The Record Company >> Getting Up Off The Ground in Los Angeles [El Rey]

Excuse me while I pick myself ‘Off The Ground,’ because The Record Company is my latest guilty pleasure. With the perfect mix of blues, rock, and a touch of early punk, it doesn’t get much better than this.

It was an older crowd for Thursday night at the El Rey, but that didn’t stop the elated spectators from having a great time and getting into the performance that was nothing less than high energy. Opener The Marcus King Band helped set the stage, especially since the young and very eclectic lead singer walked out and joined the crowd briefly after his set.

The Record Company

Formed in Los Feliz, CA in 2011, the trio released their first studio album earlier this year to the pleasure of many. Since the show was a bit of a homecoming, lead singer Chris Vos declared that they were there to ‘[keep] the spirit of rock ‘n roll alive.’ And alive, they did!

Something about the way they perform is mesmerizing, energetic, and easy to get lost in. If it hadn’t been for the stage clock glaring at me all night I would have sworn I was there for hours without a care in the world. Vos himself stated that ‘if there’s any piece of me left after this show I’ll never forgive myself,’ and I agree if there was any piece left of him I wouldn’t believe it. From yelling his brains out so hard he had to rip off his jacket and threw it [nearly knocking over a guitar], to jamming with said guitar flat across his lap [something I’ve personally never seen], to spinning so hard he got tangled up in the guitar plug and could have easily wiped out. This guy was here to give us a show!

The Record Company

Other highlights included a rainbow light show [I’ll say it once and I’ll say it again—I love good lighting!], Alex Stiff’s not-so-stiff bass playing, and drummer Marc Cazorla walking out at the end of the set with bare feet.

The Record Company The Record Company The Record Company

If you haven’t already seen them perform live, please go! Seeing them live is 10x better than hearing their already good album. I converted my buddy while he was there, who walked away with a copy of the CD. Which will have to do, since you can’t really take them home with you.

Danielle

Danielle

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Go HAIM or Go Home >> Going Under the Wire in Los Angeles [The Fonda]

HAIM >> Red Bull Sound Select’s 30 Days in L.A. kicked off yet another year of its concert series earlier this month with a lineup almost as impressive as its $15 admission. While bummed to have missed out on Bob Moses the first week, I did have the great fortune to catch the other most notable act, HAIM, in what was my first non-festival experience of the sister group from the San Fernando Valley who look more like chicks from Boise, Idaho with their middle parts and lack of makeup [with one red-lipped exception].

HAIM

What is refreshing about this trio is that they keep to their particular sense of flair and individual personalities despite being in a group under the family name. Each has their own unique style, ranging from 90s Clueless dresses, to DGAF baggy shirt and pants, to scalloped short-shorts with a vintage tee. A bit Partridge Family-meets-the Runaways, the ladies showed great enthusiasm rocking out and taking in the crowd at a venue they’ve been to many times before—as attendees.

Though a bit underwhelmed by the odd Trump-colored lighting that moved more than the life on stage—aside from a few synchronized sways and guitar solos—the impressive vocals from Danielle, as well as Este’s tribute to Prince with 'I Would Die 4 U' were enough to bring the sold out crowd to their feet. The consumption of Red Bull only cocktails might have helped with that. Baby Haim, Alana, did her thing being the perky soul of the group, which helped brighten Danielle’s stiffness and Este’s odd mouth gestures which can only be described as ‘air oral’.

HAIM

Though these girls aren’t what I would necessarily describe as ‘cool’ kids, they are a fun bunch who have managed their way into Taylor Swift’s inner circle. Their distinctive vocals have even made appearances on EDM tracks from the likes of Calvin Harris and Major Lazer, which clearly proves these sisters have made it to the big leagues. Neither track was played last night, showing that they’re not cocky when it comes to their newfound fame.

In addition to nearly an hour of hits off their debut Days Are Gone, the girls also played two new tracks from their upcoming album. Each was true to their sound and met with loud cheers, which is encouraging for what they have to come. So buckle up, because these sisters are about to make the rounds with their sophomore album. Festival circuit 2017, perhaps?

Danielle

Danielle

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Hirie & Nahko and Medicine for the People >> Healing the Santa Cruz Crowd [The Catalyst]

Not going to lie, having seen and written about both artists multiple times before I was a little worried there wouldn’t be much new material for this article. What more could I possibly say without coming off as a star struck fanboy? Luckily for me the answer was plenty as Hirie and Nahko both took their performances to a new level in Santa Cruz last Saturday night at The Catalyst.

Hirie

The double header of an evening was lead off by Hirie, the pint size power house pixie of island music. Even in 4 inch heels you feel like you could pick up all five feet nothing of her and put her in your pocket. Then she opens her mouth and her voice outweighs her by a hundred pounds easy. She has amazing range and her pitch really does have a weight to it, filling the small seaside venue easily and fully. I’ve never seen someone smile so hard, so long and so genuinely through a performance. She clearly loves every second on stage and darn it, just seems like a sweetie; then, you listen to her lyrics. Playing old singles titled ‘Sensi Boy’ and ‘Higher’, and the new ‘Don’t Take My Ganja’ off her recent album Wandering Soul, her love of cannabis is clearly on display. Also, I’ll let you potty minds figure out what her new song ‘Woman Comes First’ is about. Personal favorite of the concert was her newest single ‘You Won’t Be Alone’. It is just catchy AF as the kids say, and I also though it was the supporting bands best song of the night, really highlighting each instrument at different points and bringing them back on time and in perfect harmony for that hook. Hirie, her band, and their music have really grown into their own skin in this second album and was great to see it translates live as it did Saturday night.

Nahko and Medicine For The People

Nahko brought his medicine to the stage for act 2 with the subtleness of a screaming ambulance. He surprised everyone by coming through the crowd to the front of the stage, bullhorn in hand and blaring his calls for change. It was a theme that carried through their set as it often does. In my opinion his shows aren’t even concerts. They are sermons, a rally, a protest, a meditation and a performance. Also fresh off a new-ish album Hoka, this stop by The Catalyst was no different. Playing new songs ‘We Shall Overcome’, ‘Build A Bridge’ and ‘Make A Change’, you’re probably starting to put together that Nahko isn’t all too pleased with the current set of problems facing this country and others for that matter. Those songs and others call to light the differences between the haves and have-nots, the oppression of people of color, the desecration of our earth and its natural resources; all heavy topics to be sure. The light he sheds on these issues is done beautifully and you don’t feel depressed about the state. You end up feeling empowered and hopeful and want to be a part of the solution, and I know at least one person left feeling that was Saturday night and I think that makes Nahko a happy bear. When he’s not playing Bernie Sanders rallies or fighting the Dakota access pipeline, Nahko and Medicine for the People sometimes play music and make the world a better place one song at a time. I invite you to join his movement next time his winds of change blow through you’re town. He’d like that and so will you.

 
Charles

Charles

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Nathaniel Rateliff >> Night Sweats in Los Angeles [Greek Theatre]

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats >> It was a night I didn’t expect and for that it was a night I will always remember.

Nathanial Rateliff

If you’ve never been to the Greek Theatre in Griffith Park, you’re missing out. It’s an outdoor venue built in 1930 with an over 5,700 seating capacity that includes everything from the pit to private dining tables to general seating that climbs up into the hills. It’s a bit like the Hollywood Bowl, but more outdoorsy feeling and with a more lax and intimate crowd. The staff is pretty amazing as well, with a special shout out to Jessica from Goldenvoice and the rest of the crew for taking good care of me. The addition of the Santa Ana winds picking up steadily on the first day of fall only enhanced the experience.

Nathanial Rateliff

That being said, it was much to my surprise when my lying, cheating ex jumped into the seat next to mine to say hello, as he was sitting a row back behind me. Out of all the thousands of seats, he had to walk into mine. It was awkward and uncomfortable, though went as well as it could and I hoped that my focus on covering the show would overpower my desire to run.

Fortunately Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats are fucking incredible and they made it easy to dance along and not pay attention to what was happening behind me, which was apparently a show in itself. A couple songs in, my ex taps me to hand me an unexpected glass of wine, then quickly ran off. The group behind and next to me heard the whole story of how he was my ex and his new girlfriend [whom I never saw so can’t confirm] flipped out and made a scene. The young woman next to me confirmed she was ready to punch her out because she was ruining everyone’s experience. This ordeal ended with both groups giving me high fives and telling me I won. And I didn’t even have to compete!

Nathanial Rateliff

So thankfully, after those few uncomfortable songs I was able to enjoy the remainder of the show as I intended which included lots of dancing, clapping, and cheering along with the rest of the tipsy attendees. There were a few shout outs from the band to their Denver fans, the mention that one of their early shows began at 6:30 but doors opened at 7 [a friendly reminder that they were once unknown], and several new songs that we got to hear for the first time. The exceptionally catchy ‘I Did It’ was a particular favorite and I can’t wait to play it on repeat in the near future!

Nathanial Rateliff

What I love about Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats is that they manage to take a very folksy Americana sound and turn it into something light and cheerful that can be played on mainstream radio yet still hold true to their roots. Their music is genuinely happy, upbeat, and engaging. They don’t have to tell people to clap their hands, they just do!

The proximity of the venue in an upper middle class neighborhood required a hard stop at 11, which worked out just fine for my mid-week early wake up struggle. I left the venue happy, lighthearted, and extremely thrilled that that ‘Son of a Bitch/<Got> Me a Drink’ and all was right in the world.

Danielle

Danielle

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All Rap Matters >> Atmosphere and Brother Ali in San Francisco [The Masonic]

Atmosphere >> On the Tuesday following yet more police shootings, in Charlotte and Tulsa, I found myself at The Masonic Theater in San Francisco for a hip hop show on a school night. What I took home, was an education taught by the mic in the hands of Brother Ali and Atmosphere.

Atmosphere

For those not familiar with Brother Ali his rhetoric and songs shedding light on inequality in America are nothing new. They are the backbone of his music and more over him as a performer and as a man. Like Atmosphere, he hails from Minneapolis. He is a Muslim, an albino, and the father of a 16-year old African American son. Although his albinism affects his vision, one can only imagine he has seen some shit in his 39 years. He performed songs like 2007’s ‘Uncle Sam Goddamn’ and 2012’s ‘Mourning in America’ may have never rung truer or hit as close to home as they did Tuesday. It wasn’t all doom and gloom with songs like ‘Forrest Whitaker’ had the crowd grooving and moving along. The self-deprecating lyrics mocked his albinism while praising its namesake who also overcame other people’s preconceptions of what greatness looks like. The most poignant part of his set though, had no beat or tune. He stopped the turn tables for a moment and recited a new piece entitled ‘Dear Black Son’. It was literally a letter he wrote to his 16 year old boy about becoming a black man in today’s racially charged America. It wasn’t preachy, attacking, or over the top. It was filled with worry and pain and love; themes most too many Americans know all too well these days. It might not have been a raging party, but the set was crisp, the rhymes tight, and the moment right for Brother Ali’s sermons.

Brother Ali

The back half of the evening was brought home by Atmosphere, the other half of the Twin Cities’ hip hop royalty. Although less political in nature, the music of rapper Slug [Sean Daley] and DJ/Producer Ant [Anthony Davis] still has a darker shade to it. They rap about problems that transcend race or current events. The themes of struggling with self-image, relationships, drug and alcohol abuse came through clearly if not overly present as they performed ‘God Loves Ugly’ and ‘Shoulda Known’ right out of the gate. After doing this together for more than two decades their songs still seem fresh, probably because the passion for the music can be felt in every verse and track as if it was the first time they played it. Now in his mid-40’s, Sean ‘Slug’ Daley seems almost rejuvenated on stage, with an appreciation for everything and a fuck you we’re still here attitude fueling the performance. Talib Kwali or even Eminem he is not. The rhymes come slow and deliberate, but the lyrics are clear and sharp as a razor blade in a cadence as smooth as a shave. Playing with the audience between songs and even freestyling, looking for things that rhyme with Kaepernick the SF crowd was treated to a well-rehearsed and engaging performance. They left them wanting more, and held the hangover anthem ‘Sunshine’ up their sleeve for the predictable encore. The song was just the upswing and the possibility of hope for a better day everyone needed that night at the concert and beyond the walls of the Masonic.

Atmosphere

After my last rap concert, Brother Ali and Atmosphere helped restore my faith in hip hop. It’s not always about having an entourage on stage, about blunts, bitches and Patron. Those things are all cool though but have their time & place. Tuesday reminded me that rap can be about lyrics with a real message. It can educate. It can knock everything down and raise you back up with it. It can be about making a connection between and with the audience, the performer and the music all at once. Brother Ali and Atmoshphere are vets of the rap game for this long because they do just that. Catch these class acts on their Freshwater Fly Fishermen Tour running through the end of the year and most likely enlightening a city near you soon!

 
Charles

Charles

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Crystal Castles in Phoenix [The Pressroom] >> Where’s Alice?

On my way to the venue, I had learned that Alice had been replaced. I was aware they had broken up for a reason that established Alice as one of my favorite musicians of all time [she left because the most genuine and honest electronic act ever wasn’t genuine enough]; but I assumed they simply got back together. I tried my best to be optimistic…..but who the fuck is going to replace Alice Glass?

Crystal Castles

Crystal Castles has certainly evolved since their debut album in 2008, both stylistically and philosophically. The first album is challenging. On its surface you could describe it as the tortured sounds a Sega Genesis would make if you waterboard it after making it stay awake for 3 days. In fact, Ethan Kath has described why he made certain decisions on that first album, ‘To weed out the wimps, to annoy the posers. We are saying, ‘We are not for you’. The work mellowed out more and more over the subsequent releases, which I am assuming contributed to Alice’s departure. Taking their discography as a whole and compared to themselves, this progress is easy to see; but what makes Crystal Castles so special is how you compare their timeline to what was happening with the rest of electronic music. Introduce someone to their albums and have them guess in which year they were released, I would be surprised if anyone could guess. They remain independent of space-time, nostalgic with their 8-bit glitches, omni-present with their aggressive beats indicative of late 2000 electronic music where the masses were just discovering dubstep, and futuristic with vocals that sound like a choir of cybernetic angels. This last album struck me the same way as many bands facing an identity crises [see Hail to the Thief]. It wants to continue to move forward. Much like their later albums, it has clarity, it is melodic, it wants to have a point but in many tracks I feel as if Ethan is trying to harken back to the first album he described as ‘the most annoying sounds for Alice to scream over’. This may sound as a negative statement, but it’s not…I am older…they are older…Alice is gone…Edith is here…the new album is a new beginning without forgetting what has already ended.

Edith and Ethan did not say a single word their entire set. No introduction, no goodbye, no thank you Cleveland….and honestly I would have been let down if they did as they always appealed to my strong anti-poser sentiment. This needs to be clarified as anti-poser does not mean anti-establishment. Teenage goths rebelling against conformity by spending what I can only assume takes hours each day to put on a non-conformist costume is literally the most poser thing you can do. Picture a grown ass young adult looking in the bathroom mirror listening to music that tells them to ‘fuck society’ while their hair straightener is warming up. Someone who listens to good music, deep cuts, songs not ready for the masses but can also say that last Bieber album had a few good tracks [because it did] is the true definition of not being a poser. Crystal Castles always embodied this for me, they are subversive but because they genuinely wanted to be and they only want to create things they like.

Edith wore what look liked a Soviet Union commandant’s hat, with a baggy black t shirt over an even baggier long sleeve t-shirt. She wore sweat pants, army boots and shades that looked like Blublockers. She looked exactly like Nathan Holverson from high school. Yes I am aware only I will understand that specific reference but you know the kid from high school I’m talking about. I believe Ethan looked the same way he always does, I can’t be sure as I could not take my eyes of off Edith. At first glance, it looked like someone’s best Alice Glass impression [minus the spitting]. It could easily have been written off as that, but as she took control of new songs and old, it was clear as day that she was just being Edith, and that just happened to be a lot like Alice. Her attitude screamed unbridled passion about ideas and themes she cares about while relentlessly not giving a fuck about anything you or I might deem important. Throughout the set, Ethan stayed nearly motionless, bobbing his head gently to his own explosive beats, it was an appropriate counterpoint to the aggressive Iggy pop like stances Edith would take while wailing into the microphone drenched in sweat.

And while Edith lived up to the timberland sized shoes she had to fill, its Ethan’s music that was truly the star of the show. It was melodic, ecclesiastical and completely in-organic like the kind of music machines would make when they want to dance and they think no one is watching. When paired with Edith singing lullaby’s into 219 different microphone effects, it sounded like a gentle robot, high on cocaine, tucking you in at night.  The lighting package strobed with each syncopated beat making us feel like we were slipping in and out of this dimension.

Change is inevitable, and rather difficult to weather. Carving your own identity when your predecessor was a master of individual uncompromised expression can be rather daunting, especially with an audience that would be hard pressed to give you the benefit of the doubt. Is Crystal Castles better? Are they worse? Are they different or the same? Well, as Alice, Ethan, and Edith would probably answer…..Who gives a fuck you poser?

Carmichael

Carmichael

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The Kills >> Killing It in Los Angeles [The Wiltern]

The Kills >> I fucking love The Kills. And so does half of LA.

Picture a venue entirely filled with the rocker chic elite of the modern punk world. Think the everlasting Kate Moss [sorry, Jamie Hince, I know she’s your ex-wife] meets Hollywood, thrown in with a perfect blend of DGAF attitude and post-sex hair with dark eyeliner and a seductive glare. These people are the cool of the cool, and this is just standing outside the merch line.

The Kills

A short two minutes after the scheduled set time and Hotel [Hince] is heard strumming the opening keys to ‘Heart Of A Dog', followed by VV’s [Alison Mosshart’s] recognizable vocals and vibrational jamming into the microphone. The crowd is going nuts. Don’t forget this is LA, where nobody reacts to anything. This, my friends, is a big deal.

The Kills

This is the third time I’ve had the privilege of seeing The Kills this year alone. The first was at Coachella [where I declared my love to VV’s perfect rock style]. I saw them again a short few weeks later at a private KRCW event at my buddy’s office. It was extremely intimate and again filled with A-list supermodels [I won’t name names, but we all know who you are]. This weekend’s venue may have been my favorite just for the sake that this was specifically their tour with a full set time and stage, not to mention a 4-track encore capped off with ‘Sour Cherry’, aka the song that first hooked me 8 years ago when I heard them on Gossip Girl [my pride is not faltered].

The Kills

What I love about this unexpected duo is their shameless DGAF attitude [again, a theme here] mixed with an authentic love of music and creating something that blends into an intentional synchronized sound. Jamie and Alison have a beautiful harmony of working separately yet together at the same time. They each own their portion of the stage and their particular musical element, but as you can see in the photo have a loving respect for one another without stepping on the others’ toes. Neither obstacles of age nor continent separation can stop these two from making sweet music together.

The Kills

The Kills The Kills

The best part of The Kills is their ability to keep Rock ‘n Roll alive in an era where EDM and Pop music dominate the mainstream. The fact that this duo can sell out a show on a Saturday night of a long holiday weekend—in LA, no less—is proof enough that they are relevant and that we, the people, are prepared for more.

‘Time ain't gonna cure you Honey,

Time don't give a shit’.

Setlist: Heart of a Dog * U.R.A. Fever * Kissy Kissy * Hard Habit to Break * Impossible Tracks * Black Balloon * Doing It To Death * Baby Says * Tape Song * Goodnight Bad Morning * Whirling Eye * Pots And Pans * Monkey 23 * No Wow * ENCORE: That Love * Siberian Nights * Future Starts Slow * Sour Cherry

Danielle

Danielle

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