Royce Hall UCLA, Jan. 30
By Timothy Norris
There’s something inspiring about visiting college campuses. The architecture, the formality and the certainty of purpose in almost everyone you pass as you walk towards your destination. Maybe it's that while you’re on a college campus, there is a destination. Whether you’re in a classroom or just outside of one, you must be on your way somewhere.
My destination tonight was Royce Hall, somewhere near the north side of UCLA's campus. I've been a handful of times, but not to Royce Hall before. It's also my first time seeing Ryan Adams in concert and with the academic grandeur of the place, I could think of no better venue to see him play. It reminded me of seeing the Black Crowes on their Southern Harmony and Musical Companion tour at the Beacon Theatre in New York. It felt a little like being a kid again. I was looking forward to this.
You'd be hard-pressed to find two rappers more diametrically opposed than Zilla Rocca and the man known as Weezy F. (Scott Fitzgerald) Baby. The two practically exist in different galaxies. Wayne, an iced out, ecstasy popping maniac from the streets of New Orleans, practically extra-terrestrial in his weirdness. Zilla, an underground rapper (if such a thing still exists) from South Philly, a place where there's only so weird you can get before someone smacks you upside the head to tell youse to stop dressing like a freak. On paper, the only things the two have in common are that they both make rap music and no longer drink Cristal, instead only "pouring it on white bitch's heads" (maybe).
But despite this obvious polarity, Zilla and Wayne have a few mutual similarities. No, there aren't any pictures of Zilla making out with Beat Garden co-founder Big O, (let's hope), instead he and Wayne both possess a burning desire for greatness, the ability to harness the power of the Internet for self-promotion and the fact that they've both gotten much much better in a very short amount of time. When I first wrote about Zilla, a year and half ago, he was good, but hadn't yet transcended his influences. Obviously in thrall to the GZA, Aesop Rock, and a little Tom Waits, he could flow just fine, but hadn't yet crafted a style capable of taking him beyond being just another solid but unspectacular MC trying to gain a foothold in the ever tenuous industry. Still, the debut was good enough to rightfully garner a lot of praise in this weird corner of the Internet, as did his follow up, last year's Clean Gun's Living in Harmony mixtape.
I haven't wanted to listen to anything but Fela Kuti for weeks. It's getting a little weird. In the car, Expensive Shit/He Miss Road has monopolized my stereo. and at home, rather than feebly attempt productivity, I've burnt countless hours scrounging around miscellaneous legally dubious corners of the web vainly attempting to acquire his entire discography. This isn't the first time I've been on a Fela kick either. When I bought Expensive Shit, a few years back, I had a nice few weeks driving around Los Angeles, letting the afro-beat horns shower my eardrums with a soft copper rain and occasionally doing my best white-boy afro chants along with Fela (it wasn't pretty, we'll leave it at that.).
But this obsession is different and I'm not quite sure what to ascribe it to. Maybe it's that after having pretty much ignored jazz for my first 26 years of living, I've been listening to a lot of it over the past few months, digging (I believe this is the only suitable verb) Miles, Coltrane, Andrew Hill, Mingus, Pharoah Sanders, and Tony Williams, among others. Or maybe it's the way in which Fela's hypnotic, afro-beat contains a protean quality that's mirrored Los Angeles' schizophrenic weather of late; with violent storms passing with almost tropical impatience, thundering for an hour or two and breaking into pale unbroken sky and bright, cold sun.
Attention producers: I defy any of you to listen to this vocal track of David Lee Roth singing "Runnin' With the Devil" and not stumble across some sample-worthy snippet. Holy Toledo think of the remixes! The mashups! Those grunts are golden!
photo by Randall Roberts
Hot on the heels of LA Weekly's map of Tom Petty's Los Angeles, and a few days prior to their appearance at the Super Bowl, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers today announced two summer shows in the L.A. area. The first will be on Wednesday, June 25 at the Hollywood Bowl; the second will be a month later at the Verizon Amphitheater on Friday, August 22. Tix on sale this Saturday.
In honor of the event, we offer you this great TP moment. Don't sit too close to your screen, lest you get a contact high.
Yeasayer are a jam band, they just aren't aware of it yet. At one point during the Brooklyn four-piece's set Saturday night at the Echoplex, lead singer Chris Keating even paused to extemporaneously inform the crowd that "people call us hippies, but that's just not true. We're from Baltimore." This is arguably the worst ever defense of someone's lack of hippiness. C'mon, Yeasayer, you guys aren't fooling anyone. You went to the same private school as Animal Collective and granted, those guys might not be hippies in the classical sense, but they've clearly popped enough peyote to join several Native American tribes.
Moreover, take a look at the picture above and tell me that you disagree with Ian Cohen's assessment that Yeasayer look like they tried to dress as the Spin Doctors for Halloween but couldn't quite pull it off. Not to mention the fact that for the first fifteen minutes of their show, I was standing next to a greasy, dull-eyed, dead-ringer for Devendra Banhart. The guy smelled like he'd been guzzling rancid soy milk and rolling around in a patch of pachouli all afternoon. Fucking hippies.
by Randall Roberts
(Photo by John Spinks)
There are a few different ways to get to Big Sur from Los Angeles, but in the big picture it doesn't matter which route you take, because regardless, you're leaving Los Angeles and going to Big Sur. You can take the I-5 superhighway, sure, but for a little Zen action, veer off to the Pacific Coast Highway. It's a slower cruise, less frantic, and it runs along the ocean through tiny, tony towns: the perfect route for when you need a reminder that, well, there are things in this world that you can actually feel, like a slap in the face or a sunburn, and the Web has yet to produce digital breeze or perfect seaside light. Follow PCH to the end of the earth, wend and wind by cliff and shore like the hero of an Audi commercial: sunroof open, beach and ocean on the left (replete with Frisbees and dogs and sparkling sunlight reflections), cliffs on the right, and smack-dab in the middle, a jumbo sound system in a late-model sedan and a 10-song burned CD, much ballyhooed but as yet virginal, awaiting its debut on the open road.
The Blakes, Tribal Tats
The Echo, Jan. 27
How do people in Seattle do it? It's downright cold tonight, and raining so much that a good sized river flows along Sunset Boulevard. The Echo hasn't opened its doors yet, despite it being more than half an hour from the posted start time. A few dozen people stand against a wall getting wetter and wetter, while looking across the street at the warm glow and promise of yellow breakfasts from inside Happy Tom's diner. Eventually they let us file in, and a Stella or two later, we're inclined to forgive and forget.
We're here to see the electronica / pop / fusion of Joe Williams, who is White Williams in the studio. Tonight though, he's got a band, which is a good sign. Williams plays between a bass player (Tyler - who has a birthday and is 26) and a guitar player whose name I missed or was never mentioned. Williams ducks back and forth from the front of the stage, turning between a laptop on his right and a synthesizer on his left. But the guitar player - he's ace.
I"m pretty sure it's Williams who plays guitar on the album. But the guy on stage tonight does an excellent job adding to the cacophony the drum machines and effects while never losing the tune in the din.
It's the guitar after all which ropes you in on Williams' new album Smoke, at least as much as the beats or Williams' own strong baritone singing voice. Tonight, both are in good form, but the guitar carries the show. There's that T. Rex-borrowed riff on "In the Club," several spindly melodies appropriated from Fela Kuti, and the nice 80s feel of "New Violence." A song early in the set with Williams on melodica sounded like a slow-burning The The instrumental, and the influences can be picked from the air like slow-moving moths; Brian Eno's "Baby's on Fire", Girl Talk, Roxy Music and so on.
Williams probably suffered a bit by trying to follow the crazily energetic Magic Bullets from San Francisco. No stranger to Part Time Punks night, Magic Bullets have a live album out from a show they played at the Echo in July. Like Williams, the two guitarists in Magic Bullets favor those joyful little riffs of East African dance bands that are turning up wherever you look. But the six-piece group is much more pop to Williams' art-pop.
Six people crowded onto the stage didn't stop them from dancing throughout their set, especially singer Philip Benson. A cover of Orange Juice's "Rip It Up" fit in seamlessly with the rest of their set, giving a good idea of what Magic Bullets aspire to: Joyful, catchy, well-played pop songs, of which you can never have to many.
Great news from the L.A. Phil just arrived. Anyone who was at the recent Songs of the City series at Walt Disney Concert Hall and heard Daniel Rossen's voice echo through the room will understand: Don't miss this show.
LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC AND INDIE ROCK BAND GRIZZLY BEAR CO-HEADLINE FOR ONE-NIGHT-ONLY PROGRAM SPANNING CLASSICAL TO CONTEMPORARY REPERTOIRE
SATURDAY, MARCH 1, 2008, AT 9PM
Media support provided by 89.9 KCRW
Brooklyn-based indie rock band Grizzly Bear debuts at Walt Disney Concert Hall on Saturday, March 1, at 9 p.m. The Los Angeles Philharmonic and Grizzly Bear perform for this co-headlining concert that pairs orchestral and experimental-rock repertoire for a cohesive program that aims to break boundaries between genres and generations. The orchestra does not perform together with Grizzly Bear.
The first half of the program features the Los Angeles Philharmonic performing orchestral pieces specifically chosen to reflect the music that inspired Grizzly Bear to pursue their own musical endeavors. The second half of the program features Grizzly Bear performing a full set that includes songs from their most recent release Yellow Road, hailed as one of 2007’s best records by Pitchfork Media, calling it “an impeccably crafted psychedelic folk record…its delicate instrumentation is otherworldly…” The Guardian states “It's like wandering through Brian Wilson's mind on a clear day in 1967. . . [it’s not] to dip into; instead you dive in and sink to the bottom, at once drenched in emotion and uplifted.”
Grizzly Bear members Daniel Rossen (songwriting/guitar), Ed Droste (songwriting/guitar), Chris Taylor (clarinet/production) and Christopher Bear (drums), employ traditional and electronic instruments, including piano, bass, whistles, banjo and laptops. Their musical explorations traverse a landscape of lush instrumentation, haunting melodies, and lo-fi authenticity. Stereogum named Grizzly Bear’s Wordless Music Concert at the New York Society for Ethical Culture its favorite show of 2007.
GRIZZLY BEAR have approached song writing as a craft to master. Over the course of three releases, Horn of Plenty and Yellow House, and their recently released Friend EP, they’ve achieved mastery. Grizzly Bear is remarkable not just for their attention to detail but for their concern for how a song feels: flush with heart and melancholy, their music is seductive and intimate. This is experimental mood music with love for classics and standards. Its unique sound has resonated with critics and fans across the globe. Their sophomore effort, Yellow House received “Top 10 Album Of the Year” honors from respected media outlets such as the New York Times, New Yorker and Pitchforkmedia in 2006. From its original incarnation as a one man band of acoustic guitar, field tapes and drum machine; to it’s current state as a full band complete with drums, two guitars, bass, woodwinds, effects pedals, cradled by four part harmonies, Grizzly Bear’s music has made the leap from charming lo-fi folk rock to breathtaking, experimental cinematic pop. The talent between the four members of Grizzly Bear is evident from their deft playing, which also makes for a brilliant and engrossing live act.
I remember watching The Show for the first and only time when I was a freshman in high school. I wasn't very impressed. This was 1995, Biggie was alive, Warren G was the biggest star in the world, Wu-Tang was in the middle of the greatest run in rap history and Snoop Dogg hadn't yet released Tha Doggfather, let alone Father Hood. The concept of watching a documentary about all my favorite rappers didn't seem particularly mind-blowing. Like most 14 year olds, I wasn't really aware of that concept that times and trends change and quite stupidly, I assumed that this was way things always would (and should) be. Sort of like a Republican presidential candidate. Re-watching it a dozen years later, the film is a revelation, at times hilarious, at times chilling (particularly the Biggie interviews), and at all times eye-opening. A time capsule of the hip-hop world circa 94-95, The Show comes highly recommended not just for rap fans but for anyone who likes music.