Monthly Archives: September 2009

Watch Out World! Here Comes Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros

September 27, 2009
Abbot Kinney Festival
Venice, CA

Let’s just say: you’ve been warned – Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros have arrived.

Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros

Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros

The Abbot Kinney Festival is a free annual event in Venice, California, that includes music, food, and merchandise vendors.  It seems to get more and more crowded every year.  People patiently maneuver the streets on foot at a snail’s pace (or if there’s anything slower than a snail, that’s how slow you’re walking).  The only exception to this is when Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros are about to go on stage.  Then, everybody at the festival congregates in front of the stage and comes to a complete standstill. . . until the band comes on.  Once the band hits, the audience claps, whistles, and jumps along to the songs.

Edward Sharpe and Jade Castrinos

Edward Sharpe and Jade Castrinos

I’ve been hearing about Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros for some time, but have been out of town during each of their prior performances.  What I’ve been hearing is that they’re the greatest thing anybody has seen all year.  When they took the stage, Sharpe commented that they love playing free shows. “Everything should be free!” Sharpe announced.  “But that’s a conversation for a later date.”

Indeed, Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros have played a few free shows in the LA area – the Hammer Museum and Amoeba Records in July, and Abbot Kinney today.  Of course, they’ve also played some ticketed shows, including a sold-out show at The El Rey last Tuesday.  They are one band that’s definitely worth paying for!

Larger than life instruments appropriate for the magnitude of the band

Larger than life instruments appropriate for the magnitude of the band

Start to finish Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros are performers.  The 10-piece band uses a variety of unusual instruments including an aged piano with warped keys, a toy keyboard, a giant tambourine (there’s probably an official name for it), and a super-sized xylophone.  Sharpe sings directly to specific fans in the audience, takes their hands, calls them out by name (or – “oh – you’re that crazy guy from the other night!”), and may even toss someone up in the air.

Literally singing to the audience

Literally singing to the audience

He dances around the stage to the point of nearly levitating.  Jade Castrinos is extraordinarily expressive as she plays and sings.  Sharpe (the stage persona of musician Alex Ebert) and The Magnetic Zeros sing to each other as if they’re carrying on a dialog; and often they are as the songs tell a story and sometimes relay conversations between friends and lovers.

Singing a conversation

Singing a conversation

But above everything else Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros are musicians.  What does this mean? It means if there’s no audio on the keyboards, “play the song on your horn” (as Sharpe instructed Stewart Cole to do during one technical failure).  If the sound guy doesn’t turn the mics back on for your encore, just play the song anyway and “sing without the mic” (as Sharpe encouraged Jade to do this evening).

Castrinos sings the encore without a mic

Castrinos sings the encore without a mic

Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros are musicians in the truest sense of the word – even if you take away their instruments, deprive them of their mics, or deny them an encore, they’re going to keep playing music!

No mics for the encore? Ok, well we’re still going to play!

Here are some pictures from the show:

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The audience begs to have the mics turned back on for one more song

The audience begs to have the mics turned back on for one more song

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Portugal. The Man: Transforming The Troubadour

September 25, 2009
The Troubadour, LA

Portugal. The Man

Portugal. The Man

John Baldwin Gourley, Jason Sechrist, Ryan Neighbors, and Zachary Scott Carothers – they call themselves Portugal. The Man but they may want to consider calling themselves Portugal. The Man!!!

Now I know what everybody’s been talking about. . .

Well, let me clarify – not everybody is talking yet.  The show was sold-out, not a celebrity (that I’m aware of) in sight. The Troubadour was packed with actual die-hard, screaming, chanting, singing, moshing, fans.  Give it time – this band is sure to become a Hollywood favorite, and before you know it Drew Barrymore will be rocking right alongside you.

Not that there’s anything wrong with Drew – she actually likes music and enjoys the shows.  It’s the “celebrities” that arrive 37 minutes late and then give you dirty looks because they can’t hear their cell phone conversation over your cheering. . . let’s not tell them about Portugal. The Man, ok? Because they will want to be there.  Everybody is going to want to be there when they find out what they’ve been missing.  The show was epic and it’s only a matter of time until the masses find out, but for now, Portugal. The Man is the best-kept secret around.

They’re not a secret to everyone.  Once you get inside you realize you’re being introduced to something that others have known about for some time.  People greet you with looks that communicate: “Oh good. You finally made it.”  and “Get ready.  You’re in for something. . .” and “Where have you been?! You must be an idiot for not knowing about these guys sooner, but I’m glad you’re here now.” And rightfully so. . .

hhhhh

John Baldwin Gourley

There’s something that overtakes you the moment these guys hit the stage.  You become part of this Portugal. The Man experience. You can’t stop moving, dancing, clapping, screaming.  And we’re talking about LA – a city I love, but one whose residents (myself included) are so spoiled by the access they have to great entertainment that often times they just stand (or worse yet, sit) at a show, never more than a nod of a head and a polite clap. I’ve seen it happen to some of the biggest and best bands in the world. Well, that’s not happening to Portugal. The Man.

Zachary Scott Carothers

Zachary Scott Carothers

Gourley plays guitar masterfully and sings with considerable range and uncompromised passion.  So you’re tempted to just want to stand there and watch him, but you can’t ignore the bass line Carothers throws down and you can’t believe he can play bass while practically doing a full back-bend.  Then Neighbors takes a break from the keys and brings

Ryan Neighbors

Ryan Neighbors

further force to the music, with additional percussion.  All the while Sechrist grounds the songs and the experience as he takes command of the drums. The lights are synced to the beat of the music (which is important to note if you have any hope of capturing a decent photograph of the band while they’re playing) and the crowd can’t contain themselves.  Needless to say, if you wanted to just stand there and watch, there would be plenty to hold your attention. But I don’t think it’s possible to stand still at a Portugal. The Man show, and I can’t imagine that you’d want to.

Transforming The Troubadour

Transforming The Troubadour

If you’ve heard their music and you haven’t seen them live, go see them.  Travel to another city if you need to. If you haven’t heard their music, it doesn’t matter – go see Portugal. The Man – you won’t regret it. Here are their tour dates – you have no excuse.

A religious experience

P.TM - a religious experience

Some people will describe a show as a “religious experience”.  I’ve been to a lot of mind-blowing, extraordinary shows, but I’ve yet to describe one as “religious.”  Perhaps that’s because I wasn’t raised with much religion and those who were don’t speak very highly of it. . . But assuming a “religious experience” is a good thing, that it’s transformative, that it overtakes you, that you forget where you are, that you forget who you are, that for a moment nothing else matters – well, then seeing Portugal. The Man live is a religious experience.

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What You Can Learn From Sondre Lerche (A Night At The Troubadour)

September 24, 2009
The Troubadour, LA

Last night I was fortunate enough to attend Sondre Lerche‘s sold-out show at The Troubadour.  Before we jump into the details, here’s what I learned during the  show:

  1. It’s all about simplicity – you don’t need a lot of equipment. . . or any equipment at all
  2. The better you are, the less you need to sing
  3. Sex sells. . . tickets and merch
Sondre Lerche at The Troubadour

Sondre Lerche at The Troubadour

Lerche is a musician from Norway whose U.S. career launched in 2002, and who continues to sell out shows and merch -  how does he do it?

I first discovered Lerche in 2002, when Faces Down came out.  It was during my Largo era (they’re not music snobs. . . they just have better taste than you).  I used to spend several nights a week at Largo, hanging out with the sophisticated music insiders, which gave me an early awareness of all the truly talented emerging artists on the scene.

Lerche was the guy to hear/see/buy at the time and I was among the few people in LA who knew about Lerche during his opening stint with Nada Surf.  In March 2003, I went to Nada Surf’s sold-out show at the Knitting Factory to see Sondre Lerche.  Just to add further context – this was the year Nada Surf’s critically acclaimed album, Let Go, came out.  The place was packed and hot, and everybody was jockeying for the best position to see their favorite band – Nada Surf – play.  .  . until Sondre Lerche hit the stage.

Lerche spoke very little during that show.  If I remember correctly, his English vocabulary may have been quite limited at the time.  From the moment he sang the first note, the audience was spellbound. He played for approximately 45 minutes while the crowd stood silently, eyes wide, mouths open (not to talk – just so they remembered to breathe).  When Lerche finished his set there was an uproar of applause  and then silence.  He left the stage and everybody around me looked like they had just witnessed the coming of their religious icon.  People, who had initially been excited to see Nada Surf, looked blankly at each other as if to say, “now what?” In fact, a significant number of people left early during Nada Surf’s set, muttering that nothing could top Lerche’s performance.

The next day, everybody in Los Angeles was talking about Sondre Lerche.  That was the show to be at, that nobody knew about, and they weren’t going to miss him again.  Lerche’s music broke beyond the sophisticates and to the masses of LA. His headlining shows have been sold-out ever since, which is the only reason I hadn’t been back to seem him. . . until last night.

"You knew the rules by heart. . . "

"You knew the rules by heart. . . "

Cut to The Troubadour, 9:30pm, September 24, 2009:  another sold-out show for Lerche.  I believe that you can get a good gauge of how a show might go based on the energy in the audience before the show. This crowd was buzzing . . .  and talking about a lot of sex.  Now, I love sex, and I’m happy to talk about it, but this felt like I’d walked in on some inside joke – as if they’d passed around a note before the show that read: Discuss your wildest sex adventure between sets. I heard about people’s video-taped escapades and sex on the beach (not the drink, the act) for 15 minutes leading up to Lerche’s performance. And let’s be clear, this was not a trashy crowd – these are your neighbors, colleagues, sons and daughters – and they’re having a good time.

Boy, was the audience excited when Lerche took the stage! Other things that I noticed about the crowd (pay attention new artists and record labels) were:

  • It was a young audience.  Lerche has managed to remain relevant 7 years later, continually gaining new fans
  • It was a good-looking crowd, a nice mix of women and men, but mostly good-looking women – which as you know, draws the men
  • They were so into the show they didn’t budge for an hour and a half – not to go to the restroom, not to get a drink (sorry bartenders, but Lerche is really good)
I hope Nelly disses me on the internet

I hope Nelly disses me on the internet

Now none of that may seem ground-breaking or revolutionary, but what is somewhat amazing is that Lerche continues to build this loyal following, without the help of radio or mainstream media outlets.  In fact, speaking about the song “Easy to Persuade,” Lerche said, “I get a lot of people saying I ripped off Nelly. So I’m hoping he disses me, disses me on the internet, or maybe on MTV.  That’s probably my only shot at getting on MTV.”  Lerche is one of those artists who is so good people know about him, and they will come to his shows and buy his t-shirts repeatedly.  He is also extremely engaging and charming on stage.  If he didn’t before, he’s certainly got a great handle on the English language now! I haven’t laughed that hard between songs in a while.

"But tell me all about our little trailer by the sea.  Jessie. . ."

"But tell me all about our little trailer by the sea. Jessie. . ."

Lerche sang a nice mix of newer material and old favorites. He also covered “The Word Girl” by Scritti Polliti and “Jessie” by Joshua Kadison (remember this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iElty90IPiw).  The “Jessie” cover was one of the highlights of the night, dedicated to Lerche’s friend and opening act, Jesse Marchant (aka JBM). Lerche’s expressive performance, infused with his humorous version of the song (achieved via pauses, inflections, and facial expressions as he sang) had the crowd begging for more.  In fact, I kind of got the impression Lerche had only planned to sing the first verse and one round of the chorus, but people were so into it, he sang the entire song, a cappella.

Lerche also sang an old favorite, “Two Way Monologue”, a cappella. Although, this time not by choice.  About midway through the song, Lerche encountered technical difficulty with his guitar cable and had to unplug.  Not only did he play the guitar without amplification, he moved away from the mic, stood on the edge of the stage, as close to the crowd as possible, and just sang. The crowd offered support, at first cheering (until Lerche reminded them they needed to be quiet in order to hear) and then singing along.  It was one of those magical impromptu moments that you dream to be part of during a live show.

Lerche captivates the audience

Lerche captivates the audience

When Lerche sang “My Hands Are Shaking”. . . well, he didn’t have to sing.  The audience sang the entire song while Lerche played guitar and lent his voice on occasion.  But mostly, this song was performed by his fans. “Wow, usually on a really good day, you hope the crowd sings along for the encore.  But that’s not even the encore,” Lerche said, addressing the audience graciously. Lerche also had the benefit of crowd vocal support when he played “Heartbeat Radio.”  “Tell me what you think about this song,” Lerche sang, and the crowd sang back, “I love it!”

Line of fans waiting to buy merch

Line of fans waiting to buy merch

Lerche returned for 2 encores and the crowd left gratified, but not before stopping by the merch booth.  I’ve been to a lot of big shows at The Troubadour (Queens of The Stone Age, Ryan Adams, The White Stripes, Damien Rice, etc.) and I have never seen a merch line this long.  On a good night the line will extend the length of the bar.  But last night, there were so many people in line that The Troubadour was forced to open the side door and allow the line to extend outside.  The line of fans waiting to purchase music and merch (and hopefully meet Lerche) stretched down the block, beyond the building, to the corner of Doheny and Santa Monica.

Seven years later, Lerche upholds the promise of a show you’ll never forget.

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One eskimO – What Do They Have In Common With The Strokes?

September 24, 2009
LP33.tv Studios

One eskimO at LP33.tv

One eskimO at LP33.tv

Last night I posted a review of One eskimO’s live performance at The Hotel Cafe.  I thought they were great and really wanted to share some video with you so you could see for yourself.  Instead, I adhered to The Hotel Cafe’s no-filming policy and simply sat back happily and enjoyed the music.  You can read the review and see a few pictures here.

Luckily, the guys who make up One eskimO – Kristian Leontiou, Pete Rinaldi, Adam Falukner and Jamie Sefton – came to LP33.tv today for an interview and acoustic performance.

Here’s some video of One eskimO playing “Amazing”.  Keep in mind, this is B-roll, shot by me (amateur), while staying out of the way of the real crew and dodging equipment.  Once the final LP33.tv cut of this video is done, I’ll post it here as well.

“Amazing” Live Acoustic Take 1:

“Amazing” Live Acoustic Take 2:

Kristian and Pete tell LP33.tv about One eskimO

Kristian and Pete tell LP33.tv about One eskimO

After One eskimO amazed the LP33.tv staff and crew with their performance, we moved outside for an interview.  Pete and Kristian talked about their animated movie, touring, writing songs, and some plans for the future.  When the interview video piece is edited, I’ll post it here as well. As soon as the interview was over each of the guys made a point of going around to everybody they worked with on the LP33.tv team and thanking them.

It's all about the sound

It's all about the sound

I spoke with Kristian and Pete for a bit after the interview, specifically about how good their sound was during the Hotel Cafe show last night.  They told me they found their current sound guy approximately 6 months ago.  They laughed as Pete explained, “You know, usually people will come up to you and say, ‘I love your music.  I love your band.’ They’re always talking about the band. But after we play a live show everybody comes up and says, ‘Man! The sound was amazing!’ and everybody’s talking about our sound guy. He’s really become the 5th member of the band.  We love him.”

Then, they began joking(ish) that they’re a challenging band to tour manage.  They did show up on time, were extremely professional and sincere. . . “You seem like you’d be easy enough to work with,” I offered.

“Yes, it looks that way,” Kristian began, “but we have a tendency to just wander off, without our phones, and not tell anybody where we’re going.  Our tour manager is always hoping we turn up before we need to be somewhere. And we do. . . every time.”

I was immediately reminded of when The Strokes first toured the U.S. before Is This It was released.  They played a show at The Troubadour which I attended.  After the show, I was sitting upstairs, having a drink and talking to a pretty good-looking guy for a while.  The Strokes were runnin’ around, doin’ their thing, “relaxing” after the show.  Suddenly, the entire band came over and dog-piled us.  It turns out the guy I was talking to went to prep school with the band and was one of their closest friends.

“C’mon, let’s go back to the hotel and have another party,” Albert exclaimed.

“Bring her!” Fabrizio said, pointing at me.

All the guys introduced themselves and then Albert inquired, “Hey – do you have a car here?” I told him I did and he asked if we could take my car back to the hotel and if he could drive it.  “I love driving and I’ve been stuck on a tour bus for months.”

So, I walk out of The Troubadour with my friend Brigitte, the pretty good-looking guy, and 3 of The Strokes.  As we make our way down Santa Monica boulevard to my car, we pass by the alley where the band’s tour bus was parked.  From deep in the alley I hear their poor tour manager yell, “HEY! Wait! Where are you guys going??? The bus is over here!!!”

“It’s cool!” Albert replied as he pointed at me, “We’re going with her!”

“Yeah, don’t worry about us.  We know where we’re going!” Fabrizio added.

“WHERE are you going?” the tour manager pleaded for information.

“See you later” all the guys replied in unison.

As we walked away I heard the tour manager’s voice in the distance, “Wait! Where’s Julian. . .?”

When Kristian told me that they too wander off, I immediately recalled that moment with The Strokes.  I didn’t share that story with Kristian, but he must have sensed what was going through my head because he quickly added, “I mean. . . we don’t get into any kind of trouble or anything. . . we just disappear. . .”

And with that, the band disappeared.

But if they make their way to your town, be sure to check them out (and tell them how good the sound is).

Here are some pictures from the shoot today:
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One eskimO and The Hotel Cafe

One eskimO
Live at The Hotel Cafe
September 23, 2009

One eskimO at The Hotel Cafe

One eskimO at The Hotel Cafe

There are many things I love about going to The Hotel Cafe, one of them being its close proximity to Amoeba Music. So after getting my quick vinyl fix and marveling at the irony that they seem to have more trouble selling CDs than keeping records on the shelf, I continued on to The Hotel Cafe to see about a new band from the U.K., One eskimO (no, that’s not a typO).

I knew little about this band prior to going to the show, but trusted the recommendation of a friend who said I should check them out.  As it turns out, he was right – One eskimO is definitely worth checking out.  Their songs are melodic and the audience was captivated.  Their music is accessible enough for the mainstream, while the band manages to maintain their indie cred.  That’s easier to do now of course than when they really take off (i.e. the current perception of Kings of Leon held by many).

And I’m willing to bet that once word gets out about these guys, they will take off.  Or, if Alexandra Patsavas finds out about them, you’ll be hearing them on an episode of a hit series on ABC.  Is Zach Braff working on a new movie?? He might want to secure this band for his next soundtrack.  But what they (and you) should do is see them live.  What you hear online might peak your interest, but their live performance will lock it in.

Another thing I love about going to The Hotel Cafe is that their sound system is really good (and often underutilized).  Many of the musicians who play there play soft, quiet, songs.  But when you get a real rock band in there (like Billy Corgan & Spirits In The Sky) or a musician who plays multi-layered soundtrack-esque music (like Imogen Heap or One eskimO), the room fills perfectly with sound and you get lost in it.

Bassist Jamie Sefton and singer Kristian Leontiou

Bassist Jamie Sefton and singer Kristian Leontiou

One eskimO sounded great.  I ran into the lead singer, Kristian Leontiou, on his way up to the stage and I never would have suspected that voice came from him. In fact, several times during the show, I closed my eyes and pictured who was singing those notes.  And not once did the guy I pictured look like the guy who was actually singing.  One eskimO are refreshing like that.  There’s a familiarity about them so you feel like you may even know the songs, yet there’s an originality to their sound and certainly to their live performance that keeps you engaged.

This is one instance when I wish I could have captured some video of the show.  Unfortunately, Hotel Cafe has a strict no-recording policy which I respect and abide by (especially since I often spend more hours there than at my own house).  The good news is, I hear One eskimO is stopping by LP33.tv tomorrow – they’re bound to get some great video.

Speaking of videos, apparently One eskimO is releasing a full-length animated film in conjunction with the album.  You can read more about it on their website.  Although, like some of the best movies, I often enjoy going in with little prior knowledge and no preconceived notions or expectations.

When the band finished their set, the crowd demanded an encore.  And here’s where things could become disastrous. . . I recognized it within the first 3 notes. . .  They were playing one of my favorite Neil Halstead (remember Mojave 3?) songs, “Hi-Lo and Inbetween”.

There’s nothin’ worse than a new band covering a song that was done perfectly in the first place (by the original artist). . . unless they get it right.

And they did.

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The 2nd Biggest Surprise: Metric and Phoenix at The Greek

I don’t remember what the 1st biggest surprise was, but I do remember the original title of this post: To Anyone Who Dreamed To Have a Life Without a Boss. . .

To find out why that was the original title, click “play” and watch the video below.

Or, if you prefer to play a game to figure out why that was going to be the title of this post, don’t click “play.”  Instead:

Jump below the video.
Read the rest of this post.
Guess why that might have been the original title.
Then come back here.
Push play.
And see if you’re right.

Don’t worry, it’s not a hard quiz.  It’s been psychologically proven that people like to feel smart (not sure why we needed a study to prove that one).  So if I can make you feel smart while you’re reading this, then chances are you’ll keep coming back to read my blog.  That’s also why those quizzes that play in movie theaters before the feature film are so easy.

But anyway, METRIC! I’d seen this band before – back in the days of one-syllable-bands-that-begin-with “The”: The Hives, The Vines, The Strokes, etc.  I’m pretty sure I saw Metric open for at least one of these bands.  And I’m pretty sure I thought they were alright.  But, at The Greek Theater, Metric held their own, so much so I thought perhaps maybe they were headlining. (This thought was exacerbated by the fact that we arrived late, which is easy to do when a show starts before sunset).  Judging by the audience’s reaction, we weren’t the only ones who thoroughly enjoyed Metric.  Here’s a bit of their performance:

Now, about Phoenix. . .  First of all, every good-looking person in LA was at this show.

Phoenix live at The Greek

Phoenix live at The Greek

Secondly, I definitely wasn’t supposed to have a camera in there. So, as you can imagine, getting this video was a challenge.  Right – nobody would want a great video to get out.  There are some people (NIN), venues (Hollywood Bowl) and promoters who understand that getting media out there is a GOOD thing.  And then there are others that think, “OH NO! What if somebody sees it and decides they like this band and must see them when they come through town next?”  Or “What if somebody thinks ‘Wow, The Greek looks like a beautiful venue and the sound is great.  I should go there sometime. . .’ ” Or “What if a music supervisor sees it and decides she needs the music for this year’s blockbuster film?” It’s not like I’m making money off this.  You are.  It’s good for you.  I promise.

Bonnaroo Ferris Wheel and Arcade

Bonnaroo Ferris Wheel and Arcade

So, Phoenix. . .  I first stumbled upon them live at Bonnaroo earlier this year. I was backstage before the band went on and just before the singer arrived.  His plane had been delayed, causing him to arrive at the festival grounds just 20 minutes prior to going on stage.  Until that moment, it was questionable whether the band would miss their slot entirely. Instead, band members jumped up and down and squealed (like school girls, but not annoying) when they were reunited. What followed describes something I haven’t seen in music for a little while — a band that actually LOVES each other.  These guys were genuinely excited to see each other, took a deep interest in the well-being of the others and could not wait to get onstage.  Perhaps a lot of bands feel this way and are just too cool to express it, but Phoenix didn’t hold anything back.  Just prior to going on-stage they huddled:

“Let’s make this the best show we’ve ever played!” one member exclaimed.

“Let’s make these people go NUTS!” called out another.

“Let’s have fun!”

And on and on until everybody had expressed himself and the entrance music kicked in.

“That’s us!” they cheered, and they all went running for the stage.

I had a press pass, and was allowed a camera. . .  but I was so mesmerized that I forgot to use it.

That was Bonnaroo, but something tells me that pre-show huddle was not a first.  It felt like a ritual, and one that pretty much guarantees a good show.  Phoenix gets themselves so amped that they have no choice but to have a great show.  And their fans – well, they’re going to have fun, like it or not.  Phoenix’s performance at The Greek was as enjoyable as ever.  The band member’s love for each other reaffirmed and the fans having the time of their lives. Phoenix’s performance is light and fun, yet seriously good.  The Greek is the perfect venue for a show like this.  Outside, warm air, perfect sound, relaxed security.

Just kidding about that last part.  Don’t want anyone to get in trouble.

Anyway, see for yourself:


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