CONCERT REVIEW: Backstreet Boys: Larger Than Life @The AXIS in Las Vegas

Written by Jessica Klausing

Backstreet Boys (from left: Kevin Richardson, Howie Dorough, AJ McLean (behind Howie), Nick Carter, and Brian Littrell photo by Jessica Klausing.

Backstreet Boys (from left: Kevin Richardson, Howie Dorough, AJ McLean (behind Howie), Nick Carter, and Brian Littrell photo by Jessica Klausing.

24 years later, Backstreet Boys have still got it goin’ on.

With over 130 million records sold worldwide, it’s only evident that the best selling boy band have a Las Vegas residency.  Over 4,000 fans packed into Planet Hollywood’s AXIS Theater on Saturday for a thrilling 90 minute trip down memory lane.

The nostalgia began with a 10 minute Backstreet Boys music video montage. Remixed video snippets chronicled through their 24 years and still going strong career. Every video from the classic, “We’ve Got it Goin’ On” to the most recent “Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of” flashed upon five large TV monitors. Fans squealed with glee—for the first five minutes. The montage did feel like it would go on forever. Many fans started to voice out their frustration quickly. Finally the curtain was drawn for our boys!

Brian Littrell and AJ McLean perform. Photo by Jessica Klausing.

Brian Littrell and AJ McLean perform. Photo by Jessica Klausing.

At 09:20PM, Kevin Richardson, AJ McLean, Howie Dorough, Brian Littrell, and Nick Carter, dressed in their Millennium album-esque white suits, floated down onto the stage from large boxes inside the AXIS and belted right into “Larger Than Life.”

It was like 1999 never ended.

The boys, who might I add, are still as dreamy as ever, flawlessly hit their vocal ranges without missing a dance step. Each Backstreet still lives up to their classic boy band persona: AJ the Bad Boy with his sunglasses on, Brian the Jokester with his silly faces, Nick the Heartthrob with his flirtatious winks, Howie D the Sweetie, who was all smiles, and Kevin the Leader, who effortlessly led the group from one ballad to another.

“Vegas can’t rid of Backstreet. Backstreet is here to stay!” bellows AJ into a mic.

The Backstreet residency opened in March and was originally scheduled for a 26 date run. Due to popular demand, the dates extended to November, January, and February. Fans swiped these tickets so fast that it set the record as the fastest selling residency in history.

Kevin Richardson during "As Long As you Love Me." Photo by Jessica Klausing.

Kevin Richardson during "As Long As you Love Me." Photo by Jessica Klausing.

“How many of you used to have naughty thoughts about the Backstreet Boys?” asks Nick to a crowd of screaming fangirls. “Well, tonight we are all yours!”

Backstreet crooned out all of the iconic hits such as “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart), “I Want it That Way,” “I’ll Never Break Your Heart,” and “As Long as You Love Me,” complete with the signature folding chair dance routine.

The boys retreated to the second stage for the slower ballads such as “Drowning” and “Incomplete.” Nick broke out into *NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye” as a gag before exiting the stage. His particular song choice received many ‘boos’ throughout the venue. I guess the infamous Backstreet Boys VS *NSYNC fan wars still lives on.

Howie Dorough and Kevin Richardson at The AXIS. Photo by Jessica Klausing.

Howie Dorough and Kevin Richardson at The AXIS. Photo by Jessica Klausing.

The “Boys Will Be Boys” video interlude was a throwback treat. As the song played out, many candid photos and home videos of Backstreet’s early days flashed upon the large stage monitor. It was fun yet bittersweet at the same time. Our boys are well into their 40’s with wives and children now. We fans have grown up quite a bit too. The times have changed.

The second half of the set featured more Black and Blue album hits such as “Get Another Boyfriend,” “More Than That,” and “Shape of My Heart.”

“The Call” turned up the heat with its Fifty Shades of Grey type vibe in the beginning. The backup dancers strutted onstage in shiny leather with whips. Only in Vegas!

Brian took a moment to wish all of the veterans a Happy Veterans Day. “We would not be safe without you. Thank you for your service!”

Backstreet Boys closed out the show with the fan favorite, “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).” Pink and purple confetti busted through the ceiling as the boys took a well deserved bow.

“Backstreet Boys: Larger Than Life” is a must for any Backstreet fan. The 20 song set features all of the greatest hits plus a few surprises. You’ll experience super stardom fit for a mega arena in an intimate setting. Backstreet’s back and this time, up close and personal.

SETLIST:

Larger Than Life

The One

Get Down (You’re the One for Me)

Drowning

Incomplete

Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)

Boys Will Be Boys (Video Interlude)

Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely

I’ll Never Break Your Heart

Anywhere for You/Darlin’/Undone medley

As Long as You Love Me

The Call

We’ve Got it Goin’ On

Get Another Boyfriend

More Than That

All I Have to Give

It’s Gotta Be You/Straight Through My Heart medley

Shape Of My Heart

I Want It That Way

ENCORE:

Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)

CONCERT REVIEW: Tetrarch breaks the trend at West Hollywood's Whisky A Go Go

Written by Jessica Klausing

Tetrarch (from left: Ryan Lerner, Diamond Rowe, Josh Fore, and Ruben Limas).

Tetrarch (from left: Ryan Lerner, Diamond Rowe, Josh Fore, and Ruben Limas).

Tetrarch is a Nu Metalcore band on the music radar in Los Angeles. After interviewing Diamond Rowe and Ryan Lerner back in 2011 for the EP, The Will to Fight, I have been dying to see Tetrarch live ever since. Reminiscent of Metallica and Korn, Tetrarch boasts self-reflective lyrics and jackhammering melodies. If you’re a fan of the intense and emotional, then look no further.

Tetrarch recently finished their Summer/Fall tour with DevilDriver, 36 Crazyfists, Cane Hill, and Uncured. I managed to see Tetrarch open the show on Wednesday at West Hollywood’s Whisky A Go Go.

From the moment, the four piece ensemble roared onstage bathed in a midnight blue light with the opener, “Break the Trend" off the new album, Freak, I just knew this was about to be a killer gig!

Frontman/Rhythm guitarist Josh Fore reminded me of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington vocally. Fore embodied Bennington’s angst filled emotions and higher belted screams. It was a shame there was not a large audience to showcase this talent, but that did not affect the performance. Fore kept the audience chit chat to a minimal to let the music speak for itself.

Tetrarch performs "Oddity" photo by Jessica Klausing

Tetrarch performs "Oddity" photo by Jessica Klausing

“Oddity” was the second new song of the night. Fore and Bassist Ryan Lerner offered plenty of attitude, engaging the audience. The song served as a pissed off stick-it-to-the-man kinda anthem. You know, the type of song that makes you want to break things!

The Whisky’s pit became lightning in a bottle with hand bangs and fists pumping at intense speed.  I’ll never forget that one guy determined to out guttural scream the venue!

“Relentless” was my favorite. The song praises one’s individuality despite what the haters may think. “Push me around with all the twisted words you speak/Feeding me lies just to please you/I’ll never be like you/Not like you,” Fore belted out to a cheering crowd.

Tetrarch performs at West Hollywood's Whisky A Go Go. Photo by Jessica Klausing

Tetrarch performs at West Hollywood's Whisky A Go Go. Photo by Jessica Klausing

The band closed out with “We are the Hunters.” Lead guitarist Diamond Rowe, Lerner, and Fore waved their stringed instruments and head banged together in perfect unison. Watching Rowe and Lerner switch stage sides without missing a beat was an impressive feature. Ruben Limas was a powerhouse drumming machine that night. His broken drumsticks after the show proves he’s a force to be reckoned with!

My only complaint was that the 20 minute set was way too short. A four song setlist just left me wanting more. After the set, I went straight to the merch booth to pre-order their newest album, Freak. The album officially released on September 29. I highly recommend it to all metalheads. Tetrarch’s music praises individuality with the confidence to back it up. No doubt that these guys will be the headliners soon.

SETLIST:

Break the Trend

Oddity

Relentless

We are the Hunters

CONCERT REVIEW: YARN @ NYC's American Beauty

Written by Eric Ruth

Yarn photo by Eric Ruth

Yarn photo by Eric Ruth

My friend Sandi and I made it to the American Beauty after catching a train and trekking through the rain. Side note: The venue's name is taken from the Grateful Dead's first album, American Beauty.

Upon arrival members of the band came over to say hello to me. They all gave me a big hug and asked me how I was doing. Yarn's acoustic guitar player and harmony man Trevor asked me what concerts I've been to lately. We talked about bumping into each other at a Ryan Adams concert. I can't think of any other band, small or famous, who is that nice and down to earth. They genuinely care about you and make you feel welcomed.

After I talked to the band I set up shop. I placed my book bag down on one of the couches which is off to the side of the venue and then wondered around. I got to watch a few innings of the Yankee game on the TVs' in the front bar. The venue is broken into two sections. When you first walk in you have a bar, some tables, and stairs which leads to the free pizza. Every drink comes with a ticket for free pizza. Beyond the bar is a set of doors which leads you to another room with a stage, couches, dancing cages, and another bar. It's a small cozy room with a great sound.

At about a little after nine the lights went down and the house music came to a stop. The opening band Kevin Harrison & True North took the stage. I'll be honest and say I knew very little about them. I sampled one song before the show. They sounded like a cross between The Black Crowes and Rob Thomas. I know that's a weird combo. The guitars were a little Southern Fried Rock mixed with some Rob Thomas vocals.

I only heard Rob on some songs but it was enough of a sample size to take notice. The band had a generic set up with two guitars players, bass, and drums. Nothing special or earth shattering. I perked up when they played a cover of "Midnight Rider" and some song about NYC. Before you know their set was over and the lights came on and the house music began to play.

Ricky B plays the upright bass photo by Sandi Atkinson.

Ricky B plays the upright bass photo by Sandi Atkinson.

Shorty after the opening band was done, Yarn made their way to the stage. They opened with a new unreleased song called "In the Moonlight." It's one of my favorites. Not many people in the crowd other then me knew this song. This fact did not matter because less then a minute into the song everyone was on their feet dancing up a storm.

After that song came to an end the band played "Now You're Gone" off of the band's most recent studio album, This Is The Year. Some bands take a few songs to get warmed up. Not Yarn. They came out swinging from the minute they took the stage. They have so much energy. They literally play like it's their last show on earth.

Yarn's bass player Ricky started out with his long hair tied back in a man bun, but as the night progressed on, his man bun came undone. His long hair started flying everywhere as he thumped on the upright bass. Sweat dripped everywhere! After playing more songs new and old the band had time for one more. They decided to throw out a curve ball. Yarn may be categorized as an Americana band, however, they are so much more. They effortlessly blend classic Country, Folk/Folk Rock, Singalongs, and Jams to create the Yarn sound.

However this curve ball proved that they can also play some 70's Disco. That's right Yarn played a cover of KC and the Sunshine band's "Get Down Tonight." This song got the crowd in a frenzy. The place turned into a disco. Is there anything Yarn can't do? Once the song came to an end the lights came on and the house music began to play one final time. Before leaving the venue the band came over to ask me how I liked the show.

Like a fine wine.... I swear this band gets better with each show. Unlike established bands who have roadies to set up and dismantle the stage Yarn has to do it all. This includes driving their own van and paying for gas and a place to sleep. They don't live in the lap of luxury and they truly do this for the love of the music. After a final goodbye I pulled a flyer off of the wall and headed back home.

Go see Yarn if you ever get the chance. I guarantee you'll have a good time. If not your next drink is on me.

SETLIST:

In the Moonlight

Now You're Gone

Tennessee

Heaven in You

Down on your Luck

Bobby Weeks

Music's Only Outlaw

Roadhouse

I Let You Down

This is the Year

Long Way To Texas

Bad Bad Man

Strikes and Gutters

Sioux City Gypsy

Turn The Lights Off

I'm the Man

Get Down Tonight (KC and The Sunshine Band Cover)

CONCERT REVIEW: Umphrey's McGee at NYC's Central Park

Written by Eric Ruth

Where do I begin?

 I missed my train and then ended up getting lost in NYC. When I finally made my way to Central Park, I was in for a surprise. I was nervous that the line would be out of control. Instead, there was only about a dozen or so people in line. While everyone was standing over to the left, I decided to go over to the right, and just go straight to the front of the line. 

Once inside I made my way to the rail where I got to stand front row in the center of all the action! The guy to the right of me just got back from going on tour with Dead and Co. The guy to the left of me just got back from seeing Umphrey's McGee at Red Rocks. We actually made room so a 12-year-old kid could enjoy the show from the front row. This kid plays the piano and got an opportunity to play with with Umphrey's, Taz and has opened up for Billy and the Kids. His dad was with him and showed us photos.

The opening act, Aqueous, came out to play a total of two songs! The first song lasted at least 20 minutes long. The band announced that they only had "one more song for us." After the second song, they left the stage. That was it.

After a quick change over it was showtime. Some bands take three songs to get warmed up. Not Umphrey's. They came out like gangbusters. It was balls to wall intensity. They turned it up to 11 from the start.

 

Ryan Stasik photo by Eric Ruth

Ryan Stasik photo by Eric Ruth

However, problems arose within the first verse of the opener, "October Rain." This issue led the band, especially Ryan Stasik, the bass player, to curse and storm off the stage. Ryan was having issues with his bass. They tried to do a quick fix while the band continued to play. Instead, they had to leave the stage while the crew fixed the problem. After if was fixed they came back out to a loud cheer from the crowd.

The band returned with the electrifying “Miss Tinkle’s Overture” featuring stellar guitar harmonies from Jake Cinninger and Brendan Bayliss. There were no breaks to be had, folks. The only break happened during the set break. These guys were on fire for the duration of the show.

From left to right: Ryan Stasik, Jake Cinninger and Brendan Baylass. Photo by Eric Ruth.

From left to right: Ryan Stasik, Jake Cinninger and Brendan Baylass. Photo by Eric Ruth.

The biggest surprise came during "Uptopian Fir." The band played bits of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love." The band played with so much passion that it started to rain. Just kidding. Of course, it did actually start to rain. Gallons of water poured from the sky but it did not perturb the fans. Everyone stayed put still in awe of the show.

Whether you're a fan of Prog Rock, Heavy Metal, Psychedelic, Funk, Jazz or Electronic music-- Umphrey's McGee has you covered. The band easily weaves its way through lots of different musical styles sometimes all within the same song to create a sound all their own.

P.S. Don't forget your dancing shoes. 

 

SETLIST:

SET 1

  • October Rain 
  • Bridgeless
  • Miss Tinkle's Overture
  • 2 x 2
  • Example 1 
  • Dump City 
  • Bridgeless

SET 2

  • Plunger 
  • North Route 
  • Utopian Fir
  • Driven to Tears  
  • Preamble 
  • Mantis 
  • The Triple Wide   
  • Mantis

ENCORE

  • Rocker Part 2

CONCERT REVIEW: Kingdom Hearts Orchestra Evokes Nostalgia at Hollywood's Dolby Theatre

Written by Jessica Klausing

I spent my Sunday night in Hollywood for the Kingdom Hearts Orchestra World Tour. From the melancholic opener to the victorious finale, it was a night of adventure! These scores pull you into an emotional whirlwind of highs and lows. Many laughs and tears were shared within the Dolby Theatre as an orchestra performed a beloved Disney and Square Enix video game franchise.

Kingdom Hearts follows Sora, Donald, and Goofy as they fight off shadowy creatures who steal people’s hearts. This universe combines Disney and Final Fantasy characters in a tale of overcoming darkness through light. In honor of its 15th anniversary, Disney Concerts, Square Enix and La Fee Sauvage brings these touching stories to life through cinematic orchestration.

Following Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses, the concert featured video footage from the game saga on three large screens. The large screens are mesmerizing. The opener, “Hikari,” gave viewers the illusion of being with Sora, Donald, and Goofy in the Dream Drop Distance introduction.

Photo by NintendoWire

Photo by NintendoWire

The hauntingly beautiful piano centered “Dearly Beloved” took us on a live-action stroll through the woodlands. “Twinkle Twinkle Holidays” had no stock footage. A visual would have been a nice gesture. However, this piece gave the incredibly talented Los Angeles Philharmonic Concert Orchestra the much deserved spotlight.

“The World of Kingdom Hearts” re-visits many fan favorite levels such as Olympus Coliseum, Halloween Town, Beast’s Castle, Neverland and more. The orchestra beautifully captured the symphony’s more whimsical moments and then let loose into a dramatic boss battle. The cinematography timed out perfectly through each transition. No glitches or issues.

“Destati” was a powerful piece. Hearing the choir chant out the solemn Italian lyrics sent chills down my spine. Each boom of the rhythm section gave it a real end of the world vibe. The choir upped the emotional dosage again for Roxas’s theme in the characters’ medley. Fans were reminded of his sacrifice to awaken Sora in the Kingdom Hearts II prologue. It’s astounding how a short composition can pack an angst filled punch to the gut.

On a brighter note, the concert included three exclusive voice sequences from Japanese actors Risa Uchida (Kairi/Xion) and Megumi Toyoguchi (Aqua), which were recorded exclusively for the orchestration. Kingdom Hearts director Tetsuya Nomura made a surprise appearance after the Kingdom Hearts III trailer. According to Nomura, a huge Kingdom Hearts announcement will be made at the Disney Expo this year!

Kingdom Hearts composer Yoko Shimomura came onstage to play piano for the closer, “Passion.” I wish we could have heard Hikaru Utada’s vocals but the instrumental version was still compelling. I left the theatre eager to break out my old Playstation 2 to relive the adventure again.

The Kingdom Hearts Orchestra is a nostalgic wave of emotion. Hearing these scores performed live rekindled my fond memories of playing the games for the first time. The combination of stunning visuals and a rich sound is breathtaking. The orchestra puts on a flawless performance. I highly recommend checking it out.

SETLIST

ACT 1:

Hikari (Kingdom Hearts Orchestra Instrumental Version)

Dearly Beloved (Kingdom Hearts II Version)

Destati

Organization XIII

Twinkle Twinkle Holidays

Treasured Memories

The World of Kingdom Hearts

Fate of the Unknown

Threats of the Land: Kingdom Hearts Battle Medley

ACT 2:

Heroes and Heroines: Characters’ Medley

Lazy Afternoons (At Dusk I Will Think Of You)

Vector to the Heavens

Wave of Darkness

Daybreak Town: The Heart of X

The Other Promise

Let Darkness Assemble: Final Boss Battle Medley

Passion (Kingdom Hearts Orchestra Instrumental Version)

CONCERT REVIEW: U2 Lights Up The Joshua Tree at Pasadena's Rose Bowl

Written by Jessica Klausing

U2 photo by Harlene Dryden.

U2 photo by Harlene Dryden.

A U2 fan told me she stood over 12 hours in line in the 97 degree heat to see the iconic Irishmen this past Sunday. She was not alone. Thousands of other die-hard fans braved heat exhaustion outside Pasadena’s Rose Bowl Stadium just to ensure a good spot in the general admission pit.

Performing their inspiring lyrics and soaring guitar anthems with vitality, U2 makes it evident during their concerts why they have such a loyal fan base.

U2—comprised of vocalist Bono, guitarist and keyboardist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton, and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. –came out to play a mind blowing two-hour set in honor of their groundbreaking 1987 album, The Joshua Tree.

The Joshua Tree ponders the core values of the American dream. These tracks reflect drug addiction, war, death, and discrimination. These powerful themes are every bit as relevant now as they were in the 80s.

The Edge photo by Harlene Dryden.

The Edge photo by Harlene Dryden.

The band took the B-stage for the opener, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” off the 1983 album, War. Next, The Edge riffed right into the ‘lightning in a bottle’ jam, “New Year’s Day.” Bono delivered a passionate plea for peace in “Pride (In the Name of Love)” from The Unforgettable Fire, which pays tribute to the late Martin Luther King Jr. before moving to the main stage, where the real treat was in store.

Fans were awed as a giant black Joshua tree silhouette was illuminated against an enormous blood-red LED screen.

U2 starts The Joshua Tree tour at Pasadena's Rose Bowl Stadium. Photo by Jessica Klausing.

U2 starts The Joshua Tree tour at Pasadena's Rose Bowl Stadium. Photo by Jessica Klausing.

“Where the Streets Have No Name” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” provided a theme park motion simulator ride experience with a walking tour through Death Valley. The band performed “With Or Without You” in front of the majestic Zabriskie Point.  Vibrant multi-colored Joshua trees lit up the night during “In God’s Country.” A full pink moon shined on “One Tree Hill.” The song was dedicated to Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell, who passed away a week ago.

The tempo slowed down with the darker themed “Running to Stand Still,” which featured a beautiful musical interplay between Bono’s harmonica and The Edge’s keyboard. The duo showed off their stellar chemistry to the roaring approval of the stadium.

Bono chats with the crowd. Photo by Harlene Dryden.

Bono chats with the crowd. Photo by Harlene Dryden.

“Thank you for letting us Irish into your country. We promise not to leave it as it is,” said Bono.

U2’s music is well known for its politically and socially powered messages. Bono sprinkled his thoughts on equality and the need to unite rather than divide throughout the show, and utilized the screen to drive the point home.

Before “Exit” the screen played a clip from the 1958 western, Trackdown, depicting a sleazy salesman named Walter Trump who tries to frighten a small town into building a protective wall.

“Miss Sarajevo” brought the attention to the current U.S. immigration policy with a clip of a young Syrian girl who dreams of coming to America, a place she refers to as a civil land of dreams where people can be happy. A large banner of the girl was passed around the stadium as Bono cried out “Here she comes/heads turn around/here she comes/to take her crown.”

Bono sings "Beautiful Day." Photo by Harlene Dryden.

Bono sings "Beautiful Day." Photo by Harlene Dryden.

“If we don’t organize, then we agonize. Nothing scares the shite out of the government more than when millions get organized,” Bono advised.

The mood picked back up for the encore.

“Beautiful Day” brought joy accompanied by a psychedelic light show.  Bono’s signature raspy vocals weaved through The Edge’s pitch shifter during the bridge, as Bono changed the lyrics to sing about Los Angeles.

“Ultraviolet (Light My Way)” honored all women, using the LED screen to flash images of historical female figures such as Oprah Winfrey, Rosa Parks, Ellen DeGeneres, and Susan B. Anthony, to name a few.

Larry Mullen Jr. photo by Harlene Dryden.

Larry Mullen Jr. photo by Harlene Dryden.

U2 closed out the show with a new song, “The Little Things That Give You Away.” This new song is to be featured on the upcoming release, Songs of Experience, which serves as the sequel to the 2014 album, Songs of Innocence.

U2: The Joshua Tree Tour is not to be missed! The band revisits their post punk roots through the desert imagery and symbolic ‘American Dream’ ideology. These classics may be over three decades old but this band still performs them with as much heart and soul as the day they were recorded. Visually and musically inspiring, U2 continues to raise the bar on the live concert experience.

 

SETLIST:

Sunday Bloody Sunday

New Year’s Day

Pride (In the Name of Love)

Where the Streets Have No Name

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

With Or Without You

Bullet the Blue Sky

Running to Stand Still

Red Hill Mining Town

In God’s Country

Trip Through Your Wires

One Tree Hill

Exit

Mothers of the Disappeared

ENCORE:

Miss Sarajevo

Bad

ENCORE (2):

Beautiful Day

Elevation

Ultraviolet (Light My Way)

One

The Little Things That Give You Away

CONCERT REVIEW: Essence Inspires at Hollywood's Hotel Cafe

Written by Jessica Klausing

From left to right: Kevin Glaz (guitars), Essence, and Danny Eisenberg (keys) at Hotel Cafe. Photo by Jessica Klausing.

From left to right: Kevin Glaz (guitars), Essence, and Danny Eisenberg (keys) at Hotel Cafe. Photo by Jessica Klausing.

Hotel Café may be the best music venue in Los Angeles. This place is a treasure trove of profiling indie talent. Last Thursday night I was introduced to San Francisco singer-songwriter Essence (Yes that is her real name) and her brutally honest poetry-in-motion lyrics.

Essence performed all of the songs off her fifth and newest release, Black Wings. The album chronicles her struggles in a failed marriage through humor and wit. In an industry overrun with many sugar-coated breakup songs, Essence is not about any of that! Songs like “Bullshit” are a raw look into the uglier side of a declining 10-year relationship. Essence explained that this album was her therapeutic way to let it go. And she does just that.

Essence opened her show with “Headed North,” a cowboy ballad about venturing out into the unknown. Essence’s honey-sweet voice laced with sass and a strong pluck of her guitar set the mood as she sings, “I’m headed north/Don’t try to find me.” Dana Miller would pound the drum as a dramatic reinforcement to her determination.

Essence and Ethan Gold perform "1000 Pieces." Photo by Jessica Klausing.

Essence and Ethan Gold perform "1000 Pieces." Photo by Jessica Klausing.

More fiery passion followed in “Camels & Diesel,” as she belts out, “I think it’s time you done give back what you stole.” Of course, nothing compares to her rebellious howl in “Still Running.” Bassist Mike Anderson and Guitarist Kevin Glaz even upped the Southern Rock dosage with the unembellished chords. Those unfamiliar with Essence’s music received a shot of Whiskey to the system with that one.

Essence covered Kris Delmhorst’s “Honeyed Out” beautifully, but it was her softer “1000 Pieces” that touched the crowd. Ethan Gold came onstage to lend his backup vocals. Essence bared her soul with “There goes the last of my heart/What’s lost can never be found.” Keyboardist Danny Eisenberg really shined on this tune. His precision-like keys helped capture the power within the song’s vulnerability.

In between songs, Essence regaled the stories behind each of them, a memorable one being the title track, “Black Wings,” a dry humored tune about falling in love with a toxic person. Strumming a Ukulele, she declares, “I found you/You found me/You’re fucked up enough for me.”  Other notable songs of the night were “Over My Head,” an anxious track about meeting her husband’s prostitute and “She Said,” a song inspired by her grandmother’s friend advising her to never settle for less.

Essence at Hotel Cafe. Photo by Jessica Klausing

Essence at Hotel Cafe. Photo by Jessica Klausing

Essence closed out the show with “Roots,” in which she leaves us with a verse of wisdom, “The future aint the same as the past.”

Essence’s music is a gift to the Americana genre. Her lyrics are simply put yet bold enough to reflect the sad reality. Her music guides you on a personal journey of finding redemption through heartbreak. It’s a common theme that most young women face today. Thankfully Essence is that reassuring voice that inspires new beginnings.

 

SETLIST:

Headed North

Camels & Diesel

Still Running

Honeyed Out

1000 Pieces

Black Wings

Bullshit

Over My Head

She Said

Roots

CONCERT REVIEW: Blake Morgan and Janita: The Dynamic Duo at Hollywood's Hotel Cafe

Written by Jessica Klausing

Blake Morgan and Janita at Hotel Cafe. Picture by Jessica Klausing

Blake Morgan and Janita at Hotel Cafe. Picture by Jessica Klausing

Blake Morgan and Janita have remarkable musical chemistry! Both are masters of poetry-in-motion storytelling and guitar talent. Separately, their music is unique; Morgan is more pop rock while Janita leans more towards the blues. Together their music blends deliciously into a dreamy soulful concoction. Honest, heartfelt, inspiring, and passion were heard last Thursday on the second stage of Hotel Café.

To say Blake Morgan is a busy man is an understatement. He’s a recording artist, producer, founder and owner of ECR Music Group, and most notably, the founder of the #IRespectMusic campaign. The campaign supports the artist pay for radio play. This ethical movement has received national attention with over 13,000 signatures in support of the Fair Pay, Fair Play Act. His love for music really shines through on stage.

Blake Morgan. Photo by Jessica Klausing

Blake Morgan. Photo by Jessica Klausing

Blake Morgan opened his set with the beautiful piano ballad, “Haunt Me.” His grace with the keys was like the gentle raindrops on a rooftop. Next, he picked up his custom made Gretsch Silver Jet guitar for “I Can Hear You Say,” off the album, Diamonds in the Dark. Morgan played through each song with such precision-like care. Nothing felt rushed or overly done. The night was pure magic as he mesmerized with his guitar, keyboard, and bell-pure vocals.  

Two new songs were introduced into the set. “We Won’t Look Down” was reminiscent of a Coldplay tune with Morgan’s Chris Martin-esque ‘woos.’ “Violent Delights” was a much grittier alternative rockin’ tune but still relatively chill.

Morgan’s music invites listeners into his intimate space. His songs are mostly mini-dramas about love, heartbreak, and the lingering nostalgia. One example was “We Left Off.” This song is about Morgan’s breakup from a failed relationship. As he strummed the melancholic guitar chords his voice cracked a bit during “I don’t know where I begin,” which made the song more emotional.

The pace picked back up with the upbeat “My Love is Waiting.” More glee followed when Janita joined in for the closer, “Don’t Want to Let You Go.” The duo captivated through lush call and answer vocals. This song was merely a taste of what was yet to come.

Janita. Photo by Jessica Klausing

Janita. Photo by Jessica Klausing

After a brief intermission, Janita took the stage with Blake Morgan as the backup this time. Opening with “Beautiful You Are,” Janita belted out pitch perfect notes that had left everyone speechless. Her music bares the soul of a woman that refuses to be put down.

Comfortably dressed in a dark business suit, Janita’s sheer confidence and wit were quite infectious.

“Who’s Gonna Tell the Wolf She’s Not a Dog” reigns girl power with “I used to do tricks/I used run after sticks/I used to play with all you pricks/I call no one master/I own my own body/I own my own brain.” Her tone softened in “I Forgive You,” a hauntingly beautiful new song about letting go of the hatred to move on.  

The set continued with mostly songs from Didn’t You, My Dear?  Produced by Blake Morgan for ECR Music Group, the new album shares her experiences as a Finnish immigrant.

Before launching into “No Excuses” Janita opened up about the hardships of an immigrant trying to become a US Citizen.  This hard driver served as a “musical fuck you” to the current U.S. Immigration law.

She switched gears for the bluesy Tom Wait’s cover of “Clap Hands” then returned for more soul-baring in “What My Silence Means.” Ending the evening with a cover of the Finn Brothers’ “Gentle Hum” brought the duo a thunderous ovation.

The double-billed performance of Blake Morgan and Janita is one not to be missed! Twice the great music for the price of one is already a win. However, two artists with unique sounds that compliment rather than dominate the other on tour is a diamond in the rough.

 

Blake Morgan Set

1.       Haunt Me

2.       I Can Hear You Say

3.       Down Below Or Up Above

4.       This One Wins

5.       We Won’t Look Down

6.       We Left Off

7.       Violent Delights

8.       My Love is Waiting

9.       Don’t Want To Let You Go

 

Janita Set

1.       Beautiful You Are

2.       Who’s Gonna Tell the Wolf She’s Not A Dog?

3.       I Forgive You

4.       Easing Into Sanity

5.       Traces Upon Your Face

6.       No Excuses

7.       Clap Hands

8.       What My Silence Means

9.       Gentle Hum

CONCERT REVIEW: Mt. Joy/Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express Rock Out NoHo's Federal Bar

Written by Jessica Klausing

Chuck Prophet photo by Jessica Klausing

Chuck Prophet photo by Jessica Klausing

Free music, bagels, and a mimosa! What more could you ask for!?!

Gary Calamar presented his Mimosa Music Series at North Hollywood’s Federal Bar on a rainy Sunday morning. What originated out of Calamar’s living room in Laurel Canyon has become a monthly hit that features local singer-songwriters. January featured an upcoming folk band, Mt. Joy and the Bay Area rockers, Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express.

Sam Cooper (left) and Matt Quinn (right) of Mt. Joy photo by Jessica Klausing

Sam Cooper (left) and Matt Quinn (right) of Mt. Joy photo by Jessica Klausing

Mt. Joy was a musical delight from opening to close. Matt Quinn (vocals/guitar) and Sam Cooper (guitar) weave mid-tempo guitar chords into a coming of age lyrical mind trip. Their music touches on political topics but with a psychedelic spin to it.

“Astrovan” alludes to Jesus being just another stoner hippie up against ‘The Man.’ This soulful heartfelt jam has reached over 230,000 streams in just 10 days on Spotify.  It’s easy to see why; beyond the drug references is an underdog anthem, “Life aint ever what it seems; these dreams are more than paper things.” The underlying message inspires those to rise above life’s setbacks.

Mt. Joy faced quite a setback during “Big Foot.” The heavy rainstorm caused a power outage in the middle of the song. The unfazed Quinn kept singing and playing the guitar like a true professional! The flickering lights created an eerie vibe during the “I know he’s out there” lyric. Mt. Joy might want to consider this supernatural gag for future performances! Power returned for the next song both metaphorically and literally.

The new single “Sheep” sounds off against racial discrimination. Quinn and Cooper detail a gruesome scene of police brutality for being of a different race. You could feel the intensity in Quinn’s voice during “Kids are getting ready for a long war/ Maybe I was born in the wrong skin/But those sheep are rolling in the mud again.”

 Mt. Joy can reference serious topics without beating the listener over the head about it. These tunes are mostly chill with some alternative rock jams in the mix. The songs itself are not preachy but use metaphors and wit to prompt deep thinking.

After Mt. Joy’s set, Gary Calamar shared two new singles off his album, The Prince of Pico Blvd.

The first single, “Little Tokyo” is a whimsical pop track about his adventure through the colourful LA district with his daughter. The title track, “Prince of Pico Blvd” has a Velvet Underground influence that details hometown nostalgia. Both were sonically different yet endearing tracks. These catchy tunes were the perfect segue into the final act.

Chuck Prophet at NoHo's Federal Bar photo by Jessica Klausing

Chuck Prophet at NoHo's Federal Bar photo by Jessica Klausing

Chuck Prophet donned a black vest with a black and red tie cut in two pieces. The Bay Area native held up his vanilla colored Fender Telecaster with a devious grin plastered upon his face.

“I wanna teach you all a little something!” Prophet declared as his band, the Missions Express rolled right into the twang rockin’ “Play That Song Again.”

He sure taught us a thing or two about rock n’ roll!

Prophet sets the bar pretty damn high in musical composition. His music nods in respect to 60’s style rock, Motown grooves, soulful ballads, old fashioned rock n' roll, and Southern rock. To sum it up: it's catchy get-on-your-feet-and-dance music. Prophet has the vocal prowess as Bruce Springsteen alongside his technically solid band mates.

“Love Is the Only Thing” shows off James DePrato’s (guitars) Beatles-style guitar hooks. Stephanie Finch (keyboards) shined soulfully within the guitar anthem, “In the Mausoleum.” Vicente Rodriguez (drums) and Kevin White (bass) held up the rhythm backbone of the Honky Tonk jam, “Countrified Inner-City Technological Man.”    

Prophet’s tongue-in-cheek humor gave the songs a playful edge.

An important announcement was made before launching into “Coming Out in Code” off of the new album, Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins. Prophet asked sternly if anyone was secretly recording the show. Due to the rise of illegal music sharing lawsuits, naturally, a few nervous glances were met throughout the room. Prophet quickly added with his trademark devilish grin, “because I need you to please record this one; it has very low views on Youtube.”  Many cellphones were held up during this soulful groove.

He continued to captivate listeners through his earnest storytelling.

“Wish Me Luck, ” tells the comical antics of a persistent party animal. “Bad Year for Rock and Roll” mourns the dearly departed musicians of 2016. Another bittersweet sympathy was the “The Left Hand and the Right Hand.” This song spins the tragic tale of the San Francisco nightclub pioneers, the Mitchell Brothers.

Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express photo by Jessica Klausing

Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express photo by Jessica Klausing

No Chuck Prophet show is complete without epic sing-a-longs.

“Temple Beautiful” brought out enthusiastic chants from the crowd. However, the real highlight was “Willie Mays Is Up At Bat” As the audience wailed out the ‘woahs,’ Prophet portrayed a sports commentator with “the best thing about baseball and rock n’ roll is you never know what will happen next.”

Prophet closed the set with “You Did” (Bomp Shooby Dooby Bomp). He comically referred to this Motown tune as “the most hardcore one.” Thick bass grooves fuse with the delicate keys as Prophet asks “who put the ram in the ram a lam?”

Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express are a diamond in the rough. This group creates a musical space that’s personal but not private. Prophet openly invites listeners into his “California Noir” realm. He’s a master of guitar and storytelling complimented with a mesmerising and powerful sound. Together this group conjures a performance worthy of an arena.

SETLIST:

Play That Song Again

Love Is the Only Thing

Coming Out in Code

In the Mausoleum

The Left Hand and The Right Hand

Countrified Inner-City Technological Man

Wish Me Luck

Bad Year for Rock and Roll

Willie Mays Is Up At Bat

ENCORE:

Temple Beautiful

You Did (Bomp Shooby Dooby Bomp)

CONCERT REVIEW: Dan Layus Steals Hearts at the Troubadour

Written by Jessica Klausing

Dan Layus performs at the Troubadour. Photo by Jessica Klausing

Dan Layus performs at the Troubadour. Photo by Jessica Klausing

Dan Layus has reinvented himself as a singer-songwriter. The former Augustana frontman has opted for minimal production. His songs feature the piano with the fine styling of fiddle, pedal steel, and guitar. Plenty of times a musician goes solo but still sounds like their preceding band.  Not Layus. His music is a blend of traditional Country and Americana with a fragile voice that calls out to the broken hearted. West Hollywood’s Troubadour was the venue to hold so much heart on Thursday night.

Ryan Beaver photo by Jessica Klausing

Ryan Beaver photo by Jessica Klausing

Nashville singer-songwriter Ryan Beaver opened the set. Beaver took stage meekly with his acoustic guitar in tow. Many were completely oblivious to him as the audience chatter reigned on. Opening with the painfully beautiful “Rum and Roses,” Beaver instantly alerted the room to his bell-pure vocals and superb storytelling.

Give this man a guitar and he’ll break your heart! Beaver has this special way of capturing reality but making it easily relatable. In the gritty tuned “Dark” he sings of a troubled man that just wants to be left alone. Following the theme of melancholy came the country twang on “Vegas.” A bittersweet song about what happens in Vegas does not exactly stay in Vegas. Standout track of the night was the hauntingly bluesy “When This World Ends,” a song about being in love during the zombie apocalypse.

Ryan Beaver is a must see if he plays near you. His songs are compelling with such endearing vocals. The music teeters somewhere gracefully between Americana and the Blues. He’s an upcoming artist with plenty of potential for sure.

Dan Layus opens with "Enough For You" photo by Jessica Klausing

Dan Layus opens with "Enough For You" photo by Jessica Klausing

The Troubadour erupted in cheers as Dan Layus modestly took the stage with Kristin Weber (violin, fiddle) and Jay Barclay (guitar, pedal steel).

The trio dove right into “Enough For You,” a track of off Layus’s debut solo album. His live performance was as stripped down as his album. Layus proves that a delicate voice and a little soulful acoustic guitar is all he needs to fill the space.

Kristin Weber photo by Jessica Klausing

Kristin Weber photo by Jessica Klausing

Layus bears his soul with such fragile yet earnest vocals. His shaky vibrato on “Sweet and Low” gave the song an emotional wave of nostalgia. You could feel the ache in his voice during the line “No one’s giving up quite yet, we’ve got too much to lose.” Just a strum of Weber’s fiddle was all it took to tug at the heartstrings.

The mood picked up for the pedal steel induced “Dangerous Things,” the title track off of Layus’s album. He followed with the romantic mid-tempo “Fell in Love On a Beach.” This was probably the most optimistic song in the entire setlist.

Things shifted back to dark as Layus traded in his guitar for the keyboard for “Let Me Lose You” “Four Rings,” and “The Nightbird.” He picked the guitar back up again for another Augustana cover, “Must Be Love.”

Dan Layus performs "Let Me Lose You" photo by Jessica Klausing

Dan Layus performs "Let Me Lose You" photo by Jessica Klausing

The set was well balanced between solo and Augustana covers. A few of these covers included: the gritty “Ash and Ember,” “Climb,” and a beautiful ballad of “Steal Your Heart.” I was a bit disappointed that the group’s successor “Boston” did not make it into the set. This disappointment was immediately replaced with an electric version of “I Really Think So.”

Layus and his bandmates really cranked it up with this one! So much for a quiet evening; Barclay and Layus tore away at the guitars which launched Weber into an intense fiddle solo. This hard rockin’ tune had everyone up on their feet.

Jay Barclay photo by Jessica Klausing

Jay Barclay photo by Jessica Klausing

“Call Me When You Get There” was the definite highlight of the set. All of Layus’s solo work is touching but this one really hits home. The song focuses on the concern for a person’s well-being whether it’s wanted or not. A tsunami of tender chords and love washed over the very silent room. The band closed out the night with “Twenty Years,” in honor of a recently departed friend.

Dan Layus’s music is chalk full of poetry-in-motion lyrics backed with gorgeous melodies. If you can’t see him live then go out and buy his album and play it in headphones with your eyes closed. Either way, the music is a mesmerizing experience! Whether you’re a Country fan or not--Dan Layus will steal your heart away.

 

SETLIST:

Enough For You

Destroyer

Sweet and Low (Augustana cover)

I Still Aint Over You (Augustana cover)

You Can Have Mine

Only Gets Darker

Dangerous Things

Fell in Love On a Beach

Let Me Lose You

Four Rings

Must Be Love (Augustana cover)

Climb (Augustana cover)

Driveway

Call Me When You Get There

Ash and Ember (Augustana cover)

I Really Think So (Augustana cover)

The Nightbird

Steal Your Heart (Augustana cover)

ENCORE:

Twenty Years (Augustana cover)

 

 

CONCERT REVIEW: Guided by Voices Exceed Expectations at LA's Teragram Ballroom

Written by Jessica Klausing

Robert "Bob" Pollard photo by Jessica Klausing

Robert "Bob" Pollard photo by Jessica Klausing

 Free beer, drunken yoga, and Jose Cuervo-fueled pep talks are normal occurrences at a Guided by Voices show. This band is in its own league when it comes to entertainment. Front man Robert Pollard pushes musical boundaries with an unusual brand of lo-fi/indie rock and British post-punk. His cynical personality shines through in the honest yet tongue-in-cheek lyrics. The Teragram Ballroom was in for an unforgettable night when these rockers took the stage.  

Lola G of DTCV photo by Jessica Klausing

Lola G of DTCV photo by Jessica Klausing

DTCV (pronounced “Detective”) were the openers for the second night of the tour in Los Angeles. This French-American band can be compared to The Cranberries meets the Dum Dum Girls side of the punk spectrum.

 French guitarist Lola G and former Guided by Voices guitarist James Greer treated fans to a surrealist psych-rock set jam packed with exuberant melodies. Be prepared that most of their lyrics are in French, but as Lola G says “If you don’t know the language-- you’re learning it now!” 

James Greer photo by Jessica Klausing

James Greer photo by Jessica Klausing

The two guitarists split the lead vocals between songs; both musicians bring a special kind of style to the dynamic.  Lola G brings the sultry punk vocals on “L.A. Boom!” while Greer’s lofty growl on “Crafting Class” was much appreciated.

The real highlight of the set was Greer slamming his guitar onstage at the end of “Radio City.” Greer had spent most of the song fumbling with his pedals. His casualness of it all still left fans to question whether this was part of the act or not. 

Guided by Voices photo by Jessica Klausing

Guided by Voices photo by Jessica Klausing

After a solid set from DTCV, Robert Pollard took the stage with his new lineup:  Kevin March (drums), Doug Gillard (guitar), Mark Shue (bass) and the newcomer Bobby Bare Jr. (guitar).

Guided by Voices delved right into 29 years worth of music within two hours! Fans were treated to a 52 song setlist. That’s a Bruce Springsteen endurance level of epic proportions! Robert Pollard is quite the prolific artist with a discography of nearly 2,000 songs.

 Pollard performed a few of the songs from his solo projects, Ricked Wicky and Boston Spaceships. A crowd favorite was Ricked Wicky’s “What Are All Those Paint Men Digging?” Pollard showed off his high kicks and well timed mic twirls to Kevin March’s heavy hits. Many more stage antics were yet to come.

Bob doing the tree pose during "I Am a Tree." Photo by Jessica Klausing

Bob doing the tree pose during "I Am a Tree." Photo by Jessica Klausing

“I Am a Tree” was unforgettable with Pollard’s tree pose. He held that position through most of the song. What’s more impressive was the amount of stability he had after so many drinks.  This rock star showed no signs of slowing down as he trucked on through the set without much banter.

 The setlist offered a fair mixture of solo work and older GBV music but it seemed like this second reunion tour focused more on the newest album, Please Be Honest. Robert Pollard wrote and played every instrument on this album.

“Kid on a Ladder” and “Eye Shop Heaven” generated some interest thanks to Bobby Bare Jr. and Mark Shue shredding up their instruments. This turned into a friendly competition on who could break a string faster. The hype for the newer songs started to wane around “Hotel X (Big Soap)”. Many were eagerly anticipating more hits from the iconic older albums such as Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes

“Teenage FBI,” “I Am a Scientist” and “Game Of Pricks” won the crowd back over. These songs prompted the loudest sing-a-longs and probably the friendliest mosh pit in history. The venue turned into a trampoline of fans gently bouncing forward to sing with the band.

“Thanks for bearing with the new shit. It’ll become like the old shit unless it sucks then we cut it out,” Pollard stated after a swig from his beloved Jose Cuervo.

 Pollard proceeded to pass his tequila around to those that wanted a shot.  This front man is known to freely share his tequila and pass out extra beer to audience members. Ample booze plays a key component into the band’s entertainment.

Robert Pollard performs "Tractor Rape Chain." Photo by Jessica Klausing

Robert Pollard performs "Tractor Rape Chain." Photo by Jessica Klausing

 The stoic Robert Pollard becomes brasher after many drinks.

“After we got signed with Matador Records, they recommended that I check in to the Betty Ford Clinic. I’m checking into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame, Motherfuckers!” Pollard exclaimed before tearing into another classic favorite, “Tractor Rape Chain.”

The band ended their set with “Cut-Out Witch” only to quickly return for a second encore. The second encore included an ecstatic cover of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”. The night could have easily ended on this high but these guys returned to the stage after popular demand!

 How does one top two amazing encores?

 To an average rocker this would be a ballsy move. Guided by Voices defied the odds with “Game Of Pricks” again. No one seemed to mind for a repeated song as the third encore.  Pollard and company played the song with more intensity the second time. The venue erupted into the chant of “You can never be strong. You can only be free.” This classic hit proved to be the perfect final closure.

DTCV SETLIST:

X- Water

Crafting Class

Bourgeois Pop

L.A. Boom!

Conformiste

Capital Finnul

Astros

Vampire

Histoire Sevile

Big Grey Sun

Radio Drive

 

GBV SETLIST:

A Salty Salute

Expecting Brainchild

Subspace Biographies

Kid on a Ladder

Echos Myron

Eye Shop Heaven

Planet Score

The Quickers Arrive

My Daughter Yes She Knows

Teenage FBI

Mobility (Ricked Wicky cover)

Do Something Real

Smothered in Hugs

Hotel X (Big Soap)

Back to the Lake

The Hand That Holds You

I Am a Tree

Psychic Pilot Clocks Out

Jargon of Clones (Ricked Wicky cover)

The Brides Have Hit Glass

What Are All Those Paint Men Digging? (Ricked Wicky cover)

Game Of Pricks

Question Girl All Right (Boston Spaceships cover)

Poor Substitute (Ricked Wicky cover)

Arrows and Balloons

Shocker in Gloomtown

Come On Mr. Christian

Tabby & Lucy (Boston Spaceships cover)

Piss Face (Ricked Wicky cover)

Make Use

My Zodiac Companion

Miles Under the Skin

I Can Illustrate

Come On Baby Grace (Boston Spaceships cover)

Glittering Parliaments

Motor Away

Tractor Rape Chain

Love Is Stronger Than Witchcraft

Please Be Honest

The Official Ironmen Rally Song

I Am a Scientist

Of Course You Are

The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory

ENCORE (1):

Authoritarian Zoo

Fair Touching

Don’t Stop Now

Cut-Out Witch

ENCORE (2):

Not Behind the Fighter Jet

Glad Girls

Baba O’Riley (The Who cover)

ENCORE (3):

Blimps Go 90

Game Of Pricks

 

 

CONCERT REVIEW: Laura Michelle Celebrates New Album Release with Drake Bell at El Rey Theatre

By Jessica Klausing

photo by Jessica Klausing

photo by Jessica Klausing

Laura Michelle, the singer-songwriter behind the video viral hit, “Chuck Norris”, hosted a local release party for her album, Novel With No End last Friday night at the El Rey Theatre in downtown Los Angeles along with special guest performers.

Peter and the Lion kicked off the night with their quaint and eccentric pop songs. These catchy hits were a great start to the party as they were able to draw the audience closer to the stage.

Drake Bell photo by Jessica Klausing

Drake Bell photo by Jessica Klausing

Following the first act was Drake Bell and his band, whose performance was nothing short than epic! Bell launched into the 50s blues infused guitar rockin’ “King of Rock N’Roll.” This was a fitting opener for them. Just imagine if Elvis Presley had joined the Beatles– that’s Drake Bell and his band!

Bell’s musical maturity is far beyond his years. This heartthrob is more than just another teen star; he’s a solid musician with something to say. His crisp yet supple vocals during the contemporary pop hit “Makes Me Happy” was reminiscent of the early 60s Beatlemania days. There is a fearless fluency within his lyrics that defies the modern musical composition.

The real highlight of the set was "Found A Way" or better known as the Drake & Josh theme song from the former Nickelodeon show. Bell's enthusiasm seemed to bring a new level of high within the theatre. Everyone was up dancing and singing along to this signature song. His music is so fun and upbeat that you just can't resist those infectious melodies.

 

Laura Michelle photo by Jessica Klausing

Laura Michelle photo by Jessica Klausing

After Bell’s performance, fans waited anxiously for the arrival of the main star of the night: Ms. Laura Michelle.

Michelle came out into the audience for a special cake cutting ceremony. Novel With No End is Michelle’s first album release which was produced by the Grammy winning team of Jarrett Zellea, Rafa Sardina and Jim McGorman. The album also features drummer Marc Slutsky (Splendor, Drake Bell) and bassist Jon Button (Roger Daltrey, Sheryl Crow and Shakira). The show was orchestrated by musical director Jim McGorman and an all star musician lineup: Steve Fekete, Al Berry, Steve Ferlazzo, Marc Slutsky, and Rachel Grace. The delicious cake and hors d’oeuvres were catered by Sweet Lady Jane Bakery to honor this stellar night.

Immediately after the ceremony came time for the anticipated main event. The stage lights faded into a dark shade of blue as Laura Michelle strutted onstage in her killer open toed boots.

The star crooned her sultry sweet vocals right into the whimsical pop, "Cigarette."

She rolled right into the softer ballads, "The Credit" and "Aint Your Home" before pausing to thank her fans for coming and to chug a whole bottle of water. She gave a shout out to her cousin and mom for the next song, "Save Me", saying that "it was their favorite song on the album and to thank them for being there through the hard times."

 

Photo by Jessica Klausing

Photo by Jessica Klausing

"Throwaway" picked the beat back up but it was perhaps "Chameleon" that really got the party started. This song really strives to show off Michelle's feisty side as she confidently states, "So this is my disguise/ You used to be handsome, a little less homeless, a little less hopeless."

Michelle's playful, upbeat attitude seemed to really energize the crowd. People of all ages could be seen dancing, swaying pink glow sticks, and singing their hearts out to the hit "Chuck Norris" and "Dangerous."

Later in the set Michelle took a moment to talk about her father. 

"I am what you would call the definition of a daddy's girl," Michelle proudly told the audience as the large screen flashed a picture of the two of them together.

He had passed away when she was only fifteen. She opened up about how music was able to lift her spirits during her father's illness. Michelle went on to explain that she wrote "Novel With No End" about him and that the album was dedicated in his memory.

Michelle finished out the set with "Top Of The World." A song that takes a jab at "people that think they are all that but are really not." This offers a good life lesson about not letting arrogant people steal all the joy.

Laura Michelle's music will take you on a pop rock trip through all of the heartbreak, love and life lessons in her life. She's open with honest lyrics that offers a positive message for all ages. This type of positivity is sadly overlooked within today's mainstream pop genre. Michelle stands strong as a passionate young artist with a promising career.

SETLIST:

Cigarette

The Credits

Aint Your Home

Save Me

Throwaway

Chameleon

Chuck Norris

Dangerous

Novel With No End

Top Of The World

CONCERT REVIEW: The Mother Hips Play Surprise Set at West Hollywood's Troubadour

By Jessica Klausing

Tim Bluhm perfroms at The Troubadour photo by Jessica Klausing  

Tim Bluhm perfroms at The Troubadour
photo by Jessica Klausing
 

Longtime fans eagerly awaited The Mother Hips co-founding guitarist Tim Bluhm as he slowly made his way center stage to his seat. Bluhm donned a foot cast and crutches for the evening due to an unfortunate paragliding accident in September 2015 that left his ankle shattered. 

This injury didn’t hold back Bluhm’s energy filled powerhouse performance at West Hollywood’s Troubadour.

Tim Bluhm (guitar/vocals), Greg Loiacono (guitars/vocals), John Hoffer (drums) and Scott Thunes (bass) with special guests, Scheila Gonzales (saxophone/vocals) and Jason Crosby (keys/violin) played a very special show for Los Angeles.

The band teased fans with the promise of covering a surprise record as part of their two set show. As soon as the band opened with the anguished guitar ballad, “Gimmie Shelter,” the sold out venue erupted in cheers.  The Mother Hips played The Rolling Stones’ Let it Bleed album in its entirety.

Bluhm and the gang slayed through the classics such as “Monkey Man,” “Country Honk,” “Let It Bleed” and the iconic “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” The songs were performed ready to burst of hard rockin’ blues with surprisingly dark undertones that was both sexy and horrifying at the same time. This stellar performance would have made Mick Jagger proud.

On top of a secret set, the Hips had another surprise in store for fans that night. Fans were gifted with a free download of the new single, “I Went in Hard.” This song is a sneak peek of the group’s new album due out later this year. The song addresses the accident that badly injured Bluhm but the band was not going to kiss and tell any more secrets about the new album.

“We decided not to play the new single tonight. We wanted the audience to go home and experience it for themselves—plus we don’t really know how to play it,” confessed Bluhm.

After a brief intermission, the band returned to play their originals for the final set.
The Hips kicked off the second set with the alternative rockin’ “Smoke” followed by a bluesy jam of “White Falcon Fuzz.”

Scott Thunes and Scheila Gonzales photo by Jessica Klausing

Scott Thunes and Scheila Gonzales
photo by Jessica Klausing

Scheila Gonzales had the audience swaying to her jazzy saxophone parts in “Esmerelda.” Gonzales can play a mean sax! It was her beautiful saxophone solo that stole the show during “Toughie.” It was the kind of thing you would hear at a jazz nightclub from the French Quarter in downtown New Orleans. Things mellowed out with Scott Thunes’ heavy bass groove in “Clean Me Up.” The momentum picked back up with Greg Loiacono’s rich lead vocals to the more psychedelic “Confirmation of Love.”

To nail the Hips down to one specific genre would be nearly impossible. A few songs into the set and already the audience were treated to a delicious musical buffet of Americana, blues, jazz, country, alternative and psychedelic rock.

What makes the Hips so special is perhaps the musical bond between Tim Bluhm and Greg Loiacono as evidenced during “Been Lost Once.” Their call and answer vocals section was the main highlight of this heavy Southern rock guitar jam. These two guitarists were quite a mesmerizing sight with their dueling compositions. This was not a battle of the brawns but more of a means to challenge the musical dynamic of the song.

Tim Bluhm of The Mother Hips photo by Jessica Klausing

Tim Bluhm of The Mother Hips
photo by Jessica Klausing


The Hips closed out the night on a high with “Magazine” and “Stoned Up the Road.”

The Mother Hips are quite a trip to watch live in person because of their Grateful Dead-esque extensive jam sessions. However, they are much more than just a northern California jam band. These guys are constantly looking for ways to take their songs to new heights. Part of the fun is not knowing where these guys will end up. It’s more about the journey, not the destination.


SECRET SETLIST:
Gimmie Shelter
Love in Vain
Country Honk
Live with Me
Let it Bleed
Midnight Rambler
You Got the Silver
Monkey Man
You Can’t Always Get What You Want

SETLIST:
Smoke
White Falcon Fuzz
Esmerelda
Honeydew
Gold Plated
Clean Me Up
Confirmation of Love
Third Floor Story
Singing Seems To Ease Me
Been Lost Once
Toughie
Do It On The Strings
Delmar Station
Time Sick Son Of A Grizzly Bear
Rich Little Girl
Pet Foot

ENCORE:
Magazine
Stoned Up The Road
 

 

CONCERT REVIEW: Tyler Stenson Delivers Elegant Folk to Hollywood's Hotel Cafe

By Jessica Klausing

Tyler Stenson performs at Hotel Cafe photo by Jessica Klausing  

Tyler Stenson performs at Hotel Cafe
photo by Jessica Klausing
 


Tyler Stenson brightened up the Hotel Café with his unique brand of “Elegant Folk” music. His set was as comforting as a warm hug from an old friend on a bad day. His heart wrenching lyrics and charming presence was a much needed gift to Los Angeles.


Stenson walked onto the main room stage at 08:00PM, picked up his acoustic guitar and crooned right into the delicate “Monday and a Mountain.” 

This singer-songwriter from Portland captured the attention in the intimate room with his soul lifting melody and humble lyrics, “I was born on a Monday, in the thickening snow, so it’s safe to say that hard work is habit that lives in my bones.” His presentation didn’t include a backing band, making this performance a stripped-down version similar to his 2010 album, Bittersweet Parade.
 

Tyler Stenson performs "The Arsonist" at Hotel Cafe photo by Jessica Klausing

Tyler Stenson performs "The Arsonist" at Hotel Cafe
photo by Jessica Klausing

Stenson picked up the pace with his second song, “The Arsonist.” This was the highlight of the night because he would be simultaneously playing the guitar and harmonica. In this song, Stenson asks the heartbreaking question, “Why build a bridge if you’ll just burn it down?”

Stenson has always proved to be a bold, honest lyricist. What makes his work so unique is his meticulous attention in the sincerity of his simple words. Some examples were lyrics such as the heartbreaking, “I’ve gotten good at being alone,” in “That I’ll Know You” and the rejoicing of “Gone are the days of the dark shades of grey,” in “How Bright.”

A personal favorite of the night was “Cannonball.” This was the opening song on his 2000 album,The Low Ceiling. During that time, Stenson served as a front man for his band, Rhetoric Tuesday. Hearing the line “I’m so close but I’m so far” performed live gave it even more emotion than hearing it on a recording. You can feel the desperation he delivers with each note. Even with his front man experience, it seems pretty evident that Stenson much prefers the reflections of an acoustic solo artist.

He launched next into a slower paced cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Celica” interwoven with Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” alts.

“You Already Know,” and “Carry On” were slightly older hits that told more stories of love, hope, heartbreak and courage.

“Say No More” was the newest song played in the set. This single was Stenson’s first release in 2015. The song was written as an earnest apology to his sister. It teaches us about the consequences of saying the wrong thing to loved ones.

Tyler Stenson photo by Jessica Klausing

Tyler Stenson
photo by Jessica Klausing


The show ended with the more upbeat “Best Laid Plans.”

“This is one of my most optimistic songs. It came from a darker place in my life. I wrote it at a funeral,” said Stenson.


 He encouraged the audience to sing along with him. Soon enough the room was chanting, “You must believe what might have been, can yet still be.” This positive lyric seemed to spark a glimmer of hope within the audience. Throughout this emotional journey tonight it felt like there really is a light at the end of the tunnel.


Hearing Tyler Stenson live was definitely a memorable experience. His voice is a timeless blend of vulnerability and confidence. Many concerts are filled with orchestral arrangements and heavy production, which are great! Stenson proves that a strong voice and a guitar can leave just as much of a lasting impression.

SETLIST:
Monday and a Mountain
The Arsonist
You Already Know
That I’ll Know You…
How Bright
Cannonball
Cecilia-Simon and Garfunkel cover with I’m On Fire alts by Bruce Springsteen
Carry On
Say No More
Best Laid Plans
 

 

CONCERT REVIEW: Foxtrax Celebrates EP Release at Molly Malone's


By Jessica Klausing

 

Jon Stenz(drums), Ben Schneid (vocals/guitar) and Jared Stenz (bass) of FoxTrax  

Jon Stenz(drums), Ben Schneid (vocals/guitar) and Jared Stenz (bass) of FoxTrax

 

What does the FoxTrax band say?

They say it with plenty of self-motivating lyrics fused with blues driven guitars and a classic rock N’ roll vibe that results in a new indie pop sound. It’s organic and unique.

Ben Schneid (vocals/guitar), Jon Stenz (drums) and Jared Stenz (bass) celebrated the release of their new EP, “The Cabin” at Molly Malone's in Los Angeles last night.

Their EP and band name was inspired after a trip to North Carolina. The band was staying at a cabin in the mountains in hopes of finding musical inspiration. What the band found were fox tracks in the snow that led them to their name and life philosophy—“follow your foxtrax.”

It’s hard to believe that these guys have only made music for a year now. This Long Island trio sound like seasoned professionals that have toured together for a decade.

Ben Schneid photo by Jessica Klausing

Ben Schneid
photo by Jessica Klausing

The band kicked off the night with “Feeling Alright.” Just imagine an electric blend of Foster The People, The Doors and Graham Colton Band.

During the second song, “Indie Rocker B,” Schneid encouraged the audience to clap, dance and move in closer to the stage. They were determined to make sure the audience had as much fun as they did that night.

 “This next song will show you where we came from,” said Schneid.

“Go It Alone” is about leaving the past behind you and going out in the world to do something great--Much like the band did as they left New York to pursue their dreams in Los Angeles.

“I grew up with all these houses on my street/ Each one looked the same/ Now I yearn so hard to get out on my feet/ So I run, to where it’s calling for me.”

You can feel the honesty in Schneid’s delivery. His rhythm guitar accompanies the soulful bass with the steady drum beats. The best part is nothing was overdone here. No flashing bells and whistles to drive the point. This was three musicians sharing an intimate part of their lives.

“Last Chance Blues,” “Dark of the Night” and “Everything’s Changing” follows the bluesy alternative theme of longing for something better.

“On the Run” was a grittier tune while “Waiting for You” and “City of Lights” shows off more of the band's classic rock arrangements.

Jon Stenz photo by Jessica Klausing

Jon Stenz
photo by Jessica Klausing

Not only talented musicians but they proved to be quite the shows men as well.

Drummer Jon Stenz would twirl and toss his drumsticks in the air like a Color Guard from a marching band, Schneid would leap from the drum stand on occasion and at one point Bassist Jared Stenz was able to squat down on his heels during a solo without missing a chord!

These guys were quick like foxes so no photo was able to be caught of these zany stage antics.

The biggest highlight of the night was “Underwater.” The band just finished shooting a two day music video in the desert for this song. This song stood out among the others with its beautiful ambient vocal echoes and psychedelic bass chords.

Foxtrax closed out the night with “I’ll Be Back For You.” With their mature attention to detail and desire to incorporate the new with the classics—Foxtrax will be back.

Jared Stenz photo by Jessica Klausing

Jared Stenz
photo by Jessica Klausing


The band made you feel you like you were in their living room while they played songs for their closest friends. With their charming demeanor and their inspiring lyrics, I left the venue wanting to follow my own foxtrax.

SETLIST:
Feeling Alright
Indie Rocker B
Go It Alone
Last Chance Blues
Waiting For You
Dark Of The Night
On The Run
Everything’s Changing
City of Lights
Underwater
I’ll Be Back For You
 

 

REVIEW: Coheed & Cambria Continue to Enlighten at Hollywood Palladium

By Jessica Klausing

Claudio Sanchez photo by Jessica Klausing

Claudio Sanchez
photo by Jessica Klausing

Who doesn’t love them some Sci fy/Fantasy inspired music?

Coheed and Cambria played to an ecstatic crowd at the Hollywood Palladium on Tuesday. Fans waited in line for over five hours just to ensure a good spot in front of the progressive rockers. The night kicked off with three opening bands: Silver Snakes, I The Mighty, and Glassjaw.

Silver Snakes  photo by Jessica Klausing

Silver Snakes
 photo by Jessica Klausing

Silver Snakes took the stage first. These guys reminded me of an early Deftones garage band. It felt like a time warp back to my middle school years in the early 2000s. The aggressive rhythm section fused with the gut bellowing choruses gave off an immaturity vibe. Alex Estrada can fill a room with his half growl, half scream vocals though! The sound was pretty decent if screamo is your thing.

I The Mighty   photo by Jessica Klausing

I The Mighty
  photo by Jessica Klausing

I The Mighty was the next act to follow. The venue was already starting to get packed at this time. These guys were my favorite openers of the night. This quartet hyped up the crowd with their ambitious energy. Lead singer Brent Walsch encouraged plenty of pushing and shoving. Much to security displeasure, he invited fans to try to jump over the barrier to get onstage. Of course, nobody tried this in fear of getting kicked out. Walsch admitted to being a huge Coheed fan by showing off his band inspired key tattoo. 

Glassjaw  photo by Jessica Klausing  

Glassjaw
 photo by Jessica Klausing
 

By the time Glassjaw came out, fans were already going berserk. You would have thought that these guys were the main headliners. The band showed off their esteemed brand of hardcore metal and experimental rock. Many of the fans were proudly singing along to “Tip Your Bartender” and their latest “New White Extremity.” Lead singer Daryl Palumbo was bouncing around like a jackrabbit throughout the entire set.

Claudio Sanchez performs "Ghost"   photo by Jessica Klausing

Claudio Sanchez performs "Ghost"
  photo by Jessica Klausing

At 09:30PM, Claudio Sanchez and his unruly mane took the stage with lead guitarist Travis Stever. The duo opened with the acoustic “Ghost,” as blinding fluorescent lights shone down upon Sanchez. Fans cheered and eagerly pushed forward in an attempt to get closer to the stage. The seasoned rockers kept on with the graceful pace of the song. Those calming vocals and delicate guitar strumming were only just building up the anticipation ready to burst in the venue.

Josh Eppard photo by Jessica Klausing  

Josh Eppard
photo by Jessica Klausing
 

As soon as drummer Josh Eppard and bassist Zach Cooper took stage-- all hell broke loose! The band launched right into “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3” to bring the pace back up. Jumping, pushing, thrashing, dancing, crowd surfing are just a taste of many antics to expect at Coheed shows.

One notable highlight was the excessive crowd surfing action during “No World Tomorrow.” Fans were flying towards the stage as if it were the end of times. This writer even received a minor injury from a soaring super fan.

Travis Stever     photo by Jessica Klausing

Travis Stever
    photo by Jessica Klausing


The band toured in favor of their newest album, The Color Before the Sun. Half of the set list consisted of the brand new songs.

“Blood Red Summer,” “Island,” and “Everything Evil” followed the band’s traditional progressive rock flow. Sanchez has a one-of-a kind falsetto that just commands the attention in the room. His band mates are rock solid technical musicians. I can easily see why devoted fans would want to wait in line for hours.
 

Coheed and Cambria perform at the Hollywood Palladium  photo by Jessica Klausing

Coheed and Cambria perform at the Hollywood Palladium
 photo by Jessica Klausing

Coheed really stands out because of their unique ability to create something different. It is not too often you hear space agey synthesizers in today’s music. Sanchez captivated our imaginations with his powerful storytelling based off of his science fiction comics, The Amory Wars.


“The Favor House Atlantic” and “Here to Mars” were examples of this artistic imagery. Coheed really gets the point across with a mesmerizing LED light show. The lights were constantly changing colors and spinning out in different directions. It was a trippy experience!


“Peace to the Mountain” slowed things down with its calm, reflective message. “I learned to keep quiet/How to keep my distance/Afraid to let strangers in/How to keep my secrets.”


The band closed out the night with their biggest hit, “Welcome Home.” Sanchez shredded shamelessly on his double neck guitar while fans wailed out the “woahs.” This powerhouse metal ballad was the perfect note to send fans off.

SETLIST:
1. Ghost
2. In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3
3. Blood Red Summer
4. Island
5. Everything Evil
6. Key Entity Extraction V: Sentry the Defiant
7. A Favor House Atlantic
8. Here to Mars
9. The Hard Sell
10. No World Tomorrow
11. Atlas
12. The Audience
13. Peace to the Mountain

ENCORE:
14. You Got Spirit, Kid
15. Eraser
16. Welcome Home
 

 

REVIEW: Josh Ritter and The Royal City Band/Elephant Revival's Sermon to the Fonda Theatre

By Jessica Klausing

 

Josh Ritter with drummer Liam Hurley photo by Jessica Klausing

Josh Ritter with drummer Liam Hurley
photo by Jessica Klausing

Josh Ritter and The Royal City Band serenaded fans at the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood, CA on January 19 with a slew of brand new songs from the new album, Sermon on the Rocks (2015). The night was filled with heartfelt lyrics, foot-stompin’-hand-clappin’ folk melodies and of course, lots of smiling!

Elephant Revival photo by Jessica Klausing

Elephant Revival
photo by Jessica Klausing

Elephant Revival opened the show with “Birds and Stars” from their 2013 album, These Changing Skies. This acoustic quintet’s style can be described as transcendental folk rock.  Their music incorporates a smorgasbord of Scottish/Celtic, bluegrass, jazz, indie rock with a twang of psychedelic country. Just think if Americana had crashed a Yiddish party, this is how it would sound. I was quite impressed with their musical arrangements. For starters, I have never seen anyone rock out on a washboard and musical saw like Bonnie Paine!

Bonnie Paine photo by Jessica Klausing  

Bonnie Paine
photo by Jessica Klausing
 

 “Quill Pen Feather” shows off the band’s more country western rockin’ side with Bridget Law’s violin infused with bittersweet literary imagery: “You were throwing colors/ Upon canvas walls/Your words cut through the human/Mending wounds but still bleeding.”

The highlight for me was the beautiful acapella, “Raven Song,” which proves that a band does not need intense instrumentals to make a profound song. Instead, Paine’s haunting vibrato calls out to the weary: “Some say that that upon that mountain/There is many a raven/They call out to the living/From somewhere far beyond them/From those we love that have flown on.”

ElephantRevival’s new album releases in April. It’ll be worth your time to give them a listen.

Josh Ritter photo by Jessica Klausing

Josh Ritter
photo by Jessica Klausing

Josh Ritter took stage dressed in a paint-stained blue jumpsuit in front of a colorful mountain canvas. This was the exact same outfit and backdrop as seen on the cover of his new album, Sermon on the Rocks (2015).

Ritter crooned right into the acoustic guitar opener, “Good Man,” from The Animal Years (2006). The rest of the band came on stage next for the upbeat, “Birds of a Meadow.” This was one of the songs off his new album. Each time Ritter belted out, “Fire is Coming. Fire is Coming,” the red stage lights illuminated the mountain backdrop like a spreading wildfire.


These colorful stage lights helped set the mood for Ritter’s playful storytelling. Whether it was a dark blue night sky during the heart wrenching, “In the Dark” or a rainbow aurora during the “You are the Northern Lights/They try to shine through your curtains/You’re too close and too bright,” part of “Kathleen,” it was a breathtaking sight to be seen!

Ritter was all smiles and beaming energy for the entire set. Literally, the entire set. It was often hard to take the darker songs seriously like, “Engine Engine Number 9” and “Girl in the War” because of all the smiling. However, Ritter’s big smile was so infectious that you just couldn’t help yourself but to grin and bounce along too. It was evident that he really enjoys performing!

“We have lots of new songs to go through. It’ll be a lot like speed dating,” joked Ritter.

Josh Kaufman Photo by Jessica Klausing

Josh Kaufman
Photo by Jessica Klausing

His newer album was recorded in New Orleans, like the city, the music showcases plenty of zesty spirit. “Getting Ready to Get Down” and “Where the Night Goes” are prime examples of this with the electrifying guitar delivery by Josh Kaufman. The audience would cheer and clap alongside Ritter and the band.

Sam Kassirer Photo by Jessica Klausing

Sam Kassirer

Photo by Jessica Klausing

It was Sam Kassirer’s hauntingly beautiful piano introduction of “Homecoming” that really captivated me.  Those graceful chords really honed in with Ritter’s “I’m headed home” lyric. It was an excellent way to conclude the emotional journey Ritter shared with us that night.

Zack Hickman Photo by Jessica Klausing

Zack Hickman
Photo by Jessica Klausing


No encore would be complete without “To the Dogs or Whoever,” from The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter (2007). This was the ultimate crowd favorite as the audience would scream out “In the dark I thought I heard somebody call.” The enthusiasm ended the show on a high note as Ritter and his band mates took a heartfelt bow.

Josh Ritter and The Royal City Band will continue their 2016 U.S tour in San Francisco, CA on January 20 and will conclude May 29 in Charleston, SC.   

SETLIST:
Good Man
Birds of the Meadow
Young Moses
A Big Enough Sky
Right Moves
Henrietta, Indiana
New Lover
Seeing Me ‘Round
Where the Night Goes
Cumberland
The Stone
In the Dark
Engine Engine Number 9
Hello Starling
Bonfire
Girl in the War
Rumors
Getting Ready to Get Down
Homecoming

ENCORE:
The Temptation of Adam
Kathleen
To the Dogs or Whoever
 

REVIEW: Paul Stanley Woos The Roxy with Soulful Music

Written by Jessica Klausing

 

Paul Stanley or better known as "The Starchild" among the KISS fandom took the stage with his ten piece ensemble, Soul Station. The unmasked sixty-three year old rocker crooned soulful R&B covers to an intimate audience at West Hollywood's Roxy club. The band made their debut on Friday night.

The Soul Station lineup consisted of: Paul Stanley (vocals, tambourine), Longtime KISS drummer Eric Singer (drums, backing vocals), Sean Hurley (bass), Alex Alessandroni (keyboard), Ely Rose (keyboard), Rafael Moreira (guitar), Crystal Starr, Ayana Layli, Nelson Beato (backing vocals) and Ramon Yslas (percussion). 

Even though no KISS songs were played, Gene Simmons and Bruce Kulick were spotted showing their support in the VIP section.


"There was a time long ago when you'd turn on the radio and you'd hear songs written by real songwriters, sung by real singers, played by real musicians," reminisces Stanley.
A KISS member playing Motown and Philly soul is quite an unexpected surprise. However, Stanley explained his passion for these songs because of their optimistic messages and that they weren't created by a computer! The Temptations; "Just My Imagination", The Delfonics' "La-La Means I Love You," The Five Stairsteps' "O-o-h Child," and The Spinners' "Could It Be I'm Falling In Love" were just a few of the many classic hits in the setlist.

His vocals were a bit hard to hear, which were overpowered by the backups or drowned out from the bass. This caused a bit of a minor frustration among the audience. As some could be heard shouting for the mic to be turned up!

Stanley's impressive falsetto and Soul Station playing the songs' original composition made up for the minor sound problem. No over the top instrumentals or heavy metal riffs were used at all during the night. What better way to honor the greats than to play their music authentically.
"These songs mean a lot to us. They're beautiful songs. You could sway and touch the person next to you--you could also get punched in the face," jokes Stanley.
His positive attitude was very infectious throughout the night. The fans were seen swaying and singing along in an admirable fashion. Everyone seemed to have as much love for the classics as Stanley. No KISS song requests were being shouted out!

Ayana Layli and Paul Stanley photo by Jessica Klausing

Ayana Layli and Paul Stanley
photo by Jessica Klausing

"We've got great, great singers. I would be nothing without these singers," Stanley admitted, referring humbly to his backup singers.

At one point lead vocals were passed to backup singer Crystal Starr during Jackson 5's "I Want You Back." Starr's powerhouse voice really uplifted the mood. She nailed every high note while Stanley played the tambourine. This was perhaps the biggest highlight of the night considering everyone was up and dancing at this point.

From left: Nelson Beato, Crystal Starr, and Ayana Layli photo by Jessica Klausing

From left: Nelson Beato, Crystal Starr, and Ayana Layli
photo by Jessica Klausing

More Soul Station tour dates are expected to be announced soon. The show's performance will also be released on DVD. 


SETLIST
"Get Ready" (The Temptations)
"La-La Means I Love You (The Delfonics)
"Just My Imagination" (The Temptations)
"Ooo Baby Baby" (Smokey Robinson & The Miracles)
"Sideshow" (Blue Magic)
"You Are Everything" (The Stylistics)
"Tracks of My Tears" (Smokey Robinson & The Miracles)
"Let's Stay Together" (Al Green)
"Betcha by Golly, Wow" (The Stylistics)
"The Way You Do the Things You Do" (The Temptations)
"I Want You Back" (Jackson 5)
"Who's That Lady" (The Isley Brothers)
ENCORE:
"O-o-h Child" (The Five Stairsteps)
"This Old Heart of Mine" (The Isley Brothers)
"Could It Be I'm Falling In Love" (The Spinners)

REVIEW: The Offspring 'Conspiracy of One' chaotic night at the Hollywood Palladium

Written by Jessica Klausing

Featured on AMBY

Dexter Holland (vocals), Greg K (bass guitarist), Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman (lead guitarist) and Pete Parada (drums) brought a night of chaotic endeavors to die hard punk fans at the sold out Hollywood Palladium.

As soon as the Huntington Beach rockers took stage, beer cups and clothes went flying in the air. The black and white fire skull logo proudly illuminated the stage as the audience pounded and roared with excitement while Noodles’ guitar wailed right into “Bad Habit.”

At one point, the entire balcony was shaking. It was a wonder the whole thing didn’t collapse.  I know it is not unusual for fans to go berserk at the start of a show. But, this was off the chain! I have never been to a show where this much hype was bottled up in one room ready to explode.

Noodles seemed to enjoy all the chaos, thanking Hollywood for “being a creative audience.” Noting that “chaos is where the creativity develops.” He proceeded to comment how “Hollywood is gritty with such a great mix of personalities and people.”

 And gritty it was indeed.

You don’t get the full experience at an Offspring concert unless you thrash around in an aggressive mosh pit covered in sweat and beer screaming the chorus lines to the punk anthems like a patriotic warmonger.

The band launched into into their popular hits like “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)”, “Why Don’t You Get a Job” and my personal favorite, “Come Out and Play,” from their 1994 platinum selling album, Smash

Their ninteen song setlist was a lot of fun, which included material mostly fromRise and Fall, Rage and Grace (2008), Conspiracy of One (2000), Americana(1998), and Ixnay on the Hombre (1997). It was nice to see that the band didn’t solely focus on their older lineup but showcased plenty of their newer stuff in the mix.  I prefer an assortment when a band has such a huge musical catalog. Of course, it is always great to hear the popular hits but refreshing to listen how the band has progressed over the years. They have evolved more than just catchy lyrics to a tighter production.

Holland took a moment to let everyone know how much the band loves playing at the Palladium--noticing how it looked like everyone in the audience knew the lyrics!

Greg K photo by Jessica Klausing

Greg K
photo by Jessica Klausing

The audience was a diverse mix of old and young punk fans. It was a satisfying experience seeing that the age barriers didn’t segregate fans from the show. There was no rivalry only a unification of fans singing their hearts out together. Its experiences like this that reminds me why I love attending concerts. Music is the universal love that connects us all no matter what walk of life we may come from.


After an hour of performing, the band had walked off stage until the audience chanted for “one more song”, which of course, the band was more than happy to oblige.
The band returned with an encore of “Want You Bad” and “Self Esteem” The songs ended the show on a high note prompting a little crowd surfing action.
 

Photo by Jessica Klausing  

Photo by Jessica Klausing
 


The Offspring has been praised for bringing punk rock and pop punk together. Despite being around for more than thirty years with most of their mainstream success in the 90s, these guys prove that they’ve still got what it takes to put on a damn good show!

SETLIST:
Bad Habit
All I Want
Come Out and Play
Coming for You
Hammerhead
Genocide
Have You Ever
Staring at the Sun
Nitro (Youth Energy)
You’re Gonna Go Far Kid
Gone Away
Gotta Get Away
Why Don’t You Get a Job?
Americana
(Can’t Get My) Head Around You
Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)
The Kids Aren't Alright

ENCORE:
Want You Bad
Self Esteem
 

Dum Dum Girls and SISU Bring Beauty and Heartbreak to The Roxy

Written by Jessica Klausing

Photo by Marytrini Garcia Hernandez

Photo by Marytrini Garcia Hernandez

Dum Dum Girls and SISU played to a sold out show at The Roxy on April 17th. I admit I went to the show not knowing either of the bands. As soon as the opening band, SISU took stage, I knew I was in for quite a psych rock journey.

SISU is a Finnish word that loosely translates to determination, bravery and resilience. I really couldn’t think of a better way to describe the beautiful styling of multi instrumentalist front woman, Sandra Vu.

Vu is an incredible musician. One minute she is blowing the doors down with an aggressive guitar solo, the next she is balancing the song’s softer side on the flute. She is also the drummer for the Dum Dum Girls on top of all that! SISU deals with a much darker complex than the Dum Dum Girls’ sound.

The band's aggressive yet graceful material attributes their debut album, Blood Tears. Blood Tears is the yin and yang between comfort and despair. A prime example would be one of my favorites, “Harpoons.” The song begins with Vu’s seductive vocals drawing the listener deeper into the sinister sound.

Dee Dee Penny soon took the stage in a skintight cat woman-esque suit. Penny’s sultry voice captivated the audience as the Dum Dum Girls opened with “Mine Tonight.”

 The stage was decked out with glowing flowers and a huge neon blue heart. The sweet smell of incense candles burning onstage filled the air that drew the audience into a psychedelic whirlwind of edgy punk music. A lot of people tend to compare the band’s sound to Morrissey or The Vivian Girls. The first thing that came to me was more of an early 90's, Roxette or The Cranberries vibe.

Dum Dum Girls played songs from all of their albums, I Will Be, Only in Dreams and their newest release,Too True. The new tracks still held true to the band’s gothic rock roots but with a bit more bubblegum.

From the upbeat, “He Gets Me High” to the tear jerker, “Rimbaud Eyes,” this was an emotional show not to miss. You can’t help but feel that these girls have had their hearts wrung through the wringer and left out to dry. The blend of Penny’s voice with the guitar chords forces you to really feel the heartbreak first hand. I couldn't have asked for a better first intimate show at the Roxy.


SETLIST:
Mine Tonight
I Got Nothing
Bedroom Eyes
Wake of You
I Will Be
He Gets Me High
Too True to Be Good
Are You Okay?
Rest of Our Lives
It Only Takes One Tonight
Under These Hands
Rimbaud Eyes
Lord Knows
Pale Saints
Coming Down