winter day with sunshine. The days here fit into one of those two categories 75% of the time. That is to say nothing of the culture, only of the climate, the physical geography, not the cultural geography.

San Diego is a Mediterranean place: As I sit in my backyard reading ancient history, it isn't hard to imagine Diogenes strolling down the street on the way to his academy. The mildness of the climate is often ascribed to the culture- it is a reverse anthropomorphism: The ascribing of characteristics of natural phenomena to human beings. It makes sense- humans haven't been here long enough to make a deep impression on a breath taking physical environment. People think of southern California as being the ultimate in terms of excessive civilization: freeways, huge cities, smog, etc. but really it's just the opposite. In my mind, our human world here in southern California is like ancient Timbuktu, a place where future occupiers will look at this period an wonder how a city could have ever stood in this location.

I. Pearl Harbour

Pearl Harbour springs from the same well that brought forth No Age and Mika Miko: the fact that they played their first show ever at the Whistle Stop in San Diego is a testament to a certain level of savviness. They brought with them at least 10 fans, likely from the Los Angeles area. Pearl Harbour is a live three piece- with a boy on guitar, a young 20 something female singer and a younger female guitarist. It's certainly the later two that will draw all the attention. The reaction from the people I talked to was positive "I liked them," "like a fresh southern california breeze." They used a drum machine for their beats a la other acts. I've noticed mixed reaction to the "ipod backing tracks' phenomenon in other parts of the country. It seems like an ill informed opinion to be critical of this newish trend among "rock" acts: ditching the drummer is the best thing a young artist can do to ensure some kind of tour-ability. The days of wide spread prejudice against the integration of electronics into rock music has been left in the dustbin of history along with other sad "rock-ist" beliefs that have largely obliterated among music enthusiasts by Pitchfork era genre hopping.

The entire band is totally adorable and the repeated use of arpeggio's by the young guitarist recalled classic pop/rock melodies dating back to the 50s. Surely the integration of Roy Orbison/Buddy Holly/Motown era song structures is one of the hallmarks of the sound of Pearl Harbour, as well as other acts. I suspect in time this band will be presented in the Smell lineage of No Age, Mika Miko et al. I support it, and I weep for the comments that this band is going to generate from misogynistic indie rock aholes who hate on all women artists that don't fit into their pre-conceived stereotypes about what female artists "can" and "can't" do. I hear it all the time here in San Diego, but I think it's a minority view and I think that one of the characteristics of the cultural environment in southern California towards women is "above average friendly." We're not afraid of female artists down here.

Certainly, the sustained work rate of a band playing its first show is unknown so it's premature to be making any value statements about Pearl Harbour, but I want to hear the recordings for sure- also other people should check them out live in other cities if they have the opportunity to find out themselves about a band that is going to polarize critics.

II. Best Coast

This is the second band in a row where my inclination has been to protect them from, rather them expose them to, the wider world of music enthusiasts. No doubt, they are going to have their shows upcoming at the Smell, and they gave me a tape which I can't wait to listen to on my office boom-box (the only way I play tapes ha ha.) Best Coast is sonically more complex then Pearl Harbour, with fewer of the picked out 50s era guitar lines and more of the distorted guitar fuzz. Best Coast has a 7" coming out on Art Fag Recordings. I'm really looking forward to it. The live performance was very static, that needs to be worked out before it's taken to a wider audience. She wrote a couple of songs that I would call "hits."

III. Beaters

They have a 7" coming out on Volar Records/Single Screen and I can't wait to review it here, at the appropriate time, of course. If there is Justice in this world, then is a band that will make it outside of San Diego, CA.

IV. Crowd

Are these the people who show up on a saturday night at the Whistle Stop? Half the people ignoring the music, half the people paying attention. That's the way it has always been here, that's the way it always will be. Fine with me- easier to actually see the bands. Of the people that were there to see the music I recognized maybe half of them and some were down from LA to see the first two bands, others seemed to be new- (guy wearing a k records/beat happening t shirt I'm looking at you.)

Certainly, the attention level of the people who were there indicated that there was some local interest in this show among local amateur music enthusiasts. It ought to emphasized what a minority enthusiasts for this brand of music represent in the local area. There are perhaps 75 people who attend these shows with any kind of regularity.

That is the way it will always be here, and there is freedom in invisibility. It's the Roman style freedom: "Freedom FROM." In San Diego, the artists and their fans are ghosts, walking amongst the citizenry unnoticed in between tanning plastic surgery freaks and american idol finalists. Two things that San Diego is "not" is a place where a local musician can achieve fame and notoriety amongst the locals or a place where the locals "care" about interesting local music. Trust me about that.

Show Review
 Cold Cave, Best Coast, Desire
 @ The Casbah
9/08/09






Bethany Best Coast

COLD CAVE: I have a great deal of admiration for Wes Eisold. He's a guy who's played the music game and pretty much won regardless of the success or failure of this particular project. In fact, I don't doubt there will be other projects after this one. It's funny, because when I watch Cold Cave, I'm thinking about the entire project: originality conception, success of execution. Now, when I know how a project came to be, and have an appreciation for the artistic independence of it's inspiration I am far, far, far more likely to have a positive emotional connection to a particular song. That's because I share ethical values with the artist. By the standard I've just laid out, Cold Cave is a winner. The songs have hit potential, he's working in a musical genre (gloomy synth pop) that I already like, he has a track record fronting other diy acts, etc. The fact that I happened to see Cold Cave in a room filled with a bunch of folks who look like they'd gotten lost on the way to Voyeur or El Dorado (and they all loved Cold Cave, fyi) is simply irrelevant.

BEST COAST: Best Coast is already generating sad take-down style posts from haters but out here, where she actually plays shows and doesn't exist as some kind of straw man for depressed Canadian indie bloggers (Coke Machine Glow #1 Album 2008: Erykah Badu New Amerikyah Part one (COKE MACHINE GLOW)) she is gathering momentum. I walked into the Casbah during her set and was almost startled to find a crowd gathered, and listening attentively. I have grave concerns about how the live show is going to be perceived in the mid west and east, though they are probably save if they stick to super good bills.
DESIRE: I'm not that in to electro rock since 2007 except at Coachella or in London/Paris/Berlin on occasion but I want to relate the facts: Show was sold out, people were super into it, dancing around and generally having an objectively fun time. The live drummer adds a little weight to the otherwise fluffy two keyboard singing routine.
GLASS CANDY: Glass Candy sells out the Casbah.

Show Review: 
Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Depreciation Guild 
 @ the Casbah 9/21/09

Kip Berman / The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Kip Berman: Singer, Pains of Being Pure at Heart, also a star.

This was the first time Pains of Being Pure at Heart appeared in San Diego, CA, and I would just like to say, to them, "Thank you for coming!" I see a lot of hot indie bands pass San Diego by, often so that they can play a tuesday night show in Phoenix or Tucson. I've also noticed a fair amount of bands play in San Diego for their first show and then never come back, and I have a sinking suspicion that Pains of Being Pure at Heart may be in that second category, since they are a five piece, and five pieces can be difficult to take on the road even when the money is rolling. So thanks, Pains of Being Pure Heart: I really enjoyed watching you perform.

We walked in to the opening chords of Depreciation Guild (myspace). No offense to Depreciation Guild, who are no slouch in the myspace metrics department (207K profile views, 192k listens), but they are surely opening for Pains of Being Pure at Heart because their singer, is the drummer in the headlining band. Kurt is his name. Also, the guitarist, Christoph, played guitar in Pains of Being Pure at Heart though he is not listed as a full time member of that group. Having overlapping personnel like that is a smart move, in my opinion. More touring bands should figure that out.

I had received positive word-of-mouth about Depreciation Guild but I don't mind saying I wasn't that into it because hey, they're from Brooklyn, so they aren't real people and, 2/3 members are in Pains of Being Pure at Heart, so I'm not knocking a meal out of anyone's mouth. Depreciation Guild is easily pigeonholed by the phrase "sounds like My Bloody Valentine."

Bearing in mind that I've seen the older band twice in the last 18 months, perhaps this would be a good point to interject an observation about the relationship between older bands and newer bands that draw inspiration from the older band: HAVING THE OLDER BAND AROUND REALLY FUCKS UP YOUR GAME PLAN. Not in all circumstance, sometimes it can be a help. But take this instance, the fact that I was watching Depreciation Guild and vividly recalling seeing My Bloody Valentine last year at the Santa Monica civic center was NOT beneficial for Depreciation Guild. I heard maybe 1.5 hits. The set closer is a hit. They need more hits. The total lack of stage presence is not a problem for a band. The crowd enjoyed it, it appeared Depreciation Guild already has avid fans in the area.

Pains of Being Pure at Heart did not sell out, maybe I blame myself a little bit for that. I just assumed it would. If I thought it wouldn't, I would have pushed out the show some. I have only a couple of observations to make at this band, all of them premised on the fact that prior to the show I was a "casual fan" and that this was their first show in the San Diego market:




Kip Berman, the singer of Pains of Being Pure at Heart is a Ben Gibbard (in terms of "size of star" not in any physical resemblance way) level indie rock star in the making. He held down the audience with little more then his melt-worthy eyes and his voice. This was an audience that had more then it's share of larger sized bros, so I don't think the "lady music" label really sticks with this band. Kip Berman has real star potential.

The band impressed me with their professionalism. Nothing pisses me off more right now when I read criticisms of touring bands that include comments like "their set was too short" or "they didn't interact with the crowd" or "they seemed stuck up." Hey: Local yokel, writing in St. Louis or wherever- they're touring musicians. You came to see them not the other way around, stop acting like a spoiled 12 year old. And to all the other bands I said that about- Ratatat- for one, I apologize to you. Pains of Being Pure at Heart came on the stage on time, reeled off hit after hit after hit, dealt with sound issues with aplomb and had almost no pause between songs. It was the set of band on the rise, projecting their brand 3000 miles away from Brooklyn, in a strange city, Monday night, with no local bands on the bill. I'm impressed by Pains of Being Pure at Heart. I will pay attention to them in the future. Last night is what you call a conversion experience.


Show Review: 
 Best Coast, Vivian Girls
 @ the Casbah
2/7/10

 Let me tell you something about Best Coast:  Best Coast is a phenomenon.  Her in print records- records that are still for sale- sell for close to 100 usd on ebay.   I'm not a huge fan of that fact, but it is what it is.  Same thing with Dum Dum Girls, and I'm saying this only because I have empirical evidence to back it up:  People are hungry for it.

   Now, I'm no expert, but here are my two interactions with the music industry in the last 24 hours:
   1.  Watching Them Crooked Vultures on Saturday Night Live.
   2.  Watching the Who perform at half time of the Super Bowl.

   The Who.  Them Crooked Vultures.  Little bit stale, is all I'm saying.  The music industry is a grinder, and the grist for the mill is new acts.  It doesn't care where they come from, but sales matter and brother let me tell you- Best Coast?  Dum Dum Girls?  Those records sell.

    The Vivian Girls came to town last week.  I'm not a fan, but I respect the work.  I respect who they are, what they stand for.  They take a lot of shit because they come from Brooklyn, and because people are haters.  Anonymous commenters are such fucking bitches with their woman hatred.  The shit people write- and then the fact that the sites then leave it up?  Lewd comments, personal comments- directed towards women almost always.  How can dealing with the major label  pr world be any worse then what your average buzz band faces on Stereogum and Brooklyn Vegan?.

    I got to the Casbah in time for Best Coast.  I've now seen the act four-five times now.  I've noticed steady improvement.  They had the Vivian Girls drummer behind the kit, and I thought it was a win.  The music was more engeretic, more interesting as a live act.  In the past I've expressed concern about how BC would be received, but I feel pretty confident after this week that they will play in the sticks.

      Couple of crowd notes:  Lot of guys.  Guys- pumping their fist, singing along.  The turn out was strong, and I attribute that strength entirely to the strength of Best Coast as a live act.  I think people are going to like it.  The strength of the response- in terms of sales, live shows,  however, is just an emprically verifiable fact at this point.

Show Review:
 DIRTY BEACHES & JEANS WILDER
 @ The Whistle Stop
4/1/10

 (PITCHFORK SEARCH DIRTY BEACHES)
(RAVEN SINGS THE BLUES) DIRTY BEACHES POST 3/30/10
(ANALOG BEACH) DIRTY BEACHES BLOG
(WEEKLY TAPE DECK) DIRTY BEACHES POST 2/10/10
(HYPE MACHINE) DIRTY BEACHES initial posts (Said the Grampawphone, No Pain in Pop in 10-11/2008.)

     One thing lazy music writers like to do is ask whether a certain album represents the end of musical trend x.  That's really the same as comparing apples and oranges.  Albums are something that exist in reality, and musical trends are constructs.  A common mistake that bad critics make in this department is to dismiss something because of a trend that it "belongs" to.  Critics should make observations about songs, recorded music and life performance, not use space to make generalizations about a poorly constructed category.


    Last night was my first experience seeing live Jeans Wilder.  He performed on guitar with a backing ipod.  There is nothing wrong with that.  I will watch a million artists perform that way forever before going back to the old days of a live rock band.  Don't get me wrong- there is a time and a place for a big full band.  That time is: After you have an lp for sale and are playing venues where people pay to watch you.  Before that, all people need to be able to do is hear your songs and watch you perform.  Why would you do anything else?  Any statements about the relative momentum of a music trend (upwards "on the rise" or downwards "on the decline") are simply ignorant of the realities of playing music at an amateur level.  Individual artists with ipods are about 1000% more viable then a rock band.  Fuck the band.

       Jeans Wilders' (or "Andrew") songs are atmospheric and kind of spooky.  He doesn't do a lot on stage, but he does generate a gloomy atmosphere that effectively conveys emotion.  It seems to me fairly certain that someone is going to put out a Jeans Wilder LP, and my advice to Jeans is to just play it cool and work on the live act with the idea of touring after the record comes out.  The record should be completed before the agreement to release it is formalized.  You don't want to burn out on the local scene while you are waiting for a full length to come out.  Use the full length as an excuse to really dedicate yourself to the project and get out onto the road.  Before then, work on developing audiences in the pacific coast cities: SD, LA, SF, SACTO, PORTLAND, SEA.  There is def. an audience out there.

      People are going to try to box Jeans Wilder out with dismissive category references, but those people are stupid, and if the songs are good enough people won't use category as a mode of analysis. If, on the other hand, the songs don't kill it is going to be tough sledding outside of San Diego.

     Watching Dirty Beaches ("Alex") perform left me wondering why I hadn't heard about this guy until 2010. Getting your first post on that crusty old Grandpaw phone blog is a bad start.  Who reads that blog?  A post on No Pain in Pop the next month didn't get it going.  There were posts throughout 2009.... None of which I read.  Anyway... I could speculate all day.  What I saw last night was a really charismatic live performer who seems me like he popped out of the fantasy world of indie music retail.  Alex is a Canadian national whose family emigrated from Taiwan, but he spent significant time in San Francisco and Hawaii.  He lives in Montreal, but his music is quite distinctly an amalgamation of sounds that have little to do with any of those places.

        Instead, he has what you might call a buttery vocal manner reminiscent of pop/country/rock vocalists of the 50s and 60s.  Although last night he performed by himself with a looping device and a guitar, the vocals really stood out, like in 3D, from the rest of the concept, and I think that's the kind of actual talent that more people should be looking for.  I have to say, that DEFINITELY is NOT apparent on the recorded work, which swerve between the muddy noise under ground and classic 50s rock.

        Dirty Beaches needs the benefit of a good producer, a good studio.  He needs to have confidence in his talent, and he should.  All I had to do last night was close my eyes and I could see Dirty Beaches having a full length LP and it actually selling because the songs are so amazing, but there is some time and distance between last night and what I saw with my eyes closed.

        I hope Alex can build a bridge from here to there.  I think if he finished up a 10-12 track LP with 4-5 strong vocal tracks he could be in business.  He would need a live band at that point.  And he needs a community where he can develop a local following. I don't know if Montreal is doing it for him in that regard.  Maybe Vancouver would be more amenable.

Show Review:
D/Wolves
 @ the Casbah
5/28/10

 I was having a conversation the other day about the merits of the Casbah as a venue.  Both people in the conversation agree that the Casbah is a fantastic live music venue, but one participant was describing the opinion of an artist that "didn't like" the Casbah.  And we were both like.... "Well, maybe if there is nobody there, it would suck, but... the Casbah is amazing."

     All you get, as an artist, is a setting where an audience exists.  For a band playing a first (or second, or third) show at the Casbah, it's not the size of the crowd but the intensity of the reception.  Whoever is there should be coming up to you and saying "Wow, that was amazing."  Because if you can't get that from the first 10 people that see you, you aren't going to get it from the millions who don't care that much about music under any circumstances.  Popular music has lost the respect of the public, so as an artist trying to make popular music, you need to be aware of the fact that people really, really, really do not give a shit.

      D/Wolves is the third local band I've written about this year.  The other two are Jeans Wilder (playing tonight at Soda Bar) and Nude Boy, although Neon Dick and the Watsuis need to be added to that list for completeness sake.  But here's the thing about D/Wolves, someone in the band reads the site, they leave comments, and that makes me want to see them perform.  There are rules about how that works, and if you, as an artist, can figure out those rules, you will be in a better place then those who can't figure it out.

     D/Wolves is a five piece, with trad rock instruments (bass, guitar, drums) and a couple of keyboards.  They are all super young.  They look like kids from the suburbs, not emo scene kids, just guys.  The bassist was wearing an Air Jordan t-shirt.  Really, the only thing I cared about last night is "Do they write songs?"  You see, there are a lot of things that a band can improve on over time, but if I go see a band for the first time, and they don't have songs, it's hard for me to really give a shit.  Even bad/mediocre songs are fine.  On the other hand, if I see a band for the first time and the singer can't sing, and the band doesn't care about playing songs (as suppose to "jamming" or "making noise") then 100 times out of 100, I'm not going to care about them ever.

     D/Wolves definitely had songs.  Since they read this blog, I'm assuming they aren't stupid.  The singer had a voice that you might compare to a Ben Gibbard- no insults intended there, please.  I think that's a sign of some kind of viability.  The quality of songs varied within the set, but I heard a set that was filled with honest to god songwriting.

     In terms of the performance itself, D/Wolves is obviously young, so they had best get out on the southern california diy circuit and start working on that live show.  It baffles me to see local bands that have records out but don't play at least once a month.  I'm no advocate of the Monday night show opening for a touring band with no draw, but it's not a bad idea for an act that is actually serious about being good.

    One of the main benefits of having a local scene is so that bands can improve.  There is nothing sadder to me then local bands with potential for viability who simply stagnate from year to year.  I guess that's fine if you are just looking to get your dick sucked after the show, but being a local hero is no way to live- if you ask me, anyway- I'm sure plenty of local musicians would disagree.

    D/Wolves have an album on band camp, but it doesn't really sound like what I heard last night, so I'm not going to link to it. (I' liked the live show more then the band camp songs)  I would recommend that my readers check out D/Wolves if they get a chance, particularly if they are into the more trad indie sound that is quite popular right now.  I'm not saying that is what D/Wolves is about (being a trad indie band) but they are not a bunch of guys screaming discordantly and mashing keyboards.  Based on what I know about my hard core readers, I think they would be interested.

Show Review: 
Spectrum & Heavy Hawaii 
@ Soda Bar
5/30/10

   A ritual is defined as "the performance of more or less invariant sequences of formal acts and utterances not entirely encoded by the performers." It has often occurred to me that night life in San Diego is a series of rituals.  It's hardly an original observation, the Tina Fey/Lindsay Lohan movie "Mean Girls" was based on a magazine article about ritual practices of teen age girls.  Any ritual has a related discourse, a way of communicating about the ritual that falls short of encapsulating the wholeness of the ritual itself.  If you could communicate everything about the ritual, you wouldn't need the ritual, would you?

      I was excited about the Spectrum show because I am not a die hard Spaceman 3/Spiritualized/Spectrum fan, but I've grown to appreciate them over the last five years based on friends tastes.  I guess the main fact about that group of artists is how far back they go... Spaceman 3 was playing in 1982.  1982.  You want to tell me who else had that sound in 1982?  Going in I knew exactly what to expect, and I was excited to hear it.  If there is one positive contribution that Pitchfork has made to musical taste in the United States, it's helping people develop a taste for drone influenced pop music.  The way I see it, drone is one of the constituent elements of rock music today, as much as blues was in the 1950s.  Then, it was blues, country, hillbilly music.  Now: Noise, drone, psychedelic rock, mod rock.  Succesful rock will always be an amalgam of different sub styles.

     I arrived too late to see Jeans Wilder, but I was there for Heavy Hawaii, and they were amazing.  I'm not here to put words in people's mouths, let alone attract the Mexican Summer's of the world, but wow- Heavy Hawaii are ready to hit the road.  The fact that they have five members makes me think that getting up and down the West Coast in one piece this summer would be a worthy goal.  Maybe as part of an Art Fag Recordings tour.  Hypothetically.  People get ready for that show.

   From there, it was a natural segue into the drone rock of Spectrum.  The Soda Bar was packed, in the neighborhood of a sell out.  I was frankly impressed especially considering all the norms were at the North Park Birch Theater blah blah sitting down and listening to the dulcet tones of Transfer et al.  What I say is, "A sell out is a sell out" but I was stoked that so many showed up for Spectrum.  And people were into it.  The entire night had a kind of Platonic excellence that left me charged up and ready for the summer concert going season.  Cue the Black Eyed Peas anthem!

Show Review: 
 Heavy Hawaii, Sleep Over, Pure Ecstasy & Beach Fossils
 @ Tin Can Ale House
8/2/10

  A rock concert is nothing more or less then a ritual.  The participants are in three groups: artist, audience and venue employees.  The object of a ritual is two fold: first, re-confirm the identities of those involved, two establish a feeling of "communitas."  And while you can judge the economic success of a rock concert from the number of attendees, the success of the rock concert as ritual has nothing to do with the number of people who show up.  Some of the most successful rock concert's I've attended have been commercial failures.  Some of the LEAST successful concerts have been commercial successes.

    I would suggest that observers of local music events spend less of their time dissecting the artistic product of performers, and more of their time thinking about what constitutes a successful rock concert ritual.  After all, we do not lack musical performers, what we lack is an audience for those performers.  I would suggest that venues pay more attention to the behavior of their staff in this regard.  Nothing can transform a successful rock concert into a failure like the sour attitude of the staff.  And with all due respect to the Casbah, I would suggest that this can be an issue at that venue.  The Casbah is still the pre-eminent venue for local and touring acts, but the Tin Can Ale House is gaining in that regard, and last night's show is a good example of why.

   Audiences and artist should feel like a venue wants them to be there.  Almost always, a venue displays little if any concern for either audience and artist, and this is a recipe for a failed ritual.  Participants in a failed ritual do not return again and again to fail and I would suggest the difficulty of finding audience members to participate in the rock concert rituals stems from a failure of the repeat players (venue employees and artists) to understand the whole point of rock concerts(see above.)

   Last night Sleep Over and Pure Ecstasy were in town from Austin.  I find myself spending more and more time thinking about bands from Texas. Not just from Austin either, but bands from the Dallas/Denton area and Houston as well.  This is quite logical, since these are economically advanced areas with high penetration of high speed internet access and large market sizes.  The historic presence/lack of traditional independent music scenes has been rendered irrelevant by the internet, but that doesn't mean you get one automatically, but I think this process is happening in Dallas and Houston right now (and is already the case in Austin, of course.)

   Pure Ecstasy played mellow music with jazzy drumming and what I thought was an instrumental surf vibe.  I'm sure the artists themselves would not contest my observation that they have a static live performance- something that is probably outside of their concerns.  The singer wore a sweatshirt with a siamese cat on it.  Fans of mid period Yo La Tengo or the softer side of indie might want to give their myspace profile a whirl.

   Sleep Over was a focus of my attention for reasons I will not disclose.  They are a three piece, playing over ipod drum lines (not a problem!)  Their sound fits into the category of artists like Nite Jewel, Zola Jesus, Tamaryn- women performing non-rock tunes with a gothy/synthy vibe.  Certainly, this category of artist is on the rise, and Sleep Over could pick up some of that light.

   Heavy Hawaii put forward another solid effort.  The Art Fag Recordings 12" EP drops in October, I think, and I am going to save my breath until then.

  Captured Tracks band Beach Fossils made a surprise appearance thanks to the good offices of man-about-town/bon-vivant Jeans Wilder- THANKS JEANS WILDER!! I was PISSED I didn't get to see Beach Fossils at Bar Pink last night, and glad I got to see them last night.

     They sound like a band that is primed for wider success with an LP on Captured Tracks, a brooklyn zip code and a sound that puts them somewhere between Vampire Weekend and the Soft Pack.  I found it engaging, seems like something that would attract a wide audience.  I really appreciate them coming by to play like that, and would humbly suggest that they move from Brooklyn to LA.  These are the first kind words I've had to say about a Brooklyn based act since the So So Glos were out here in 2007.  That doesn't change my opinion about Brooklyn or bands from Brooklyn.  Memo to the band member wearing the Captains hat- that is a dangerous move on the west coast- you might run into a real captain out here.

  Tin Can Alehouse was, again, fantastic.  It's too bad the 2010 San Diego Music Awards don't have an award for "best local music venue"- my vote would be for Tin Can.

Show Review: 
B-52's, Puro Instinct 
& Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
8/7/10

B-52's "4 O'Clock Fridays Concert Series" @ Del Mar Race Track

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
Puro Instinct

    My wife's french family is in town and they have two teenage daughters, so we thought it would be fun to go see the B-52's at the Four O'Clock Friday's concert series at the Del Mar Racetrack.  Here's a tip for the Soft Pack concert next week:  Go before the races end (730 PM) admission is 6 dollars instead of 20, and the band starts sharp at about 8:10 PM, so there isn't a lot of time to kill.

   The B-52s really packed them- I heard multiple people say this exact line prior to to the concert,  "The thing about the B-52s- they are a great party band."  I quite enjoyed the rock concert experience, focusing as I was on the shared feeling of communitas that has recently been obsessing me.

  Unfortunately, the B-52's concert meant that I missed Dunes.  That bummed me out.

   Pearl Harbor renamed itself Puro Instinct and as I watched them perform I was put in mind of two bands:  Fleetwood Mac and the Smiths.  So there you go.  Super jealous of Mexican Summer- that is going to be a solid LP.

    Ariel Pink sold out the Casbah, in advance, and there is nothing else to say about that.  He deserves success, he's experiencing success, he put out a great record that is selling, etc.  I think the sell out is directly attributable to the fact that the record is selling.

SHOW REVIEWS

SALEM
ALE MANIA
RAW MOANS
@@@ Soda Bar, San Diego CA. March 28th, 2011

HUNX AND HIS PUNX
SHANNON AND THE CLAMS
PLATEAUS
@@@ The Tin Can Ale House, San Diego, CA. April 9th, 2011

      Am I the only person who thinks that Audiences are more interesting, on the whole, then Artists?  You can't have one without the other, but when you look at the relative amount of attention paid to Artists vs. Audiences you find the scale heavily tipped towards Artists.  Just think about the photographs taken at Artist Performances- inevitably they omit the Audience, choosing to focus on the performing Artist or Artwork.  I think someone with a well developed sense of asethetics has to ask the perennial question of "What is new under the sun?" when it comes to evaluating new Artists.  The fact is, some will attract an Audience and others will not and much of the sport in writing about this relationship comes, frankly, in predicting who will succeed and who will fail.  A blunt way to put it perhaps, but isn't that what show reviews for new Artists- particularly musicians, are all about?

    Too often this turns a combined touring Artist/local Artist evaluation competition.  Often times the writer will "take the side" and say "Artist X was better then Artist Y."  This statement is inevitably made with little or no observational support other then "Artist Y cleared the previously crowded floor during his/her set."  Fair enough, but there is more to it than that.

   I must confess that from the stand point of a professional journalist or fan of a specific artist, I am a terrible reviewer.  For example, last night I didn't stay for the headliner, Hunx and His Punx.  That is a "lame" thing to do, but in my defense I was being solicitous of an ill loved one.  I'll say this about Hunx and His Punx, when I rolled up at 10:05 PM the doorman literally said to me "The end of the line is over there- this show is sold out."  Well played Sir, I tip my cap to your stern demeanor- no one ever has to apologize to me for doing their fucking job.  So Hunx need to play a bigger venue the next time through San Diego.  I would be willing to bet a couple hundred of my own money on Hunx being able to make a good run at selling out the Casbah- even on an off night.  You def. want to put them in a room w/ a 200-300 cap to see how good they could do.  It also be worth bringing them back sooner rather then later, merely to observe the audience size.  But no- I didn't stay to watch.

   Shannon and the Clams are mostly about Shannon- a Beth Ditto type- and the overall impact is Lookout Records crossed with K Records/Kill Rock Stars crossed with the 60s songwriting revival.  There is also a male vocalist who greatly adds to the complexity and performance intensity of the songs.  They had at least 20-30 hardcore fans who were actively fist pumping and bantering back and forth with Shannon and her band mates- which left me with the impression that there was an extremely high cross over rate between the Hunx fans and the people who were digging Shannon.  I'm very interested in seeing how this tour fairs in Texas.

    Plateaus were the local openers.  They just released their first single, Beach Coma- which is streamable over at the ole Band Camp Profile.
      Here's a tip for bands- get a Sound Cloud account and start a blog on blogger.com- you can use the "CREATE PAGE" to give the appearance of a "real" website, and people won't have to check out the tunez at a website that is called "band camp."  Band Camp is not cool.
       I'm going to sort of hide my hand on the Plateaus because I am frankly worried about eliciting premature enthusiasm, but the set I heard last night merits excitement on the part of band members and potential fans.  This band isn't some kind of Wavves rip-off, rather it is more rock dervied song writing, with guitar leads, guitar solos and swapping vocals between the two front men. Certainly it's the most dynamic "new" live act in San Diego I've seen since... The Muslims/Soft Pack?  The fact of their existence as a living, breathing rock band with above average songcraft and personality marks them instantly apart from the universe of Italian punk acts and college student chillwave acts.  Bottom line: Worth getting excited about- but don't get too excited until they have recorded enough songs for a full length LP.  I would advise band members to sublimate their individual egos towards the purpose of projecting a dynamic band concept.  It shouldn't be x and the plateaus, just PLATEAUS.  Like that. Trust me.

   Last night's show reminded me that I never wrote a show review for SALEM- a show which I both attended AND saw all three acts.  Not sure if SALEM quite sold out the Soda Bar, but it was a close one if not.  Certainly the attendance was as strong as I've seen anywhere and is a good hallmark for Buzz Bands looking for Casbah alternative (like if it is booked already.)

  Raw Moans played first.  I'm struggling to appreciate Raw Moans on their own terms.  I think that an aspect that needs to be drawn out is the song structure/format- very ballady and quite unlike the more up tempo garage rock/60s rock artists that seem to be in vogue.  Raw Moans is an act with a ready made path to blog attention via Big Stereo, but I think success on that path is an open question.  Clearly, the singer/front man needs to get engaged with the audience- particuarly for the slower tempo, really addressing the audience is going to be a key factor in whether Raw Moans connects with potential fans to a sufficient degree.  To me this is an act where a video might be more helpful then usual.

  Ale Mania played second- as good example of any for a solid local act.  They have a record out on Volar but I haven't seen a copy. Are they around?  I'll buy one if so.  I didn't really appreciate their performance, they seem to have gotten away from the directness and power of their Sess/Beaters days.  Honestly, I'm unclear why the Beaters weren't pursued to any degree.  It seems like they spend a fair amount of time in the studio, but do not produce a ton of songs.  I've long been supportive of the artistic efforts of the line of performers deriving from the Sess but, personally, Ale Mania is a leeetle on the jazzy side of things for my taste.  It would be interesting to get them out on the road as an opening act for a touring band- particularly since they have a record out- but I don't know if that will happen. Maybe it's too "Zappaesque" for my taste.  Fans of the Flaming Lips should dig Ale Mania.  I know you're out there Flaming Lips fans.

  SALEM's full length last year was one of my most listened to records.  I blogged about them (even though I knew I shouldn't) just because I found them such a compelling combination of concept and execution.   Of course, SALEM's 2010 was plagued by some harsh criticism of their live show, and so this concert needed to address those issues.  One thing that they are doing is using a TON of smoke to the point where the band is hardly visible.  That's an artistic choice that kind of baffles me, but I think I understand the logic.  I've read other reviews that described the main guy's vocals as being pitched down a la the sound of the vocals on the record, but both my wife and I thought it sounded like they either weren't pitched down at all, or they were only partially pitched down.

   Certainly, if I was to play the "comparing them to other artist game" they would compare unfavorably to now-defunct San Diegans Blessure Grave.  I think a lot of SALEMs live performance issues just come with the fact that they are essentially a hip hop act, and all sorts of hip hop acts suck live essentially because of the constraints of the genre itself.  People will come to the show if you are a good rapper, but that is not a fair description of SALEM's rock band style appeal.  Will I see them next time through? Probably not.  But I guarantee you I will buy and probably write about their next record regardless.

   I would have to say that the state of the environment for live music in San Diego looked pretty healthy from my perspective.  I don't know what's going on at the shows I don't attend, because I can't find anyone who writes show reviews on a regular basis whose opinion I trust, but I know that what I've seen bodes well for devotees of the local music scene.


The Strokes Won Coachella 2011
4/20/11

 I've been to every Coachella except the first one.  On the wall in my kitchen at home, I have a triptych of photographs taken at the second Coachella.  They show me and my friends walking through a vacant field in the early evening: literally not a soul to be seen in the background.  For those of you have been, the photograph is taken in the space between the main stage and the outdoor stage.  Can you imagine taking a similar photograph at this years Coachella.  The place swarms with humanity.  It might as well be a county fair.

   It was revealed in the week before this year's show that last years event had featured widespread fence cutting, pushing the estimated attendance from the allowable 90k to something like 110k.  That revelation jibed with my subjective experience of Coachella last year, i.e. that it was a nightmare.  However, I'm a true believer in the principle that being a "victim of success" requires no further comment because success is the object of any Coachella type rock festival.  The promoters are not scheduling the show to indulge your whimsy, my indier than thou friends, they are doing it to make the money.  Thus, any fan related hand wringing about the "state of Coachella" is simply irrelevant: Coachella: TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT, that's what I say.

  I took a pass on Friday's line up, mostly due to the terrible/tired Main Stage 1-2 of Kings of Leon and Chemical Brothers.  The only thing that I can think about whenever Kings of Leon is mentioned is that awesome "Kings of Leon...Shreds" video and I don't think I could have watched their set without bursting into peals of girlish laughter.  No one needs to see that.  I did, however, monitor the twitter feed of #coachella and was tickled to see people tweeting things like "Cold War Kids are KILLING IT."  Seriously? On Friday early evening?  I don't think so, bro.  And even if they are, who TWEETS that.  Sheesh.    As for Chemical Brothers, I've seen the act on the Main Stage.  They should have been anchoring the Sahara Tent- that would have been something to see.

  Saturday I arrived at 7 PM to catch the Kills.  I left half way through the Kills to catch Wire, who were playing to a handful of performing musicians and management/label types.  As a result of some strangely cruel scheduling decision Wire went directly up against Big Audio Dynamite. Ouch.  Wire was really good though, and I recommend my readers to catch them on upcoming dates in the US.

  After Wire I camped out in the VIP for the big Animal Collective/Arcade Fire finale.  Now, I am a long time hater of both bands, but that doesn't mean I lack respect for their achievements and it was BECAUSE of their achievments that I specifically decided to watch them perform live on the Coachella main stage.  Animal Collective was simply terrible.  I think most of those in the audience would have agreed, even though the critical reaction seemed chartiable, to say the least.  Are critics scared to talk shit about Animal Collective?  Well, I'm not.  They are a terrible live band, and if they want to headilne a 40k festival more then once they need to retool the live show a smidge.  Of course they won't and they are poised to have the most triumphant indie rock summer ever, but I wanted to be on the record about their live show: it sucked, ok?

  Arcade Fire was the main headliner, and I have to say that they have a commanding stage presence that makes them a formidable main stage Coachella headliner.  Also, they deliver the catharsis in the way that only a band with a very sophisticated understanding of rock and it's audience can do.  Again, I don't like their music, so some of the impact was lost, but I can objectively say that they deliver the goods to the Main Stage Saturday night Coachella audience.

  For me, the Sunday night main stage was THE reason I agreed to go this year:  I've never seen Kanye West perform live and was genuinely excited to see the the Strokes.  Before that I watched HEALTH- who are showing a softer, more rock side to their songs and live performance; as well as Best Coast, who had this year's version of the "command performance" (and maybe Sleigh Bells, too) after having a dominating 2010.

  It was funny, HEALTH's audience was, as my wife said, "A real sausage fest." Whereas Best Coast was chock a block with young girls, singing along to the lyrics and dancing.  I dunno man, I get the bro criticism of Best Coast, but fellas- what's the number one rule of indie rock?  GO WHERE THE GIRLS ARE.  That is why I am familiar with the collective work of The Sea and the Cake and Elliott Smith, and that is why young bros should tune into Best Coast: BECAUSE GIRLS LIKE IT.  But I thought that both bands "held it down" for the LA area scene, and I was proud of/for them.

  After watching the Strokes, it was clear that they won Coachella this year.  Julian's stage patter was top notch, and the live songs sounded EXACTLY like the recordings without sounding canned- they just sounded super tight.  They played their hits like gentlemen, and they generally acted cool about being at Coachella.  Not bored, not aloof, just cool.  Isn't that how a rock band is supposed to be: Have great songs and a slightly detached stage presence?  All this running and jumping around indie bullshit masks weak songs, in my opinion. If you have hits, you get to stand still on stage and make fun of the audience, that is the deal.  In my opinion, the Strokes killed it, and it was the closest I came to feeling the communitas vibe that is my objective as an audience member.

   Kanye opened strong, but the momentum was arrested by the combination of his 808 mini set and the cumulative effect of...all that...white people...dancing... The horror...the horror.  I'm sorry- I don't mean to sound like a fuddy duddy, but is Kanye West really dance music?  Do people dance to "Power" in the club?  Personally, I'm more of a mind to quietly head bob.  The white people dancing that was happening during the Kanye set is a testament to his unifying power of an artist at the top of his game, but it made me uncomfortable on a personal level, especially since so many of West's lyrics raise questions about the very inequality that this year's Coachella EMBODIED.

   By comparison, I also caught about 20 minutes of the Duck Sauce set in the Sahara tent- which also saw a lot of dancing.  For those of you who don't know Duck Sauce have a dance hit called Barbara Striesand and the joyful poly-ethnic celebration accompanying their performance of their hit had none of the uncomfortable racial overtones of the Kanye performance.


 Oh also- can someone STOP PHARELL from showing up and ruining buzz band sets? That SHIT HAS GOT TO STOP.

 Last thing- MUMFORD AND SONS splashed out this year- they were a co-winner w/ Strokes but I'm not going to put that in the headline or write about it other then to state the fact of the matter.

Show Review:
 Spectrum & Dirty Beaches
4/29/11

 The shows this week were all tied to this weekend's Pysch Fest in Austin, Texas.  Both headliners were headed there.  I was looking forward to the Spectrum show, because I went last year and they were AMAZING.  Last year's amazing show was no doubt related to the fact that Spectrum had NEVER played San Diego before.  Last year, there was a LOT of pent up demand.  Many of those people must have felt that once was enough, because this year's concert was less well attended then last year.  I think a bunch of people didn't show up because the ticket price (15) was high.  Oh well, their loss- SPECTRUM is amazing.
  Australia's The Black Ryder was in support.  Their LP on Mexican Summer, Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride came out in February of this year.  A duo on wax, they were fleshed out to a four piece for the tour.  I think the Pitchfork review of that record was pretty harsh, I thought they had a well developed sound and the Spectrum hungry audience didn't mind a bit that they played for close to an hour.  Their demeanor was very professional and the quality of the songs were high.
  I gleaned from the internet that they have relocated to Los Angeles- which is a tough move to be sure.  I think if they can get in the studio and write a hit or two and maybe catch the eye or ear of someone up in Los Angeles,  things might turn out all right for them in the US.

   The next day I drove up to Los Angeles to see Dirty Beaches at the Echo.  The show sold out before 11 PM.  Dirty Beaches held the crowd to attention and generally "delivered the goods" judging from audience reaction.  He also sold close to 50 LPs at 12 USD a piece.  You can do the math on that.  At this point, I think he is challenging the idea that Alex "needs a band" to reach his full potential.  You know what? Fuck the band.  Instead, he might consider adding a keyboard/dum machine stand up array to give his "different looks" within the set.  Another issue that Alex will need to address is extending a "one man show" into the 45 minute to hour long length that is expected of headliners at larger venues.

    There are considerable advantages that accrue to a "one man band" in the digital age and I, for one, think it's possible for Dirty Beaches to expand his considerable appeal without sacrificing the uniqueness of his presentation.  Let me ask this question, "Why the fuck should any musician/artist/performer listen to the "conventional wisdom" these days?"  Does it look like the practitioners of "conventional wisdom" in regard to rock acts are doing particularly well?  And let's say Alex was going to capitulate... people need to demand it and be willing to pay for it, or it will just be a wasted effort.  I think the one man band approach of Dirty Beaches is perfectly suited for the times.  Further, I would wager that the exact same people who say things like "would be more interesting with a band" would say, after seeing a show with said band would say, "was more interesting without a band."  In other words, whether or not a band is added, the same people will "not like" the act- just for a totally different reason.

5/3/11
Show Review
Vivian Girls*
No Joy
PLATEAUS
San Diego, CA.
Casbah

Also last night (not attended):
Beach Fossils
Craft Spells
Writer
San Diego, CA.
Soda Bar

* didn't stay.

   The Vivian Girls are as real a "victim" of rock critics as any band in all the land.  Whether it's questioning their "direction,"  wondering about whether they are "over" or just being a misogynist who is afraid of women who are doing their own thing, I have read it all about the Vivian Girls, and I can't help but be a little pissed off by the tone of much of the rock criticism of this act.  In all honesty, I think part of the soap-opera vibe that surrounds the Vivian Girls is a product of their location at the center of the blog-gossip maelstrom.  On their most recent record, they didn't make any effort to distance themselves from that physical environment, so I would have to assume that they are fine with it.

  I think it's just important to note at a factual level that the Beach Fossils, Craft Spells, Writer concert across town at the Soda Bar was sold out according to tweets I read during the No Joy set.  That would certainly explain the low attendance for the Vivian Girls.  I do think it is worth noting that San Diego is a price sensitive market and that pricing the wrong show at 12 or 15 could lessen attendance by 100 or more on an early week night.

 Art Fag Recordings PLATEAUS (SOUNDCLOUD) led off the night. I find that the marker of a band on the rise is that they can actually, like, perform in a convincing manner in front of the Casbah crowd on a Monday or Tuesday night, even if people are kind of still waking up and/or not present.  I will say that I think you could make the case that PLATEAUS drew equal to the Vivian Girls, based on the absence of obvious Vivian Girls fans.  Personally, I think the PLATEAUS have the potential to broadly appeal to rock audiences in cities less jaded then San Diego, but they will have to hit the road to get that response.  They had def. improved since their last show in terms of "tightness"- it was noticeable and commented upon by companions at the show.

  Mexican Summer's Canadian based NO JOY was in the role of main support, and it was easy to see why. They have a two girl/two guy conventional rock four piece arrangement but present like a more muscular "rock" edition of Pearl Harbour/Puro Instinct.  Certainly, the half full Casbah was kept at attention.  Lots of potential to develop there and this was a good opening act slot.

  Unfortunately, I had to leave before the Vivian Girls played, but I would expect that they would be disappointed by the turn out.  I am surprised that Beach Fossils sold out and Vivian Girls was half full, especially since it was Casbah/Soda Bar.  I'm totally opposed to creating horse race environments in the local scene, but at a national level it is hard to draw the conclusion that Beach Fossils is a band on the ups.  I think Vivian Girls have a lot to be proud of and it's a fucking shame that (male) rock critics can't appreciate it because they are sexist a*******.  Back the f*** off the Vivian Girls already.

SHOW REVIEW
Crystal Stilts
Young Prisms
Ghost Shores
at the Casbah, San Diego
5/5/11

   When I heard Dirty Beaches "True Blue" for the first time (on You Tube, of course.) the band that leapt to mind was Crystal Stilts.  When I heard that Zoo Music was going to be putting out Badlands as an LP, I went on-line and looked up the history of the Slumberland/Crystal Stilts relationship. Suffice it to say that I have listened to and thought about Crystal Stilts as much as any band between 2009 and today, even though I've never written about them on this blog.

    When I heard Alright of Night for the first time, it had already been out for a period.  Crystal Stilts, because of the timing and location of their ascent, was not a band I was following before their rise to prominence.  As they mentioned last night, last time through town was in 2008 itself and they played before 15 people at the Che Cafe.  I know I wasn't there- I don't even think I knew that the show was happening or who the bands were.  Embarrassing for me.

  Last night was better, but not the huge draw that I, personally, would expect based on my own level of interest.  I guess it goes to show how out of touch my personal taste is with even the more hard core concert goers of the San Diego CA.  The lack of popularity and/or ability to fully vibe with the popular taste of the market where I live is troubling, but not a game breaker.  It's a fact that bands I think should sell out shows will not sell out shows on a more or less regular basis forever.  I get that.

   Local openers GHOST SHORES began with an attention grabbing set, not to mention an audience of their own (younger looking women.)  They are all San Diego based, but have a relationship with the Murrieta based Brent Trudgers run Hi-Shadow Records.  The revelation of the night was their 19yo female singer, who easily brought to mind comparisons with Siouxsie, and of course more recent models like Tamaryn and Zola.  Polished she isn't, but she actually jumped into the crowd during her set- something I've never seen Tamaryn or Zola do.  The band though- a conventional rock three piece needs some work and/or rethinking.  The skittery indie rock simply did not do the singer justice.  I suppose you could view it as an interesting artistic choice, and as long as the singer is under 21 there is no rush, but I think she would be better supported by synths.  I say to young artists if you are going to emulate a singing style, Siouxsie Sioux, with her decades long career and pop-cross over appeal is a worthy inspiration. Go for it, ladies.

    Young Prisms were fresh off of their role as support act on the Fresh & Onlys, Crocodiles tour.  The reports  from the road on Young Prisms were enthusiastic, and that was backed by the presence of recently arrived members of Crocodiles and Dum Dum Girls at the show, supporting, as it were.   Young Prisms is a four piece from San Francisco- female lead singer.  I'm quite sure that the dismissive Pitchfork review of their most recent record didn't give them enough credit.  Or maybe they just need to work on their recording technique.  First, Stephanie Hodapp as a vocalist was between "good" and "great"- certainly not something which detracted from the experience as Larry Fitzmaurice claimed about the recordings.  Second, I know Pitchfork doesn't give credit for being an actual band that tours and plays shows and, you know, actually exists, unlike so many of their favorite artists, but to me that means something.  Young Prisms has a good live show, and they are super young and ready to commit to growing as artists and live performers.  That counts.  I say they are worth checking out, and further, that they are worth getting behind as a live act.

  Crystal Stilts took the stage a leetle late for my taste.  Again, for the second time in three nights it was a disappointing to sad audience.  I'm not one to get hung up on things that DIDN'T happen, but if I was Crystal Stilts I would be contemplating by passing San Diego on the next trip through.  Maybe give Santa Barbara or Costa Mesa a shot.  They are touring as a five piece and sounded just as distinctive in person as on record.  In fact, I couldn't help but think about the comparitive trajectories between Crystal Stilts and another band that shares some commonalities in terms of ascent, but differences in trajectory: Pains of Being Pure at Heart.

  It occurred to me during last night's show that Crystal Stilts Brad Hargett and Pains Kip Berman are kind of like mirror images of each other, one embracing the light (Kip) and one embracing the dark. (Brad)  I'd imagine that is nothing more then an airy artistic fantasy spun by someone who doesn't know "how things work" in the big city aka Brooklyn, but there is something about the narrative of the out-of-towner who moves to New York City and makes it in an indie rock band that resonates outside the limited milleu of the indie rock scene.  It's a cross over story, with pop appeal, but I think it's easy to see that Crystal Stilts is not interested in getting there and that's Alright with me.  Enjoy the road, that's what I say.

Show Review
Young Prisms
Cold Showers
Tower Bar San Diego CA.
6/3/11

     I hadn't been to the Tower Bar since the late summer of 2009, I don't even remember who was playing that night, only that I gave Dee Dee from the Dum Dum Girls a lift so she could interview Nate from Wavves.  Amazing enough, that was BEFORE things really started to happen.  I def. associate Tower Bar with a simpler time, an association helped by the 12+ months when Tower wasn't doing shows.  Back then, Tower was a scene type bar first, a venue second- I have multiple distinct memories of hearing all my favorite local bands sound terrible at Tower between 2006 and 2008.  I am pleased to report that both bands sounded GREAT, and given the lengthy lay off I have to assume that some money went to upgrading the sound system- if that is the case- mission accomplished.

      I believe it to be a principle that a band can go from nothing to viability simply by successfully drawing roughly 50 people to a show in 10-20 different markets.  It's not that achieving this goal is an instant formula for success, rather that if a band can accomplish this goal, it is conclusive proof that they are on the "road to success."  A big part of achieving this goal is being able to first draw the right 10-20 people for a specific market.  People like: indie show promoters, touring musicians who live in the area, and, of course, prominent local music writers/journalist.  These are the people who can get you from 10-20 to 50-100.

   It's important that young bands measure live show success first by QUALITY of attendees, and only later by QUANTITY.  Eventually, quantity is what matters, but in the beginning, quality is a better marker of progress.  An oft overlooked benefit to shows with attendance less then 50 (or 20) is to facilitate comraderie and "esprit de corps" between different artists.

   The essential conflict facing any DIY musical act is that the taste of those first 50 people in any specific market is markedly different then the taste of the 500th person who might come to their show.  If you lose the first 50 without gaining that 500th audience member, you have a failed project.  If you gain the 500th audience member and lose the first 50 you are a "sell-out."  Keeping the first 50 while getting the 500th requires time, discipline and hard work, and is subject to the capricious whim of people like bloggers, super-fans and bbs posters.

  Both Young Prisms and Cold Showers are bands that already have the right audience, but it's clear that they need more people to have heard their songs before they are drawing 200 to 300 at a venue like the Casbah.
Cold Showers is a four piece with a singing (male) bassist, Jessica Clavin, a guy playing a KORG mixed loudly into the sound and capable, non ostentatious indie style drumming.  It's a potent, heady mix of atmosphere, wry song writing and la inspired diy style.  Really, the only question I had as I watched Cold Showers was, "Damn I wonder if Mexican Summer has them signed for a full length."


Cold Showers - "I Don't Mind" from Mexican Summer on Vimeo.


  Great song. I'm a believer. Just bought the record from Mexican Summer etc.  Get out and wave the flag for Cold Showers.

 Between bands I had separate conversations with members of the Crocodiles and the Dum Dum Girls abut how great the new Crystal Stilts record is. BUY THAT SHIT ON ITUNES.

   Young Prisms just finished recording in San Diego for their upcoming JAMZ on Art Fag Recordings.  They sounded drum tight- like marching band tight.  One of the things I noticed about them this time is that their guitarist has a suit case full of pedals.  I call that... ambition.  Regardless of the output, it shows competence at operating the machinery of pop music.  Which is not to detract from the strength of the songs themselves, or the dextrous manner in which the various components intertwine over the length of the full set.  And for the record, the singer is Stef Hodapp.

  I think probably their initial break through is likely to come on the strength of the first song from their next record- a breakthrough to get people out to see them on their next time through town.  The element of having Stef singing wordless vocals over swirling shoegaze guitars is something that can carry an album or live show, but not something that writers and hype machine fans will dig- you want something that emphasizes song writing over atmosphere/mood.  My take is that they are on the cusp of viability but they need a straight forward release/tour schedule to develop the necessary audience size.

6/20/11
NXNE

THURS
CROCODILES
DIRTY BEACHES
CHAINS OF LOVE

FRI
WRITER
DIRTY BEACHES
DUM DUM GIRLS
CULTS

SAT
RINCE RAMA
GRIMES

SUNDAY
EDWARD BURTYNSKY EXHIBIT: OIL AT THE ROYAL MUSEUM OF ONTARIO


  Something that amuses me about music bloggers is that they go to week long events and then you get a write up like- two weeks later.  Um: Nobody gives a shit two weeks later.  When an event happens, people are looking for it as it happens, not "when you get around to it."

  Me- I just got off a plane from Toronto and my headline is "The Triumph of Dirty Beaches."  I'm almost certainly biased since I payed a big part in putting out his most recent record, Badlands, which was "long listed" for the 2011 Polaris Prize the day I got off the plane.   I checked into my hotel and took an (expensive) taxi to the Silver Dollar, which is kind of like the Casbah split in half length wise, with a front section and a back section.  If the show was in San Diego there would have been a DJ working the back room, but since this is Toronto they have a pool table and nothing.


THURS
CROCODILES
DIRTY BEACHES
CHAINS OF LOVE
SILVER DOLLAR TORONTO CANADA
NXNE


  I arrived two songs into the set by the CHAINS OF LOVE, what I would describe as a "touted" band from Vancouver.  They were performing as a six? piece?  Female singer, female singer/guitar player, drummer, organist/keyboardist, bassist and lead guitarist. All I could think about was "OY- how are they going to tour with a six piece."  ANSWER: With Canadian grant money.  My observation is that they might want to do a little line-up tinkering before going for it, but the sound is marketable if not super-cutting edge.  I would want to have a layer of electronic, kind of kraut inspired key boards instead of the more traditional 60s style organ sounds.

     Crocodiles were playing the first of a "three night stand" at the Silver Dollar. Crocodiles haven't played Toronto before because, basically, the Canadian Immigration Authorities are a**holes.  Can I say that? Because it's true.  I'm embarrassed on behalf of the Canadian Government that they would treat esteemed artists in such a fashion.  Anyway... Crocodiles fucking killed it.  Talk about an amazing live act, Jesus H. Christ.

     Dirty Beaches delivered the knock out blow to the sweaty, drunken crowd.  He blew the house down, like the big bad wolf.  In a strange way I was reminded of Howling Wolf:



    Dirty Beaches is drawing from a lot of different deep wells of influence, and the confidence and minimalism of the delivery are perfectly in tune with the "spirit of the times."  The crowd was rhapsodic, along the lines of Eric Wareheim's bros "Rockin Out to the National" at Coachella video.  My sense is that when you are inducing moment's like that you have "made it." As they say.  So I saw that moment with my own eyes on Thursday and would have videoed it myself except for the fact that I thought "this is exactly like the Eric Wareheim video of the bros rocking out to The National at Coachella."

FRIDAY

CULTS 
DUM DUM GIRLS
DIRTY BEACHES
WRITER
A SESAC SHOWCASE

LEES PALACE TORONTO CA


  Friday slept in and walked over to the (lame) Museum of Inuit Art- it's in a shopping mall on the waterfront. Points for existing, but there needed to be more older art- almost everything was from the 20th century.

     The Friday night SESAC show was at a venue called Lee's Palace, located on the North Side of town, in an environment akin to Oakland/Berkeley's College Avenue or Seattle's UW area.  Lee's Palace was staffed entirely by a******, again, Toronto- here is a tip for next year- have those hipsters standing around doing nothing actually interact with the the real workers to keep things pleasant for the guests.  If anyone wants the specific details- get in touch with me off list- but they are things...that would shock you.

   In spite of the mean spirited workers, the show was a smash hit- lines around the block going both directions for a 500 size venue.  People were lined up outside, waiting as early as 1015 PM.  When I left, mid way through CULTS mercurial set, I personally witnessed lines "around the block" going in both directions. REAL. TALK.

  I got there early to make sure I could see San Diego's WRITER- they are a two piece (yay!) and do a decent job with traded vocals. atmospheric song writing, multi-instrumental-ism and an intense performance style that showed dedication and professionalism.  They are going to get their chance opening for CULTS on tour.  I wish them the best.  More atmosphere- that's all I'm going to say.

   Dirty Beaches turned in another solid performance to, essentially, a packed house.  It was nothing like the cathartic bro love inducing Silver Dollar Show, but as I monitored the twitter updates from attendees, I saw what I expected to see- including the guy who HATED Dirty Beaches- I love those people more then anything.  I think Alex should incorporate more songs where he is just HOWLING over discordant loops in an attempt just to PROVOKE hatred from people like "that."  Just my opinion- MORE confrontation.

  Dum Dum Girls played a solid set to what is best described as an "adoring, sold-out" audience.  In light of the sound-quality issues that bedeviled Cults next, their air tight performance was a real testament to their strength as a touring band.  Dee Dee played two new songs and announce a September release date for the new record- would it be so bold as to suggest the second week of January?  Just a thought.

  Cults was the band I most wanted to see at NXNE, because I like the record and haven't seen them play before.  Their set was sabotaged by sound mixing issues. In light of my personal observations of the paid staff being classless, rude, assholes, I'd have to lay any CULTS related negativity squarely at the feet of the guy working the board.   Despite the issues, the house was full and, as I mentioned before, as we left midway through the set, lines snaked around the block in both directions.  Clearly, the SESAC showcase was the undisputed highlight of the festival from this writer's perspective.  Also, Cults already has 2-3 solid hits, and they have 10 songs total- so you have to like their chances, long-term.  I would say if you are going to truck five guys around, you might as well invest in a big-ass organ that has a rich sound- that's what Cold War Kids would do.

SATURDAY
PRINCE RAMA
GRIMES
SOME BASEMENT in TORONTO

  After the glamour of Thursday and Friday, Saturday night was a basement show at some Buddhist Temple type building in a border-line residential neighborhood.

  Went to dinner at the restaurant inside of the "TIFF BELL LIGHTBOX" which is basically a movie theater, but a cool movie theater that places a mix of repertory and current "art" films.

  GRIMES just finished opening up for Lykke Li on her North American Tour, which is nothing short of fucking incredible when you consider here, she was playing for 50 Toronto Hipsters in a basement at 11 PM. To her credit, shit was DIY as fuck and she gets points for that.  The sound was somewhere between James Blake and Nite Jewel, and she came packing her own sound guy/manager.  I caught a glimpse of her walking out the front door on the way to her next gig and was surprised to see a young woman who looked like she had just come from an anti-NWO protest in Seattle circa 1995.  I then had a SEPARATE conversation about a different person who had a similar aesthetic, leading me to believe that might be a thing that is coming back or is already back.  I can see why people are interested, but I'm not positive I was sold.

  Prince Rama was my favorite new artist of the weekend- it's a female two piece with one on drums and the other on keyboards and they both sing.  I bought the Paw Tracks vinyl record, which Pitchfork gave a 6.2.  Might I recommend that Prince Rama leave Brooklyn and journey out to sunny Southern California?  Their sound would be a sensation with the Smell crowd, and they could build out from there.  Also, they have a new record coming out in the fall on Paw Tracks. Buy that shit.

SUNDAY
EDWARD BURTYNSKY 



 OK- first of all- I shit you not this is like the most expensive museum in the world.  24 CAD. Which is... ridiculous.  It makes me think that Canada is poor, honestly.  Price was no object though because they had an exhibit by my wife and I's favorite artist/photographer: Edward Burtynsky.  The subject of this exhibit was "OIL" and it was incredible- he truly is a visionary artist, one who changes the very meaning of the word "beatutiful" with his art.  Think about it.  No WAY the ROM is worth the price of admission without the Burtynsky exhibit. Oh-also- they were charging extra for the water exhibit which is a travelling exhibit that came through San Diego LAST YEAR- we went to eh OPENING.  Nice try, Toronto.

6/24/11
SHOW REVIEW
WILLIE NELSON'S COUNTRY THROWDOWN
@ THE SAN DIEGO COUNTY FAIR

WILLIE NELSON
JAMEY JOHNSON
w/ Adam Hood & Dani Flowers

  I can't go to a show at the San Diego County Fair without mentioned the San Diego County Fair itself.  It is quite the institution when it comes to publicly sponsored fun.  Two comments, and that will be all:

  1.  The San Diego County Fair is synonymous with the definition of the word "sublime" as used by Edmund Burke in the 18th century, as in "the horrors and harmony of [the] aesthetic experience."  BEAUTIFUL AND TERRIFYING, in other words.
  2.  The San Diego County Fair is an economic powerhouse- according to a source it is only one of two Fairs in the Western Fair Association (which is itself AWESOME, btw.)  NOT to receive public money.  Think about it. Pays it's own way- powerful incentive for institutional independence.


       A note on the venue.  It's my believe that the stage that they use at this event is "the" stage of this size for a large size concert.  I'm quite sure I've seen the same stage here, as well as other locations, and I am left with the distinct impression that there is one, and that it moves around, and that you need to know where the stage is going to be in order to reserve it- I'd imagine up to a year in advance.  Despite the fact that the Fair is probably the best customer for "the stage," they don't use the space very efficiently- or I guess they chose not to last night- with only a tiny "pit" area with seats, and then the race track seating.  My observation is that this was a choice made to make the crowd easier to supervise, particularly considering the "hot button" topic of marijuana smoking at concerts as it might impact the current "debate" over local ownership.  Personally, I think letting Del Mar "take over" the fair considering the Fair's present economic strength is ludicrous.  Yeah Del Mar City, maybe if you PAID for the Fair, you might have a point.

     We arrived in time to catch the full set of night-time opener Jamey Johnson.  With all deference to lastfm, I think his play count of a half million is deceptively low: Lastfm is heavily weighted towards Artists who have emerged AFTER lastfm itself began to be used around the world.  If you hop on over to Myspace, the overall playcount of 18 million speaks to an Artist popular at least 2-3 years ago.  If you look at his Wikipedia it shows an Artist who had a break out single in 2005, didn't deliver on the follow-up full length, withdrew for a year or two, switched labels and came back with a songwriting style and sound that allows him to cross-over to the pop charts.  Despite his ability to cross over on the Album chart, his singles have "stayed country" which is either what he wants or something he's trying to work on.

  Given what I heard and saw last night: 8  piece ensemble, guitar rock solos, the answer is for him to deliver his own (better) version of the country-rock stylings of American Idol winners, but I suspect from his direct lyrics and black-shirt and jeans persona that Jamey Johnson is a bit of the moody artiste, and I wouldn't want he or his fans to take this comment the wrong way.  I can see why he was opening for Willie Nelson, and I think the crowd was into it.  They were certainly in seats and paying attention during his set.  Seems like he should be able to write up a cross-over country rock hit, probably a ballad.

  Between Johnson and Nelson they had two solo acoustic performers do one song each.  Adam Hood and Dani Flowers.  Flowers has no record yet but a publishing deal with SONY/ATV which makes me think she has been around in some capacity other then as a performer.  Hood has 80k last fm plays, which makes me think he must have played earlier on a different stage and got this slot as a reward or something.  Pretty good mechanics- and something to apply to a rock milleu, where you could have bedroom one man artists alternate with live bands in a basically seamless fashion at a venue as small as soda bar or Casbah- just have the solo artist play the atari lounge/pool room while the next band sets up.  You could get the show done in half the time.

  I know Casbah does this but they always have BANDS in BOTH rooms: You don't want alternating bands, you want alternating bands and one or two person projects.  Just from a sheer economics/logistics perspective there is something SO REWARDING about a one person musical act- and as long as the songs are good people don't give a shit, be it country singer/songwriters or  synth music.

  Headliner Willie Nelson is a legend- someone whose Wikipedia Willie Nelson Discography Page tells an amazing 20th century story.  Let me tell you a fact about Willie Nelson:  In 1984-1985 he had FOUR STRAIGHT Pop number one singles.  Four in a ROW, man.  That is ridiculous.   Who put out all four number one hits? Columbia Records.  1984 is when the "music industry" had it going on.

      Now 78, Nelson continue to play because he loves what he does, or at least that the distinct impression I got from his PERFORMANCE rather then the catty comments of haters in the Audience.  Nelson's style is not a Vegas influenced hit parade, but rather a genuine attempt of an aging Artist to stay true to the essence of his nature.  The set lasted an hour, he played two hits and we were all treated to his inestimable style of guitar  playing which is best summed up by this quote from the Acoustic Guitar Forum last October:

     Willie's obvious jazz background shows itself in the rhythmic (and melodic) phrasing he uses in his solos. Also a lot of Latin sounding stuff. He is one fine guitar player. (ACOUSTIC GUITAR FORUM)

      Now, I'm willing to acknowledge that jazz influenced guitar playing is aesthetically valid, and that people with good taste like it because it is different, uses different string arrangement and time configurations, etc. etc. etc.  Me, I like to hear the hits, particularly when the Artist is 78.  On Facebook, Best Coast's Bobb Bruno compared his style to Jandek:

   I'm pretty sure he was not joking, because I can hear the similarities.  Upon reflection, I guess it's a pretty cool style to have, but I just don't have the particular taste for it because I'm not into experimental, jazz influenced guitar.  The fact that Willie Nelson has great timing and could play however he wanted, if he so chose, was apparent.

Show Review:
 Fresh & Only's, Terry Malts & PLATEAUS 
@ The Casbah
8/2/11

"Conservatism" and "Fundamentalism" are words with bad P.R. in my world but I think that has more to do with the ideas that people are conservative and fundamentalist ABOUT then the concepts themselves.  I'll grant you that in the area of, oh, I don't know, religion or politics, conservatives and fundamentalists are super annoying, but in the area of culture- popular music, for example, I think a little conservatism and fundamentalism is called for to rescue taste from the sewer of Billboard Popular Music Charts.

   Whatever aesthetic judgments you care to pass on the LMFAO's and Katy Perry's of the world, their lack of anything approaching "authenticity" is manifest.  Indeed, it seems that lack of authenticity and a willingness to prostitute oneself either explicitly or implicitly to the Culture Industrial complex is a prerequisite of appearing listed as an Artist on any Billboard chart.

  Since Popular Music, by definition, lacks authenticity, that leaves Artists not on the pop chart the entire field.  Thus, for Artists on the margins, authenticity is key, without it, you might as well quit.

   Last night had authenticity pouring out the vents, popularity not so much, but seriously: Who gives a shit. As long as the musicians look like they enjoy what they do and generate energy via their performance, you don't need a huge audience, just a group of people between 10 and 25 people.

  PLATEAUS took the stage in classic Monday night Casbah style: 930 PM, sparse audience- they didn't give a shit.  Their set was fucking blazing- I mean, they killed.  In terms of my own personal experience, it was some-what reminiscent of seeing The Soft Pack nee Muslims back in 2007-2008.  I mean: interesting, varied song writing, charming enthusiasm, band chemistry.  Last night, PLATEAUS stated the case that they are comers in the line of other successful Southern California DIY acts, particularly the line of bands that emerged out of San Diego in 2007-2008, Crocodiles, Dum Dum Girls, Wavves, Muslims/Soft Pack- not in terms of a similar sound, but in terms of potential viability on the national stage.  I hesitate to make such a claim at any early stage- especially in light of their unproven road skills, but certainly the performance I witnessed last night would make anyone with an ear say, "DAMN."  PLATEAUS have a 7" FOR SALE at Art Fag Recordings, and one in the can for HOZAC, and then another one on Art Fag Recordings.

  Oh- and they were moving 7"s last night.

  Terry Malt is a San Francisco three-piece with a 7" out on the Bay Area's Slumberland Records.  Here is what Slumberland has to say about Terry Malt:

  San Francisco's Terry Malts have been a mysterious presence on the local scene for a while now. Popping up with great regularity on gigs around town, they come, they slay, then they disappear into the dark night. Their tunes are catchy like fishhooks, jumping off from such familiar touchstones as Ramones and Buzzcocks, stopping off with some fine SoCal friends like The Crowd, The Descendents, and Red Cross, somehow arriving at an energetic modern power-pop/punk amalgam not too far from The Exploding Hearts and The Clorox Girls. It's a time-honored pop recipe, leavened by the band's top-notch song-writing and their barely-concealed fondness for 70s and 80s bubblegum.

     Anyways, I concur, but I frankly have to question what the path is for Lookout pop-punk revivalists.  I'm not saying this to be mean but isn't the destiny of your contemporary power pop/punk band to get on the fucking WARPED TOUR?  Personally, I would break-up a band rather then take that route.  Vice Magazine movies and sold-out underground festivals are cool, but ain't nobody going to be paying the bills with that sound.  My personal point of comparison is more like Screeching Weasel- in terms of the actually talent of the band- drummer and guitarist particularly.  I know that's a fraught comparison right now, but they were a good band in their day.

     Authenticity, though?  Not a problem.  All the garage rock revivalists got it in spades- you don't need to worry about Terry Malts signing with a fucking manager and doing 7"s for a soda company.

    Headliners Fresh & Only drew a decent crowd for a Monday night Casbah show, but weakly compared to their last 2 or 3 spins through the area.  I think they've played to sold-out or close to it crowds their last three times through, and the absence of that kind of atmosphere last night is probably directly attributable to their excellent work ethic. It's not like they have anything to prove in that regard- Fresh & Only's can sell tickets.  At this point, you could almost see them as support for a larger act at a bigger venue, or playing a Belly Up Tavern or equivalent- but they have to wait 6 months to try.

    Since the trade-off between Authenticity and Popularity is so direct, an ambitious Artist needs to consider how best to compromise your Authenticity for Popularity.  There are two main areas- the music and the style of the Artist.  Style refers to non-musical communications with the public, method of product output, product artwork, non-commercial product out-put, etc.  I would suggest that the most cost efficient way is to change the sound of the music so that it carries the fullness that characterizes popular music- that's not something where you need to be public about it- you can just do it, and then gauge the reaction. 

  This as supposed to signing to a major label, having a douche bag manager, or putting out records for multi-national corporations.


8/29/11
SHOW REVIEW
Nite Jewel
Craft Spells
Yohuna
Sea Pony

      I've heard the new Nite Jewel record, and it's amazing.  I just wanted to toss that out there.  As I said to the Artist herself, this weekend, "With most independent bands, you can hear a limit in how high they can go in the quality of their recorded sound, with the new Nite Jewel record, there is no limit."

      Despite possessing an Art Fag tang, the Saturday nite line-up at the Soda Bar was a CS Touring joint, and the excellent turn out is a testament to Cory Stier being a booker on the rise. It's impossible to say that anyone competes with Tim Mays- since he actually books shows at the venue's of his potential "competitors" but in my mind both Soda Bar and Tin Can Alehouse rank as venues that at least have some identifiable strategy/plan when it comes to booking local and national bands.  I should toss Pink Elephant into the mix out of respect, but it's hard to say that Pink Elephant really cares about anything OTHER then Pink Elephant, whereas Mays, Soda Bar and Tin Can all have firm roots in the independent local music scene of today.

    During opening band Sea Pony's set, I almost "twittered" at Slumberland Records "hey sign this band," but it looks like they have sumthing going with Hardly Art, in Seattle.  What I heard was more Slumberland then Hardly Art, though to be fair to Hardly Art it's difficult to say IF they have an identifiable "sound."  It's funny- I'm trying to resolve this by looking at Velocity Girl's wikipedia page, since they are the most identifiable musical antecedent to Sea Pony, and I see Velocity Girl put out records on both "old" Slumberland and Sub Pop.  Touche, Hardly Art/Sub Pop- the point is yours.

  Yohuna was next, and I am simply going to restrict my opinion to verbal conversations I have- so ask if you see me around.

  Craft Spells played third- I believe Nite Jewel was the "headliner" but the crowd was def. there to see Craft Spells and Nite Jewel.  Craft Spells has a record out on Captured Tracks.  Let me just say that I feel a kinship to Captured Tracks, since label head Mike Sniper was a big inspiration to Dee Dee from the Dum Dum Girls, and I work with Dee Dee on Zoo Music.  I want to support Captured Tracks band to the best of my ability.

  Craft Spells is the one man project of Justin Vallesteros, though from watching their set Saturday night, it would be impossible to tell.  More like, "road test rock four piece" then bedroom indie project.  That's a smart move, because the resulting sound was a polished, up tempo, performance that drew a response from the appreciative crowd.  Looks like they haven't locked up North American booking yet- man, that should be a slam dunk, maybe they are just in negotiations.  They have half a million last.fm plays- hello- anyone out there?

  I had to leave before Nite Jewel played, but I want to reiterate- the new record- groundbreaking.  Really, really good.

 Also, I love watching bands on the televisions at Soda Bar from the banquette/booth location- amazing.

Show Review
2011 San Diego Music Thing
Abe Vigoda
BLEACHED
Colleen Green
Cold Showers
Plateaus

Chasms
Cathedral X
@ The Casbah in San Diego

   Have I mentioned how much I hate reading show reviews from two months ago?  Here's an idea- if you can't get your shit together to put up the review within a week- don't post the g** d**** review.

  Last night I went to the Casbah to check out the Art Fag/DREAM Recordings Showcase.  Local luminaries were on hand: Jo Jo from Heavy Hawaii, big Tim Mays himself, Blaque Chris, Robbie Butler- it was, as they say, a star-studded affair.

  Rolled in to the end of the ridiculously early PLATEAUS set.  Gentleman Jon Greene could not have been happy.  I heard they recently put pen to paper on the Art Fag Recordings deal for the full-length LP, so everyone has that to look forward to.

   COLD SHOWERS:  This band is amazing- strong song writing, accessible sound and professional level musicianship make for an intoxicating gothy pop blend.  I can't find the lead singer's name at the moment- but he also is/was the founder/owner of I Hate Rock and Roll Records, and it's my understanding that he's folding that label and will be partnering up with Craig Oliver at Volar Records to create some sort of indie super label.  I guess we're all just waiting to see who will put out the debut lp. Looks like they have booking lined up, so it should be a go- can't wait to hear the full length- oh and if someone at Mexican Summer is reading this post can you send me the 5 Cold Showers 7"s I bought and paid for two months ago? Thx.

      COLLEEN GREEN:  Colleen Green struggled through technical difficulties (equipment based) but delivered a brief set of winning tunes that gave clear evidence as to why blogs (such as this one) have dubbed her "AMERICAS SWEETHEART" and a "CANT MISS WIN."  Personally, when I see her perform I'm reminded of the brazen confidence of a Dirty Beaches with the catchy song writing and vox of Dum Dum Girls.  The one person pop act is perfectly suited for this age of mp3s and financial collapse, and with dates on the road opening for Dum Dum Girls and Crocodiles and an EP slated for release on Art Fag Recordings the same month, I would have to say that the stars have alined and Colleen Green is ready for take off.  Oh, and all you dbags who were hanging on the patio during her set?  You fucking suck- except for Robbie Butler- because I know he goes to all the Colleen Green shows.

    In all honesty, I get the same feeling watching Colleen Green that I had when I watched "before" versions of Best Coast, Dirty Beaches and Dum Dum Girls: This is an artist with demonstrated national viability.

    CATHEDRAL X:  Cathedral X is a local act that played in the DREAM LOUNGE last night- I think they are one of two acts slated for releases on the new DREAM RECORDINGS imprint run by Art Fag Recordings honcho Martin Orduno.  Wife and I were talking about Prince Rama right before they started playing, and it's funny- because they actually reminded both of us of Prince Rama.  Cathedral X is a three piece- male drummer, female singer (who performed a) under a sheet and b) in a see through skirt with a g string underneath.) and then a third performer who was spasming and twitching like a monster out of a Japanese horror film.

   The singing was wordless or close to it, with the vox looped through a series of pedals to give the singing a unique sound.  The drumming was non-typical- it was probably the drumming that reminded me most of Prince Rama and then there was a backing Ipod track.  Unlike Prince Rama, which is firmly grounded in Hindu chanting, the points of reference for Cathedral X were harder to pin point.  Clearly there is some kind of performance art influence and I think probably if/when I see them next I will either ask directly.  I'll tell you this much, I'd watch this band a million billion times before I'd sit through five minutes of a set from a conventional blues-rock four piece.  Bottom line, I'm in for Cathedral X.

 BLEACHED: For me, Bleached was the headliner of the night.  I've managed to miss the live show about six times already in San Diego (and once in Palm Springs) so I was ready to see, in person, what the fuss is all about.  Jen Clavin's sister plays guitar in both Bleached and Cold Showers, and Bleached is rounded out with a drummer and bassist who looks like he escaped from the Soft Pack.  Bleached had their manager, Scott Hopkins from Rainstorm in attendance, and throughout the set I tried to figure out how a guy who used to work for Velvet Revolver landed Jen Clavin's new band andd... I don't know.  He does seem to know his way around the music biz.

    As for Bleached themselves, I was, unfortunately, underwhelmed- particularly considering the performances of Cold Showers, Colleen Green and Cathedral X.  It sounded to me like Bleached is covering ground last covered by the Donnas- sneering 70s style guitar rock, and I'm not sure that's what I want/need from the ex-lead singer of Mika Miko.  Certainly, Bleached is going to have no trouble getting in front of audiences, but I'm not sure whether it will sell.  I've been kind of disappointed by the 7" sales figures I've seen- although the Art Fag Recordings physically 7"s sold out in a week and a half, the digital sales are flat, and I'm not sure why.  People should be going bananas for that shit.  It's a puzzler, and bears more investigation.

   Don't get me wrong- Clavin's star power and Bleached accessible sound should get them a knock on the front door of the castle, if not inside the castle itself.

    The turn-out was respectable if not incredible.  If I could make one suggestion it's that Bleached/Plateaus on tour together would be a formidable combination.

  I will be appearing at the San Diego Music Conference today at 345 PM.

Show Review: Can Prince Rama End the Buzz Drought of 2k11? 
10/8/11

 I saw Prince Rama open for Grimes in the basement of a Buddhist Temple in Toronto during NXNE and thought they were pretty amazing.  Only after did I learn the back-story- "signed" to Paw Tracks, "discovered" during SXSW, and, most importantly- album to be released in the fall.

  Personally, I agree with HIPSTER RUNOFF that we are in the midst of a buzz drought.  In the same way that the Mayans had both 22 year cycles called "KATANS" and then cycles comprised of the cycles, Buzz is at a low point in two cycles.

 First, there is the yearly cycle that has been created by the new gatekeepers of the internet.  Specifically,  the calendar begins with strong buzz and new buzz bands, and then there is a decline, with the buzz generators exhausted by the start of the fall.  The months of september to november are given over almost entirely to "established" Artists, and little buzz is generated.  December, is, of course, a waste land for new music and that time is used by gatekeepers to 'recharge their batteries' and results in new buzz for the months of January and February.

  Second, there is the three year cycle for trends.  As I've said on this blog before, this is an end period for the larger "LO FI" movement that emerged in 2008.  The cycle ends in different ways for Artists and Audiences.  For Artists, some bands emerge out of the trend cycle and move into the regular music industry, for other Artists, they lose steam as the trend they are associated with loses stream.  For Audiences of those Artists, some move along with them, others begin their search for the next big thing.

  In terms of the Artists I write about on this blog and the associated trend of "LO FI" (2008-2011) here are some events that are hallmarks of the end of the period:

  1. Nathan Williams of Wavves is making a video game.
  2.  The next Best Coast record is being produced by John Brion.
  3.  The new Dum Dum Girls record was number one on the new artist chart.

  The end of the longer three year cycle coinciding with the petering out of the shorter calendar year cycle combines to create a "buzz drought."  I would suggest that it will resolve itself by mid January of 2012, by which time a new trend will emerge, but until then- relax, go back to roots, check out local bands.  Chill.

  Personally, I believe that Prince Rama represents the potential start of a new buzz trend, that of the incorporation of non-western song styles and motifs into the buzzosphere.  It's too soon to tell which Artist or Artists will fully develop this trend, or how it will be received by the public, but such a trend would provide a counter point to the low cost production and trad rock roots of most of the successful lo fi acts.

 Certainly, based on their performance last night, Prince Rama has what it takes to emerge into the wider consciousness of the general public.  The packed audience- obviously there early for the headliner Gang Gang Dance, was quite appreciative and there was little of the "outside drift" that I've often observed at the Casbah (outside drift is when people drift outside to the smoking patio DURING an opening band's set.)

   Their two person sister act is portable and seems built for the long haul- an absolute necessity in a period where regular touring is a substitute for advertising dollars and label driven publicity.  I am personally hopeful that the new Prince Rama record, TRUST NOW will be a critical and sales success and that more people will be exposed to their excellent sound.






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