January 20, 2010
Haitian Relief Benefit
Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
Thom Yorke after a solid DJ set
There are many things I love about LA. One of them the weather (although a traffic nightmare this week), the ability to surf and then ski all in the same day, and last-minute benefit concerts featuring Thom Yorke, Nigel Godrich, Gaz Coombes & Danny Goffey (Supergrass and The Hot Rats). Yes, Maroon 5 was there too, as were a slew of celebrities.
The reason for this impromptu gathering of creative sound purveyors was to raise money to provide additional relief to Haiti. The night offered the utmost gratifying experience as we simultaneously danced and generated funds for the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.
Maroon 5 played in the front room (aka the hotel lobby converted into a private space), while Yorke, Godrich, Coombes, and Goffey spun tunes in the bar. The DJ sets were a diverse blend of soulful classics, dubstep, hip hop, and hard hitting dance tracks. I spent the entire evening in the back room (aka Teddy’s) dancing, while overhearing occasional reports from the front room.
Two tips for next time, and then off to bed:
1. Thom Yorke is not a wedding DJ. Don’t go up and request songs – he knows music (dare I say) better than you
2. If you can’t find the bar, it’s time to stop drinking. Yes, toward the end of the night a woman actually walked up to the DJ booth, cash in hand, to order a drink. She was very disappointed to see her “bartender” replaced by Thom Yorke.
Only in Hollywood…
Many thanks to everybody who made the night what it was and for your contributions to providing relief in Haiti.
The Thom Yorke Band, ??????, took the stage for night one of their two-night stint at The Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles. The band came together approximately 3 weeks ago and is already blowing the minds of fans, friends, and yes, celebrities (seeing as these shows are the place to be) with their live performance. Not many musicians can form a band and successfully hit the stage so quickly. But we’re not talking about just any musicians – we’re talking about Thom Yorke, Nigel Godrich, Flea, Joey Waronker, and Mauro Refosco.
Tonight the Thom Yorke band played a set nearly identical to their rehearsal show at The Echoplex on Friday. They began by playing The Eraser, start to finish, in sequence. The crowd sat down during the first 4 songs which felt strange, considering the talent that was on the stage and the music they were playing. It must have felt strange to Yorke too because as soon as they finished “Black Swan” and before they kicked in to “Skip Divided” Yorke requested the audience stand up.
“You know when I was getting ready to do these shows, I was saying to a friend of mine, ‘Y’know I really hope they dance to this music.’ This was all about making a dance record. So if you do want to sit there like it’s a cinema, that’s ok. . . But if you do wanna get up, well. . .” Yorke announced as the crowd (finally) stood up and cheered.
I’m happy he said something. Otherwise, I was going to be that a$$hole who stands and blocks everyone’s view because I don’t know how to sit still for “Skip Divided,” “Atoms For Peace,” “And It Rained All Night,” “Harrowdown Hill” and “Cymbal Rush” (certainly can’t sit during “Cymbal Rush”). It was hard enough to sit during the first 4 songs (albeit easier to see).
Indeed, the show at The Orpheum had a different feel than Friday night’s intimate gathering at The Echoplex. For one thing, The Orpheum is a seated venue which divides the audience, interferes with one’s ability to dance, and requires an immense number of security staff to ensure people stay in their seat and don’t step outside the black tape and into the aisles. In this economy, it’s good to see there are jobs for such a large security team. At the same time, it definitely impacts the vibe of the show and restricts the crowd’s ability to express their excitement wholeheartedly.
Regardless, the show was spectacular. The percussion team of Waronker and Refosco put drum machines to shame as they somehow replicated and enhanced the beats heard on the recorded versions of the songs. Yorke danced around on stage some, but seemed quite a bit more reserved than he did at The Echoplex, where he danced like this (and then some) during every song. Perhaps he restrained himself, realizing the crowd wouldn’t be able to join him as they previously could due to the restrictive nature of the venue layout (and security crew).
But I know Yorke wanted to dance more. And he wanted us to dance more. So if you’re lucky enough to be attending the show Monday night, at least pretend you know how lucky you are to be there. There may be a lot of guys and gals in bright yellow jackets. . . but there are more of us!
Videos from the show (watch in HD for a better viewing experience):
Tweet of the day: “Secured tix to the semi-secret Thom Yorke and friends show tonight. This is why I live in LA…they don’t do this shit in Kansas” (@brandonyano).
Thom Yorke and Flea
At 8:28pm Monday night, September 28, The Scenestar broke the news that Radiohead front man Thom Yorke had put together a new band and would be playing at The Orpheum in Los Angeles on October 4th and 5th. Actually, let me rephrase – Yorke broke the news on Dead Airspace (although many of us heard about it first from The Scenestar), stating: “in the past couple of weeks I’ve been getting a band together for fun to play the Eraser stuff live and the new songs etc.. to see if it could work! At the beginning of October the 4th and 5th we are going to do a couple of shows at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles. We don’t really have a name and the set will not be very long cuz ..well …we haven’t got that much material yet!”
Thom Yorke singing a new song
Tickets for the October 4 and 5 shows went on sale Tuesday morning (September 29) at 10:00am and, as expected, sold out in minutes. Then, on Thursday morning (October 1), The LA Weekly posted a story surrounding a possible Thom Yorke and friends “secret show” at The Echoplex on Friday, October 2nd. Bloggers and fans speculated until Yorke posted another update on Dead Airspace late Thursday, confirming this additional, intimate show. Yorke’s post included a faulty link to purchase tickets, an announcement that tickets would go on sale at 8:15pm Thursday night, and the disclaimer, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” That post has since been edited, because Yorke’s suspicions proved true and tickets did not go on sale at 8:15pm Thursday night. (Yorke also included a working link to buy tickets in his revised post.)
The band with no name
Instead, tickets were sold via TicketWeb at noon on Friday. The gap between the initial announcement and the actual on-sale gave scalpers (who later attempted to sell tickets for as much as $3,500 on eBay) enough time to ready their troops. Unfortunately, it seems TicketWeb may not have had enough time to ready their servers. Just minutes after the clock struck 12, there were hundreds of Tweets complaining of TicketWeb crashes and claiming “TicketWeb Fail”. I know it’s frustrating, but to be fair, some major ticketing sites (including Ticketmaster and Live Nation) have been reported to crash during high-profile on-sales. Furthermore, in this case, we’re talking about one of the largest artists in the world, playing at a very small venue (approx. 700 capacity). If the system did indeed crash, it should come as little to no surprise. As it happened, I was stuck in the “processing” queue for 12 minutes before the “sold out” message appeared.
Kind of a rehearsal
For the lucky friends and fans of the band who got in, well. . . we were lucky. Prior to the show I heard several audience members discussing the “little miracles” that allowed them to be there. Indeed, it felt miraculous to be introduced to new material and the formation of a new band led by Yorke, in such close proximity to the stage. This show was billed as a “warm-up,” as Yorke put it, “kind of a rehearsal.”
Well, I always imagined Yorke held himself to extraordinarily high standards, but if that show was a rehearsal, then a “rehearsal” has made its way into my top concerts of all time.
The band is comprised of exceptional musical talents: Thom Yorke (of course), Joey Waronker, Nigel Godrich, Flea , and Mauro Refosco. To kick off the show, the as of yet unnamed band played Yorke’s solo album, Eraser, start to finish. Yorke also debuted some brand new songs, solo, during one of two encores. He then invited the band back to join in on the remaining three songs.
Yorke gives the bird to requests for "Freebird"
If you were fortunate enough to find a place toward the front of the venue (under the high ceiling), you were treated to great sound, enjoyed watching Yorke lose himself in dance (although, you likely couldn’t miss that, regardless of where you stood), and watched closely as Yorke masterfully created and replicated the magnificent sound he’s known for. The intimacy of the venue was further appreciated as Yorke joked, interacted with, and flipped off the audience.
Yorke didn’t flip off everyone, just the handful of people who were requesting “Freebird!” between songs. Surprised people still do that? Well, so was Yorke, “Shouldn’t you be calling out Stone Temple Pilots or something more current? Freebird is so 80′s!”
Thankfully, ignoring the audience (after showing them how he felt about the “Freebird” requests by giving them the bird), Yorke kicked in to more of his own songs. “That sounded great!” yelled a fan, following the next song.
“Thank you,” Yorke replied with a smile, “it’s my job.” Then, with another smile (bordering on a smirk), Yorke added, “sometimes I get paid for it.”
And therein lies another small miracle of this show, tickets were only $20 each. Thank you, Thom and the unnamed band. Seeing as that was the rehearsal, I think you’re ready for the shows on Sunday and Monday.
Videos from the show:
New Song “Skirting On The Surface”:
New Song “Open The Floodgates”:
Next time, dance like you mean it, Thom
Since it was a special show, here’s the set list (via At Ease).
01 The Eraser
03 The Clock
04 Black Swan
05 Skip Divided
06 Atoms for Peace
07 And It Rained All Night
08 Harrowdown Hill
09 Cymbal Rush
Encore one [Thom solo]:
10 Open the Floodgates
11 Lotus Flower
12 Skirting on the Surface
13 Judge, Jury, Executioner
Encore two [full band]:
14 Paperbag Writer
15 The Hollow Earth
16 Feeling Pulled Apart by Horses
I’ve seen a few shows since and scattered in between the final Nine Inch Nails concerts.
The reason I haven’t written about these shows is that they pale in comparison to the NIN experiences of the past week. The musicians I’ve seen are all very talented – exceptionally talented – and they deserve more than an uninspired review from me.
NIN Wave Goodbye at The Wiltern
In some ways NIN has f*cked up music by being so good. If you don’t think so, spend some time with their albums. The songs are layered, large, intense, spacious, melodic, unpredictable, calming, and frenetic. They are true compositions. The stories and lyrics are timeless, allowing the meaning of the songs to evolve as we do. That’s why songs written 20 years ago maintain the impact they would have if they were written today. Making music of this magnitude allows the band to launch innovative extensions of the songs – full-blown characters and story-lines, a potential TV series, DRM-free video files for infinite fan-created remixes. It also allows them to refrain from lyrics altogether and to release strictly instrumental compositions and projects such as Ghosts.
So, when I walked into a store this weekend and they were playing some diluted pop-hip-hop “song” I had to leave. I don’t know what song it was – I didn’t recognize it and I certainly wasn’t going to hang out in the store to find out. I actually found the “music” insulting. It was manufactured, meaningless, and lacking soul. Summer camp songs have more depth than some of the stuff that’s currently on the radio.
Perhaps part of the reason people aren’t buying music the way they used to is because much of it just isn’t that good. It was crafted quickly and in a formulaic fashion to be a “radio hit”. It lacks depth and therefore timeless endurance. Which means people are paying for songs that they may like for a couple months to a year, until they themselves outgrow it or it gets overplayed on the radio. What makes it even harder to sell music like that is that some of the best bands of our time – Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails – give their music away for free. Why pay for crap when you can get the good stuff for free? By the way, I think Radiohead and NIN are genius for doing this.
Last night the VMAs were on. I didn’t watch them. I didn’t have to. Every trending topic on Twitter was VMA-related. Friends, colleagues, and musicians were updating their Facebook status with commentary about the VMAs. And what I learned from reading enough sub-140 character descriptions of the show is that I didn’t miss a thing. The people who were ranting about the show for hours, they’re the ones who missed something. . .
Taking it a step further – hopefully you’ve seen Nine Inch Nails live. They’re now taking an indefinite break from touring and while it’s understandable and admirable, it still feels like a loss. The band will continue to make music in some form together and as individuals with other bands, but for the foreseeable future they will not be touring together.
Trent addressing somebody in the audience
I think what makes them so good is that they’re so real. While there may be light shows and spectacle, the authenticity of each moment is felt by the audience. I’m not sure the crowd even feels like an “audience” – from my perspective, the audience is hugely participatory in creating the experience of Nine Inch Nails shows. This is one example of a consistent energy exchange between musician on stage and fan in the crowd that is felt by all. The set list changes dramatically every night. New songs may be added, without the ideal rehearsal time, keeping the band on their toes so the performances don’t feel like performances. It actually feels like the band is playing the songs and it’s the first time you’re seeing them live (even if you’ve seen them dozens of times).
Trent is also a perfectionist – more for the fans than for himself. If a song isn’t going off right on stage, if there are technical difficulties, if he isn’t authentically feeling his performance in that moment, he’ll bag it. Additionally, NIN has a tendency to make even bad-sounding venues sound good. While the audio quality on some of the live videos I shot isn’t good (due to the technical limitations of the equipment I was using), in-person, at every show, Nine Inch Nails delivers impeccable sound. It’s one of the few concerts I’ve never had to wear earplugs to. And that says a lot when you consider how loud and “noisy” some may consider their music to be. But that goes back to the composition – it’s not really “noisy” – it’s layer upon layer of sound. And Trent wants you to hear all of that, so they present it live with the perfect mix. . . every time.
Nine Inch Nails at Santa Barbara Bowl, NIN/JA Tour
They are so exceptional live that even seeing another “great band” just doesn’t hold up. I remember seeing NIN at the Santa Barbara Bowl during this Summer’s NIN/JA tour. The first thing that struck me about that show is that they were playing outside, during the daylight. What, no lights? So many people look forward to NIN’s light shows and seem to feel they’re integral to the whole experience. And yet, when you see them without all that spectacle, you’re reminded of their sheer talent. They don’t need lights or visual effects. All they need to do is play.
Nine Inch Nails was “opening” (although, it was billed as “co-headlining”) for Jane’s Addiction. Now, Jane’s Addiction is a really good band. I’ve seen several great Jane’s concerts during the past decade. There are some amazing musicians in that band – Stephen Perkins and Dave Navarro are some of my favorites. Perry Farrell is a wonderful performer. He’s dynamic, energetic, dramatic – a true showman, an amazing front-man. And yet, when Nine Inch Nails finished their opening set, I looked at my friends and said, “I love Jane’s Addiction, but we may need to leave. I don’t know how they’re going to come anywhere close to that!” In the end, we stayed throughout Jane’s set and we had a good time. They were fun. They sounded great. But Nine Inch Nails. . .
One show I did go see this past week was the closing show of the season at The Hollywood Bowl – Seu Jorge and Bebel Gilberto, with the LA Philharmonic. That was nice. It’s outdoors, at one of my favorite venues, and it’s enough of a departure from what I usually see that there was no potential for comparison. I did briefly contemplate the idea of Trent playing Ghosts (perhaps all 4 current volumes, or the new ones that are due to come out) with the LA Philharmonic at some point. Then the fireworks began and brought me back to the present moment.