Walking into the Wiltern, it had been nearly five years since my last live Primus experience. It pained me to skip their 2010 appearances in Los Angeles but as anyone who has read my words here know it takes an act of congress to get me through the doors of the cell phone venues downtown. That’s why I made sure to jump on tickets the second it was announced the band would pay Korea Town a visit on their 2011 North American tour. Having witnessed the band perform Sailing The Seas of Cheese inside the historic Art Deco venue in 2003, I knew another two set throw down at the best theatre in Los Angeles county was not to be missed.
I settled into my spot on the floor moments before the band hit the stage. I was aware that the band was performing their just released album Green Naugahyde from front to back and had assumed it would be the first set. You can imagine my shock as the wah infused guitar introduction of “Those Damn Blue Collar Tweekers” came roaring through the PA. With an impressive light show, twisted animations upon the large video screen and two extremely large astronauts looming in the background, I was quickly reminded that Primus concerts are designed to overload multiples senses.
The first set did an outstanding job of bringing a well balanced mix of Primus material spanning their 20+ year career. “Pudding Time” “Duchess and the Proverbial Mind Spread” and “The Pressman” all did a great job getting the crowd into the evening early on. So much so in fact, bassist/vocalist Les Claypool took a few minutes in the middle of “Over The Falls” to acknowledge the crowd who not only sold out the theatre weeks in advance, but bucked the typical Los Angeles trend of staring lifeless as the band gave their all.
My personal highlights of the first set were a pair of songs from the groups’ 1995 effort Tales From The Punchbowl. Knowing I would flunk my Algebra final weeks after the album’s release, instead of trying I simply wrote the lyrics to “Mrs. Blaileen” down on the sheet designed to “show my work.” The song received many plays on my yellow Sony Sport Walkman as I rode the bus to summer school later that summer. The other highlight was “Over the Electric Grapevine”which featured the best of the best in first set jamming. At least on this particular night, when Primus sets sail into the unknown, the bands mindset is focused on creating a unified wall of sound instead of self-indulgent soloing.
I paid zero attention to the Popeye cartoon that played at intermission.
Green Naugahyde was an impulse buy from Target a few weeks ago. Not that I needed an excuse to buy the record as I own everything the band has released, but there it was and there I was and it just happened to fall into the basket. Having given the album a few spins, I enjoyed it, but failed to make a deep connection to many of the songs. I knew “Last Salmon Man” and “Tragedy’s a’ Comin” would be great live (and they were) but some of the songs that failed to connect with ended up being the best part of the set. “Jilly’s On Smack” was one of these, but then again it’s hard not to get excited when Les brings out his upright electric bass. “Moron TV” felt a bit like filler on the record, but having now seen it’s live incarnation I must go back and re-examine my beliefs.
Another highlight of the set was “Lee Van Cleef” a song the band is debating playing on Jimmy Kimmel Live on Monday. An ode to the late actor, the crowd found plenty of energy to bounce off each other as Claypool’s thumb bounced off his bass strings. “HOINFODAMAN” was another exciting moment, especially the gnarly distortion coming out of LaLonde’s amplifier. In fact my only disappointment in the second was that the band left the stage to a pre-recorded “Salmon Men” instead of finding a way to perform the song that clocks in under a minute.
Having already played for well over two hours, the boys came back for a lengthy two song encore. They kicked things off with “Southbound Pachyderm” which seemed to end (thus me stopping my camera) only to start back up and rage with an 8-10 minute psychedelic jam. The evening’s final song was the fan favorite “Tommy The Cat.” The group for one last time voyaged into a unique and indescribable sound that has now rocked three generations of fans. While the band still has a show scheduled next weekend in the Bay Area, the Wiltern is the “final” night of the North American tour. Los Angeles was treated to a technically proficient band who sounded as tight as they possibly could. Here’s hoping it’s not another five years before I get to catch my next Primus show.
It was towards the end of the set when someone in the crowd screamed “You are a really good guitar player.” I was thinking the exact same thing, yet was not drunk enough to scream it out at Annie Erin Clark, better known as St. Vincent. To be honest, I am not even sure how I ended up at the Music Box in Hollywood for a sold out performance by St. Vincent, but there I was drink in my hand watching a fellow Arrested Development fan rock it out on stage.
What puzzled me most about the evening was the crowd. It was like being at a wax museum, because nobody moved. Folks just stood in place and looked like they were dead. I can’t figure out why, the band sounded great performing plenty of tracks from the just released record Strange Mercy. Some of the highlights included “Cheerleader”, “Neutered Fruit” and “Chloe in the Afternoon.” Not even a cover of a song from the obscure British post-punk noise makers The Pop Group would excite the crowd. Truth be told it was rather depressing.
My lasting impression of the night was that the loud mouth in the crowd was dead on – St. Vincent is a really good guitar player. The tones, the sounds and the unusual licks coming from the six strings made me think of many post hardcore/space rock bands that I adore, yet sounded nothing like them at all. I also would not be shocked if St. Vincent was fighting a cold. If that’s the case, way to get up there and hang and sound great despite not feeling great. An enjoyable night of music I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I did, there is no doubt I would check out St. Vincent again.
I believe it started with a tweet, but perhaps it was a text. Regardless of tweet versus text it was a threat declaring that my ass was expected to be at the Key Club in West Hollywood on Friday night. If I was not at the Key Club, there would be serious consequences and repercussions of my action. While this may sound rather harsh, it was for my own good as my soul needed an intervention. A fan of the greats like Tenacious D, 2 Skinnee J’s and of course Ween my life was void of Electric Six for far too long and come high or hell water Steve and Johnny were going to make sure I saw the light.
From unsolicited packages left on my door containing mix CD’s to videos left upon my Facebook page my education of Electric Six beyond “Gay Bar” has been intense over the past 72 hours. Bashed into my brain I was grateful for a brief knowledge of the Detroit based Rock and Roll revival as I made my way into the Key Club well past 10:30pm. Before I was able to consume my first plastic cup filled with PBR the already exciting night was kicked up to a whole new level when I spotted my pal Matthew. One of the last folks I expected to see at the show he was in fine form celebrating the birth of a college friend and Electric Six fanatic. Now it really was a party and when the band walked on stage just past 11pm I knew that they would be the perfect soundtrack.
The group opened with a tasty new jam called “French Bacon” from their soon to be released 8th studio album Heartbeats and Brainwaves. The crowd played it cool as energetic front man Dick Valentine held his microphone stand high above the near capacity crowd. It wasn’t till the third song “Down at McDonnelzzz” that the devoted fan base began to bounce up and down smashing into each other. With the lightning quick delivery of the songs chorus from Valentine paying tribute to the Golden Arches performed perfectly I knew the intervention had worked and I was hooked. Then the band insulted my hometown.
That’s right, before launching into the country number “Pink Flamingos” the group bashed The City and its fans from the night before. As I quickly turned my World Champion San Francisco Giants hat around (I only have a few more weeks to brag, cut me some slack) and pointed to the orange SF the band launched into a song that reminded not so much of country music, but of a classic Bay Area punk band Pansy Division. Despite bashing my town, I had to laugh it off and assume that tonight in Costa Mesa they would bash West Hollywood.
An important observation from the evening that must be mentioned: Yes, fans bounced and gently moshed to classic Electric Six songs like “Jam It In The Hole,” “Danger! High Voltage” and “I Buy The Drugs.” Yet when the band busted out “Gay Bar” and “Gay Bar Part 2” it was the fluffiest straight up gayest most pit I have ever seen. It was more like dry humping rubbing fluffy ballet then a mosh pit and it totally worked. Oh and the one gal in the pit, she took an elbow to the face from a man grinding another man. Dude was so into it he didn’t even realize he connected Charles Barkley style with the gal.
The band had a unique connection with the audience by not connecting at all. At one point Valentine insisted in a daiquiri from the bar, yet when it was presented to him he totally ignored it. Fans up front would raise their hands in hope of a handshake or high five and were repeatedly ignored. The oblivious arrogance worked and made the crowd want the band that much more.
After an hour long set Valentine and friends left the stage to a thunderous applause. They quickly returned and informed us all they had not come here to play twelve songs, but in fact they had three more songs for a grand total of fifteen songs. The six piece tore through solid versions of “Synthesizer” and “We Were Witchy Witchy White Women,” yet it was the final number that the crowd had apparently waited for all night (I say this cause some dude behind me kept saying “I’ve been waiting for this all night”). “Dance Commander” lived up to its name as Valentine and company kicked it up one last time for a still energetic and downright worshipful audience. At the end of the song, Valentine dove into the crowd hugging and celebrating with anyone willing to come over. I watched from a distance as fan after fan walked away smiling from their moment with Valentine. I knew it was best to let all of them have their moment this time around I was not yet worthy. But know that next time I see Electric Six I will go and get my hug.
TV on the Radio/Arctic Monkeys/Panda Bear/Warpaint/Smith Westerns 09/25/11
Hollywood Bowl – Los Angeles, CA
Words/Photos by Reverend Justito
A few months ago my wife called and informed me she had purchased tickets for some hipster-fest at the Hollywood Bowl. As she read the initial lineup, I was forced to swallow down my own vomit. Really, you want me to sit through TV on the Radio, Smith Westerns and someone with Panda in the name who doesn’t play for the San Francisco Giants? To make things worse, I would be surrounded by a bunch of stupid drunk white people with unfortunate upper lip hair and jeggings instead of enjoying week three of NFL action. Then I went on Phish tour and my attitude towards this mini-festival changed faster than you could say Coming At You Like A Ghetto Blaster. In fact dare I say walking into the venue I was as excited for a show as I have been in years.
I wish I could say these Chicago indie rockers brought the roof down, but we all know that would not only be dishonest; it would be in poor taste. Taking the stage at 6pm, the best part of this up and coming bands set was the fact they only played for 15 minutes. Their blend of indie rock meets 1960’s California surf pop was unoriginal and downright dreadful. When you add the fact that they were lost in the empty cavernous venue and drowned out by the sounds of wine corks popping and heated debates over Middle East politics it was the logical time to say hello to friends in other sections and empty the bladder.
You could imagine my shock when I was walking out of the bathroom at 6:20pm and Warpaint was already onstage opening with the song that shares the name of their band. I went running back to my seat as this was the only band that didn’t make me want to vomit when I heard the initial lineup. Where Smith Westerns got lost in the venue, a full year of touring helped the ladies of Warpaint rise to the occasion as their sound filled the hillside venue. Add the fact the hometown crowd was going crazy for songs like “Bees” and “Undertow” and one had to ponder why they were playing before Panda Bear. The four piece closed their oh to brief four song set with a massive run on “Elephants.” The band stretched the number past the ten minute mark and featured a nice jam that would have made Phish proud with its peaks and valleys both in sound and volume. With a huge buzz and touring behind last years The Fool now complete, it seems rather clear that the groups third studio release will blast Warpaint right into the mainstream.
Noah Benjamin Lennox (aka Panda Bear) once told Má Fama radio “I get impatient writing songs, I can’t spend more than a couple of hours before I get frustrated. So I got to kind of spit it out real fast. My favorite songs are the ones where I worked really really fast on, when it comes all out in like two hours or something.” Having sat through 40 minutes of Panda Bear (ok, fine I did make one quick trip to the bathroom) I can tell you this is very true. It would be very easy for me to bash the “experimental” artist (who was joined by Sonic Boom’s Peter Kember) onslaught of noise. Instead I will just say this. Some of the noises created by Panda Bear were pretty damn cool, some of the noises not so much. Check out the clip below (pay close attention as I managed to choke on a chunk of sandwich at one point) and judge for yourself.
I swear to God, I really want to like the Arctic Monkeys. I enjoy the songs “I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor” and “Fake Tales of San Francisco” from their debut album. I actually purchased their third album Humbug based off the fact that Josh Homme produced it. Yet no matter how hard I try, I become bored after about 30 minutes of Monkey onslaught. Having enjoyed what I was able to hear at Outside Lands earlier this year, I was heading in with an open mind in hopes that this would be the moment where the band would finally win me over. However that was not the case.
Don’t get me wrong, the band sounded tight playing a mix of songs from their four disc catalogue. New numbers like “Brick By Brick” and “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair” sounded great as did classics like “I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor” and “Crying Lightning.” Some may tell you that Arctic Monkeys stole the show, and judging by the reaction of many in the crowd they may very well be correct. Personally I was bored by the 45 minute mark of the 70 minute set. I give the indie garage band credit for taking a basic sound and adding layers of quirky de-tuned melodies over it. It’s great for a bit, but the simplicity is just not enough to keep me entertained. I still want to like them though, maybe one day that will be the case.
TV On The Radio
We all know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. TV on the Radio has taught me that you should not judge an indie band from Brooklyn based on the massive amounts of fellatio from critics and hipsters. Fact is I ignored this band for years because they couldn’t be as great as everyone claimed. Then on the evening of August 6th 2011 I stood 15 feet away from my favorite band Phish whose cover of “Golden Age” was one of the highlights of two nights at The Gorge. I quickly realized that the despite the massive chemistry experiment going on within my body that this was a bad ass mamba jamb of a jam and that perhaps the earlier mentioned fellatio for TV on the Radio was well deserved. I came home, began checking out various TV on the Radio tracks and over the course of six weeks became the bands biggest fan.
The group hit the stage at 9pm and opened their brief co-headline set with “Young Liars.” The energy from the band was at 11, which was a shame as the crowds energy was about a 3. That didn’t stop the six men on stage from giving it their all while blessing us with a set heavy on material from their recently released record Nine Types Of Light. “Second Song”, “Will Do” and “New Cannonball Blues” all sounded amazing under the historic band shell. Speaking of the band shell, having watched Phish light guru Chris Kuroda have a blastwith the white walls earlier this summer, it was interesting that TV on the Radio lighting director first used the band shell backdrop to its fullest during “Golden Age.”
It wasn’t just new material that rocked the final non-lease event of 2011 at the Hollywood Bowl. Had it not been for box mates who were rude and angry the entire night, my ass would have been up and dancing for songs like “Dancing Choose” and the eventual set closing “Wolf Like Me.” Punk, dance, world music and funk are just a few of the sounds that encompass the unique sounds of TV On The Radio. While the music truly moved me in more ways than one, it was the message front man Babatunde Omoroga “Tunde” Adebimpe shared during the song “Repetition” As if he was preaching from the pulpit; he stressed the importance of blocking out the darkness that can consume us with light. An important message that sometimes we all need a reminder of, Lord knows I sure did.
Leaving the Bowl on the bus back to Santa Monica, the proper words to describe TV on the Radio live simply were not there. I need to see this band again in a smaller venue with a crowd who truly appreciate what they are capable of bringing to the stage. A truly amazing way to close out what ended up being a rather solid night from some of the brightest rock and roll bands of the last five years.
Just my luck, I was introduced to Death From Above 1979 right before they decided to call it quits. For years I heard epic tales of their live shows and watched hours of footage on the internet. In my personal opinion the reunion of Death From Above 1979 is the most important musical reunion of 2011. When the band announced a post FYF Fest show at the Music Box at Fonda in Hollywood I knew it was time to swap the fest tickets for a case of wine and rock out with the greatest Canadian duo since Terrence and Phillip.
With a crowd made up of kids who had to be in grade school when Death From Above 1979 got their start, the night kicked off with a solid opening set from Funeral Party. Hailing from Southern California, Funeral Party won me over before they even hit the stage by handing out a free 7 inch at the merch table. When the group made it to the stage just past 8pm, their unique blend of early-ought’s post hardcore and various punk genres (dance, pop etc.) kept me entertained and by the end left me wanting more. The entire operation works largely in part to the guitar riffs of James Torres. While there were moments I would wish he would stomp down on a Metal Zone or Big Muff distortion pedal and go to town; he manages to find the right chords that make you want to hop in the pit, yet mosh with a groove that pays respects to Talking Heads, TV On The Radio and The Velvet Underground. Add in a tight rhythm section and an ambiguous front man and you have the right recipe to stand out amongst the countless hipster post emo/screamo posers that currently choke support slot roles. Check these guys out if you ever get a chance.
As a former resident, there is something soothing about country-western music on a Sunday evening in Hollywood. As odd as it sounds it was the perfect pre Death From Above 1979 soundtrack. Relaxed from the twang of legends like Dolly, Willie and Johnny; when the duo hit the stage with their insanely loud brand of unapologetic noise-dance-punk rock the adrenaline rush makes one ponder if it’s time to hit the emergency call button on the closest smart phone.
In 75 glorious minutes, Death From Above 1979 performed just about every song from their limited catalogue for an eager and energetic crowd. For the entire night, a huge pit engulfed the general admission floor for favorites like “Dead Womb” “Blood On Our Hands” and “Romantic Rights.” At one point during the show, bassist Jesse F. Keeler asked to be turned up at the request of the fans. Drummer vocalist Sebastien Grainger chimed in informing the crowd that the band was intended to be loud and that if Keeler wasn’t loud enough then we were not getting the full experience.
Words, photos and videos can’t truly express what it is like to see Death From Above 1979 live. How do two men make so much noise with limited instrumentation? How is that noise so damn melodic? How does Grainger manage to scream that hard while pounding the drums so violently? How does Keeler pluck four strings so fast and furiously? Now that I have seen it in person, I still can’t figure out how they do it, which is what makes Death From Above 1979 so damn great. Hopefully the duo stick together long enough to make new music in the not so distant future.
I am not one of the individuals who remember the Sunset Junction as a small community gathering of Silver Lake locals. I know Sunset Junction as a gathering of inebriated individuals from all over Southern California looking to enjoy some music and overpriced churros in the hot summer sun. It had been a few years since I participated in the all day bash, and I was very much looking forward to the 2011 edition. USELESS KEYS, The Stripminers, Vanaprasta, Helmet, Melvins and the Butthole Surfers all in one day – how could you not brave triple digit heat for those acts? For those outside of Southern California, Sunset Junction failed to obtain a permit from the city of Los Angeles (which was not the city being cruel as much as Sunset Junction really fucked a lot of things up) and was subsequently canceled. As soon as Sunset Junction ceased to have a pulse, various artists began to book shows in and around down. With some dubbing the event as Echo Park Rising(a name I am using despite only seeing one show in Echo Park), my man Jeff and I decided to see just how many shows we could hit over the course of one day.
Sunset Junction Live From Dangerbird Records
Located in Sunset Junction, Dangerbird Records is home to such acts as Silversun Pickups and Beady Eye. While I have driven past their Sunset Blvd headquarters on numerous occasions, I have never had an opportunity to stop in for a visit. They have a pretty sweet setup, as the stage overlooks what is basically a back yard with various trees (aka shade), some street art and a basketball hoop. We made it to the free show (with donations requested and gladly handed over to the wonderful non-profit known as The Pablove Foundation) comprised of some of the up and coming local artist who were originally scheduled to perform at Sunset Junction.
Perhaps it was the heat, perhaps it was the mix of styles while never truly having their own sound but I lost interest quick in Chasing Kings. Did they meow a song? I think they meowed the lyrics to a song, I don’t really remember as I ended up hanging in the shade somewhere between the trash can and those endless supply of funky supplement drinks that tasted like diet skittles.
Not knowing anything about these guys, they win the prize as the only new act to win me over all day. I am a sucker for that rock meets folk with a bit of La Honda psychedelica thrown in for good measure sound. The Fling fly the rock meets folks with a bit of La Honda psychedelica flag high and proud. Well written songs with solid licks and great melodies. With new material to release later in the year, the band debuted some new material, including the song below. I will no doubt be seeking these guys out again.
I really want to like Vanaprasta, probably because in the next 18 months everyone will like Vanaprasta. The band had elements I really liked. The energy level (especially the guy who was using the palm tree as a percussion instrument during the first song) in the group was high. Some of the musical passages intrigued my ear. I think the one thing that killed it for me was the vocals. They sounded so much like Kings of Leon that it ruined anything good they can do While the familiarity will help them in the end it made me rush back to a bench in the shade versus diving deeper into the set. Perhaps the group would be more enjoyable inside a club versus playing outside at 3pm. One positive note is that Kevin Bacon and his brother showed up for the set and seemed to enjoy it. If you know Vanaprasta (or Jeff and I) you are now one degree away from Kevin Bacon.
It usually takes something rather special for this Nor Cal West Side boy to hit the Silver Lake/Echo Park section of Los Angeles. Typically those special reasons are Record Store Day, Joseph Arthur or USELESS KEYS. Till someone proves me wrong, I will proclaim USELESS KEYS as the best local band in Los Angeles today. The group used their set not only to wrap up a brief tour of the South West, but as a chance to rock a lot of material assumed to be featured on their upcoming full length release . “Static Friend” “Kamikaze” and “Sea Bells” and songs unfamiliar to me hypnotized the crowd. The four-piece made sure to mix in the material found on their four song debut EP. “Arizona State Highway” was an appropriate call given the concrete baking from the oppressive sun overhead. There is no doubt that “White Noise” is a natural set closer, so when the band began to strum to chords I knew our time at Dangerbird Records was coming to a close. Another great set from USELESS KEYS, till next time gentlemen.
There was a debate to head back to the west side after USELESS KEYS, but that would have been about 2.5 hours in a car for three hours at home? So Jeff and I decided to head down Sunset to Amoeba Records in Hollywood to check out The Growlers. Originally scheduled to perform at the Junction on Sunday, I suppose you take a gig where you can get one right? I had literally looked up The Growlers on YouTube earlier in the day to see if it was worth the trek I enjoyed the spooky Scooby-Doo flavored surf rock thing that The Growlers had going and figured why not make the trip. We made it just as the band wrapped their first song. Standing in the Diamond Head/Ani DiFranco/Dio section of the store, I noticed myself more excited for the air conditioning instead of the music. Once my body cooled, I realized I really didn’t like the music. I take that back, the music while nothing amazing was fine. It was vocalist Brooks Nielson that ruined it for me. He felt as if he did not want to be there, proclaimed that he never comes to Amoeba because he has no money and one must assume he was not just drinking java from that coffee mug. I ended up looking at vinyl for the final 1/3rd of their set ending up with albums by Joseph Arthur and the Lonely Astronauts and TV on the Radio.
Photo by Al Bello/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Man can’t survive on music alone, which is why Jeff and I hit up Big Wangs in Hollywood for dinner and what we assumed would be baseball and pre-season NFL action. While we got the NFL action, we were also treated to UFC 134. Neither of us are fans of UFC, but with cold drinks and pizza tater tots it ended up being a sweet spot to not only recharge our batteries but kill a few hours. Not knowing really anything about UFC, it was a blast to watch this Anderson Silva guy just destroy Yushin Okami. Where other fights I saw featured fighters lunging upon their opponents as soon as they were down on the mat, Silva played cat and mouse with Okami. It was pretty bad ass; I think I finally see the appeal of UFC.
The final leg of our Echo Park Rising 2011 experience was a trip to the Echoplex. Here is where I admit that I have never stepped foot into this venue (of the Echo for that matter) and now I must wonder why as it’s a great place. I spent basically the entire set of 400 Blows towards the back section. Its clear 400 Blows don’t take themselves seriously as I don’t believe a band could be that bad without knowing they are bad. Instead I spent my time playing Words With Friends with fellow journalist/Concert Confessions supporter Adrian Garro. Sure, he was 15 feet away from me, but as we posted to our Facebook wall, Words With Friends is much more entertaining than 400 Blows.
On June 28th 1996 a local radio station in the Bay Area hit up my local Blockbuster Music and gave out free tickets to the Reverend Horton Heat/Toadies/Butthole Surfers gig that night at the Greek Theatre. I was not allowed to attend concerts at this time in my life, especially concerts across the Bay in Berkeley with people my parents didn’t know. So I did what any 17 year old kid would do and told my parents to fuck off and went anyways. As it turns out it was one of the better choices I made as my parents fined me $25 and then started letting me go to shows. For fifteen years I have been trying to see the band again. There was no way in hell I would allow a permit issue to keep me from rocking out with the Butthole Surfers.
The band hit the stage around 11:30pm as front man Gibby Haynes questioned the crowd to see how many had tickets for Sunset Junction. With many hands raised high, Haynes shared his disappointment with the cancellation (Butthole Surfers were set to headline the main stage) before blasting into “100 Million People Were Dead.”
With the bands core members all in their mid-50’s, the four piece rocked Echo Park hard for 90 minutes. What shocked me was the fact that most of the set was that much of the material performed was from the bands mid 80’s material. I didn’t think we would hear anything from Psychic…Powerless…Another Man’s Sac, but there they were rocking “Negro Observer” and “Gary Floyd.” Other classics like “BBQ Pope” “I Saw An Xray of a Girl Passing Gas” and “Bong Song” pleased the hardcore Butthole fans.
While I can’t claim to own the entire Butthole collection, I would say my favorite release by the San Antonio noise rockers is 1993’s “Independent Worm Saloon.” The band blessed the Echoplex with a lot of material from this release including “Goofy’s Concern” “Some Dispute Over T-Shirt Sales” and “Edgar.”
I know on their last tour, the band refused to play their one mainstream hit “Pepper” so I was not expecting to hear it on this particular evening. The band however shocked me and many more as they snuck it into a medley along with “Lady Sniff.” However that was the only material performed from the entire Electricladyland record.
All in all, the Butthole Surfers were the perfect way to end a great day of show hopping. I am grateful I got the chance to see the legends live and in person once again. As far as Echo Park Rising, I think there may very well be something here. Various shows around local venues for a weekend, it could be SXSW for downtown adjacent. I know I had a blast running around and would be down for another round next year.
After a wonderful breakfast with my parents, my crew and I were en route to the city for the final day of Outside Lands. A weird day in the sense that I only wanted to see three bands (of course two were at the same time), but the two I wanted to see were the biggest draws at the festival for me not named Phish. With hardly a cloud in the sky, we entered the gates and enjoyed every last minute of our day together in Golden Gate Park.
My wonderful hosts for the weekend (thank you again for everything James and Kelly) had a friend who was performing at some point in The Barbary. What is The Barbary you ask? Well The Barbary was a tent set up on the polo field that featured comedy, vaudeville and as one person was overheard saying “a shit ton of carny’s.” Some of the bigger names to grace the tent (who I was unable to catch) included Paul F. Tompkins and Gallagher. Here is a rundown on what I did witness.
Renegade Rockers – a four piece break dancing crew who can move their bodies in ways I can only dream of.
Bullwhip Tango – two gals with some serious snake dancing and sword balancing skills. Oh and then this dude with a bullwhip came out and destroyed a bunch of flowers held in various positions.
Ethan Law and his amazing Cyr Wheel.
I also was lucky enough to catch two quick songs from The Barbary house band Jazz Mafia. I have been told that Jazz Mafia has hundreds of members, but on this occasion they only had four. The four rocking the tent were not only insanely talented, but a lot of fun to watch.
With time to kill, I suggested we check out Los Angeles up-and-comers Grouplove. The good news is that there was a massive crowd surrounding the tiny Panhandle Stage (the smallest stage at Outside Lands, it runs 100% on solar power). The bad news is we were so far back; we were unable to hear them. So we did what most folks did; sat down drank a beer and enjoyed the company of each other.
Still enjoying the company of each other, I decided to run (and yes I ran and yes my shorts almost fell of and yes I almost took out a three year old which is why I stopped running) over to the Twin Peaks stage to see what !!! is all about. Yeah, much like STRFKR the day before, not my thing so I headed back to my crew for more lounging in the park.
Little known fact – John Fogerty and I share a birthday. It is this reason and this reason alone that I went to check out his main stage set. OK, that’s a lie; I went to check out his main stage set so I could get closer to the bands that performed after him. Well that and the fact the man is a living legend.
As far as the set goes, Fogerty did a great job of rocking the ever-growing crowd. He did a fine job of walking the line between playing material from his solo career and hits from CCR. Some of the bigger hits that I recognized included “Lodi” “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?” “Fortunate Son” and “Down On The Corner.” Chances are I would have never gone out and see Fogerty on his own, but at the ripe age of 56 I have to say the man can still rock.
Back in 2007 I saw The Decemberists perform at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. While I wanted to see the band perform again, I just had this fear that nothing could top that magical night under the stars. With The Hazards Of Love in heavy rotation these days I was finally ready for round two with the Portland Oregon based band.
The group got the massive main stage crowd up on their feet as soon as the opening notes of “July, July!” For the next 70 minutes the band made the crowd laugh, fight, scream and check their dictionary.com smart phone in order to decipher the lyrics of front man Colin Meloy. As a matter of fact, Meloy was in fine form on this Sunday afternoon. When not begging the Michele Bachmann 2012 Presidential Campaign to use the groups “Calamity Song” out on the campaign trail, Meloy was encouraging fans to camel fight during “The Soldiering Life.”
I felt the highlight of the set was “Won’t Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga)” which featured former Nickel Creek member Sara Watkins on lead vocal. Watkins (who is currently filling in for keyboardist Jenny Conlee while she kicks the crap out of breast cancer) somehow managed to make her vocals sound better live than the original vocals on the Hazards record.
After great takes of “We Both Go Down Together” “O Valencia!” and “This Is Why We Fight” the group closed with “The Mariner’s Revenge Song.” Part performance art, part rock opera and some serious crowd participation made this the perfect closer for the quirky yet loveable Northwestern rockers. While a 70 minute festival set can no way compare to a night at the Bowl with the LA Phil, The Decemberists not only outshined Arcade Fire, but were the best set I caught at Outside Lands by a band not named Phish.
It was basically a year ago when The Suburbs dropped into my lap after a trip home to San Francisco. There is always a depression that comes over me in the days after I visit my home town and return to Los Angeles. Not really an Arcade Fire fan, The Suburbs not only helped ease the pain that comes from giving up The City for a life in Los Angeles, but made me realize that perhaps there was something truly special about Arcade Fire. If my extended trip home had to come to an end, I felt good knowing that it would end with another round with the life changing musicians who call Montreal home.
Taking the stage a few minutes before their announced 8:10 pm start time Arcade Fire got the crowd going with “Ready To Start.” The early part of the set was filled with songs from The Suburbs including “Empty Room” and “Rocco.” Much like Colin Meloy of The Decemberists; Arcade Fire front man Win Butler was very chatty. When not sharing his love of San Francisco while making sure to get some jokes in about the high cost of living, he was encouraging folks to donate to relief efforts in Haiti before playing the song that shares a name with the struggling nation.
As the 90 minute set progressed the band rewarded the young rabid fan base who had waited up front all day for their heroes with their biggest numbers. While it may have been lost upon the Grammy audience, “Month of May” is the perfect Polo Field rocker while “Rebellion (Lies)” actually caused the crowd to pogo up and down like one would see at a European festival. The biggest highlight of the set was the closing song “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out).” Some kids crowd surfed, others freaked out as group rocked the masses hard while swallowed by bright red lights.
With a few minutes remaining before the strict 9:45 pm curfew, the grateful band returned with 1-2 punch of “Wake Up” and “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains).” While the day job may have ruined “Wake Up” I was thrilled that the entire weekend would end with the powerful “Sprawl II.” From the pulsating drums to the hypnotic vocals of Regine Chassagne this song is why Arcade Fire is one of the most powerful bands of their generation.
So with that my first trip to Outside Lands was complete. Sure there were a few hiccups, but overall a truly magical event that I am thankful I was finally able to be part of. Hope to be back in 2012.
With plenty of bands I wanted to catch spread across Golden Gate Park for the Saturday section of the 2011 Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, you could compare my experience to that of a pinball. I bounced from stage to stage (and porta-potty to porta-potty) all day catching bits of performances from as many artists as I could.
The Greyboy All Stars
The All-Stars were rocking the main stage as we arrived at the festival. I managed to catch the final two songs. Not bad, but jam bands with horns have never been my thing. At least I can cross them off the list.
Some of our pals from the Pacific Northwest recently caught Starfucker (STRFKR) and shared that it was a good show. Taking their word my pals and I headed over to the Twin Peaks stage to check them out. Knowing that there would be no light show, I had hoped that the band would not disappoint my pals, but that was not to be the case. It’s not that STRFKR sucked as much as I assumed it would be something radically different. The dance/electronica elements were there, but my impression was the band had more bite. I am not a huge fan of the Weezer/Jimmy Eat World pop-emo sound which is a very large part of STRFKR’s sound. The band (who all looked as if they are not old enough to legally purchase alcohol in the United States) does what they do well, sounded tight and pleased a large number of fans as the fog burned off above the park. However, STRFKR simply isn’t my cup of tea.
The 2010 World Series Trophy
Not feeling STRFKR, my pals and I decided to check out the Sports Tent in search of when the Minnesota Vikings would be making their first pre-season appearance. It was around that time that the mighty Jerko texted me with the news that the World Series Trophy was on display. As a lifelong San Francisco Giants fan that has spent the last decade in Los Angeles this was a big f’n deal. Unable to drive to San Luis Obispo or Scottsdale, AZ for the trophy tour this was my once in a lifetime chance to get my photo with the World Series gold. When it comes to Outside Lands 2011, the trophy was the second coolest thing I saw all weekend (Phish of course being the coolest). Thank you Outside Lands for bringing the trophy to the park.
Any women who requests the seed of men from the crowd with the promise to send the child in the post 9 months later is A—OK in my book. While I doubt I will run to my local Best Buy and pick up her latest compact disc, the three songs I caught were good. She has a pretty voice, colorful appearance and a great sense of humor.
Technically didn’t see them, but could hear a solid chunk of the set as I ate a delicious Shrimp Po’ Boy. What I heard only pumped me up for the chance to see them next month at the Hollywood Bowl. It appears the rumors are true, much like Phish these cats are all about the live show versus studio albums.
I have been on an Old 97’s kick the past 18 months. I was shocked to see just how empty the Sutro Stage was for their late afternoon appearance. After watching four songs, I think I know why. The band was boring and seemed as if they didn’t really want to be there. At least I got to see “Lonely Holiday” live in between songs from their recent album The Grand Theatre, Volume 2.
The Black Keys
Hitting the main stage and seeing 55,000 people waiting for The Black Keys answered the question as to where everyone was for the Old 97’s. I was stoked to see the sons of Akron, Ohio, but it was clear that would not be the case. At SIXfootONE I usually have no issue seeing at shows. Yet the closest I could get was about ¼ of a mile away from the stage. With a bright sun setting behind the stage and many objects in the way I had to jump to catch just a glimpse of the duo. While the sound where I was left a lot to be desired, I did manage to catch the group kick out tasty jams including “Thickfreakness” and “Next Girl” before heading over to catch The Roots.
My main partner in crime this weekend is a huge fan of The Roots. They were his can’t miss act of the weekend. Since he hung with me for both sets of Phish, I could at least return the favor and check out The Roots with him. I am glad I did as they put on a phenomenal show. The energy over at the Twin Peaks stage was intense as ?uestlove and friends bashed out jams (often without stopping) from their entire catalogue. The only original I knew the title of was “The Seed” but that didn’t stop me from dancing my ass off, especially when the group busted out covers by Guns ‘n’ Roses and Led Zeppelin.
Warren Haynes Band
No disrespect to Matt Abts, but I have always felt that Gov’t Mule was Warren Haynes Band. I was curious what would make this different. As it turns out, horns. As we just learned, I am not really into horn driven jam bands. Walking up towards the end of the set, Haynes and company were mid jam on the song “Invisible.” Sadly with Muse having just hit the main stage a few hundred yards away the sound from the Sutro stage suffered. The group closed their set with the Haynes classic “Soulshine.” I had a feeling this would end the show and I was glad that I was right as it’s a great song.
Had I not seen Muse two weeks earlier (and last fall for that matter) I would have secured a sweet spot for their set after The Black Keys had finished. But with Girl Talk playing across the park I decided to skip Muse this time. I did walk past as they played “Hysteria” to a packed Polo Field. All of my pals who saw Muse loved them, but felt the Oakland show last fall was a superior performance.
I know some folks love Girl Talk and I know some folks hate Girl Talk. As someone who is clueless about DJ dance trance electro world, my knowledge of Girl Talk is that he gets up there and basically mashes up other people’s hits while a bunch of barely legal girls high on ecstasy dance around on stage. As someone with severe ADHD, it sounded like a sweet concept and I am glad to report that I was correct. I managed to catch about 45 minutes of Gregg Michael Gillis’ set and it was the most fun I had all day (well, except for the World Series trophy). I mean who knew that Nirvana and Belinda Carlisle sounded so good together? While I don’t know if I would pay to see a headline performance, with constant stimulation via an ever changing soundscape (and not to mention killer light show) Girl Talk was not only the right choice for me, but a fun way to wrap day two at Outside Lands.
Over the past few years, I have come home to the Bay Area on Outside Lands weekend. Yet instead of watching historic performances by the likes of Pearl Jam, Widespread Panic and Ween I have watched friends get married. With no nuptials planned for 2011 I purchased my three day pass the second they went on sale.
My friends and I hit the park Friday afternoon as New York based Phantogram were performing on the Sutro stage. Most of their set was spent waiting in line for an alcohol ID and then of course for the first of many $9 beers. With a large crowd gathered, I enjoyed what I heard of the duo (who performed as a trio live) and confirmed that I indeed need to dig deeper into the group. Highlight for me was walking up just in time to record the one jam I actually know from the group – “Mouthful of Diamonds.”
The Original Meters
Having caught The Funky Meters around the Bay a few times in the late 90’s, I knew that my proper Outside Lands 2011 kick off would be the main stage performance from The Meters. The set started out great with a tight run through “Fire On The Bayou.” Yet it was during “Struttin’” that the entire performance fell apart. The amplifier of guitarist Leo Nocentelli died and for at least 15 minutes various tech heads did everything they could to get it back up and running. With a festival running on a tight schedule, the remaining three members of the group jammed while joking with the crowd. Sadly by the time the problem was fixed many in the crowd had moved onto other stages. I did enjoy what little of the set was left, but talk about a tough break for some true living legends that deserve much better.
Foster The People
It was perfect. I was able to hear the rock radio summer jam of 2011 “Pumped Up Kicks” from a porta-potty. Let’s be honest here folks (and if time proves me wrong, then feel free to mock me) but I get the feeling this jam is a lot like “Sex and Candy” by Marcy’s Playground or “Handlebars” by Flobots. Here today, gone tomorrow and a perfect soundtrack when pissing into a plastic urinal while surrounded by other people’s excrement.
I have no doubt in my mind that 9 out of 10 individuals who packed the Polo Fields for MGMT’s set will tell you that the band sucked. I am not one of those individuals because not only did the groups second record Congratulations make my top 10 list last year, I understand that this band has blown up before they had time to mature as a band. Opening with “Flash Delirium” the set was heavy on the more challenging material from Congratulations. While I feel the band works better in a smaller venue, jams like “It’s Working” and “Siberian Breaks” still managed to get me moving. Where fans in every city get down to “Electric Feel” one can’t deny that it feels a bit more special here in San Francisco as our two time Cy Young Award winner (and not to mention World Fuckin’ Champ) Tim Lincecum warms up to this song. Looking across the Polo Field (and really anywhere at Outside Lands) you can’t escape the sea of Black and Orange gear which is a bittersweet feeling for a lifelong Giants fan who has defended his team for a decade now at Dodgers Stadium, but I digress.
While I have never heard of the band England’s Glory, MGMT does a mighty damn good job rocking their song “Broken Arrows.” With some slight jamming at the end of the song, it was the perfect treat for those who gathered at the main stage all day in hopes to secure a sweet spot for Phish. Perhaps the best part of MGMT’s set was the fact they didn’t play “Kids.” Yes I know this upset the masses, but the song simply would not have fit in with the overall mood of the set. I’d rather see a band try to make a solid cohesive statement with their slot versus making the crowd happy by simply going through the motions and playing the hits.
I can’t think of a more perfect way to end my west coast Phish run then a Friday night in Golden Gate Park. The day was already off to a good start when despite no “lot scene” I managed to find my “I’m Just a Little Phreaked Out” SF Giants/Phish West Coast Lot shirt (thanks James) a few hours before the boys hit the stage. I once again ended up Page Side Rage Side (4 for 4 in 2011) and was shocked when the band hit the stage at 6:30pm sharp with the opening “Kill Devil Falls.”
While it may have been advertised as two sets, I knew going into this one that Phish would have to walk the fine line of appeasing phans while creating an enjoyable set for noobs, hipsters and those who wandered over to the main stage after Big Boi failed to perform his set. From rockers like “Wilson” to covers like Frank Zappa’s “Peaches en Regalia” it was clear Phish was walking the line perfectly. For the hardcore phans, while the band didn’t break out anything too crazy, you can’t really complain when “Mound” “Tweezer” “Suzy Greenberg” and “Mike’s Song>I Am Hydrogen>Weekapaug Groove” all find their way into the first set. Oh, and for those who have seen multiple shows, when was the last time you saw drummer Jon Fishman rock a hoodie under his Muumuu?
Set II kicked off with a balls to the wall “Rock and Roll.” While it never reached the madness that was the Gorge version this one was solid from start to stop. With thick fog choking Golden Gate Park all day, the third ever performance of “Steam” added a lot more fluffiness to the marine layer. Having just heard the band cover “Roses Are Free” by Ween for the first time a week ago at the Gorge, I was beyond pumped to hear this one again (as was my non Phish loving friend James). Speaking of covers, I got my first take on the recently dusted off David Bowie gem “Life on Mars?” Keyboardist/vocalist Page McConnell sounded great leading the charge into one of the more serious sections of the night.
With the crowd now in their pocket, the second set closed with “Birds of a Feather>Fluffhead>Backwards Down The Number Line>Also Sprach Zarathustra>Chalkdust Torture.” “Fluffhead” was technically perfect impressing all walks of music fans and for the new folks, once they realized they were hearing the theme from 2001 – well let’s just say many were converted in that moment. While a “Chalkdust Torture” closer may bring tears to the eyes of old school phans, it was the perfect way to wrap the second set. One would have thought Guitarist/lead vocalist Trey Anastasio was performing in a band like Mastodon or At The Drive-In he was rocking so hard on stage. With a massive crowd spread across the Polo Fields, it was a great exclamation point on a successful night.
With a strict curfew of 10pm, the band came out with just enough time to tear through an encore of “Cavern>Tweezer Reprise.” Knowing that the over-the-head clapping of “Mound” and jumping during “Fluffhead” had already brought smiles to the face of both old and brand new Phish phans; the little leg kick that Anastasio and bassist Mike Gordon perform during “Cavern” was lovingly imitated by some hipster gals in Native American head dresses next to us. With such a huge PA, I am pretty sure the bass bombs from Gordon during “Tweezer Reprise” tipped over at least ½ of the porta-potties (good thing I used it during Foster the People eh).
While I was sad that my mini Phish run was now over, I was at least excited that my friends who did not enjoy some of the Shoreline shows I dragged them to back in the day enjoyed the show. Phish managed to please long time phans and make some new ones in the process. Now, I sit and wait for the band to once again return to the West Coast in 2012 for more face melting action.
I witnessed my first performance at the Hollywood Bowl in 2003. Sitting there under the stars, I knew that the historic venue would be the perfect place to see Phish work their magic. I’ve even discussed for this very website how great it would be to see Phish perform at the venue with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Having spent two days at the Gorge with the boys, I pulled into the venue with my pal God Frank expecting the madness and energy level that was present all weekend in George, Washington. Much to my shock (and as I look back, delight) the place was as mellow as you could get. With this being God Frank’s first show, I wanted to find him a solid Shakedown Street so he could have the full experience. In our 45 minute walk around the stacked parking lots of the Hollywood Bowl, there was very minimum vending going on. A few glass pieces for sale, some hippie crack but that’s about it. I couldn’t even find a beer for sale. With no real party that we could find, we decided to head into the venue and wait for Phish to make their eagerly awaited Hollywood Bowl debut.
Around 7:30 pm, the band took the stage to a solid but mellow round of applause. From the second that sound began coming from the P.A. I knew we were heading straight into a “Down With Disease” opener. As far as “Disease” goes the playing was fierce especially the guitar work of Trey Anastasio, but this was no doubt the quickest version of the song I have heard. The band brought the jam right on down into an early set “Cavern.” I have to admit I was shocked to hear this one as it was just played opening night at the Gorge. Yet as a fan of the song, I had no complaints and was glad God Frank got the see the Anastasio and bassist Mike Gordon perform their leg kick dance.
For as shocked as I was for the “Cavern” repeat “Possum” really threw me for a loop. Having just seen it open the previous show, you can now put me in the camp of spoiled snobs who agree that the band is playing this one too much. I decided to use it as a piss break knowing I will probably catch it again at Outside Lands. When the band broke into the Talking Head’s jam “Cities” my first thoughts were of Berkeley 2010. With phans in front of me still wearing their Price is Right name tags (I believe they said the episode will air November 8th) I was hoping “Cities” would see another Plinko jam in the great state of California. While the mini jam coming out of “Cities” was tight, I think the band knew it had to take the energy up a level thus busting out the third cover of the Frank Zappa classic “Peaches en Regalia.” Once this made its appearance at SuperBall IX, I knew the band would pay tribute to Zappa at the Bowl.
I pointed to God Frank in excitement as the Chairman of the Boards himself Page McConnell headed towards the front of the stage for “Lawn Boy.” I loved when McConnell played up to the crowd asking us how we were doing. I had called a “Tube” opener, so fine I was off 7 songs? You knew they had to bust this one out with The 101 freeway behind them. Following “Tube” came “Back on the Train” which I felt had the best jam of the entire first set.
“Wilson>Axilla” was straight up ass kicking rock and roll and I loved every minute of it. After a tasty “Split Open and Melt” with a jam as laid back as the crowd, the band gave me another piss break (and 4th Gorge repeat) “Backwards Down The Number Line.” I will just say this about the set I closer. When I walked to the bathroom, there were folks around but not a hard walk. It was hard to walk back from the bathroom because so many people were filling out of the Bowl. As far as the first set goes, it felt as if Phish had to get comfortable with the venue and it showed in songs like “Disease” and “Cities” but once they became acclimated it was on like Donkey Kong.
If you have read my thoughts on the Gorge, then you know I feel the band has been kicking set II off with the second song. Not the case on this night as the hairs upon my arms began to rise as that thick opening riff from “Carini” drifted from the stage and over the surrounding hills. My first 3.0 “Carini” the jam was hard hitting as it should be, but what made it great is what it eventually became. I have chased “Crosseyed and Painless” for as long as I can remember. With “Cities” in the first set I figured I missed the Talking Heads original yet again. Wrong, I saw it live and in person and it rocked hard. Drummer Jon Fishman sounded great on the vocals and the energy very well could have blown the band shell off of the stage.
Once again not stopping between songs “Twist” was the confirmation that I needed that this was indeed a Phish crowd and not a Los Angeles crowd. With everyone front to back Wooing on mark, we may have just set the record for the mellowest Phish crowd of all time. There was even a major lack of glow stick wars over the course of the night. I looked for one during “Piper”, and where a few went up, it was more of a glow stick operation versus a full blown war.
So I got the Mike’s Grove that thenaturalstoner wanted so bad and it ended up being the highlight of the show. After a solid take on “Mike’s Song” the band wound down into “Joy.” I like “Joy” a lot so if I had to have a breather in my second set this one is fine with me. Nothing special musically on this one, just an important reminder to focus on what makes you happy. “Weekapaug Groove” followed “Joy” with Gordon straight up abusing his thumb with ferocious slaps against his strings.
I don’t think anyone in the house could have guessed what would go down next. Anastasio dropped his guitar and took to the drum set as stage hands quickly assembled a small drum kit in front of Gordon. From there Fishman took to the small kit and the band busted out a funky first time offering of the Paul Simon song “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover.” I can’t lie, I have somehow managed to go 32 years without hearing this song, but it didn’t matter. I was just glad to see Fish to debut a new song where he gets to take center stage.
Like a fool I turned off the camera right as the band launched into “Hold Your Head Up.” Where this song usually sandwiches a front of the stage Fishman appearance, I guess we learned it follows a Fishman front of stage with drum kit appearance. Regardless, it was an absolute blast to finally see Fish take a victory lap around the stage.
After another Character Zero, the band closed the second set with a cover of “Quinn The Eskimo.” I was excited to finally see it performed live and looking around the Bowl you could actually feel a little energy coming from the crowd. For an encore, the band opened with “Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan.” Solid version no doubt, but I am not sure I like it as an encore. For the 7th and final Gorge repeat, Phish closed the night with “Julius.” I reached for my phone to call Phishbeard knowing how much he loves the song. I suppose since Raphael Saadiq beat them to playing it at the Bowl they kind of had to play it right? Solid version and a great way to send people out to a Highland Avenue shakedown of Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs.
I have to think the first Phish show at the Hollywood Bowl was a success. Sure, there were a lot of repeats from the Gorge, but with so far to travel between dates I have to assume those who made all three are limited. As I mentioned earlier, I was glad that the crowd was respectful. Hollywood Bowl is the perfect venue for Phish in Southern California and I would like to see a lot more shows with them there in the future (starting the rumor now for three night run in fall of 2012).
Hope everyone in Tahoe has a blast. We will see you in San Francisco Friday night for Outside Lands.
Gorge Amphitheatre, George, WA
Words/Photos by Reverend Justito
Note: As with part one, this was written on the trek from Spokane to Los Angeles. Pardon any and all typos.
For night two we decided to start the first set up on the lawn so I could see the sun set/get a different appreciation for the venue. Phish came out just as the sun snuck behind the ridge and played the worst set of the weekend much to my delight. It’s not that the music was bad, they just happened to play the songs that myself and many others are sick of. “Possum”, “Moma Dance”, “Sample In A Jar” the boys were playing it safe. Hell I even got my bathroom break songs “Limb By Limb” and “Ocelot” back to back. The reason this was perfect (besides the chance to pee) was that I could worry more about soaking in the surroundings of the Gorge instead of focusing just on the music. A safe set of songs I have seen a million times was the perfect musical backdrop for enjoying a sunset with friends. We eventually made our way down to the floor during “Ocelot” and found a sweet spot Page Side Rage Side (a theme for this tour) just in time for a standard run through “Poor Heart.”
In my opinion the band found their groove during the last few songs of the first set. “Wolfman’s Brother” is always great, especially when the band teases “Heartbreaker” by the mighty Led Zeppelin. “Wilson” had the unapologetic energy of Led Zeppelin rocking the crowd hard late in the set. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “Fluffhead” is the new “Guyute” as I witnessed my third 3.0 version of the classic Phish number. No complaints here as I love the song and it served as a perfect close to the first set.
We headed down to the main pit at setbreak and watched the set from about 20 feet away. I was a bit shocked with a set II “Chalkdust Torture” opener as I assumed it would be saved for the Hollywood Bowl. Well that and the fact I told my pals I would buy them each a Pizza-dilla if the band didn’t open with that “I Don’t Like Reggae” song that I got stuck in everyones head over the course of the weekend. Much like night one Set II started with the second song of the set this time with a raging “Tweezer” which sent glowsticks flying and folks high fiving. The jam out of “Tweezer” built nicely before winding down and finding its way into the soft intro that is “Prince Caspian.”
Coming out of “Caspian” was the nights best jam “Sand.” Not a huge fan of this song, but the jam is always good and this one was beefy. I really loved the fact that they ended the section of songs by going back into the tail end of “Tweezer.” Judging by the thunderous ovation from the crowd I am not the only one.
An unexpected highlight in the second set was the bands cover of the TV on the Radio song “Golden Age.” I’ll be honest I don’t know much about TV on the Radio but hearing just how amazing they sound when performed by Phish let’s just say I’m a bit more excited to catch them headline the Hollywood Bowl next month.
The way the final set of the weekend ended is why I go see Phish time and time again. Once again I wore the right shirt as the band busted into “Reba.” The bands playing on the composed sections was superb, but as anyone inside of the Gorge would tell you the highlight was the return of the whistling section at the end of the song. The song eventually gave way to one of my all time favorites “Run Like An Antelope.” Within the first few minutes of the song, Anastasio managed to tease the whistling of “Reba” as well as parts of “Tweezer”, “Sand” and “Golden Age.” After a main build up jam that truly felt more intense than most Antelopes we made it to the lyrics where a playful Anastasio changed Marco Escondolis to Mike-O Escondolis before allowing Mike Gordon a few seconds to lay down a little low end groove. This is easily the most intense Antelope I’ve seen and a perfect end to the second set.
The encore kicked off with “Suzy Greenberg” which made me happy not so much for the song but because thenaturalstoner (who was robbed of the Festival 8 version) finally got his Suzy. However what happened next shocked us all. I thought for sure we would head straight into “Tweezer Reprise” but instead we were treated to the rare gem “Sanity.” Perhaps the band read my open letter because the left coast usually doesn’t get something so epic. When it comes to song selection, this was no doubt was the highlight of the weekend.
As Gordon dropped massive bass bombs during the closer “Tweezer Repise” I took it all in for a final time. The venue, the friends, the fact thenaturalstoner found the Jeff Winston beach ball at the end of the set. It was a lifelong dream to see Phish at the Gorge and that dream finally came true.
As I fly above Sin City in my return to Los Angeles it’s hard to believe my trip to Washington is over. I met some amazing folks including our own Grateful Coug. I got to reconnect with old friends like LeRoy Winston, Phishbeard and RV. I made many new friends too numerous to list. Thanks to Skate for letting me crash on Thursday night and a very special thanks to our own thenaturalstoner who has gone above and beyond the call of duty as tour guide to both myself and Jay Porks the last two weekends. You are an incredible man. Oh and if you’re name is Pete and you call the state of Illinois home, we get it, you fucking hate Dub Step.
Where I usually write reviews from my computer, we will make an exception and type this from gate B5 at the Spokane Int’l Airport (That’s my way to say excuse typos/grammar cause I typed this on an iphone). You see, this is not a typical Reverend Justito confession. This is a dream come true because I can now say I have seen Phish throw down at the Gorge.
99% of the time you hit the show, park, get inside the venue, rock out, buy the shirt and then head home. For this experience I got to Washington late Wednesday. Before the Subaru was packed for George, WA I had two days with the likes of thenaturalstoner, Phishbeard and ebrother on their home turf. I saw the campus of WSU, ate at Fazzari’s, took my first two visits to the state of Idaho and was chased by an eel in the Snake River. Ok so there was no eel, thenaturalstoner just wanted to get a good chuckle by scaring the shit out of the city boy and it worked.
We headed out from Clarkston, WA for the Gorge at 10am sharp Friday AM. For just about everyone heading west from Washington/Idaho border, this was their first time seeing Phish since Festival 8. During the three hour ride, fantasy setlists were dreamed up, past shows discussed and inside jokes that would carry through the weekend were born. For me, I enjoyed checking out the rolling hills and breathtaking canyons of Eastern Washington while laughing about Phishbeard and his hate of the song “Julius.”
We managed to set up Camp Jeff Winston in about 45 minutes giving us ample time to crack open a few beers and avoid the oppressive desert heat (shade tents are a good thing). We made new friends (word up Travis from Santa Barbara), took the lame jokes of neighbors too far (I’m sorry but if you offer used anal beads for $2 you better deliver) and anticipated face melting action from the boys.
Making the 45 minute walk from the campground to the venue on the first night, my heart was racing. I have wanted to see a show at the Gorge since I first heard about it during my first Phish show (07/31/97). As we finally made our way in, within seconds I agreed with every single person who shared with me the fact that photos do not do the venue justice. We hit the pit Page Side Rage Side and as the sun set beyond the Columbia River the band opened night one with “Kill Devil Falls.”
I was impressed at how deep the first set of the weekend was. “The Wedge” in the number two hole was a welcome treat and a final warm-up for the first extended jam of the night “Bathtub Gin.” When it comes to Gin and I they tend to be hit and miss, but this take was money. With this being my 21st show, it’s always nice to get to hear songs you have not heard the band play before. I got my first two of the weekend with “Nellie Kane>My Friend My Friend.” Nellie was fun but the treat was the “My Friend My Friend.” Decked out in my Iron Maiden inspired My Friend shirt, I was ready to start a pit as Phish mastermind Trey Anastasio conjured a devilish tone moments before the songs climax.
The first set continued to rage with “Cavern>Taste>Roggae>Walk Away.” I tend to feel “Roggae” is a boring song, but on this particular night it featured a slow smooth jam that I can’t recall ever hearing in the song. This unexpected jam made “Roggae” highly enjoyable. “Walk Away” was deeply discussed on the way to the Gorge so we all had our fists flying through the air as the foursome kicked out the rocking jam.
I assumed set break would follow “Walk Away” but we ended up with three more songs. “Funky Bitch>Roses Are Free>David Bowie.” I had to travel over 1000 miles, but as a rabid Ween fan it was about time I got to see Phish cover the pride of New Hope, PA. Set I ended with a raging “David Bowie” as the last sliver of light hung along the edge of the cliffs beyond the stage.
On paper, you will read that Set II kicked off with “Backwards Down The Number Line.” While it’s true that the band played it, anyone not celebrating a birthday on this weekend will inform you that a cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Rock and Roll” kicked off set II. Not sure how long the jam stretched, but I can tell you that it may very well be the most insane bad ass jam that I have ever witnessed the boys play. From Page McConnell rocking a theremin to “Moma Dance” teases, this is Phish at their best.
Most of Camp Jeff Winston claims “Meatstick” had “Fire on the Mountain” teases but I don’t buy that. I do know the band once again sang the final section in Japanese and jammed effortlessly into “Boogie on Reggae Woman.” Then it all fell apart.
With the energy level high Anastasio dropped the band into “Farmhouse.” I enjoy the song, but you could feel the energy shoot out the venue and right up the Gorge. “Show Of Life” followed and where a dance party once raged, folks took a seat always keeping an eye out for those dead hookers.
While Phishbeard would disagree, “Julius” picked the energy up a bit. “Character Zero” is a balls out rock and roll song meant to fill big venues, however on this night it never took off. Perhaps if the band had a mid-level song between “Boogie” and “Farmhouse” (“Theme From The Bottom” or “Slave To The Traffic Light”) it would have worked. “Loving Cup” was the lone encore of the first night at the Gorge. After the amazing Festival 8 version, I feel as if I’m chasing the dragon on Cup and I’ll never see one as good as that again.
On the long walk back to camp, most fans seemed to agree that “Farmhouse” killed the momentum, but in no way would it ruin the weekend. There were pizza-dillas looking to be eaten just off shakedown, and we had a lot of partying left to do.
Click herefor a recap of Day Two with Phish at the Gorge.
I moved to Los Angeles just shy of a decade ago. Before moving down here I was as Bay Area as it comes. The use of the word hella was still our thing. I didn’t eat meat, enjoyed public transportation and went green back in the late 80’s. I knew I was moving to a whole new world, but nothing could have prepared me for that first 18 months living in the City of Angels. The fact is Los Angeles is a hard city to live in and while you can keep your hippie dreams and try to make a dent you need tough skin. I would not have survived those 18 months without the guidance and protection of one man. Our initial bond was Rage Against The Machine. We shared stories of shows from Oakland to San Diego. So you had to know it would be him who would take care of me again with the offer of an extra ticket roughly 24 hours before the gates of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum opened.
The Festival Experience
I walked around the entire horse shoe of the stadium. The entire time I saw three things. Lite Beer stands, Merchandise stands and Food stands. OK, there was a poorly placed stage where KROQ was blasting Rush/Faith No More mash ups, but not much else going on. I couldn’t even find a first aid stand to see if they had earplugs (I picked a bad day to forget them that’s for sure). I finally made it to the other side of the stadium for the promised revolution, something called the “Re-Education Camp.” While it was nice to see organizations like Greenpeace, Food Not Bombs and Iraq Veterans Against The War be allowed to set up for free, the area felt more like an Indian Reservation then an opportunity to save the world. The camp was a small parking lot adjacent to the grounds. Tents were small, poorly lit and the whole thing felt depressing. We know you can hardly make ends meet, but we need help so please sign up for our email list and give us cash.
While I understand that you need many stands to feed what I am guessing ended up around 85,000 people, the entire stadium walk around was capitalism at its best. $8 Hot Dogs, $30 T-shirt and $9 Beer as far as you can see. Speaking of beer, I assumed a festival would have more than Coors Lite, Miller Lite and if you were lucky enough to find it tucked away in the corner behind section 25 Dos Equis. So when it comes to being a festival, L.A. Rising has a long way to go. This is not the revolution; this was a corporate cash grab stadium gig at its finest.
To make things worse (and I realize that this only happened to a small percentage of guests) when I made it to my seat I discovered it was covered with a large black cloth. As it turns out there was a last minute security change where they decided to cover these seats to help prevent individuals from sneaking onto the floor. Between Immortal Technique and Lauryn Hill I walked back around the stadium for my seat exchange. The guy at the tent asked if I was alone or with a group. I told him I was meeting 5 other people and he promised me that my ticket was with them. I look at my new ticket and it was for the same exact section, except seat 10 was now found in row 5 instead of row 2. Knowing my group was in the stadium, I finally texted them between Muse and Rage worried that I had not seen them in the empty seats next to me. As it turns out, they were given tickets in section 8 clear across the stadium from me. So instead of sharing the day with the folks I was supposed to share it with I sat alone. Going to shows alone all the time it could be worse I suppose, but I lost my chance to see Rage with someone I really wanted to see Rage with and I don’t know if I will ever get that chance again. I do want to say thanks EC for getting me into the revolution, it means a lot to me.
I am not a huge hip hop fan so where I have heard the name Immortal Technique, I didn’t know who they (or as it turns out he) was. I missed the first half of his set checking out the Re-Education Camp and that was a huge mistake on my part. Just walking down the long tunnel towards my section I liked what I heard coming from the stage. Instead of finding my seat near the side of the stage I decided to head up and over to get a better view for photos. When not joking with the crowd and his crew on stage, Immortal Technique dazzled the crowd with hard hitting rhymes that spanned his entire career. Highlights included the song “Memories,” his banter encouraging folks to steal his music so they can hear the message and a guest spot from Chino XL. As some folks kicked me from a seat which I had no right to be in, the east coast rapper unleashed a harsh yet often hilarious rant attacking hip hop played on the radio, Summer Jam, Amy Winehouse and Casey Anthony. If I do listen to hip hop, it needs to have bite and both Chino XL and Immortal Technique managed to show me they had that bite in a sun drenched college football stadium. Consider me a fan.
Ms. Lauryn Hill
I get it, she had some solid jams over a decade ago. But for the love of God Goldenvoice, why the hell do you shove this shit down our throats? At least at Coachella you have 14 different options if you don’t want to watch a fucking train wreck. I could think of 24 acts that would have been better for the slot. I watched the opening “Killing Me Softly” which sounded more like a Rastafarian who has been smoking oxycontin for three days then oh I don’t know music? I tried to give it a chance but it was rough with a bad PA and a band that sounds like they were pulled together a day before the show. Whatever came next was even worse but hey don’t worry. It gave me a chance to go drink a beer with Skwerl of Antiquiet fame. Yes I could still hear her butchering hits from the concourse area, but that didn’t ruin my Dos Equis drank by this blatant name dropping music snob.
This was make or break for me when it comes to Rise Against. I had seen the band twice before, once was great and the other left me wanting a bit more. Could these guys who have headlines sold out arenas in this town make the jump from that level to dinner time/twilight stadium rockers? The answer was clear – Yes.
For the first time that I saw all day, huge circle pits broke out on the floor (which was divided into an A section up front, a middle B section and a rear C section upsetting many fans). Despite the sound system struggling throughout their set, the band bashed out hit after hit including “The Good Left Undone,” “Prayer Of The Refuge” and “Ready To Fall.” The highlight of the set however was when front man Tim McIlwraith strapped on an acoustic guitar and sang the powerful anti-war number “Hero Of War.” You could hear a pin drop it was so quiet inside the only venue to host two Olympic Games. Los Angeles has always given Rise Against a lot of love and it was great to see them take the next step in an already well accomplished career.
Having purchased a ticket for Outside Lands last Spring, L.A. Rising did me a huge favor by having Muse booked as a headliner. Having seen the band last fall, and now at L.A. Rising I have high hopes of having my Girl Talk cherry popped in Golden Gate Park. The band who can headline multiple nights in Football Stadiums across the pond felt right at home inside the massive Coliseum (further cementing my beliefs last fall that the 20,000 seat Staples Center was too small for the group). On a pure technical/skill level this was hands down the best set of the night.
Much like Rise Against, Muse spent much of their set rocking their wildly popular radio hits. Early on “Supermassive Black Hole” and “Hysteria” got fists pumping from the crowd in between deeper cuts like “Uprising” and “United States of Eurasia.” What is scary about Muse is how easy they make it look. Front man Matthew Bellamy can transition effortlessly from guitar to piano within the same song and own your ass on both instruments.
Packing their four biggest hits within the last five songs, the energy of the near capacity crowd was something truly special. From the TV spot friendly melodies of “Starlight” to the edge of manic meltdown that is “Stockholm Syndrome” the band had the crowd eating from the palm of their hands. It’s almost too easy for Muse; it’s really not even fair. Keep in mind I was unable to view the light show/effects the band had on stage and I was still blown away. As the final notes of “Knights Of Cydonia” rang through the PA, I knew even if I do see Muse at Outside Lands, I will still be blown away.
Rage Against The Machine
The last time I saw Rage Against The Machine was at the Battle of Los Angeles Tour Kickoff at the then Oakland Arena in Oakland, CA. That was almost 12 years ago. With the Olympic Torch lit and the arches of the Coliseum lighted up blood red, a brief video history of Rage Against The Machine played to the cheers of the crowd. Where love and respect was had for most of the other acts at the inaugural L.A. Rising, it was clear that this crowd was here for the lone appearance of Rage Against The Machine in 2011. The band started it off right with “Testify” and while it sucked to have the PA cut out twice it was clear that the band was beyond ready to bring the Coliseum down.
I was personally excited for how early Rage made it into the set After “Testify” the next seven songs came from the group’s first two releases. Highlights included an explosive “Bombtrack” along with fierce versions of “Bulls On Parade” “Township Rebellion” and “Bullet In The Head.” While there was one or two missed notes, the band sounded as if they had been on the road for a year. Vocalist Zach De La Rocha sounded great and even added a few new lines into songs like “Down Rodeo.”
During the set closing “Wake Up” De La Rocha took a large moment in time to address what he feels is a violent tension rising within Los Angeles. He compared foreclosures to empty hotel rooms in brand new developments downtown as a bonfire blazed towards the top of the stadium. It has been a few years since we have had a good riot here in Los Angeles, and the way things are going in this world we are probably due for one and De La Rocha made sure to encourage the crowd to take to streets. The band closed the night with an encore featuring their most explosive songs “Freedom>Killing In The Name Of.” With 12+ hours in the sun, the floor exploded into the biggest and most chaotic pits of the night as the hometown heroes celebrated a triumphant performance in downtown Los Angeles. Will this be the last Rage Against The Machine show as some have hinted? Who knows?
In closing L.A. Rising was a raging success for all the wrong reasons. Corporate America sold the revolution to a bunch of angry music fans. No doubt it will return next year with Common and System of a Down and the folks who struggle to make ends meet will throw down $100+ a ticket to get into the Electric Daisy Replacement revolution. For my taste there needed to be more then bands reminding me that times are fucked. Where were the forward thinking food options? Where was the fair and affordable food options? The fact is the movement spent Saturday afternoon handing their hard earned cash back to the ones who have used our politicians to steal it from us in the first place. Turns out the joke is on us.
Every year I make it a goal to catch a living legend at the Hollywood Bowl. In past years I have seen artists including Willie Nelson, Neil Diamond and Aretha Franklin. This year my living legend of choice is Dolly Parton. I could fill this entire post with her accomplishments both on and off the stage, so let’s just talk about the action.
For those outside of Los Angeles, for most of the shows at the Hollywood Bowl, the venue encourages fans to bring in a picnic (including your own beer and wine) and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. As the sun set, I sat with friends eating well, drinking well and enjoying some of the best people watching I have seen in a long time. Elderly women, gay men in cowboy boots, legit Inland Empire county fans, hipster girls in cowboy boots, drag queens dressed as Dolly and at least three separate motorcycle clubs.
The show started at 8:30pm sharp as Miss Parton opened with the Katrina & the Waves hit “Walking On Sunshine.” While many ate and drank under the stars I was ready to rock as Parton busted out one of my favorites “Jolene” early in the set. Many in the crowd including myself quickly discovered that when you see Dolly Parton you get a stand –up comedy show as well as a concert. Between just about every number Dolly joked about the venue (Dollywood Bowl), her age and plastic surgery (it cost a lot to look this cheap) and really whatever she felt like at any given moment.
Dolly paid tribute to her bluegrass roots for part of the show by bringing out a big ol’ Ryman Auditorium microphone and picking upon a banjo for takes on “Rocky Top” and “Mule Skinner Blues.” After joking about artists doing covers and screwing up songs (which included a joke about Whitney Houston screwing hers up all the way to the bank) Parton led her band into a sweet medley that included “Help” by the Beatles, “Shine” by Collective Soul and “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin. I truly thought I was tripping when she started to play “Shine” as I have always been a fan of that one. It was the last song I expected to hear and at that point the Queen of Country had me in her pocket. Parton made it clear early on that whatever she wanted to do, she would do much to the delight of the crowd.
One thing I didn’t realize about Dolly Parton is how talented of a musician she is. On this particular Saturday night she rocked a guitar, a banjo, a piano, a dulcimer, a penny whistle and a saxophone. Being so far back in the venue, I probably missed an instrument or two, but you get the idea. Parton also paid a solid amount of time discussing her family and growing up one of twelve kids in between songs like “My Tennessee Mountain Home.”
Towards the end of her first set (here I thought my only two set show at the Hollywood Bowl this year would be Phish) Parton performed her latest single “Together You and I.” As videos of various individuals from different races, religions and beliefs united together played behind her, Parton rocked a jam that sounded a lot like Katy Perry. While pop is not a stretch from Parton what came next shocked and delighted the near capacity venue. Plugging her upcoming Warner Bros. major motion picture “Joyful Noise” (co-starring Queen Latifah), Parton busted out a rather solid freestyle rap. I told you nothing was off limits for the member of the Grand Ole Opry. Parton eventually closed the first set with a new song from the film entitled “He’s Everything.”
While many rushed back to their seats, it was clear Parton had her second wind from the 15 minute break. The set opened with “White Limozeen” but what came next once again shocked the crowd. Another cover, this time Parton tackled the Hannah Montana hit “Best of Both Worlds.” After the song, Parton defended Miley Cyrus (who was apparently in attendance during the Friday night show) and lashed out against the paparazzi who follow her every move.
After performing a few new songs from her latest release “Better Day” Parton hit the crowd wrapped the night with some of her biggest hits. “Little Sparrow” silenced the crowd to the point where you could hear the freeway behind the Bowl hum in the night sky. “Islands In The Stream” and “9 to 5” finally got the crowd up on their feet for a lil dancing. Of course the biggest highlight for most was “I Will Always Love You.” I don’t understand the couples who embrace during this song, but perhaps I missed the whole part about wishing someone you love the best because they no longer need your love.
Another legend off the list, the Dolly Parton live experience was everything I dreamed it would be and more. She truly made you appreciate life and left you walking out of the venue with a huge smile of your face. I really can’t think of a better way to kick off my 2011 run of shows at the Hollywood Bowl.
The Summer Slaughter Tour 07/22/11 House of Blues – West Hollywood, CA Words/Photos by Reverend Justito
If I ever have a moment where my life flashes before my eyes, I look forward to revisiting July 22nd, 2011. I ran into Grace Potter on the streets of Hollywood. I got a bunch of great vinyl from Amoeba Records and I was lucky enough to score a ticket to the kickoff of the 2011 Summer Slaughter Tour. Yes, July 22nd was much better than the day where a bee sting put me in the hospital or the time that one gal broke my heart into a million pieces.
I made it to the House of Blues a few minutes before Oceano was set to take the stage. I was ready to head inside but then life threw me a curveball that I just had to hit out of the park. Yes, I really wanted to see Oceano and As Blood Runs Black and I’m bummed to have missed them. However, when you are presented the opportunity to enjoy happy hour with some of the performers higher up on the bill, you take that opportunity and run with it. I did make it into the sold out venue as Powerglove was wrapping up their special halftime performance. Being the only power metal video game theme cover band on a death metal festival, the crowd was clearly showing the love for Powerglove. That could have been fun, maybe next time?!?!
The only time I have seen Dying Fetus is when they woke up on my couch in Sherman Oaks, CA about a decade ago so there was no way I was missing the bands 25 minute set of death/grindcore goodness. On a pure technical level, Dying Fetus in my opinion was the most impressive band that I saw. Not to take away from anyone else on the bill, but to watch these guys (especially guitarist/vocalist John Gallagher) pull off these complex parts and schizophrenic tempo changes in person is a treat. Highlights of the brief set included “Shepherd’s Commandment” “Praise The Lord (Opium of the Masses)” and the final number “Your Treachery Will Die With You.”
Six Feet Under
Another legendary group I finally get to kick off my bucket list. I was actually at their Key Club show in 2006 (maybe 2005?) and had to leave early which I still regret to this day. The band opened with the Cannibal Corpse classic “Stripped, Raped and Strangled” as the very young crowd erupted into a massive swirling pit. Barnes kept banter between songs to a minimum instead choosing to crush the capacity crowd with classics like “Revenge of the Zombie” “Seed of Filth” and “Human Target.” The 30 minute set (which felt much more like 12 minutes at best) wrapped with another Cannibal classic “Hammer Smashed Face.” Perhaps it was Barnes announcing that he would be at the t-shirt stand outside after the set, but as soon as Six Feet Under left the stage, so did much of the crowd.
I knew nothing about Darkest Hour walking into the House of Blues on a night where LA had below average temps and rather clean air. Clinging to my small piece of rail above the club I noticed that when they began they had the smallest crowd I had seen all day and after watching their set I think I see why. Based off thirty minutes with these guys it feels as if are having an identity crisis. The older songs like “The Sadist Nation” felt like Death Metal. Some of the newer songs (including songs being performed live for the first time) felt as if there was a lot more melody. Not a melodic metal say The Black Dahlia Murder, but it almost felt as if it wanted to be a heavy 90’s fuzz rock melody but was afraid to go there. Imagine Hum playing Death Metal, that’s what it felt like to me. As I said earlier, I don’t know anything about this band, so if I am way off my rocker on this one, let me know via the comments below.
It has been a little over a year since I saw Whitechapel at the Vans Warped Tour. While an entertaining performance, a new drummer mixed with an early afternoon set in the food court of a county fairground is not the ideal condition for these Knoxville based deathcore heroes. House of Blues on a Friday night is a different story. With this being my third Whitechapel live experience I was caught off guard at just how devastating the band was. From the opening notes of “Breeding Violence” to the closing “This Is Exile” the six piece band made you feel as if you were stranded at sea in the storm of the century with only an inflatable raft to hold. The triple guitar attack lead by Ben Savage sent the crowd into frenzy. The kids surrounding me were banging their heads and bouncing up and down in furious fashion during “Possession” and “End of Flesh” that I feared the balcony could collapse. It wouldn’t be a Whitechapel show without the band closing with a massive Wall of Death during “This Is Exile.” While the Ventura version was full of fail, on this Friday night in July the kids of Hollywood did not disappoint. Watch out America, Whitechapel is in the zone right now and with an entire tour ahead of them it’s scary to think just how destructive they will be at the conclusion.
The Black Dahlia Murder
I have said it before and I will say it again. The Black Dahlia Murder is the best metal band to emerge from America over the past decade. These guys get it. They are brutal, but can laugh at themselves. They fit the Concert Confessions format because like us they are fans. Where kids went and grabbed merch or water between acts all night, from the second Whitechapel left the stage to the moment The Black Dahlia Murder took to it the floor was packed. It was the main event and the masses were ready.
It made sense that the band kicked off an hour of madness with the opening track from the just released album Ritual. With the opening lyrics “Let us go out this evening for pleasure for the night is still young” “A Shrine To Madness” got the crowd moving despite the fact there was no room to move. A triple shot of classics including “A Vulgar Picture” and “Nocturnal” followed. It didn’t matter if it was a new song such as “Malenchanments of the Necrosphere” or a classic like “Miasma” the place was going nuts. Shout out to the wook in the mini skirt and polka dot underwear. Everyone up top got a good laugh at your crowd surfing antics.
One thing I have noticed about shows with The Black Dahlia Murder is that the energy from the band is fueled by the energy of the fans. The last two shows I saw had no guard rail and fans were free to get on stage and jump back into the crowd. On this night there was a large gap separating the fans and the band. All through the night you could see front man Trevor Strnad reaching for the crowd, greeting crowd surfers as they were escorted back to the pit by a hard working security crew. That need to connect that effort to reach each other was felt by all inside the house and I am still not sure if that struggle helped or hindered the music.
Personal highlights of the set include “Statutory Ape” “I Will Return” and “Funeral Thirst.” When it comes to The Black Dahlia Murder, the guys never disappoint which is why I see them again and again. The 2011 Summer Slaughter tour was an amazing day. If you are a fan of metal and it’s hitting your town you don’t want to miss it. Quick set changes, great bands and I believe all of the dates are inside so you don’t have to stink of sunblock.
It’s not that I had planned to have an 8 year and 354 day gap between Widespread Panic shows, but it just kind of happened that way. There were some shows I couldn’t make due to previous obligations. There were times when a $35 ticket with $23 in Ticketmaster fees was simply too high for my wallet. Then for a while, I just didn’t care about jam bands. So when I heard that the six headed monster from Athens would be hitting up the Wiltern for their 25th Anniversary Tour, I decided perhaps it was for the best that we re-connect before the group takes a well deserved break.
I don’t know why LAPD had Western/Santa Monica closed. I am going to assume a dead hooker or perhaps a six pack of dead hookers? Regardless, it was not easy to get to the best indoor concert theatre in Los Angeles County. Heck, when I finally handed over three Abe’s to park in that structure behind the Wiltern I was in no rush to get into the actual theatre. How could I when the car next to me offered me a margarita, the homeless guy was earning his way by selling balloons filled with nitrous and how about those dirty lesbians washing with a jug of Arrowhead Water purchased from the Ralph’s on the other side of the parking lot? If Widespread Panic was going to make Los Angeles home for two nights, I was honored to be the only fan from the great state of California at the show. No joke, none of my local friends or co-workers have heard of the band, and everyone I met was “on tour” from Boulder, Birmingham or Biloxi. That’s probably why they all offered to share their opium, molly, crank, ganja and herpes with me. Lord know most folks in LA don’t grasp the concept that sharing is caring. Heck, I am pretty sure one dude offered me the services of his mail-ordered bride but that’s more of a Penthouse Letters tale instead of a Concert Confession so let’s get to the action.
Panic took the stage just after 8pm and kicked off the two set affair with a cover of “Protein Shake” by the late Vic Chestnutt. The song got the crowd moving and as the band did for most of the night, they went right into the next song “Sewing Machine” without stopping. I felt as if the highlight of the first set was a nice run of “Can’t Get High>Greta>Better Off.” I was most impressed with the playing of guitarist Jimmy Herring. While original Panic axe-man Michael Hauser was still alive during my last WSP show, he was unable to perform and lost his battle to cancer less than three weeks later. No disrespect to his original replacement George McConnell, but my opinion is that his style and tone never gelled with the group. Herring on the other hand does and his effortless playing lead the band through roof raising versions of “None Of Us Are Free,” “Little Lilly” and the set closing “Holden Oversoul.”
Set II got underway with my all time favorite Panic song “Imitation Leather Shoes.” While the shout out to Hollywood and Vine always gets a cheer in this town, it’s the thunderous bass of Dave Schools that makes this song so freaking good. On this particular evening, I felt his bass could have been louder in the mix, but then again I am a glutton for low end and can always use a smidge more. The song jammed nicely into “Love Tractor” which got the near capacity crowd pumping their fists in unison. Looking to rock on a Wednesday night at first I felt that “Tickle The Truth” and “Picking Up Those Pieces” killed any momentum the second set had going. As it turns out, they were giving us an early breather before a solid hour plus of ass kicking action.
The group welcomed both Jerry Joseph and Wally Ingram to the stage. While Joseph only stayed around for an 18 minute trip through “Chainsaw City,” Ingram lent his talents to “Drumz” and the (so I was told) rare treat “Papa Legba.” The whole stream of songs ran “Chainsaw City>Drumz>Papa Legba>Bear Gone Fishin’>Tie Your Shoes>Walk On. I assumed that would be the end of Set II as it was well past 11pm, but the band pulled out one more hard rocking jam – “Conrad” before leaving the stage for a few minutes.
The encore consisted of two songs, “Her Dance Needs No Body” and “Big Wooly Mammoth.” The hardcore Panic fans around me seemed to have been bummed with the song choices. Knowing that the band holds records for the most sell out at massive venues like Red Rocks Amphitheater outside Denver and Phillips Arena in Atlanta, apparently seeing the band at the mid-size undersold theater simply wasn’t enough. For me, I was just excited I was able to help the band celebrate 25 years before they take their hiatus. If they return to the corner of Western & Wilshire in 2013, it’s going to be hard for me to say away.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say I felt like a bit of a douche today as I stare at a blank word document. If you have followed Concert Confessions over the past 2+ years, then you know that we are dedicated to providing live concert reviews of the bands we love. Any jerk off can head out to a show because he gets a free ticket and make statements such as…
Jade Simonetto’s hit his drums harder than Ryan Dunn’s Porsche hit that tree along the side of a Pennsylvania highway.
But that is the difference between Concert Confessions and other media outlets, we actually take pride in the information we pass along to the fans. So here is where I admit the truth – my knowledge of Hate Eternal is limited at best. It didn’t matter who was playing, with life kicking me in the backside the past few weeks I just wanted to escape into a smelly Sunset Strip club* for a few hours and have my ass handed to me by some loud fucking death metal.
I made my way into the Key Club about ½ way through the set of Vital Remains. Knowing it’s the best policy, I must be honest when I say I can’t tell if these guys are supposed to be funny or not. While categorized as Death Metal, the music felt more like a night with Girl Talk. Sure, I heard elements of Death Metal, but I also heard some thrash, some cookie monster rock, a pretty sweet groove that would have fit perfectly on the Wretch album by Kyuss and then there was that riff that I swear was “Going The Distance” by Cake. While some may feel distractions are welcome to a banner carrying member of the A.D.H.D family, I often found myself focused more on image vs. listening to the music. Vocalist Scott Wiley had those cool “metal singer” leather sleeves made of dead Italian cows. You know the ones; they lace up, have a few spikes on and drive all the pot belly Latinas crazy. Just looking at bassist “Gator” Collier you could tell that dude has seen Phish as many times as he has seen Iron Maiden. It was all in the Fragile Rock head bob. Then again, Mike Gordon and Steve Harris both have that Fragile Rock look, so perhaps it was more Maiden shows than Phish shows. I can tell you this much based off looks alone, dude has consumed massive amounts of good times at both. Then you had the stage right guitarists guitar, a monstrosity so epic I refuse to post instead I shall simply link to it. Don’t get me wrong, the band had some great riffs and the crowd went off big time. Yet with so many style changes and bad metal clichés, I really must wonder if perhaps I missed the joke?!?!?!
The main reason I hit the Key Club was Hate Eternal. I caught them about 18 months ago as part of the All Day/All Ages Metalfest down Sunset Blvd at the Palladium. It was one of those sets where afterwards I was like “Fuck yeah Hate Eternal I’m going to go buy everything they have released” but then days and weeks and months go buy and the cash I would have spent on records ended up going to the dentist, the 76 Station down the street and Target (because cat sand is really fucking expensive, just ask Danzig ok?). So I can tell you they played such hits as “Bringer of Storms”, “Phoenix Amongst The Ashes” and “I Monarch.” I can tell you that despite the fact Rutan was plagued by guitar issues all night, he didn’t allow that to wipe that warm (and very un-death-metal) smile off his face. I can tell you that the pit was solid and the Key Club security did a fine job of clearing a path for some poor Mexican kid who broke his ankle (perhaps just a high sprain, I am not a doctor but I play one on TV). Fact is, Hate Eternal could have gotten on stage and performed Gaga covers and it would have kicked ass. All three members of the band are virtuosos of their craft and a must see for anyone who loves heavy music. Oh and fuck the cats, they can learn to use the toilet for all I care, I am blowing my paycheck this weekend on Hate Eternal albums.
*We love the Key Club and in many visits the place has smelled just fine. However on this the last day of Spring 2011, whomever was crop dusting the entire stage right side of the stage ALL FUCKING NIGHT should really go see a doctor.
Los Angeles locals USELESS KEYS are about to head out for a quick trip up the left coast. While the band is still working out details for a headline hometown show, here is where you can catch KROQ Locals Only regulars:
June 24th Soda Bar – San Diego, CA
June 25th Cellar Door – Visalia, CA
June 26th Fulton 55 – Fresno, CA
June 27th Kimo’s – San Francisco, CA
June 29th Doug Fir Lounge – Portland, OR
June 30th Crocodile Café – Seattle, WA
The band will also be performing with Butthole Surfers, Helmet and The Melvins at the 2011 Sunset Junction Music Festival in Silver Lake, CA on August 27th, 2011.
Check out the bands Facebook page for up to the minute details on the trek. Likewise, check out our various reviews of the band here, here and here. Oh and there is one more here.
to make, carry, or sell (illicit goods, esp alcohol)
something made or sold illicitly, such as alcohol during Prohibition in the US
an illegally made copy of a CD, tape, etc
produced, distributed, or sold illicitly: bootleg whisky ;
At 12:50 pm PST on June 6th, 2011 I received an e-mail from the fine folks at You Tube. It informed me that Sumerian Records claimed that my video contained copyright infringement. They were indeed correct; I uploaded “A Prophecy” by Asking Alexandria from their 10/16/10 appearance at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, CA. Put the handcuffs on me and send me to the federal fuck me in the ass prison, I stole. I went out, got myself into House of Blues, paid for parking, paid for drinks and as I sat there I hit the record button on my camera. Upon my return home, I shared that moment on the Sunset Strip with fans of Asking Alexandria from Seattle to Singapore. When I awoke in the morning, that video had hundreds of hits from kids who had one of two comments. If they had not claimed that it was the best night of their life, they were begging me to upload more footage (which I simply didn’t have).
My story begins in 1994. I was in High School and I was forming my identity through music. A classmate allowed me to borrow a cassette tape she had. On this cassette tape was a band called Bush and their debut album Sixteen Stone had just hit shelves. My classmate did not pass me a copy of Sixteen Stone, but instead she hooked me up three separate live concerts performances that managed to fit onto that 90 minute cassette tape. Upon hearing that cassette tape, I ran down to the long-gone Blockbuster Music and handed over my hard earned babysitting money for a copy of Sixteen Stone on Compact Disc. While my love of Bush may have faded over the years, the important moment to take from this experience was my introduction with what is often referred to as a bootleg.
Sure, it’s plausible that I would have picked up Sixteen Stone somewhere in the outdated cycle of MTV spins of Buzz Bin clips like “Little Things” and “Comedown.” But long before Napster and YouTube that cassette tape converted me to the Bush army long before Gavin had Gwen on his arm. I told my friends, who went out and discovered Bush and fell in love and bought their own copies of Sixteen Stone. Ask anyone who experienced their teen years from 1970 on; friends are as big of an influence on your music listening habits as the big publicity machine like MTV, Magazines etc.
Most of Reverend Justito's CD Collection A/O 06/07/11
As my legally acquired collection of officially released record label approved music grew, so did my collection of bootlegs. Phish was the element that took that small door and kicked it down. The fact that this band could sell out arenas because fans shared the music vs. being “made” by mainstream America had a huge impact on my life. My guitar skills are limited, I can’t sing and my folks could hardly afford to send me to college let alone give me an advance to start up a record label. Yet my passion to share music was still there and my way of sharing with the world was live music trading. I made friends with tapers. I helped them sneak gear into shows and created a wall of silence around them as they worked their magic. You would be amazed at my fake screaming/clapping skills, check out Weezer 03/17/01 for example.
As technology evolved, so did my trading. Maxell XLII tapes gave way to CD-R’s. Trading discs in the mail with strangers gave way to bit torrent. Even in 2002, I was over MP3’s insisting that live shows downloads must be from .shn or FLAC files. I knew my habit was out of control when I took one look at my etree list and realized that I had actually acquired live recordings from Barry Manilow and Lionel Richie. It got to a point where I couldn’t keep up and I eventually burnt out. Then technology made the next leap…
For Christmas 2006, my parents got me my first digital camera. It was small, compact and took both photos and grainy videos. My goal was to document life and share it with friends/family via Myspace. But 8 months after getting my camera for Christmas, I realized my bootleg hiatus was officially over. I had brought my camera to the 2007 Sounds Of The Underground festival figuring I could sneak it in and take some photos. When I made it to Will Call that day I discovered that in addition to my ticket there was an all access photo/video pass with my name on it. It was that hot Orange County day when I hopped back up on the bootleggin’ bandwagon.
Over the past five years I have used three different cameras to capture the concert experience. Each camera a giant leap in quality from the previous to the point where today I cringe at those initial Sounds of the Underground videos. You know and I know that there is a lot of crap on YouTube. I take great pride in clear, high quality footage of bands because it is important to me. I won’t give you :30 seconds, I will give you the entire song. I try to follow the music, I’ll shoot the singer when he is singing and shoot the lead guitarist when he is shredding. I have never made a dime off live recordings, be it from CD trading, YouTube ads or even this site (that’s right folks, the ads revenues have never equaled the cost to run the site and I am perfectly fine with that). It has always been about the love of the music.
I would not be a fan of bands like Tenacious D, Widespread Panic and Death Cab For Cutie had it not been for me hearing them via a bootleg. I have received messages from all over the world where fans have thanked me for posting footage of shows they could never make. The last 24+ hours, I have felt many emotions including shock and anger. Yet the feeling that consumes my soul is sadness for the millions of fans who took great joy from watching footage of shows they never had a chance to make. I get that YouTube has a three strikes rule and my account received that third strike. What I don’t get is why labels like Sumerian bow down to the mighty dollar bill while angering their fans. But we will discuss that soon when we post The Bootleg Doctrine Part II.
I can now say that I have been going to concerts on a regular basis for ½ of my life. I have seen shows on the birthdays of my mother, father and brother. I have seen shows on May 27th and May 29th, yet never has this self-proclaimed concert junkie attended a live musical performance on the day of his birth. This year we crossed that mother-fucker off the bucket list. What better way to celebrate your birth then with the man who doesn’t celebrate birthdays at all? Prince, night 20 of his 21 night stand in Los Angeles and I am in the house with a shit-load of friends both old and new. Perhaps we are high up and ended up looking at peoples asses most of the night? Perhaps I decided that birthday shots were more important than my regular standards of consumption as a concert documentation technician?!?!?! Fuck it, along with Kylie Minogue and John Fogerty it was the anniversary of my birth and no one was going to stop me for partying in honor of Memorial Day 1979. The idea to celebrate came as I walked out of the Prince show on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter. If the man in purple had the Forum booked for May 28th anyone and everyone who loved me would be there (unless of course they were out a Metal Fest in Maryland or avoiding calls from Olivia the Pig). Security asked if I had anything in my pockets. I was honest and told them I didn’t. All my contraband was in my 2010 World Champion San Francisco Giants hat, right in front of their faces. They let me right in because they knew I was feeling fine on this windy late May night. I felt bad as the cashier at the beer cart had a hard time counting my mix of George, Tom and Abe’s. It was the Tom’s that messed her up, but knowing that Mr. Jefferson can travel through time when you spend him at a Prince show in Inglewood made my money marking mother fucking ass wanna spend more. My ass made it into my seat about eight minutes before Mary J. Blige hit the stage shaped like the nightmare of a 1990’s Warner Bros. Records exec. Just like most folks didn’t have Gil Scott-Heron at the front of their death polls, I would have never guessed that Mary J. Blige would be the first artist I would see live on my birthday. Walking into the Forum knowing she was the rumored opener I was excited. I don’t own any of her albums, but over the years I have enjoyed some of what I have heard. Live she brought the house down during her hit filled set. Opening with “Real Love” I was instantly taken back. There were songs I recognized and didn’t realize were Mary J. Blige. Oh and thoese shoes, how she moves around on that stage like she does with heels that high is beyond me. “ I Am”, “No More Drama” and “Dance For Me” all got the crowd up on their feet early. I knew her and Bono were pals, but I didn’t expect a really sweet version of “One.” Want to talk about a Birthday gift? Chances are I wouldn’t pay top dollar to see Mary J. Blige when she comes through town for a few nights at Universal Gibson Amphitheatre. But the fact I got to see her show on this particular night was truly a gift I didn’t expect. She was fucking amazing. On a different level of amazing was how the Forum handled the bathroom situation. All of the Male restrooms were converted to Women restrooms (Prince shows are not a sausage fest, that’s for sure). I got to walk from Col 24 to Col 18 to pee in an Andy Gump porta-potty. It’s cool I need the exercise anyways. It did cause me to miss “Raspberry Beret” but its cool Prince only played it for like 75 seconds. It was longer then he played “Darling Nikki” in his opening medley of hits. I mean folks went ape shit when he took the stage opening with “When Doves Cry” but it’s fun to see the heartbreak from the crowd when he puts the breaks on “Nikki.” Oh and he played a bit of “Party All The Time” by Eddie Murphy. “Let’s Go Crazy>Delirious>Let’s Go Crazy” was tasty. Oh and this lady yelled at me and told me I was going to hell from smoking a joint. She told me she would get security. I shrugged knowing there was no way in hell she could leave her seat. I smoked another later on not a peep. Perhaps my quoting of Luke 6:37 helped that out. How about “Nothing Compares 2 U” with Mary J.? What about Maceo Parker joining Prince for most the show? On one of my many trips to the porta-potty I heard a male receiving oral sex in the next porta-potty. Talk about going to hell, it was well past 11pm and of all places why would you want a dirty shit stained porta-potty for such a glorious act? Go to your car or something. Prince jammed a lot. Last time seemed like him doing what he wanted, tonight felt a bit like this run is almost done and I am going through the motions. Not that it wasn’t a better option than The Dickies at Key Club, the show was fucking amazing. I mean come on the guitar solo in “Purple Rain” is worth the price of admission. The night was fucking amazing. Prince is fucking amazing. Over two nights, I saw two radically different shows. I’ll wrap it up with this. If you live in Los Angeles and didn’t see Prince during his 21 night stand. I feel bad for you. For $25 Prince brought you a funky time. I may not always remember the 20th night on my 32nd birthday. But I will always be thankful to Prince for a funky time. Please don’t sue me for posting your photos.
I suppose you could say I am one of the lucky ones. I managed to experience Rammstein live three times in the late 90’s/early 00’s. A teenager at the time, Rammstein was my KISS; the ones who blew shit up in arenas much to my delight. If Rammstein was playing anywhere near my home, no doubt I would be there. Sadly about a decade ago Rammstein stopped playing near my home. Hell, Rammstein stopped playing my continent. It broke my heart to miss the bands one-off show at Madison Square Garden late last year, so when a brief North American arena tour was announced for May 2011 I made sure to get my ass into the show.
With traffic worse than usual on the 405 and multiple security check points to get into the once Great Western Forum, I found myself in line for an overpriced cocktail when Combichrist took the stage. To be honest, Combichrist was nothing to write home about, yet the perfect opener for Rammstein. I found their take on 90’s industrial rock to be rather generic and unoriginal, yet it worked considering who the headliners were. With the arena ½ full, I found myself sitting down in the middle of the mosh pit for a game of Patty Cake with a mid-sized Latino youth for entertainment during the set. While I doubt I will remember this band in six months, I can tell you that they closed their 30 minute set by welcoming Richard Z. Krupse and Paul Landers of Rammstein onto the stage for a song called “What The Fuck Is Wrong With You?”
With my only Rammstein headline show at the now defunct 1800 capacity Maritime Hall in San Francisco back in 1999, While I knew MSG sold well, I was shocked that the band booked arenas from coast to coast. Would that many folks pay that much in this economy to see the band? As it turns out they sure as hell would.
The band kicked the night off with “Rammlied.” It was hard to see what was going on with so many fans in front of me holding their cameras high eager to capture the moment they were first penetrated by the Rammstein experience. Then again it didn’t really matter what the band played for most in the crowd. They were excited to see fire shoot from every corner of the stage, a large gas pump go out of control setting someone on fire and of course lead singer Till Lindemann attempting to burn keyboardist Christian “Flake” Lorenz from high above the stage. The fact is most inside the Forum knew nothing more of Rammstein than “Du Hast” and that didn’t matter because when it comes down to it everyone loves to watch shit blow up. Hell I will admit that I was once hardcore enough to once ask and receive the Original Single Kollektion box set from Santa yet didn’t know most of the material the band performed.
Even if fire isn’t your thing Rammstein had you covered. Flake set sail into the mosh pit in a large inflatable rubber raft during “Haifisch” and bassist Oliver “Ollie” Riedel finger picked a Spanish guitar during “Frühling in París.” While “Bück Dich” didn’t make it into the set, the band managed to bukkake the crowd as Lindemann shot his cock cannon off at the crowd during the set closing “Pussy.”
Much like current Forum resident Prince, Rammstein performed multiple encores. The first encore featured fired up versions of “Sonne,” “Haifisch” and “Ich Will.” The second encore consisted of “Engel” which featured Lindemann with a huge pair of wings that shot fire before burning to a crisp. As the band thanked California, the house lights came up and many struggled with the fact that the show was over. While many gushed over the fact that they finally were able to see Rammstein I struggled with the fact that I was a bit let down. Don’t get me wrong, it was an incredible experience that I would have not missed for the world. Perhaps it was the fact I didn’t fear for my life like I did at Maritime Hall? Perhaps it’s the fact that they performed for nearly two hours instead of packing all the action into 45 minutes? For me it felt as if the band has cut back a lot of the insane stunts that made me fall in love as a teenager. Despite these feelings I am truly grateful I was able to experience these guys live one more time. Let’s hope it doesn’t take them another ten years to return to North America.
I have to assume somewhere out there, someone still cares about Switchfoot?!?! No disrespect to the band, but their unique mix of post grudge pop punk with Christian undertones simply never caught on with me. Not a terrible band, just not my thing. To be honest, I had totally forgotten about the band till this past Saturday when I randomly ended up in the bands home town of San Diego.
Turns out that Switchfoot is not only alive and well, but the bands bassist Tim Foreman is cool enough to throw out the first pitch before the epic battle between the Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks. In the event you are a fan of Switchfoot, I hope you enjoy this.
For this particular review, before we talk about the music, it is important to discuss the venue. Typically booked for plays and movies, the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre is a truly beautiful venue tucked away in the Hollywood Hills. The beauty ends with the setup as the venue as well as the promoters should truly be ashamed of themselves. Our group had a disabled individual with us. With the understanding that the venue only had seven disabled parking spaces, we did out best to get their early. Upon getting there, the uninformed and heartless parking attendants informed us that disabled parking was full. We had to fight to drive up the hill and drop off our guest. When we got up there, we discovered there were indeed disabled access parking spots. When we questioned one of the venues staff, they informed us that it was reserved for the mother of the promoter. I have to be honest, I didn’t realize Goldenvoice had a mother but one must assume it is not the first time nor the last time that Goldenvoice has put themselves before the fans. In calling the toll-free ADA hotline I was informed that it is unlawful for a business to hold disabled parking and that the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre did indeed break the law. To rub salt into the wounds, while I went to park the car, I had to fight security to re-join my party at the top of the hill. As insulting as it was to arrive early and be denied the final disabled access spot, the venue has no means of getting a disabled individual back to the general parking area after the show. The fact is that Goldenvoice and the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre FAILED to take care of their guests on this particular night and they should be truly ashamed of themselves. In the event this review falls into the hands of either Goldenvoice or the management team of the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, I welcome you to leave us a comment explaining what you plan to do in the future to make sure this does not happen again.
I should also point out that I had not one but two fights with security to join back up with my group. During my second fight with security, I was asked if I had any cameras, drugs or dangerous weapons. I lied and informed him that I had none of the items on the list. You can imagine my delight of walking into the venue and seeing the “No Camera/No Warning Shot Will Be Fired” signs posted all over the place. Still furious over how poorly my crew had been treated, I took a page out of the Rage Against The Machine playbook. Your Anger Is A Gift, and you fuckin’ know I was not about to let a bunch of brainless power-tripping minimum wage event staff prevent me from brining you coverage of Mr. Cornell’s Acoustic Songbook tour. With that out of the way, onto the review:
To be honest, I only went to see Chris Cornell because God Frank offered me a free last minute ticket. I figured why not cross the once great singer off the live bucket list. That statement should tell you my feelings on Chris Cornell, especially considering that about ½ way through his sold out night in Hollywood it occurred to me that I had actually walked out on Cornell at the Ventura County Fairgrounds four years earlier. It was either Henry Rollins or Abraham Lincoln who once declared that Cornell’s vocals could peel paint off walls. I miss that Chris Cornell and really have not cared about anything he has done since Superunknown. Despite my reservations on Cornell, I went into the show with an open mind knowing that this had to be better then the sad hack that I saw in Ventura.
The evening started out with a brief opening set from William Elliot Whitmore. Hailing from Lee County, Iowa, the Americana musician won over the crowd with a mix of banjo, acoustic guitars and smokey bluesy vocals. Songs like “Johnny Law” worked perfectly as multiple members of security walked up and down the aisles of the tiny amphitheatre making sure no one in the crowd were able to use a camera, drugs or dangerous weapons. Whitmore also has a sense of humor, joking about how his Compact Discs were available for sale at the merch booth in between songs. For the countless times I have suffered through an opener where the collective crowd couldn’t wait for them to get off the stage, on this particular night the crowd erupted in thunderous applause when Whitmore realized he could perform not one, but two more songs. While I didn’t run out to the merch booth for a Compact Disc, I truly did enjoy Whitmore’s opening set and hope to catch him out on the road sometime in the future.
With the spring sun having sunk into the hills behind us, Cornell took the stage at 8:50pm sharp. Armed with six guitars, a record player and an old rotary phone Cornell opened his Songbook with a mellow cover of Bob Marley’s swan song “Redemption Song.” With plenty of clever banter (including admitting the fact that the phone didn’t work and would be useless in an emergency) Cornell packed the early portion of his show with a mix of hits from both Audioslave and his solo career. The drunk and mostly attentive crowd (we were blessed to have the loud Affliction T-shirt wearing meat heads behind us) sat still taking in radio favorites like “Be Yourself” and “Can’t Change Me.”
Not knowing recent solo material such as “Ground Zero” and “Two Drink Minimum” I found myself struggling to focus on the music early on. I was more interested in the stars above, the over-zealous security and keeping fans updated via our Facebook and Twitter pages. Then Cornell began discussing Emily Dickinson and my attention was back on the stage. My wife’s favorite Chris Cornell song is “Sunshower” from the Great Expectations original motion picture soundtrack. With my wife currently ½ a world away I knew it was time to risk ejection from the venue in order to share the moment with her when she gets home.
One thing I want to point out was Cornell’s tales of the previous night in San Francisco. While I could beat into the ground the fact that no one was allowed to consume drugs within the venue without risk of being beat up by security, I will instead just share with you why Marijuana is a magical medicine. Cornell shared how it has been years since he consumed cannabis, but how there was so much smoke the night before at the Warfield, he no doubt had a contact high. I knew he was not lying about this contact high, as Cornell performed at the Fillmore, not the Warfield. Once again San Francisco, you have made me proud and I am very proud to have grown up as a resident of the greatest city on the face of the Earth.
The first Soundgarden song to appear was “Fell On Black Days” and while the crowd was receptive all night it was clear that I was not alone in wanting to hear the material of one of the greatest bands to call Seattle home. Keeping the momentum up, Cornell followed “Black Days” with Audioslave favorites “Doesn’t Remind Me” and “I Am The Highway.” Yet it is where many lost interest that I became hyper-focused. Walking over to his record player and laying down some vinyl, Cornell spoke not only of playing DJ as a young child, but about a song he recorded with the late Natasha Shneider. “When I’m Down” is a beautiful piano-driven song from his Euphoria Morning release that on this starry night left goose bumps on the few in the crowd blessed enough to be aware of a talented individual who was taken from us far too soon.
With my wife’s favorite song a few chapters back, the one song I truly wanted to see found its way into the set. It was early freshman year when the Compact Disc for the Singles original motion picture soundtrack found its way into my hands. You can imagine my excitement when Cornell performed his solo track “Seasons” from the soundtrack. While the film (which Cornell also appears in) has not withheld the test of time the music sure does and I can die a little happier having seen him perform it live and in person.
The final part of Cornell’s set ended up as a giant camp fire sing along. Starting with the Temple of the Dog classic “Say Hello To Heaven” Cornell drew power from the crowd’s participation. It became so loud that Cornell was drowned out during the Audioslave favorite “Like A Stone.” Just as he began his set with a cover, Cornell closed his set with the Beatles gem “A Day In The Life.” While we all had a chuckle over the PA cutting out mid-way through, for the first time all night Cornell really showed off more as a guitarist versus a vocalist. The fact he managed to pull off the symphonic masterpiece on only six strings was nothing short of impressive.
With plenty of time left before the 11pm curfew, Cornell performed a three song encore that kicked off with more vinyl and a performance of the title track from his Timberland produced effort Scream. While that never managed to fully captivate the crowd, you know folks felt they got their moneys worth when he busted out “Black Hole Sun.” Once again the capacity crowd drowned out Cornell as he performed the biggest hit of his career. Perhaps homage to what’s been going on in the world since Sunday night, Cornell closed the show with a raw and powerful take on John Lennon’s “Imagine.” While it may have felt more like a prison inside of the venue, Cornell and his acoustic guitar united the crowd and released us back into the real world in high spirits. Walking into the show expecting nothing, Cornell restored my faith in a man that I lost faith in a long time ago. I wonder if it’s too late to re-arrange my summer travel plans and catch him perform with Soundgarden at the Gorge.
On Easter Sunday, the line to enter the House of Blues in West Hollywood, CA stretched well beyond the Best Western down the street. Rumor has it that by the time doors finally opened, the last person in line was standing outside of Pinches Tacos. A quick trip to Google maps tells you that the line was almost ½ a mile long and that the walk alone will take you 8 minutes. The most shocking thing about the line is that it was not for the venues World Famous Sunday Gospel Brunch. As a matter of fact, the line was full of rabid music fans looking forward to an action packed night from the melodic death metal band Amon Amarth. With their most recent album Surtur Rising debuting at #34 on the American Billboard Top 200 charts, the independent band is in the middle of a sold out “Evening With” tour of the US. Taking a page from the jam band playbook, the five men that hail from Tumba, Sweden are performing two sets each night. The first set is Surtur Rising from front to back, while the second set features fan favorites from the groups’ massive back catalogue.
Long before the first notes of Surtur Rising rang through the venues PA, it was clear the mostly male crowd was hungry for blood. In the massive line, a few fans with plastic Viking helmets screamed their plans to eat the first born of random individuals across the Sunset Strip at The Comedy Store. Inside the venue fans cheered each time the pre-show upcoming Live Nation concert reel showed a PSA warning of the dangers of texting and driving. The fans were not in approval of the message behind the PSA, as much as they enjoyed the images of violent car crashes designed to scare you into a hands-free habit. With many having waited upwards of three hours for the music to start, 9:30 pm couldn’t come soon enough.
As I have mentioned here before, I am a huge fan of bands performing entire albums live. While I knew I preferred two set of Amon Amarth vs. an uninspired opening act, I was curious how other fans would react to an onslaught of new material. It was clear from the first notes of the opening track “War of the Gods” that the album would be well recieved. For an album that has only been available legally for 26 days, fans have clearly taken the time to learn all ten songs. Fans sang along in unison to the material described by vocalist Johan Hegg as songs of hate and destruction. Massive circle pits grew out of control during “Destroyer of the Universe” and ‘Live Without Regrets.” Had the Easter Bunny shown up, there is no doubt that he would have been decapitated and devoured by the audience. While many bands must beg crowds to clap along in unison, on this night the fans needed no instruction to add additional rhythm during the opening notes of “The Last Stand of Frej.” The band, the crowd and the music were all in sync and while aggressive in nature the entire night had a truly special and beautiful feel.
While the album has a run time of just under 49 minutes, it took the band about an hour to complete the first set thanks to humorous banter from Hegg. While the material is new, you wouldn’t know that from watching the band. Songs like “Slaves of Fear” and “A Beast Am I” felt as if the five men had been playing them nightly for twenty years. By the time the band got to the albums closing number “Doom Over Dead Man” it seemed as if the only individuals ready for a break was the venues overworked security. In fact, there were mini pits during set break as the crowd was treated to classics by Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Pantera all while continuing to cheer for the texting and driving PSA.
What’s truly scary is that the opening set was simply a warm up for Amon Amarth. As the band opened set II with “Twilight of the Thunder Gods” the only words to describe the small floor at House of Blues are pure pandemonium. For as pumped up as kids were for Surtur Rising, the older songs sent the crowd into a whole new level of madness. With each song, the level of intensity from the band and the crowd grew to unhealthy levels. As the band played classics like “With Oden On Our Side”, “Varyags of Miklagaard” and “Live For The Kill” the massive arena caliber strobe lights in the small club not only shut my camera down multiple times, but had many individuals in the balcony fearing a seizure was imminent. If a seizure was not brought on by the strobe lights, then the ferocious drums and blistering guitars could have easily done the trick.
As if two lengthy sets were not enough, the band came back for a three song encore that kicked off with “Cry of the Blackbirds.” At times, the crowd managed to drown out the band when singing along, something that brought smiles to the bands face. When Hegg regretfully informed the crowd that they were out of time it was clear that 2.5 hours of Amon Amarth was simply not enough. Even with the extended middle section of “The Pursuit of Vikings” folks screamed for one more song long after the lights went up.
Constant touring and solid albums have brought Amon Amarth to a point where they can book a show in Los Angeles on Easter Sunday and have scalpers offer fans double the listed price for just one ticket. What is most beautiful about Amom Amarth’s triumph of America is that it’s as pure as the music itself. There is no radio play; you won’t hear Amon Amarth in the latest Volvo commercial. It has grown little by little with each album, each tour stop. Friends sharing with friends the magic of the music, that is a true token of success and judging on the reaction from Southern California on Easter Sunday 2011 – Amon Amarth will have success for a very long time.
My phone was hounded by texts all day with people trying to figure out where I was at the Big 4 concert in Indio. As the resident metal head of Concert Confessions, it makes sense that I would be deep in the desert for Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer and Metallica. While I am sure the Big 4 was an amazing time, it simply wasn’t in the cards for me. Instead of seeing metal history, I drove 15 minutes south to Inglewood where I became a small part of another historic musical event. That event was night 4 of Prince’s 21 night Welcome 2 America residency.
Excitement was high walking into the once proud home of the Lakers with my pal God Frank. I’ll admit that when it comes to Prince, I really only know the hits. I’ll also admit that I know a true musical genius when I see one and with the man in purple charging only $25 (that’s including fee’s) for most tickets, there was no way I was going to miss my chance to check Prince off my live music bucket list.
The night started out with a brief yet powerful opening set from Miss Chaka Khan. Despite the fact that Miss Khan was nothing but rude to me for over a year in a previous incarnation, I made sure to put those feelings aside when watching the 58 year old Queen of Funk do her thing on stage. Rocking the stage in high heels for about 20 minutes, Miss Khan gave the crowd essentially a medley of all her hits. Highlights included “Ain’t Nobody”, “Tell Me Something Good” and a high octane version of “I’m Every Woman” that was dedicated to all the Sisters, Mothers, Grandmothers, Aunt’s and Nieces in the house. While abbreviated compared to your typical arena opening time slot, Miss Khan was on stage just long enough to keep you excited as opposed to overstaying her welcome. Her performance was truly a great way to kick off Saturday night.
You don’t need me to tell you that Prince can do it all. Rock, R&B, you name it. On this particular evening, it was clear Prince was in the mood to bring the FUNK! Hitting the stage at about 9:15 pm, the man from Paisley Park opened with an extra funky take on “D.M.S.R.” After solid versions of “Pop Life” and “Musicology” Prince really took things up the next level. Inviting long time musical partner Sheila E to the stage to lead the song “Mountains” fans from the VIP tables up front to the last row of the arena erupted into frenzy. While I am always impressed by individuals who can drum and sing at the same time, to do it at her age in heels as high as the heavens is something truly special. The way she was jumping, you had no doubt she could hold her own with the Showtime Lakers of the 1980’s.
Coming out of “Mountain” Prince made it clear his goal was to break the funk-O-meter. With Sheila E still on stage, Prince welcomed Sly and the Family Stone bassist Larry Graham for the classics “Everyday People” and “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).” Graham is a beast upon the four strings, it’s a shame he was unable to stay up there slapping away all night. The man has influenced so many of my modern day bass heroes, watching him perform was just one of the many highlights of the evening. As Graham exited, Prince welcomed Miss Khan back out for her classic “Sweet Thing.” Prince was all smiles sharing the stage with Miss Khan and it’s clear the two have a true respect that comes out when they perform together. Prince exited the stage shorty after Miss Khan, allowing Sheila E and his backing band to funk out “The Glamorous Life” while he did his first of many costume changes below.
Upon his return, the second half of Prince’s set may as well have been dubbed the greatest hits portion of the show. Things kicked off with “Raspberry Beret” which got many in the crowd back up on their feet dancing Saturday night away. Musically speaking, “Let’s Go Crazy>Delirious>Let’s Go Crazy” was easily the highlight of the greatest hits run. The way all the musicians lock together is truly something magical. From “1999” to “Little Red Corvette” hit after hit kept everyone moving and shaking. Of all the hits, he closed his triumphant first set with my personal favorite “Purple Rain.” With purple confetti pouring down upon the stage, Prince grabbed hold of his signature telecaster and played the solo looking right at me. OK, so perhaps it was not right at me with me as I was pretty dang far from the stage, but the man can make a 20,000 seat arena feel as though he was playing to you in your living room.
Joking that he was out of hits, Prince returned to the stage for a medley that consisted of “When Doves Cry>Nasty Girl>Sign ‘O The Times>The Most Beautiful Girl In The World>Darling Nikki>Single Ladies>Hot Thing>I Would Die For You.” While he didn’t sing all the songs (Nikki for example was just a tease of the introduction as Prince smiled and shook his head) this segment of the show portrayed the silly and playful side of Prince. When his band returned, they once again brought the funk with “If I Was Your Girlfriend”, “Scandalous” and a few other choice tracks. For Encore #2 – Prince once again turned the heat up and made us sweat a lil bit more with “Kiss” (the first Prince song I remember as a young child growing up in the 1980’s).
Encore 3 began with a touching dedication to his sister/speech on racial equality before breaking out “Sometimes It Snows In April.” That was one thing I noticed about seeing Prince. All walks of life, all religions, sexual-orientations and races came together as one united in the music. Covering most shows, this is something I rarely see and this is what has left the biggest impression on me in the hours since the event. Prince reminded me that we can indeed come together as one people and truly achieve something great.
Had it not been for our friend Steven Anthony, chances are I would have left as the house lights came up after “Controversy.” He informed me it was best to stay till security gave us the boot. I am glad he shared this as we were treated to three more songs. “A Love Bizarre” (with Sheila E) kicked off the 4th encore as the house lights remained on. From there, Prince closed out the night just like he started it – bringing the FUNK. “Play That Funky Music” gave the band the chance to do just that while the final closing number “Hollywood Swinging” had its lyrics changed to “Inglewood Swinging.” With 17 nights left on his run at the Forum, it’s safe to say Prince will have the town below the flight path of Los Angeles International Airport swinging hard for weeks to come.
Just the other day, I was outnumbered by my older (and dare I say slightly out of touch) co-workers. #Twitter is useless they all claimed. Well, had it not been for that useless social media outlet, I would have never known that Joseph Arthur would be playing a last minute show less than five miles from my home. With plans of an early bed time thrown away, I headed down to a place called the Revival: Venice Sound Stage for yet another round of magic with Mr. Arthur.
Before we discuss the music, it’s important to describe the Revival: Venice Sound Stage. It is hidden in a large brick building complex that is buried in a residential neighborhood in Venice, CA. If you know where the Del Taco is on Lincoln, it’s three blocks behind it. After walking up a long driveway, past what I can only assume are clothing factories and artist lockouts, I finally found unit G. Having been told earlier in the day that the music started at 9pm, I assumed I would be casually cool walking in around 9:30. Wrong, as it turns out, the place was not yet opened and I was the first “fan” there (our pal Y was the only other individual I saw inside the venue). The gal at the plastic card table accepted my $10 donation and allowed me in despite the fact Arthur was messing with his massive pedal boards’ mid-sound-check. Looking around, the inside is actually rather sweet. Some small stools/chairs set up; random art exhibits spread across the floor and a sweet dog named Chumash thrown in for good measure. Truly an exciting place that I hope I can check out again in the near future.
I found a seat and as a few more folks wandered into the venue, we got to hear Arthur perform “Out On A Limb” to make sure everything was working properly. When sound check ended, Arthur roamed the room saying hello to various friends as Y set up. If you read our coverage of the Bootleg Theater residency back in February, you know all about Y. While his partner in crime with the pink guitar was MIA, Y warmed up the room with a quick three song set. Well, four song set if you include his sound check of the Poison classic “Every Rose Has its Thorn.” The first song was called “Lonely Angels” and in talking to Y after the set, he told me it’s his “Black Dog” in the sense the songs title is only mentioned once within the song. The second song was very familiar from the Bootleg Theater run. If Y had a hit at this point in his career; “Give It Up To Love” would be it. He closed the brief set with another solo acoustic song called “Mars.”
Y’s confidence from that first unannounced night at Bootleg has truly blossomed. After the set, he jumped off the stage and came over to say hello. What happened next I must give Y mad kudos for. If I had a dollar for every time someone said Justin-time or Justin-credible to me, I could pay off the server space/web URL’s for this site for the next 15 years. In telling him my name was Justin, he was like oh like Just-in The Wind (in melody with the Kansas jam Dust In The Wind). That was a first and it truly made me laugh. I thanked him for the sticker, and he traveled to the next crowd member sharing his tales of when he was a pirate upon the high seas.
Arthur hit the stage at 10:45pm and opened with “Vacancy.” It was the only time all night that Arthur was joined by a special guest. That guest of course was the venue’s four legged resident Chumash whose bark harmonized well with the opening number. Arthur even joked about the bitches guest vocals as he tuned up for his official performance of “Out On A Limb.” While the sound check version was stripped down and minimal, Arthur brought out multiple layers of loops and effects for the 20-25 folks who made it out to Venice on a windy yet warm Thursday night. While there were multiple layers, the song never lost the delicate touch that makes it so magical in the first place.
As a fan of jam bands, I love when Arthur segues from song to song. On this particular evening, he pushed it three songs deep with “This Is Still My World>Smile That Explodes>Too Much To Hide.” The high water mark in the sequence was the piercing jam that connected “This Is Still My World” to “Smile That Explodes.” We all know “World” is Sibyl Buck’s favorite pop songof all time, and even after watching the replay I am still not sure how Arthur got such a loud snarling bad ass mamba jamba jam out of the soft ballad. I also must ponder if the string of songs would have gone longer if not for Arthur’s amp crapping out on him during “Too Much To Hide.”
In between random tales of his recent trip to China, Arthur shared how the venue felt more like a living room and how he truly felt naked upon the stage. As smells of marijuana and In & Out Hamburgers started to choke the room, Arthur asked if anyone had any requests. I knew this was my shot to hear a song I was dying to hear without being that asshole who shouts requests at inappropriate moments. Three songs were screamed out, which Arthur performed in reverse order of how they were received. First up was “I Miss The Zoo.” This could very well be the first time Arthur has performed “I Miss The Zoo” without having multiple pages of lyrics in front of him. Very stripped back, I am rather confident he nailed all the lyrics, which was damn exciting for someone who has seen this jam grow from early versions during his April 2010 Venice residency.
Up next was my very bratty request. From the Could We Survive EP – I have always been a huge fan of “Morning Cup.” Sadly, in all the shows I have seen Arthur play, the man has never busted this gem out. It took him a bit to remember the opening chords, but once he did, it was as if he had played it nightly for the last decade. With minimal stage lighting, Arthur continued on with the requests, strumming and singing both “History” and “In The Sun” from his best known record Come To Where I’m From. Despite never leaving the stage, Arthur declared that “Echo Park” would be his encore.
Had much of LA not already been committed to Coachella, Janet Jackson, Prince, Big Audio Dynamite, Duran Duran and Sleigh Bells, I must assume more folks would have made it down to the Venice Sound Studios. To be totally honest, I am glad it was such an intimate event. I’ve seen Joseph Arthur in concert, on this Thursday night in Venice, I got to see my pal Joe perform some jams for a room full of friends.
Venice Sound Stage 04/14/11 Set list
Out On A Limb
Out On A Limb
This Is Still My World>
Smile That Explodes>
Too Much To Hide
I Miss The Zoo**
In The Sun**
*With Guest Vocals from the venue’s resident dog Chumash
** By Request
***Arthur never left stage for a traditional encore break; instead he simply declared that it was his encore.