One of the reasons I love Butch Walker is because he’s honest. (Either Walker is really honest or he’s a really good liar.) Another reason I love Butch Walker is because he’s cool. And not just cool, but sexy cool. Walker reminds you that it’s sexy cool to be honest.
And that’s what makes a Butch Walker show what it is. Sure, the music is good; his passion and expressive stage presence is entertaining and refreshing; his sense of humor makes you forget about anything his songs may have made you remember. . . But what makes a Butch Walker show a Butch Walker show is that it’s one place (especially in LA) where it’s okay to be vulnerable; it’s cool to be unguarded and real. As they sing along to every song, at a volume that nears screaming (albeit melodic), the crowd acknowledges that they’ve felt that way too. And while they may not have been brave enough to express it before, Butch Walker shows are a safe place for people to exclaim, “Yeah, I’m a little fucked up,” and then to celebrate that we all are.
Butch Walker jogs his memory with his song book
Last night’s show at The Hotel Cafe was the last show of Butch Walker’s 4-week residency at the venue. During the 3 prior shows Walker played one of his albums start to finish. Last night’s event was a fan request show. Every song on the set list (except two new songs) was requested by fans via Twitter. This proved to be more challenging for Walker as it forced him to re-learn some songs he hadn’t played in years, songs he’d forgotten he’d written. In some cases, he played songs he claimed to never have played live before. “There’s gonna be a lot of fucking up tonight,” Butch Walker remarked early on during his set.
Fans knew the words better than Walker as he played songs he swore he’d never play live again. “I hate playing this song. It’s really hard to sing – it has too many words,” Walker explained before launching into “Suburbia.” “I swore I’d never play this song live again, but you requested it . . . “ Walker’s commitment to his fans was reaffirmed numerous times during his 2-hour set.
Butch Walker plays, the audience sings
Between songs Walker lent insight into the lyrics and where he was (figuratively speaking) when he wrote each song. He openly explained that some of the songs were hard for him to sing now. “A lot of these (songs) - I’m having trouble connecting with them now because I don’t know where I was then.” Reflecting back, prior to playing some of his earlier material, Walker remembered that he used to scream a lot more when he was younger. At 40-years old he admits to being much happier now. “I had more things to be angry about back then. Well, I’ll try to scream tonight. I’ll give it a shot. . .” Walker said before launching into some of his more angst-ridden songs.
Walker played “I’m A Believer” for some fans who flew all the way from Atlanta to see the show. Walker’s parents also flew in for the show to which Walker remarked, “I never thought I’d be drinking whiskey from a bottle, in front of my parents. Well, I’m alls growned up now. . .”
Halfway through “Beautiful,” which Walker had trouble singing seriously, he added some lyrics, “I’d go get your fucking money back.” When he finished singing “Beautiful,” Walker explained his inability to play the song without laughing, “I feel like this song is a hair product commercial.”
Just like watching it on YouTube
After every song about heartbreak and pain, Walker had a way of making the crowd laugh hysterically. “I decided tonight I’m just gonna talk to you like I’m on YouTube. Like you’re watching it. . . y’know? Because when I get home this whole show will be up on YouTube and I’ll watch it and think, ‘Oh, don’t wear that!’”
In response to some holiday song requests, Walker pondered, “There aren’t any Thanksgiving songs. We should make up a Thanksgiving song.” Then, while strumming an upbeat tune, Walker sang, “White men are assholes. White men are assholes. We took this land, took this land, took this land, took this land. White men are assholes. . . I’m happy to be here.”
Walker introduced “Vampires In Love,” a song he wrote in 1997, 12 years ahead of its time. “Cuz it would be stupid to do something like that now,” Walker said, referring to the current popularity of vampire stories such as the Twighlight series and True Blood. “It just reaffirms my belief that I should never play this song again.” Walker let the audience take over the vocals as he playfully mocked the song with dramatic facial expressions. After he finished playing “Vampires In Love,” Walker commented, “That song is like Fisher Price My First Song. . . the lyrics are so stupid.”
Reviewing his song cheat sheets
He played fan-favorite song after fan-favorite song, deviating from the fan request format only twice to play new songs. Walker wrote one of the songs for his young son, reminding him to live a complete, full, passionate, fun-filled life, and not to make some of the mistakes Walker had.
Walker took us on a journey from one side of love to another, singing “Let Me Go”: Please just let me go
And I won’t be your shadow anymore
Followed by “Last Flight Out”: Is this all there really is?
Life after you
Is it all there really is?
What else can I do?
I’m just gonna taste your kiss
No matter who I’m with
“This is my get out jail free song. I’m not gonna sing it – you are,” Walker said as he began playing another fan anthem. If that’s the case, all the songs Walker played last night could be considered “get out of jail free songs” – the audience sang every one.
There's no need to scream anymore
As Walker played the older songs he seemed to get younger. I could picture him, 20 years ago, 20 years old, sitting in his bedroom. . . Just as cool then as he is now. I thought about all the musicians who’ve collaborated with Walker, those fortunate enough to have his producer credit on their album. “It would be a lot of fun to work with Butch,” I thought. He takes what he does seriously, but he also knows how to have fun. Butch Walker has changed since he wrote many of the songs he played last night. He’s more relaxed and knows first and foremost how to have a good time. Perhaps that’s why he doesn’t scream much any more.
Butch Walker leaves the screaming (and sometimes the singing) to the fans.
One of my friends asked me what I was doing tonight. When I told him I was going to see Wolfmother, he responded, “Wolfmother? I don’t know what that is, but I wanna go.” And that’s why I’m friends with that guy – he knows a good thing when he hears it.
Maybe it’s due to my long holiday away from live music . . . Or perhaps it’s just the fact that Wolfmother is an outstanding band, but that was one hell of a show. The audience was among the best I’ve seen in LA – clapping, stomping, jumping throughout every song. If they weren’t already standing, the audience would have given a standing ovation after every song. There were times it looked as if the band was thinking, “Wait – is this our encore?” during the thunderous applause and cheering that followed every song. No, no. . . that’s just your third song, but you played it like it was an encore and the audience responded with the same level of enthusiasm. Wolfmother played every song as if it were their banner hit – a larger than life, extremely energetic and passionate performance start to finish.
Wolfmother played every song as if it were an encore performance
I wonder if Wolfmother knows this was the best show they’ve ever played. I wonder if, from the band’s perspective, this was an exceptional show. . . or have they all been this good? Andrew Stockdale’s voice, guitar solos, and dynamic stage presence took the show to another level. At one point, Ian Peres was playing keyboards with his right hand and bass with his left hand, simultaneously. At another point, Peres was playing keyboards and his feet weren’t touching the ground at all. Peres frequently needed to untangle himself from the cable he’d gotten caught up in while tearing around the stage.
Andrew Stockdale and Slash
Wolfmother weren’t the only ones tearing around the stage. During the encore Stockdale invited Slash out to play “By The Sword.” Whatever the audience was doing before Slash hit the stage, they turned up 300 notches when he did take the stage.
This was the last show of Wolfmother’s U.S. tour. Wolfmother doesn’t just get up there and play — they GET UP THERE AND PLAY!
And the fans continued screaming and cheering as they traversed the parking garage, on the way to their cars.
LA 101 Festival
Gibson Amphitheater, Universal City
November 3, 2009
Matt and Kim know how to have a good time
I first became aware of Matt and Kim when I heard their single, “Daylight” on the radio. That’s a miracle in and of itself because with the exception of KCRW, I don’t listen to the radio much. In fact, it’s quite possible I first heard Matt and Kim on KCRW. I liked “Daylight” – thought it was a catchy song. I also liked the simplicity of the name “Matt and Kim.” If you know many musicians, you’ve likely heard their woes of trying to come up with a band name they like and that’s not already taken. Matt and Kim seemed to say, “F*&k it – we’re Matt and Kim. We are who we are.” and I appreciate that.
My next encounter with Matt and Kim was when I saw their video for “Lessons Learned” playing on some music video channel, which I can only assume was Vh1 because there’s not much music on Music Television (that’s what MTV actually used to stand for). The fact that I saw their video is also a bit of a miracle because I don’t watch much TV. But, I was at the gym and that’s what was on. What a contrast the images playing on CNN were alongside Matt & Kim’s video, which features them taking off all their clothes in Times Square, New York. “F*&k it – we’re going to have fun!” is what I took away from that video, and again, I liked it.
My third encounter with Matt and Kim was during the LA 101 Festival held at Gibson Amphitheater. Another miracle (or rather, a case of me just sucking it up). That venue is on the opposite side of LA from where I am, requires venturing through the valley in rush hour traffic, and often doesn’t present the best sound. But I like people who are who they are and who say, “F*&k it – let’s have fun!” so I made the trek to Universal city to see Matt and Kim.
When Matt and Kim hit the stage there was a sizable crowd, but it appeared sparse due to how spread out everybody was. That’s what happens in LA – half the audience is at the venue; the other half is stuck in traffic or looking for parking. So after playing their first song, Matt instructed everybody to forget about those stay-in-your-seat (and the larger box society tries to keep you in) rules. “I know they tell you to stay in your seat, but wherever you are – everybody, just come down here to the front,” he suggested. Matt and Kim launched into their next song as the crowd rushed forward to the floor and lower orchestra seats.
Kim and Matt
Matt and Kim not only played an energetic set, they played and sang with a constant smile on their faces. They’re charming, gracious, fun, and unconventional. Between songs a voice was heard through their monitors, “Matt – security won’t let people move down. They need to stay in their seats.” This prompted Kim to grab the mic, “Ok, so you can’t move forward. Well, let me show you what to do. This is what you can do while you’re forced to stay in your seat. First, stand on your seat, and then. . . do THIS!!” With that, Kim broke into a dance that seemed to communicate, “Ok, I’m in my seat and I’m still having fun. Ha ha! What are you going to do now, Security?!” This sent the crowd into hysterics and also inspired even more energetic dancing and crowd participation in the fun that comes with a Matt and Kim show.
“Thank you for being here and thank you for letting us do this,” Matt said graciously. “We just do this because we love it – and that’s the only reason you should do anything in life,” he continued as the duo launched into their next song. They completed their short, good-humored, rebellious set with, “Daylight,” which is exactly what Gibson Amphitheater needed – a little lightening up!
Matt and Kim’s songs are fun. Matt and Kim’s show is fun. Matt and Kim’s attitude is fun. So be who you are, get out of your seat, say “f*&k it!”, go see Matt and Kim, and have yourself a good time.
I ran into Andrew Stockdale, Ian Peres, and Aidan Nemeth back at the press tent, prior to their set. They were doing an interview with Filter and the interviewer was asking them what they thought of alternative animal names for their band. “Wombat Mother?” “Koala Mother?” The journalist shot off a dozen or so animal names. Stockdale and Peres looked puzzled for a moment as if there were a language barrier between Australia (where the band is from) and America, and then they cracked a smile. It was either that or beat the sh*t out of the interviewer; and with a name like “Wolfmother” you can’t be certain which way it will go. As it turns out, the guys are quite nice . . . most of the time.
I’ve always liked Wolfmother. I’ve seen them a few times, at various festivals, and they put on a great show. So when I saw them at Voodoo Experience in New Orleans on Halloween, I expected them to be good. I hadn’t yet listened to their new album, Cosmic Egg, which came out a few days prior to the festival so I didn’t know what to expect musically.
Wolfmother audience at Voodoo Experience
Wolfmother hit hard, song after song, for an hour and a half. The music was outstanding and the guys played tighter than I remembered from previous years. This could partially be explained by the fact that there’s been some shuffling of band members. Or, it could simply be that Wolfmother is a phenomenal band that continues to evolve with their music. As much as I liked Wolfmother before, and as much as I expected from them, their set at New Orleans Voodoo Experience took it to another level. The rest of the audience seemed to agree, their attention captivated, and their hands, cell phones, and cameras, in the air throughout the set.
A couple things happened after Wolfmother finished their set: I wondered how Jane’s Addiction and Kiss were going to make me feel anything at all, and I went back to the hotel and downloaded (legally) Cosmic Egg.
But before that – well, actually, after Kiss failed to impress me and before I purchased Cosmic Egg – I ran into Stockdale and Peres again. This time they were talking to some fans at the bar, in the artist hospitality tent. I was shocked to find Hotshot Robot (an old friend of mine from previous festivals), standing behind the guys, beheaded.
“What happened to Hotshot Robot?” I asked.
“We had an arrangement,” Peres explained. “He was supposed to show up on stage and . . . “
I can’t write the remainder of what Peres said because if I did, my blog wouldn’t make it through the internet safety filters. Let’s just say the robot didn’t hold up his end of the deal and Wolfmother took care of him.
Before: A Happy Hotshot Robot, in tact, talking to Glasgow Friday (more after the jump)
After: Hotshot Robot, headless, with Wolfmother Saturday (more after the jump)
Let this be a lesson. Don’t f*ck with Wolfmother. But do go see their show. Who knows – it may even inspire you to buy music again.
Note: No robots were harmed at Voodoo Experience. Sources close to Hotshot Robot verified that being headless was his Halloween costume.
The Voodoo Experience in New Orleans is in its eleventh year and still going strong. This year’s event attracted a reported 100,000+ people during Halloween weekend. The line up – which included Eminem, Jane’s Addiction, Kiss, Mutemath, Wolfmother, The Flaming Lips, Lenny Kravitz, Janelle Monae, The Black Keys, Gogol Bordello, Silversun Pickups, and Widespread Panic – definitely helped draw the sizable audience. In addition to the impressive line up, the festival benefits from taking place in New Orleans during Halloween weekend, and offers a diverse range of entertainment and New Orleans cuisine.
In the spirit of Halloween, Friday was disguised as a warm sunny day, only to reveal its stormy nature following a captivating set by Janelle Monae. Earlier this year, I attempted to see Monae in Austin during SXSW. However, the club where she performed was too small to accommodate the crowd. We made it inside the venue, but couldn’t see Monae through the packed audience. Nonetheless, we could feel her energy and she sounded great. Monae’s SXSW appearance peaked my interest enough to ensure we arrived at The Voodoo Experience in time to catch her set (even forgoing a visit to Cafe Du Monde).
Monae is an engaging performer whether she’s dancing with fervor or singing while elevated on a chair. She commands the stage and the audience with her expressions and energetic dancing, but Monae doesn’t let you forget that what she came to do is sing. Her voice is beautiful and music is a full-body expression for Monae.
Marching through the mud
“The day wouldn’t be complete without muddy feet,” became the mantra of this year’s Voodoo Experience after Friday’s torrential downpours turned the festival grounds into a muddy obstacle course for the remainder of the weekend. Contrary to what you may expect, the wind, rain, cold temperatures, and mud, added to the experience as good-humored music fans and dedicated musicians braved the elements, in the name of music.
Silversun Pickups meeting fans before the storm
Due to the heavy rain and winds, Silversun Pickups had the option of rescheduling their set and playing a club in New Orleans later that night. Just moments before they were due at the main stage, the band decided to perform their set as scheduled, at the festival grounds, during the worst part of the storm. Their fans were appreciative and didn’t seem to mind enduring the pounding rain while the band played.
The New Orleans Bingo! Show
Knowing we would see Silversun Pickups in LA the following week, we opted for shelter and took cover in the Bingo! Parlour circus tent during the storm. Thankfully, Voodoo Experience offers a wide range of quality entertainment. Inside the Bingo! Parlour we were treated to none other than The New Orleans Bingo! Show. This isn’t your grandma’s Bingo — The New Orleans Bingo! Show includes aerialists, clowns that smoke and drink, dancers, and theatrics that transport you to another era. Clint Maedgen takes the lead on vocals, pump organ, keyboard, guitar, tenor saxophone, squeaky dolphin, and more. At the same time, an aerialist hangs upside-down above the crowd, doing tricks on the trapeze. Dancers and clowns add to the experience. Not only did we forget about the rain, we forgot where we were. The New Orleans Bingo! Show kept us dry, smiling, and dancing for an hour and a half.
“If you were in New Orleans and you didn’t see Eminem, then you missed everything!!” the Starbucks barista told us as he handed over our Saturday morning caffeine. Friday night’s performance was Eminem’s first full concert in 2009. Well, we missed it, and the city wouldn’t let us live it down. With the constant reminder of our Venti lattes in hand, we hailed a taxi to the festival Saturday. “Did you see Eminem last night??” the driver asked when we told him where we were headed. Before we could answer the question, the driver proceeded to tell us that Eminem last played The Voodoo Experience nine years ago. “Eminem,” “Eminem,” “Eminem” – you could hear his name ringing throughout the festival grounds early Saturday as fans reminisced about the set he played Friday night. Just when we were beginning to feel like we might have missed the highlight of the festival, The Voodoo Experience hit us with a wave of great music, exceptional live performances, and the reminder that there’s more than one highlight at Voodoo Experience.
Mates of States fans sing along
When we arrived Saturday afternoon, we were greeted by sunshine and the uplifting music of Mates of State. Costumed fans sang along as Kori Gardner (keyboard/vocals) and Jason Hammel (drums/vocals) played their catchy tunes. Mates of State got the crowd amped up which turned out to be essential because that energy was necessary for the back to back music that hit next.
Mutemath's Paul Meany raises the bar
Mutemath played immediately following Mates of State. Not only did they further set the tone for the day, they raised the standard for live performance in general. A separate review of the Mutemath show will follow because enough can’t be said here. Between their brilliant music, Paul Meany’s voice and keyboard handstands, Darren King standing on top of his drum and diving into the crowd, Greg Hill’s guitar pedal wizardry, and Roy Mitchell-Cárdenas on bass and whatever else he could get his hands on, Mutemath quickly became a favorite of festival goers.
It should be noted that in addition to the music reviewed here, there were at least 3 other artists performing concurrently on other stages at the festival. Since I still haven’t mastered being in 4 places at once, I stuck with a friend’s recommendation and caught Gogol Bordello. Now I know why this band has been on my to-see list for a while. Gogol Bordello had the majority of the audience jumping, clapping, and singing along throughout the duration of their set. When their show came to an end, the crowd demanded an encore and Eugene Hütz and the dynamic band delivered an even more energetic, lengthy encore.
The Voodoo Stage and Playstation/Billboard.com Stage faced each other on opposite ends of a running track. So when Gogol Bordello finished their set on the Playstation/Billboard.com stage, we turned around and walked toward the Voodoo Stage to catch Wolfmother. I’ve seen Wolfmother perform at other festivals, but something about their set at Voodoo blew me away and exceeded my expectations (which are high). First of all, I was able to hear Andrew Stockdale’s amazing voice in a way that I hadn’t heard before. The entire band seemed to play much tighter than when I saw them previously. This may, in part, be due to the fact that two of the original band members have been replaced. I ran into Stockdale and Ian Peres a few times during the festival. In addition to being exceptional musicians, they are extremely funny and kind. Although, there was that incident with Hotshot Robot. . . More on that in the additional, forthcoming Wolfmother review.
Wolfmother with a beheaded Hotshot Robot
So up until this point, you’ve got Mutemath, Gogol Bordello, and Wolfmother absolutely crushing it. Fans, whose feet otherwise may have been tired from standing, were blessed to have the cushion of mud to soften the impact from 3 hours and 45 minutes of incessant jumping. Some people began losing their voices from screaming and out-singing their neighbors and others opted to forgo food and restroom breaks so they wouldn’t miss anything. These are bands who just got on stage and played music. No light shows. No dramatic stage set-ups. No real spectacle. They entertained, they crowd surfed, and at times they banged on things in an unconventional manner, but they did not succumb to an over-the-top stage setup or seizure-inducing light show. And they don’t need to. Mutemath, Gogol Bordello, and Wolfmother can blow you away simply by playing music.
Cut to Jane’s Addiction and Kiss, who rounded out Saturday’s line-up. These are seasoned musicians who’ve been doing this forever. Perhaps they add spectacle just to keep themselves from getting bored – who knows? The question is: do they need it?
I’ve seen Jane’s Addiction several times over the years, including a very cool “rehearsal show” at a sound stage in LA. Sometimes they’re great. Sometimes they’re a little less than great. But irrespective of my subjective opinion of any given performance, Dave Navarro and Stephen Perkins always nail it. If Navarro weren’t a musician, I think he’d carry a portable stage around with him, set it up daily, and just strut around. And I’ll bet people would watch him too – that guy was born to be a performer. It also doesn’t hurt that he can PLAY guitar. Perkins, I could listen to or watch for hours, even if he were playing unaccompanied. He’s a phenomenal drummer. It’s also good to see Eric Avery back on bass. It was original Jane’s doing what they originally set out to do – play music and entertain.
Kiss playing (safely) with fire
Kiss, on the other hand, I had never seen live. That band is all about spectacle. Although, being live music veterans, they’ve learned to do things in moderation. Sure they’ve got face paint, hair, and silver and black outfits, but forget pyrotechnics (perhaps because paint is highly flammable). So when they perform, Kiss simply shows images of flames surrounding them on screen. The part about not using pyrotechnics is not entirely true – there was a nice fireworks display at the end of their set. While there were a lot of fans who have been with these bands for many years, it was nice to see a new generation of music fans enjoying Kiss and Jane’s Addiction at The Voodoo Experience.
Sunday was another beautiful day in New Orleans. By this point, there were enough paths made through the mud and it was considerably easier to navigate the festival grounds. We spent much of the day enjoying the non-music activities offered. We checked out several food vendors and sampled desserts including fried Oreos and white chocolate bread pudding ice cream (be on the lookout for New Orleans Ice Cream, rolling out nationwide!). We stumbled upon the special Vooboo stage set up for kids and watched families enjoying the festival experience together.
Eventually we made our way over to see JJ Grey & Mofro. I had been curious about JJ Grey ever since this I saw this clever music video. Well, they left the barbies at home for this show, but JJ Grey & Mofro were able to get the crowd groovin’ on their own.
Next up, Trombone Shorty. The first time I saw Trombone Shorty he was opening for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band in Los Angeles. He was so good that I actually forgot where I was and thought I was in New Orleans. So to see Trombone Shorty in his hometown of New Orleans was better than a fried Oreo. Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews has been playing New Orleans clubs since he was 12 years old. He’s now 23 and if there had been tables to dance on at Voodoo Experience, people would have been on them. If you have the opportunity to see Trombone Shorty, then do it (even if The Flaming Lips are playing at the same time).
The Flaming Lips shooting confetti
That said, we did head over to catch part of The Flaming Lips‘ set. I know I just suggested you do one thing and then I did the opposite thing, but with that experience behind me, I stand by my original recommendation — see Trombone Shorty. I do like the Lips, but the sole reason we ventured across the muddy field to see them was out of sheer curiosity, to see if they did anything different. I’ve seen them perform for years. I stopped seeing them perform for years. I revisited them during their tour this summer. And then, thinking they may pull out something new for the festival crowd, I saw them again at Voodoo Experience. If you’re somebody who doesn’t like change, rest easy – The Flaming Lips are doing exactly the same thing they were doing years ago. The show begins with Wayne Coyne rolling out on top of the crowd in a large bubble. Then, there’s confetti, enough balloons for everybody to play, and furry creatures dancing on stage. Songs may be performed in a slightly different tempo – “Fight Test” was played ultra slow at Voodoo – but essentially a Flaming Lips show is a Flaming Lips show. They provide good old-fashioned fun that you can always count on.
Voodoo Experience: good times guaranteed
Similarly, New Orleans Voodoo Experience provides good fun and music you can count on. However, that may be the only constant. New Orleans Voodoo Experience is truly unique and offers a diverse range of entertainment and activities. There’s something for everyone at Voodoo Experience – that’s why more than 100,000 people showed up.
Day 2: So much music, so little time to write!! Mates of State, Mutemath, Gogol Bordello, Wolfmother, Jane’s Addiction, Kiss. . . I will write an in-depth review as soon as the music stops or the city sleeps. In the meantime, some highlights and pictures.
Here’s how the Voodoo Experience differed Day 2 to Day 1:
Day 2: Sunny
Day 1: Torrential downpours
Day 2: Halloween
Day 1: Not Halloween, but you wouldn’t know it in New Orleans
Day 2: Exceptional music back to back
Day 1: Exceptional music back to back
Day 2: Experienced great live performances hour after hour
Day 1: Heard some great live music (with rain as a backing track) from the safety of a dry tent
Day 2: Hotshot Robot mysteriously beheaded
Day 1: Hotshot Robot happily roaming the festival, in-tact
Only Wolfmother really knows what happened to Hotshot Robot:
It was Wolfmother, in the bar, with the neck of a guitar
Mates of State welcomed the crowd and the sunny day with an uplifting, fun set:
Mates of State
The crowd welcomed the sun and Mates of State by singing along:
Mates of States fans know all the words
Wolfmother dodging questions about the Robot
Mutemath sets the tone not just for Voodoo Experience, but for live music performance as a whole: