Live music Review

Joseph Arthur and Jill Sobule :: Troubadour

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Joseph Arthur and Jill Sobule :: Troubadour
June 9, 2015 :: West Hollywood, California

2My Summer of live music continued last night at one of my all-time favorite venues, the Troubadour. There is so much history in this venue. I walk around inside and swear I can hear the echoes of so many live shows, some that I have been to, and many before my time. I always feel a thrill chase through me as I first walk inside, the ghosts of music past and present all filling my bloodstream and getting me ready for the music.

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The opening act of the night was Jill Sobule, an artist I discovered back in the mid-90’s when I worked at Tower Records. It was then that I fell hard for her self-titled album, especially the song Houdini’s Box, which I was THRILLED that she performed last night. Jill pulled off a certain kind of rare opening act magic that I do not see very often – she had the crowd engaged and participating with her, singing-a-long, cheering, and for the last two numbers, about twenty of us were even up on stage with her for a big group sing/live interpretation of a musical she mentioned wanting to do. It was amazing to watch.

Jill is a consummate performer, delightful and talented, sounding better than the times I saw her perform back in the nineties. Oh, and also, it takes someone pretty amazing to have Los Angeles Punk Rock royalty, John Doe, come up and sing backup with you. It was pretty amazing to be there to experience.

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Jill was amazing last night. I especially enjoyed Houdin’s Box (an all-time favorite of mine) and Party Girl, and the New York, “25c” sing-a-long. I only wished she had played a longer set. I’d love to see her headline a show sometime soon.

5Next up was the headliner, Joseph Arthur, who arrived on-stage almost immediately after Jill left, and began setting-up some of his equipment and doing a brief sound check. He was right on time, per the posted set times, which is a rare occurrence in the world of rock shows, a point that Joseph made before starting his first song, saying that he thought rock should start on time and destruction should soon follow. It was a nice way of introducing his style, which seems to be one-part total artistry, one-part amazing sound, one-part irreverence, and one-part uniquely him. I will say I enjoyed all those parts, thoroughly.

7Joseph was a one-man show up on stage, with only two singers joining him to for a handful of songs as his back-up (Mike Mills on two songs, see below and C.C. White for two encore songs). It was completely fascinating to watch how Joseph navigated the stage, added layers of sound via on the spot recording, pedal boards, and the utilization of a metal box for percussion (said box had a hole drilled in it and a microphone set inside, Joseph explained). All of it together, with Joseph’s energy and vocal range, created an astounding performance. I was floored by what a talented musician he is, and how beautiful his voice is. The only thing that ever took away from any of it were the problems he seemed to be having with the sound levels on all microphones on-stage. This seemed to be a continuing annoyance of his, and after awhile it wore on the audience, too, but not to the point of ruining the show – no, the music was just too damn good for that.

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Mike Mills and Joseph singing I Miss the Zoo

One of the most impressive and unique moments of the show was when Joseph created a piece of art that he sketched, and then painted, on-stage, live, while singing. Musically, he never missed a beat, or note, and the painting was breathtaking.

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It was such an incredible thing to witness, a truly unforgettable experience. Visual art mixed with music does it for me, as anyone who follows along here at lyriquediscorde probably knows, it is inspiring and brings the world into color to me. I was so grateful to have been there to witness something like this…truly.

10The photographs do not do the experience justice, as you are only experiencing part of it. It needs the music to complete it. Another of those “you had to be there” moments.

8 Musically speaking, the highlights of the night, for me, were hearing some of my favorite songs, Honey and the Moon, In the Sun, Travel as Equals, Mercedes and I Miss the Zoo. I also loved hearing some of the new songs off of the upcoming album, Days of Surrender, that I look forward to hearing in its entirety, as well as the song he wrote for Robin Williams, entitled Robin (this one had me in tears and hit on a very personal level; beautiful, hopeful despite the heartbreak, wonderful song). My absolute favorite of the night was Gypsy Faded, a song that resonated and wrapped me up within it – I love when music does that.

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Overall, the night of music was wonderful, one that I was thankful to be a part of. Joseph’s remaining tour dates are here – If you get the chance go see him.

Thanks, Joseph, for gifting us with music and art. Thank you to Jill, John, Mike and .C., too. It was an unforgettable, musical Tuesday in June that I won’t forget.

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Joseph & Me – thanks for the music!

July Talk :: The Echo

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July Talk :: The Echo
Los Angeles
Saturday, July 6, 2015

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Saturday night in Los Angeles, well, it usually does not start quite so early, but July Talk had a 7:30 pm set time and though this is usually the time that most of us Angelenos would be in “what to wear” contemplation sage, many of us had gathered all ready and willing within the small confines of The Echo anyway because, well, we figured July Talk was worth it (spoiler alert: THEY WERE). The energy in the room was palpable and buzzing with anticipation, and the room inside The Echo itself so dark that we all could collectively forget the sun was still big and bright in the early June sky outside.

We are big fans of July Talk here at lyriquediscorde.com and I was so excited to finally see them play live – it had been a long time coming – that I didn’t mind at all that it was early, all I wanted was to see them come out and play.

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When the band took the stage they took the room, too. Kinetic energy that was explosive and completely engaging, there was not a single body left standing still. One part punk rock, one part rockabilly, one part rock opera, and one part something so completely undefinable that the overused saying “you had to be there” is the honest truth. Love and hate, passion, fall in love and fall apart, and the age old battle of the sexes seemed to be played out on stage, while both Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay grabbed hold of our hearts and souls and rocked us out completely. Guitarist Ian Docherty, bassist Josh Warburton and drummer Danny Miles helped us out, too, aiding in the shaking and rattling, as we all lost ourselves completely together. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so swept up by a live show, and left shattered when it was all over, wishing that I could hit the rewind button and experience it all over again.

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I’ve sat here trying to string together the highlights of the show, but honestly I keep coming back to all of it. From Peter and Leah graciously thanking us for showing up early, inviting us to pretend it was later and getting crazy with them, to Leah lying across the audience having us scream with her, to the all-crowd sing-a-long throughout Guns and Ammunition (we had the woo-hoo-hoo parts, that we were requested – loudly – to sing LOUDER).

I loved hearing the new songs, and was taken completely over with Paper Girl and Gentleman. Oh, and there was no forgetting when Leah was given a spray bottle of faux blood from a fan which she proceeded to decorate Peter’s chest with, some of the more than wiling crowd, and the inside of her thighs, in which she proudly announced “guess I’m not pregnant” to us all, channeling all the great 90’s riot grrrls.

Peter’s performance, and vocals, reminded me of ‎Andrew Eldritch of Sisters of Mercy, Nick Cave, Joe Strummer, Tom Waits and Johnny Cash. Leah’s stage presence brought to mine Karen O, Brody Dalle, St. Vincent and Debbie Harry. All these comparisons though do not say nearly enough. They are understatements and only paint a small portion of the picture of what it’s like to experience this band in person. Again, I can’t help but say, you need to be there and see it for yourself.

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The diametrically opposed sounds of the two, Peter’s whiskey soaked, gravelly voice toying with Leah’s sugar sticky sweet sound plays right into the dynamics played out between them. Peter sang on his knees in-between Leah’s legs at one point, Leah stuck her fingers and her microphone into his open mouth the next. She leaped onto his back, threw her shoes at him, and pushed him around the stage, as he ran his fingers through her hair, fell into her, begged and pleaded, then repelled himself away. They ripped at each other and pawed and played with one another, Leah even blindfolded Peter for an entire song. The two gave us a battle of the sexes and a true love sizzles and burns drama that was hot as hell to be a part of.

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That said, all the dramatics never took away from the music though, and like the punk shows of the past, the energy took over every time. pushing us closer and closer to the stage, and to the music itself. We were all part of the show, and we would all be missing it when the show was over.

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The performance was raw and real, energetic and spontaneous, and the band itself were genuine and gracious to the fans. I cannot recommend enough to go see a live show if you can, and then come back here, to this post and tell me what you thought, once you’ve recovered your composure, that is. I mean it – I MEANT IT – you want to see this band play live.

Here’s July Talks’ remaining tour dates. Go to a show…I insist!

Thanks, July Talk, for giving my friends and I one of the best Saturday nights we’ve experienced in a long time. Come back to see us again soon!

Dawes :: The Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery :: All Your Favorite Bands Tour

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Dawes :: The Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery :: All Your Favorite Bands Tour
June 2, 2015 :: Hollywood, California

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For a long while now I’ve wanted to attend an event at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. During the year, especially during the Summer months, the famous cemetery hosts movies and live shows, as well as a Dia de los Muertos annual festival. Mostly, though, I have wanted to attend a concert. The opportunity presented itself at the start of June to not only see a band play at the cemetery, but to see one of my all-time favorite bands play there on the very day of their new album’s release. I honestly could not think of a better first time than that.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015 was definitely Dawes day, and it started out with the purchase and play of their new album, All Your Favorite Bands. Before I even arrived at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery I was already falling hard for the album, twisting lyrical refrains around in my mind, and picking my favorite songs. Those favorites would be harder to choose though, after the show, because I may just love each and every one of them now.

dawes-albumOn arrival, I was greeted the cool early evening breeze and nearly twilight lit sky that cast shadows from the swaying palm trees across the mismatched grave markers and headstones. It was a beautiful sight to take in, and I was half tempted to get lost for a spell wandering around the grounds (I’ve always had a fascination with cemeteries ever since I was a young girl). Alas, my desire to garner a good spot inside for the show outweighed the lure to explore (next time). Instead, I made my way over to the forming line outside the Masonic Lodge, finding myself still fascinated by my surroundings, including the buildings exterior.

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The venue itself, The Masonic Lodge, was something completely unexpected. Warm and welcoming feeling, casual yet somehow kind of pristine, as well, or maybe that’s the wrong word, perhaps special is more like it. It felt exceptional, and I felt lucky to be there. The crowd was a mix of ages and styles, yet everyone was friendly and talked easily among each other, which seeing as I was attending the show alone was refreshing. So many rock crowds lately spend all the pre-show time with their eyes glued to their mobile phones, more interested in social media status updates, than actually being social where they stand. Last night wasn’t like that, though. People were actually talking to each other.

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Maybe it was the closeness we all had to be, as the venue’s main room is quite small, an open floor with some bench seating placed on each side’s wall, and a balcony above with a few rows of seats. The interior was simple, but striking, lights and colors blending in a way that gave the room a feeling of timelessness, and ease. The stage was small and close, as well, covered with the band’s instruments and spare guitars. I watched in wonder and anticipation as the crew came and went, tuning chords, testing sound, and setting out beers for the band.

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When the band took the stage they came in from the crowd which gave over this feeling that we were all included, that we were part of the show. It was a feeling that returned time and again during the show, and that was part of what made this concert one of the best I’ve ever experienced. Dawes opened with the first track off the new album, Things Happen, which is also their first released single from the album. The song has been getting airplay lately, and you could feel the familiarity the crowd had with the song by their enthusiasm, and singing-a-long. Things Happen led into another new song, Don’t Send Me Away.

Things Happen and Don’t Send Me Away
Video credit :: taperjohn

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Taylor Goldsmith

The band went on to play more songs from the new album, as well as fan favorites, the first being the most fitting of songs, Time Spent in Los Angeles, the hometown of the band, and the setting of this first show of the new tour. Lead singer, Taylor Goldsmith, seemed quite happy to be “home” and among friends and fans. The crowd returned the happiness, and then some, with raised voices, screams and cheers, and echoing applause after each song. We all sang together in unison to Time Spent in Los Angeles, and the song, my first introduction to the band (and one of my all-time favorites) was beyond amazing live. The entire show was, really, and it got better and better, exponentially so, as each song was played.

Time Spent in Los Angeles
Video credit :: taperjohn

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Taylor Goldsmith

9Duane Betts
(on-tour guitarist)

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Wylie Gelber

Some of my favorite moments from the show were Dawes’ cover of The Waterboys’ Fisherman’s Blues, new songs Somewhere Along the Way and All Your Favorite Bands (one of the best sing-a-long live songs ever, even listening to it off the album now gives me chills and makes me want to scream/sing-a-long). Also, a huge highlight of the show last night was the total fucking amazing guitar work from Duane Betts. He completely blew me away. His guitar work (see the brilliant guitar solo in the video below) affected me emotionally and physically, and I’ve yet to shake its impact yet. I mean it, I was completely BLOWN AWAY.

Somewhere Along the Way
Video credit :: Stumbletown

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Duane Betts
(on-tour guitarist)
and Tay Strathairn

There were two more great “fan favorite” moments that had the crowd completely singing-a-long. One was When My Time Comes, which elicited so much excitement and voices chorusing along that Taylor swung the mic at us, at one point, so we could take over vocally (see below). It was another one of those moments that embraced the room, and made us feel a part of it all. It was incredible to experience, and my lost voice today certainly shows how much I enjoyed it.

When My Time Comes
Video credit :: taperjohn

On a personal note, my favorite song of Dawes (so far, at least, there are some contenders on this new album, I must say), A Little Bit of Everything, was an emotionally rich and wonderful highlight of the night. It brought tears to my eyes and a flood of memories, and made me so glad I came to the show. The entire show, from start to finish, was amazing. I have been to many shows in my life, live music being one of my most favorite things in the world, so it is not lightly that I say this was one of the best concerts I have ever been to. Ever. I highly recommend if Dawes comes to your area to go out and see them play (tour dates here), and while your at it, go pick up a copy of their new album, All Your Favorite Bands, you won’t regret it.

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Taylor Goldsmith, Tay Strathairn and Griffin Goldsmith

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Tay Strathairn and Wylie Gelber

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Duane Betts
(on-tour guitarist)

Until next time, Dawes and Duane Betts, thank you so much for the night and the music.

The Acid at The El Rey

el rey photo 2The Acid at The El Rey 
Los Angeles, California
May 8, 3015

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Friday nights seem to be live music nights for me lately, a routine I could definitely get use to. This Friday it was off to the El Rey to see The Acid, as well as openers Peaking Lights Acid Test and WIFE. The night had that post-rain feeling to it, moisture and unusually clean air gifting a slight chill that had me throwing a sweater on that I knew would end up being a bad idea later. It had been a while since I’d seen a show at the El Rey, but what I remembered most about it was how hot it gets inside.

Hot it was, as well as very dark when I entered the venue. I felt immediately jolted by the darkness, taking me off-guard and slowing my steps until my eyes adjusted. I was a little late (Friday traffic in Los Angeles, enough said), so Peaking Lights Acid Test was filling the room with drops and beats and electronic lushness that made the darkness feel more like deep space, the blinking spark of cell phone screens that seemed to dance around the room, like the stars. The feeling wrapped around me and enveloped me to the point where the lack of light started to feel almost welcoming.

I found a place off to the left side of the stage to stand, until security came to tell me I was on the wrong side of a line that apparently was marking the floor (again, the room was almost completely without light, so any lines on the floor? Yeah, completely invisible to me). I settled in up on one of the raised areas, still on the left, sitting down against the wall. For a spell I closed my eyes and just let the music take over. My imagination kicked in quickly, sketching stories in my head, making me wish I had a notebook, a pen, and a flash light, so I could have written some of the vivid scenes and scenarios down.

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WIFE

At the break the lights went dimly on. Thankfully the venue did not throw full house lights at us, as I’m sure the room would have been nothing but a collective and pained squint, like when your Aunt or Grandmother insists on always “using a flash” when she snaps those holiday photos. I stayed put and waited, wondering what the next artist(s) would sound like. I could never have expected the brilliance that was to follow in the form of WIFE. This was a serving of artistic brilliance and awe the likes of something I have never experienced before. Part David Lynch, part American Horror Story, part Grace Jones, part just fucking cool, WIFE had me completely mesmerized, and physically trying to work my way through the crowd to get closer. The photo (see above), and even the short video clip (click here), do not do it justice – this was definitely a “you had to be there” moment. It was honestly a million wows all at once.

The lights went on again, still low watt to keep the mood intact. I decided to find a better place to stand in order to get a better view of the stage. The sound booth seemed like the best choice, so I made my way over and found a spot, still on the left, to claim as mine. The venue had gotten exponentially more crowded, bringing along with it more heat, enough so that that sweater that seemed like such a necessity when I first left my car, now felt cloying and unwanted, so I slipped on out of it and tied it around my neck. Note to self: next time just deal with a few shivers, and leave jackets and/or sweaters behind.

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The Acid

It was finally time for The Acid, and the room was a buzz of energy and anticipation. The first thing that hit me was the vibration of sound that traveled from my head to the tip of each of my toes, filling my body with the feeling of the music, as well as my ears with the sounds. It was an astounding feeling, one that I could tell was having a significant impact on a couple in front of me who suddenly could not keep their hands and mouths of each other. You could tell the reaction was somewhat unexpected, but overwhelming, and as I looked around I saw other displays of affection and bliss, bodies swaying, mouths agape and eyes either open wide, or closed tight. It was electric what I felt in that room.

The music was amazing to the ears, too. Lush and dreamy, pulsating and evocative, I felt swept up in it. The visuals, projected on a screen that seemed to move with the music, as well, just added to the effect of it all. Cinematic does not do it justice as a descriptor, it was more than that, it was art itself.

Again, the photos (see above and below), and the short video clip (see here) do not do the show justice. If I’d been closer I could have captured something a bit better, but I was more interested in feeling and experiencing the live experience of The Acid, and I don’t regret that choice. Truly, if you get a chance to, check them out while they are still touring. See tour dates here.

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Afterwards, I walked around in a daze. The music had crept in under my skin and stayed there, warming me as I walked back out into the Los Angeles unexpected chilled night air. I was admittedly carrying a bit of a contact high, as well, since I seemed to be surrounded by clouds of smoke throughout the entire set. The cool air kicked most of it out of me, though, but it did not take the music away, no, I kept it with me on in to my drive home, and later, into my own dreams.

Thank you for the music, Peaking Lights Acid Test, WIFE and The Acid.

Pete Yorn at The Roxy :: You and Me Extended Tour

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Pete Yorn at The Roxy :: You and Me Extended Tour, Saturday, April 25, 2015
You and Me Extended Tour :: California

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The night at The Roxy started out in the company of two amazing women who were on board to take in night three of Pete Yorn’s You and Me Extended Tour with me. We stood outside on the legendary Sunset Boulevard, getting photos snapped of the line we were by passing tour buses, and taking the obligatory pre-concert “selfie” together. There is nothing quite like going to a concert with fellow music lover friends.

Although The Roxy is in my top 5 favorite live venue in California list, the energy of the crowd was not what I expected. Perhaps it was the inevitable let down from such an amazing audience at The Belly Up earlier in the week, or maybe it was where we’d chosen to stand (center stage, behind one row of attendees), or the level of inebriation that the group of people next to me were in, or the general rudeness of some other people around (looking at you guy who spent the evening looking at sports scores on his brightly lit cell phone. REALLY?) but it definitely impacted my experience. That said, the crowd pressing in from behind seemed to be enjoying every single moment and singing-a-long with fevered emotion (I should have just moved back, I think). At least I had great friends around me though.

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Pete opened the show a little differently this time around, taking a request as he headed out to take the stage. Paradise Cove swept in with a Southern California beach vibe that the song is overflowing with. The opening lines of “play me a song, sing your heart out” is an inspired way to start a show, lyrically speaking. It started the night with a mix of melancholy and hope that often permeates so many of Pete’s songs, a quality I’ve always admired as it is quite a trick to embody both emotions at once. The song resonated with me quite a bit, especially coming on the heels of an early “life” conversation I had had. Music is so powerful and personal to me that way. Hitting in those places at times just when you need it to.

The show went from Paradise to one of two unexpected surprises cover songs of the night. This was one of the biggest moments of the night in terms of audience reaction. It started slowly, and then erupted into full force explosive scream-singing as the recognition of the song hit. The Violent Femmes’ Kiss Off is such a powerful group sing, especially when the countdown comes along. Pete also did a great mid-song introduction and hello to the Roxy audience that led seamlessly into “this will go down on your permanent record.” Brilliant.

That crowd energy continued into fan favorite Life on a Chain, which was only lessened impact wise for me by the tray balancing bar staff that made their way to the already “well past their limit” imbibers in front of me. This would continue through the entire show, much to my chagrin. I really should have just moved, but it was hard to give up a center stage view.

Some of the highlights of the night were the second play of Halifax (my request, thank you), which had been stuck in my head since the Constellation Room. If this is any indication of how the next solo Pete Yorn album will sound we are all in for a treat and I can’t wait for it to be released. Everyone should keep their ears and eyes out for it (stay tuned, I will be sure to give it a shout out when its ready to release here at lyriquediscorde). Another highlight was the song to follow Halifax, a deep cut from the Westerns EP, The Good Advice. I was excited to hear this as it had been years, and now I need to hunt down a copy of the EP that seems to have lost its way in one of my many moves.

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Other favorites of the night were Turn of the Century (I love this song), and a gorgeous Bandstand in the Sky with a heartfelt introduction that tied in The Roxy, Hollywood, Jeff Buckley and Pete. I also loved that Pete played both Intro and Come Back Home from the Day I Forgot album. Both songs hit in that below the surface personal way to me, just as the opener of the show had.

Pete performed Relator, from his collaboration album with Scarlett Johansson. He mentioned trying to get her to come down and sing it with him but that she was out of the country (most likely press tour for next weeks’ new Avengers film), so instead he asked the women in the audience to sing her parts, and for the men to sing his. It made for one of a few connected moments with this crowd which I enjoyed.

The last song of the night (pre-encore) was Strange Condition, another fan favorite from Pete’s debut, musicforthemorningafter. This song has one of my favorite lines of all times in “stories and cigarettes ruin lives of lesser girls“, a lyric that I’ve used as taglines many times online. Its one of those lyrics that got me from the very first listen, back in 2001, and has always resonated with me, enough so that it became part of a character trait from a novel I’m working on.

The show ended with a three song encore which included a cover intros one of my friends was hoping to hear, Bruce Springsteen’s Atlantic City that leads into Murray. This is such a fantastic pair up that always seems to enthrall the fans. And then there was the other surprise cover song of the night that delighted by co-worker who joined us right before the show started. He is a huge Beach Boys fan and recognized that it was Surfer Girl after about two strums on the guitar. It was such an inspired Southern California musical moment, and created a perfect bookend to the beach-infused opener of Paradise Cove.

The night ended with perfectly with For Nancy (‘Cos It Already Is) which got everyone back into that “big group sing”. When it ended and Pete thanked everyone, and threw out his plectrums I felt the initial sadness set in that this was the last night of my three night musical journey. I am going to miss it more than I could ever have anticipated, and would be lying if I said I didn’t contemplate the six plus hours round trip journey to tonight’s show at the Slo Brewing Company in San Luis Opispo. If it wasn’t for my day job demands I would be on the road already.

For the complete set-list from The Roxy show see here.

Or, if you’d rather a more sonic sample, you can give a listen to a playlist I made from the set-list here (minus not-yet-released Halifax).

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Thank you for the music. 

If you can make it out to one of the Northern California shows – well, what are you waiting for – go here and grab a ticket.

Pete Yorn at The Belly Up Tavern :: You and Me Extended Tour

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Pete Yorn at The Belly Up Tavern, Thursday, April 23, 2015
You and Me Extended Tour :: California

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How much does a venue affect a show? How much does the energy of an audience? These are the questions I pondered on my way home after Pete Yorn’s night at The Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach. I had never been to this venue, although its been around since 1974. The Belly Up just may have taken over the top slot of my favorite venues. The sound, the space and the overall feel of the place is as near to perfect as I’ve ever encountered, and it suited Pete’s stripped down, one-man, no set-list show perfectly. The crowd, too, were as incredible as the place itself. The energy swirled and soared through the room, cheers and collected voices singing-a-long in such unison that one would almost think the lot of us were part of the show’s “chorus“. It is rare to experience that kind of connection of different people together, a bit of magic that music provided, I like to think.

Magic is definitely a word I’d use to describe this night of the You and Me Extended Tour. Pete was full of energy and a joy that painted his face in smiles and a glow that was infectious. Was this what got the crowd to fill the room with the outpouring of delight and song, or were we sending all that up to the stage? I like to think it was a circular thing, a flow of wonder that made everything feel electric. Whatever came first in this musical chicken and egg question, all I know is that it was impossible not to be swept up in it.

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Pete opened with a one-two punch of cover and fan favorite, starting off with the start of Bruce Springsteen’s Atlantic City which led into Murray. This is a cover and original combination that I’d heard him do before live, one that I’ve raved about with friends many times when discussing Pete’s music. It was the perfect way to begin this night. Pete is masterful with cover songs, teetering on that precarious balance of paying tribute to the original art while making it completely his own. More than that though, it seems that he chooses the covers he records and/or performs for their lyrical connection, because he sings them with the same emotion that he does the songs he’s written himself. Thus, they are delivered in that personal way like the best mix tapes/CD’s did back when you made one for that girl or boy you crushed on so much that words could not express, but a song or songs, sure could.

Murray is a special brand of magic, too. A song that when performed live elicits a group scream-sing, especially when the “uh uh uh uh uh uh uh’s” come. If you go now and listen to the song on its own (see here) I dare you to not sing-a-long to them. All our voices together, and the feel of bodies moving along to the sound, felt like an electric current shooting through us and shaking the floor.

Other highlights of the night were deep cut/b-side Knew Enough to Know Nothing at All which Pete seemed happily surprised to be asked to perform, noting that he wasn’t quite sure why it had never made it on to an album as it was a favorite of his. I’d agree that it was a great song, one I’d not heard more than once before. Other covers, Warren Zevon’s Splendid Isolation, and Junior Kimbrough’s I Feel Good Again, were not just favorites of the night, but of this tour so far. Both of these songs, though I know they are not Pete’s originals, certainly feel that way now because they have become so his. The latter (I Feel Good Again), performed the way he did with added pedal rhythms and effects gave the tune a rockabilly feel that got us all dancing. I tried to capture some of it on video, but it truly was a “you had to be there” moment. I’ve used the word probably too much in this review already, but it was magic.

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Another highlight for me was Social Development Dance, which has now become one of my top five favorite Pete Yorn songs. The storytelling element in this song is the kind that always gets deep under my skin; the emotions this song delivers are both moving and meaningful. It easily slides into my list of favorite stories told in song alongside ones by Jeff Buckley, Leonard Cohen and Wilco. This is the song that after each of these shows I’ve gone to immediately to hear again, and again.

Other highlights were Undercover, from the Nightcrawler album, and the Spiderman movie soundtrack, Turn of the Century (my request!) that Pete had to re-tune his guitar for, a process that he remarked gave a sound reminiscent of the Rosemary’s Baby theme, and another go at Kirsty Macoll’s cover They Don’t Know which I absolutely love and hope Pete records someday.

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The night ended with an encore made up of a fan favorite threesome. Crystal Village (another favorite of mine) led into Strange Condition and finished off with a rendition of For Nancy (‘Cos it Already Is) that literally shook the house. That energy of the crowd I mentioned before tripled and exploded as we all sang-a-long to every word. When it all ended there were people around me who said “is that it?” and “it can’t be over yet“, which to note made me smile because this night’s setlist was actually four songs longer than the night before. These were not complaints though, no, they were just reactions to all that magic (yes, that word again, trust me, it fits) that no one wanted to let go of yet.

My only slight (very slight) disappointment of the night was that Pete did not grace us with another new song, or a replay of the fantastic Halifax that he’d debuted the night before. I look forward to the new album, and any subsequent tour that follows, and I just really wanted that room of wonder to hear something from the upcoming album, too.

For the complete set-list from the Belly Up Tavern show see here.

Or, if you’d rather a more sonic sample, you can give a listen to a playlist I made from the set-list here.

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Thank you for the music. Stay tune for the third, and final stop on this tour (for me).

If you can make it out to one of the Northern California shows – well, what are you waiting for – go here and grab a ticket.

Pete Yorn at The Constellation Room :: You and Me Extended Tour

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Pete Yorn at The Constellation Room, Wednesday, April 22, 2015
You and Me Extended Tour :: California

There is nothing quite like the anticipation of a performance. The buzz filling the room that mixes with the cacophony of half-heard conversations, pre-show playlists, and the tease of lights going on and off that causes everyone to stop stirring and inhale collectively as we all wait to push forward when the show begins. In the midst of this controlled chaos and palpable impatience I stood wondering what song would start this all off.

What makes a good opening number? Some would argue that a “hit” should open and close a show. You know the kind of fan favorite that gets the audience to scream-sing-a-long until it feels like one big group sing. Others may lean me towards the slow build. Maybe starting off with a lesser known song, not quite a “deep track“, but perhaps an uncharted, but well received, track. Or, there is always the element of unexpected surprise, a song choice that gets everyone’s undivided attention and wide eyed wonder, without the inclination to sing out with the singer. For me, although I might favor the “big group sing” selection because of the energy it fuels and gives back to the stage (as a past theater performer I know that nothing quells nerves like positive audience response), the surprising opener is definitely my favorite.

Pete graciously stepped out on the stage, saying a friendly hello, grabbing a guitar and taking a seat, then he hit the room with an opener surprise. Kirsty Macoll’s They Don’t Know (also made famous by Tracey Ullman/used as her show’s theme song) was unexpected brilliance, reinterpreted perfectly by Pete in a way that made the song seem more like his than a cover. It was a mesmerizing first choice, which was well received, and had everyone held in rapt and complete engagement. He had our attention from the very start, and then took that attention and set it off with the next number, a “fan favorite” that caused that earlier mentioned scream-sing-a-long, with musicforthemorningafter’s Life on a Chain. With that, the crowd erupted in whoops and cheers, and voices raised, and the night’s musical ride began.

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The show was an incredible experience. The improvisational feel, the audience participation, the screams of songs both well-known and obscure shot out, and Pete picked and chose, often acknowledging the more challenging of choices with tentative excitement that made it feel like this was as unexpected, and in short, fun, for him, as it was for us. Some of the night’s highlights were deep tracks like Simonize, the turned up and re-arranged Junior Kimbrough cover of I Feel Good Again, The Olms’ cover of She Said No introduced with a beautifully touching story of Pete’s Grandfather’s last day, and the last time Pete had been at The Constellation Room, as well as the crowd explosive For Nancy (‘Cos It Already Is).

My favorites of the night? Most certainly that unexpected opener, as well as June, the emotionally charged Social Development Dance, Pete’s re-imagined Warren Zevon cover of Splendid Isolation, and the new album teaser/first time played live Halifax.

The show ended and the crowd continued to go wild, stomping and clapping in encouragement and request for that end of night encore. Pete gifted us with two and a half more numbers. EZ, from his debut album, and the much loved Mark James’ cover Suspicious Minds that ended with a few lines of I Think We’re Alone Now, ending the show as inspired as it began.

Pete stuck around after to talk with fans, sign items from the merchandise booth, as well as ticket stubs and plectrums, and other assorted items brought along. His grace and generosity with everyone was appreciated, and discussed among a few I stood around who were delighted and surprised by getting this moment with one of their musical favorites. It is a nice addition to a tour that is most certainly a gift to Pete’s loyal fan base, giving a complete “You and Me” experience.

For the complete set-list from the Constellation Room show see here.

Or, if you’d rather a more sonic sample, you can give a listen to a playlist I made from the set-list (minus unreleased Halifax) here.

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Thanks for the music. Stay tuned for night two…up next…

Pete Yorn :: California Extended You and Me Tour :: Live Music Project

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Anyone who knows me personally, or who has been a reader here, will know that Pete Yorn is a favorite artist of mine. I’ve written about his music, his albums, and most recently, to promote the You and Me Tour. The tour consists of Pete and a guitar and harmonica, no set-list, a stage, an audience, and a different show every night. He takes requests from the crowd, he plays cover songs and deep tracks, and some of the “fan favorites”, too. California had not been graced by the tour until this month, and though I would have liked to take the epic complete California tour, alas my day job has its demands, and the family likes to eat. But, three of the gigs are here in Southern California, and nothing was going to keep me away.

As an ode to the tour, to the spirit of it, to the music, and to the artist, I will be doing a 3-show set of reviews in my own way, which again, if you know me, or know my writing, will not be structured or formulaic (much like the no set-list wild ride of the You and Me Tour). I urge you to catch one of the Northern California upcoming gigs. If you can’t make those, then I encourage you to check out his albums (musicforthemorningafter, Day I Forgot, Nightcrawler, Back and Forth and PY, and his collaborations (The Olms and the Break Up album with Scarlett Johansson), and his live album, Live From New Jersey – all available on Amazon and iTunes. Seriously, what are you waiting for?

Stay tune for the reviews of the shows (hint – they have been amazing, so far).

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Juliana Hatfield Three at The Roxy, Hollywood, California :: Live Music Review

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Juliana Hatfield Three
21st Anniversary of Become What You Are
March 16, 2015
The Roxy, Hollywood, California

The first time I ever saw Juliana Hatfield play live it was at The Roxy. It was Summertime, in 1995, late June if I remember correctly. The place was packed with people and Hell-fire hot inside, all of us clustered close, fanning ourselves with bar napkins and melting together into the music. Juliana was dripping in sweat, but still kept playing song after song, putting forth a show that has since always had a place on my best live music moments ever. She talked a little between songs, mostly about the heat, and also briefly mentioning the show she’d had a guest spot on, My So-Called Life. “Jordan Catalano” was there himself that night, Jared and his brother (who was also on the show, and later a part of Leto’s band, 30 Seconds to Mars). I was there with a group of friends from my record store job. It was all such a quintessential “90’s” moment in time, I was even wearing a baby doll dress.

Twenty years later and here I was at The Roxy to see Juliana again, this time with “The Three“, and my twenty-three year old daughter in tow. She was a year old when Become What You Are was released, an album I played obsessively for most of that year, and others to follow. It is an album I still listen to, in its entirety, often. There was a moment for me, as we stood there waiting between the opening band’s set, and Juliana’s, where I found myself stunned at the passage of time.

Twenty years had gone by and I honestly didn’t feel that different. Looking around I saw a wide mix of people, all varying in age and style, but amongst them there was definitely a group of people in my age genre, or whatever you want to call it, who could have very well been there, with me, back in 1995. I stood there still feeling like I was in my twenties, singing-a-long to the track-by-track performance of Become What You Are, not feeling much different from when I first held that CD in my hand. I’m not one for “where did the time go?” woeful exclamations, but I am quite cognizant of how our bodies seem to age, but not so much our hearts and minds. I still feel songs like Little Pieces and For the Birds and Feelin’ Massachusetts, they are still relevant to me, they still hit me, sometimes even deeper than in the nineties.

Supermodel/My Sister (live at The Roxy, March 16, 2015) :: Juliana Hatfield Three

 When Juliana came out, guitar nearly as big as she strapped on, and started to sing Supermodel, I got instant goose bumps. It felt as if I was in my apartment, back when I first played the album, and the song had started, except here I was, with the band a few feet from me, and the songs sounding better, more raw in spots, more mature in other spots. I was struck by how damn good the band sounded, and what an incredible guitarist Juliana. I don’t remember her being so amazing with a guitar when I saw her before, in 1995, but then again, it’s been years, hasn’t it?

The next song started up, track two, My Sister, and I found myself hearing the song with a new perspective. I did not grow up with my sisters. I did not know I even had sisters until I was in my late twenties, and the three of us were near grown. I always loved the song, but never felt the song personally. But here I am now, with two daughters who often do not get along, the youngest who I know feels the complexities and contradictions of sisterhood that this song deals with. I really found myself feeling the song from my youngest daughter’s perspective, and wondered what she would think of it if she heard it.

When This is the Sound started up the crowd starting to come to life, dancing, throwing their hands in the air, spinning around, and swaying in that ever so nineties way. There is nothing like being in a crowd at a concert, to be in proximity to music in that way, to be breathing the music in and to feel the crowd breathing it in, too. The movement, the pulse, the shared experience, it is one of the best things in life. I loved feeling all of us moving together.

Also, I half expected her to say “bridge” after the “all washed up” line, like on the album.

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The album continued, each song expected, but beyond expectation. I still cannot get over Juliana’s guitar work, and the sound of the three of them together. I love that Juliana’s voice cracked sometimes, that it seemed so real and in the moment, that the songs never once felt dated, or nostalgic, or tired. They sounded better to me than when they were new.

Feelin’ Massachusetts was my favorite moment of the night. It has always been my favorite song on the album, but last night it became more than that to me. The lyrics felt so much like things I am feeling right now in my life. Some of the lines brought the sting of tears to my eyes, and both hurt and felt freeing to hear, and sing to. I do “just want to feel alive again”.

I felt both excitement and a sudden sadness when the last song began. That said, sing-screaming along to the line “I’ve got no idols” felt so cathartic. That surge in the crowd hit again, the bouncing and spinning, everyone singing it together, with Juliana. It was powerful, the combining of voices, the variety of people, from different walks and ways, coming together for the music. We may all have no idols per se, except for maybe the music, and for many of us there that night, Juliana’s Three.

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The show did not end there though. They did two encores, singing many songs during the two, my favorites being I’m Shy, What a Life and If I Could – the latter especially, which hit on a very personal level, too.

All in all the show was just what I wanted it to be, what I hoped it to be, and much more. Juliana is an amazing musician and performer. I enjoyed the moments she spoke about songs and the album, about being at The Roxy before, and I loved when she asked for an encore with no cameras/phones. Although I was guilty of taking pictures, after she asked for that I started to think about how much I preferred when no one had a phone out at shows, and that the only thing ever held up in the air were arms and lighters. Do we really have to see so much of things through a phone screen? I may just leave my phone in the car at the next concert I attend.

What an album! What a band! What a show! I am so glad I went.

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I wish I’d saved all my wristbands from all the shows I’ve been to. Here’s last nights.

I Got No Idols (live at The Roxy, March 16, 2015)

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