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?



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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



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Crystal Castles are coming back to Phoenix in September!

It has only been about 5 months since Crystal Castles has graced the desert with a live appearance but the upcoming show at The Pressroom on SEPT-16 is a highly anticipated show for sure. Here's a few reasons why you should get your ass downtown to check it out.

Crystal Castles

1. Ethan Katz is a musical genius. He plays every instrument, has a brilliant ear and as a producer, no one is as innovative as he. His technique is modern yet retro and you'll be blow away with what comes out of the studio. But what he does live will make your fucking head pop off. Don't you want your head to pop the fuck off?

2. Crystal Castles will be fresh the release of their upcoming album Amnesty (I), which drops in the states on AUG-19. This is also the first album Kath is releasing w/ Edith Frances who took over as vocalist after Alice Glass left the band. It will be very interesting to experience the brink of a new era of Crystal Castles live and direct  on the forefront of Fall.

3. Speaking of Fall, there's no place better than the desert this time of year. The balls hot weather is withering away and the influx of great shows at a variety of venues is practically upon us finally.

4. Venues? Yes please! This show is at the MVV sleeper pick The Pressroom downtown on Madison. This spot has been open a while but hasn't really had an opportunity to show Phoenix what's up. With a killer name like Crystal Castles fronting the bill, this should be the coming out party that lets the desert know it can rival the best.

5. Finally, shows like this were meant for the weekend and what better way to spend a Friday night going hard and immersed in 16-bit noise and seizure lights, right? No work in the morning. No class the next day. No excuses not to invest in a night like this.

See you at the show!



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Fighting the Power on Sunset [Hollywood Palladium]

People, people we are the same, No we're not the same, 'Cause we don't know the game, What we need is awareness, we can't get careless. -- ‘Fight the Power’ by Public Enemy

Fight The Power

I’m not going to lie, I was a bit anxious to go to the Art of Rap Festival at the Hollywood Palladium this weekend. Partly for being a little white blonde girl, partly for being at a rap show in the middle of the Black Lives Matter movement in a city known for its history of racial discrimination [Rodney King, anyone?]. I didn’t expect anything bad to happen, but neither did all those people who have died recently. I just hoped for a good, clean, awesome show.

My nerves weren’t eased any by the most intense security check I’ve ever experienced. Goodbye lip gloss and eye drops, I hope we are all a little safer now after your sacrifice.

I arrived inside as Mobb Deep was about to take the stage and was impressed with how tight they sounded, though slightly underwhelmed by the lack of visual entertainment as a result of the short set. But people were still coming in, and the cloud of ‘smoke’ was getting bigger and bigger.

Ice-T appeared a short 5 minutes later with everything I was hoping for—demanding that I ‘Raise the ‘W’ along with all my other West Siders, watching a young shirtless dude C-walk across the stage, a bunch of the other artists chilling behind the DJ booth giving handshakes and hugs, all topped off with an older gentleman in a full white suit/white pimp hat getup while dancing to the beat of his own drum. Let’s also not forget Ice-T’s SVU reference because he’s a ‘good motherfucking actor’.

I expected Ice-T to make some political statements regarding the BLM movement, but all he focused on was to ‘keep your head up’ and pray for better in the years to come. There was nothing angry or specific in his verbiage, only the acknowledgment that things aren’t great right now but we can’t let that keep us down. Thank you for that, Ice-T. Thank you.

Next up was EPMD, but after the previous set they got drowned out. I think part of it had to with the fact that their songs are so widely copied that it was hard to remember that they are the originals.

Last up was Public Enemy, the group I was most excited to see [since Naughty by Nature wasn’t playing the LA show]. They did not disappoint! With the familiar holler of ‘Yeeeeaaaa Boy-eee!’ resonating throughout the venue, you just knew that Flava Flav was there to party.

At the end of it all, I walked away with a newfound respect for the genre, and felt a little silly for thinking things would be different from any other type of show. In fact, everyone I met was pretty darn nice. Or really, really high. I love the Hollywood Palladium, but I think a show like this would have benefited from an outdoor setting like one would find at FYF Fest or something along those lines, especially if it means having all the artists perform on one day instead of varying by city. The vibe was just a little off for some reason, even though the artists themselves were fantastic.



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Too Short and Fat Joe come up short in San Francisco [Regency Ballroom]

Saturday night, the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco was the site of The Summer Classic headlined by Fat Joe and Bay Area’s own Too $hort. The concert was put on by Empire Distribution, a local record label, in honor of CEO and founder Ghazi Shami’s birthday. Billed as The Summer Classic, what those in attendance were treated to was a classic bait and switch.

Fat Joe

The first red flag came earlier Saturday afternoon when the venue sent out a notice stating Fat Joe’s set had been moved up to 840pm so to please arrive early. They were right he did come on at 840pm. Fat Joe did about a 4 minute montage of, ‘All I Do Is Win’, ‘All The Way Up’, ‘What’s Luv’ and ‘Lean Back’.  My use of the word montage is generous at best as we got no more than a minute of the chorus of each song, and he spent more time sweating on stage than actually singing or rapping. Then he called Ghazi the birthday boy out, where they presented each other with platinum plaques for ‘All The Way Up’, and then disappeared stage right. At the time, we assumed this was a great tease of what was to come, as crowd was hyped and yearning for more. Oh how I wish we’d been right. Over the next four hours, yes four hours we were treated to a full slate of ‘up and coming’ artists from Empire, go figure. Stop me if you’ve heard of any of these ‘rising stars’; Tay Way, Show Banga, Rexx Life Raj, J Stalin, Rayven Justice…No? Well then you must know; D-Lo, Colonel Loud, Philthy Rich, or Luke Nasty. Ya, I didn’t think so, me neither. They weren’t all terrible, but in most cases I’ve bought random CD’s from hustlas on the street that have more potential. As midnight closed in, a glimmer or hope shimmered in the building. We noticed the DJ playing some Jim Jones songs. Problem is we didn’t realize until like 3 songs in Jim Jones was on stage ‘performing’. The lack of a leading MC or Hype man throughout the evening often lead to us having no idea who was on stage. And again pretty much only muttering along to the chorus Jim Jones only gave us snippets of ‘Pop Champagne’ and ‘We Fly High’.

All The Way Up

After all that, with only Too $hort left to perform, the crowd still held on for redemption. The hometown hero would surely save the day and get the crowd hella hyphy. Too $hort started out strong performing with an actual band and backup singers. I think we even got two full songs including personal favorite ‘Gettin’ It’ until the performance turned south the way of all others that evening. It veered into the gutter quickly with the 50 year old rapper graphically picking out and hitting on 18 to 19 year old girls in the crowd. I don’t even want to repeat some of the filthy things he was saying. And it wasn’t in jest, and just came off creepy, sounding much more like a petterass than a playa. Also by this point he’d given up rapping, handing off singing duties to his cousin, whoever the f that is, while he smoked blunts and sipped patron from the bottle. By this point it was past 1am and there were probably more cronies and people on stage than were left in the crowd, and we blew the whistle and called it a night and showed ourselves the door.

Too Short

To their credit, I will say the most redeeming thing about the evening was the crowd. They paid good money to be entertained and were going to have a good time no matter what. Any chance they were given, most often when the house DJ played radio hits in between artists, people were getting down. The outfits and the dancing led to some of the best people watching I have ever been a part of. And for so clearly being scammed into a glorified talent showcase everyone maintained a positive and fun vibe.

That being said fuck Empire, what a fucking scam. And to Fat Joe and Too $hort, you should be embarrassed. Both artists are much too successful and talented to need to throw their name on such a pathetic money grab, especially you Todd Shaw aka Too $hort. This is the Bay, the town you came from and the town that built you. You should be most ashamed of all. I would rather catch fucking Pokemon than catch another rap show like this, but we made the best out of it as did all in attendance. And I think I speak for everyone from Saturday night when I say, ‘Happy Birthday Ghazi, F you!’.



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Island Reggae Festival 2016 is almost here!

Island Reggae Festival 2016 >> will return next month and will feature yet another lineup of dope artists that vary in style but share the same vibe. The 1-day multi-stage music festival will take place on JUL-9 at Santa Clara County Fairgrounds this year since the gala now in its 5th year has outgrown the amphitheater at Great America it was held at in years past.

Island Reggae Festival

This year on the bill is Collie Buddz, Anuhea, Common Kings, Tarrus Riley, Fiji and much more so definitely get after this extravaganza of Island Reggae culture and lifestyle with great music, arts, delectable grub and a fireworks show at night. You should be recovered from your red, white and blue hangover by then.

[Related: Collie Buddz >> Cali Roots 2015]

So get your tickets here. Jah Bless and Give Tanks and Praise!



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California Roots 2016 >> The Movement Has Grown

Memorial Day weekend isn’t just the traditional start of summer; it’s also the time of the annual California Roots Art & Music Festival in Monterey. The 7th annual installment of this reggae based concert festival at the Monterey County Fairgrounds boasted perhaps the most loaded lineup yet, and it did not disappoint. But as we pulled up early Friday afternoon though something felt different. Crowds were a little bigger, lines a little longer, kids a little younger, and stages now had sponsors. Was this the end? Was the secret out?

Give Tanks and Praise

There were honestly no gaps on the bill and I could write about each and every show but, no one wants to read that much, so let me give you the skinny on the highlights of each day. First stop Friday, was the main stage called The Bowl [aptly named for this festival I know.]. Fan Favorite J-Boog took the early 230p slot and I’ve never seen the main infield so crowded so early on Day 1, a combination of the growing scene and an avid fan base. The Boog delivered a strong performance; though I can’t help feeling he would be better suited at a 6p sun setting slot to really put the people in the mood if ya feel me. Though to be honest he probably chose the early bidding to get it out of the way so he could hang out and enjoy the rest of the weekend which I respect as we saw his face on and off stage plenty through Sunday. He mixed songs old and knew with a one of a kind swag. Personal old favorites were ‘Sunshine Girl’, ‘Every Little Thing’ and new jammie ‘Good Cry’ off his most recent EP Rose Petals. As expected he closed down the set with his biggest hit ‘Let’s Do It Again’ with fellow CR performer and tour buddy Hirie assisting on vocals and even remixing in a little Justin Bieber ‘Sorry’. Although it didn’t really make sense, it worked and I must admit I like the Biebs so was a nice twist to an old standard.

Cali Roots 2016

Having not seen them in almost 10 years, Friday’s other stand out for me was The Expendables. They played the 2nd stage at 8p warming up the crowd for headliner Slightly Stoopid to follow. And I must say the hometown favorites still got it. The group from neighboring Santa Cruz has a sound that’s pretty unique to this genre. They rock. Their blend of punk, surf rock and reggae is sublime. They seamlessly can turn it off and on even within the same songs. The guitar riffs and solos in songs like ‘Down, Down, Down’ and ‘Sacrifice’ even sparked the weekend’s only mosh pits. Though they were short lived and in good fun, bodies slamming into each other was a breath of fresh air to the crowd. Although they continue to make new music, the band seemed to know where their bread was buttered and stuck to old hits, with no complaints from this guy. They also were able to overcome muffled mics and levels that were off in general and powered through like true pros. Other highlights of their set include bringing up a random fan from the crowd and letting him play guitar on the romantic stoner ballad ‘Bowl For Two’, as well as rocking out a cool rendition of the Red Hot Chili Peppers ‘Under the Bridge’.

The Expendables

As mentioned, Friday’s headliner was Slightly Stoopid. I have previously been critical of them for being sleepy just not really my jam. So let me be the first to say, ‘I’m sorry Slightly Stoopid!’. They lead one of the most energetic performances from them I’d ever seen, and gosh darn it they play a lot of songs I know every word of and actually really like ‘2 AM’, ‘Officer’, ‘Sweet Honey’. I don’t know where I lost the path but I am glad we’re back together and would gladly see them again! Enjoyed it so much I didn’t take many notes and just got lost in the sound, also we left early to fight the shuttle bus struggle but that will all be covered directly in my feedback card to the festival. All in all a great start to a great weekend that only got greaterest from there.

[Related: Cali Roots 2015]

Saturday, day 2 was supposed to be the down day with the bigger names bookending the weekend’s schedule but there was no rest to be had because it ended up being filled with great shows from start to finish. The Green came hot out of the gates with their Hawaiian styling and a light and fun set. Their performance was highlighted by new music, one new jam featured Eric Rachmany of Rebelution on vocals, and perhaps the song of the summer ‘Mama Roots’ featured the aforementioned J-Boog. The crowd all seemed to have the same reaction after they were done and that was wow, we need to listen to en more.

The Green

Pepper also performed Saturday sprinkling in their frat-tastic party boy image all over the second stage, and that was fun the same way fireball shots are fun. A little goes a long way and ya it’s fun but it’s also terrible. Was cool to see that they still go as hard they probably did 20 years ago. They closed with ‘Ashes’ which is my favorite song of theirs and I loved every second. Damn it, I’m such a sucker for them. Don’t ever change Pepper!

[Related: Pepper >> Getting Spicy in San Francisco]

The real Saturday storyline was the Marley’s! Stephen and Damian Marley both covered the main stage though separately. The half-brothers’ styles couldn’t be more different but are both unmistakably Marley. Listening to Stephen Ragga Marley’s set in the late afternoon had the good vibes and good times feeling of Bob’s Legend album and rightfully so as he covered many of those songs mixing in his own hits ‘Hey Baby’ and ‘Break us Apart’. Of all the Marley children [there’s eleven in all], Stephen’s voice is closest to his father’s and when one closes their eyes they can also hear and feel the same positivity and hopefulness echoing through. Damian on the other hand, his sound felt darker as he closed out Saturday night. The tone felt more rebellious, reflective of his dad’s strong social conscience that was never afraid to call attention to injustice. With the familiar Ethiopian Lion of Judah flag being waved constantly on stage through the show he had the crowd ‘Welcome to JamRock’ing’! Together the two shows covered all that was great about Bob. Stephen lit the torch to carry the legacy on and Damian Jr. Gong burnt one down. Though very different nothing but one love for the brothers Marley at Cali Roots!

Stephen Marley

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! Oh where to start?! Sunday’s lineup was straight fyah. Stick Figure to Protoje to Tribal Seeds to Michael Franti and closed out by headliners Rebelution! I’m not sure I could put together a more perfect lineup. Tribal Seeds and Stick Figure I have written about before and are both just so damn good that their respective sets were nowhere near long enough to cover all the fan favorites in their respective catalogues. Protoje who was a relative unknown to most prior to Cali Roots definitely made an impression and was a major highlight on a day full of them. His upbeat, quick tempo style was definitive dancehall reggae at its finest. It would be like if Shaggy actually had talent. Sorry, Shaggy, it wasn’t me. Look up his hits, ‘Who Knows’, ‘Kingston Be Wise’ and ‘Ja’ for a tastes of what I’m talking about. Very well could have been the most memorable show of the weekend on the second stage. Could have.

Stick Figure

[Related: Cali Roots 2014]


But it wasn’t. That’s because Michael Franti slayed it yet again. I really didn’t think he could top last year’s performance but then he goes and climbs up in a tree in the middle of the crowd and kept playing without missing a beat. Armed with new music from his new album SOULROCKER he did just that and rocked the crowd’s soul. His lyrics are so positive and genuine that you want to be a part of it and he lets you. With the beach balls bouncing in the crowd and the little kids with face paint being pulled on stage to sing along, it felt more like a Disney movie than a concert. We’re all just Timon and Pumba to Michael Franti’s Simba. Just thinking about that performance still gives me chills and simultaneously gives me hope for a better tomorrow. There’s only one way to see and experience Michael Franti’s music and that is live, and in a tree if possible.

Michael Franti

After all that and we still have Rebelution to close it all out? Is this real life? A personal favorite that I have seen grown from playing backyard bbq’s and dive bars was now headlining the main stage on the biggest of all days at the best Cali Roots yet and they lived up to and deserved every second of it. Also, coming with an arsenal of new music from their album Falling Into Place. The short eleven track release comes preloaded with hits that are so quintessentially Rebelution that they fell right into place in their set on Sunday, even opening up with new song ‘Know It All’. They also worked in my favorite new one ‘Lay My Claim’ and herbalist friendly ‘Inhale Exhale’ to their set. Normally I hate when bands lean on concerts to force feed their fans new music, but not this time. The new music was part of a feeding frenzy and the crowd ate up each last note. The hour and a half set flew by and they could have played for another 90 minutes. They had the crowd in the palm of their hands and not a soul left until the very end, not wanting this show or the weekend to end, but what a way to go out.

California Roots you did it again. This was most definitely the best festival yet. I was worried that it had gotten too big, that it might’ve outgrown itself and its venue. That wasn’t the case, it was still about the music, good vibes and great people. Cali Roots didn’t outgrow anything, it just grew up. Let the countdown until Memorial Day 2017 begin! Jah Bless and Give Tanks and Praise!



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