Thursday, February 16, 2012

this is why i have a day job

There is no good excuse for why I haven't updated since May of last year. Not one. But it's my goal to post at least a couple photos and a small blurb from each show I go to this year. A retroactive post for the last two gigs I attended will be going up shortly.

Wish me luck. I'm going to need it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mumford & Sons Grammys Pre-Party (2-12-11)

My luck continues to hold out when it comes to these four gentlemen and I was lucky enough to attend KROQ'S Grammy Pre-Party at the Grammy Museum last Saturday. I think a lot of this so called luck can be attributed to the tenacity of my friends. Abi once again won us these passes; she took to the internet with blinding determination the minute I told her about the online contest and voilĂ ! The woman is golden.

Mind you, this all took place within a span of three days, so it was a quick and dirty campaign to confirm entrance and round up all the details pertaining to the actual event. Saturday blew is unseasonably warm, but the sun was shining, I was with my friends, and we were going to see Mumford & Sons perform a private mini gig in Downtown Los Angeles. Not too shabby, temperature aside.

Despite the fact that the very title of the event had "pre-party" in it, none of us were sure what to expect. "Club wear" was also suggested, but the performance was to start at six and even though happy hour would already be well under way by then, it seemed a bit early in the day to don heels and enough black attire to dress the Mob. Solution: aim for the middle (I stowed by three inch pumps in my luggage sized purse just in case). Turned out to be a fairly "come as you are" type setting, which was a relief because if I'm being honest, we were all a bit anxious. As I've said before, this band has come to mean a great deal to us, individually and as a group, and with the future looking bigger and brighter than ever for our four favorite musicians, the days of seeing them perform in such a small setting seem numbered, if not already over. Thus the importance of this night and the reason behind our silly nerves.

I want to take a minute to formally thank everyone at KROQ for being so friendly and wonderful and not only making this night happen, but for taking a chance and playing music that just a year ago never would have graced your airwaves. All of the DJ's have championed Mumford & Sons, especially Kat Corbett, and you're all helping set a new example for what is radio worthy. Keep it up...people are listening.

Once inside, with wristbands tightly fastened, we found out that it really was a party after all. The bar was open on one floor, the theatre where the performance would be was on another and we were free to roam the Museum. CBS Radio spared little expense. It was quite impressive for something we essentially won via Twitter. But not to be detoured by the promise of booze, we went straight to the theatre on the second floor, which for museum purposes, usually pays homage to Hip Hop. After browsing a bit and spotting a celebrity here and there, we soon found ourselves in line and were all amazed again by KROQ's dedication to their fans when we got priority seating over the CBS executives and guests who were also in attendance. Scored second row seats! I'm being to consider that row our official place on the floor, seated or not.

Fifteen minutes later and it was standing room only. For a people watcher like myself, the waiting period beforehand was quite the show all its own; human beings, especially in social situations, are infinitely interesting subjects and rarely bore. But even the strange appearance of Ron Jeremy and gossiping about a few late arrivals to the fray didn't distract any of us for long and Kat Corbett's quick introduction of the band finally put us out of our misery.

I've seen the band play four full gigs and this was my third time seeing them at a radio event, but it was easily one of the best performances I've witnessed from them yet, second only to the first time I saw them play last year at the Music Box (for sentimental reasons, of course).

Mumford & Sons @ The Grammy Museum (2-12-11) Mumford & Sons @ The Grammy Museum (2-12-11)

Opening, as is now accustomed, with "Sigh No More," its quiet plea, which is sometimes shaded and heavy, was...happy and met its crescendo lighter and more playful than I've ever heard it. I don't know if it's simply because they're refreshed from what I would think was a much needed break from the road or the unimaginable, overwhelming elation of knowing they'd be performing with the likes of The Avett Brothers and Bob Dylan the following night, but the energy in the room was excited and infectious and the mood for the rest of the set was fantastic.

And I'm going to eat my words a bit here because I thought for sure that the sheer number of Suits and VIPs in the room would put a damper on the night, but by all regards, this was an incredibly receptive audience and I do believe everyone truly enjoyed themselves, whether they were familiar with the band to begin with or not. Anyone who has ever been to a show and paid even the slightest bit of attention to their surroundings knows that if your fellow concert goers are unengaged, unimpressed, obnoxious or all of the above, the band on stage can sense it and that surprisingly fragile bond between performer and audience is broken. Been there, done that, didn't enjoy it one bit. Therefore, I don't think my assumptions were totally unfounded, but next time I'll try to be a little less...territorial.

Mumford & Sons @ The Grammy Museum (2-12-11) Mumford & Sons @ The Grammy Museum (2-12-11)

"Awake My Soul" and "Little Lion Man" followed and the audience was thoroughly engaged. To my utter shock and delight, Marcus then announced they'd be playing a new song. It is as heartfelt and earnest as a song comes and has the rare distinction of not only being a song you can make your own, but one where you're partaking in something genuinely personal, a sharing of emotion. It takes a truly masterful songwriter to take something deeply personal and craft it into a song that is universally felt. Often times songs can be entirely too reflective of the writers own life and the listener isn't able to lose themselves in the music and it ends up feeling like you're listening to a friend bitch and moan, or even worse, swoon about the joys of love to the sound of a guitar. The song never has the chance to become your song; it can never speak to you or for you or about you and so it fails to ever amount to much more than pretty words put to pretty music.

The other side of the coin is when a song is written simply to be written. If a song has no heart, if it doesn't come from a genuine place, the listener will know it and push it aside. There is a reason misery loves company and a reason why we all have a need to share our triumphs, be it in love or otherwise, with others. No one wants to suffer alone and happiness has some sort of clause written into its fundamental law that makes it impossible not to want to share it with those around us. For better or for worse, there is an inherent comfort in feeling like we're not alone in what we feel. A songwriter has to produce something from a real place in order to get anything in return. There is nothing worse than a song that makes you feel like the joke is on you.

It is a very fine line to walk and this band does it exceedingly well and with what I think is a true understanding of the power of music and what it means to people on a visceral level. The untitled new song was listened to in relative silence and reverence. "Below My Feet," which debuted on the last North American tour, has evolved with each performance and has become one of the most powerful songs in their setlist, so I'm really excited to hear how this one changes as they road test it this Spring. Although, to this untrained ear, it sounds marvelous just as it is.

Mumford & Sons @ The Grammy Museum (2-12-11) Mumford & Sons @ The Grammy Museum (2-12-11)

"The Cave" closed out the set and it killed me and my friends to have to stay seated. No one stayed seated for long once the song was over and the band exited the theater to a standing ovation. As our row began to file out, I employed my ninja-like skills to maneuver around everyone and grab a setlist from the stage. After taking a few minutes to collect ourselves, we ventured up to the fifth floor for the rooftop after party. The city lights, liberal amounts of vodka thanks to our choice bartender, and a surprisingly good DJ made for one of the funnest nights I've had in a good long while. We meet and talked to more genuinely cool people than we're used to at shows or events (some were even kind enough to give us their unused drink cards). Fast Freddy of Boston's MIX 104.1, your thoughts on skinny jeans are sound and just and your generously given drink card didn't go to waste! Hope you got into the Grammy's!

[Check out all the performances from the party here]

Mumford & Sons went on to not win any Grammy's, but they won something even greater that night: recognition and respect. Their performance, paired with one by The Avett Brothers and a collaboration with Bob Dylan was enough to flood every social network I'm on with talk of how great they were and how nice it was to see a band that looked genuinely happy to be playing music. Just two days later they were at the Brit Awards, performed a gorgeous rendition of "Timshel," and took home the award for Best Album.

It would seem the boys have made it, though I am loathe to share. But alas, these things aren't up to me and my only hope, other than to not continue to have trouble getting tickets to their shows (I've already lost out on seeing them play the Santa Barbara Bowl because tickets went faster than my internet connection could run), is that this all doesn't change them, that they continue to be people and band I've come to love. 2011 has set itself up to be a test for band and fan alike.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Songs From A Room: Los Angeles

Songs from a Room

Five bands. A small group of music lovers. One living room. It's not often that something like this happens, but when it does it's fairly safe to say that it's thanks to Songs From A Room (or Sofar Sounds as it's come to be known), a movement making its way around the world, bringing intimacy and respect back to live music and giving new musicians a new platform to showcase their music. The only rules being: No talking. No texting. Just listen and enjoy.

The rules seem simple enough, but it's quite a lofty goal when you think about what the floor at any show looks like these days: a sea of backlit cellphone screens and a chorus of shouting as people try to converse over the music they paid to come hear. For any true music loving, gig addicted fan, it's the bane of one's existence. So the creation and execution of a series of small gigs where your undivided attention is the highest form of currency (along with maybe a six pack of beer) is something quite special.

Which is why when a video of Marcus Foster playing a gig in someone's living room in London made its way onto my twitter feed last summer, I got really excited. Upon doing a bit more research, I came to find that Songs From A Room stems from London, run by Rafe Offer, Rocky Start, and Passion Ate Dave (David Alexander), the latter being the first to host and take part in this grassroots movement to bring live music back down to earth with new focus and enthusiasm.

I soon signed up for the newsletter and watched over the months as gigs kept popping up in London and soon found their way to the States. Late last year, to my shock and pleasant surprise, this humble little blog of mine got a shout out via Sofar's official twitter page, and I finally bit the bullet and emailed over a few recommendations of my favorite up and coming bands. I was floored to get an email back and an invitation to the first Los Angeles gig. Not really knowing what to expect, I left all my expectations at the door and came away from the night thrilled and honored to have been part of it at all.

Chief @ Sofar Sounds (1-13-11)

The gentlemen of Sofar Sounds were kind enough to let me bring Abi, my usual partner in crime, as my +1 and not long after our arrival the main room and other living areas were packed with people. We were both surprised to see a few familiar faces from the singer/songwriter circuit of fans that frequent the LA shows, but it's all the more evidence that this really is a small world after all (and I now have that song stuck in my head, so don't think that lack of creativity didn't go unpunished). Because the list of performers is keep secret until the night of the gig, it made for a fun game of "who's a band member?" while we waited and really drove home an underlying theme to this movement: we're all just music fans. These gigs have you standing shoulder to shoulder with musicians and fans alike, which if I might say, is pretty damn cool. Not to mention the lovely setting. Casey's (our hostess for the night) apartment set a wonderful mood and tone for the night, its old Los Angeles charm making it all the more apropos.

Rocky was our cheerful and enthusiast MC for the night and once introductions were made, Chief (sans one member), a band based out of Santa Monica, christened the Los Angeles gig by going first. I recognized them as soon as they all took their places in front as one of the bands featured in the Reuters piece I saw months beforehand. Many reviewers have been quick to compare them to other bands and another time (read: the products of Laurel Canyon in the 60s) and I suppose that is fitting. Though they may have come together while attending NYU, they sound like California, with its dusty orange orchards and the beat of the Valley under an unforgiving sun and the shade of the canyons and the sweep of a Pacific breeze. Not to wax too poetical, but they sound like home.

[Check out their Take Away Show - shot it Malibu - for LA BLOGOTHEQUE]

Jesca Hoop @ Sofar Sounds (1-13-11) Saint Motel @ Sofar Sounds (1-13-11)

Jesca Hoop's performance felt like storytime with a favorite, quirky aunt who drinks tea, sneaks out for smokes when the others aren't looking, and is as comfortable with her favorite expletives (which she freely admitted to before she started her set, much to everyone's amusement) as she is with less offensive four letter words. Vocally and lyrically she takes her listeners on a journey, where you're likely to find yourself in some wooded glen, an environment she seems to find inspiration in and evokes often in her songwriting, be it located in her native Northern California or the United Kingdom where she's since taken up roots. She's an imagery songstress and if the chatter online is any indication, she's soon to take flight.

[For a taste, listen to her Daytrotter Session and read the glowing writeup]

Saint Motel was next and they came in guns blazing, with their sole mission seeming to be to have fun and make everyone happy. From the looks and sounds of the audience: Mission Accomplished. At the risk of sounding like a hippie, there were some seriously good vibes throughout their four song set. I've since had the chance to listen to their EP "ForPlay" and it's interesting to compare it to the unplugged version we got that night. Because I had no point of reference and the stripped down acoustic tracks were played so well and with such a healthy amount of cheek, I was surprised at how much they remind me of the bands I listened to in college. Don't take that the wrong way, there's nothing emo or dated about them (though a lot of the bands I listened to back then can no longer say the same), but they are a delightfully reimagined take on the power pop/rock that never goes out of style.

[See for yourself at their 3rd Annual Zombie Prom. Who says love is dead? Undead maybe. ;)]

The Absolute @ Sofar Sounds (1-13-11) Hyperpotamus @ Sofar Sounds (1-13-11)

I wasn't really sure how The Absolute were going to play this gig. I had never heard any of their music before, but Abi had been to one of the their shows at The Viper Room and from what she'd told me, I thought them to be a rock and roll band, through and through. So how in the hell were they going to play someone's living room without getting the police called on us for breaking some noise ordinance? Well, as it turns out, they did have to do a little retooling in order to perform for us (we had the pleasure of hearing the "drunken waltz" version of one of their songs) and I think they did a wonderful job. Philip has an incredibly powerful voice, one that is no doubt conditioned to project over their usual level of sound, but during this more organic performance there were points when he was singing so loud and with such passion I got chills. I almost wish I could have been a person outside, maybe taking the dog for a walk along the beautiful tree lined street Casey's apartment is on, and heard their performance from below. Maybe someone did and just for a moment got to take part in this incredible night of music with the rest of us.

[Listen to a couple of the new tracks from their forthcoming EP La Fin du Monde out March 4]

Hyperpotamus was the last to arrive and the last to perform and it was honestly the coolest ending to the night we could have asked for. With nothing more than four microphones, a loop station pedal, and small set of speakers, he literally wowed everyone in the room. He lays down beats that sound like inconsequential sounds until he loops and layers them on top of each one, sings with a voice of impressive range, and suddenly he's a one man band and has command of the entire room (his cover of "Sweet Dreams" by The Eurythmics was a big hit with us). This wasn't his first stop to a Sofar Sounds living room; this Spaniard played for them at a London gig last summer and continues to make his way around the world (if I read correctly, there will soon be a Take Away Show filmed in Barcelona). But enough of my rambling, I come bearing evidence of his brilliance:

[Check out his YouTube Channel and then see him live when you can!]

And so ended the night, one I won't soon forget and that introduced me to five new bands in a fashion I could easily get spoiled on. So sign up the mailing list, become part of the movement, and see who and what you find along the way.

Monday, December 13, 2010

and maybe the world will look like this forever

Here are three of the last four shows I went to this year. The fourth is Mumford & Sons at The Sound Academy in Toronto, but they get their own dedicated post. No, I'm not above showing favoritism.

Johnny Flynn @ The Hotel Cafe (11-5-10)

Johnny Flynn @ The Hotel Cafe (11-5-10)

Originally, I wasn't going to be able to see Johnny perform because he only had one date booked at The Hotel Cafe and it was the same night as Florence + The Machine. Luckily, he decided to add another night and it was a mad dash to buy a ticket before it too sold out. I first got wind of Johnny back in 2008, along with Laura Marling, but at the time my musical interests were largely elsewhere.

I'll be the first to admit that back then, his particular brand of folk music wasn't something I gave much thought to. I was still coming down from my Warped Tour college days and you were more likely to find me in the pit at a rock show than in the quiet attendance of an acoustic set. Nowadays, I like to juggle both and thankfully he made his way back onto my radar late last year and I was able to give his music a proper listen.

Johnny Flynn is storyteller. Lyrics, arrangement, and his distinctive voice all lend to the weaving of tales that are contemporary, but are laced with classical imagery that belies his actual youth and hints at an educated background. And he does it all with such ease; there is nothing rushed about his singing or playing. He seems content enough to simply sing you his stories and then move onto the next town, a troubadour for a new age.

And that was how we found him in Los Angeles, just another stop on his journey. I had heard many a tale of his shyness and sometimes outright awkwardness on and off stage, so I feared that our small but stigmatized crowd would make him downright skittish. He too happens to be friends with a certain British actor who has found an obscene level of fame over the last couple of years, and his fans have flocked to his friends, and while this is easy promotion for up and coming musicians like Johnny, it creates a kind of frenzy amongst the new fans that has little to do with the music and almost everything to do with the association to their favorite star. How cynical of me, sure, but I've seen it firsthand, more times than I'd like, and as much as I love this town, it's LA and unfortunately how things often are, regardless of what I think.

The timing was beneficial that night, though, and his high profile friends were not in attendance, so things went without a hitch. Well, almost. As it turned out, Johnny was talkative between songs and engaging, his humor light but charming. He played the first set of the night, so it was a bit hurried, but he had a much more powerful presence on stage than I expected, his voice strong and captivating. All was going really well until he took a second during an interlude to tune his guitar. He made some quip about it being old and having to tune it often and everyone merely laughed along with his easy candor. Then one particular woman broke the moment and I was sure had ruined the night.

She rose her voice above the din of the venue and said (I'm paraphrasing here, this was a while ago, after all), "that's what Laura does too," referring to Laura Marling. Sounds harmless enough, right? Yeah, not so much. My friend Abi and I stole a look at each other before covering our faces in shame. That awkward, uncomfortable Johnny I'd heard rumor of was suddenly standing on stage. He mumbled out an almost inaudible "oh" and went back to tuning his guitar, the mood broken. We had made it almost the entire night without a fangirl stepping out of line and then that chick had to go and ruin it. My friends and I were suffering from a serious case of secondhand embarrassment and I was doing my best to tame a raging bout of contempt for these women who continue to strive to make complete asses of themselves and everyone in attendance.

Just once I'd like to see one of these musicians perform without having to worry that half or more of the audience didn't check their shame at the door in an embarrassing attempt to get closer to someone who is little more than a fantasy. Just once. I supposed this means I'll have to vacant Los Angeles. *headdesk* Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with being a fan, I can fangirl with the best of them, but some of these people have taken it above and beyond what can be considered sensible and respectful behavior. But I digress, yet again. Honestly, this is a gripe and a half that I could write on for pages and pages, but I won't.

Somehow though, Johnny shook it off and when he prompted a sing-a-long to "Tickle Me Pink" as his final song, all smiles and modest cheer, I was almost proud of him. Needless to say, I'd really like to see him again, perhaps with his band The Sussex Wit. If he sounds this good by himself, I can only imagine how great he is with the support of a band.


Florence + The Machine @ The Wiltern (11-6-10)

Florence + The Machine @ The Wiltern (11-6-10)

Florence Welch is a force of nature. Full stop.

Florence + The Machine has been a constant presence in my "Heavy Rotation" playlist on my iPod for over a year and a half now and I have a feeling this won't be changing any time soon. Oddly enough, I have Nylon Magazine to thank for this. I downloaded their Summer Playlist last year and "Cosmic Love," which was featured in the mix, was enough to having me downloading all of Lungs before the day was over. I then paid well above face value to see her perform at The Troubadour last October and it's one of the best overpriced tickets I've ever bought. The venue could barely contain the energy coming from the stage and audience. It was arguably one of the best shows I've ever been too.

Fast forward a year and she's playing The Wiltern and leveling us all with nothing but her voice and enviable energy and enthusiasm. She's a bit of an odd bird, too. In contrast to the strength of her singing voice, Florence is rather soft spoken between songs, she's delightfully quirky in the way she works the stage, and theatrical in a way that's understated and entertaining, but not comical or requiring a meat dress or enough backup dancers to mask a lack of charisma or rhythm. And it all just works.

There were moments of genuine awe where I got goosebumps and my breath caught in my chest when she hit a particular note or held one for so long I wanted to breathe for her. There were a pair of young girls, maybe sixteen, standing in front of us who were so taken with Florence, I'm not sure you could have physically shaken them from their revere. It was a treat to witness, that kind of adoration.

The two performances that really stuck with me were "Blinding" and "My Boy Builds Coffins." With the first, I was more struck by the way it was performed than anything else. Donning a bejeweled, lace cloak, the lights were turned down and a single key light behind Florence illuminated her ghostly silhouette. As the tempo of the song increased, so did the strobe light and the harder your heart beat. Again, she's theatrical, but she was able to be so with little more than posturing and her voice. Remarkable.

It's not even my favorite track, but this time "My Boy Builds Coffins" was one of those moments when I got chills and stood there gaping. The song is slightly bent and unusual but she and her band performed it in such a way that by the end the vocals and music were resonating so powerfully from the stage I was a bit taken aback. They were able to take a song I've heard countless times and they've countless more make it sound fresh and better than ever. If that's not a sign of a formidable performer, I don't know what is.


Dear Jack Benefit (f. Matt Nathanson, Jack's Mannequin, and Something Corporate) @ The El Rey Theatre (11-18-10)

Dear Jack Benefit Show @ The El Rey (11-18-10)

Dear Jack Benefit Show @ The El Rey (11-18-10)

Andrew McMahon has been the voice of my evolution. Something Corporate and Jack's Mannequin are the veritable book ends to a rather tumultuous period of my life and to have the chance to see both bands live, on the same night, was like coming full circle.

In 2003 I was a sophomore in college, newly heartbroken, and untethered. Instead of going out and binge drinking at frat parties and being loose with my morals, I embraced an equally cliched response to rejection and retreated inward. For a time, it seemed I'd never find my way back from this self-implemented exile. And then I found my muse, or rather, it found me in the form Something Corporate.

I was finally getting into my upper division screenwriting courses (I have my BA in Film with an emphasis on screenwriting) and my first feature length script was written to a soundtrack of Something Corporate with "Down" as the lead track. I spent many a night and painfully early morning writing until I couldn't see straight and crying until it didn't hurt anymore and all the while it was Andrew's voice that kept my feet on the ground.

The world kept turning and before I knew it, two years had past and Andrew was the frontman and brainchild behind a new band: Jack's Mannequin. Before the release of the album in August of 2005 Andrew was diagnosed with Leukemia and it was now our turn, as fans, to support him. It's a strange relationship we have as listeners with the musicians behind the music. We come to rely so heavily on them for support and encouragement and happiness that we form this symbiotic bond that is both incredibly intimate and yet completely impersonal. So when Andrew fell ill, it was terrifying and strange and all any of us could really do was hope.

It was that hope that slowly bleed into my own life and helped me find my own way back from the dark. Andrew soon made his recovery and has been an incredible source of inspiration the entire time. He's proof that life is hard and unfair and sometimes ugly, but if you keep going and never give up, you can come out on the other side changed, but whole...and alive. Glass Passenger came out in 2008 and "The Resolution" closed the wound for good:

There's a lot that I don't know
There's a lot that I'm still learning
When I think I'm letting go
I find my body it's still burning

And you hold me down
And you got me living in the past
Come on and pick me up
Somebody clear the wreckage from the blast

Yeah I'm alive
But I don't need a witness
To know that I've survived
I'm not looking for forgiveness
Yeah I just need light
I need light in the dark
As I search for the resolution

The night of the benefit was as much a show about raising money for a wonderful cause as it was about hope and healing, whether it was a conscious thought or not. Matt Nathanson opened the night with his dirty sense of humor and infectious personality. He and Aaron Tap did a cover of of ACDC's "Highway to Hell" that was ridiculous and hilarious and entirely wonderful. He was the perfect warm up for the night and I can't wait to see him headline his own gig.

It was full steam ahead after that, with Jack's Mannequin taking the stage first. I hadn't listened to much of Jack's this year, save for seeing an impromptu show at The Viper Room in February, because Something Corporate had once again taken top priority with their reunion this year, so it was really great to hear all these songs again. "Dark Blue" still gets the most cheers and "MFEO/You Can Breath" still gives me chills like I'm hearing it for the first time. This was also the debut of Jack's new bassist Mikey "The Kid" Wagner; he fit in seamlessly.

Something Corporate closed the night with all of our favorites and all the energy we've grown accustomed to and live for when Andrew works his way around the stage and ends up on top of his piano. These songs are old friends and they'll never not make me ridiculously happy. The night ended with "La La Lie" and all the band members from both bands on stage. Again, full circle. Now we wait for the next chapter as Jack's Mannequin records their, as of yet, untitled third album. I'm anxious to see where it takes me next, but I know I'm in safe hands.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mumford & Sons: A Really Belated Week in Review

I still have half of my trip to New York, all of Comic Con, and four shows worth of photos to sift through and upload, and the band has already concluded their entire North American tour, but there is a week back in October that takes precedent over all of those easily. And what a week it was. As evidence:

Mumford & Sons @ Star 98.7 Penthouse (10-18-10)
Star 98.7 Penthouse - October 18

Mumford & Sons @ The Hollywood Palladium (10-18-10)
The Hollywood Palladium - October 18

Mumford & Sons @ The Warfield (10-20-10)
The Warfield - October 20

The acoustic set at Star 98.7's Penthouse, which was won through Twitter, was short but sweet. Ever modest and endearing with their easy charm, not only could I sit and listen to them play for hours, I'd be content to sit and listen to them ramble on about farming and football, too. What can I say, I'm a sucker for handsome, amiable, ridiculously talented British men.

A representative of Glassnote Records was there and with the show at the Palladium looming large, it was obvious that getting to spend any one on one time with the guys was just not going to happen, though that didn't stop us from being a bit disappointed when it didn't come to pass. Nonetheless, seeing them perform with only a few dozen other people with the Hollywood sign and Capitol Records Building as a backdrop is an experience I'll never turn my nose up at, especially when the cavernous expanse of the Palladium takes the term "intimate" and flattens it like a tank.

Seeing the line outside the venue Monday night, as it snaked it's way down Sunset and around the building, I instantly remembered why I prefer small venues. It also became clear that for all the people that were there for the love of the band and their music, twice as many were there simply to be "seen." Ugh. Thank you, Los Angeles, for single-handedly making the collective audience look like one giant asshole. But I digress, that discussion is for another time and with a few more cups of coffee.

Thankfully, the guys know how to put on a fantastic show and though I would have been better equipped to enjoy it had I brought my binoculars with me, I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I love them that much. Highlights: "Sister" unplugged (goddamn Marcus Mumford can project - we heard him perfectly all the way in the back) and the New Song (i.e. Below My Feet), which gets better and more powerful with each performance.

After being unceremoniously ushered out of the venue, the trek back to the car seemed like a challenge befit The Amazing Race; the immensity of pain in our feet and backs and utter dehydration makes me think my friends and I are getting to old for this shit. Luckily, denial and I are old friends. The majority of the mob had already dissipated, so when we saw that there were a few people hanging out by what turned out to be the "back door," we ventured over to see what was up.

And who do we find but Ted Dwane chatting with some fans. Out came the ticket stubs and a pen I hoped would work in place of a Sharpie. I was wrong, but after fishing out a ball point, he was gracious enough to sign our tickets while answering a couple of questions from other fans who had wandered over. This was a nice little way to cap off a pretty great day.

Took Tuesday to recoup and pack and come five Wednesday morning, my friends and I were up and loading the car for a mini road trip to San Francisco to see Mumford & Sons at The Warfield. I've been to San Francisco before and it's picturesque and vibrant and a pleasant escape from the muck and mire of Los Angeles, but the area we stayed in did everything in its power to prove otherwise. There was trouble with our hotel, the short walk to the venue was sketchy beyond belief, and we had so little time to get ready before the show, that we were all a little miserable by the time we stumbled into line a full two hours before doors.

It all worked out in the end, though. Second row pretty much made up for the days trials and tribulations and how far away we were on Monday at the Palladium. King Charles made an indelible mark once again and Mt. Desolation found welcomed verve in front of the smaller crowd. Speaking of the crowd, though fraught with hipsters like any show these days, it felt decidedly less pretentious, and we were all in it together for the music. Everyone was a little distracted by the Giants game in progress, but you can't really fault them too much for that, especially since it aided in one of the more charming moments of the night (read: Marcus' reaction to Ted on drums).

Apart from the wonderful, light little moments between songs, the entire set had a weight to it that immediately set me and my friends a bit on edge. There was a rawness and intensity to the performance that felt different from anything we'd seen in person or via the wonders of YouTube. Though each member of the band holds equal footing off stage, as the voice of the band, Marcus truly sets the tone once on stage and he held a certain stillness that was heavy with unspoken emotion from beginning to end. His usual points of inflection during certain songs were amplified and messy, but in that really incredible way that you will only ever get at a live show when you actually get to see a musician working shit out on stage through his music. It was quite a thing to behold and made for an unforgettable experience.

This is also why I believe so strongly in small(er) venues. So much is lost when performances are held in outrageously large spaces and looking back on this week of shows, the one at the Palladium feels thin and almost like it didn't happen. Will I stop going to see my favorite bands when they play these venues (prediction time: Mumford & Sons, when they return to Los Angeles, will play The Wiltern or The Greek if it's a summer tour), of course not, but I may grumble about it afterward. I'm just sayin'....

But back to the show at The Warfield, it ended with a bang. They threw us for a magnificent loop and played "Feel the Tide Turning" and "Whispers in the Dark" as part of the encore. *insert expletive ridden exclamation of joy here* There were chills and looks of awe exchanged between my friends and I and then it was sheer glee over witnessing two songs live we honestly never thought we'd get to see. Way to take it to the next level, boys. I mean, these two songs could easily end up on the next album, but as of now, it's kind of a big deal for this Mumford & Sons fan.

All in all the night was a roaring success and incredible amounts of fun were had by all involved, but most especially by me and my friends. We came together a little over a year ago because of another musician, but this band has solidified the bond in ways nothing else could have. Their music has brought focus, happiness, and hope to our lives. This could all easily be written off as the overly sentimental musings of a fangirl, which they are, but how could I ignore or cheapen it all with indifference when this band joins the ranks of bands (read: Something Corporate and Jack's Mannequin) that have changed my life for the better. I can't and I won't. So here I am owning it from my little corner of the internet. Put that on a t-shirt or have it embroidered on a pillow, I'll buy them both.

Friday, August 6, 2010

never fall away

In lieu of yet another proper post, I bring pictures from the two shows I went to last week, both of which surpassed all my expectations for very different reasons.

Laura Marling @ The El Rey Theatre (7-28-10)

Laura Marling @ The El Rey (7-28-10)

Laura is stormy and soulful and a well of sadness and hope and captivating in such a raw and powerful way. You could hear a pin drop during the entirety of the set, the audience was so rapt with silent attention. I've never been part of an audience so in awe of a performer before that we all dared not speak or make a sound lest we interrupt the moment.

There's also Laura's band to mention. They are phenomenal and when they play together, the five part harmony is so full, so lush, it's spine chilling in the best possible way. Pete Roe's voice in particular blends so well with Laura's that I may or may not have gasped when he started singing on the first song.

It's hard to reconcile Laura's youth with her world wary lyrics and the depth of her earthy voice, but it's impossible not to believe ever word, feel every emotion, and marvel at her unadulterated talent.


Civil Twilight @ The Hotel Cafe (7-29-10)

Civil Twilight @ The Hotel Cafe (7-29-10)

It's been a year since I first heard "Letters From the Sky" on Harper's Island (yes, that song from that episode) and after missing them when they were in town in April because I was in New York, I was determined to see them this time around. And boy am I glad that I did! Holy shit, you guys. I never expected what we got Thursday night. They were unbelievable. They are, by far, a better live band than they are a recorded one. If you've ever been to the Hotel Cafe, you know how small a venue it is and they just about brought the walls down.

Every song was over five minutes long, sweeping anthems that swelled to epic proportions and had the entire audience cheering. Andrew, the guitarist, is masterful and played every inch of his guitar in ways I've never seen before (he did play it with a bow at one point, one of my favorite tricks). Steven, Andrew's brother, lead singer, and bass and keyboard player, sounds even more incredible live, with a stunningly solid falsetto voice and considerably more rhythm than you'd expect.

Absolute Punk's review of their album pretty much says it all.

Needless to say, I was stoked to find out that they'll be opening for Jimmy Eat World in the fall. I can't wait to see them again!

You can find the rest of my photos at my flickr account.

Monday, July 19, 2010

My poor little neglected blog. And to think I had such enthusiastic intentions when I first started this thing. But alas, life seems to have gotten away from me and finding the time, and more importantly, the words has been more difficult than anticipated.

My muse seems to be in hibernation, hiding out from late arrival of another California summer, which is a shame because I've been to quite a few amazing shows lately and have added even more to the already full list I started back in May.

Angus & Julia Stone at The Hollywood Forever Masonic Lodge back on May 26 turned out to be a delightful show. It was a decidedly unusual place to hold a gig, but the venue itself was lovely and set a really incredible mood and tone for the night. Julia Stone, as it turns out, is a remarkable jack of all trades and it was amazing to watch her hop from one instrument to another with each new song. Highlights of the night: having Nick Maybury accompany them on "Yellow Brick Road" with his masterful, haunting guitar skills and getting to hear/see "Private Lawns" live (if you didn't already know, it's a cover of Doris Day's "Just Blew In From The Windy City" from Calamity Jane, a film I grew up watching and adoring).

Angus & Julia Stone @ The Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery (5-26-10)

And then there was Mumford & Sons, for which I have so many words I'm going to skip them here and just say that it was, without a doubt, the best show I've ever been to and I've yet to recover. I also had a chance to briefly meet the guys at a radio event the day before and they are arguably some of the nicest, most genuine people you will ever meet. Look for a obscenely long recap of said events in the near future where I wax poetical and ramble on about new standards being set and the sheer joy they've brought to my life. It's gonna be a doozy.

Mumford & Sons @ Star 98.7 in studio Performance (6-3-10)

Mumford & Sons @ The Music Box (6-4-10)

The night after Mumford & Sons was another British act of a completely different vein: The xx. I wasn't really sure what to expect of the show or how their rather mellow music would translate to a live performance, but it turned out to be surprisingly powerful.

The XX @ The Music Box (6-5-10)

My friends and I then caught the first night of Sam Bradley's Tuesday night residency at The Hotel Cafe on June 22. We've seen Marcus Foster and Bobby Long a handful of times, so we thought we'd finally give Sam a go and I'll just come right out and say it: didn't really do much for any of us. He has a really fantastic voice and buckets of charm and charisma on stage, but I'm a little confused as to what kind of musician he is, what sound he's going for, and I think maybe he is too.

That didn't stop the usual horde of fangirls from showing up and a large majority of them making complete asses of themselves. The needle on my Secondhand Embarrassment Meter never left the "Holy Fuck I'm So Embarrassed For Them - Please Don't Judge Me By Their Actions" mark all night. Sam also gets a gold star for being incredibly gracious and staying after the show to sign, take pictures with, and speak to the longest line of fans I've ever seen outside that particular venue, even as the staff was trying to clear the alleyway. 'A' for effort, man. And then, then there was Bobby Long's show at The Troubadour. This was my fifth time seeing Bobby and it could very well be my last. It's a really long story and like my forthcoming Mumford & Sons post, it'll get its own dedicated review. I'll preface it by saying that my heart is a little broken. And by a little, I mean a lot.

Now I'm all caught up. Upcoming shows I'll hopefully be posting about in a more timely manor: Laura Marling (!!!) on 7/28, Civil Twilight on 7/29, We Are Scientists on 8/6, John Mayer on 8/22, Something Corporate on 8/28, Local Natives on 9/18, The xx and Warpaint on 9/22, The Black Keys on 9/28, Matt Hires on 10/9, and last but not least FLORENCE + THE MACHINE on 11/6.

Needless to say, I'm a bit excited for what's to come.