The Ettes, The Bruises at the Silverlake Lounge - March 21, 2005Another show with two really good bands. I had seen the Ettes open for Tsar a few weeks ago so I decided to check them out again during their Monday night residency at the Silverlake Lounge. They rocked again with their short but sweet hook filled songs. If I have to compare them to someone, I'd say they are like a slighty less loud and more melodic version of Bangs. It's especially fun to watch the drummer who just attacks the drums with reckless abandon, almost knocking over her cymbal numerous times and just looking like she's having fun playing drums like a maniac. The Ettes will be at the Silverlake Lounge for one more Monday on March 28. The Bruises were more or less in the same vein as the Ettes but a bit more in the Sleater-Kinney mold with a two-guitar attack and no bass. They also had two singers who traded off vocals. As they continued to play, it seemed like more of the crowd got closer to the stage, realizing that a pretty darn good band was onstage even if it wasn't the band they were necessarily there to see.
Phranc 'N' Stein at the Parlour Club - March 18, 2005Good to have Phranc playing again. No regular Phranc set happened as advertised, unless it happened really late after I left. But we did get her Phranc 'N' Stein project which I had never seen before. Bascially, it's Phranc's multi-media interpretation of Gertrude Stein's writings. This incarnation had an all-star cast of musicians joining Phranc on the small stage: Jody Bleyle (Team Dresch, Hazel, Infinite X's) on bass, Tamala Poljak (Longstocking, Automaticans, Infinite X's) on guitar, and Sarah Dale (the much-missed Rizzo) on drums. Phranc played acoustic guitar and sang songs about asparagus, umbrellas, and other common objects that Stein apparently wrote about. Phranc will be playing April 1 through 3 at Highways in Santa Monica to celebrate the 20th anniversary of her Folksinger album. Details at www.pholksinger.com.
Frausdots, Margo Lee at the Detroit Bar - March 17, 2005Two more bands who I have no records by so I don't know song titles or anything but two great sets. Frausdots played a short but sweet seven song set, made up primarily of songs from their Sub Pop album I assume including the ultra- catchy one that keeps repeating the album title. Brent Rademaker, of Beachwood Sparks fame, displayed the ultimate Silverlake coolness onstage as his 80's influenced songs were backed by a band that had three keyboardists. Hopefully some more OC shows and some longer shows are forthcoming for Frausdots. Margo Lee was a great, pleasant surprise. I had heard very little of this band but was really blown away by their excellent songs. Jessica, the singer, fronted the band with confidence but a down-to-earth quality that made them really likeable. She also displayed amazing skill on guitar during the mostly fast paced pop songs. Once or twice they slowed it down, including a great song with her and her guitar just accompanied by some keyboard. I believe they are from OC and you should definitely be on the lookout and check out any upcoming shows they have.
Pony Up! at Spaceland - March 14, 2005I hadn't heard much of Pony Up!'s music going into this show. All I knew was their song on a split 7" with Ben Lee and I actually thought that song was alright but a bit cheesy. So this was a pleasant surprise of a show. The foursome from Montreal showed a great knack for sweet pop songs highlighting the keyboards and vocals of Laura Wills. I don't know any of the song titles to pass along but not a song from this set was disappointing. They are definitely a band with a bright future.
The Soft Lightes at the Detroit Bar - March 10, 2005Ron Fountenberry, formerly known as Incredible Moses Leroy, is back with his new band, The Soft Lightes. The trio started out with a great, Imperial Teen-like song declaring that this "could be our time of the year". From there, the melodic pop songs just kept coming one after the other. The best aspects of Ron's former band are dipslayed wonderfully in this band. Catchy, poppy songs and Ron's smooth voice that blend together so well. But don't worry, this band can rock when they want to as they did on the closing song (I'm not sure of the title but it talked a lot about people being evil) that left the crowd wanting more.
Coachella Festival - May 2, 2004I'm sure you've heard by now how hot it was out at Coachella over the weekend as the festival celebrated its fifth year, so no need to get into that part of it any further. So we'll get right to the music. The first tough choice of the day was who to see at 1:00, Thelonious Monster (who I've seen about a dozen times) or Pretty Girls Make Graves (who I've never seen live). I opted for Thelonious Monster since they are one of my favorite bands of all time and I was curious to see how they'd be received by the festival crowd. Playing almost the identical set as they had played at El Cid earlier in the week, they were definitely appreciated by the crowd, many of whom I'm sure had not previously heard them before. It didn't hurt their case that Flea joined them onstage for several songs and bounced about the stage in his usual way. Bob Forrest's son joined the band onstage near the end which was a nice touch. As always, Bob's commentary during the show was of interest. He named off all the bands that he had seen or was going to see during the weekend. He also asked how many in the crowd were born in 1984 or after before they went into one of their older songs (I think it was Try) that was written before much of the crowd had even been born. This was a great way to start off the long day. Next it was on to see !!!. They definitely knew how to get the crowd involved, with the singer showing off his goofy dance moves and getting everyone to mimic them. They put on a decently entertaining show but the music just didn't do it for me too much. But there's worse ways to kill part of the afternoon. We missed Elefant and heard Muse from very far away in order to stand in line to get Belle and Sebastian's autographs. What a long line that was. Thankfully we made it to the front before they had to leave. Not knowing that autograph sessions were going to be going on, we didn't have any Belle and Sebastian items for them to sign (and I wasn't about to buy a CD that I already owned from the Virgin tent). So my friend and I came up with the brilliant idea to have them sign on the Morrissey article in the free issue of Spin that was being given out. It has hard to tell how much they were really annoyed by that or if they were just kidding. They faked like they were going to deface Morrissey's picture in my magazine and I told them that they could. So they ended up drawing a moustache on Morrissey in my friend's copy. Sorry about not having any of your own items to sign guys, but oh well at least I got the autographs. Next it was over to one of the tents to see the Thrills who I had heard of but not actually heard before. Most of their songs were very likeable upon first listen. Not the most brilliant band but I enjoyed the set. Belle and Sebastian was up next, the main reason why I had wanted to go to Coachella in the first place. They put on a great show as they had the other times I'd seen them. They mostly played songs from their latest album, Dear Catasprophe Waitress. The highlight of the set was the great rendition of the classic The Stars of Track and Field. I've only seen Belle and Sebastian three times but it doesn't seem like it'd ever get old seeing a band that seems to have so much fun playing live as they do and who utilize so many instruments at once and have it come across so well live. Over to the second stage for Bright Eyes. Wow, how crowded it was to see them. A far cry from the first Coachella when going over to the second stage meant seeing a band with just a handful of people. I don't know their songs well enough to know which ones they played and we were so far away but they sounded great. After a bit of Air, we decided it was time to go. It was an enjoyable day, although a bit too hot and too crowded. It would've been nice to have seen Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, the Cure, and especially Le Tigre but it would've taken hours to get out of that place at the end of the show so we had to make the sacrifice and leave early so that we could actually get a few hours of sleep before work on Monday.
Thelonious Monster at El Cid - April 27, 2004I suppose this was both a record release party as touted and a rehearsal for the band's Coachella appearance later in the week. Whatever the reason for the show, it was one of the best Thelonious Monster shows I've seen. They played a great set of songs from their new album California Clam Chowder along with a lot of their best songs from many years gone by. They started it off with the classic Walk on Water and a few songs later broke into Sammy Hagar Weekend which was amended to be a Jack and Meg White Weekend featuring changed lyrics like "got a Radiohead t-shirt" and "sitting in the parking lot at Indio Polo Grounds". Then it was on to the Gun Club song from the new album, definitely as good of a live song as any of their old classics. Late in the set, an amazing version of Hang Tough (a song I'm not sure if I've ever seen them do live or at least not for a long time) was played, highlighting Dix Denney's awesome guitar playing. Union Street and Try led up to the closing Elton John song and the end of a fantastic show. (Thelonious Monster at Amoeba at 7PM on May 20, 2004).
Morrissey at the Wiltern - April 24, 2004Every Morrissey show, and I've been to over 20 of them, is a wonderful event. Even when they are average for a Morrissey show as this one was. I'm very happy that he's moving forward and spent much of the night playing songs from his new album, You Are The Quarry. However, since the album hasn't been released yet, the show lost some momentum when the majority of the crowd was hearing these songs for the first time. None of them really grabbed my attention too much upon my first time hearing them (save for the ones that he played on the last tour like First of the Gang To Die and The World is Full of Crashing Bores). As for the older songs that he played, hits like Everyday is Like Sunday and Hairdresser on Fire received the frenzied response from the crowd as expected and they sounded as great as ever. I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday probably sent the biggest chill up my spine of all the solo songs played during the night, with Morrissey's voice sounding so full of passion. As he has done on the last few tours, a few Smiths songs were thrown in again, and a good choice of Smiths songs. Unfortunately the band was really only able to pull off two of them with great success. I thought that the Headmaster Ritual and A Rush and a Push and the Land is Ours were lacking in musical competency. However, There is a Light That Never Goes Out and the encore Hand in Glove sounded tremendous and were definite highlights of the show. With the album coming out in a few weeks and all the publicity that Morrissey has been getting, we'll hopefully see him back in LA a few more times this year and he can put on not just a great show but an incredible one. (Morrissey at Lollapalooza at Ventura Fairgrounds on July 22).
Tsar at the Good Hurt - April 17, 2004I hope the Good Hurt has some money for a new roof since Tsar blew theirs off tonight. After a good but slightly off show at the Detroit Bar a week or so before, Tsar was at the top of their game tonight. In front of a bigger crowd than their previous Good Hurt show, they ripped through 10 songs in 33 minutes that literally left me breathless at the conclusion of the set. Wanna Get Dead and Straight were both played at breakneck speed but with no less precision than normal. The infrequently played Songwriter! was a nice addition to the set tonight along with the regulars such as Wrong, Straight, and I Don't Wanna Break Up. Here's hoping word spreads and next month's show here is even more packed. (Tsar at the Good Hurt again on May 14).
Tsar at the Gypsy Lounge - March 19, 2004Another chance for Tsar to show off their brilliance in front of a crowd mostly unacquainted with their music. Again, they played with amazing intensity and showed why they are the best live band around . Thanks to the light show onstage courtesy of the Gypsy Lounge, those in attendance got a taste of how the Tsar live experience may be in the near future if they are awarded with the rock-stardom that they more than deserve. (Tsar at Moose McGillycuddy's in Pasadena on April 1, the El Rey on April 5 and the Detroit Bar on April 8).
Alain Whyte at the Knitting Factory - March 16, 2004Alain Whyte is most well known as one of the guitarists in Morrissey's band and he made sure not to disappoint the Morrissey fans in attendance tonight. Surely he was aware that most of the crowd only knew him through Morrissey's music and many didn't even know that he had his own songs. Right off the bat, he satisfied the crowd as he played the first few seconds of This Charming Man but stopped abruptly and played Suedehead in it's entirety. The other Smiths and Morrissey songs that he played throughout the show were That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore, What Difference Does It Make?, Everyday Is Like Sunday with the end of I Know It's Over tacked on to the end, and a great rocking version of There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. But besides displaying his ability to sing Morrissey songs reasonably well, he showed that he's got songwriting skills of his own. I was very pleasantly surprised at the quality of Whyte's original songs. A few of the early ones in the set, Stuck and Crushed, were overflowing with melody and held the crowd's interest as much as any of the Morrissey songs that he played. Hard Times, played during the encore was a louder, punkier song that rocked hard thanks to the very able drummer and bass player that he had backing him. While everyone, myself included, is looking forward to seeing Whyte up on stage backing Morrissey in the near future, here's hoping there's some more solo shows in the future so that Whyte can get some more exposure for his own work.
Mary Lou Lord at Spaceland - March 13, 2004Due to a throat ailment, this was not one of the best Mary Lou Lord shows I've seen over the years. Not for a lack of effort on her part though. Her voice came and went throughout the show but she still put in a valiant effort to make the best of it. She could've called it quits after 40 minutes and everyone would have understood but she stuck it out for around an hour and a half. And despite the problems, the show still produced some great moments, particularly when she was joined onstage by opening band Gingersol. Toward the end of the show, they helped her rock Spaceland after a nice set of acoustic songs. The songs with Gingersol included Stars Burn Out from the new Baby Blue album and a great version of Some Jingle Jangle morning. Highlights from the acoustic parts of the show were the always great 1952 Vincent Black Lightning, the classic Western Union Desperate, and a hauntingly slow version of Elliott Smith's The Biggest Lie. Hopefully Mary Lou will be back to LA soon at full strength.
Tsar at 14 Below and Detroit Bar - March 7 & 8, 2004Two identical sets but totally awesome as always. Not much more I can say about Tsar that I haven't said below. It's been nice to see them playing some different areas of Southern California so they can try to expose their music to more people. Both shows seemed to have some Tsar fans but also some bystanders who probably didn't know who Tsar was. But both crowds reacted very positively so hopefully they won over some new fans. (See the upcoming shows page for Tsar's two OC shows next week).
The Butchies at the Knitting Factory - March 4, 2004This was the second of two nights for the Butchies at the Alterknit Lounge and what a great show they put on. This one has a chance to be on my list for top 10 shows of the year come December. A good share of the songs were from their upcoming album which most of the fans in attendance probably have not heard yet. But this did not stop the crowd from being whipped into a frenzy most of the night, not wanting the band to leave when the time came. Make Yr Life, the title track from the new album, and a smoking rendition of Send Me You were highlights from the new songs. The show ended with the best song of the night, More Rock More Talk, and then a cover of the Outfield's hit from the 80's, Your Love. The Butchies continue to put on one of the best shows in rock with Kaia's rock star poses and forays into the crowd for guitar solos along with Melissa and Alison's exceptional work on drums and bass. They should be back in LA in a few months so check them out.
Liz Phair at the Galaxy Theatre - February 27, 2004It had been quite some time since I'd been as curious about a show as I was about this one. Liz Phair's most recent album has been the subject of much debate, with its much more commercial sound. How would she respond in front of a crowd of new fans mixed with those who had been following her for a decade? Well, she certainly displayed little if any of her well-chronicled stage fright. Concentrating almost entirely on songs from her latest album and Exile in Guyville, her debut effort, Phair put on a solid show that seemed to please most of the crowd at the Galaxy. The highlights for me were no doubt the older songs, most notably the very rocking version of Supernova and a sublime 6'1". The solo take of Stratford-On-Guy during the encore was great too. And if there were any thoughts that Phair's newfound mainstream success would tame her choice of songs in her live shows, they were put to rest early as she opened with the provocative Flower while later bringing out F*&! And Run and H.W.C. As far as the new songs go, most of them went over well live. Favorite, the weakest song on the new album for my money, didn't hold up to the other songs she played. But on songs such as Firewalker and My Bionic Eyes, it was almost impossible to tell whether they were new songs (which they are) or old favorites. Phair has insisted that her new album is exactly the album she wanted to make and she is proud of it. Based on the swagger with which she played them and the way she seemed to enjoy being up on stage, she was convincing in that argument. But she also showed that she is not too proud to reach back to the old favorites.
Tsar at the Good Hurt - February 23, 2004Another great show by Tsar, showing the Westside how it's done. Not nearly the size crowd they'd get in Silverlake but better than I was fearing. Seemed like some diehard fans there. They had lots of technical problems, mostly with Jeff Solomon's bass going in and out. Also, Jeff Whalen had trouble hearing his guitar. Even so, they rocked like always. The only song different from most of the recent shows was Songwriter! from their King Of The School EP. If you haven't seen Tsar, see them soon. You won't be disappointed. (Tsar will be playing at 14 Below on Mar. 7, the Detroit Bar on Mar. 8, and the Liquid Den on Mar. 16).
The Vacation at Spaceland - February 16, 2004This was my first chance to see the much-hyped Vacation live. They certainly had plenty of energy. However, I'm not sure if I've seen another band where I have such mixed feelings on their songs. About half of them, mostly the more subtle ones where they sounded more Strokes-like, I liked quite a bit. But some of the other ones veer into the hard rock/metal area a bit much for my taste. My favorite song of the night was No Hard Feelings, which is also my favorite from their They Were The Sons EP. I can definitely see them having some success and outgrowing clubs this size. It was worthwhile checking them out even though I'm not totally sold on them yet.
Tsar at the Derby - February 10, 2004Mostly the same set list as the show a few nights ago. They substituted Calling All Destroyers and You And Jim Will Hit It Off for MONoSTEReo and the "tripping on acid" song. Again, they rocked. For a Silverlake/Los Feliz crowd, people were really into the show. After Tsar left the stage, they returned to chants of "tsar, tsar, tsar" from the crowd, which is not something that I had heard before. So hopefully this is a good sign that they've got some momentum and good buzz going on as they prepare to release their second album in the spring and try to conquer the world outside of LA.
Dealership at the Detroit Bar - February 9, 2004Since I've only got one of their older albums I didn't know too many of the songs that Dealership played tonight. But this didn't stop this from being an enjoyable show at all. Dealership does the poppy song with girl/boy vocals better than anyone this side of Imperial Teen. Miyuki Jane Pinckard and Chris Groves shared vocals on most of the songs with the drummer joining in from time to time. The Detroit Bar crowd seemed to appreciate the catchy hooks and the occasional hard rocking song even though many of them were probably there for the headliner Satisfaction. The cover of Justin Timberlake's Rock Your Body (complete with breast baring by the drummer) closed out a great first night of six LA/OC shows this week by Dealership.
Tsar at Kozmos - February 6, 2004Tsar proved again why it's one of the best bands around today, especially live. Too bad more people don't know it though. At this hole in the wall Huntington Beach bar, only a handful of people showed up compared to the crowds that turn up for their shows in LA. The small crowd made no difference to the band who ripped through 11 great songs with more energy than some bands show in sold out arenas. They mostly showcased songs from their upcoming album, Band Girls Money. It's hard to pick the best songs of the show because there isn't a bad one in the bunch. My favorite of the new crop of songs is Wrong which will be all over the radio when it's released if there is any justice. Other new ones were Straight, the Creature in Disguise, Everybody's Fault But Mine (not sure if that's the real title), Wanna Get Dead, and The Love Explosion. They mixed in a few great ones from their self-titled debut also, MONoSTEReo and I Don't Wanna Break Up. It doesn't matter if you haven't heard them yet, just go see one of their upcoming shows (Feb. 10 at the Derby, Feb. 23 at the Good Hurt, Mar. 7 at 14 Below).
John Easdale at the Derby - February 5, 2004I can't believe that it had been six years since I'd seen John Easdale live. He didn't disappoint this longtime fan except with the short set of 7 songs which was probably out of his control at this DIY Convention related show. Backed by Mark Englert from Dramarama on guitar and three other band memebers, John got the show off to an amazing start with a great rendition of the Heatmiser-era Elliott Smith song Not Half Right. Halfway through the song, it turned into another song (Easdale-penned or another cover, I'm not sure), and then went smoothly back into the ending of Not Half Right. Other highlights were Rollerskating on Rattlesnakes from John's one solo album and the Dramarama classic Fireplace, Pool, & Air Conditioning. John and the entire band seemed to be enjoying playing live as much as ever which bodes well for the upcoming Dramarama shows.
Los Superelegantes at the Silverlake Lounge - September 25, 2000It seems that each year there's one or two LA bands that I find myself going to see every chance I get. A few years ago there was Longstocking and OtherStarPeople. More recently, Miss Spiritual Tramp of 1948 and Tsar. Add Los Superelegantes to the list. I had seen them twice before and enjoyed them each time, but during the middle of this show I found myself wondering where and when they'd be playing again. Describing the music of Los Superelegantes is not an easy task. They are an octet that plays mostly Spanish type music that rocks, using guitars, drums, and a couple of horns. The vocals are handled by one guy and one girl in back and forth fashion with plenty of emotion. These are almost more soap operas being acted out than songs, mostly done in Spanish, with a bit of English and even some French thrown in. The female singer called their music romantic pop. It is at once romantic, dramatic, sexy, and extremely entertaining.
Elastica at the Roxy - September 21, 2000If there's one thing that Elastica does not lack in their live show, it's energy. Even the songs from their slightly disappointing second album, The Menace, were quite enjoyable tonight. Generator, the best song off the aforementioned album, definitely rocked. The rest of them were a slight lull between the older songs at worst and great compliments to them at best. However, the true highlights were the poppy punk songs off their self-titled debut, including Annie, Line Up, Connection, and Car Song. While this show wasn't quite up to their amazing 1995 Whiskey appearance, it has been quite a while since I've seen a band get a crowd this riled up.
The Bangles at Spaceland - September 1, 2000As a warmup to their upcoming reunion shows, the Bangles played this secret show at Spaceland, thier first live performance in eleven years. They started it off with an energetic but shaky Hazy Shade of Winter. Fortunately, they got in a groove after a few songs and put on a good show for what they called "a public rehearsal". Never a diehard Bangles fan (in fact I don't own any of their albums), I went into the show thinking I'd only know a few radio hits. I was soon reminded of three songs that I had forgotten about; If She Knew What She Wants, In Your Room, and Eternal Flame. Manic Monday and my favorite Bangles song, Hero Takes A Fall, both sounded great. I was surprised that they played megahit Walk Like An Egyptian given the emotional baggage that it supposedly carries (hey, I watch Behind The Music too!). The four of five new songs even sounded quite decent. I have no point of reference as far as Bangles shows go, but they put on a fun, entertaining show and the diehards there gave it a rousing approval so I take it this was a good one.
Tsar at The Liquid Den - July 1, 2000How Tsar ended up playing in a Huntington Beach bar with surfboards hanging as decorations and most people wearing shorts and t-shirts (if not Hawaiian shirts), I'm not quite sure. For a while I wasn't sure if anyone here even knew who Tsar was, but eventually it became clear that they did have a dozen or two fans here. Not the same turnout that a Spaceland show would get, but that didn't stop the guys from rocking. Playing a majority of their debut album, they roared through Calling All Destroyers, MONoSTEReo, and Silver Shifter, eliciting cheers from all in attendance which was great to see. They ended the night with a great rendition of Kathy Fong Is The Bomb, much to the delight of the devoted in the room. With an opening slot for Duran Duran around the corner and the release of their album, it might soon be a memory when you could see Tsar in a little place like this.
Eleni Mandell at Silverlake Lounge - June 20, 2000Apparently there's been a buzz about Eleni Mandell for quite a while, but I have just begun to catch on. Clad in a gown fit for a prom and armed with just an acoustic guitar, Mandell played a ten song set in front of a devoted and supportive throng that packed the small bar. The PJ Harvey comparisons that I had heard are not unwarranted. A few of the slower songs could remind one of Harvey's more subtle moments. The country feel to a few songs also brought Carla Bozulich circa the Geraldine Fibbers days to mind. But enough comparisons. Mandell's songs and her chanteuse singing style proved that she is her own woman. At one point, she tossed an Eleni Mandell t-shirt to someone in the crowd and playfully stated that it would be worth a lot of money in a few years. I had a feeling that in the back of her mind she wasn't kidding around and that she knows exactly where she's headed.
OtherStarPeople at Spaceland - June 17, 2000There must be some type of conspiracy against OtherStarPeople. They've played lots of shows over the last few years to gain a following, released a darn good album, have former members of well known bands, and seem to have good connections and management that gets their music great exposure in movies, tv shows, etc. Yet, the turnout tonight at Spaceland bordered on the pathetic. Maybe because they've played so many shows in LA, people don't feel the need to rush out and see them because they know they'll have another chance. But I still expected to see more people. On top of the small crowd, the band was only allowed to play for about thirty minutes. They wanted to play five more songs near the end but were told that they could only do two, even though they were the headlining band and it wasn't even midnight yet. This is the same club where Beachwood Sparks didn't even hit the stage until almost 1 AM the night before. I just don't get it. Regardless of having everything working against them, the band still put on their usual good show. I just fear that they aren't going to deal with the apathy of the people much longer and that they'll decide to move on to other ventures.
Juliana Hatfield at the Troubadour - June 13, 2000Beginning with 1995's Only Everything, I started falling off the Juliana Hatfield bandwagon just a bit. It's not that the subsequent material has been bad, but it just hasn't done much for me the way that her first few solo albums and the Blake Babies stuff did. Tonight didn't really do too much to change that unfortunately. Hatfield put on a decent show that consisted mostly of by-the-book versions of songs from her simultaneously released latest albums, Beautiful Creature and Total System Failure. After a while it was hard to distinguish one song from the next though. Again, not that they were bad. Just nothing amazing. Somebody Is Waiting For Me was one of the few new songs that did stand out. Hatfield's 1993 hit My Sister ended up getting the biggest reaction, so perhaps I wasn't alone in my feelings. Being a longtime fan, I still have a soft spot in my heart for Hatfield and I have trouble not rooting for her. Perhaps with the Blake Babies regrouping, she will write some songs that bring me back among the most devoted.
Bangs at The Foothill - June 10, 2000Despite being perilously close to Orange County, where indie rock shows go to die, this show was very well-attended. Sure, many were there to see headliners The Makers while others came to see local openers The Fabulous Tuscaderos. Still, it was good that so many got to see the show that Bangs puts on. Roaring through short, explosive new songs like Fast Easy Love and Sweet Revenge and older ones like Tiger Beat, Bangs surely converted some of the uninitiated tonight. Loud, loud guitars and dual vocals from Sarah Utter and Maggie Vail take Bangs shows up to rarely matched decibel levels. Yet, the pop in their songs still comes through. Do yourself a favor and go see a Bangs show. Bring some friends and bring some earplugs.
Elliott Smith at The Palace - June 8, 2000Any thoughts that Elliott Smith, saddled with a reputation as a fragile soul, would back down from a challenge were put to rest tonight at the Palace. First, just four days after the Lakers' big Game 7 win over the Portland Trailblazers, Smith and bassist Sam Coomes both donned Blazers gear (Smith in a Steve Smith t-shirt and Coomes in a Stoudamire jersey) as if to dare the LA crowd to put down their team. And second, Smith proved that he can rock when he wants to. Much like his last tour with the full band, Smith tore through his harder hitting, but still melodic, numbers. Independence Day, Bled White, and Ballad of Big Nothing proved to be as engaging as the acoustic versions from previous shows. Among the highlights from his latest album, Figure 8, were In The Lost and Found and Can't Make a Sound, during which Smith was for the most part accompanied only by piano, allowing his voice to stand out. The second encore, which included acoustic renditions of Say Yes and Between The Bars, was also impressive. Tonight, Smith proved once again that there are many sides to his music.
Sleater-Kinney, Bratmobile at The El Rey - June 7, 2000One of the most pleasant things about Sleater-Kinney's ascent over the last few years is that their live show has not suffered from the move to much more cavernous venues. The energy and intensity were there tonight just as it was when they would play at Jabberjaw and No Life. The fact that they've given themselves consistently good material from which to choose hasn't hurt either. And it was from their latest release, All Hands On The Bad One, that many of tonight's songs were culled. The rocking dual guitar attack from Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein powered Youth Decay and You're No Rock n' Roll Fun, while the more subdued The Ballad of a Ladyman and Milkshake n' Honey were played with the proper subtlety, aided by Janet Weiss' always superb drumming. They also weren't afraid to go back into the vaults and play some songs that newer fans might have found unfamiliar. Little Mouth, from 1996's Call The Doctor, was among the most powerful songs of the entire set. A set that proved that Sleater-Kinney are still on top of their game live as they are on record. I was very curious to see how Bratmobile would be live. I had not seen them during the early days before they took a few years off. But I had seen spinoff band Cold Cold Hearts and had been rather disappointed. This was not the case tonight. While not all their songs really translate to the live setting that well, Allison Wolfe's largely unparalleled confidence on stage and Erin Smith's guitar work made for a good show. I had to reach back deep to remember some of these songs, having not listened to them for quite some time. But they came back quickly as Bratmobile went into ripping renditions of Love Thing, Cool Schmool, and Panik among others from their one full-length album, Pottymouth. Repeated requests for Cherry Bomb ended up being futile, but this crowd seemed to come to the same conclusion that I did. It's good to have Bratmobile back.
Lou Barlow at Spaceland - June 5, 2000When attending a Lou Barlow solo show, especially one as casual as tonight's first of three straight Mondays at Spaceland, you never know exactly what you're going to get. I'm a sucker for Barlow's catchiest of songs but those were few and far between tonight. The show didn't start out with much momentum as Lou played two covers and four or five new songs over the din of the excessively noisy crowd by the bar. He later went into Mechanical Man and a few other songs that even he admitted sounded all alike. The only ones that ended up coming from my list of favorites were Brand New Love, Think (Let Tomorrow Bee), and Free To Go. No Ocean, Rebound, Magnet's Coil, Weird, Flame, or Skull. But the beauty of Barlow's hefty repertoire and varied fan base is that the guy next to me may well have thought that tonight's set was just perfect. With Soul and Fire, Vampire, and Ratt's Round and Round already promised by Lou, next week's show will surely have its own unique feel.
Gene at The Troubadour - June 1, 2000Why did I have this strange feeling that I was at a reunion show of some band that hadn't played for years? I guess the fact that Gene kind of fell off the radar screen the last few years had something to do with it. They haven't played in the US for quite some time and their third album has never been released here. It was no surprise then that the crowd went nuts for the old songs, especially tunes from their debut, Olympian. For The Dead, Sleep Well Tonight, and London Can You Wait were warmly greeted by the fans and were highlights of the show. But the newer material was met with a good deal of indifference except by the regular britpop diehards. This new material also seemed much weaker than the older stuff, which made the show drag much of the time. I could also do without Martin Rossiter's constant prodding of the audience to applaude. If you're good, they'll clap. Tonight Gene showed some flashes but weren't nearly as good as their shows back in 1995. They seemed more like a band on their last legs who brought out the old hits to make the fans happy.
Supergrass at The Viper Room - May 20, 2000I think I missed the memo that Supergrass is the hottest band around these days. Not that I don't think they are worthy, I just didn't realize that they could sell out the Viper Room, the Roxy, and the Troubadour over a four day span, much less appear on the Tonight Show and open for Pearl Jam. But they proved themselves tonight at the packed Viper Room in front of a frenzied crowd. The less manic pace of their third album did nothing to slow down their amazing live performance. Gaz and the boys sprinkled in songs from each of their three albums, with Alright, Strange Ones, and Lenny from their debut I Should Coco being among the best received. But Moving, Jesus Came From Outta Space, and Pumping On Your Stereo also drew approval from the crowd, proving that their fans are ready to follow them in new directions and up the rock 'n' roll ladder.
OtherStarPeople at Spaceland - May 4, 2000While it's good to see OtherStarPeople playing shows around LA again, I had hoped to hear some new songs. None of those showed up, but a new bass player did in place of Junko Ito. Whether this is permanent or not, I don't know. Anyways, OtherStarPeople still put on their customary good show. Their onstage antics and theatrics were a bit toned down from past shows but they still played their hard rocking pop songs with as much zeal as ever. Fortunately the "jelly in the donut" song is still being included in their live set (when will this one be put on a record??) as well as most of the songs from last year's debut album. Here's hoping we'll hear some new ones soon.
Versus, Sissy Bar at Spaceland - April 28, 2000I have a few Versus albums but never really listened to them much. But for the second time in as many shows (the last a few years ago at the Roxy), they blew me away live. I can't even tell you any song titles, but I was told by someone in the know that it was a good mix of songs from their new EP and from their first few albums. Whichever songs they were, Versus delivered them with a fierce melodicism that would impress even the uninitiated. It certainly made me realize that I better go find some of those other Versus albums that I don't own. Opening the show was LA pop stalwart Sissy Bar. Concentrating on songs from last year's Songs For Peeps album, including the classic Smiley (We Become), Sissy Bar delighted the crowd with their poppy tales as always. Their final song, a cover of Snoop Dogg's Gin and Juice, brought down the house. Well, maybe it didn't quite bring down the house but I never tire of hearing their saccharine take of life on the street.
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