On a night that felt more like Seattle than Hollywood, musical messiah Alain Johannes celebrated the release of his debut album Spark with an intimate set inside Amoeba Records. Known for his work with Eleven, Queens of the Stone Age and Them Crooked Vultures, the Cigar Box Guitarist managed to move both devoted fans and one plus-sized Asian girl whose only mission on a damp Tuesday night was to purchase the entire Seal catalogue for less than $12. With many from the extended QOTSA family tree (Josh Homme, Brody Dalle and Joey Castillo just to name a few) in the house, the brief yet beautiful set did not feel like a record store as much as it felt like a family reunion.
Hitting the stage just past 7pm, Johannes silenced the worlds greatest record store with an intense version of“Endless Eyes.” Johannes performed the first three songs from “Spark” straight through to start off the evening. As young children with their parents cameras point and clicked away, Johannes reflected upon his late partner in crime Natasha Shneider with dignity and grace.
When not giving each individual in the audience a giant lump in their throats, the man can shred on his custom Cigar Box guitar. Despite being only one man, the way Johannes strums upon the 8-string instrument makes one feel as if they are being assaulted by an acoustic army. A perfect example of this ferocious playing was “Gentle Ghosts.” Johannes made you fear that at any second, the delicate instrument would snap in two.
The highlight of the set was the only non-Spark song performed by Johannes. While originally found on “Desert Sessions Volume 7 & 8” – “Making A Cross” has truly become property of Johannes since the passing of Shneider. One look down the $4.95 or less aisle and you could see multiple individuals holding back tears. Following outstanding versions of “Spider” and “Unfinished Plans” Johannes swapped his Cigar Box for a 12 string and closed the set with “Making God Jealous.” Shortly after 40 minutes of soul-baring upon the stage came to an end, Johannes took the time to speak with fans and signed copies of his new record. For as vulnerable as Johannes was upon the stage, his spirit when face to face is nothing short of warm and inviting. While short, it was an honor to meet the man. As I walked out of the stores and into the rain, I looked down and saw that he wrote Love Life as part of the signature. I couldn’t agree with Mr. Johannes more.
Them Crooked Vultures (with Middle Class Rut) 04/14/10
Club Nokia – Los Angeles, CA
Words/photos/videos by: concertconfessions.com
Having missed the bands two shows here in town last fall, and unable to attend Coachella due to previous commitments, my chances of seeing Them Crooked Vultures were looking rather bleak. I won’t lie – I was depressed. Do I fly to Denver and see them? Perhaps I could hold out hope for them wrapping their tour with an appearance at the 2010 KROQ Weenie Roast & Fiesta? Thankfully my luck changed one cloudy cubical dwelling morning, when across my phone came an e-mail informing me that Grohl, Homme and JPJ would be warming up for their appearance at Coachella with a headline gig at Club Nokia in revitalized downtown Los Angeles.
After having no issue with traffic caused by rush hour as well as multiple sporting events featuring local sports teams, we made it from beautiful Burbank to downtown LA in near record time. Much to my shock and delight, we were early enough to get wrist bands that granted us access to the front pit area. After making a few single serving friends, around 8:30 pm, the music got under way with a set from the Sacramento duo Middle Class Rut. In thirty minutes, this band managed to win me over, alienate me, anger me, and depress me only to once again win me over. I was worried at first, as the band’s guitarist Zack Lopez opened the set with a riff that was almost identical to “A Warm Place” by Nine Inch Nails. However, when drummer Sean Stockham kicked in with the first of many bone crushing beats, I was ready and willing to pay attention. Part Post-hardcore, part fuzzed out 1990’s alt rock, the first 3-4 songs were all high energy skull fucking sonic masterpieces that reminded me of Death From Above 1979. Then the train wreck occurred. After mumbling the name of the band which many of us failed to understand (come on guys, rule #1 is making sure people know who you are, especially when you are winning them over), the duo launched into the worst 311 inspired song I have ever heard. While the song is a perfect debut single for corporate rock radio the switch from ballistic attack to catchy reggae-eqsue popped killed all momentum the band had built. From there, Lopez started bitching about lights and begged for darkness upon the stage. Since I can’t 100% confirm what I am about 98.2% sure I saw, I won’t start rumors. I will just advise that next time its probably a good idea to leave the stage for 30 seconds instead of trying to sneak that stuff up your nostril. Whatever, despite the fact your frontman mumbled your name and came off like a bratty drug crazed diva, the songs were amazing. The final two songs of the night finished strong and made me all but forget what I am 98.2% sure I saw. If they can survive themselves – Middle Class Rut can truly go places.
As I sit here the morning after witnessing Them Crooked Vultures live and in person, I am in rare form. It’s not too often that I am lost for words, but today I am exactly that. As I mentioned in my introduction, I was depressed over the prospect of not seeing John Paul Jones, Dave Grohl and Joshua Homme together in person. When the band (joined by Alain Johannes on guitar) hit the stage, I had to remind myself to breath. With members in position, instruments in place, the foursome started things off with a bang – opening with “Elephant.” Much like the beast the song is named after, the song is large, loud and heavy. What makes this the perfect opening number is not the guts of the song, but the swirling intro/outro riff that mixes the blues of Led Zeppelin with that classic Homme fuck and run swagger.
The band didn’t miss a step – launching right into “Gunman” as the second number. With its jack hammering riffs, I looked to my left and realized I was watching John Paul Jones live and in person. My father has shared with me memories of seeing Led Zeppelin in places like Winterland and Kezar Stadium back home in San Francisco. Clearly I was not old enough to witness this, but watching the living legend lay down a groove on what appeared to be an eight string bass sent tingles up and down my spine. Granted it’s hard enough for me to focus on a day to day basis, but with so much rock royalty on one stage, it was hard to decide whom to watch when. A terrible problem to have, I know.
The set kept moving right along. With multiple fans holding home made “Fresh Pots” signs high above their heads, it was neat to watch Grohl beat up a drum kit once again. Watching the former Nirvana member on songs like the earlier mentioned “Gunman” and “No One Loves Me & Neither Do I” can’t not bring up memories of my youth watching Animal on the Muppet Show. Much to my shock and delight, the band even threw in a lil free style hippie jam fit for Bonnaroo in the middle of “Scumbag Blues”. What can’t these guys do?
Of all the collective artists, if I had to pick a favorite, it would be Homme. I remember hearing Kyuss in high school and while the vocals drove me bonkers the riffs were just so beefy I couldn’t ignore the band. While we got off to a rough start, I was on board with Queens of the Stone Age bandwagon long before Grohl’s stint on drums. You can imagine my excitement when Homme began to discuss new beginnings before dedicating “New Fang” to former Queens of the Stone Age bassist Nick Oliveri. While I won’t take this as solid proof that the bald bassist is back in the QOTSA fold, it certainly fuels the rumors that he will return when the band hits the European festival circuit later this summer.
The band made the most of their stop in downtown Los Angeles by performing some new songs. I have only heard “Highway One” once, but was thrilled to get to witness it live. Between the soft mandolin strokes of JPJ and haunting vocals of Homme, this one has classic written all over it. The band also busted out another new song; a slow bluesy jam – title unknown but with Johannes taking lead guitar duties, there was not a soul in the crowd who was not mesmerized by its beauty.
As great as the slower blues driven stuff is, it was very clear that most of the crowd came to rock. Even the AARP members of the audience couldn’t refuse the urge to jump up and down on the spring filled floor during songs like “Mind Eraser, No Chaser” and “Dead End Friends”. While Club Nokia was the first night on stage (not counting Jimmy Kimmel Live this past Monday) in a few months for the band, it sounded as if they had been on tour for years now. Everything was razor sharp, including Mr. Homme’s wit – encouraging the crowd to have a good time while poking fun at individuals sitting or looking bored up in the balcony. Hell, Homme was a human highlight reel. When I saw him perform with Queens across the courtyard at the Nokia Theatre, you were not even allowed to bring cigarettes in. A self-proclaimed fan of cancer sticks Homme was more than happy to set his guitar down, light up a smoke and do his best crooner impression during the lounge-esque “Interlude With Ludes.” That is of course after he gave John Paul Jones a Jersey Shore fashion make-over by popping his collar.
While they are all my favorites, “Spinning In The Daffodils” has been in heavy rotation the past few months here at concert confessions headquarters. With some serious finger picking action coming from Johannes – the song extended to well over fifteen minutes and was my personal highlight of the night. The number really has it all, a slow build up, rocking grooves and a beautiful piano outro courtesy of John Paul Jones. Saving us the wasted time of a useless encore break – Homme admitted to using the same “this is our last song” joke before surveying (and promptly inviting those who answered yes to fuck off) the crowd to see who was making it out to Coachella. “Warsaw or the First Breath You Take After You Give Up” was for the fine folks like myself. Unable to make it out to Indio for three days in the desert sun, this last number was ours. I snuck to the back of the venue, wanting to say goodbye. Perhaps Them Crooked Vultures will indeed release a second album and rise again as is rumored. Perhaps they will go back to their respective day jobs. All I know is that on a Wednesday night in April, I was lucky enough to get to witness their magic live and in person.
Are we pumped? I know I’m pumped! Tonight the twenty third edition of the Jay Porks Never Ending Concert Series brings us to Roseland Ballroom (239 W 52nd street- New York City) to see the super-group, although they scoff at the term, THEM CROOKED VULTURES. A side project of legendary proportions, featuring the Josh Homme of fame with Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal, Kyuss(a short stay as guitarist in the Screaming Trees too) on lead guitar and vocals.. handling the bass duties, John Paul Jones- from a little band known as Led Zeppelin.. and on drums we have, after a 16 year absence from making creative and enjoyable music, Dave Grohl is back in his element-behind the kit. Them Crooked Vultures are here in support of their self titled debut record on what they’ve dubbed as the “Deserve the Future Tour”.. they are joined by second guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Alain Johannes.
So about 7:30 I finally make it inside this mammoth beast of a venue..I use the word “finally” because it felt like I was on the line for an hour. When I got off the train at 50th street I looked across the street and saw hundreds and hundreds of people flooding the sidewalk… That would be the line- it stretches maybe three blocks. All I know is that the entrance to Roseland is on West 52nd, and I’m standing at the back of the line around the block on 53rd… And I still have these three extra tickets to give away. I give one to this poor looking guy who I thought was heading inside, but when I saw him still asking for tickets, I figured he was probably working for a scalper. Then there was this girl who asked if the show was sold out. I said, “I’m not sure..but I have two extras at will call, you can have them”. She took me up on the offer, so I’ll be waiting for that Karma train to be making a stop at my house any second now.
Now this inside is standing room only and the room holds about 3000 plus.. This place seems like twice the size Hammerstien… the ceiling looks like it goes up forever and ever. I feel like the stage is half a football field away from me. I got my band tee shirt for 20 bucks when I first stepped in.. That line was insanely long and was more of a free for all than a line… Made my way towards that $6 beer, oh how I’ve earned it.
It’s about 7:47 when I notice that this place is packed almost the capacity.. This is gonna be some long distance video if I manage to get some. Surprised they let me in with my camera, they frisked me at the door as if I was an escaped convict.. While being searched in the oddest of places I start thinking to myself “I’m sure I don’t have anything on me right??”…. In the distance I spot a second drum kit on stage, is this going to be the opening act? I can’t stand when they do this, its one thing that pisses me off. Don’t pretend there’s no opener and then spring some no name band on us…we would’ve prepared accordingly. I would’ve came an hour later. Do us all a favor, I know you probably can’t have the opener figured on and printed on the ticket before it gets mailed..but at least list it on the venues website….bad job by Livenation.. And I don’t want to hear that crap “Well dude, there’s always an opening act” when I’ve seen the Melvins open for themselves and Dinosaur Jr had a half retarded guy stand on stage for a half hour before they went on…
The surprise opener was ‘The Brought Low”… Exactly. I personally have no idea who they are. All I know is they’re three dudes who want to be like Jet. Hate to jump on an opener, but th riffs were unimpressive to say the least. Anybody who works in a Guitar Center can play them.. I kept looking at my vacant wrist awaiting for them to end. They played about 7 or 8 songs, they went off at about 8:27….
So they had the stage set up at about 840, which was good because I started to have this pipe dream that maybe they’d head on at 845. Yea right. I’m starting to notice there is no where fr me to move forward or back, I’m stuck here for the remainder of the night.. And people aren’t exactly standing in siZe order, so my video clips are full of the back of peoples heads and little people playing instruments.
It became evident that my camera was not going to do me much good from all the way back here, but I still recorded what they kicked off the set with: “Nobody Loves me and Neither Do I”, this one has John used a slide thing on his bass as he stands next to a keyboards, synthesizer and two other bass guitars placed vertically. John Paul Jones is really whaling, seems like he’s been doing this a while. You start to wonder why most of these songs are so “Zeppelin-like” powerful.. he’s not like The Who being old at the Super Bowl halftime show-this dude is still fresh.. amazing.. They got into “Scumbag Blues”, like the 10 plus minute version, and Josh Homme is just having his guitar erupt with every strum, pulling out his full proverbial arsenal of tricks, what an amazing guitar player. It’s sounds like an episode of the mighty morphing power rangers with his strokes.. He and John are bouncing sounds off each other- it’s like they’re playing catch, with each one trying to top the latter. Where every song seemed to be the “extended version” as I call them, it’s actually that most of their songs are of lengthy proportions for traditional rock songs that they seemed to be a little longer than typical. “Dead End Friends” was either 4th or 5th in, where I just had an epiphany: I’m in the same room as John Paul fucking Jones! Are you kidding me? He could be up there playing a toothbrush, rock history is happening right now and I’m a part of it. And here’s no slouch-Dave Grohl completes what is probably the greatest possible living rhythm section alive. It’s been so long since I’ve heard Grohl play music that was creative and entertaining, it was really a pleasure to see the best rock drummer of at least my generation. A suddenly buff Grohl too, it was like the frickin’ gun show back there man-dude hits the gym. With one song into the next, “Reptiles” to “Gunman”,using the term ‘beast’ would be the understatement of the century to describe the drumming that’s going on-I can feel the beating that kit is taking from 60 yards away, that’s how epic it is. That is a sound that cannot be manufactured no matter how much you advance technology.. the sound that drum makes when Grohl hits it. It’s definitely something I missed. He also has a mic revolving mic stand that is dipping into the area he needs it when his harmony parts come up, I don’t know if he was controlling it or if it was a roadie but man I always thought it’d be late or smack him in the face every time it came around. And back to Josh as he was talking in between songs, and he said “We were on Saturday Night Live this past weekend”..*crowd roar*.. “And the people over at NBC censorship didn’t catch that I used ‘Piss’, ‘Dick’, and ‘Shit’ all in one song!”..*crowd roars again* “So that’s making the world a better place for people who promote public swearing. Fuck those people!”… this guy can work a room, he was full of colorful things to say all night (like when he said “Dave was up til 5:30AM drinking Jägermeister.. I told him not to do it, but he’s a fucking alcoholic and thats what alcoholics do”), he really knows how to grab center stage. Good thing he knows how to, because he’s offically uped his notch in “Rockstar” status..Josh Homme is now at least equal if not superior to the likes of artists like Jack White weather you like it or not, because he is totally bad ass if there ever was a definition. The dude is smoking a cigarette on stage in an indoor venue that doesn’t allow lighters-I mean I know he’s in the band and everything, but I’ve never seen anyone do this.. and then he flings it behind his shoulder with total disregard of all things to his rear. Take that society! He’s the main songwriter in any “side” project he touches… he looks over at John and he goes “hey Zeppelin”.. Then John Paul Jones comes bust out the ‘Key-tar’, you know, the thing Edgar Winter says he invented(he might’ve), the key board hooked up like a guitar sort of thing and Josh puts his guitar down as they get into “Interlude with Ludes”, a sort of trippy-hindi-ish song where Josh prances around without guitar duties walking up to everyone else in the band doing silly things.. they really looked like they were all having a good time up there, they got into the most recognizable song, thier first single “New Fang” maybe midway through the set and near the end they hit it with my favorite song of thiers “Mind Eraser, No Chaser”.. then before they finish up Josh states that “There is a time where every show must end”.. plus, they only have 13 songs anyway-and they played the shit out of all of them. As they took the little bow as they walked off stage I thought to myself, there wasn’t one thing that could’ve been better in the time they went on til the time they went off. Medolic blues driven hard rock molded with an absolute noise fest was a combination of blissful destruction and insane genius. Killer show.. What a night…..
There it is.. yet another Jay Porks Experience…. special thanks to everyone reading at ConcertConfessions.com, keep on truckin’ over there… as for the Never Ending Concert Series of mine I have goin on over here.. We’re eyeing the Flaming Lips and Local H later this year, along with the however many times the Meat Puppets come to town on their next tour.. For all the latest info you can always check back here at http://www.jayporks.com and in the upper right of the screen in the section that says “Upcoming Jay Porks Events”- we always get our hands on extra tickets and cool stuff like that so stay tuned, and thanks for putting up with my non-sense for a few minutes of your day.. tell your friends to check it out! LATE…..
Editors Note: With LA on fire once again, and tonight being the “last” time I see Nine Inch Nails, I figured it was appropriate to share with you the very first concert review I wrote (for my myspace blog). In going back and reading this today, I was not only reminded of a wonderful night I had, but am rather amazed to see how far my writing has come. I hope you enjoy.
On October 1st, 1994, Nine Inch Nails played the Event Center in San Jose, CA. A sophomore in High School, I begged my mother to let me go to the show. I begged and begged, however the answer remained no. 11 years later to the day, I found myself stumbling up Highland Avenue to the world famous Hollywood Bowl. 11 long years after missing that show, I would finally see Nine Inch Nails. It could not be the more perfect night. We met some friends down the street at the Powerhouse to get our drink on. Most of us had started drinking pretty early in the day, as we could all walk to the Bowl (and avoid $20.00 stack parking) rather easily. Between the Wild Turkey & Big Gulp on the way and drinks at the house, I was feeling real good walking into the bowl. With the venue being a pretty classy joint, I was glad to see a major lack of security searching people upon the way in. Jack Daniels & other fun items could have been left in our pockets, instead of hidden in other unmentionable areas. We got to our benches right before the show kicked off.
Silver Lake darlings Autolux kicked off as the sun was setting in the fire filled skies. Having recently picked up their debut album, Future Perfect, I was excited to see what this band could do live. A three piece, the band features Greg Edwards (Failure) on guitar, Carla Azar (Edna Swap) on drums & Eugene Goreshter on Vocals/Bass. Autolux definitely had the hardest job of the night. The band that no one knows playing to people trying to find their seats. I thought the band was awesome (as I am already converted) but were met with a mediocre response. They got up and did what they do for 30 minutes. Definitely sounding like Silver Lake, musically they remind me a little bit of Sonic Youth. While not technically stunning, their simple riffs with heavy distortion/delay/loops and hard driving drum beats sound cool so who gives a fuck right? They were met with a rather mediocre response. Not heavy enough for the hardcore Nine Inch Nails fans, No hits for the KROQ crowd to get up and dance too, and no where as interesting as the chicken or fish dinner for the folks below us in the luxury boxes (more on that later). Overall, I loved the entire set. “Turnstile Blues” was the best number by far. I definitely think this band has what it takes to be that KROQ band one day.
After a quick set change, the Bowl was finally packed as Queens of the Stone Age took the stage. I had a lot of questions going into this one. I love the band, but the new album Lullabies To Paralyze is mediocre at best. I really miss Nick Oliveri and what he brought to the mix. I was curious how the Nine Inch Nails fans would react to a band as “ungoth” as Queens of The Stone Age. What I did see ended up impressing me. The band opened with the radio hit “Go with the Flow” which quickly flowed into an extended “Feel Good Hit of the Summer”. With the audience in his hands, front man Josh Homme began a game which he played all night. Looking like a sleazy Euro Porn star, Josh managed to insult the crowd throughout the night. For those unfamiliar with the bowl, in front of the stage is an orchestra pit (which for the rock show was filled with seats for all the pretty V.I.P’s). Directly behind the orchestra, the Hollywood Bowl is filled with an entire section of luxury boxes where full meals are served. Very un rock, but what do you expect from a venue that usually hosts classical music. It seemed Josh was bothered by this – and quickly began his trash talking. Hitting on one man near the front, he informed the crowd that he had seen more dickends than weekends. Knowing just when to stop, they launched into “Avon” & “I Think I Lost My Headache”. The older tunes sounded fucking amazing with the new lineup. Drummer Joey Castillo (Danzig) is as good, if not better than Dave Grohl. Troy Van Leeuwan (Failure/A Perfect Circle) can play so many different things he really is the bands MVP. Bass player Alain Johannes – while not Nick O. definitely held his own. What else would you expect from a life long studio musician? The one week spot was Natasha Shneider on keys. Unheard throughout the show, the only time you could hear her was a horrific piano solo during current radio hit “In My Head”. As the hour long set went on, the first half (minus brand new song “The Fun Machine Took A Shit”) was mainly older stuff. “Monster In The Parasol” and “Song For The Dead” definitely stick out as highlights for me. Towards the end (and after many more insults), we got the new stuff. Even live, the new material doesn’t really do it for me. I Found “In My Head” & “Tangled Up In Plaid” rather boring. The only song off the new disc that I felt was worth anything was “Burn The Witch” which Josh dedicated to everyone who hated the band in the crowd. The band closed the show with their biggest hit – “No One Knows” which was the first song of the night to bring the entire crowd to its feet. Overall – I really enjoyed this set as well and I think most of the crowd did, despite a rude Josh Homme.
After a not so quick set change, Nine Inch Nails finally hit the stage. The front of the stage was covered with a large white sheet. The bowl went completely dark and right away the opening guitar chords of “Pinion” rang through the humid fall night. The song went right into “Love Is Not Enough” from the new album. The band was still behind the white sheet, but lights began to shine on stage, so you could only make out the bands shadows. As the song wrapped, the curtain lifted and the band went into another new song “You Know What You Are?”. Looking like Matthew Fox from the hit TV show “Lost” anyone who thinks Trent has lost his anger is high on something. The band (including drummer Jerome Dillon, who has had heart problems resulting in the Oakland show being postponed on Friday night) was firing on all cylinders – leaving both opening acts in the dust behind. Trent’s vocals were nothing short of amazing. He looks real buff, real pissed and real fucking sexy. Jeordie White (Marilyn Manson/A Perfect Circle) layed some fat bass lines down through the night and held tight with drummer Jerome Dillon. This allowed guitar player Aaron North (The Iccarus Line) to own the stage like a fucking mad man. How this guy can get on stage and put his body through that type of beating (all while nailing every single guitar part as if it was his own) night after night amazes me. The crowd was really into the set, and the band really feeded off the energy. As a rare treat, the band busted out “Reptile” from the Downward Spiral. It was perfect. “Wish”, “Terrible Lie”, “Suck”, “March Of The Pigs” & “Burn” (from the Natural Born Killers Soundtrack) were all ass kicking and destroyed the crowd. “Closer” sounded sexier than usual with a lotta wah petal and pelvis thrusting. Much to my joy, the band ignored 2000’s The Fragile – which is the only NIN album I don’t really like. The one song they played, I couldn’t even tell you what it was called. About half way though the set, the white curtain came back down and for the next few songs, was used a screen to project images. “Right Where It Belongs” had a mix of current events, from Trent’s former home of New Orleans, and visions from National Geographic/When Animals Attack. The Iraq War, Children with guns to their heads & President Bush dancing with his wife (an image that the crowd met with roaring boo’s) were just some of the violent/offensive images during “Erase Me”. The encore kicked off with a beautiful version of “Hurt”. A song that found the entire crowd singing along – lighters and cell phones in the air. The show closed with a brutal “Head Like A Hole” that kicked the enthusiastic crowd’s ass hard – leaving everyone begging for more. Definitely check this show out if you get a chance.