Whoever gave these guys a chance deserves a hand for being able to see it early. I first heard The Big Pink’s “Dominos” on the radio several months ago and really liked it. (And by “radio” I mean: KCRW). I’ve had an intuitive feeling about The Big Pink ever since hearing that song and decided I wanted to see them live before venturing further into their music. I hadn’t listened to their album or done any research about the band prior to this show. Didn’t want to know anything else about them — just wanted to experience whatever The Big Pink had to offer via a live performance.
What The Big Pink has to offer is: originality, consistently good music, and a solid, passionate live show. I was surprised, not because I expected anything less from The Big Pink, but because based on the current state of the music industry, it takes some balls to take a chance on a band like this. Not many are really willing to do it. The Big Pink defy categorization and it requires vision and patience to understand the potential for that to pay off. In fact, when I came home from the show and went to download their album, “A Brief History of Love,” I saw that The Big Pink’s genre is listed as “unknown” on iTunes.
Robbie Furze "These Arms of Mine"
I wasn’t sure I was in the mood for it actually, but it turned out The Big Pink is exactly what I needed. Something unexpected, something almost magical. Approximately two-thirds of the way through their set, The Big Pink played “These Arms of Mine.” This moment led the crowd to be silenced and in awe of Robbie Furze’s amazing voice. This is when every woman in audience melted and when every man in the audience thought to himself, “Fuck. How am I going to compete with this?!”
The Big Pink
Go check ‘em out. Give them a few songs. It feels familiar. You could walk in on the performance of a number of their songs and think, “oh yeah, I’ve heard this before. It’s like blah blah bl. . . Oh, no. . . It isn’t. . . “ Approximately three songs into their set you realize The Big Pink is entirely different. And it’s good.
In case you’re in love with the song “Dominos” and haven’t heard the rest of the album nor seen The Big Pink live, you should know – they’re not all like “Dominos.” Don’t be disappointed – this is simply the case because The Big Pink has more than one good song and more than one good sound.
I love it when a band transforms a venue. I’ve experienced it before – that feeling that a venue I know so well, and associate with hundreds of other live performances, has been transformed into another band’s playground. For a moment you’re transported to an alternate reality. You lose track of space and time, forget that you own a cell phone, and question what city you’re in. That’s what Nico Vega did at the El Rey Friday night.
Nico Vega Blood Machine
I’ve seen this band perform countless times and have always been impressed, but something was different this time. I don’t think drummer Dan Epand sat on his stool for more than a few seconds. With each strike of the drumsticks, Epand levitated completely. Rich Koehler was playing guitar as if it were a rocket launcher and we were all headed to another galaxy. And Aja Volkman, who is and always has been, a star, took us there.
When their set concluded, my friend looked at me and said, “Well, I don’t need to see anything else!”
I’d say we should all see Nico Vega again. Hopefully soon.
September 27, 2009
Abbot Kinney Festival
Let’s just say: you’ve been warned – Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros have arrived.
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
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
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
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
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
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:
The audience begs to have the mics turned back on for one more song
I love Band of Skulls. I first met them during an acoustic performance and interview session at LP33.tv in July. They’ve actually been together for several years, morphing and evolving from one band into another until they arrived as Band of Skulls. Their name can be deceiving which is part of the “joke” they say. All 3 musicians contribute to the writing process which sometimes leaves Russell singing lyrics Emma wrote, from a woman’s perspective. Similarly, Emma may find herself singing about things written from a man’s perspective. The moral of the story – listen to the lyrics and take notice of who’s singing them. Russell and Emma switch off the lead on vocals, often at interesting lyrical moments.
The second time I saw Band of Skulls was at The Hotel Cafe. After witnessing an acoustic set at LP33.tv, and knowing that shows at The Hotel Cafe are often acoustic, I just assumed the band would be playing “unplugged”. Wrong. Thankfully, I was very, very wrong. Band of Skulls rocked a full electric show and played Hotel Cafe as if they were playing a much larger venue. I liked them when I first met them, but I fell in love with them at The Hotel Cafe.
Then, last night they played The El Rey, opening up for The Duke Spirit. The show was great and it was extremely well-attended for an “opening act”. The place was packed and the venue seemed to relax on their “no standing outside the taped lines” policy, so people were everywhere. They played a very short set (perhaps 25 minutes), but it was solid as usual. When they finished and the curtain closed the crowd tried to demand an encore and kept cheering for several minutes, until they were certain the band wasn’t going to appear again. The last time I saw this happen for an opener was when Joseph Arthur opened for David Gray eight or so years ago.