Concerts | The Audio Perv
Archive for the ‘Concerts’ Category
10 Dec
2012

By Keeyahtay Lewis

The Gaslight Anthem have become one of the biggest bands in the world. Every show they play, especially in the Tri-State area, is a big deal, selling out quickly. Their three night stint at Terminal 5 in NYC 11/28-30 was no different. Luckily, I was able to check them out again on the first night of that, Wed 11/28.

NY’s own Laura Stevenson and The Cans opened the show. This 5 piece indie/folk rock act was entertaining to watch. Stevenson is sweet and cute on stage, and she surrounds herself with other talented musicians At one point one of them even played accordion I literally have never seen a band play accordion live. They sounded great, albeit maybe a little strange as the band opening for TGA, but in any event they were great and the crowd loved them.

It wasn’t long after Laura left the stage that The Gaslight Anthem took the stage. With big smiles and waves for everyone, the strapped on their instruments and started off with a track of their last album, Mae. Mae is a bit of a slower song off of “Handwritten:, it’s an absolutely beautiful track but it seemed like a strange way to open. Gaslight is known for high energy and they usually start with something rocking. They picked it up with the next two tracks: The ’59 Sound and The Diamond Church Street Choir. The crowd was pumped and on their feet.

At this point pretty much everyone knows who Gaslight is. That Jersey band who wears their influences on their sleeve without sounding like they are trying to copy anyone. Led by Brian Fallon on vocals and guitar, Alex Levine on bass, Benny Horowitz on drums, Alex Rosamilia on lead guitar and touring member Ian Perkins on rhythm guitar. Over the last few years of touring they have really become a super tight live band that sounds really great.

Brian is funny during the show, interacting with the audience. For the most part, the band is content to play and let him have the spotlight. Perkins and Rosamilia especially hang towards the back while they play. Levine comes to the front and rocks out for the kids closest to him from time to time, but Fallon is really the guy who does most of the interacting.

The set list was a pretty long one and it bounced around all of their albums. Favorites like “45,” “Too Much Blood,” “Here Comes My Man,” “American Slang,” “Biloxi Parish,” “Miles Davis and the Cool”…everything sounded pretty spot on. Again though, seeing them play a few times before they just seemed a little more subdued that night than I was used to. Still great, just a bit more mellow.

They played a whopping 6 song encore which started with a Matthew Ryan cover, “I Can’t Steal You.” Matthew Ryan played before Laura Stevenson (I missed this) and he came out to join Gaslight on this song. It sounded great. They finished off with “She Loves You,” “Mulholland Drive,” “The Queen of Lower Chelsea” and “Blue Dahlia.” They saved one of the absolute fan favorites for last, Great Expectations.

It was a fantastic night and a great treat for New York City. It is impossible not to be impressed when you see The Gaslight Anthem play and it is easy to see why they are blowing up. They have a tendency of popping up here and there in NJ and NYC, but right now they are on a short tour across the US. Making new fans everywhere they go, I have no doubt.

15 Nov
2012

By Malvina Rincon

Starting off his set with ‘When My Train Pulls In” from his new album Blak and Blu, Gary Clark Jr. almost makes it seem too easy. Wielding his guitar at an immediately awestruck crowd, he is in his element. In front of a select audience at Apogee’s Berkeley Street Studio for KCRW’s “Berkeley Street Sessions”, he looks at home with his guitar in hand. Ripping through “Ain’t Messin’ Round”, the first track from his new album, Clark is a man in control, not only of his guitar, but of the audience. He has a confidence on stage that comes only with a man sure of his talents.

You know that scene in Back to the Future when Marty McFly is playing “Johnny B. Goode” and Marvin Berry calls his cousin Chuck and tells him that this is the new sound he’s been looking for and holds up the phone receiver? Well, Gary Clark Jr. is Marty McFly and “Travis County” is that sound. It’s familiar, but new at the same time. Either way, it gets the crowd dancing and leaves it wondering “Who is this guy?”

The performance was paired with an interview led by KCRW host Anne Litt. At this time, the audience had an opportunity to hear some of Clark’s background. Once “off stage”, he seemed shy. If the audience had not witnessed what occurred seconds before, they would find it hard to believe that this was the same man that had just wooed them with a guitar.

During the interview he shared that although his love of the guitar started early, he started singing before he picked up an instrument. It is no wonder then why his vocal abilities are equally as impressive as his guitar skills. His performance of “You Saved Me” and “Things Are Changin’” are perhaps the best examples of Clark’s vocal range, which can go from bluesy to R&B and soul, with seemingly little effort.

One of the last songs he performed, “If You Love Me Like You Say/3rd Stone from the Sun”, perhaps best showcased his talents. If you heard the studio recording of this song and thought that was a record being scratched on a turntable, I have news for you. Clark managed to blow minds as he manipulated that guitar into whatever he willed it to be. The things I saw this man do with his guitar, I am sure I will never see again.

Ending his set with the Albert Collins cover of “If Trouble was Money”, the song sounds as if Clark could have written it himself. Having started playing at blues clubs in his hometown of Austin when he was 14 years old, Clark possesses the experience of a much older man. Now, at 28, he has been able to soak in the knowledge and influences of those years into his new album, Blak and Blu, which is fully realized in a live setting.

It would be a disservice to your ears not to listen to the live wonderment of Gary Clark Jr. when KCRW airs this installment of its Berkley Street Sessions on Morning Becomes Eclectic on December 4th.

(photo credit: Jeremiah Garcia)

13 Nov
2012


By Keeyahtay Lewis

Circa Survive spent the last couple months touring in support of their fantastic new album, Violent Waves. I caught the beginning of the tour in Philly, and on Saturday 10/27 I caught the last night of this leg of the tour in Sayreville, NJ at Starland Ballroom. In the last year alone I think I have photographed Circa Survive around 5 times, and a couple solo Anthony Green shows as well. If you are reading this, then you probably know that already. I said it a couple months back, but with O’Brother, Balance and Composure and Touche’ Amore’ as tour support, Violent Waves really was one of the best tours I have seen.

Considering that I already covered this tour at the start, I might do this a little differently. It is easy to talk about set lists, or how amazing each of these bands are. One thing that you might not know is how much of a family everyone on this tour really is. I think people always say that when they are playing shows together, but I have been able to see it first hand. It was evident that night at Starland as well. I have spent time backstage talking to these guys, hanging out on the side stage watching the other bands play with Anthony Green, I have seen first hand how much they all really like each other.

O’Brother opened this night like they have been the whole tour. I am a fan of this band, and it is easy to see why they were added to this tour. They go out there and leave it all on the stage every night. They sound a little better every time I see them play, and they certainly had plenty of fans in the audience that night. Being the last night of the tour, I think they all wanted to make sure it was a little special. So when Anthony Green came out to play guitar towards the end of their set, it was met with screams. That kinda set the theme of guests for the rest of the night.

Balance and Composure were up next and they are another band I absolutely love. They played mostly songs from their last album, but those are the songs everyone loves. Stonehands, Quake, Fade, Progress Progress. They only played a 7 song set, but they left sweaty and smiling, and we all smiled along with them. I met front man Jon Simmons at their other show a couple months back, and he greeted me like an old friend when I saw him after their set. It just re-affirmed to me how nice all these guys really were.

Touche’ Amore’ were after B&C. I had never listened to them until I saw them on this tour a couple months back, and honestly, I have no idea what Jeremy Bolm is singing. But goddamn does TA know how to work a stage. Reminds me a bit of Defeater, another band that gets crowds riled up. They move like they are attacking every note, and you can’t help to move along with them. Towards the end of their set Geoff Rickly of Thursday came out and lost his fucking mind on stage with them. It is always nice to see Geoff singing again, but having him home at Starland Ballroom was really special. Before they left the stage Nick Beard of Circa came out, dressed in an insane outfit, and sang Creed acapella well TA stood around him laughing. Awesome.

They left the stage and shortly after Circa Survive came out; dressed like cops. It was almost Halloween and the guys decided that they were going to celebrate in NJ with 3000 of their friends. You can always feel the energy in the room change with Circa takes the stage. It’s like everyone holds their breath and then they all let it out together when the guys rip into their first song. And on that night, their first song was a crowd favorite: Act Appalled. It was obvious that this was going to be a fun night. I have said it before that not many people have more stage presence than Anthony Green. He wasted no time at all getting right on the barricade and holding everyone’s hand in the front row. And behind him, Brendan, Nick, Steve and Colin were spot on. Considering how many times I have seen them lately, it still blows my mind how good they are. Another thing that catches me off guard is how much I look forward to seeing them play again, even though I have seen them so many times already.

Their set list is always pretty great and they made sure they covered all the albums. For Lottery Geoff came out again for his part and nailed it. Anthony and Geoff are going to be touring together soon, and you can plainly see how much they respect each other. Jeremy Bolm of Touche’ lent some screams later on to Glass Arrows. They played everything you would hope they would play, Stop the Fuckin Car, Sharp Practice, In Fear and Faith, The Difference Between…, Imaginary Enemy, and they sounded perfect. They never stopped moving while the huge LED panels behind them constantly changed colors. It felt like Anthony spent as much time in the crowd as he did on stage, but that is what makes everyone feel so connected to him. Confetti canons and screaming along to every word, so good.

Anthony always spends time talking to the crowd, thanking everyone for being there. He told us that this was the best night of the tour. For some reason, when he says it it doesn’t sound like bullshit from another band. They have been closing with Get Out lately and that night was no different. Such a high note to end on.

I said it two months ago when this tour started. I said just go. Just go see these incredible bands. For now at least, the Violent Waves tour is over. I am sure that at some point in the spring it will pick up again. Just fucking go. Seriously. I see a lot of shows. I have met a lot of bands. No one has been more genuine than Circa Survive has. And no one else has impressed me so often. Anthony Green has made me feel like a friend when there was nothing in it for him. But it isn’t just me. Every night that they go on tour, that band works to make everyone feel welcome. When push comes to shove, there are too many “rock stars” and not enough good dudes playing incredible music. Circa Survive is that band. That is reason enough to support them. If you haven’t seen Circa Survive play live yet, just..go.

05 Nov
2012


Words by Ace Ubas, Photos by Marcello Ambriz

Saturday night at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles was a special night for Oklahoma-based quintet Other Lives as it marked their 10-year anniversary as a band. But if you’ve been following them for the past couple of years, that’s not the only thing that makes them special. In the past, they’ve opened for seminal acts such as Radiohead and Bon Iver, and rode the festival circuit that included Coachella. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that they’ve been featured prominently by radio stations such as KEXP and KCRW. That proved to be more than enough to propel them out of the support role and into the headlining role. And if you ask me and the sold-out LA crowd, it’s been long overdue.

A lot of bands have been coming out of the woodwork as of late, bearing with them a folk/Americana-inspired sound. But what makes Other Lives stand out is their ability fuse orchestral pop with folk rock while adding a dash of world music. On their stellar album Tamer Animals, their cocktail of a sound may sound subtle (perhaps due to the mix). I don’t want to state the obvious, but it’s more vivid and lucid in a live setting yet it’s also complex. And you can’t help but immediately imagine the band play in a natural and organic setting such as a cave (ala Silver Jews) or smack dab in the middle of the woods.

But for the 60 minutes that Other Lives conquered the stage, they let their music create the environment instead, with the slew of instruments they had on hand and dimming globe lights that adorned the stage. They set the mood for the night by beginning their set with wavering ambient soundscapes that filled the room quickly before the curtains even parted, acting as a segue into opener “Dark Horse.”

It’s easy to liken their music to, say, the forestation of California’s Central Coast: lush, dense, expansive, and beautiful. What’s even more impressive is the complexity of the arrangement in some of their songs such as “As I Lay My Head Down.” The whole song is filled with shifting time signatures that is rich with melodies. Jesse Tabish’s vocals resemble a lower Thom Yorke, while cellist/back-up vocalist Jenny Hsu’s haunting vocal melodies lurk throughout. Even more is their creativity, using antler bells at the beginning of the song and castanets that added a Spanish rhythm during the second half.

Their experience as a band together showed greatly on “Landforms” and “Desert,” two songs that are quite distinct from one another yet the transition between the two was made seamless. The pastoral folk sound of the former highlighted the orchestral string arrangement which contrasted nicely with the horn-led Persian melodies that filled the latter. But it was the band’s tribal prowess that provided the cinematic shift in between the songs, thanks to Jon Mooney’s thundering rhythm on the timpani.

While some of the influences of Other Lives are global, they showed that the root of their sound still lays in the foundation of their native state. Fan-favorite “For 12” saw Tabish on an acoustic guitar playing riffs reminiscent of a 60s western while displaying his vocal versatility, singing with a soaring falsetto during the chorus. He then described “Dust Bowl III” a “real Oklahoma song” with its gentle guitar plucking that built-up a mesmerizing crescendo until everything came crashing down with Colby Owens’ wrenching percussion.

A few new songs made their way into the set including a couple from the recently-released Mind the Gap EP. The most notable and distinct difference with these songs was that they were more straightforward and minimal in structure. Rather than going with a more complex approach, they decided simplicity was best with “Take Us Alive,” a more direct folk number. But on “Dead Can,” they steered their sound in a complete 180 and showed that Radiohead’s presence rubbed-off on them during their tour. Rather than have organic instrumentation as the basis of the song, it’s the subtle and downtempo electronic beats that drove it (think Kid A and OK Computer). You’d expect it to sound off-putting and out-of-place, but they pulled it off well with the smooth bass line holding it all together.

The encore began with Tabish coming back on stage solo to do a beautiful rendition of the piano ballad “Black Table,” and then ending with two new unknown songs with the last being described as “horse ridin’ shit” by Tabish. Perhaps a possible hint on a more Western-style sound?

Other Lives’ performance was as close to perfect as it could get. When you see a band, you always come into the venue with a certain expectation; most of the time it’s rather high. But it’s not often you see a band shatter that expectation while setting the standard even higher. That’s what Other Lives did. They approach the folk genre with a Classical Minimalist mindset and experiment with it in different kinds of ways. They’ve made it known that masters such as Steve Reich and Philip Glass are huge influences. And at the same time, they incorporate intricate harmonies, such as on “Tamer Animals,” that are reminiscent of Fleet Foxes. It results in vast polyrhythmic layers, orchestral melodies and tightly-woven structure of the songs that make those influences more explicit. That’s when you know there’s something special brewing in the small town of Stillwater, Oklahoma.

31 Oct
2012


By Keeyahtay Lewis

This year there has been much talk about the Twins of Evil tour- two of the “evilest” men in rock touring together: Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson. I had never seen either play, so I was stoked to check them out. Manson was opening the date in Camden. There was a large black curtain in front of the stage that remained up even as the music started. Finally the curtain dropped and revealed the stage. Darkness, crazy lights, inverted crosses- exactly what you would expect. Manson emerged from the shadows while his band played one of their new songs, “Hey Cruel World” off of Born Villain. The song is classic MM, soft and loud at the same time, with that voice you can’t confuse for anyone else.

Manson isn’t exactly as wiry as he is in my brain, he shows a bit of that age, but he still looks like what you would expect. He came out wearing all black with some kind of google/mask situation covering most of his face. Every person was on their feet loving every second of it. He changed microphones often: at one point having a huge knife attached, then a flashlight, and more I couldn’t really see from my seat.

They ran through most of the songs you would expect them to play; “Disposable Teens,” “mOBSCENE,” “The Dope Show,” “Personal Jesus,” “Coma White”… the stage was incredible and constantly changing. Manson himself would often change outfits and masks. At one point came out on a pulpit. Another time in a pope outfit. Here is the thing though, it all felt a little…off to me. He just seemed tired. At one point he said, “in all the reviews put in parentheses that Manson fell over drunk. And I am motherfuckers.” When he said that, it made more sense. It felt off but apparently it was because he was wasted. Talking between songs wasn’t garbled. At one point he said, “Can you hear the words coming out of my mouth.” The answer was no, not really.

“Sweet Dreams” was a definite highlight, and it was pretty cool. A single bulb dropped down from the ceiling. He sang into it at times, and other times swung it out over the crowd. Dramatic. He ended with “The Beautiful People” and for a few minutes, he felt mostly on his game.

Rob Zombie was up next, another huge curtain was hanging from the ceiling. But this time when the sheet dropped a fire breathing robot was on the other side. Awesome. His band was already ripping into Jesus Frankenstein and he came out looking like a cast member from Mad Max. Tall hat, long robes, long dreads, mask covering his face and skeleton arms extending off of his own arms. His microphone stand was a huge skeleton.

The energy was immediately so different. Rob Zombie is an animal on stage. Never staying in one place for long, running from platform to platform. Head banging while dust literally flew off of his hair. And the fire. I love shows with fire, and they made great use of it. “Superbeast,” “Meet The Creeper,” and the hit “Living Dead Girl” were up next. His background was huge LED screens that showed old horror movies and anime porn.

At various times huge robots came out and danced on stage with the band. Another time it looked like he was riding in one. He spent a lot of time talking with the audience, and at one point walked along the barricade holding hands along the way. Rob Zombie does not look or move like a man who has been doing this for 20+ years. His portion of the show was good, and it just seemed like fun.

A personal favorite “More Human Than Human” was next and the place lost their shit collectively. Theme for an Angry Red Planetplayed with LED signs that said “Mars Needs Women” flashed across the stage. “Sick Bubble Gum,” “Scum of the Earth,” “Pussy Liquor” and the White Zombie hit, “Thunder Kiss ’65″ were next. The energy never waned and Zombie never stopped moving. The Alice Cooper song “School’s Out” was next, and they finished up with “Dragula,” Rob Zombie’s biggest commercial hit.

Although they call this the Twins of Evil Tour, Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson could not have had more different shows. Manson wasn’t nearly as fun, but his fans loved it just the same. Zombie definitely puts on a hellofashow. He brought his love for horror to his show, but never forget to make it fun for everyone. You know what you are getting into when you go see those two perform. I think the biggest surprise for me was how damn good Rob Zombie was. Manson was having a bit of an off night, which happens to everyone. All in all, there was something for everyone there.

24 Oct
2012


By Keeyahtay Lewis

All Time Low recently released their new album Don’t Panic and they are on tour to support that with their “Rockshow at the End of the World” tour. The tour stopped in Starland Ballroom with The Downtown Fiction and Jersey’s own The Early November for support. It has been a long time since I have seen The Early November and I was excited about getting there in time to check them out. Judging by all the comments people made to me when they found out I would be shooting them- everyone in their home state are happy that they have returned.

When they took the stage the place erupted. It was clear immediately that NJ miss their hometown boys. They stepped out smiles all around, and ripped into Digital Age, a new track from their latest album In Currents. Maybe “ripping into” aren’t the words to describe that song- Digital Age is a slow song powered with acoustic guitar and piano, but it sounded wonderful. Something That Produces Results, an older song, was up next. The energy in the sold out crowd was was high and it was clear that the band loved every ounce of it.

Lead by Ace Enders on vocals and guitar, Joseph Marro on guitar and keyboards, Bill Lugg on lead guitar, Jeff Kummer on drums, and Sergio Anello on bass. Over the years they have changed members back and forth a few time, but this current line up (which has 3 original members) sounds tight and fantastic. I will say too that Anello on bass was just really fun to watch. I would say out of everyone his energy was so high and he spent a lot of his time getting the audience riled up.

Mountain Range in My Living Room, Tell Me Why, I Want to Hear You Sad, Frayed in Doubt and Baby Blue were all up next. It is nice to see a band that is really happy to be playing, and The Early November were certainly that band. Ace told a story about playing a show years ago and a young band opened up for them. Of course the band in question was All Time Low, now the tables had turned, but there was an obvious fondness between the guys.

The Early November didn’t have crazy lights or anything, they just went up there and played 9 songs with passion. They closed out their too short set with the headlining track off their new album, In Currents and the obvious favorite, Ever So Sweet. It was really great to see them back on tour and clearly loving every second of it.

All Time Low were coming up next and judging by all the LED lights on the stage, I knew it was going to be a good one. As soon as they stepped on the stage the bras started flying onto the stage. Seriously, maybe 5 seconds into their set bras were literally flying through the air. Reckless and the Brave and Shameless opened up their set. I will never not be moved when I see thousands of people singing along to every word, and watching these kids pressed against the barricade losing their minds with their favorite band brought a smile to my face.

ATL had rows of lights and green lasers covering the whole stage. They are definitely another group of guys who really love playing music together. Led by the team of Alex Gaskarth on vocals and guitar and Jack Barakat on guitar and backing vocals, they were a powerful duo. Not to take anything away from Rian Dawson on drums and Zack Merrick on bass- they kept the music moving forward.

ATL are a fun band, you can tell from their videos that they don’t take themselves too seriously. I like that about someone. In no time at all every microphone stand had bras hanging from it. The light show made it a little hard at times to take pictures, but from a fan’s point of view it looked pretty great. I know that every single person pressed against the front waited in line for hours but I am sure that every time one of the guys reached a hand out to them or made eye contact- it was all worth it.

All in all, another great sold out show at Starland Ballroom. It was just a fun show, and a pretty great tour all around. I would say that if you just want to go out and forget about your troubles for a while- this is the tour to catch.

Full Set List for ATL:

The Reckless and the Brave
Shameless
Forget About It
Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don’t)
Coffee Shop Soundtrack
Somewhere in Neverland
Lost in Stereo
The Beach
Heroes
For Baltimore
Stella
Remembering Sunday
If These Sheets Were States
Guts
Therapy
Encore:
Time-Bomb
Jasey Rae
Poppin’ Champagne
Weightless
Dear Maria, Count Me In


THE EARLY NOVEMBER

ALL TIME LOW

23 Oct
2012


By Ace Ubas

Brooklyn’s Exitmusic has been a band that I’ve been excited about throughout this year. After putting on a stellar set opening for School of Seven Bells a few months ago and releasing a highly impressive debut album entitled Passage, they were back in Los Angeles on Wednesday to deservedly headline The Satellite.

The core of Exitmusic consists of husband and wife Devon Church (guitar) and Aleksa Palladino (vocals/guitar/keyboard) who formed the musical outlet back in 2003. Palladino’s name and face might seem a bit familiar because of her role as Angela Darmody in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. But with time, I have no doubts that she will be known more for her music than her on-screen roles, which is not a bad thing at all.

With the style of dark dream-pop/shoegaze that Exitmusic plays, there’s a certain mystery that heightens the emotion behind their music. In most cases, bands that barely interact with the crowd makes for an awkward show, leaving behind awkward silences in between songs. But in this case, it fit in context because their songs have that ability to draw you in and take you on an emotional endeavor.

Donning an elegant pastel green dress, Palladino came out with Church and a touring percussionist, and open their set with “The Sea.” Initial comparisons are made to Beach House, who is arguably the standard for which the contemporary dream pop sound is set. But immediately from their opening song, they immediately establish that they are simply Exitmusic.

Songs such as “The Sea,” “The Modern Age,” and “The City” shows that they are much more aggressive and raw sounding. When she sings, Palladino has a tremble in her voice that heightens the emotion that lies within the lyrics. In a live setting, its effect is more surreal than on record especially when it builds to a devastating and crushing climax on that trio of songs. Those songs also highlight the devastatingly beautiful backdrop of the Mogwai/Explosions in the Sky-esque guitar melodies that also compliment the vocals.

And then there are those moments when they played songs that were downright haunting. The electronic percussion and Church’s simple-yet-effective riffs worked perfectly with Palladino’s echoed “hoo-hoo” melodies that almost sounded isolated, but transcended beyond the confines of the room. The whole echoes and reverbs effect seems to be rather played out in today’s music, but not with Exitmusic. They utilize those techniques to near-perfection, which then has the ability to actually affect an audience.

They ended their set with “White Noise” and “Passage” that, again, displayed Palladino’s unique vocal usage. Her vibrato on the former was spine-tingling, using an added emphasis to vibrate her voice that provided a reverb effect to it. The latter was a tender piano ballad guided by faint vocals until her voice soared and rode along with the swirling guitars backed by the crashing percussion. In short, it was sonic ecstasy.

The only disappointment and surprise was that their set came in at under an hour (50 minutes to be exact). While they could’ve thrown in a couple more songs, including the beautiful and ethereal “Sparks of Light,” it was the quality of their set that mattered most due to the cinematic nature of their songs. Each song has a strong narrative contained in the lyrics, but they were carried by the stark musicianship. If I had to come out with a list of bands to watch at this very moment, Exitmusic would no doubt be at the top of the list.

Set list:
The Sea
The Modern Age
The Hours
The Night
The City
Stars
The Cold
Storms
White Noise (vibrato)
Passage (vibrato)

17 Oct
2012


By Jackie Ruth

This year marked the 11th annual Austin City Limits Music Festival, and it was as big as ever. With headliners like The Black Keys and Avicii on Friday, Jack White and Neil Young & Crazy Horse on Saturday and the Red Hot Chili Peppers on Sunday, there was no way it could be a bad experience. The 2012 festival attracted music fans from all over the globe and kept festival-goers of all ages entertained.

Day 1 – Friday


The Wombats

This indie rock trio hails from Liverpool, and they opened the Honda stage at Austin City Limits on Friday morning. Despite repeated technical difficulties, they powered through their 45-minute set with a sense of humor. It seems fitting that their latest album is called The Wombats Proudly Present… This Modern Glitch in light of the problems they had Friday. Lead vocalist Matthew Murphy made a remark about hearing that another band had been from Liverpool once, but that “they didn’t do very well.” At one point when they were waiting for a technical problem to be fixed, drummer Dan Haggis began singing Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” a capella, and tried to get his band mates and the crowd into it as well. Although it was early on the first day of the festival, The Wombats put their all into their performance, emitting nonstop energy. Every song they played was a crowd-pleaser, and though they may not be a household name yet, it seems inevitable, if the ACL show was any indication.


Los Campesinos!

This seven-piece set from the U.K. never fails to impress at their live shows, and their early-afternoon set at ACL’s Bud Light stage was no different. Male lead singer Gareth delivered passionate vocals while showcasing his typical spastic dance style. He and his sister Kim harmonized well together on many of the band’s songs, although she joined the band in 2009 after their keyboardist and female lead singer Aleks left to continue her studies. Some of the members did synchronized dance moves that matched up with the lyrics of the songs during the performance. Although most of the music that Los Campesinos! creates is upbeat, they did play one song that had a slower pace on Friday, just as the clouds covered the glaring sun, creating an unplanned moment of calm that fit the mood of the song perfectly. The biggest hit of the concert was “You! Me! Dancing!,” a fast-paced tune that had the whole crowd singing and jumping. Unlike most of the artists at the festival, Gareth got up close and personal with his audience, jumping off the stage and climbing into the crowd during the last song, where he sang amongst their fans. The band showed that even a larger group can maintain camaraderie, as they performed the last few lines of their final song a capella and huddled in three small groups, with their arms around each other.

Tegan and Sara

This Canadian twin-sister duo is a treat to see live, whether or not you’re already a fan of their indie rock music. They both write songs and play guitar and keyboard, and both have similar, but distinct, voices. They alternate lead vocals on songs, and sometimes harmonize as well. Instead of mastering a sound and sticking to it, each song tends to have its own sound, so their set stayed fresh for the entire hour. They engaged with the audience numerous times during their performance, including a vulnerable moment when Sara took off her leather jacket due to the heat and humidity, and announced that it was a big deal, because that jacket is like her security blanket. They made several jokes about the weather in Austin, which definitely wasn’t prime concert weather, and they made the crowd follow step-by-step instructions in a ploy to get everyone to hug each other, as a token of Tegan and Sara’s affection for their fans. There really wasn’t a boring moment while these two were onstage.

Weezer

This alternative rock band from California may have been around since 1992, but they rock just as hard as today’s younger artists. All of the members of Weezer were well-dressed, despite the muggy weather, including frontman Rivers Cuomo, who donned a sweater vest. The crowd was clearly full of long-time fans of the group, because there wasn’t one song on the set list that the majority of the show-goers didn’t sing along to. They mixed older hits, like “Undone (The Sweater Song)” and “Buddy Holly” with newer fare, like “Memories” and “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To.” Before launching into their hit “Island in the Sun,” Cuomo improvised a short tune asking for a dance partner. They also spiced up their performance by splitting the lyrics of the second verse between all of the members – Cuomo would introduce a band member, and they would sing the next line of the song. This show probably exceeded expectations even for fans that have wanted to see Weezer for over a decade.

The Black Keys

There is no doubt as to why Ohio’s The Black Keys were chosen as Friday night’s headliners for Austin City Limits Music Festival. Some fans camped out from the festival opening at 11 a.m. until their set at 8:30 p.m. just to be close to the stage. Overall, they played an upbeat show, and their signature bluesy-rock sound was perfect for a comfortable October night in Austin. Guitarist and vocalist Dan Auerbach is a skilled guitar player, and had no problems showcasing his talent. Both members of the group were obviously invested in making sure the crowd was having a good time, as they kept trying to pump everyone up between songs. They also seemed determine to make sure that they were playing their best, so as not to rob fans of a truly great live performance. While much of the listeners at The Black Keys’ show were dedicated enthusiasts, there was another portion of the masses that seemed to just be interested or curious festival-goers, trying to see what the hype was all about (and they surely realized it quickly). At one point during the set, a giant disco ball was revealed from under a cover that had been hanging from the ceiling of the Bud Light stage all day, and it was a big hit with the audience, just like the performers standing under it.

14 Oct
2012

By Matt Arena

It’s always interesting to see successful acts overseas come to the US. The level of popularity usually takes a while to catch on, look at artists like Arctic Monkeys or Muse. For a while they went from household names in the UK to being relatively unknown in the US. Frank Turner had just recently headlined Wembley Arena and played at the opening ceremony in the Olympics, so having him at the 1500 person sized Webster Hall in New York would no doubt be a different experience to what he’s been used to lately. Having recently been in the US, he’s mentioned his love for the states in the past, it’s pretty clear that Frank Turner is quickly growing in popularity in the US too. Two sold out nights at Webster Hall attest to this.

Opening for Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls was Jenny Owen Youngs. The New Jersey native played with just an acoustic guitar and a microphone, but it was more than enough to wow the crowd. Of course, a Frank Turner crowd is more open to an acoustic set than your standard crowd, but that didn’t diminish how great she was. Her powerful voice fit the stripped down atmosphere quite well, as she bantered back and forth with the crowd as if she were playing in the corner of a coffee shop. The highlight of her set was the fantastic cover of Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring of Fire,’ which had the entire crowd singing along to nearly every word. Not something you see every day during the first opener’s set. Up next was Larry and His Flask. Going in not knowing the band at all was a huge treat.

Being that this was the second of two shows at Webster Hall, many fans who attended the previous night noted how insanely energetic the band was. Of course nothing could actually prepare you for how out of this world entertaining this band is. Playing a mix of folk-punk, they crammed the stage with six members, all flailing and jumping around as if the ground was on fire. Massive upright basses were whipped around like tiny violins, guitarists clashed and bounced around the stage, it was impossible to watch them and not get caught up. Clearly the crowd felt the same as they were jumping and moshing so hard it was shaking the floor. During their last song, the band found their way into the crowd, with lead singer/guitarist Dallin Bulkley finding his way into the middle of crowd. From the stage, the audience was signaled to all crouch down, and they did, with Bulkley standing amongst them posing for pictures. As it grew silent, a yell from the stage came out, “this is a rock show, why the fuck are you all sitting down?” which threw the room into an absolute tizzy, as the band members bounced along the top of the audience and found their way back onstage.

Soon enough Frank Turner came out, accompanied by his touring/backing band, The Sleeping Souls. Frank has been known to do a number of acoustic shows, but hearing his songs with the extra punch of an electric guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard make them that much more special. Songs that are a bit more stripped back on the album, like ‘The Road,’ become layered anthems live. His song selection spanned material all across his career thus far, even sneaking in some new material, all of which hopefully make the cut onto the new album. Especially, ‘Wherefore Art Thou Gene Simmons,’ a song which was preempted by Frank recalling reading Simmons’ latest book and being wowed at the thousands of women he’s professed to sleep with. The song itself pokes fun at the sex, drugs, rock and roll lifestyle, and actually brings to light the sheer ridiculousness and danger of it all. That’s what makes Frank Turner such a great musician and just a great person in general. You’ll never see any of that rock star bullshit with him; in fact he hangs around at almost every show to chat with fans by the merch table. Not only to serve as an antithesis to the “untouchable rockstars” but to show his appreciation, this also comes through in his demeanor on stage. He always seems absolutely ecstatic and sincerely happy to be up on stage in front of all those people. That genuine spirit really is rare in music these days, between the manufactured studio musicians, and guys simply in it for the money, a guy like Frank Turner is incredibly refreshing. Needless to say, he absolutely killed at Webster Hall. Be on the lookout for his latest studio album, which he’s currently recording in LA and in the meantime pick up his latest compilation album, Last Minutes and Lost Evenings.

12 Oct
2012


By Ace Ubas

For Check Yo Ponytail 2’s latest show on Tuesday night at the Echoplex in Los Angeles, they brought together acts ranging from darkwave (Cold Showers) and psychedelic rock (Violens) to ear-blistering (or damaging) shoegaze garage rock (headliners DIIV). While the show itself didn’t draw a crowd big enough to meet Echoplex standards, the only thing that mattered was that the acts put on a show good enough for the crowd to enjoy with each playing a diverse style of music.

It was difficult to get into the Los Angeles-based band Cold Showers because initially, they sound like another chip off the old Joy Division block. It’s hard for bands to play in the vein of the gothic post-punk/synth-wave style without sounding like a bad rip-off of the forefathers. But with a keen focus on their performance, the band (which features highly impressive drummer Jessie Clavin of Bleached/ex-Mika Miko fame) actually stands out on their own. Yes, the influences are blatantly obvious, but they manage to put their own spin to it. Their sweeping guitar melodies are reminiscent of Twin Shadow’s retro take of the 80s, playfully intertwining with the stout rhythm section. Clavin’s tight drumming held the songs together and gave them a stronger pop while Jonathan Weinberg’s impressive baritone borders between Editors’ Tom Smith, Cold Cave’s Wes Eisold and the late Ian Curtis (albeit loosely) – and that’s saying something. Cold Showers put on solid performance that warrants their upcoming debut Love and Regret a listen.

New York’s Violens took the stage after and brought their psychedelic pop to the forefront. While their album True was a bit underwhelming, their live set proved to be otherwise. As expected, their set was carried by the dueling guitars of Jorge Elbrecht and Myles Matheny who seemed to feed off each other after every song. Their guitars harmonized really well and didn’t drown out one another. There were moments on multiple songs where they harmonized the lyrics by singing different lines at the same time. While at times it would emphasize the jangled, reverb-heavy guitar work, it mostly came off as muddied and inaudible that got drowned out in the mix. The highlights came during songs “Totally True” and “When to Let Go,” exemplifying the band at their best: early 80s dream-pop with distinguishable guitars and infectious melodies ala Lush.

By the time New York City’s DIIV took the stage, it was just past midnight which prompted vocalist/guitarist Zachary Cole Smith to joke “I know you all have school tomorrow so we’re going to play a little fast and get this over with.” Coming from him, it’s a bit ironic that he says that because on stage, he looks about the size of a high school student in an oversized sweater. But with his guitar he definitely plays a lot larger than his size suggests. Smith might be best known for his work in the lo-fi garage rock band Beach Fossils, but with DIIV, he has a musical outlet can potentially surpass the former.

DIIV (which also consists of guitarist Andrew Bailey, bassist Devin Perez, and drummer Colby Hewitt) began their set that paralleled the sequencing of their debut album Oshin. Opening with the instrumental intro “(Druun)” and following with “Past Lives” and “Human,” they made it clear what their live M.O. is all about: fucking loud and fucking fast. Those two traits were exemplified best on “Air Conditioning.” The first half of the former is carried by a heavy, undulating bass and krautrock-esque percussion. But they extended the song a couple of minutes longer that morphed into as a psychedelic jam session. Smith ended up adding a couple of new lines to the song and showing off his ferociousness by screaming some notes, as if the music couldn’t get any louder (not a complaint, mind you). While guitars primarily serve as the foundation of DIIV’s songs, “Doused” is the lone exception with a striking bass groove that stays prominent throughout the duration of the song. Knowing that the bass could still be heard added much-needed depth to their set.

What made DIIV one of my favorite new acts this year is how they can maximize the brevity and repetitiveness of the lyrics by surrounding it impressive musicianship such as on “How Long Have You Known.” The minimal and catchy lyrics are enough to get your attention and swim around in your head for awhile, but it’s the blistering and crisp guitar-work that gets you to simply rock the hell out.

“This is our slowest song” stated Smith before diving into “Wait.” On record, yes it’s their slowest song, but definitely not live. Judging by the mosh pit and crowd surfing going on throughout their set, it’s best that DIIV doesn’t have a slow song. Although one guy that performed a crowd dive could’ve worked on his form as Smith judgingly quipped, “pathetic stage dive.”

What I thought would be a shoegaze/dream-pop-esque set turned into basically a psychedelic punk rock show, which was not a bad thing at all; it’s one hell of a surprise. The only other surprise was that their headlining set ran under 40 minutes. But what can you do when you’ve already gone through your catalog? Even one of the members admitted that “we actually don’t even have any more songs.” But at least they tossed in a raucous cover of Nirvana’s (a band that inspired their namesake) “Bambi Suicide” to fill-out their set.

Any time a band such as DIIV steps on the gas with their music in a live setting in contrast to their album and not hit any bumps along the way is an impressive feat. OK, that’s not entirely true since the blaringly loud guitars did tend to drown out the vocals a couple of times. But even in a sea of reverb and delay, the melodies still floated to the surface without losing a breath. If you ask me, I wouldn’t be surprised if DIIV swims further than Beach Fossils in the near future (OK I’m done with the water-related puns, I promise).