Life Is Beautiful Festival >> Lineup Additions: Little Dragon | Baauer | Kimbra | Bear Hands | Echosmith

Life Is Beautiful >> 2014 just got a lot more beautiful with the additions to an already stacked festival lineup in fabulous downtown Las Vegas. The extra boost comes in the form of electro-pop group Little Dragon, mega-DJ Baauer, songstress Kimbra, Nahko and Medicine for the People, breakout band Echosmith, and experimental indie rock group Bear Hands.

Life Is Beautiful

In its second year, LIB has already morphed into a 3-day festival to rival fellow multi-genre festivals like Coachella and Lollapalooza. Thus, lucky festival goers will get another full day to enjoy magnificent art in many forms, delectable to the max cuisine and of course, a mondo killer bill that includes The Foo Fighters, Outkast, Lionel Richie and Yeezus himself, Kanye West.

[related: Life Is Beautiful 2013 >> in Downtown Las Vegas]

Some other artists to get excited about aside from the aforementioned: Girl Talk, Panic! At The Disco, Matt & Kim, Phantogram, Fitz & The Tantrums, Broken Bells and Holy Ghost! Stay tuned over the next few months as the zB crew and I break down the lineup by day, provide sound advice to navigate the grounds and optimize your festival experience!

Life Is Beautiful >> Lineup



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Tropkillaz >> Twerkin Late in Trap City, San Francisco [Regency Ballroom]

Tropkillaz >> I turned 33 yesterday. I spent my birthday being old and tired, watching Dr. Who on Netflix while eating a box of Macaroons my girlfriend got me with my legs wrapped up in a Macaroon crumb covered blanket. So what the fuck am I doing at Trap City tonight?

Tropkillaz >> Regency Ballroom, San Francisco

What am I doing in a dark room, fragrant with weed smoke and spilled beer, surrounded by young bodies twerking and dancing like some strange African Anteater Ritual? I'll tell you what I'm doing....I am being fucking awesome. I am letting the 808 driven sub-bass and machine gun ticks of the hi-hat in this strange trap/twerk/hip-hop/electronica set move my body and make my face all scrunched up, like this shit hurts in all of the best ways possible.

I didn't really know what to expect when I walked in. I went to this show because I was familiar with a few of Tropkillaz tracks, their work with M.I.A and Major Lazer remixes; but primarily I went because it was at the Regency, which is a couple blocks away from my house and I’m too lazy to go anywhere else. Despite my laziness, despite being that much further away from my 20's, I knew I had made the right choice as soon I stepped through the foyer. I let my body take over and quickly found myself brushing off my Timberlands and c-walking all the way into the main ballroom with a confused look on my face as if I had no idea where my ankles were taking me.

I, personally, am a fan of the dance art of…twerking. I feel it is indicative of modern youthful aggression, feminism and anti-classism expressed positively through provocative gyrating. This was especially true as all manner of females, from chicks that were clearly ratchet all-stars to nice parochial Asian girls wearing glasses, rhythmically vibrated their hips to near subsonic speeds. Who better than Tropkillaz to provide the soundtrack for this feminist uprising? It was a beautiful sight to see so many strong, proud, independent women, embrace their sexuality, unafraid of the stigma it might impose, and majestically do a handstand against the wall and flap their lady parts to DJ Zegon and Laudz Brazilian electronica inspired take on southern Hip-Hop. Although I only recognized their track ‘Assets’, they had the best set of the four DJ acts that took the stage.

On stage, each act was accompanied by a rotating cadre of twerk professionals. As there butt cheeks crashed up and down, I found my self caught in a hypnotic gaze, as if I was staring deep into Svengali’s butthole. The pro’s clearly put the twerking audience to shame with unparalleled skill and hip flexors primed to oscillate with the speed of a paint mixer, and when the black dancers came out…ooh lordy! I am sure the building was in danger of collapsing in on itself and I doubt anyone in the audience would have cared if a smothering death was the price of admission to this spectacle we were all witnesses to.

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The music was full of energy, easy to dance to, easy to get excited about. It appears this genre of DJ music has also adopted the ‘buildup to drop/chorus’ arrangement of their sets, but instead of a raucous explosion of frenetic bass during their ‘drops’, instead came a thick syrupy slowdown that drenched the Regency Ballroom and force-fed us Lean in musical form. The reversal of the tempo that is normally expected was very fun. Tracks went from frantic, hyper speed dancing, with booties coming at you in every direction, to steady pulsing buildups, usually accompanied by repeating snap of a snare drum lifting you higher and higher into the air. Finally the beat drops and the room is moving in slow motion, through purple quicksand and almost backwards in time.

I doubt Thom Yorke and Kraftwerk would meet for coffee to discuss the nuances of textures and time signatures regarding this kind of music. Much of the sets of the other acts at Trap city were, in large, forgettable. Nonetheless, every track played tonight was danceable and most importantly, I [2 years away from 5 years away from being 40] had a great fucking time. So find a Trap City near you if you like dancing, booties, sippin’ on sizzurp and fighting the urge to feel and be old.



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311 >> Down in Scottsdale [Talking Stick]

311 >> came back to the desert and performed poolside at the Talking Stick resort in Scottsdale this past Sunday. It's been nearly 2 years since Nick Hex and the funky quintet rocked the valley but this show's magic perhaps made the wait worthwhile.

311 >> Scottsdale

Now having seen the Omaha stylistics 15 or 16 times it was no surprise that 311 came out rocking from the get go. They opened with 'Come Original' and moved the crowd from the pool deck to the front of Talking Stick's massive stage in a hurry.

A lot of the show was fairly standard. Nick Hex serenaded with and without his guitar rhythm while SA's pitch-shifty flow migrated about every part of the stage. Chad splashed the drum kit incredibly, Tim - who is looking more and more like Steve Buschemi every time I see him - got funky on the strings and of course, P-Nut beat that thang.

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Aside from adding to the ever growing repertoire with tracks like 'Showdown' and 'Boom Shanka' from the latest album Stereolithic, there were a few other pleasant surprises and notables I enjoyed. SA Martinez may be getting visibly older but I was happy to see how much energy he still has. His hype-man points skyrocketed with plenty of alien-robotic movements and it was by far the most active I've seen him on the turntables in almost 20 years, especially on 'Large In The Margin' and 'All Mixed Up' which were much trippier than usual.

[related: New Releases >> March: 311]

This was my first time checking out a show at Talking Stick and I was mega pleased with the sound. If they move a few of the inconvenient palm trees obstructing the stage from a chunk of the cabanas I wouldn't mind seeing a lot more shows here no matter how hot it gets. I'll be here a while - ain't going nowhere!

Setlist: Come Original * Sick Tight * Showdown * My Stoney Baby * Boom Shanka * All Mixed Up * Large In The Margin * 8:16 AM * Do You Right * Five Of Everything * Applied Science * Gap * T&P Combo * Amber * Friday Afternoon * Beautiful Disaster * Sand Dollars * Down * Freeze Time * Feels So Good * ENCORE: Omaha Stylee * Creatures [For A While]



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Nightmares On Wax >> Flipped Lids in Phoenix [Crescent Ballroom]

Nightmares On Wax >> Playing Phoenix for the first time this past Tuesday, Nightmares On Wax [N.O.W.] showed up ready to bring the fire beats, rock the sold-out show and flip the crowd's lids.

Nightmares On Wax >> Phoenix

But before I give you the goods, I must point out if you've never been to the Crescent Ballroom I urge you to at least go to one show. A perfect sized venue to experience the show and get up and close with your favorite artists.

Now lets get down to business. I strolled into the ballroom around 8:30 to beat the long line that I foresaw coming and by 9:30 the show had sold out. N.O.W. reaches out to a large demographic from young to old, fans and non-fans alike. As for myself I was only familiar with the album In A Space Outta Sound and was overly ecstatic that I got to hear a majority of that album with a semi-live band [2 additional vocalists and a drummer]. I honestly thought it was going to be a strict DJ set but that's what makes N.O.W. great. Just like their music, they're full of surprises. Now I've been a fan since 2008 so getting a full on experience left me giddy as a school person [no gender bias here].

Save up to 70% on! After sitting for what seemed like an eternity, smoking cigarettes and mingling with the crowd, the music cued up to my personal favorite 'Flip ya Lid' and what a perfect song for an opening. The night continued with many classic hits that I've wanted to hear for the better part of a half decade. Needless to say I was not disappointed one bit. The whole set was comprised of down-tempo chill beats converting to faster paced get down themes, including a very well done crowd sing along to 'African Pirates'. The best part of the whole show was when he stepped off the tables, donned the microphone and sang side by side with his crew.

It was a short set or maybe I was having too much fun, but at the end he clearly announced if anyone wanted to do a meet and greet he'd be by the merch booth. Of course I jumped at the opportunity. Waiting desperately in line behind countless autograph and photo hounds, I finally made it to the front and got to have a solid five or so minutes conversation with the man from Ibiza. We talked of sacred geometry, tattoos and of course our passion for music. I really wanted to press for an interview and quick photo but I have way too much respect for this artist that I didn't want to come off fanboy-ish. I have no regrets.

Overall a truly blessed experience and a musical bucket list check off. I highly recommend catching N.O.W. at your local venue or music festival. When the opportunity presents itself do yourself a favor and'll 'Flip Ya Lid'.



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Yann Tiersen >> Musical Genius in Los Angeles [The Fonda Theatre]

Yann Tiersen >> I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived at the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood for French-born Yann Tiersen’s final US show of the Infinity tour. Would he be playing solo, composing an orchestra or enlisting a band? Would the show be entertaining or stuffy? Would I regret missing the other concert I had booked for the same night?

Yann Tiersen >> Los Angeles

photo c/o Ashley Schaffner

Being a typical American girl, I only knew about him through his marvelous work on the Amélie soundtrack, for which he wrote the entire 20 track album in just two weeks. As if one needed any other indication of his unequivocal musical talent, he also is behind eight studio albums as well as several additional movie soundtracks and live records. Prior to the show, I decided to listen to some of this other work to get a feel for his other material. However, I still wasn’t able to place him or figure out what kind of show he might have.

His opening band, NO, reminded me of an LA version of Modern English with their three guitars and belligerent—though incredibly adorable—Kiwi front man who later took pictures with fans and signed my friend’s freshly purchased vinyl of their album 'El Prado'. With a rock band to start the show, I was beginning to think maybe this Yann guy would deliver something unexpected and remarkable.

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During the short intermission I walked over to the adjoining restaurant Blue Palms Brewhouse for a quick—and delicious!—craft beer for a few dollars cheaper than at the Fonda. Just as the lights were beginning to dim, I noticed that I had come back to a fuller theatre with a slightly older crowd who clearly were there to witness artistry rather than get faded and rock out.

The show began with the opening lines of the track ‘Meteorites’ off the new album ‘∞’ [Infinity], which features a Scottish sounding narrator. To my delight, the man himself walked out and instantly began playing the toy piano, set atop an electric keyboard. Shortly after, he was accompanied by a full band of talented young men, each who played a variety of instruments throughout the set.

Yann Tiersen >> Los Angeles

photo c/o Ashley Schaffner

To give you a better picture of the band, here’s how I would describe them:

- A full-sized version of Peter Dinklage [aka Tyrion from Game of Thrones] on the drums

- Robb Stark meets Jon Snow [also GoT] on the keyboards

- Comedian Doug Benson playing bass

- A platinum blonde version of Mike Myers Sprockets’ character ‘Dieter’ at the xylophone

- A young Dustin Hoffman as Yann the man

Yann Tiersen >> Los Angeles

photo c/o Ashley Schaffner

In all seriousness, the group performed exquisitely and I couldn’t take my eyes off them and their aptitude for making fine music.

From being serenaded in one of many foreign languages to the harmony of two acoustic guitars and a mandolin, to rocking out to a xylophone battle accompanied by a bass jam, to trancing out to some bizarre galactic sounds on the synthesizer, I’d have to say that the multifaceted layers of Tiersen’s music brought something for everyone.

In addition to those mentioned above, I’d have to say it would be easier to count all the instruments that weren’t played than the ones that were. Being the Francophile that I am, I of course loved the single track from the Amélie soundtrack that he played, though I also loved his jam sessions and the fact that he never played an instrument more than twice.

I have to give mad props to their lighting crew for singling out the main performer of each song and slowly lighting up the next instrument that came into play. It allowed the audience to focus on one component at a time and truly appreciate what each artist had to offer. Rarely can I say that I enjoyed the lighting at a show, so that should speak for itself.

All in all, if you want to truly experience music as an art form rather than to hear a hit pop single, then Yann Tiersen is what you should go for. Though note he may get annoyed if you start yelling at him to play Amélie.



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Anuhea >> Warm Island Vibes in San Francisco [The Independent]

Anuhea >> Last Saturday night, San Francisco seemed a little warmer. That's because Hawaiian-born Anuhea had blown in to town for a sold out show at The Independent. Having just played in San Francisco at Mezzanine in May with her friends Rebel Souljaz, this trip was a chance for her take a well deserved trip to the stage as headliner this time around.

Anuhea >>  San Francisco

She took the time out to sit down with us backstage for a few minutes and could not have been more welcoming and inviting. As I sat down on the couch in her small dressing room, while bassist Jason Tupuola-Aiono was getting tuned and warmed up, I found myself feeling more like I was in a friend's living room than backstage at a concert. The new mom gushed over missing her boys back home and found her asking more about me as I got totally lost in the pleasant conversation.

Running short on time, and not having asked a single question I'd planned I was able to pick up that the singer clearly was not feeling 100%. She played it off nonchalantly and made jokes about her raspy manly voice but clearly wasn't feeling well and it was now time for her to get on stage. I thanked her, shared a hug, snapped a quick photo and was back to my seats for a show I was sure would be a struggle for her. I couldn't have been more wrong.

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Having seen Anuhea perform live a few times prior, I can honestly say this was my favorite show to have attended yet. She opened with some of the same jokes about her raspy voice to the crowd but once she started singing no one would have ever known. Every melodic note she belted out sounded as pure as ever, and the songs carried with them the same warm island vibes we've come to known from Anuhea.

Her music is light and positive as you would expect from the island princess, but she also brings a soulful presence to the stage and her connection with the audience is unparalleled. Between sips of hot tea and even taking a break for a spam musabi snack on stage, she had the sold out crowd singing along to all of her hits. One of my personal favorite jams was ‘Crown Royal’, which is about her love-hate relationship with the whiskey king up north. She also brought down the house to end the evening as she broke out her ukulele to play probably her biggest hit ‘Simple Love Song’. If you'd never stepped foot off the mainland you could have closed your eyes during that song and practically felt the island sand beneath your toes.

Anuhea >> San Francisco

It was an amazing performance from a true professional. I’m so glad she could bring a little of her sunshine to the stage in the bay area and it was the perfect cure to June gloom for this San Franciscan. I’m looking forward to plenty more from Anuhea in the upcoming months.

For you SOJA fans, she'll be featured on their upcoming album on the song ‘Easier’ which also features island favorite J-Boog. The album will be available on August 12th. I also urge you to check out her Facebook page at for tour updates. Hopefully she can bring a little summer to your summer in a city near you! A Hui Hu and Mahalo!



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Clean Bandit >> Welcome to America and Hollywood [The Roxy]

Clean Bandit >> Last night I had the good fortune to witness Clean Bandit’s first American show, to which I would say they nailed it.

Clean Bandit >> The Roxy

I’ve been to a sold-out show at the Roxy before, though this is the first time I truly believed it. The jubilant blend of late 20-to-30-somethings had their hands in the air to every track, save the straight-faced industry folk acting like they didn't give a shit since they attend shows nightly. Note: if you want see true fans, you may want to stay out of the VIP section.

Having coincidentally had their first album release delayed only to drop in the US the same day as their first stateside show, I was surprised how many of the fans knew their tracks. In all fairness, their hit ‘Rather Be’ featuring Jess Glynne has over 100 million listens on Spotify, and they tend to incorporate well-known classical music [e.g. Mozart] with their electronica beat.

In line with the resurgence of the 1990s trend encompassing the world of fashion, their sound was reminiscent of the likes of Ace of Base or La Bouche, not to mention they did a cover of Robin S’ ‘Show Me Love’, much to the delight of all in attendance. Is it wrong I totally miss these groups of the 90s? No, absolutely not.

Some of their other tracks [‘A+E’ and ‘Come Over’] made for great poolside reggae with steel drums and airy beats that made me wish I was in Vegas or a rooftop hotel pool in Hollywood sipping on a pina colada. Think Duke Dumont’s ‘I Got U’ for reference.

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The 4-member band was joined by two guest singers, though unfortunately I can’t say who since they never introduced themselves and can’t seem to be found anywhere online. The singer with the Lara Croft-inspired ‘do had quite the vocals and the chick with the afro-hawk had a good voice, although I wish she had more pipes like Noelle Scaggs of Fitz and the Tantrums as that would have made for quite a show. They had stage presence nonetheless.

While my friend couldn't get over the stoic expression of the drummer [Luke Patterson] the entirety of the show, I was mesmerized by the towheaded Juliette Lewis lookalike on the cello otherwise known as Grace Chatto. Besides being incredibly pale and bright in her white bandeau top and cardigan [yes, cardigan], her ethereal features kept your eyes in her direction. She also was playing the cello, which I can’t say I know many people who do.

I was also a fan of the adorkable Milan Neil Amin-Smith on violin, who made the instrument look cool and classical at the same time. I have to say I’m a big supporter of violin electronica since being introduced to it some years ago while strolling the Santa Monica 3rd Street Promenade and seeing Josh Vietti perform. Also, look into Lindsay Sterling if interested in this genre.

All in all, I am certain the group will be performing more US shows next year as they grow in popularity. Spotify is already sponsoring the release of their album via ads, and once they catch on to a larger fan base I will feel more thankful to have witnessed them early in their career.



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