Moderat are back to mesmerizing their fans again following an extended hiatus as they demonstrate at The Wiltern

ModeratBy Josh Herwitt //

Moderat //
The Wiltern – Los Angeles
September 23rd, 2022 //

With the music industry still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic over the last two and a half years, it’s not hard to find a concert worth catching in LA at the moment. Artists and bands across every scene have been trying to make up for lost time, and those more specifically in the world of dance music have been no different.

But it’s not every day that you get to see a top-notch electronic act perform live inside one of the city’s most historic music venues on a Friday night.

And in the case of Moderat, it took the German supergroup consisting of Sascha Ring (aka Apparat) and Modeselektor members Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary more than six years to release their fourth studio album More D4ta as the follow-up to 2016’s phenomenal III. While that remains Moderat’s largest gap between full-length efforts, they haven’t forgotten how to captivate their audiences after going on an extended hiatus.

The Berlin-based three-piece was greeted by a strong turnout at The Wiltern for its first LA show since 2017 when Ring, Bronsert and Szary played The Mayan (read our show review here) in between what many fans have considered to be two career-defining performances at Coachella — and we truly can’t disagree with that assessment from what we saw during Weekend 1 (read our festival review here).

After all, there aren’t a whole lot of electronic-leaning acts out there who are doing anything like what Moderat does when it comes to their approach and sound as they fuse electronic beats and textures behind live vocals — led by Ring with Bronsert and Szary assisting — and instrumentation.

Moderat

Caribou would be another one that comes to mind after witnessing the Grammy nominee’s gig at LA’s Greek Theatre last November (read our show review here), but unlike Moderat, Dan Snaith has had a knack for mixing 70’s funk and soul as well as 90’s hip-hop and R&B into his music over the years.

While you won’t hear any of those genres on More D4ta that Moderat put out in May via Modeselektor’s own Monkeytown Records, there are some similarly hypnotic moments throughout the 10-track LP. Just take new singles “Fast Land” and “Easy Prey” for instance, the latter of which surprisingly wasn’t on the group’s LA setlist despite being performed in Oakland the evening prior along with its 2014 remix of Jon Hopkins’ “Abandon Window” (yeah, I guess you could say we’re jealous about that).

Regardless of whatever songs we didn’t to get hear before Ring, Bronsert and Szary headed south to CRSSD Festival, there was plenty to enjoy. From the opening lines of “Reminder” to the mesmerizing audio-visual experience of “Bad Kingdom” that entrances us every time, Moderat had a packed crowd hanging on every word that Ring delivered by the time they ran through an encore that concluded with “Les Grandes Marches” and “No. 22” off their 2009 self-titled debut from what feels like ages ago.

There also aren’t many acts, electronic or not, that will come back out for a second encore. Moderat are built a little bit differently in that way though, and based on the applause they were showered with at The Wiltern, it wasn’t completely shocking to watch them return to the stage one last time and drop “Intruder” for those screaming “one more song!” at the top of their lungs.

Because after waiting five-plus years to tour the world again, can you really blame them?

Setlist:
Reminder
More Love
Animal Trails
Undo Redo
Doom Hype
Rusty Nails
Eating Hooks
Running
Neon Rats
Bad Kingdom
Ghostmother
A New Error

Encore #1:
Fast Land
Les Grandes Marches
No. 22

Encore #2:
Intruder

Primavera Sound LA 2022: The best & worst of the Barcelona music festival’s inaugural edition on U.S. soil

Primavera Sound LA 2022Photos by Josh Herwitt & courtesy of Primavera Sound LA // Written by Josh Herwitt //

Primavera Sound LA //
LA State Historic Park – Los Angeles
September 16th-18th, 2022 //

It’s no secret that Primavera Sound has had its sights set on Los Angeles for quite some time now. The Barcelona music festival that has been going strong for two decades expanded to Porto in 2012 and will finally stamp its brand on four more cities in 2022 after a two-year delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

LA is the first of those four cities, but with the festival’s other three new locations — São Paulo, Buenos Aires and Santiago — all launching in South America later this year, LA State Historic Park also served as Primavera Sound’s inaugural event in the states.

Spreading four stages across the 32-acre park that remains one of the best spots in the city to host a music festival before and after three years of renovations, PSLA welcomed a wealth of talent from the top line to the bottom. Lorde, Nine Inch Nails and Arctic Monkeys each delivered headline-worthy sets while an indie-leaning undercard highlighted by BICEP (Live), Cigarettes After Sex, Clairo, DARKSIDE, Drain Gang, Fontaines D.C., Girl in Red, GIVĒON, James Blake, King Krule, Khruangbin and Mitski all drew big crowds over the course of three days. In a lot of ways, PSLA fills a much-needed void after the sudden and disheartening end to FYF Fest, which would tout itself as the “best weekend of summer” for many live music fans and was one of our favorite multi-day festivals to cover (read more here).

Any time a new music festival launches though, there are always highs and lows. So without further ado, here are our best and worst moments from Primavera Sound’s first installment on U.S. soil:


Primavera Sound LA 2022

Best: The weather

After LA experienced its worst heat wave of the year earlier this month with temperatures reaching triple digits, the weather luckily cooled down just in time for PSLA. For many of us, a second layer of clothing wasn’t ever necessary from Friday afternoon to Sunday evening. After all, how often does that happen? With great music lined up throughout the day and a forecast hovering in the mid to high 70’s, it truly felt like a quintessential summer weekend in LA.

Primavera Sound LA 2022

Worst: Will Call line

When we arrived at the festival on Friday afternoon, the line at the box office quickly stood out. In fact, it was so long that we knew the wait would be at least an hour for those trying to pick up their passes, only to discover later via Twitter it was even longer for many even at 6 p.m. These are the kind of issues any first-year music festival hopes to avoid and can ultimately prepare for, but when you change your ticket delivery method to in-person on short notice after previously telling fans it would be done electronically, it’s no surprise that you end up pissing off some of your customers.

Primavera Sound LA 2022 - Lorde

Best: Lorde

The 25-year-old singer-songwriter has been making the rounds this year on an extensive world tour in support of 2021’s Solar Power, and there’s no question that her entire stage design and production was impressive to witness. Ahead of festival stops at Life Is Beautiful and Rifflandia over the same weekend, Lorde arrived onstage via a rotating staircase with some of her backing band and ran through 15 songs — from her 2013 debut single “Royals” to Melodrama hits like “Perfect Places” and “Green Light” — as PSLA’s first headliner. We wouldn’t necessarily call ourselves big fans, but we definitely understand why she was deserving of top billing.

Primavera Sound LA 2022

Worst: Food & drink

We will eventually get to the limited viewing space that under-21 guests were offered, but even if you wanted to drink at PSLA, the options were simply not good. This was certainly not the place for craft beer enthusiasts, as your choices were Heineken or the low-calorie Tecate Alta that tasted mostly like beer-flavored water for $12 each. Not only would it be nice to have seen local breweries — there are two excellent ones located across the street from the festival’s entrance — featured, but in a city such as LA with a food-and-drink scene that’s one of the best in the country, partnering with major beer and liquor brands along with a handful of Smorgasburg LA restaurants doesn’t exactly cut it anymore. The only food stall in one of the VIP areas selling “California style” Philly cheeseteaks made us think about how much Goldenvoice has elevated its game in this respect, with top-notch local options at Just Like Heaven (read our festival review here) from Goldburger to Homage Brewing standing out as examples most recently in May.

Primavera Sound LA 2022 - Khruangbin

Best: Khruangbin

The Houston three-piece that has made 70’s Thai funk sound cool again has been one of the hottest acts to tour over the past five years, as evidenced by their three sold-out shows at LA’s Greek Theatre last November. While most might have come Saturday to see Nine Inch Nails, it was K-bin who would steal the show before Trent Reznor and company ever played a note. Those who made it to the main stage for sunset were treated to an hour of grooves, as Mark Speer (guitar, vocals), Laura Lee (bass, vocals) and Donald Johnson (drums, vocals) hypnotized us with fan favorites “María También” and “So We Won’t Forget” before diving into a melody of covers that embraced a wide array of artists, from MF DOOM, The Isley Brothers, Tina Turner and Chris Isaak to 90’s hip-hop legends A Tribe Called Quest, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Warren G and Dr. Dre.

Primavera Sound LA 2022

Worst: Art installations

Sometimes it can be easy to forget how spoiled we are in California when it comes to all of the music festivals we have. Not only do many of our best and brightest such as Coachella, Outside Lands and Lightning in a Bottle showcase a wide range of musical genres, but they also feature their own unique art installations that continue to push the envelope. In the case of Primavera Sound, let’s just say that’s not its M.O. While we can’t fault the festival for keeping the focus strictly on the music, LA State Historic Park did seem to lack some color aesthetically. That said, there were a couple of highlights off the stage, including the vinyl market that was curated by KCRW and Beat Swap Meets as well as the FLATSTOCK poster show series making its only West Coast stop of the year and featuring locals like Kii Arens of La-La Land Prints.

Primavera Sound LA 2022

Best: Signs, sightlines & sound

With the Primavera Sound brand being all about the music, our eyes were mostly focused on the artists performing. Nevertheless, the signs, sightlines and sound at PSLA were all on point. The downtown LA skyline served as a fitting backdrop like it usually does at LASHP, and despite poor audio issues playing a role at outdoor music festivals, we didn’t experience any while we were on the ground so kudos to the organizers for locking that down. If anything, the decibels across the fest’s four stages were so high that we found ourselves needing ear protection most of the weekend.

Primavera Sound LA 2022 - Nine Inch Nails

Worst: Short headliner sets

After Primavera Sound LA unveiled the lineup for its debut this year, we presumed all three headliners would receive at least 90 minutes each day. So when the set times dropped more than a couple weeks in advance, it was a bit of a shock seeing only 75 minutes designated for each of them. A Hall of Fame band like Nine Inch Nails has more than 10 studio albums and several EPs in its catalog but were only granted enough time to crank out 16 songs, many of which have been setlist staples for years up to this point. Though NIN classics like “Wish”, “March of the Pigs”, “Closer”, “Gave Up” and “Head Like a Hole” are never tracks to lack energy live, we’re happy we caught their sold-out gig at the Santa Barbara Bowl (read our show review here) four days earlier for the chance to hear a cover of David Bowie’s “I’m Afraid of Americans” and multiple other deep cuts.

Primavera Sound LA 2022 - Arctic Monkeys

Best: Arctic Monkeys

It was clear when we showed up for PSLA’s final day that the attendance felt bigger than the day prior. Although that seemed a little odd considering it was Sunday and not Saturday, it was a testament to the fan base Arctic Monkeys have built at the 20-year mark. The English rockers haven’t toured since 2018’s Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, and with their forthcoming seventh LP The Car slated to come out next month, frontman Alex Turner and his bandmates gave us a taste with the disco funk that they’ve cooked up on “I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am” midway through their headlining performance. And even though we didn’t hear lead single “There’d Better Be a Mirrorball” despite it being the only track that they have officially released so far, there were plenty of other thrilling moments for us to remember in between the opening notes of “Do I Wanna Know?” and the closing “R U Mine?” to end the night. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait too long before there’s a return date to California after the new album drops.

Primavera Sound LA 2022

Worst: Under-21 viewing areas

Most of PSLA’s guests are of legal drinking age, and with the festival boasting a number of alcohol-related sponsors that included Cuervo and Smirnoff, it certainly caters to the over-21 crowd. But for those who weren’t, the viewing areas at the Primavera and Tecate Alta stages were less than ideal. Besides the allotted space being too small and positioned off to the side, underage guests were only informed 10 days in advance. If you’re not 21 yet, make sure to temper your expectations — or we’d recommend waiting until you are before attending.


Primavera Sound LA photographers featured: Nicolita Bradley, Lindsey Byrnes, Pooneh Ghana, Miranda McDonald, Ismael Quintanilla III & Quinn Tucker.

New music or not, Nine Inch Nails are still commanding sold-out crowds at the Santa Barbara Bowl & beyond in 2022

Nine Inch NailsBy Josh Herwitt //

Nine Inch Nails with Yves Tumor //
Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA
September 13th, 2022 //

If there was ever a time in his long and illustrious career when Trent Reznor had seemingly little left to prove, it would be now.

After all, the 57-year-old Nine Inch Nails mastermind who formed the project more than three decades ago while working as an assistant engineer and janitor at Right Track Studios in Cleveland has racked up nearly every accolade for his music, from Grammys and Oscars to Emmys and even a CMA Award, with only a Tony standing in his way of EGOT status.

But aside from the latest two installments of the soundtrack-oriented Ghosts at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has already been a few years since NIN released new material after the six-track Bad Witch arrived in 2018 and the now-Hall of Fame band embarked upon its “Cold and Black and Infinite” tour across North America that concluded with Reznor and company playing a whopping six nights at the Hollywood Palladium with anything in the NIN catalog on the table thanks to a more stripped-down stage production of mostly smoke and lights the industrial-rock act is still currently showcasing.

So when NIN announced in February a limited number of dates for 2022, there was a sense among fans — or at least this one right here — that new music would be imminent at some point this year. Reznor, in fact, had actually hinted at the 2021 Academy Awards that there was more to come from NIN, though we have yet to hear any since then.

Nine Inch Nails

That certainly hasn’t mattered when it comes to NIN’s ticket sales, however. Outside of a few festival appearances that includes a headlining performance at Primavera Sound LA this Saturday, just about every show this year has been sold out and things were no different on Tuesday when Reznor’s outfit returned to the Santa Barbara Bowl for the first time since 2009.

The 4,562-seat amphitheater continues to be one of our favorite places in California — if not the entire country — to catch a concert, and despite the coastal city’s music scene being a bit more laidback than LA’s, you wouldn’t have known it by the time NIN stormed onstage shortly after Yves Tumor wrapped up his opening set.

With the outdoor venue’s strict 10 p.m. curfew always at play, there was no time to spare for Reznor, Atticus Ross, Robin Finck, Alessandro Cortini and Ilan Rubin, and the five-piece made the most of its one-hour, 45-minute gig with deep cuts like “Last” and “Heresy” preceding setlist staples that featured “March of the Pigs”, “Piggy” and “Closer” from The Downward Spiral as well as “The Perfect Drug”, the 1997 cut on the “Lost Highway” soundtrack that only made its live debut in 2018 but has already been played 30 more times thanks to Rubin’s thunderous ambidexterity on the drum kit.

Of course, we would be remiss to not also mention the high energy of “Reptile” and a groovy cover of David Bowie’s haunting single “I’m Afraid of Americans” as other highlights before being punched in the mouth by the trifecta of “Gave Up”, “The Hand That Feeds” and “Head Like a Hole” leading into a brief encore break. Yet, it was the penultimate “Even Deeper” off The Fragile that truly put us on cloud nine for the rest of the evening and reminded us that with or without new songs, we’re all lucky to still have NIN filling our earholes after wondering eight years ago if we would ever see them perform live again.

NINE INCH NAILS

Setlist:
Mr. Self Destruct
Wish
Last
March of the Pigs
Piggy
The Lovers
The Frail
The Wretched
Reptile
God Break Down the Door
Copy of A
Closer (with “The Only Time” breakdown)
This Isn’t the Place
Heresy
The Perfect Drug
I’m Afraid of Americans (David Bowie cover)
Gave Up
The Hand That Feeds
Head Like a Hole

Encore:
Even Deeper (preceded by band introductions)
Hurt

YVES TUMOR

Setlist:
Jackie
Gospel for a New Century
Medicine Burn
Operator (with “Be Aggressive” chant)
Cntra
Kerosene!
Romanticist
Dream Palette
Mtora
…And Loyalty Is a Nuisance Child
Secrecy Is Incredibly Important to the Both of Them

BeachLife Festival goes ‘California Country’ as The Lumineers, Dierks Bentley, Brandi Carlile & more headline inaugural BeachLife Ranch

BeachLife Ranch - 2022 lineup

BeachLife Festival //
Seaside Lagoon – Redondo Beach, CA
September 16th-18th, 2022 //

Who here has heard of “California Country” before?

Well … if you haven’t or aren’t the biggest fan of country music, BeachLife Festival is here to introduce to a new way of thinking about the genre. The three-day music festival, which put together an excellent 2022 lineup for its third edition in May, is trying its hand at something different this weekend as it fuses country- and Americana-leaning acts to create BeachLife Ranch.

For their first go-around, the BeachLife organizers have enlisted The Lumineers, Dierks Bentley, Brandi Carlile, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Ashley McBryde and Wilco to lead the inaugural event that will also call Redondo Beach’s Seaside Lagoon home. But that’s not all: the fest has also lined up a Waylon Jennings tribute featuring Shooter Jennings and special guests Yelawolf, Lukas Nelson, Devon Allman, John Doe, Chris Shiflett of Foo Fighters fame and more for Saturday’s festivities.

But if that’s not enough for you, the undercard for BeachLife Ranch’s debut certainly delivers its own array of stars between Waxahatchee, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Pete Yorn, The Infamous Stringdusters, Jamestown Revival, Greensky Bluegrass, The White Buffalo and Drive-By Truckers in only three days. You can check out the poster above for the rest of this year’s roster.

Itching to go now?

Tickets can still be purchased here, with three-day GA and GA+ passes available for $299 or $379, and VIP is available for $699 as well as single-day tickets for $139 (GA), $159 (GA+) and $319 (VIP). And if you’re really looking to throw down some cash, there’s always the three-day Admiral and Outlaw passes for $995 and $2,999, respectively, so saddle up and get ’em before it’s too late!

Ahead of their Red Rocks shows, My Morning Jacket are firing on all cylinders after rocking the Santa Barbara Bowl & Hollywood Forever

My Morning Jacket at Hollywood Forever CemeteryBy Josh Herwitt //

My Morning Jacket //
Santa Barbara Bowl & Hollywood Forever Cemetery – Santa Barbara & Los Angeles
August 16th & 17th, 2022 //

When My Morning Jacket made the “deeply painful” decision to cancel their three-night New Year’s run at the Mission Ballroom in Denver last year with the COVID-19 pandemic still wreaking havoc thanks to the rise of the omicron variant, it was a gut punch for the Louisville rockers and their most diehard fans, many of whom were traveling from out of state to see them.

But more than six weeks later, the five-piece would announce its 2022 tour encompassing 33 dates with most of the venues booked, not surprisingly, being at outdoor amphitheaters and/or open spaces with a lawn. Keeping everyone’s safety in mind has always been the band’s priority first and foremost, and with the spring and summer bringing us the warmest months of the year, there was no way MMJ were going to further risk experiencing any cancellations during what we’ve dubbed as “outdoor concert season.”

And yet even with all the precautions that had been taken by everyone, it still wasn’t enough to prevent more COVID misfortune when frontman Jim James tested positive in June, just a day before the band’s two hometown shows — its first in six years — were scheduled to take place. While the news had MMJ fans once again feeling bummed about the state of live music after the last two-plus years, James (lead vocals, guitar) and his bandmates in Tom Blankenship (bass), Patrick Hallahan (drums, percussion), Bo Koster (keyboards, percussion, backing vocals) and Carl Broemel (guitar, pedal steel guitar, saxophone, backing vocals) have certainly put that behind them now after taking more than a month off from touring during July and part of August.

Believe it or not, MMJ in many ways sound better than they ever have after witnessing two of their three performances in California, starting with a return to the Santa Barbara Bowl last Tuesday only 11 months after their last visit (read our show review here) and continuing the following night in LA among the many celebrities now deceased — even “Toto” from the “Wizard of Oz” — at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

James, for one, has always sounded great at the mic and with a guitar in his hands, but he’s also never looked more at ease onstage despite his recent bout with the virus, shedding the big pair of sunglasses he once donned (as you can see here) for the naked eye — a clear sign that MMJ’s primary songwriter isn’t hiding from us if he ever was trying to previously.

My Morning Jacket at Santa Barbara Bowl

Arriving in Santa Barbara two days after making a stop at Frost Amphitheater on the campus of Stanford University, the clock hit 7:30 p.m. and MMJ went to work, diving straight into their self-titled LP that came out last October with “Never in the Real World”. James and company didn’t wait long at all to turn up the volume, however, with “Lay Low” subsequently sending the crowd into a frenzy early on. The six-minute track off 2005’s seminal Z has always been a personal favorite of mine to hear live and would quickly set the tone for the rest of the evening.

For a band that has always put an emphasis on mixing up its setlists and will rarely perform songs in the same order though, it was a couple of cuts on its debut album The Tennessee Fire that were surprising to hear midway through its standard 2 1/2-hour set. In fact, it was the first time this year — and just the fifth over the last five years — that MMJ have played “I Will Be There When You Die” while the acoustic “If All Else Fails” has been heard on solely a handful of occasions so far in 2022.

While other highlights in Santa Barbara included an extended version of “Steam Engine” with Broemel trading his axe for the sax at one point and just the third time “I Never Could Get Enough” has made it onto a setlist, it was the Hollywood show that grabbed more of the MMJ fanbase’s attention. Of course, the heightened interest around it was somewhat understandable considering that it’s not every day you get to catch a concert inside a cemetery, let alone one where rock icons like Johnny Ramone and Chris Cornell are buried, but the setting was, at most, half the story on The Fairbanks Lawn as day eventually turned to night.

Breathing life into “What a Wonderful Man” and James’ own “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.)” for only the second time this year and first since the jam-adjacent group’s three-day “One Big Holiday” destination event back in March, we had hoped that MMJ would be setting up for a special finish down the stretch and that’s exactly what they gifted us with a 17-minute “Dondante” that conjured up some major disco vibes. With the Z finale serving as one of several tunes MMJ has been known to stretch out when they perform live, it felt rather fitting to hear what James wrote after the passing of his late bandmate Aaron Todovich while being surrounded by a bunch of tombstones.

Even though MMJ had more music lined up for us before hitting the road for New Mexico, that was all many of us needed to hear to be satisfied. After waiting almost a decade for another “Dondante” in LA since their epic, three-night run at The Wiltern, everything else that ensued — from the one-two punch of “Wasted” and “Dancefloors” to a more abbreviated encore featuring “Wordless Chorus” and “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2” that ended things on a spooky note — was gravy. After