LA

The Watkins Family Hour at Largo: Who Says Los Angeles Doesn’t Have Seasons?

December 22, 2015
Largo, Los Angeles

Watkins Family HourFor 13 years, Sean and Sara Watkins, along with their extended family of friends, have come together to create one of the most exceptional experiences in Los Angeles, The Watkins Family Hour.

In addition to their music, what makes this gathering so special is the humanity, connection, joy, and presence The Watkins Family exudes.

The spirit in the room feels festive and light. It’s a gathering of good friends, who’ve come together to celebrate and share stories, songs and laughter. The dynamic interaction between those on stage is shared with all in attendance. The musicians have a long history with each other, but they make sure to let the audience in on their inside jokes. With their presence and openness, The Watkins Family unites us all. 

Their music carries a similar inclusive, dynamic, and evolving energy. Thanks to the tone The Watkins Family sets and Largo‘s no-cell-phone policy, it is a completely immersive experience. You can get lost in the sound, hear how each note plays off the other, and the way the instruments and voices work together, each elevating the other. Rather than simply play their part, the musicians listen to and accompany each other. It is a live music experience in the purest sense. Created in front of you, the songs feel different each time they’re played. The Watkins Family Hour is a monthly residency that has spanned more than a decade, yet the show is still refreshing, unique, and anticipation for the next one never wanes.

The dynamic atmosphere is balanced with a sense of history and tradition. Whether you’re attending your first Watkins Family Hour show or your thirty-first, it feels as though you’ve been there since the beginning. The Watkins Family transports you to another time and place, where all there is to do is enjoy music and our time together.

There are no computers, fog machines, nor fancy lighting rigs. You may feel like you’ve been invited to a family gathering at one of their homes, especially when Sean and Sara sing while standing beneath a homemade snow machine, getting doused by white flakes. Last night, The Watkins Family reminded us not to take things too seriously and to embrace and express our childlike spirit. With the snow machine and humorous elves, they also gave us the gift of another inside joke and ”you had to be there” moment.

There’s music, comedy, and last night, there was snow. You can’t Auto-Tune this and it won’t translate in virtual reality. The Watkins take you on a journey which, like life, is ever-changing and more fun to navigate with music, a sense of humor, and surrounded by family and good friends. 

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Nine Inch Nails at Staples Center: Where The F*ck Were You?

November 8, 2013
Staples Center, Los Angeles

NINIn terms of shows, it’s hard to find words I haven’t said before, here: Nine Inch Nails Wave Goodbye LA Night 1, here: Nine Inch Nails – Henry Fonda Will Never Be The Same, here: Nine Inch Nails – Wave Goodbye, here: Nine Inch Nails: Wave Goodbye (at The Wiltern, the final show), here: I Have A Confession. . . , or here: Nine Inch Nails at The Troubadour.

I’ve been listening exclusively to Nine Inch Nails since seeing them perform at Staples Center Friday night. It’s been a long time since a concert inspired me to do that. I’ve been listening to this band for more than 20 years and, even today, as I listen to Nine Inch Nails, I can hear new perspectives in the music. It’s dynamic and evolving. It’s the varying degrees of tension between the instruments and the space between the noise. If you step out of the literal and just listen to the music, you can hear something new every time.

There are back up singers in this line-up and when they sing, that’s one thing. When they scream, that’s another thing. These women – and everyone on that stage and associated with this production – are essential to the show. Everyone’s role is additive and complementary to the experience.

NINRob Sheridan, Nine Inch Nails’ creative director, is brilliant. Trent Reznor has an amazing ability to recognize and embrace exceptionally talented people. The creative collaboration with Sheridan is signature to the Nine Inch Nails brand.  You know what this music feels like as a result of the entire production; not just the sound.

And the sound is great, no matter where they play. Staples Center can be tricky with sound because it tends to bounce around the room. A Nine Inch Nails show – loud as it may be – will not send you home with ringing ears. There’s precision in the production.

If I could use one word to describe Nine Inch Nails, it would be “integrity”. Integrity of music, integrity of art, integrity of the relationship with their fans. This band keeps their promise every time. Even if you’re not a fan of the music, I recommend seeing Nine Inch Nails for the inspiration of the vision and the aspiration of being that committed to their art.

So yeah, the show was outstanding. Where the fuck were you??

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Portugal. The Man at Red Bull Sound Space, KROQ

July 8, 2013
Red Bull Sound Space
KROQ, Los Angeles

What better way to kick off the Monday following a long holiday weekend than with a free show by an amazing band.

Having been to several “radio shows” before, I was a bit skeptical – not of Portugal. The Man‘s performance (I have complete confidence in that), but of the venue and format of the show. Any concerns I had were eliminated instantly upon arriving at the Red Bull Sound Space at KROQ. Representatives from KROQ, as well as Red Bull, were friendly, inviting, and engaging. Rather than emitting the vibe “You’re so lucky to be here,” the team’s message to all who were there was: “We’re so happy you came. Thank you.”

Nobody has to tell you that you’re lucky to be at a show like this. The moment you enter Red Bull Sound Space, you feel it. The space is intimate, accommodating approximately 150 fans. The backdrop of the stage is like a music time capsule – it’s constructed of speakers, turntables, boomboxes, receivers, and an assortment of other equipment. Rather than being covered in corporate branding or advertising, there is only one element of the backdrop that is branded, and its view is sometimes obstructed by the band. We see the branding, we know it’s Red Bull and KROQ, but when the band walks on stage, it’s about music and nothing else. This is very refreshing.

The show began with a brief, informed, and entertaining interview. It became clear that KROQ’s Nicole Alvarez is truly a fan of the band. She was very familiar with Portugal. The Man’s vast catalog, spoke about her personal connection to the music, and asked relevant questions. I know all of this seems like it should be a given, but it’s not to be taken for granted. This is not something all interviewers do well.

The band’s sense of humor and wit contributed greatly to the interview, as did the way they chose to answer – or not answer – the questions. Not to be confused with selective hearing - John Gourley has an impressive skill: selective responding. Clearly listening to each multi-part question, Gourley zeroed in on aspects where he could provide enough insight, while maintaining some mystery.

When asked about the meaning of their latest album, Evil Friends, or whether or not there’s a theme when they record, Gourley focused on the writing and recording process. He described how the band comes together to write and record in a way that makes you feel like you’re there, in the studio, with them. He left the meaning of the album up to the listeners.

Zach Carothers took on answering some of the questions, as well as chiming in during Gourley’s stories. Each time Carothers answered, he infused humor, often leading to a burst of conversation and laughter among the entire band. During these moments the dynamic personalities, quick wit, and friendship among Portugal. The Man members was undeniable.

My favorite moment during the interview came when Alvarez noted that Portugal. The Man puts out a new album nearly every year. Alvarez added that it seems as though the band is always either touring or releasing an album; they don’t stop. “That’s what we set out to do,” Gourley responded, adding that the band’s chosen goal is to make and play music as much as possible.

Portugal. The Man is a band that understands what it truly means to be musicians – just keep playing music. It’s a simple concept, but it takes constant discipline and dedication, which is what makes it hard for many to achieve. In addition to their music, it’s easy to appreciate and admire Portugal. The Man’s work ethic and commitment.

Playing songs from their latest album, Evil Friends, Portugal. The Man took us on a journey. This is the most stripped-down I’ve seen the band. Even when they played The Troubadour several years ago, Portugal. The Man brought in some of their own “lights” (in quotes because it’s nowhere near the setup they have now). The absence of lights and fog allowed me to appreciate the show on an even deeper level.

It was fun to watch the band build the songs – all the layers, the harmonies, the bass, guitar, keys, percussion, and the timing. When you hear the music, it sounds great. When you see what it takes to create the sound live – the precision of it all – it allows you to appreciate it that much more.

I feel that way each time I see Portugal. The Man. No matter the venue, the lighting, the stage, or the setlist, I take away something new at every show. Their shows are expansive and dynamic. There’s always more to discover when Portugal. The Man plays. They are one of very few bands I see every time they’re in town. 

After playing Creep In A T-Shirt, Evil Friends, Modern Jesus, and Sea of Air, Portugal. The Man announced the next song would be the last of this concise radio set. The audience let out a sigh of  ”Noooooooo….” that was audible until the band launched into “Purple, Yellow, Red, and Blue.” At that moment, the sighs became cheers.

When reviewing my pictures from this show, I was surprised to find this. It appears my camera captured “Purple. Yellow, Red, and Blue” in the midst of the show. That’s one hell of a photo bomb, PtM.

 Portugal. The Man is on tour now. Get tickets before they sell out.

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