January 21, 2010
Photo by Danny Clinch
Joseph Arthur is coming back to Los Angeles this week for two shows at The Troubadour (January 22 and 23). I’ve been seeing Joseph perform live for 11 years.
One of my favorite Joseph Arthur shows took place in the small room of the Knitting Factory in Hollywood several years ago. There were technical difficulties during the show which gave Joseph some time to hang with the audience while the tech issues were resolved. I was surprised and excited when Joseph pulled a notebook out of his backpack and began an impromptu show and tell of some sketches he had done. As with his songs, he had a captivating story behind every sketch. Arthur is not just a brilliant songwriter and performer, but also a talented visual artist.
I was pleased to learn that Arthur has been inspired to bring back his live stage painting during his shows in San Francisco and Los Angeles, with 100% of the proceeds donated directly to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.
Paintings will be sold immediately after the performance at the merchandise booth in a “make an offer” system, with a minimum bid of $500. Seven paintings were recently sold in Seattle and Portland, with Joseph creating more backstage to keep up with demand.
January 19 & 20 – San Francisco, CA Rickshaw Shop
January 22 & 23 – Los Angeles, CA Troubadour
Joseph’s paintings will be exhibited this year at Sundance, and Peter Gabriel hails Arthur’s work as exhibiting “strength and a visceral quality,” connecting “Expressionism, Art Brut, Basquiat and the Graffiti movement.”
Live show review to follow.
October 20, 2009
Owl City at The Troubadour
You would actually think that something as absurd as owls taking over the city was happening in LA tonight, based on the hype surrounding this gig. There were several other compelling shows going on simultaneously this evening, but if you were anywhere other than the Troubadour, then it’s probably because you couldn’t get in to see Owl City.
Let’s start with their upcoming tour dates, because you will probably want to see this band. If you check out the Tour section of Owl City’s website, the first thing you’ll notice is that the remainder of the shows on this leg of the tour are sold out. . . and then they’re leaving the country (don’t worry – they’ll be back mid-December). Next thing you’ll see is that a couple shows have been moved to larger venues “due to high demand.”
Y’know, the music business is struggling, but these guys are doin’ alright.
By “these guys” I mean Adam Young. Young began writing music in his basement and claims, “These songs are all I have to show for my sleepless nights.” Luckily for all of his fans, Young suffers from insomnia and writes music when he can’t sleep. (I write reviews about insomniac musicians when I can’t sleep). The result of Young’s sleeplessness is 3 albums, the most recent of which, Ocean Eyes, debuted at #27 on Billboard’s Top 200 chart. The fact that Young doesn’t sleep much means that most of his dreams are technically “day dreams” and many of his lyrics illicit cartoon-like imagery.
It’s no wonder Young can’t sleep, with all those dancy synth-pop sounds running through his head. Owl City’s sound does have a dreamy feel to it and Young’s lyrics speak to his young audience. “I brush my teeth and look in the mirror and LOL as I’m beaming from ear to ear” Young sings in “Dental Care.” Yes, it’s a song about maintaining good dental hygiene.
Owl City fans "put your hands up"
Having lyrics Young’s audience can relate to meant that the crowd sang along like a choir during several songs (see videos below). When it was time to clap along, everybody in the audience threw their hands in the air and clapped passionately. They weren’t just clapping to keep the beat, they were clapping as if something spectacular was going to fall from the sky if they were able to express enough enthusiasm. The crowd danced, smiled, and sang almost as much as Young himself. And instead of cheering for an encore in general, Owl City fans chanted “Fireflies” loud enough that other bands, playing at other venues in LA probably heard the request and got confused.
While the audience played the role of accompanying band expertly, Young was also joined on stage by Breanne Duren on keyboards and
backing vocals. Duren played, sang, and danced with a childlike presence, as if she were truly skipping through Young’s day dreams, while helping to create the soundtrack. As Young bounced between guitar and keyboards himself, he was also backed by a drummer, cellist, and violinist, whom doubled as back-up dancers when they weren’t playing their instruments.
At an Owl City show you get to have as much fun as the band. You get to dance and hop around as if you’re 4 years old. You leave feeling lighter, younger, and happier, with tunes running through your head that will keep you up all night.
Owl City’s entrance and “Cave In”
October 15, 2009
Troubadour, Los Angeles
A movie I really wanted to see – Where The Wild Things Are – opened at midnight and I forgot all about it. The Flaming Lips were playing a “secret” show at a pop-up store in Hollywood and I didn’t care (although I did wonder how they would fit that big bubble in there). I haven’t slept (much) in days, but I wasn’t tired.
Daniel Lanois, the man who produced some of my (and your) favorite albums of all time, was playing at Troubadour last night and that’s all that mattered. Considering the room was so packed that it became impossible to navigate through the crowd to get to the bathroom or the bar, I’m not the only one who felt that way.
Lanois does more than produce – he’s a songwriter, musician, and quite possibly stylist to The Edge. He epitomizes “cool” and may even love music more than me. Well, he certainly loves music more than he loves me, but he may also love music more than I love music. If that’s possible, Lanois is the one to do it.
Lanois’ Black Dub features Brian Blade on drums, Daryl Johnson on bass, and Trixie Whitley adding vocals, keys, and more percussion. Whitley is the daughter of the late great blues guitarist and singer, Chris Whitley. On June 10, 1997, I stood wide-eyed in the center of the Troubadour, as Chris Whitely made me question my taste in those whom I had previously thought of as good musicians. That night, twelve years ago, Chris Whitley opened my eyes to another level of musicianship.
Similarly, Lanois’ Black Dub reminded me of a band I’d stumble upon in New Orleans. If you haven’t been to New Orleans, here’s how it works: you can walk into any club (often without paying a cover), at any time of night (literally), and see a level of musicianship you didn’t know was possible, by a musician you’d never heard of. You’re left standing there, as the words “music” and “musician” are redefined before your eyes and you’re not sure how you’ll listen to anything else again. I know this about New Orleans, yet every time I’m there I text my friends in the middle of the night: “THIS is music.”
Lanois, Whitley, Johnson
Lanois’ Black Dub IS music. I didn’t have to text anybody last night because my friends and a room packed with people who “know” music were there, in complete agreement. Trixie Whitley belted out songs as if that’s what she was born to do. She picked up the guitar and played as if that’s what she was born to do. Then, mid-song, she’d move to the drums and play as if that’s what she was born to do. Next thing you know, Whitley is hammering away on the keyboard as if that’s what she was born to do. Whitley IS music – no matter what she’s doing, playing, or singing – and her stage presence exemplifies passion.
“Passion never goes out of fashion,” Lanois said between songs. He then went on to share his gratitude for the gift of music. He also shared his gratitude for those who are not musically gifted, but who play the supporting roles necessary to help ensure the music is heard. Although they call themselves Lanois’ Black Dub, it didn’t feel like the night was about Lanois. “I love singing harmonies,” Lanois explained before launching into the harmonies of a song called “Sing.” “When you sing harmonies, there’s no room for ego. It’s not about you. It’s about the blend.”
Black Dub: The Perfect Blend
Last night’s show was about the blend. Whether they were playing “The Maker,” a rockin’ version of “Ring The Alarm,” or a song I’d never heard, the spotlight wasn’t on one person – Johnson, Blade, Whitley, and Lanois shined equally. It was some of the most talented musicians looking at each other with admiration, as if to say, “Holy sh!t! I can’t believe you just did that!” In fact, Lanois spent much of the night playing with a huge smile on his face. Lanois’ Black Dub is a group of musicians who are playing music because it’s fun, playing music because they love it, playing music because they can’t live without it, and playing with each other because they can.
September 25, 2009
The Troubadour, LA
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. . .
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
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
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
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.
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.
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:
- It’s all about simplicity – you don’t need a lot of equipment. . . or any equipment at all
- The better you are, the less you need to sing
- Sex sells. . . tickets and merch
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. . . "
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
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. . ."
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
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
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.
September 24, 2009
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
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
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: