Thursday, April 22, 2010

Coachella 2010: the wrap up

The following is a wrap up review I did for a college publication.

Coachella is always a hot ticket, but with the festival selling out before proceedings even got underway, some desperate music fans tried anything to gain admittance. Outside the gates last Friday, one teenage guy was spotted begging local police officers – who he discovered are allowed to purchase a few ducats – for help.

Capacity was expanded to 75,000 people daily, making this year’s event near Palm Springs the largest ever (not to mention more difficult to navigate). Jay-Z, Muse and Gorillaz headlined, alongside more than a hundred others on five stages.

The Icelandic volcano eruption wreaked havoc on European air travel and prompted half a dozen acts to cancel (including Gary Numan, The Cribs with Johnny Marr and a highly anticipated SoCal debut of Bad Lieutenant featuring New Order’s Bernard Sumner).

Having attended nine previous Coachellas, I’ve discovered the best way to experience it is to see as much music as possible – not just the big names. Here’s an overview.


L.A.-based Iglu & Hartly packed the moderate sized Gobi tent with some party minded, danceable rap-rock that grew tiresome quickly. “Believe” and the laid back, Sugar Ray-styled “Whatever We Like” from the band’s 2008 debut And Then Boom, fared best.

Later, in the same tent, Portland’s Hockey immediately got people’s feet moving with several engaging alt-pop songs off 2009’s Mind Chaos. Singer/guitarist Ben Grubin told the crowd he was glad to be back in the area because “we went to college down the road from here,” referring to the University of Redlands. An inflatable bird was hoisted nearby the front of the stage – a perfect symbol for high flying songs like the feisty rhythms in “Song Away” (produced by ex-Talking Head Jerry Harrison on the album), sophisticated “Learn to Lose” and joyous shuffle paced new tune “Rebels Marry Young.”

She & Him took to the Outdoor Theatre stage in late afternoon, a time when inebriation starts to affect attention spans. Despite sound problems and a few intimate retro folk/pop numbers getting lost in the vast expanse, the duo kept the audience’s attention. Augmented by a pair of female backing singers, Zooey Deschanel’s honeyed vocals were marvelous on “I Was Made for You” and “Over It Over Again.” Raspy throated partner M. Ward took the lead on a surprisingly rocking cover of Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven.

Many times, reformed bands sound ragged in concert. Not The Specials, back together for a 30th Anniversary tour with most of the original lineup. Taking the main Coachella stage right around dusk, the influential 2Tone/ska group sounded sharp. Neville Staple worked up a sweat running across the stage and showed off his still potent toasting skills during “Stereotype.” Singing partner in crime Terry Hall was in fine form, especially on “Niteclub,” “Rat Race,” “Concrete Jungle” and “Rudy, A Message to You” (with assistance from the entire band).


It was quite a contrast to go from New Jersey rockers Steel Train and their rambunctious (if not lyrically correct) take on Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” to John Waters doing spoken word. The cult filmmaker was hilarious, riffing in his usual semi-offensive way about jails, gays, Grace Jones and what he’d be like as a magazine or bar owner.

Shooter Jennings and his new band Hierophant just released Black Ribbons. The uneven prog rock concept album features spoken interludes by Stephen King in character as free form radio DJ Will O’ the Wisp. In the desert, Jennings concentrated on the spacey new material, much of which has a 1970s hard rock vibe (“Don’t Feed the Animals”) and recalls Lenny Kravitz. He spent the majority of time playing a Moog synthesizer and jamming (“Lights in the Sky”). After awhile, it became snooze worthy.

The Temper Trap turned in a mesmerizing set on the Outdoor Theatre stage. Fans waved large Australian flags as the Melbourne band channeled the sonic scope of Arcade Fire and singer Dougie Mandagi wrapped his heavenly falsetto around the songs (imagine Anthony Hegarty or Jeff Buckley).

Although the Raveonettes did a stripped down set, one concertgoer took it literally. The apparent Lady Gaga worshipper was practically naked, except for underwear and a strategically painted upper body. As for the Danish noise pop duo, the eerie “Attack of the Ghost Riders,” guitar feedback freak out “Break Up Girls!” and fatalistic “Last Dance” packed the most wallop live.

The xx are fellow minimalists who also have male and female co-vocalists; their self-titled album was one of last year’s most intriguing. But the subdued and haunting alt-rock music didn’t translate well at the Outdoor Theatre. A large, chatty crowd and poor sound mix sure didn’t help matters. Still, the haunting “Shelter” and reverb drenched “VCR” managed to break through. They would have been better off in one of the tents.

Faith No More, ever the jokesters in their 1980s and early ‘90s heyday, opened with a straight cover of hit disco era ballad “Reunited” by Peaches & Herb. Younger members of the audience were surely scratching their heads. The Bay Area band reformed last year after 15 years apart to do the European festival circuit, so they sounded razor sharp on the main stage. Leader Mike Patton - clad in red suit and utilizing a cane as a prop - showed his elastic vocals, which can switch from crooner to crazed mode in a heartbeat, were still very much intact. “From Out of Nowhere” and “Surprise! You’re Dead” raged hard as drummer Mike Bordin pounded on it all furiously. And keyboardist/backing vocalist Roddy Bottum shined on hits like “Epic,” “Midlife Crisis” and “We Care a Lot.” Another tender cover, Michael Jackson’s “Ben,” found Patton roaming the audience and crowd surfing.

Muse are stadium rock kings in Europe, so they had no trouble turning in a stellar performance at Coachella. Starting with “Uprising,” the bombastic, yet riveting set recalled the glory days of Queen. It featured stunning visuals (lasers, animation) and numerous fan favorites (“Supermassive Black Hole,” “Starlight,” “Time is Running Out,” “Knights of Eurasia”). Singer Matt Bellamy, wearing futuristic shades, displayed his mind-blowing guitar prowess at every turn (especially amid “The Star Spangled Banner,” done Hendrix-style). Other highlights included their regular dramatic cover of Anthony Newley’s “Feeling Good” and over-the-top “United States of Eurasia.”

Devo is about to release its first studio album in 20 years. In a fantastic midnight set, several of them were debuted (“Fresh,” “What We Do is What We Do,” “Don’t Shoot Me I’m a Man”). Out in the Mohave tent, they meshed well with the old herky jerky new wave hits from the past (“Whip It,” “Peek-A-Boo”). The band was tight, played in front of humorous cartoons on screens and unveiled their latest matching outfits in the “test marketed” color scheme of blue.


More strong sets came on the final day.

MuteMath mixed unusual time signatures, atmospheric rock textures and soulful vocals, which all worked well live. They concluded by smashing their instruments.

Florence and the Machine, fronted by Florence Welsh - a spitfire who definitely knows how to get a crowd pumped - belted out her dramatic, harp-enhanced tunes and sang a duet with Nathan from Cold War Kids.

Little Boots’ electronic dance music was an effervescent delight, aided by a laser synth that rivaled Muse’s light show.

Sigur Ros’ Jonsi, dressed in military styled garb, enchanted fans with quiet, intricate songs from his latest release Go.

Spoon played taut, workmanlike indie rock in a satisfying performance frontloaded with some of their best known tunes (the jaunty “The Way We Get By,” funky “I Turn My Camera On”).

Thom Yorke was in a looser mood than usual while fronting Atoms for Peace. They did his Eraser solo album in its entirety. While the experimental songs – played with precision by Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, longtime producer Nigel Godrich and others - were interesting, they weren’t nearly as captivating as Radiohead material.

Rogue Wave interview

A version of my story originally appeared in the North County Times. The band plays the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach on Tuesday and the El Rey Theatre in LA on Thursday.

Photo by Lauren Dukoff/courtesy Brushfire Records

Rogue Wave has had its fair share of problems over the past few years.

Drummer/multi-instrumentalist Pat Spurgeon’s kidney transplant and front man Zach Rogue’s neck injury resulting in severe right arm and hand pain were among the problems they faced.

So it wouldn’t be a surprise if Rogue’s material on the solid new album “Permalight” took a more serious turn than usual. Instead, the singer/guitarist started to craft urgent, danceable tunes (“Stars & Stripes,” “You Have Boarded,” the sci-fi story inspired “Good Morning”). The buoyant title track is another key example.

“That was the first thing I wrote. I hadn’t played guitar or written any music in awhile; I was in a really bad place,” admitted Rogue, from a Topeka tour stop.

“I wanted to do something simple, not frivolous, that reminded me of the feeling when I was a little kid and got excited after the Oakland A’s won a game. They’d always play ‘Celebration’ by Kool & the Gang…it’s just a song about being present and thankful to be alive.”

Spurgeon would agree with the latter sentiment.

The subject of “D Tour,” a thought-provoking 2009 documentary produced and directed by longtime friend Jim Granato, Spurgeon shared his personal journey encompassing daily dialysis treatments done on tour, the search for a living donor, receiving an organ transplant from a deceased young man and meeting the parents who gave their permission.

It made the rounds at various American film festivals and was shown on PBS’ “Independent Lens” series (go to for more details).

“Pat’s been able to speak at events and talk with people who have [similar] kidney issues. I think he’s been a real inspiring figure for people who thought their lives were over,” said Rogue.

“When you receive an organ from someone else, there is an [implied] promise: you’re going to do something with your life that’s not self-serving.” The National Kidney Foundation appears at many Rogue Wave shows. The band also talks with different organizations about getting involved and the importance of donor sign ups.

“It’s been great to be part of that and see how Pat’s story has been a comfort to others and helped us process our crazy history.”

Rogue Wave originated as a solo project for Oakland native Zach. After losing his web site development job amid the dot com bust in 2002, the musician went to New York to demo songs. Upon returning to the Bay Area, folk/pop debut “Out of the Shadow” was self-released. Zach recruited band mates to tour and found Spurgeon first via Craigslist.

Sub Pop Records reissued the lo-fi collection in ‘04 and put out follow up “Descended Like Vultures.” A label switch to Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records resulted in the sleeker sound of 2007’s experimental “Asleep at Heaven’s Gate,” featuring minor alt-rock radio hit, “Lake Michigan.” The group had a cameo performing it in the Jennifer Anniston/Aaron Eckhart flick “Love Happens.” The band’s music has been heard in a few dozen soundtracks and TV shows.

For “Permalight,” they teamed with producer Dennis Herring (Modest Mouse, Cracker, Elvis Costello) down in Oxford, Miss., took in the area's rich literary history and hung out at William Faulkner's gravesite on occasions of having "one too many" drinks.

“As Lou Reed said [in the Velvet Underground song “Some Kinda Love”], ‘between thought and expression lies a lifetime.’ I was trying to bridge that gap. Dennis seemed like a good fit” and proved to be very hands on in the studio, playing various instruments and adding background vocals. Rogue welcomed the collaboration.

“That’s always been my policy in our band: ‘if you can do something better than me, please do it. I’m far from an expert.’”

A distinct New Wave vibe envelops several tunes, thanks to retro Casio effects and programming. No surprise there; Zach cites such 1980s era influences as Echo & the Bunnymen, New Order, Depeche Mode and the Cure.

“There’s a lot of really incredible music to draw upon from the ‘80s.”

Just don’t call it a dance album like some ill-informed music critics. “I don’t think it’s that much of a departure for us. We’ve used synthesizers and drum machines on all our records…a few songs have that sensibility, but “Sleepwalker,” “Per Anger” and [ethereal highlight] “Fear Itself” do not. I wanted visceral, physical music; shorter songs and more direct lyrics.”

When Rogue Wave plays the Belly Up, it will be a homecoming of sorts for Zach, who lived on Cedros Ave. in Solana Beach for a couple years. “I’m looking forward to stopping by Pizza Port, for sure.”

Earth Day is this week and like many bands, Rogue Wave strives to help the environment. Besides supporting the 1% For the Planet organization with Brushfire and Johnson, they attempt to eliminate food consumption waste in tour catering, use energy efficient LED lighting and ban plastic bottle usage at shows.

“The most important thing I’ve done is change my eating habits and become a vegetarian,” Zach said.

Coachella 2010: the lineup

Florence + the Machine
My Coachella bio blurbs originally ran last week in Inland Empire Weekly. Although the event has passed, you can still learn about some of the talent below.



Singer Ian McCulloch - once dubbed “Mac the Mouth” by British music scribes due to his constant slagging of such 1980s contemporaries as Bono and Simple Minds’ Jim Kerr – continues to craft crystalline, psychedelic pop tinged tunes alongside inventive guitarist Will Sergeant. Last year’s stellar The Fountain and orchestral performances of 1984 opus Ocean Rain proved the old spark still remains three decades on.


You’ve probably heard the choral sighs of “Two Weeks” in a heavily played TV commercial for Volkswagen (it debuted during the Super Bowl), yet there’s more to these Radiohead and Paul Simon (!)-approved Brooklynites than meets the eye. 2009’s critically acclaimed Veckatimest is a sophisticated, pastoral wonder filled with chamber pop, jazz and folk shadings that unveils more nuances after repeated listens.


Harking back to the Eighties sound and detached stylistic aesthetic of Eurythmics and Heaven 17, La Roux, the British synthpop duo led by young androgynous lady Elly Jackson, has caused quite a commotion across the pond. Their self-titled debut, with sharp songs about sex and betrayal, is tailor made for the dance floor (“Bulletproof” was big in clubs here). Should go down a storm in one of the late evening tent slots.


“I sound like a bag of kittens thrown down the staircase.” That’s how the always self-deprecating John Lydon described one of PiL’s recent UK reunion shows (the first in over 15 years). While the sometimes Sex Pistol’s caterwaul is an acquired taste, there’s no denying the early noise and later dance rock music’s impact on the future Alternative Nation. The current lineup includes guitarist Lu Edmunds (The Damned, Mekons) and drummer Bruce Smith (the Slits); both were with the group for late ‘80s efforts Happy? and 9.


After alt-folkster M. Ward and actress Zooey Deschanel first announced their collaboration, skepticism abounded. The earthy retro charm of 2008’s Volume One proved the naysayers wrong and showed the Hollywood starlet had impressive singer/songwriter chops. The equally charming Volume Two continues in mine a 1960s Brill Building pop/cuuntrypolitan vein.


Although the original incarnation was short-lived, this influential English ska-revival band racked up half a dozen UK top 10 singles (“Ghost Town,” “Gangsters”) during the late 1970s/early ‘80s 2-Tone movement. When ska went mainstream in the ‘90s, a few members briefly reformed and played the Vans Warped Tour. This reunion is the first to feature vocalist Terry Hall. Unfortunately, keyboardist/creative mastermind Jerry Dammers is not along for the ride.


Early on, the fresh scrubbed collegiate rockers dubbed their music Upper West Side Soweto and proceeded to craft an eclectic mélange of Afro-pop, calypso, surf rock and ska tunes on an eponymous ’08 release. Peter Gabriel was name checked on “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”; the ex-Genesis singer ended up covering the tune with Hot Chip. Earlier this year, Contra - with a more expansive sound, literate wordplay, plus Toots & the Maytals and M.I.A. samples, debuted at No. 1.



Break out the flower pot hats and matching hazmat suits: the theory of de-evolution has become a reality and the wacky men of Devo have returned to drill their herky-jerky new wave tunes into your mind again. Back in the early 1980s, “Girl U Want,” “Whip It,” “Freedom of Choice” and others were staples of KROQ’s playlist. Flash forward to the present and Devo is set to release its first studio album since 1990, hot on the heels of a new catalog reissue campaign.


Some people say the band’s rap/rock/funk hybrid paved the way for nu-metal, but that would belittle Faith No More’s unique sound, which encompassed everything from prog-rock and jazz to film soundtracks and sarcastic takes on adult contemporary. Following the bombastic left-field pop hit “Epic” in 1990 and alt-rock chart topper “Midlife Crisis,” elastic singer Mike Patton’s onstage antics increasingly verged on the bizarre until the group’s dissolution in ’98.


From Matt Bellamy’s high falsetto and pitch-shifting guitar solos to the prog rock, classical and metal flourishes on the albums (last year’s The Resistance features the three-part, 13-minute “Exogenesis: Symphony”), everything is huge for this English trio. Past Coachella headliners have brought their big touring productions out to the desert. Let’s hope Muse – whose current rock spectacle encompasses tall translucent platforms resembling hi-rise buildings – does the same.


The Danish duo uses the visceral noise pop of Jesus & Mary Chain and Ramones as benchmarks, but their reverb heavy gems with multi-tracked vocals also bring to mind Sixties girl groups (The Ronettes, Shangri-Las). In and Out of Control is darker than usual, containing songs about rape and suicide.



Lungs is an appropriate album title since flame-haired frontwoman Florence Welch really belts her intense, dramatic vocals out (imagine a young Kate Bush or Tori Amos). The toast of Great Britain , where she snagged a BRIT Award, No. 1 chart placings and hit collaboration with rapper Dizzee Rascal, Florence says she writes her best songs while drunk (that would explain the song about poking someone’s eye out).


In 2007, the well-dressed Crescent City post-rockers became a minor YouTube/MTV sensation, thanks to the hit song and video for “Typical,” which was actually performed backwards. Dense textures and skittering beats abound on current effort Armistice, which contains “Spotlight,” first heard on the Twilight soundtrack. Live, vocalist Paul Meany plays like a man possessed.


During their 1990s heyday, Pavement was the ultimate slacker indie rock band. Onstage, the musicians were often lackadaisical (an infamous performance at the inaugural Coachella in ’99 was basically instrumental). Intriguingly fractured, yet seminal CDs Slanted and Enchanted and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain were marked by Stephen Malkmus’ monotone vocals, cryptic lyrics and a distorted guitar sound inspired by The Fall and Velvet Underground. Now they’re back together after a 10-year absence and a new retrospective, Quarantine the Past.


Traversing through various indie rock terrain for 15 years, Spoon has outlasted most of their ‘90s contemporaries. Unlike previous efforts, where the Austin band incorporated melodic pop and soul elements into their tense sound, Transference utilizes a more stripped down approach. Singer Britt Daniel told NPR that if self producing “meant it was somewhat amateurish, then that was fine. I wanted to live with those bits of humanity.” At Coachella, you’re bound to recognize songs heard in multiple flicks, TV shows and commercials.

Coachella 2010 review coverage: Sunday (overview)

Here are my reviews from the Indio Calif. event, held on April 16-18, that originally appeared in the OC Register. Photo by Kelly Swift, courtesy of the Register

Before this year’s edition of Coachella, the last time I’d heard so much talk about volcanoes was the Mt. St. Helens eruption in 1980. Last week’s Icelandic blast not only caused some acts to cancel their festival appearances due to grounded flights, but it had an impact on many who did perform as well.

The Raveonettes played minus band members left in Scandinavia (no big deal, thanks to their usual minimal approach). More tellingly, the eruption provided behind-the-scenes insight into how all the Coachella pieces fit into place: everything from attire and visuals to the crew and extra musicians are often flown in at the last minute.

Phoenix, for instance, had to go with standard lighting. “We almost didn’t make it here because of the volcano,” vocalist Thomas Mars (pictured, above) told the crowd just after wowing them with “Lisztomania” to open. Their production had to be muted (not a deterrent, since they wound up the sensation of the fest anyway). “Our lighting guy couldn’t make it,” Mars continued, “so we kept it simple. It’s all about the music tonight.”

I had high hopes for my inaugural concert experience with Phoenix and the French electronic rockers’ set at dusk definitely didn’t disappoint. Watching them from behind the soundboard, packed in like sardines among a gargantuan crowd, hardly diminished the experience. The gauzy soundscapes of “Love Like a Sunset Parts I & II” perfectly juxtaposed with the just-darkened night sky only enhanced what was already a significant performance. Phoenix sounded sharp throughout, especially during that pogo-worthy opener (tour drummer Thomas Hedlund was the most animated timekeeper I’d seen all day) as well as the insanely catchy and omnipresent alternative-radio chart-topper “1901.”

English star Little Boots was another one grappling with volcano fallout: with her attire waylaid, she “only had 24 hours to pull together” her still-glitzy cosmic-chic outfit.

Pixieish blonde Victoria Hesketh, who goes by that podiatric professional moniker, was the other new U.K. female electro-pop sensation on Coachella’s bill (La Roux appeared Friday), and she drew a colorful overflow crowd to the Gobi tent. People sported glow necklaces, 3D glasses to make the lasers pop out more, painted faces, animal hats; shirtless gay men danced together like it was the White Party.

Starting with a spooky cabaret dance-styled “Ghosts,” the singer/keyboardist worked the audience like a pro. Tunes from her solid debut Hands were vivacious live, especially the industrial tinged “Meddle” (where Hesketh looped the audience’s chanting and played laser synth) plus the hi-NRG dance-floor fave “Remedy” and the hypnotic “Hearts Collide.”

But Day 3 had other highlights, including the taut indie rock of Austin’s Spoon (pictured, above). The rollicking “The Way We Get By” and slinky “I Turn My Camera On” impressed me early on, but this was one of those hard choices: I had to miss the horn section that appeared later in order to rush over to Phoenix.

MuteMath leader Paul Meany sings “set it on fire” on “The Nerve,” from the group’s latest album Armistice. During an energetic and acrobatic (!) set inside the Mojave tent, the experimental New Orleans alt-rock band’s first appearance at Coachella, MuteMath did just that, playing with fervent intensity. In a live setting, the music’s skittering beats, strident guitars and dense textures really come alive.

The performance was marked by Meany’s soulful vocals and wild moves – at one point, he crowd-surfed, then stood atop his keyboards and did a back-flip off it. The eerie instrumental “Reset” found him playing an electronic guitar that made spacey sounds at the slightest touch. Their robust hit single “Typical” ebbed and flowed perfectly, while “Spotlight” was propelled by an intriguing groove, and a closing percussive jam found everyone banging on something. It culminated with drummer Darren King also crowd-surfing as drums and keyboards were thrown down.

U.K. newcomer Florence & the Machine was a revelation: singer Florence Welch belted out her ultra-dramatic alt-rock tunes (the group’s 2009 debut is aptly titled Lungs) with a confidence you’d normally see from more established vets. Indeed, she brought to mind the power of Siouxsie Sioux and the soulfulness of Alison Moyet.

Overall, I think the increased capacity at Coachella resulted in a less enjoyable experience in 2010, with longer traffic snarls, more food and waste littering the ground than in recent years, and added difficulties getting from the various stages in a timely fashion.

For me, the weekend lineup wasn’t as strong as in the past, and last-minute cancellations due to the Iceland volcano situation (among them Gary Numan, Bad Lieutenant featuring Bernard Sumner of New Order, and the Cribs with Johnny Marr) put a damper on my must-see list. Yet there were still plenty of musical gems to make it worthwhile.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Coachella 2010 review coverage: Day 3 (early)

Photo by Denny Mui

Brooklyn emo rocker Kevin Devine opened the Gobi tent with a rousing set that concentrated on last year’s affecting album Brother’s Blood and 2006’s more streamlined Put Your Ghost to Rest. Here, he was backed by a crack four-piece band as opposed to his frequent solo singer-songwriter gigs. Devine’s tunes ranged from the politically-tinged (“Another Bag of Bones”) to the earnest Dashboard Confessional-esque (“I Could Be with Anyone”), often punctuated with yelping vocals and roars. But the stunner came via closer “Brother’s Blood,” a slow burn rocker that slowly built up to a fiery conclusion a la Neil Young and Crazy Horse.

Coachella 2010 review coverage: Day 1

Photo by Robert Kinsler

Friday’s Coachella performance schedule had plenty of standouts. In the mid-afternoon, it was New York’s As Tall As Lions (pictured above), which packed the Mojave Tent. Opening with “Circles,” from latest album You Can’t Take It With You, the alt-rock band proceeded to amaze with an often experimental sense of Radiohead-style dynamics. Singer/guitarist/keyboardist Dan Nigro’s expressive gestures and falsetto wails, paired with lead guitarist Saen Fitzgerald’s crystalline effects a la The Edge on “In Case of Rapture,” “The Narrows” and the title track, equalled one truly compelling set.

Austin DJ Wolfgang Gartner held court while a large swath of electronic music enthusiasts danced up a storm at the Sahara Tent. His set concluded with the La Roux remix “In For the Kill.”

Soon after, La Roux – an acclaimed British synth-pop duo led by young female vocalist Elly Jackson – drew an overflow evening capacity crowd to the Gobi Tent. It was difficult to get a consistently clear view due to about a dozen rude female fans who stood on their boyfriends’ shoulders (personally, I wish people could be ejected from any Coachella stage for doing so). La Roux – augmented by two keyboardists and a percussionist – started with a vibrant “Quicksand” from their self-titled debut and performed in front of what looked like tropical fruit shaped balloons. Clad in a white jacket, black outfit and sporting her trademark upswept red hair, the androgynous Jackson and company went down a storm.

Still, she often came off detached live, with a thin voice and sang with back turned to the crowd or facing the floor. Recalling the ’80s sound of Erasure and Depeche Mode with the stylistic aesthetic of Annie Lennox, La Roux’s slower ballads (“As If By Magic”) were overwhelmed by the programming. “I’m not a big fan of covers; this is my favorite Rolling Stones song,” she said, before doing a haunting electronic version without changing the gender in the lyrics. The crowd went bonkers for the dance hit “In For the Kill” (one obviously inebriated guy decided to jump on a pole supporting a tent entrance and swing like a monkey – talk about dangerous!) and alluring “Fascination.”

Although its heavy competition was Jay-Z on the main stage, John Lydon and Public Image Ltd. drew a bigger-than-expected audience at the Outdoor Theatre. Going onstage late, at 11:35 p.m., due to some technical difficulties (the lighted band logo backdrop precariously swayed with the winds and Lydon complained about the sound), they performed until around 1 a.m. The former Johnny Rotten/sometime Sex Pistol was in fine snarky and caterwauling form throughout. The dancey “This is Not a Love Song” kicked things off and worked well without horns. Lydon – in only his second U.S. performance in over 15 years – had a lyric stand as a safeguard, but rarely seemed to use it.

PiL proceeded to do a tight, riveting set that focused on searing late ’70s/early ’80s material like “Poptones,” “Death Disco” (a young female concertgoer behind me exclaimed “wow” when it was over) and “Flowers of Romance.” Guitarist Lu Edmonds unleashed chilling shards of punkish sound at every turn as the taut rhythm section kept the funky undertow. Those who stayed until the wee hours were rewarded with fiery takes on “Public Image,” “Rise” and the electronic rock of “Open Up,“ Lydon’s hit 1990s Leftfield collaboration.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Music news

[Check out the press release below. I'm a big Ed Harcourt fan and really looking forward to the new music. I put his 2001 album in my top 10 year-ender and still stand by it]

LOS ANGELES, April 6, 2010 -A dazzling statement of intent and rejuvenation, Ed Harcourt's fifth studio LP, Lustre, will be released June 15 on Nice Music Group/Piano Wolf Recordings. Never easily assigned an identifiable niche, Harcourt merely does what he always has: creates music to capture a moment in time. His time.

"It's an album about action, life, the lustre that you have in your eyes when you feel you're living for something," Harcourt reveals. "If my last album was weighed-down, like an anchor, this one is a buoy" he adds.

Lustre follows Harcourt's critically acclaimed LP, The Beautiful Lie, originally recorded and released overseas four years ago, and finally released stateside in 2008.

For his newest effort, Harcourt retreated to Bear Creek Studios, a cabin-like establishment nestled in the forest north of Seattle, to capture this newfound inspiration. Bookended by the angelic voices of the Langley Sisters, the resulting collection is an energizing marriage of restless invention and classic pop smarts, of insight and hooks. Harcourt's wit and effortless artistry beam once again, with a hint of whimsical that peeks out every then and again.

Harcourt entered the public eye with his 2001 debut Here Be Monsters, which earned him an esteemed Mercury Prize nomination and announced him as a singer, songwriter and musician of rare talent.

That eye-opening introduction was followed by 2003's diverse and ambitious From Every Sphere, 2004's shadowy and romantic Strangers and 2008's sometimes euphoric, sometimes anguished The Beautiful Lie.

In addition to his own impressive oeuvre, Harcourt has worked with many of the biggest and best names in music (Patti Smith, Mark Linkous, Tom Jones), and has toured the globe, performing alongside a diverse array of artists such as REM, Wilco, Norah Jones, Beth Orton, Snow Patrol, The Gutter Twins, Supergrass, and Feist.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Buzzcocks news

Some cool news for Buzzcocks fans in the press release I received below. I look forward to hearing the classic reissues and seeing the punk vets on the current tour.

Buzzcocks announce a massive tour of North America!

The tour sees the godfathers of punk pop – Pete Shelley, Steve Diggle, Danny Farrant and Chris Remington - hit cities in the US and Canada (dates below).

Of their recent live date in San Jose CA, the San Jose Mercury News writes “Without a doubt, the best dose of punk rock I’ve seen in a long time. Pete Shelley sounded terrific and Steve Diggle, for my money, remains the genre’s finest guitar hero. Let’s hope the band makes another trip to the Bay Area soon. If they do, dear punk rock fans, don’t miss it.”

There are hardly any bands performing today that genuinely deserve the adjective ‘legendary’. Buzzcocks are one of those very few. Their achievements are staggering: one of the original holy trinity of British punk (with the Sex Pistols and the Clash), innovators of the independent record scene and genuine punk rock superstars who have been cited as inspirational by bands as diverse as R.E.M., Nirvana and Green Day.

Eight studio albums, over twenty singles and EPs, a constellation of compilations, covers by other bands and songs on film soundtracks and advertisements have put Buzzcocks among the top echelons of British recording artists. A Mojo Inspiration Award in 2006 is just one of the many accolades they have received for their work.

Buzzcocks have been thrilling audiences for over thirty years. Once called ‘the Beatles of punk’, their music blends high-octane guitar, bass and drum power with heartrending personal statements of love won and lost or dismay at the modern world to create a unique catalogue of unforgettable and immortal music – music they continue to deliver to fans old and new around the world with undiminished passion and energy.

Buzzcocks recently reissued three of their classic albums through Mute Records; “Another Music In A Different Kitchen,” “Love Bites,” and “A Different Kind Of Tension.” Featuring the original albums from 1978/9 plus previously unreleased tracks, Peel sessions, associated singles, demos, backing tracks, live versions, and much more – the albums are an essential part of any true punk music fan’s collection.


(go to for more in the U.S.)

Saturday, June 5, 2010 Los Angeles, CA Club Nokia at L.A. Live
Sunday, June 06, 2010 Anaheim, CA House Of Blues
Monday, June 7, 2010 San Diego, CA House of Blues


I've been seeing minor changes in ticket purchasing policies since the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger was approved. Not all of them are good. Today, for instance, while checking the availability of a concert, I just noticed that TM is charging $5 for having your tickets sent via standard mail - a service that used to be free.

The TicketFast printout from home is now free. I hate the latter option, not only because I like to have a hard ticket as a memento of a show, but due to the fact that the printouts are easy to lose, misplace and are succeptible to counterfeiting.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

David Byrne & Fatboy Slim album review

David Byrne & Fatboy Slim
Here Lies Love

The prospect of a song cycle about Imelda Marcos, controversial former First Lady of The Philippines, might lead to the assumption that Here Lies Love is another obscure music excursion from David Byrne. Yet this eclectic 22-track collection is very accessible.

Starting in 2004, the former Talking Heads leader researched Marcos’ life, traveled to Manila and approached Fatboy Slim about doing a collaboration. The pair worked on it sporadically between other projects. Concentrating on club oriented music - Marcos was a regular at NYC’s famed Studio 54 and built a mirror ball-lighted dance floor in her New York townhouse - Byrne incorporated Marcos’ interview quotes into several lyrics.

Then he rounded up an impressive crop of female guest artists to sing from her’s and childhood nanny Estrella Cumpas’ perspectives, including Tori Amos, Cyndi Lauper, Sharon Jones, St. Vincent, Allison Moorer and the leaders of Florence & the Machine and My Brightest Diamond. Steve Earle and Byrne provide the occasional male viewpoint of Marcos’ late husband/dictator Ferdinand.

The results are varied, infectious and often sound like they could’ve come from Byrne’s world music label Luaka Bop.

Top picks to click: Kate Pierson’s “The Whole Man” (as giddy as something off a B-52s album), Natalie Mechant’s serious minded theatrical meditation “Order 1081,” Santigold’s percolating “Please Don’t” (probably the first time Nixon, Castro, Reagan and Qaddafi have been mentioned together in song), Nellie McKay’s Latin-tinged “How Are You,” Martha Wainwright’s idyllic “Rose of Tacloban,” Sia’s samba-led “Never Too Big,” Earle’s militant shuffle “A Perfect Hand” and Byrne, whose slinky “American Troglodyte” is driven by a Giorgio Moroder inspired synth and contains these lines: “Americans are surfin’ that Internet/Americans are listenin’ to 50 Cent.”