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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Foo Fighters doc coming to DVD/Blu-ray

"Foo Fighters: Back and Forth," the feature length Foo Fighters documentary directed by Academy Award winner James Moll, will have an exclusive iTunes digital release June 7, followed by a June 14 release on DVD. The Blu-ray version will be released exclusively through Best Buy that day and at all retailers starting July 12.  The DVD and Blu-ray features 35 minutes of extras including additional interviews and
deleted scenes.

From Dave Grohl's cassette demos that became Foo Fighters' self-titled 1995 debut to the latest #1 album Wasting Light, "Back and Forth," chronicles every triumph and tragedy along the band's path to becoming one of the biggest bands around.

In-depth interviews with Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, Nate Mendel, Chris Shiflett and Pat Smear take the viewer through the making of the double-platinum The Colour & The Shape, the back to back Best Rock Album Grammy winners There Is Nothing Left To Lose and One By One, the double album opus In Your Honor, the multiple Grammy winning Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, a record-breaking 170,000-plus-attended two-night headline run at Wembley Stadium, and the Foos' subsequent return to Grohl's garage for the analog-only sessions
with producer Butch Vig that yielded Wasting Light.

For further information, go to foofighters.com or spitfirepictures.com

Next McCartney reissues due in June

McCartney and McCartney II (Concord Music Group) will be the next releases in the Paul McCartney Archive Collection on June 14. Heralded as one of the most beloved solo debuts of all time, McCartney, the # 1 album, originally released in 1970, yielded the tracks "Every Night" and "Junk" along with the classic "Maybe I'm Amazed." McCartney II originally issued in 1980, was McCartney's return to solo work after nine years touring and having released several successful albums with Wings. Reaching #1 in the UK, and #3 in the U.S., the album produced another classic in "Coming Up." 

Paul McCartney personally supervised all aspects of these reissues. The remastering work was done at Abbey Road, using the same team who recently remastered the complete Beatles' catalogue. Both McCartney and McCartney II will be available in a variety of formats.

McCartney will be made available as a 2-disc (2 CD) Special Edition featuring the original remastered album plus seven bonus audio tracks including the previously unreleased outtakes "Suicide" and "Don't Cry Baby" plus a rare live 1979 recording of "Maybe I'm Amazed." 

For collectors, the reissue will also be made available as a lavishly packaged 3 disc (2 CD, 1 DVD) Deluxe Edition which includes an exclusive bonus DVD featuring rare and previously unseen footage, an extraordinary 128-page hard bound book containing many exclusive and unpublished photos by Paul and Linda McCartney, original album artwork, downloadable hi-res audio versions of the remastered album and bonus audio tracks, an illustrated history of the making of the album, and expanded track by track information for the two audio discs as well as detailed historical information on the film content.

McCartney II will also be made available as a 2-disc  (2 CD) Special Edition featuring the original remastered album plus eight bonus tracks including B-Sides and alternative versions.  The bonus audio CD includes the #1 hit "Coming Up (Live At Glasgow, 1979)" and holiday perennial "Wonderful Christmastime."

The lavishly packaged 4 disc (3 CD, 1 DVD) Deluxe Edition of McCartney II not only includes an exclusive bonus DVD featuring rare and previously unseen footage (including performances of 'Coming Up' and the new video for the unreleased track 'Blue Sway') but includes an additional eight rare bonus audio tracks exclusive to this edition. Additionally, the McCartney II deluxe edition contains an extraordinary 128-page hard bound book featuring many previously unpublished photos by Linda McCartney, original album and single artwork, downloadable hi-res audio versions of the remastered album, an illustrated history of the making of the album, and expanded track by track information for all three audio discs plus detailed historical information on the film content.

Both original remastered albums and bonus audio content will also be issued as 2 disc 180gm audiophile vinyl editions which will come with an MP3 download of all included audio. Lastly, the special and deluxe versions of McCartney and McCartney II will be made available digitally worldwide.

McCartney & McCartney II mark the second and third releases from the Paul McCartney Archive Collection. Last November, the inaugural title, Paul McCartney & Wings' 1973 album Band on the Run was released to worldwide acclaim.


Coachella Festival 2011 photos

Here are some photos I took at the Coachella Festival 2011 with the Sony Bloggie Touch MHS-TS10...
Don Letts of Big Audio Dynamite (Mick Jones in the background)

Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran during "A View to a Kill"

Le Bon, earlier in the Duran Duran set


London Suede
The ReelMobile art installation (main stage in the background)


Candelaphytes art installation (balloon chain in the background)



Coachella comes alive at night
Another view of the Ferris Wheel








Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Coachella Festival 2011 review: Day 3

A different version of my review originally appeared in the Register newspaper and can be viewed at: ocregister.com/entertainment

IMG_0685Despite heavy hitters like The Strokes and PJ Harvey, a laid back vibe enveloped Coachella: Day 3, when people seemed to trickle in the gates more slowly. Maybe everyone was just spent from witnessing Saturday’s countless musical treasures until the wee hours.

There were also fewer “must see” acts and time slot debates. I did leave an absolutely splendid The National for Duran Duran’s entertaining ‘80s dance-pop hits - a tough, but not regrettable choice.

That provided ample time to roam about and encounter oddly attired festivalgoers. Spotted dancing to the effervescent alt-pop of Jack’s Mannequin was a teenage girl wearing sunglasses, a police hat, skimpy bikini and top (plus mini handcuffs and badge). Written in marker on her backside was "booty patrol" and "my body, my choice."

2:35 p.m. Speaking of Jack's Mannequin, energetic leader Andrew McMahon was in top form, alternately standing and sitting while pounding on his piano with a vengeance. He said he didn't expect so many people to turn up to watch his early slot of the main Outdoor Theatre stage. Those that did were treated to supple singing on "Spinning," "Bruised," "Dark Blue," "La La Lie," plus new tune "Racing Thoughts," which could appear on the band's next album due later this year.  

3:45 p.m. Dallas Green, who performs under the name City and Colour, drew a big mid-afternoon crowd with his live group to the Outdoor Theatre stage. A successful singer/songwriter back home in Canada, where he has won a Juno Award and plays guitar for post-hardcore outfit Alexisonfire, Green releases third studio album Little Hell in June on Vagrant Records.

Possessing a hushed, fragile voice, Green ably battled booming bass sounds emanating across the field from rapper Wiz Khalifa during a short solo acoustic segment that included the harmonica-fueled “Body in a Box” and gentle new single, “O, Sister.”

Once the full band returned, it was time for some folk-tinged classic rock. Some slow burn guitar work on “Sam Malone” channeled early Neil Young & Crazy Horse. Appropriately enough, Green has recorded his fellow countryman’s “Cowgirl in the Sand,” took part in a Young tribute at last month’s Junos and had 2008’s Bring Me Your Love compared to the rock 'n' roll veteran’s classic Harvest. But the set's standout was “As Much As I Ever Could,” which featured Green’s soulful vocals, pristine group harmonies and guitar feedback. Reminded me of when I saw My Morning Jacket at Coachella ’08.  

4:50 p.m. Jimmy Eat World has been around for nearly 20 years, so I was surprised to hear singer Jim Adkins announce this was the Arizona group's maiden Coachella appearance. The guys never disappoint live with a workmanlike style of emo-rock. On the Outdoor Theatre stage, fans were treated to several top 10 modern rock radio hits (the sharp riffage of "My Best Theory," pummeling drums in "Big Casino," "Pain," "Work," not to mention "The Middle" and "Sweetness" from 2001 classic Bleed American.  

6:05 p.m. L.A.-based garage rock darling Best Coast barreled through more than a dozen endearing lo-fi tunes on the same stage. A toast of the Pitchfork cognoscenti, the band’s first full-length Crazy for You entered in the top 40 of the Billboard 200 chart. Leader Bethany Cosentino has a laconic vocal style akin to Courtney Love and writes short, simple songs, where her guitar playing is drenched in reverb and distortion, often like Jesus & Mary Chain or Raveonettes.  

At Coachella, she launched with “Bratty B.” On other selections, such as “Goodbye,” “I Want To” and the album’s title track, she made a beautiful noise alongside music partner Bobb Bruner and drummer Ali Koehler. Newer songs “Gone Again” and “When You Wake Up” were equally good. Before doing the crowd pleasing “Boyfriend,” she related the story of how she attended the festival as a fan at ages 18-19 and “now at age 24, I’m playing here. So anyone out there with a dream, keep working on it.” 

The National, Coachella 2011
7:23 p.m. Taking the Outdoor Theatre stage around sunset, The National came equipped with a two-man horn section and mesmerizing special visual effects on the screens to match their music. The wind started to kick up, which caused minor wavering sound glitches, but nothing too detrimental. Crowd surfing commenced with opener "Bloodbuzz, Ohio," from 2010's High Violet and Matt Berninger sang with his eyes closed. At times, his deep baritone and the band's moody vibe brought to mind Leonard Cohen at the same location, around the same time on Day 1 of Coachella '09.

The band definitely knows how to conjure up a sense of mystique live, as evidenced by "Anyone's Ghost," "Slow Show," "Afraid of Everyone," "Conversation 16" and the intense, percussion-heavy "Squalor Victoria."

7:50 p.m. Since I'm a diehard Duran Duran fan going back to the early '80s, I was carefully keeping an eye on the screens over at the main stage to see and try to hear what was going on there and decide when to tear myself away from The National.

I'd read Scissor Sisters' Ana Matronic was going to reprise her guest vocal on "Safe (In the Heat of the Moment)" from Duran's stellar new album All You Need is Now at some point.

As soon as I saw her visage, I literally raced across the field to catch the end of that song and revel in the remainder of the influential synth-pop band's strong set, which featured "The Chauffer" (driven by keyboardist Nick Rhodes' eerie sonic bed), string section-enhanced "Ordinary World," vibrant "Rio," ultra-dramatic "A View to Kill" (prefaced, as on the past several tours, by an orchestral James Bond Theme instrumental) and snappy closer "Girls on Film," which segued into Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" - not the entire song, as many reviews have stated.

Day-glo animated visuals on the big screens during the discofied "Girl Panic!" and elsewhere added to the whole joyous experience. Racy, R-rated clips from the old, once banned music video to "The Chauffer" probably surprised those who had limited knowledge of Duran's history though.

Below is some live footage of the band I shot with the Sony Bloggie:   






video

9:09 p.m. The Strokes performed in front of a bright LED backdrop on the main stage, while dimly lighted. The New Yorkers just put out First Impressions on Earth, their first studio effort in five years which reached the top 5 on the Billboard 200 chart. The jittery, shambolic garage rock went down well in the high profile slot. Everyone was dancing around on the field to the jaunty "I Can't Win," alt-rock hits "Hard to Explain" and "Someday" and new tunes like "You're So Right," "Games" and appealingly upbeat single "Undercover of Darkness," which were also well received.  

10:20 p.m. An inspiring message similar to Best Coast also emerged during Neon Trees’ high energy late evening set in the Gobi tent. Front man Tyler Glenn said the Utah-via-Murrieta, Calif. band had passed out demo CDs at Coachella ’06. “We were nobodies then; now here we are.” The stage was running late, but the group still managed to draw an impressive audience against PJ Harvey and Kanye West elsewhere.

They initially battled sound problems that were eventually rectified during adrenaline-fueled opener “Sins of My Youth.” The musicians were dressed just as glamorously as their vibrant alt-dance music.

Glenn sported a spiky synthetic yellowy white Mohawk applied to his own usual thin strip of hair (I actually thought it was real until the singer remarked, "This weave is killing me"); guitarist Chris Allen had a regal white jacket with assorted feathers attached to the shoulder; drummer/backing vocalist Elaine Bradley looked like Ziggy Stardust (my colleague noted how she was always in the rhythmic pocket); bassist Branden Campbell wore star glasses and a skeleton shirt.  

Several teenager girls packed against the front stage area and screamed their lungs out as Glenn darted around and leaned over them to sing. Overall, the performance was almost as good as when I saw them at the Glass House last year.

A few new songs were unveiled, chiefly a poignant one which was dedicated to kids bullied in schools. Highlights included the infectious new wave-ish “1983,” searing, danceable rocker “In the Next Room,” "Girls & Boys in School,” where jumping around was a given, and the supercharged No. 1 alternative radio hit, “Animal.”

Duran Duran photos by Laurie Fanelli, http://www.flickr.com/photos/lauriefan/
The National and Empire Polo Field photos by Chris Thacker via alternapop.com

Coachella Festival 2011 review: Day 2

A different version of my review originally appeared in the Register newspaper and can be viewed at: ocregister.com/entertainment

The temperature heated up and so did the lineup at Saturday’s Coachella Festival, where there was no shortage of memorable moments. Heading into the Empire Polo Grounds in the early afternoon, I knew there would be difficult choices to make come evening due to conflicting sets (missing Scissor Sisters, for example, who overlapped with Arcade Fire). Yet I still caught excellent turns by several performers.

3:17 p.m. Oxford, England's experimental alt-rockers Foals played to a capacity crowd in the Mojave tent. I was pleased that event organizers reconfigured the side openings so more people could watch from outside. "Blue Blood" led into the highly rhythmic groove of "Olympic Airways," with Jimmy Smith's clarion call guitar effects leading the way. Shaggy haired and bearded lead singer Yannis Phippakis said "Miami" was about a "bad beach experience" before the band jammed away.

4:05 p.m. Southern California's Delta Spirit (pictured, left) was the definition of laid back at the Outdoor Theatre. Members of My Morning Jacket assisted on last year's History From Below.

The hazy alt-country, blues and rock tunes provided an appropriate soundtrack for relaxing on the expansive Empire Polo grass in the blazing sun. Lead singer Matthew Vasquez bounded across the stage to start "Bushwick Blues," where he and the other two guitarists bashed away at their instruments. Later, Vasquez did some brief crowd surfing. The audience dutifully clapped along to the droning, percussion heavy "White Table" and an acoustic guitar intro led into a drone and maelstrom finish during "Ransom Man."    

5:50 p.m. Back inside the Mojave, Jenny and Johnny (Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley; her singer/songwriter beau, Johnathan Rice, pictured) impressed with their frequently acerbic country-inflected pop-rock from last year’s I’m Having Fun Now. Opening with the driving “Committed,” Lewis’ honeyed pipes and Rice’s brash delivery meshed equally well live as on the album.

Throughout the set, they effortlessly traded off verses, bringing to mind other popular male/female music couples like John Doe and Exene Cervenka or even George Jones and Tammy Wynette. “Just Like Zeus,” about Hollywood bar Jumbo’s Clown Room, was insanely catchy. The upbeat, slide guitar-enhanced “Big Wave” had a summery vibe, grand acoustic guitar ballad “Switchblade” could’ve easily come from a classic movie soundtrack, while the alluring “Slavedriver” felt like something from the Sixties. The pair even delved into their most recent solo albums: Lewis’ did “Carpetbaggers” and Rice’s rootsy, humorous “We’re All Stuck Out in the Desert” definitely fit the occasion well.

7:05 p.m. Elbow, also at the Mojave, mesmerized a largely enthusiastic crowd with its atmospheric alt-rock and progressive-leaning music. Over the past decade, the Manchester, England band has forged a reputation for crafting gorgeous and intriguing tunes with magnificent peaks and valleys. 2008’s Seldom Seen Kid nabbed the esteemed Mercury Music Prize. New effort Build a Rocket Boys! downplays the orchestration, but is still enthralling.

Coachella 2011, Elbow

Making its first SoCal appearance in many years, Elbow brought along two female violinists (sure beats triggering the sounds on keyboards; at least these guys can afford it) to sweeten Seldom selection “On a Day Like This” and a couple others.

Launching with the epic, haunting grandeur of “The Birds,” emotional vocals from Guy Garvey (pictured)  were a wonder to behold, especially amid the quiet, organ-led “Lippy Kids” - about restless teenagers - and the dismissive, mournful-sounding “Station Approach.” Elsewhere, the swampy blues of “Grounds for Divorce” was simply riveting as the front man banged on drums and urged crowd participation. 

7:55 p.m. While leaving Mojave, my ears were immediately drawn to the smaller adjacent Gobi tent, where Austin-based alternative/glam rockers Electric Touch made a return appearance at Coachella. British singer Shane Lawler possessed an undeniable swagger and vulnerability like New Yorker Jesse Malin. Their scrappy take on The Beatles' "Come Together" and piano-led power ballads "Saved" and "Alone" were standouts. The major label follow up to their promising 2008 indie release was produced by Howard Benson and tentatively due out this summer. Can't wait to hear it.   

9:06 p.m. There are usually a few noteworthy band reunions at Coachella and the ‘11 edition was no exception. Big Audio Dynamite, the innovation and influential group formed by ex-Clash man Mick Jones in the mid-1980s, deftly mixed rock, dance beats, sampling, rap and more into one heady sonic brew. They enjoyed minor success on college/modern rock radio (not to mention dance clubs) and finally hit commercial pay dirt here with 1991’s The Globe.

Dormant for 14 years, B.A.D. put out a superb deluxe 25th anniversary reissue of 1985 bow This is Big Audio Dynamite in 2010 and recently returned with the “classic” lineup: Don Letts (samples/vocals), Leo Williams (bass), Don Donovan (keyboards) and Greg Roberts (drums). No stranger to Coachella, Jones performed with Gorillaz last year and his other band Carbon/Silicon prior to that.

Before the fun and highly entertaining set began with jungle sounds as an intro to “Medicine Show,” one guy standing behind me was overhead telling someone, “This is the closest to the Clash you can get.” B.A.D. focused on the early albums and did full extended versions.

Jones, clad in dressy attire, served as the cordial host, tossing off bon mots before nearly every song. He shared an interest in jack rabbits and said the low-key dub tune “A Party,” with Letts taking the first of many opportunities to show off his sharp toasting skills, was possibly about Gen. Mohammar Gaddafi. The crowd didn’t hesitate to dance around, particularly on the poppy “V. Thirteen,” “E=MC2” (Roberts played crashing drums and continually tried to pump up the crowd) and infectious “Battle of All Saints Road.” Among the high points were “The Bottom Line” and hit single “Rush.” Here the latter was more raucous and Jones got another  opportunity to show off his dexterity on electric guitar.

Suede (Brett Anderson) _LS06763xr
10:45 p.m. Known for sexually-charged, Bowie-inspired glam rock, The London Suede was among the most popular Britpop acts of the ‘90s (though, like Pulp, it found commercial success elusive in America), reformed earlier this year. They have a new career retrospective available now. Coachella marked London Suede's first live appearance in the States since 1997. A still lithe Brett Anderson (pictured, left) was a firebrand on the Mojave stage and hasn’t lost one shred of charisma or vocal prowess in the intervening years.

Throughout the modesty attended set, he strutted, jumped and vigorously shook his body all around and gave the 'ol dramatic falsetto a good workout. Content to let the music do all the talking, Anderson and company - minus bassist Mat Osman, who had visa problems and couldn't make it across the pond; usual keyboardist Neil Codling took his place - were extremely sharp.

They began with a slammin’ “She” and along with Richard Oakes’ frequent guitar flanging, piled through one sassy rocker after another (“Animal Nitrate,” “Film Star,” “The Drowners,” “Killing of a Flash Boy,” ‘Can’t Get Enough”), but also did exquisite ballads (“The Beautiful Ones,” “Asphalt World”). By the end, London Suede went down a storm and provided one of Coachella’s overall best performances.

Delta Spirit, Jenny and Johnny, Coachella ferris wheel photos by Laurie Fanelli, flickr.com/photos/lauriefan/
Elbow photo by Chris Thacker via alternapop.com
London Suede photo by Lindsey Best, lindseybest.com

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Coachella Festival 2011 review: Day 1

A different version of my review originally appeared in the Register newspaper and can be viewed at: ocregister.com/entertainment

I managed to catch full or partial sets by 32 of the 150+ musicians and DJs appearing at this year's Coachella Festival (my 10th since its 1999 inception), held at the Empire Polo Grounds in Indio, Calif. Here is my rundown from April 15:

Once the gates opened around 11:30 a.m. and I walked around the festival grounds to get a bead on the various changes (added acreage, fresh art installations, another stage, tweaked stage dimensions), it was time to dive head first into the music.

12:20 p.m. Los Angeles-based R&B act Miguel - a songwriter with credits including Usher, Mary J. Blige, Musiq and others - opened the proceedings at the Mojave tent stage. I didn’t arrive until the tail end of his set, when the smooth, romantic tune “Teach Me” segued into an extended cover of Prince’s “Little Red Corvette.”

While watching Miguel from outside the tent, I saw some interesting attire choices among festivalgoers passing by. A young guy sported a lion costume that surely got sweaty as the temperature increased and a gal wore a shear covering over little more than a small bra and panties.

1 p.m. DJ Metaphase spun hard techno in the Oasis dome for a dozen or so people gingerly dancing around.

The food court adjacent to it included the Pie for the People booth, where an odd menu selection was a slice of “David Bowie Pepperoni.” Wonder if the Thin White Duke should get a cut of the food proceeds?

1:15 p.m. Comprised by keyboardist Adam Anderson and sharply dressed singer Theo Hutchcraft, Hurts held court in the Mojave with a captivating mix of new wave and goth sounds. Sporting slicked back hair, Hutchcraft had an appealingly emotive vocal style reminiscent of Take That’s Gary Barlow (not a slight). Live, the group is expanded to include a drummer and a male operatic backing singer in a tuxedo who stood completely still. The Manchester, UK synth-pop duo definitely impressed with the percolating, Depeche Mode-styled “Better Than Love,” the danceable “Illuminated” and scintillating textures of “Stay” from last year’s debut, Happiness.

1:45 p.m. Across the way in the mercifully air conditioned Musicians Institute Live! tent, Hawaian female singer-songwriter Ipo Pharr did a short acoustic set of pleasant pop tunes from her A Sweet Heart EP. While exiting the tent, I saw a thirtysomething woman in a multi-colored taffeta ballerina outfit.

2:43 p.m. There was quite an afternoon groove session happening at the Outdoor Theatre stage, courtesy of Sacramento indie dance rockers !!! Nic Offer (pictured, left) did more wild shimmying a la Mick Jagger than actual singing, but the band's electronic touches really got the crowd riled up. One fan played right along with an inflatable air guitar.  

3:05 p.m. Back in the Mojave, Philly darkwave/noise rock band Cold Cave bore traces of The Bravery and Sonic Youth. Lanky front man Wesley Eisold, clad in dark sunglasses and a long-sleeved black sweater, had a nasal singing style that sometimes veered into anguished Peter Murphy territory. A gloomy “Underworld USA,” from new effort Cherish the Light Years, was among the tunes with prominent assistance by keyboardist/guitarist/backing vocalist Jennifer Clavin and stood out from the pack.  

4:10 p.m. The Drums drew a good-sized crowd in the Mojave tent. Extremely popular in England, the young New York City indie pop band’s enticing 2010 self-titled debut has sold 60,000 copies there. Singer Jonny Pierce previously was in the New Romantic-leaning group Elkland that put out a major label release and toured with Erasure in ‘05.

Coming off like a wonderful cross between The Smiths and Vampire Weekend, with a little Ocean Blue mixed in, the four piece proved to be a frothy delight. Onstage, Pierce had a ultra-dramatic delivery akin to Morrissey, with frequent falsetto vocals, yelps, exaggerated gestures and posturing. He worked up quite a sweat too: at one point noting, “I think I might pass out after that.”

The giddy “Me and the Moon,” where people dutifully bopped along, the whistling-accented “Let’s Go Surfing (led by guitarist Jacob Graham’s tasty surf licks), infectious New Order-esque “Best Friend” and the careening synths amid “I Need Fun in My Life” were among the many standouts.

4:53 p.m. The Morning Benders probably nabbed the day’s award for most inventive happenings onstage. The Brooklyn-based, indie chamber popsters had two artists painting on the both sides of the stage. Unfortunately, I only caught the tail end of the Chu Brothers' set at the Gobi tent. Guitarist Chris passed out dozens of shakers for audience participation on the sway-worthy “Excuses” from latest album Big Echo. Peppered with cascading, doo wop singing captured in a loop, it was a fun ending.

6:25 p.m. Portland electro-pop duo Yacht had the Mojave packed and its crowd dancing big time - especially a group of about a dozen gay men who looked like they could’ve come from last week’s White Party in nearby Palm Springs. Androgynous lead singer Claire L. Evans was riveting, while her male musical partner/keyboardist Jona Bechtolt easily kept everyone riled up. The buoyant performance included several promising previews of tunes from the upcoming Shangri-La release (the quirky, B-52’s-leaning aliens song “Beam Me Up,” a funky "One Step,” mini-rap in “Paradise Engineering”) due in June on DFA Records.  

7 p.m. I'd always heard that Cold War Kids put on a dynamic live show, but didn't realize how much until seeing them for the first time on the Outdoor Theatre stage. The band, formerly based in the O.C., recently released the fine Mine is Yours, a more textured collection produced by Jacquire King (Kings of Leon). Starting the Friday set around dusk with the intense, reverb guitar-drenched "Mexican Dogs," Nathan Willett then gave his high vocal range a real workout on the spirited "Royal Blue," punctuated by Matt Aveiro's tribal beats.

Among the other high points: "I've Seen Enough," the U2-like "Hospital Beds," "Bulldozer," which had a captivating sense of dramatic uplift, the lurching alt-radio hit "Hang Me Out to Dry," and passionate vocal delivery on "Louder Than Ever." Willett was also very gracious toward all the fans watching them. 

7:45 p.m. Heading across the field to witness some of Interpol, I found the moody New Yorkers still retained their sense of mystery live and Paul Banks' (pictured, near right) deep baritone was rich as ever, especially on "Evil," "NYC" - from the great 2002 debut album Turn on the Bright Lights - and "Barricade," off last year's solid self-titled effort.

The visuals were just as intriguing as the music since David Lynch collaborated with them for "Interpol Under Surveillance." Big screens at the sides of the main stage projected four black and white squares showing shadowy images of the band and fans when they weren't quickly scrolling numerals or showing Lynch's bizarre "I Touch a Red Button Man" animation that accompanied "Lights."

8:20 p.m. Back during Coachella ‘09, The Killers headlined Day 2. This time around, front man Brandon Flowers was solo in support of his engaging Flamingo album. The lush, galloping “Only the Young” got the Outdoor Theatre set off to a dreamy start as Flowers’ clear-as-a-bell vocals were bolstered by two cooing female backing singers.

He prefaced “Magdalena” with a detailed explanation about how it was inspired by a pilgrimage to Mexico and an annual marathon journey the natives embark upon. It was the most I’d heard anyone speak onstage all day. Colored by festive castanets and hurdy gurdy sounds, the upbeat tune was an early highlight. One fan waved a Mexican flag around.

“We’re going to head back to 1981 for this,” Flowers said as some young audience members looked puzzled. Although the regular tour cover of Kim Carnes’ No. 1 hit, “Bette Davis Eyes” wasn’t too different than the original, he still managed to make it his own and had fun.

A sweeping “Jilted Loves & Broken Hearts” came across even more majestic live, while the peppy, sinewy Vegas vignette “Was it Something I Said?” had an omnichord spotlight (loved that!). On “Hard Enough,” Flowers recalled some of idol Bruce Springsteen’s more heartfelt ballads and dynamic alt-rock radio hit “Crossfire” found him working both sides of the stage.

“Look at these stragglers I found,” enthused Flowers, before introducing Killers cohorts Dave Keuning on guitar and Mark Stoermer on bass. The crowd size had been respectable during the performance (up against the Black Keys on the main stage), but it quickly swelled as people recognized the Killers’ songs (“Read My Mind,” “Mr. Brightside”). Grinning from ear-to-ear, Flowers exclaimed “oh yeah’ on an electrifying take on the latter, kneeled on the stage and waved his arms in the air as fans sang along loudly.

10:05 p.m. Despite some initial technical glitches on the big screens, Day 1 headliner Kings of Leon definitely put on an impressive big rock show. The Followill clan came out strong right out of the gate with the ominous "Closer," Jarod's dirty bass grooves on "Crawl" and Nathan's jittery rhythms during the hit "Radioactive." 

Having missed the tour for 2010's under-appreciated Come Around Sundown, it was great to finally hear that newer tune live as well as the lurching, trumpet-colored "Mi Amigo," swampy slide guitar-led change of pace "Back Down South," high flying harmonies amid "Mary" and "The Immortals."   

Then front man Caleb (pictured, left) said, "we're tired off playing the new stuff" and proceeded to pack quite a wallop on old fan favorite "Molly's Chambers" (where Jarod's rubbery basslines dominated and Matthew unleashed another sizzling solo) and ethereal "On Call." The strident acoustic pop-flecked "Fans" was a pure joy.

Toward the end, when Kings of Leon did the highly melodic "Notion," stomping "Sex on Fire," glorious "Use Somebody" and other material from Only By the Night - my top album of '08 - it brought the show and first day to an exhilarating conclusion.

Top photo of Coachella art installation by George A. Paul, taken with a Sony Bloggie Touch

All band photos by Laurie Fanelli, http://www.flickr.com/photos/lauriefan/

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Johnny Marr news

I was disappointed when the Iceland volcano eruption forced a few acts like The Cribs from performing at Coachella last year. Now I wish I would've tried to see one of their shows since Johnny Marr has annouced he won't be playing at upcoming Cribs shows. According to Marr's website, he told Billboard Magazine: "I'm working on new solo songs. I'll be putting out two records over the next year or so and doing more film soundtrack work." He added - "Touring and recording with Ryan, Gary and Ross has been fantastic and 'Ignore The Ignorant' is something I'm really proud of. We ended up doing much more than we originally set out to, and I've made three good friends." The band is still together, but it would've been cool to see Marr up onstage with them.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Superchunk 'Majesty' reissue for Record Store Day

Last fall, indie rocker Superchunk returned after a nearly decade away from the studio with the great "Majesty Shredding" album. Now they have a special reissue planned. Read on...

Superchunk's 1995 effort Here’s Where the Strings Come In has been out of print for years. In celebration of Record Store Day (this Saturday), it will be released on CD and LP. Remastered by Jason Ward from the original 1/2” reels, the album will be available for the first time on 180-gram vinyl (with download coupon) and on CD newly packaged in LP-style cardboard sleeves. The heavy-duty vinyl jackets were reprinted by the same plant that produced them for the original.

The new and improved version of Here’s Where the Strings Come In will include exclusive acoustic demos of songs from the Strings sessions, as well as a free download of The Clambakes Vol. 5: Cup of Clams. Recorded on October 16, 2003, at the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, NC, this live Superchunk performance was edited and mastered by leader Mac McCaughan with additional editing by Brian Paulson.

Mac offers this description of the event: “This show took place as part of the small tour we did in 2003 in support of the Cup of Sand 2-CD singles and rarities compilation. Hence the setlist now appears kind of bizarre as it’s stocked with B-sides we’ve hardly ever played live (“White Noise”) and then-unreleased songs like ‘Knock Knock Knock,’ among more familiar numbers. Sure, there are a few haphazard moves, but it wouldn’t be a clambake otherwise… Hope you enjoy.”

Superchunk – The Clambakes Vol. 5: Cup of Clams Live at the Cat’s Cradle, October 2003

1. Tiny Bombs
2. The Majestic
3. New Low
4. Watery Hands
5. Becoming a Speck
6. Knock Knock Knock
7. Hello Hawk
8. Cast Iron
9. White Noise
10. Nu Bruises
11. Screw It Up
12. The First Part
13. 100,000 Fireflies
14. Like a Fool
15. Freaks in Charge
16. Package Thief
17. Throwing Things

John Mellencamp concert review

A version of my review originally appeared in the Orange County Register and can be viewed at ocregister.com/entertainment.

Authenticity was the primary goal in making “No Better Than This,” John Mellencamp's current, timeless sounding album done entirely in mono (the first non-stereo release in 46 years to make the top 10 on the Billboard 200 chart). While listening to the blues, country and rock ‘n’ roll tunes, you could easily think it was recorded in the 1950s.

Like 2008’s equally impressive “Life Death Love and Freedom,” it was produced by T Bone Burnett. Mellencamp, his musicians and crew, laid down the tracks at the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Ga., legendary Sun Studio in Memphis and Room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, where esteemed blues man Robert Johnson once rolled tape. They even utilized vintage equipment. The lyrics are at times, bleak, optimistic and best appreciated by those who have, as they say – “lived a little.”

In Los Angeles, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer took the Nokia Theatre stage on Friday alongside an electric band to Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down.” He kicked off the 95-minute set with a revamped “Authority Song,” now boasting a smoldering rock groove, plus call and response action at the end.

The singer’s voice had a grittier than usual timbre, giving searing Son House songDeath Letter” (extended and accented here with mandolin, accordion and violin) and “John Cockers” added heft.

Performing in front of a beautiful city painting backdrop including a poster for 1963 Paul Newman western “Hud” (also the name of Mellencamp’s son), the six-piece group came and went as needed and played with finesse. “Walk Tall,” off the 2004 greatest hits collection "Words & Music," had a fresh countrified vibe.

Perhaps referring to our inept lawmakers who can’t balance budgets efficiently, Mellencamp said a harrowing “The West End” was about “what happens when the government doesn’t take care of people.” Longtime violinist Miriam Sturm gave a spirited delivery as her boss man roared the words.

Another welcome changeup came via the slow, simmering intro to “Check it Out,” where the Nokia crowd (the balcony was closed, but the floor looked filled) was up and dancing while Mellencamp worked both sides of the stage.

“My Dad said you gotta do fun things for yourself,” noted Mellencamp before the hopeful “Save Some Time to Dream,” done solo acoustic. He joked around a bit before singing most of “Cherry Bomb” a capella, accompanied loudly by fans’ voices. 

Burnett, who was sitting with ex-KCRW DJ Chris Douridas (I also spotted Ben Harper nearby), went onstage and provided electric guitar on the haunting “Don’t Need This Body.”

Mellencamp did a spiritual rap about the devil before the feisty “Right Behind Me.” Then he quoted the U.S. constitution and criticized defense spending over the welfare of Americans in the lead up to a plaintive “Jackie Brown,” where Sturm added weepy violin strains. The singer also recounted a story about his late grandmother and prayer on the endearing mortality tale “Longest Days.” 

The atmosphere inside really sparked up after drummer Dane Clark moved from a cocktail kit to full setup and bassist John Gunnell switched from standup to a standard model on a suddenly twangy “Jack & Diane.” Unfortunately, the remainder of the set was hampered by a muddy mix. Mellencamp humorously ad libbed a lyric about his multiple marriages during “Small Town.”

A fine, reworked “Paper in Fire” contained a reverb effect guitar sound that recalled CCR’s “Suzie Q.” Each time band mainstays Andy York and Mike Wanchic would take a solo turn, Mellencamp looked proud; even more so for Sturm.

Troye Kinnett’s supple organ led the charge on the stomping “If I Die Sudden” – definitely more fiery live - and Mellencamp sang the soulful vocals while hunched over fans in front of the stage. He invited a lady up to dance and sing on “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.,” capping the inspired show on a boisterous note.

John Mellencamp, Nokia Theatre/LA Live, Los Angeles, April 8, 2011


Setlist:
Authority Song/No One Cares About Me/Death Letter/John Cockers/Walk Tall/The West End/Check it Out/Save Some Time for Dreams/Cherry Bomb/Don’t Need This Body/Right Behind Me/Jackie Brown/Longest Days/Jack & Diane/Small Town/Rain on the Scarecrow/Paper in Fire/The Real Life/What if I Came Knocking/If I Die Sudden/No Better Than This/Pink Houses/R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Additional Q&A with Biffy Clyro


Here is more from my interview with bassist James Johnston of Biffy Clyro...

Q: Last time I caught Biffy perform was outdoors at the Epicenter Festival in Fontana, Calif. - probably not the ideal environment to experience the band live. It was a small crowd in the mid-afternoon.
We’ve played similar things in the UK. Never something quite so hot. We were really sweating and playing midday, right in the middle of the sun. So it’s wasn’t really the best place or a great rock ‘n’ roll environment. We’ve done that a lot in the past. You’ve got to give it your all. We certainly enjoy playing every show, even the ones less successful than others.

Q: The three of you have played America quite a bit over the past six months. Do you think you’ve made strides in getting name recognition and building an audience here?
We’re starting to. You country is such a huge place. It’s bigger than the whole of Europe in some sense. It just takes time. It took us a long time in the UK. It’s something we’re prepared to spend a lot of time at. It definitely feels like we’re building an audience. However slow that may be isn’t something that concerns us. We’ve got a lot of time on our side.

Q: It’s good to see a band willing to put the effort in, rather than just playing New York, Chicago and LA like so many do.
I think they’re lazy and get used to the short drives we have here in the UK. They think it’s just going to come easy. I don’t think that’s fair. It’s such a huge place. You’ve got to go to people’s hometowns if you can and let them judge for themselves.

Q: “Only Revolutions” has been your most successful album to date at home. Is it a relief to see your 16 years of hard work finally paying off?
I think in some ways it has. We’ve been afforded a lot of great opportunities directly as a result of the success of the record. But honestly, in some ways, it feels like we’ve been a successful band for a long time...That feels great despite measuring record sales...It’s good to get a chance to open for bands like the Foo Fighters on these huge [upcoming UK] shows and do some big shows on our own. That’s really exciting stuff.

Q: Biffy has shared a stage with some premiere acts, like Bono & The Edge and the Rolling Stones, over the years. Have you learned anything from watching them onstage?
Yeah. We all know how Mick Jagger likes to move. Watching him up there - I don’t know what show number it was for them, but it was probably in the thousands – he can move like a man half his age. We got a chance to meet [The Stones] before they went onstage. They’re getting ready and got a huge show about to happen and they’re still very happy to come and meet you, shake hands, get a photograph and be really courteous. That was really nice to see. I guess we learned a lot from that: 'you’re never too big to be nice to somebody.' Also, to go put on a great show. You can’t rest on your laurels and say, ‘we did a great show in 1974.’ You have to keep it going.

Q: When you first heard Neil’s lyrics on the current album were you amazed at what he’d come up with?
Yeah, Simon has always got really interesting lyrics; some that are easier to decipher than others. A lot of people have talked about how the lyrics are more uplifting. Sometimes they just sound that way and are actually a little darker than you might think. That’s the sign of a good writer – somebody that can make you see, depending on your mood, different messages. I don’t think Simon puts in hidden messages for people. He just writes for himself in some regards.

Q: Since “Only Revolutions” was inspired by the book of the same name, I wondered if you are all avid readers.
We all like to read on tour. It helps abate the boredom a little bit. We all read quite different things. The last few books I’ve read have all been Scottish crime fiction, which is bizarre. Simon likes wild books and is a huge fan of Danieleski and his first book “House of Leaves.” Ben reads a whole mixture. Books and movies, they all filter through your mind and inspire you in different ways. I think that’s always important.

Q: How would you say Biffy’s music has evolved since the band started?
We can say what we want to say quicker and be more to the point. I remember thinking after a few albums we almost trimmed away the fat and some of the excess and were able to get straight to the heart of the matter. We’re immensely proud of all the records we’ve made. We’re quite an ambitious band. I really think it’s worth for people to come back and check out [the entire catalog]. We still play songs from the first two records and still think they’re really important.

Q: Some groups, once they get to their fifth album, they disavow the early ones entirely.
They might be somebody’s favorite. Once you’ve made the record, it belongs to the listener. It’s theirs. We still occasionally put them on. Don’t get me wrong: we sometimes have a bit of a laugh, but we’re also very proud.

Q: It’s been 1 ½ years since “Only Revolutions” came out in the UK. Have you started work on the next album?
We haven’t committed anything to tape or made any recordings, but we do have a bunch of songs we’ve been working quite hard on. We’re eager, as every band is, as soon as you start thinking about a new record, you just want to get it done. But we’ve been enjoying our time in the States. Thankfully we’re getting a chance to play shows there. We feel if we don’t come now, then what’s the point? We want to show our dedication. As soon as we get some time off the road, we’ll get into the studio [possibly] in the fall. We’re very excited and hopefully we can make another great record.

Q: Any idea whether you’ll tap Garth Richardson to produce again?
There’s a good chance. We do have a good relationship with him and it’s one that we’ve nurtured. Every great relationship has its ups and downs. We’ve got to a great place with him. We get on super well. He’s definitely part of the family. It would be very difficult to choose somebody else. Put it that way.