Author: God Frank

Garbage 04/06/12: Bootleg Theater – Los Angeles, CA

Garbage 04/06/12

Bootleg Theater – Los Angeles, CA

Words & Photos by God Frank/Videos by Hipster73


You can just call me Oscar the Grouch, because I love garbage! Put me in a pair of Speedos, toss me in a dumpster and just let me roll around in it. But enough about last weekend, I love Garbage the band too! Their self-titled debut album is one of my all-time favorites. It’s been 7 years since their last effort Bleed Like Me and also 7 years since anyone has seen them perform live. So I was really happy to hear that they are finally coming out with a new CD next month. That happiness was enhanced by news that they were going to start touring again. More happiness came finding out that the tour would start here in LA next week. That happiness tsunami nearly pushed me over the edge to wetting myself when I found out that they were going to play a warm up concert at the Bootleg Theater on Good Friday!

Although the show’s limited number of tickets sold out quickly after the show was announced I was lucky enough to snag one. So I headed down to the Bootleg, to see just what is in store for the rest of LA and the world when the tour begins in ernest next week.
I didn’t know if they were going to be playing just the new music from the yet to be released Not Your Kind of People or if they would be mixing in the old stuff too. As it turns out the show was more of a greatest hits type event. Maybe they didn’t want to go crazy with new music that the audience hasn’t had the opportunity to hear yet or maybe they just felt like they needed to practice the older tracks that they haven’t played for over 7 year. Either way the show was a fans dream with hit after hit after hit.
In the beginning it didn’t seem like they needed any practice at all, knocking out “Supervixon,” “Temptation Waits,” and “Shut Your Mouth” flawlessly. It was like they had never taken a break and the crowd was going crazy jumping up and down and shaking the springy floors of the Bootleg Theater like there was an 8.0 earthquake.

After a couple more flawless tunes including “Metal Heart” and “Queer,” the band actually kicked it up to a higher gear and totally blew the roof off the place with absolutely stellar performances of “Stupid Girl” and “Why Do You Love Me” both of which would have been show stoppers for most bands, but Shirley and the gang were just getting started.

Unfortunately, this is where we started seeing a few cracks in the armor and the reason they were doing a warm up show. During “#1 Crush” lead singer and front woman Shirley Manson actually messed up the lyrics. She covered it extremely well, essentially singing one verse twice while skipping over another. A non Garbage fan probably wouldn’t have noticed, but I for one love that song and definitely noticed as did everyone else around me. After a rough start for “The Trick is to Keep Breathing” they totally botched the beginning of “Vow.” They actually had to stop the song and Shirley had to adlib for a couple of minutes while one of the guitarists had to work out an issue.

With a lot of bands this would have been seriously awkward the show could have really spiraled out of control. But this was just a warm show and it exists to work out those issues. Rather than be embarrassed Shirley had fun with it saying “Perfection is boring, right?” and at one point offered refunds to anyone who wanted one. There were no takers.
In fact this actually added to the awesomeness of the show. The entire night had a relaxed, rehearsal vibe to it, something Shirley kept referring to. At one point she even mentioned that if this had been a rehearsal, this is where they would take a break to get dinner or maybe a Starbucks.

There were no breaks to be had yet though and after “Vow” they finally kicked into some new music. First up was “Blood for Poppies”, which is also the first single from the new disc. Its solid jam that when I first heard I was a little indifferent towards, but it is really starting to grow on me. Next was Man on a Wire. This song absolutely rocks! I kinda wish this was their first single. I absolutely loved it.

It was back to the hits like “Milk” and “I Think I’m Paranoid.”. Then I had my head completely blown off. In what was for me the highlight of the night, they brought the house down with an amazing rendition of “Only Happy When It Rains.” They mixed the song up a little bit and the song started with Shirley singing the first verse acoustically as a ballad, before the full band kicked in for the more traditional rock version at the chorus. Then in the middle of song they worked in a break where Shirley again sang a verse acoustically before the band went back to rocking it out. It was brilliant and amazing. Hands down the best performance I have ever seen of that song. It was a total showstopper. I actually though that would be the last song of the set, but they kept the energy up and gave us one more song with “Push It.”

At that point they left the stage, but of course when the band leaves but the lights don’t come up, you know an encore is coming. After a couple of minutes they returned and Shirley asked if we had time for a few more songs. I kinda wish we all could have let out a big “DUH!” in unison, but instead we just cheered and were rewarded with a special performance of “Special” followed by “The World is Not Enough.” Would you believe me if I told you that a girl in the audience actually yelled out a request for that song during the main set? I couldn’t believe it either. Don’t get me wrong, it’s okay, and a great James Bond song, but I can think of a few other songs I would have preferred hearing in the encore (“Cherry Lips” anyone?!).

Okay, that’s nitpicking.

They finished up with only the third song from the new CD. I don’t know how you close a show with a new song that nobody in the crowd has heard before? But Battle In Me kicks ass! It’s a pulse pounding, hard rocking jam that is totally worthy of being a show closer and by the end of it the entire place was jumping out of their skins rocking out to it. That is all you need to know about the new CD, it is going to be off the hook. At one point in the show Shirley told the crowd that when they were making this disc they all knew they were making something amazing. I have no doubt that she is right. Despite the few problems that a warm up show is designed to work out, this was one phenomenal show and I am thrilled to have been one of the few who got to experience it. Garbage is back!

Portishead Gives You A Reason To Love Them

Portishead 10/18/11

Shrine Exposition Hall – Los Angeles, CA

Words/Photos by God Frank


When I die I want Portishead’s Dummy CD playing on an endless loop at my funeral. No babble from people who really didn’t care about me and ignored me my whole life, trying to make themselves feel better before they completely forget about me in 2 weeks. Just an endless stream of Beth Gibbons soulful and angst ridden vocals washing over the sparse crowd. The three people in this world who actually bothered to get to know the real me will get it.

So naturally I almost wet myself when I found out that Portishead was going to tour the states for the first time since 1998! Yeah, they played Coachella back in 2008 but that was a single show that required you to buy an expensive 3 day festival pass in order to attend. Knowing this was probably the only chance I would ever have to see them live, ever, I was at my computer with the Ticketgouger Ticketmaster website open the moment tickets went on sale and I got my ticket to Tuesday’s show the second they became available. Considering they sold out less than an hour later it was a good thing I did. Then after a couple of months of longingly looking at my ticket waiting for the show it finally came!

I hopped in the car after work on Tuesday and headed down to the dreaded Shrine Expo Center. Seriously, could Goldenvoice have picked a worse venue for this show? The Expo Center is barely passable for rave show or dance band. For a band like Portishead it was completely unacceptable. Clearly they didn’t know anything about the band before booking the venue. But even though I was guaranteed poor sight lines in a crappy venue, and even though I had to go alone, I was excited to finally get to see a band whose music has meant so much to me all these years.

The show started with a set from the opening act Thought Forms. Or at least I think it was Thought Forms. Nobody actually bothered to introduce them, and they didn’t bother to greet the crowd or introduce themselves either. They were okay, nothing particularly special but not bad either. Actually a pretty good match musically for a Portishead show. Very atmospheric and moody, but a little more uptempo  and dare I say “rockin’” than the Bistol band I was there to see. I probably would have enjoyed them a little more had I been on something, but they didn’t suck. When they finished their 35-40 minute set they left stage just as they arrived on stage, without a word being said. I was somewhat perplexed by this. Isn’t the point of being an opening act to get exposure and gain fans? That’s kind of hard to do when you make absolutely no effort to make a connection with the crowd or even let the crowd know who the hell you are. They definitely missed that opportunity and I would be very surprised to hear from them ever again.

Portishead's famous logo

After the stage hands did some work setting up the stage and instruments the lights went down and the moment I’ve craved since 1994 was finally there. White lines moved across the video screen behind the stage before finally creating the famous Portishead “P” logo. The crowd went crazy and the band took the stage! While normally a trio of Beth Gibbons, Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley, they brought a few more people with them and are touring as a sextet with an extra drum set-up and an additional guitar among other enhancements.

The show began with “Silence and Nylon Smile”, two tracks from Portishead’s underrated and poorly titled Third CD. Both songs were solid and a nice warm up to get the crowd going. After “Nylon Smile” ended someone next to me who must have known the play list from previous shows back East said, “This place is going to erupt now.” He was completely right as soon as the soft beginning of “Mysterons” started, every single person in the Expo Center screamed. Haunting and soulful, it’s clearly a fan favorite and they totally did it justice with Beth’s voice sounding every bit as strong as it did when Dummy came out in 1994.

They went back to the Third CD for The Rip. Not a favorite of mine, it was still good and honestly if they went straight from “Mysterons” to “Sour Times” I may have had an accident in my pants from excitement so it was probably a good thing that they broke them up. So yeah, “Sour Times” followed “The Rip.” It was exactly as it was on the CD, but you don’t fix what’s not broken, right?!?! With everyone singing along they nailed the closest thing to a hit they have had to perfection.

Portishead never toured after the release of Third, so with this essentially being a long delayed Third tour, they went back to that CD for “Magic Doors.” Like most of the tracks on the Third CD, it had more energy than what we previously had heard from Portishead on their first 2 discs. They followed that up with what turned out to be one of the highlights of the night.

In case I haven’t mentioned it yet, Dummy is an amazing CD. There literally isn’t a bad track on it. If I were to rank the 11 songs on the disc, “Wandering Star” would be toward the bottom of that list. While still a good song, at a normal show that would have been my bathroom break. Fortunately for me and the crowd (but unfortunately for my bladder) they stripped down the song to an almost acoustic version that was nothing short of haunting and magical. The additional band members left stage for the moment, the lights went down and Beth and Adrian Utley sat on stools at the front of the stage under a spotlight and performed what was one of the knock your socks off highlights of the night. Beautiful and unexpected, it was pure brilliance, taking a song that normally gets lost on a disc with much better songs and turning it into a show stopping performance that not one person in the building will ever forget.

By they were just getting started! Next was “Machine Gun” with its pulse pounding beats that had the entire place dancing. Then back to their slower angst filled roots with two of my personal favorites “Over” and “Glory Box.” Next came “Chase the Tear”, their funding raising song for Amnesty International. Already an hour into the show, they kept going with “Cowboys” before finishing their main set with another song from Third, “Threads.” They then thanked the crowd and left the stage.

In this era when encores are less of a thank you to fans begging for another song, and more of a planned part of the show, you knew they were coming back. Oh yeah, and the lights didn’t go up and they hadn’t played “Roads” yet so they didn’t fool anyone into thinking they were done. I don’t think anyone in the building would have let them leave without playing “Roads”, so after a few minutes of taking in some electrolytes (or vodka?), they returned to stage for a 2 song encore.

And yes, the encore started with “Roads” (Dummy) before finishing with “We Carry” On from Third.

In the end, I left the Expo Center alone, just as I arrived, but with my tummy full of trip-hoppy goodness. Having seen not only one of my bucket list concerts, but having them completely live up to all my expectations. I really hope it’s not another 13 years before they tour the states again, but whenever the next tour is, I will be there.

She Wants Revenge w/ Nico Vega 05/23/11: Roxy – West Hollywood, CA

She Wants Revenge (w/ Nico Vega 05/23/11)

Roxy – West Hollywood, CA

Words/Photos by God Frank

About 5 years ago I was in a bar and saw the music video for These Things by She Wants Revenge. I’m not ashamed to say that I absolutely loved it and after streaming a couple more songs off their self-titled debut album I ran to Best Buy to add the disc to my collection. I’ve been a fan ever since even buying their sophomore release This is Forever without hearing even one track first. Okay, so what if they sound A LOT like Depeche Mode, but I like Depeche Mode! When I found out they were playing a show at the Roxy  I was very excite to get to see them live. I was even more excited to get tickets for free from a local radio station. So with a friend from work in tow I made the Monday trek to the Sunset Strip to see them celebrate the release of their third CD Valleyheart which was released the same day.

Opening for She Wants Revenge was the indie rock trio Nico Vega. When I found out late last week that they were the opening act I checked out a couple of their videos online. My response was pretty much “meh.” Two songs into their set “meh” turned into “bleh!” As the set continued however I started warming up to them. Consisting of only Rich Koehler on guitar, Dan Epand on drums and Aja Volkman on vocals they come off as a pseudo White Stripes with a dedicated singer.

Easily my favorite of the three was Dan Epand who while banging the drums really puts the spaz in spastic, and I mean that in a good way. Pounding out some pretty strong beats the mop haired monster really puts his whole body into it. Looking like a human version of Animal from the Electric Mayhem band on the Muppet Show, he was pretty entertaining to watch and a pretty damned good drummer too. During a song early in the set he got so into it that he literally knocked over a couple pieces of his drum set which had to be put back together before starting the next song. I probably shouldn’t have, but I got a kick out of that.

Rich Koehler was pretty good on guitar but a couple of times he seemed a little out of sync and out of tune. Aja Volkman was very inconsistent and at times was really good only to be pretty bad on the following song. My main issue with her was that all too often she seemed to be screaming the lyrics as opposed to singing them. With a little more experience and restraint however I could see her getting better and the band taking off.

In addition to vocals Aja does have some drumming ability in her as well. A few songs into the (let’s say) 50 minute set she joined Dan behind the drums and they both banged away in what was for me the highlight of their portion of the show. I’ll admit I don’t know any of their music, so I won’t be able to name any individual songs by Nico Vega but I can say I actually kind of enjoyed their uptempo stuff significantly more than the slower songs. I can’t say that I would ever go out of my way to watch them again, but if they were opening for another band that I wanted to see I would make sure to catch their set to see if they get better.

After a short break it was time for the main act to take the stage. As mentioned earlier this was the special release show for their new CD which dropped the same day. In a way that is kinda cool, but in another way it kinda sucks. Obviously the band wants to promote the new release, but very few people in the crowd have actually had the opportunity to hear any of the new songs except for the possibly the first single for which the video has been streaming on their website for a couple of weeks.

The band mitigated this by alternating between a new song and a song from one of the first two CDs. In doing this the show flowed quite well giving the fans such favorites as “These Things” and “True Romance” while also introducing us to the newer jams “Kiss Me” and “Reasons” amongst the others.

After bouncing back and forth between old and new songs for about an hour everyone left the stage for a moment while Adam 12 (Bravin) stood alone on stage playing the solemnly melodic “Disconnect” from their debut album. When the song was done Justin Warfield and the others (I’m assuming Scott Ellis and Thomas Froggatt although that was never confirmed) rejoined Adam on stage and Justin informed the crowd that they wanted to do something special that night and they performed a stripped down almost (but not quite) acoustic version of technically their biggest hit “Tear You Apart.” While the crowd seemed to dig it, I was a little disappointed. It just didn’t sound quite right to me. I did appreciate the effort in changing things up a little bit.

After tear you apart they played the current single from their new CD, a track called “Must Be the One.” It’s a solid track, but I would have released “Up in Flames” first myself, but that’s just me.

Earlier in the night Justin asked how many people in the club were seeing them live for the first time. To my surprise about half of the hands in the club went up. Knowing that half the people there hadn’t seen them before, Justin now addressed the crowd to inform us that they do not do the typical, save your best songs for a planned encore and do a fake walk off the stage. They out it all out there with their main set and play until they are done. I don’t know about anyone else I really appreciated that. I am quite tired of the planned encore that everyone does these days and it was nice knowing that when the show was over, it was over.

So announcing that they only had two songs left they went back to their first album for “Red Flags and Long Nights”. When the song ended Adam began to announce their last song only by saying that it was the song they always end with, but before he could finish Justin interrupted him and the band huddled for an extra unplanned song. I know it was from their first disc, but honestly at the moment I can’t remember the name of the song.

Then it was onto their actual last song, which turned out to be favorite song of theirs. Asking everyone to sing along and dance they brought the house down with “Out of Control.” Even though it’s not their biggest hit from a sales stand point and I don’t even think they ever made a video for it, it was hands down the biggest song of the night with the capacity (maybe even over capacity) crowd singing along and dancing as much as they could in a room that had everyone jam packed like sardines.

Heading out into the cool night air everyone was very satisfied and while I was dreading a long Tuesday at work with very little sleep I didn’t regret the late night in anyway (except for maybe the ridiculous parking ticket I got).

BTW, sorry for the weak pictures, I forgot my camera at home and couldn’t get close enough to stage to get better pictures with my phone.

Plan B Hops the Pond & Rocks the Troubadour

Plan B 1/13/11

Troubadour – West Hollywood, CA

Words and photos by God Frank

Okay, I’ll admit it. I knew absolutely nothing about Ben Drew and Plan B until Tuesday of this week. Having built up an obscene amount of Rockaholics points on the 98.7fm website I traded in my points for a bunch of contest entries for a bunch of different bands/contests. Just my luck, the one contest I won was for the one band I knew nothing about. But hey, I’m not gonna turn down a free show and obviously I have the internet, so I did some research online, watched some youtube videos and decided this could be a decent show. That turned out to be quite an understatement.

So with minimal knowledge of Plan B’s music (I think I only heard 6 songs online) I headed out to The Troubadour on Thursday night to hear what the 98.7 and Plan B websites touted as the #1 selling artist in the UK in 2010.

So for those of you who, like me 3 days ago, know nothing about Plan B, the “B” stands for Ben Drew who is the lead singer. Even after reading the official Plan B website and the unofficial Wikipedia page, I’m not totally sure if Plan B is the full band and all the members are full time Plan B members, or if Plan B is just Ben’s alter ego and the band is just his touring band. I apologize in advance if I reference them incorrectly during this review. With that, onto the show!

After a particularly uninspiring DJ set from someone whose name I can’t remember and I don’t think I would bother to give him a mention if I did remember, and lights went down and a Brit who is NOT Ben Drew came out on stage. I thought he was just there to introduce the band. Much to my initial chagrin it turned out to be a beat boxer named Faith SFX who was there to warm up the crowd. People who think they can beat box are a dime a dozen. People who are actually good at it are incredibly rare. So when Faith SFX came out I was a little concerned. That concern was very short-lived however.

Faith SFX is actually talented as hell, not only beat boxing, but imitating various instruments before he started playing actual songs that almost sounded like they were coming from a full band using nothing more than his mouth. When he busted out “I Like To Move It” he actually had the entire club dancing and cheering. His job was to warm up the crowd and he more than achieved that goal. After my initial trepidation, he not only won me over, but completely impressed me. He could have performed for another 20 minutes and nobody in the club would have minded, including me. But alas we were there for Ben Drew and Plan B, so with the crowd effectively worked up into a frenzy, they took the stage.

You know you aren’t watching a US band when everyone comes out dressed nicely in vests and ties, looking like they are ready for a night on the town rather than playing in a band. Starting with “Writings on the Wall” and quickly transitioning into “Free,” Ben and the band began a night of soul that was entertaining, fun, and completely unexpected.

The third song of the night was “Pray,” which I have to say, was the one song I listened to earlier in the week that I wasn’t impressed with. While the original version is still not a favorite of mine, they mixed up the song a little bit for the show, picking up the tempo and adding some more guitar riffs which had me really enjoying the performance. Then midway through the song during a musical break Ben asked the crowd if we liked reggae and then they proceeded to switch up the music and did a reggae version of the song for the next verse. After the reggae verse, he again switched things up asking the crowd if they liked rock going semi-hard core for the rest of the song. It was pretty impressive. When you can take my least favorite song for your band and turn it into one of the highlights of the night, you have some serious talent, and that was exactly what they did.

After a couple strong performances of “Welcome 2 Hell” and “Love Goes Down” I was completely sold on Plan B. Instead of taking it easy though, Ben and the boys amped things up even more with a completely rousing performance of “The Recluse” which was hands down the highlight of the main set. They had the entire club dancing and singing along. At this point I was officially a fan.

Then two songs later they finished their main set, way too early, with what I believe is Plan B’s biggest hit so far, “She Said.” It was a fantastic performance but then Ben said good-night to the crowd and the entire band left the stage after only a 45 minute set. That is probably the one negative I would say about the night. If you are a headliner, you really should play at least an hour long set.

Luckily though, the crowd wouldn’t let them stop and kept screaming, demanding an encore. Ben and the band was more than happy to oblige and came back out to play some more.

After announcing that he wanted to play some songs that inspired him and that he grew up on, they played a medley of old soul classics. From Smokey Robinson (“Tracks of my Tears”) to the Temptations (“My Girl”) it was a very unexpected set, but the surprises were just beginning.

Out of nowhere, Faith SFX joined the band on stage and started beat boxing adding a hip hop flavor to incredible performances of “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Kiss from a Rose.” Both songs were flat out amazing. It was completely inspired and showed true artistry from both Plan B and Faith SFX. I wish there was video of those performances because I would watch them both over and over again. That transitioned into Ben going back to his rap roots with a reimagining of  Eminem’s “Forgot about Dre,” naturally replacing Dre with “B.”

Need another surprise? At this point Ben addressed the crowd before the final song to say how special it was to be playing the Troubadour because one of his mentor’s started his career there, and then he pointed out that Elton John was in the house up in the balcony! Having noticed online that Ben and Elton performed a duet together last year I thought for a moment that we were gonna get treated to a repeat performance of that duet. Alas, that was not in the cards. Thanks for the tease Ben!

There was still one more song to go though, and for the last song of the night Plan B broke out what was easily my favorite song, “Stay Too Long.” It’s a phenomenal mix of soul, rock and rap that gets me dancing every time I hear it. If Ben or anyone at the record label reads this, that is your single to cross over into the US! I could easily see hearing it on the radio here in the states.

It’s a high energy party song that had the entire place jumping out of their shoes. With Faith SFX and Ben starting a band mosh pit on stage, and the crowd starting a mini mosh pit on the floor, that was for me the highlight of the evening and a perfect way to end the night.

Unfortunately, this was the second stop on a very short, 2-stop US tour and Plan B is on the way to New Zealand as I write this. So those of you here in the states may have a long wait until you get to experience what was easily one of the best shows I’ve seen in years. The show did sell out a few days ahead of time though, so we can hope for a return trip to the states soon.

Steel Panther, the best show in Vegas at any price! Even Free!

 Steel Panther 07/31/10

Ovation at the Green Valley Ranch – Los Vegas, NV

Words & Photos by God Frank/

Last weekend was my birthday weekend. Being a total loser, I had nothing to do and nobody to do it with so I jumped in my car and went to Vegas. For the most part I spent the weekend getting my ass kicked at the poker tables, but I did take a break from the massacre that was Texas Hold ‘em to see the monsters of metal, Steel Panther.

Just so you know on future Vegas trips you have two options to catch the Panther. You can pay the evil empire known as the House of Blues to see them at the Mandalay Bay on Friday night or you can travel 15 minutes off the strip and see them for free in Ovation at the Green Valley Ranch on Saturday night. I chose the later.

When you walk into Ovation you would never think you are there to see a metal show. It looks more like a sleek 90’s video bar/dance club. Still, they do their best to set the mood prior to the show by playing music videos from back in the day when Def Leppard’s drummer still had a full set of appendages. So as the crowd filed in and I sipped on my vodka and Redbull I got warmed up for the show with some Cinderella and Skid Row.

Then the lights went down, the screen that was covering the stage was raised and Steel Panther took the stage with a spot on perfect cover of Van Halen’s Panama. Then they took a moment to greet and crowd and introduce/insult themselves and each other. They definitely have the art of stage banter down and they do it brilliantly. At a Steel Panther show you are guaranteed to laugh as hard as you rock!

When they aren’t busy insulting each other they turn their attention to the audience. At a Steel Panther show, nobody is safe, they make fun of everybody. Asian women, Mexicans, Asian women, gays, Asian women, blacks, did I mention Asian women? Seriously, if you offend easily this is not the show for you.

But Steel Panther is a band and as awesome as the stage banter is, the music is even better. And they quickly got back into the music with their original song “Turn off the Lights” which was augmented by a video production on the televisions in the bar which featured animation and the song’s lyrics for those not familiar with their original music.

Considering I was seeing a free show I was a little concerned that this would be a scaled down version of their regular show, but that concern was unwarranted. Free or not, Steel Panther gave it their all this night playing a full set that included covers of songs by Motley Crue, Poison, Guns and Roses, Twisted Sister, Bon Jovi and a second Van Halen song in addition to a couple original songs of their own. One of the great things about Steel Panther is they are so accomplished as musicians that they can perform all these great bands’ songs and do them as well if not better than the original.

The highlight of the night had to be their metal cover of the Backstreet Boys song “I Want it That Way.” Not a song I would have expected to hear, but their version was awesome.

Even more awesome was their total destruction of an audience member who was completely offended by the fact that they covered a Backstreet Boys song, but who still knew all the words. They called him out on that when the song was over and laid a smack down on him that had the whole place laughing.

But that’s a Steel Panther show for you. One part rock and one part comedy, it’s as much of a party as it is a concert. I had such a good time that I totally forgot the ass whopping I took at the casino earlier.

After a rousing 90 minute show they announced that they had time for 15 more songs but were only going to play one, closing with Def Leppard’s Photgraph. It was a great way to finish the night and send a very appreciative crowd on their way. With all due respect to the fountains at the Bellagio, this was definitely the best free show in Vegas and a must for any music fan visiting Vegas.

The Green Valley Ranch allows cameras into the venue and I got some great pictures, but my computer isn’t cooperating at the moment. I will try to post more and better pictures tonight if my computer lets me.

Laughlin’s Annual Blues and Brews Festival Rocks Easter Weekend.

Laughlin Blues and Brews Festival

April 2nd-4th 2010

words/photos by God Frank

Exactly one month ago this weekend I made the trek to lovely Laughlin, Nevada for the someteenth annual Blues and Brews Festival. Okay, so Laughlin may not actually qualify as lovely, but there are definitely worse ways to spend an Easter weekend than playing poker, drinking free casino drinks and listening to some of the best blues music this side of Memphis free of charge. While the festival was a full month ago, I moved the week after and have been without my main computer since then. With our main Concert Confessions hero climbing volcanoes in Hawaii, I figured this was as good a time as any for a belated review of the yearly festival that rocks Laughlin each Easter.

Taking place in the Center Circle Event Center at the Colorado Belle (which is actually just their fancy way of saying, under a tent in the parking lot), the festival is a 3-day celebration of blues music with 5 acts rotating playing the entire weekend. What the festival lacks by not having an actual venue it more than makes up for in great music and a great atmosphere and like I said, it was free.

There is also a full bar set up outside (this is Nevada afterall), a separate beer tent, an outdoor BBQ area selling food and various vendor tents selling a variety of items that you would expect to see at a music festival (cheap knock-off sunglasses and toe rings anyone?). But while the food kinda sucked and the vendors were totally pointless, I was there for the music (and the poker inside) and I definitely wasn’t disappointed (although I did lose at the poker). Rather than try to recount each individual set, which would take forever, I will just review each individual performer.

First up was John Earl and the Boogieman Band. John Earl is actually the father of the festival. He puts it together and runs the festival each year. John Earl and his band are all about the honky-tonk blues and definitely know how to perform. The Boogieman Band was the largest of the bands to play this weekend with guitars, drums, a keyboard and horns. In addition to singing lead vocals, John Earl also breaks out the harmonica on a regular basis and does it well. Pretty much every song I heard them play the entire weekend was uptempo and they really know how to get the crowd dancing. John Earl played the first set each day, which was more than likely a result of it being his festival and he needed to be there early anyway, but I can’t think of a better performer to get things jump started. Each set they played was fun and entertaining and they always had the dancefloor full. I found out during the weekend that The Boogieman Band plays regular shows in Vegas and next time I am there I will definitely be looking them up.

While John Earl is the host of the festival, make no doubts, the headliner for the weekend was Michael Burks. I discovered Michael at last year’s Blues and Brews festival and have been tracking him ever since, even getting the opportunity to see him play in LA once last year. Michael Burks has the nickname of “Iron Man” because he is known for his long and energetic sets. Putting him in a festival where he is restricted to an hour each set really doesn’t do him justice. Right when he is getting warmed up he has to stop. That doesn’t prevent him from putting on an awesome show during that hour though, plus his sets closed each night which gave him the opportunity to play an extra song or two, which the crowd demanded each night when he tried to stop on time. With his long time keyboardist Wayne Sharp and Chuck “Popcorn” Louden banging on the drums Michael was right at home as he belted out tracks from his latest CD including “Salty Tears” and one of the highlights from the weekend “Empty Promises”. With his strong power vocals that are reminisent of BB King and a guitar mastery that is rarely seen in a free music festival, you can honestly feel the emotion in his playing. In short, this guy is way too good to be playing a parking lot in Laughlin, but I was very grateful that he did.

One of the things you can’t help but notice about Michael Burks is how personable and unassuming he is. Whether it be standing aside and allowing “Popcorn” to go off on a 4 minute drum solo, or jumping off stage to wirelessly roam amongst the crowd and pose for pictures while still playing guitar, Michael is one of the friendliest guys you will ever meet. And I did meet him as he hung out with the crowd after each performance, talking, shaking hands and signing autographs for everyone who was interested. Wayne and Popcorn were just as friendly and you really can’t help but wish them much more success in the future.

The one downside to Michael’s performances is he was breaking in a new bass player named Oscar. I’m not sure how long he has been with the band, but while talking to Wayne I found out that there were a lot of songs that they couldn’t play because Oscar didn’t know them yet, so he must be brand new. He did mess up a song or two during the weekend, but overall he did a good job and I think once he gets more practice time in he will be good. This did result in Michael repeating songs more frequently in his performances than he did in the previous year, but he mixed up the order well and does enough different things during his guitar solos that I really didn’t mind when he repeated a song.

Next up was Preston Shannon. Four of the five performers played the festival last year. Preston was the new blood and he was a very welcome addition. A very small man in stature he was probably 5’9″ and 160 pounds, he definitely defies the stereotype that blues performers have to be big and overweight. Despite his size, he boast a strong powerful voice that really surprised me when heard his first song. A very personable performer on stage, Preston knows how to work the crowd and cracks jokes on stage. One of the highlights of his performance was when he made Tiger Woods and Jesse James jokes before playing his original song “I Might Be Your Husband, (but I’m another woman’s man),” which was a great song that I really enjoyed. The other highlight was during a solo for another song and he played his guitar with his mouth, without missing a note! It was quite impressive and a feat that Michael Burks attempted to duplicate during one of his sets to comical effect. After his mouth solo Preston showed his tongue to the crowd and it would have made Gene Simmons blush. His wife must be a very happy woman!

The one hiccup in his performances was when he attempted to do a cover of the Prince song “Purple Rain.” His guitar playing was spot on, but he voice really didn’t suit the song and it came off as quite laughable to me. I seemed to be alone in that assessment though as the majority of the crowd seemed to enjoy it. Considering it was one of the last sets of the day, the crowd was pretty drunk, so I’m sticking to my opinion that it was a mistake. It was the only mistake in the performances of his that I saw though and I can officially say Preston Shannon impressed me that weekend.

One of the other returning performers was Brad Wilson. I will preface this by saying that Brad is a very good guitarist and singer, that said, he apparently only knows 8 songs. When I saw him last year I saw 3 of his sets and they were all identical. This year, I only saw one set because it was almost exactly the same as the set he kept playing last year and they aren’t even original songs. He was very good playing a cover of The Blues is Alright and a Bo Diddly song the title of which escapes me. He impressed me the first set I saw last year, but hearing the same songs with, and I’m not joking, literally the same banter, really distracts from what could be a good show. It’s actually quite puzzling why he would be so repetative on stage, because at the CD booth they a few different CDs by him. He clearly knows more songs, I just don’t know why he doesn’t play them. I would definitely recommend seeing him once because he is good, but after you’ve seen him once there really is no need to see him again. Especially during a festival like this when the next set is only 4 hours later.

The last of the performers was Chris Hiatt. I really don’t know what to say about Chris. Wearing outfits that make him look like Martin Short’s stunt double from The Three Amigos, he is actually a very good musician and if I had seen him by himself I probably would have liked him more. Unfortunately, playing after Michael Burks, John Earl and Preston Shannon, he is just totally outclassed. Still he is a decent time filler for in between sets from the stronger performers.

Lastly, there is one uncredited performer during the Blues and Brews festival, the crowd. As with most music festivals, people watching is part of the fun. This festival is definitely no exception. With a crowd that literally varied in age between 7 and 70 (seriously, there were little kids and at least two blue hairs with oxygen tanks next to their beers) and varied in lifestyles from office workers, hard core leather bikers, and students, anytime I got even a little bored with the action on stage, there was plenty of action off stage. With so many different types of people in the crowd you might think that a fight or two could break out, but the blues seems to bring everyone together. Between watching the old gray haired grandpa flashing his stomach to the horrified delight of 3 school girls who were sporting their own half shirts, or the young yuppie who was dancing with the old biker chick who I swear had crabs falling out from under her skirt while she was dancing, everyone blended together well and had a good time while giving me many things to laugh at while drinking my beer and basking in the Nevada sun.

The Colorado Belle hosts the Blues and Brews Festival every Easter weekend. This was my second year in a row, and next year I will definitely be making a return trip. If you are looking for a cheap weekend with a good atmosphere, some great music, and a lot of fun people watching, you should definitely join me.

Michael Burks Burns Up Cozy’s (Unfortunately the Building is Still Standing).

Michael Burks 09/12/09

Cozy’s – Sherman Oaks, CA

Words/Photos by God Frank

Howdy Concert Confessionites! Long time listener, first time caller here. I’ve been debating posting a review on this site for a while, and after seeing the lack of blues reviews I finally decided I had to contribute.

Back in April while in Laughlin, NV for the Blues and Brews Festival (and some marathon poker playing) I discovered blues man extraordinaire Michael Burks. I spoke with Michael one day during the festival and he told me that he comes to LA periodically to visit Mom and play at a bar called Cozy’s in Sherman Oaks. I became a fan of Michael’s ever since I heard him perform his first song in Laughlin and have been waiting for the day I could see him in Los Angeles. That day finally came on Saturday, September 12th.

My first impression of Cozy’s was “what the hell is this?!?!” My second impression was “why the F*%k is my my food taking so long?!?!” Seriously folks, I was not impressed with the bar, and if you ever visit this establishment in the future, make sure you eat before you go, cause it will take forever to get your food. Luckily, I wasn’t there for the food I was there for the music, and Michael Burks did not disappoint.

For those of you not familiar with Michael, he has earned the nickname “Iron Man” with his long and energetic performances. He definitely lived up to that nickname in this show by playing a 2 1/2 hour first set, before taking a 30 minute break and then coming back out to play for another hour. His deep soulful voice and emotional guitar work combine for a moving performance. You don’t just hear Michael Burks music, you feel it.

With strong performances on songs like Salty Tears and Empty Promises he had the crowd worked into a frenzy. But it was later in the set when he showed why Michael Burks is one of the friendliest and most amazing performers out there. While playing a long riff on his guitar wirelessly he jumped off stage and walked outside the bar, playing for people on the street. He stood on Ventura Blvd (actually on the street, not the sidewalk) playing the blues. He then moved to the bus stop right in front of the bar where he took pictures with the crowd. Then he went back inside the bar and walked through the entire bar, greeting the crowd and playing the blues the entire time.

Michael Burks rocks the bus stop outside Cozy's

Michael Burks rocks the bus stop outside Cozy's

As one of the hardest working men in the music industry, Michael Burks tours almost non-stop. If you are a fan of the blues, or just appreciate amazing guitar work a Michael Burks show is an absolute must and you owe it to yourself check one out.

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