September 2, 2011
The Del Monte Townhouse
Feist Secret Show
“Welcome people of the Internet! This is what the inside of the Internet looks like. . . ” Feist said pointing at the stage and band surrounding her. Feist knows the truth: there are no secrets on the Internet. As tweets about last night’s “secret show” at The Del Monte Townhouse in Venice began to circulate in the late afternoon, Feist initiated her own tweet: ”Anyone in Los Angeles will probably have a good time tonight if they can find this place by 10pm…”, along with a picture of the venue.
Feist debuted songs from her new album, Metals (available October 4, 2011) at the small venue which served as an illegal speakeasy during the Prohibition. It doesn’t take long for word to get out on Twitter and by 9:45pm the room was packed, the venue and upstairs bar were at capacity, and a line of fans hoping to get in extended beyond sight.
When you see Feist, you know she’s doing exactly what she’s meant to be doing. Everyone who was at this show (celebrities included) was a huge fan of Feist. Many people inside the venue and even more people outside the venue were alerted about the show merely hours beforehand. They cancelled plans, they drove across town, they sat in traffic on a holiday weekend, waited for hours in line or at the bar. Moreover, they’d waited years to see Feist play again. Inside the venue it was hot. Not just temperature hot, stuffy hot. If you were standing beyond 10 rows deep or were under 5’10″, chances are you couldn’t see. The sound of the DJ upstairs interfered at times with the sound of Feist. There were a lot of elements to overcome. What impressed me the most, in addition to the music of course, was Feist’s ability to unify the audience.
Feist literally took the hot, uncomfortable audience on a journey to a place where they forgot about everything but the music. It was done with intention. You could feel it. She kicked off the set with “A Commotion.” It made a statement that imbibed: “Yes, it’s true. I’m here. You’re here. This is music. Let’s go.” Upon bringing the audience to a place of complete presence, she moved into some more “mellow” songs, joking, “It’s this new punk rock concept called a ballad.” People settled in, the talking in the back of the room began to fade away, we were on our way to another destination. By the time Feist brought us to “Woe Be,” which offers words of wisdom and caution, with an edge of humor, about people who fall in love with songwriters, we arrived somewhere else.
“We’ve gone through the vortex and entered another dimension. You can feel it,” Feist exclaimed joyously. The crowd cheered in unison and agreement. ”Sea Lion Woman” set off a dance party that carried us through the remainder of the set.
“We’re only going to play a couple more songs for you,” Feist said, managing the crowd’s expectations. “You know what they say about staying in another dimension too long. Your face may begin to fade from the pictures, like in Back To The Future,” she continued. ”I don’t want to be responsible for forever changing you,” she added, leading into “Comfort Me.”
Female folk trio, Mountain Man, harmonized and played a variety of instruments that added greater depth of atmosphere and playfulness to the set. They, along with Feist and the entire band, provided the fuel that carried us through the vortex and back.
By the time the show ended, “Feist” was a trending topic on Twitter in LA. Fitting, given her intro, and the fans’ entrance, to the show.
Video cannot replace the live show. It doesn’t replicate it. It simply serves as foreplay so you’re ready for Feist when she tours this fall:
There’s no end to my love for The Stronghold, and there’s no end to my love for Joseph Arthur. If Rock Is A Girl’s Best Friend had been around eleven years ago, you would have read a lot of Joseph Arthur reviews by now. Of all the musicians I’ve seen repeatedly throughout the years, Joseph Arthur may be the only one whose shows in Los Angeles I have not ever missed.
Joseph Arthur Live Painting
Among my many favorite Joseph Arthur memories are the days when he’d come to Los Angeles for a month at a time and play a residency at Largo. I’d go to every show (as previously stated) and each one was completely unique. That was nine or ten years ago, when Arthur’s catalog wasn’t nearly as extensive as it is now. Yet, he managed to make every set feel different – not just a different Joseph Arthur show, but a different experience altogether. There were times he’d talk about almost mythical, sometimes dark, dreams he’d had the night before. Other times he would show us recent drawings, or pages of lyrics written in his notebook and then sing us a newly penned song. He would recreate a song you thought you knew really well (because you had listened to it repeatedly on one of his albums) and you would hardly recognize his live rendition of it at first. Then, you’d hear the lyrics, and beneath the layers of sound Arthur built in front of you, the through-line of a familiar guitar note or beat. He’d talk about darkness and fears – sometimes completely introspective; other times, so external that the conversation seemed to take place on another plane of time and space.
Joseph Arthur at The Stronghold
A decade later, a lot has changed, but Arthur’s shows are consistent, and they have evolved. Instead of holding up a sketch book and showing us his illustrations, Arthur now throws canvases up prior to his set and paints live, while singing. His notebook of new songs has grown exponentially – it takes effort to lift and hold steady while playing and singing. He still wrestles with fear, although now it’s infused with humor. “I’m gonna put these on now. . . because I’m scared, ” Arthur said with a smile as he put his sunglasses on Friday night. He still manages to play his songs different every time. There may be subtle differences in meter or drastic differences in the melody.
Arthur not only plays songs for you, he creates them for you, before you. He begins with a sound, or a beat, or a chord, then he samples it and loops it. Then, he adds another sound, beat or chord, and samples and loops that. Then he’ll layer on vocals and more sounds. The band joins in and Arthur begins to sing, stepping on and off pedals to bring various sounds in and out throughout the song. You may have seen other musicians do this before, but never like this. Often, when a musician does this, they recreate the song and all the sounds the same way every time, so that you get a song that sounds like the recoded version, without a big band. What makes Arthur different is – well, he does it different every time. I’ve been watching Joseph Arthur create music for eleven years and I have yet to see him play a song the same way twice. And this is how, and why, I go to every single Joseph Arthur show in the area.
Joseph Arthur is playing Fridays in April, at The Stronghold in Venice. They’re closed this week, but try and hit the last Fridays of the month. Go more than once, you never know what’s going to happen. . .
Here are some videos from the past two Fridays of Joseph Arthur’s residency. One thing about The Stronghold is that it feels like a private loft party, where you’re surrounded by a large group of friends, which is really cool. That said, when you get a large group of friends together at a house party, they talk. Ordinarily, at a typical music venue, this would annoy me. But at The Stronghold, you realize it’s just a solid community of great people who enjoy each other and gather around music. The conversation, laughter, and fact that nobody’s “too cool” to talk to anybody else is one of the best things about The Stronghold. So the chatter is forgiven in the room, but apologies for some of the background noise in the videos (it tends to die down a minute into each song):
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