My Morning Jacket spotlight the long-awaited return of live music to SoCal with a powerful performance at the Santa Barbara Bowl

My Morning Jacket (Jim James) at Santa Barbara BowlBy Josh Herwitt //

My Morning Jacket with Durand Jones & The Indications //
Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA
September 23rd, 2021 //

The past 18 months have been hard to say the least. No matter how you’re feeling at this moment in time, the COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably created additional issues and stressors for many folks while also taking away some of the things we enjoy most about life.

And for those of us who love live music, its absence has been quite a blow to the psyche.

If anything, being locked down at home for more than a year has only made us long for the thrill of watching an artist or band command an audience’s attention and completely mesmerize its fans.

Yet with so much uncertainty still in the world, it’s almost surreal to think that concerts have finally made their return. Yes, you’ll need to offer proof of your COVID-19 vaccination status or a negative test within 48-72 hours, but it sure beats tuning into another livestream from your couch.

So when My Morning Jacket announced a 23-date jaunt across the U.S. for the second half of 2021 that included a stop at the always-exquisite Santa Barbara Bowl where we caught them nearly six years ago (read our review here), I knew that was one show I couldn’t miss and boy, am I glad that I didn’t.

My Morning Jacket - Santa Barbara Bowl

The Louisville-bred rockers are back on the road touring in support of their forthcoming self-titled LP — and ninth studio album — this October after releasing The Waterfall II in 2020, and they wasted no time reminding us of that fact by beginning with its first single “Regularly Scheduled Programming” to follow what was an upbeat and soulful opening set from Durand Jones & The Indications.

But this headlining performance on the second day of the fall season was as much about the quintet’s new material, including the slow burn of “In Color” for our very first listen of the My Morning Jacket cut, as it was a golden — pun intended since the It Still Moves track by the same name made it onto the setlist this night — opportunity for Jim James (lead vocals, guitar), Tom Blankenship (bass), Patrick Hallahan (drums, percussion), Bo Koster (keyboards, percussion, backing vocals) and Carl Broemel (guitar, pedal steel guitar, saxophone, backing vocals) to put their expansive catalog on display.

MMJ, after all, gifted us not only both parts of “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream” but also hair-raising renditions of “Lay Low”, “One Big Holiday”, “It Beats 4 U”, Spring (Among the Living) and “Anytime” while James belted out the lyrics to songs like “Wordless Chorus” (with the disco ball in full effect), “Circuital” and “Feel You” that reaffirmed why he has had one of the best voices in rock, if not all of music, for more than two decades now.

When it came time for the encore though, James and company once again delivered the goods to a crowded amphitheater that was already brimming with excitement. Starting with fan favorite “Victory Dance” before transitioning into “Off the Record” from their seminal record Z, they offered “Where to Begin” on the “Elizabethtown” soundtrack for the first time since 2015. Nonetheless, that brief respite was quickly countered with a final rush of blood to the head that featured “Wasted”, “Run Thru” and “Dancefloors” as the clock struck 10 p.m. to mark the Bowl’s early curfew time.

Cruising back down U.S. 101 to Los Angeles later that evening, I reflected on the last year without live music and how rough it has been to not see some of my favorite acts in the flesh. But after witnessing more than two hours of pure sonic bliss at one of the best venues along the West Coast, I am beyond grateful that there’s MMJ to welcome us all home again.

Setlist:
Regularly Scheduled Programming
Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 1
Wordless Chorus
Circuital
Lay Low
I’m Amazed (Jim and Carl solo, then full band)
Evil Urges
Golden
Feel You
Climbing the Ladder
One Big Holiday
In Color
It Beats 4 U
Love Love Love
Spring (Among the Living) (>)
Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2
Anytime

Encore:
Victory Dance
Off the Record
Where to Begin (last played 11/25/2015)
Wasted (>)
Run Thru (End>)
Dancefloors

The prolific, often unpredictable King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard turn heavy at LA’s Greek Theatre

King Gizzard & The Lizard WizardBy Josh Herwitt //

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard with Stonefield, ORB //
Greek Theatre – Los Angeles
August 13th, 2019 //

Are King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard the most prolific and unpredictable band in all of rock?

If they aren’t, they’re certainly making a convincing case for that crown right now.

The Australian septet that’s made up of Stu Mackenzie (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, flute), Ambrose Kenny-Smith (vocals, harmonica, keyboards), Cook Craig (guitar, bass, vocals), Joey Walker (guitar, bass, keyboards, vocals), Lucas Skinner (bass, keyboards), Michael Cavanagh (drums, percussion) and Eric Moore (drums, percussion, management) have put out 15 studio albums, including five in 2017, and two EPs since forming almost a decade ago while shifting styles and genres with each one. It’s in part why they have harvested one of the strongest and fastest-growing cult followings out there today as more new fans jump on the bandwagon (no pun intended) like yours truly.

In fact, just last year, a sold-out crowd packed the 5,000-person Hollywood Palladium to see the Gizz on a Thursday night, affirming that these guys’ popularity is no joke even if you feel compelled to laugh at their name (a colleague, who was unfamiliar, did when I brought them up recently during one of our conversations about music).

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

Fast forward more than a year later to now, and King Gizzard’s popularity has only continued to rise, with their latest date in LA at the historic, 5,870-seat Greek Theatre serving as another example of how far they’ve come since their early days in Melbourne. Also on the bill for this North American tour opener were their fellow countrymen and women in ORB and Stonefield respectively, and with both supporting acts leaning in the direction of psychedelic rock upon first listen, the table was set quite nicely for Mackenzie and company to showcase their most recent sonic foray into the world of none other than thrash metal.

Yep, that’s right. You know, like, Metallica pre-1990?

Of course, with the arrival of Infest the Rats’ Nest just a couple of days away, I was prepared to have my ears pummeled while hearing a good portion of the nine-track LP that sees the group diving even deeper into heavy metal than it ever has before. This is what KG&TLW do, though. There simply are no boundaries or formulas when it comes to their songwriting. Sure, most of their albums fall under the general “psych rock” label, but 2015’s Quarters!, for instance, was inspired by jazz fusion and prog rock, and their third LP from 2017, Sketches of Brunswick East (with Mild High Club), was also rooted predominantly in jazz. So far this year, they’ve already taken their shot at the blues with the release of Fishing for Fishies and now they’ve unleashed their new doom-filled effort. Because after jazz and the blues, what could be a more respected musical genre than heavy metal?

All jokes aside, as these Aussie weirdos continue to explore other creative avenues, catching a King Gizzard show remains a fairly unique experience in its own right. You can usually expect at least one mosh pit, if not more, to form, but with the Greek only having a small floor area at the front of the stage, the lively audience that showed up on a Tuesday night could only get so rowdy with most of it resigned to the venue’s seated sections. That, however, didn’t stop these mates from delivering the goods. Over the course of a 90-minute set, they touched upon seven of their 15 albums, including opening and closing with three straight tracks off Infest the Rats’ Nest. There was “People-Vultures” from 2016’s Nonagon Infinity, plus a version of “Wah Wah” that featured a snippet of “The River” at the performance’s midway point. I’m actually a little surprised that they didn’t throw us a couple of curveballs before saying goodbye to be honest, because for as prolific and unpredictable as they’ve become lately, King Gizzard might be one of the most versatile rock bands on Planet Earth, too.

Setlist:
Self-Immolate
Mars for the Rich
Venusian 2
Inner Cell
Loyalty
Horology
People-Vultures (tour debut)
Alter Me III
Altered Beast IV
The River
Wah Wah (with “The River” snippet)
Road Train
This Thing
Beginner’s Luck
The Bird Song
Acarine
Murder of the Universe
Boogieman Sam
Cyboogie
Planet B
Perihelion
Hell

*Editor’s Note: “Venusian 1” and “Organ Farmer” were originally listed on the setlist after “Hell” but were not played.

FKJ is a one-man, groove-making machine who’s full of surprises as he demonstrates at Shrine Expo Hall

French Kiwi JuiceBy Josh Herwitt //

FKJ with (((O))) //
Shrine Expo Hall – Los Angeles
August 5th, 2019 //

I’ll be completely honest: I had no idea who FKJ was before this year. In fact, I had no clue who he was six months ago.

I found out about Vincent Fenton, better known by most fans as French Kiwi Juice, while watching Coachella’s Weekend 1 webcast on my couch back in April. It was there on that Saturday afternoon where I came to see how talented the French musician actually is.

Originally from the city of Tours, the multi-instrumentalist and singer is considered to be a pioneer of the New French House movement, having garnered a strong following in a short amount of time thanks to his live show that sees him incorporate live loopings through the software sequencing program Ableton while holding his own on a number of instruments, including synthesizer, piano, guitar, bass, saxophone and digital percussion.

But with 2017’s self-titled LP serving as FKJ’s only studio album to date, we weren’t sure how long Fenton would be able to entertain the sizable crowd in LA that showed up on a Monday night and braved the sauna-like conditions inside the Shrine Expo Hall. The set times, from what we were given, indicated that he was scheduled to play for 90 minutes, yet the 28-year-old must have had other ideas either before or once he took the stage.

FKJ

It’s rare to see an artist these days blow past their scheduled out time, especially on a Monday evening. In the City of Angels though, you never know what you’re going to get at a concert on any given night of the week. That’s what makes it one of the best cities in the U.S. to catch live music (we see you Austin, Nashville and New Orleans, too).

And just like we didn’t know that FKJ would go more than 20 minutes long, his snippet of “Xxplosive” from Dr. Dre’s legendary album 2001 around the performance’s midway point also came as a pleasant surprise. Sure, it would have been extra sweet to see the one-man, groove-making machine drop a few bars of “California Love” on us as well, but those who were there showed plenty of enthusiasm when Venton’s wife June Marieezy, who performs under the moniker (((O))) and served as the show’s opening act, came out to sing on their “Vibin’ Out” collaboration.

Covers and guest appearances aside, what’s almost as impressive about FKJ as his mastery of so many instruments are his improvisation skills onstage. Fenton, who went to film school as a way to study sound engineering for free, doesn’t stick strictly to a script like most electronic musicians, even those who play instruments instead of just pushing buttons. That’s probably why the show extended past 11 p.m. with FKJ performing almost two hours of material, much of which bordered at times on nu jazz, alt-R&B and naturally, French house.

2019 has already been a banner year for Venton in several ways. Besides making his debut at Coachella less than four months ago, he partnered with livestream media company Cercle to release this jaw-dropping live video that sees him performing on the world’s largest salt flat. Plus, he married Marieezy in March after previously working with the Filipino songstress. So with Marieezy by his side and fan bases in both Europe and North America now solidified, it appears that FKJ is ready to share his one-of-a-kind live show with the rest of the world.

Because for those who still haven’t heard of him yet, they certainly will soon.

The Raconteurs show all at the Santa Barbara Bowl why we need them after 11 years between albums

The RaconteursPhotos courtesy of The Raconteurs & David James Swanson // Written by Josh Herwitt //

The Raconteurs with Melvins //
Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA
July 27th, 2019 //

“Rock is dead.”

It’s one of those overused catch phrases we have clung to at a time when clickbait headlines, Twitter beefs and heartbreaking stories now dominate our news feeds and timelines.

Vice’s music channel Noisey made the case only a year ago in fact, explaining that “the genre has been eclipsed in all measures of popularity and profitability by pop, hip-hop, and EDM.”

But whatever the metrics say, this isn’t the first time that argument has been advanced before.

The Raconteurs

In Cameron Crowe’s 2000 film “Almost Famous” for those who remember it, renowned music journalist and rock critic Lester Bangs tells a 15-year-old William Miller, “It’s just a shame you missed out on rock and roll.” That didn’t stop Miller from chasing his dream, though. After all, his character is based off of Crowe’s real-life experience covering rock bands like Led Zeppelin as a teenager in the early 70’s, and if anything, Miller proves over the course of the movie that the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll is alive and well, that it hadn’t died by the end of the 60’s like a lot of the counterculture had after Altamont.

Much like then, there are plenty of examples today that make us question the current zeitgeist surrounding rock music and The Raconteurs have the distinct honor of being some of the best in the business right now to dispel this notion after landing at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

With the release of its third studio effort Help Us Stranger in late June after more than 11 years between albums, the four-piece consisting of Jack White (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Brendan Benson (vocals, guitar), Jack Lawrence (bass) and Patrick Keeler (drums) is finally back in the spotlight where it belongs — and for good reason.

While there are still a few months to go, we can say with confidence at this point that Help Us Stranger will most likely be one of our five favorite LPs from 2019 (see our 2018 picks here). At 41 minutes, it’s another gem from The Raconteurs and especially for White, who continues to put out music at a prolific rate — he just dropped his third solo LP Boarding House Reach last year on his own Third Man Records — that rarely seems to fall flat or short.

The Raconteurs

Led by “Sunday Driver” and “Now That You’re Gone” as its first two singles, Help Us Stranger is one of those albums you can pop on and listen to from start to finish. Its most abrasive cut “Don’t Bother Me” struggles at the onset but recovers midway through thanks in large part to White’s virtuosic guitar work. There are plenty of other standouts, though, including “Bored and Razed”, “Help Me Stranger”, “Somedays (I Don’t Feel Like Trying)” and “What’s Yours Is Mine” across the record, and it’s impressive how tight The Racs sound despite the long layoff.

On a Saturday night at the picturesque Santa Barbara Bowl — which we’ll argue is the best music venue in Southern California and where we caught White’s first-ever show there last year — The Raconteurs brought those songs to life as they stormed onstage and unleashed total sonic bliss on our ears with a 90-minute performance highlighted by Consolers of the Lonely tracks “You Don’t Understand Me” and “Carolina Drama”, the latter of which came during an extended encore that was capped off by the quartet’s biggest hit “Steady, as She Goes” and what ultimately inspired White and Benson to form the group back in 2005 as a couple of longtime friends from Detroit. All of this, of course, without having access to our mobile phones after locking them in a Yondr pouch and Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age, The Dead Weather) assisting on keyboards and guitar as a touring member.

So hey, maybe this will be the year rock rebounds. For this music writer, it’s starting to feel that way with the return of new Raconteurs material after more than a decade and another one of our favorite rock bands releasing its first album in 13 years later this month (we’ll let you take a guess). Plus, we didn’t even mention that garage-rock duo The Black Keys issued their first record in five years this summer.

Yet, even if rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t attain the same commercial success it once had, those of us who are still giving it our time and ears at least have The Raconteurs (or “The Saboteurs” if you live Down Under). And that, my friends, should be a blessing in and of itself.

Setlist:
Bored and Razed
Level
You Don’t Understand Me
Old Enough
Broken Boy Soldier
Only Child
Together
Now That You’re Gone
Live a Lie
Don’t Bother Me
Sunday Driver

Encore:
Consoler of the Lonely
Help Me Stranger
Somedays (I Don’t Feel Like Trying)
Hey Gyp (Dig the Slowness) (Donovan cover)
Carolina Drama
Steady, as She Goes

In times when we need it most, COMMON continues to spread worldwide love at Apogee Studio

COMMONPhotos by Brian Lowe // Written by Josh Herwitt //

COMMON //
Apogee Studio – Santa Monica, CA
July 25th, 2019 //

There’s something about the way Lonnie Corant Jaman Shuka Rashid Lynn looks at the world that can give even the biggest cynic a slight glimmer of hope. It’s not just the sense of wonder, but a tranquility in his eyes that makes you contemplate what he’s thinking about amid all of the chaos and daily distractions we have created for ourselves.

Most people know Lynn as COMMON, the Grammy-winning rapper who got his start back in the early 90’s and has since collaborated with everyone from Lauryn Hill to Kanye West, but he’s simply much more than that. An Oscar and Golden Globe winner, the Chicago native is also an actor, writer, filmmaker, model, activist, philanthropist and entrepreneur. First and foremost though, he’s a lover at heart.

For COMMON fans or those who have at least seen him perform live before, this is probably nothing new. Yet, it couldn’t have been more evident than during his private show in Santa Monica last Thursday for KCRW’s Apogee Sessions while currently on tour in support of his 12th studio album Let Love, which drops August 30th. So much so, that at one point during the performance, he rather spontaneously invited a female audience member onstage and serenaded her with a couple of songs. And while it made for a few awkward moments, you could tell that COMMON had the best intentions. Sure, Cynthia felt more than a little out of place up there with embarrassment written all over her face, but she’ll certainly remember those 15 minutes for the rest of her life now while others can see and hear it for themselves when the session premieres Friday, August 23rd on KCRW.

COMMON & Anthony Valadez


COMMON & KCRW DJ Anthony Valadez (right)

That’s what COMMON does — he spreads love to each and every person his music reaches. As KCRW DJ Anthony Valadez pointed out during his sit-down interview with the emcee midway through the evening, COMMON has lots of songs about love, and you could quickly find more than enough evidence to assert that fact by looking at the setlist alone. Of the seven tracks he showcased off Let Love, five had the word “love” in its title, starting with “Show Me That You Love” that opened his set. The album, which is inspired by COMMON’s new memoir “Let Love Have the Last Word”, remains a departure from the political deliberations that dominated his 2016 LP Black America Again and spawned out of our most recent U.S. presidential election. I don’t think we need to revisit that moment in history right now, so let me stick to the script.

When he returned to the stage with his full backing band, COMMON made sure to turn things up another notch with a cover of West’s “Get Em High” that had most in the small, yet vibrant crowd rapping and grooving along to the beat. After almost three decades in the game, the 47-year-old still knows how to command a room’s attention whether he’s debuting new material or falling back on some old favorites like “Go!” from 2005’s Be and “The Light” on 2000’s Like Water for Chocolate.

But on this night inside the 180-person Apogee Studio, COMMON’s overarching message to us stood clear: let love rule today and every day. And to that we say, “Amen, Lonnie … amen.”

Setlist:
Show Me That You Love
South Side
The Corner
The Food
Memories of Home
I Used to Love Her
Take It EZ
Her Love
Love of My Life
Come Close
The Day the Women Took Over
Fancy Free Future Love
Get Em High
Hercules
Go!
Good Morning Love
God Is Love
The Light

Jim James, The Claypool Lennon Delirium take us on a psych-rock roller coaster at The Wiltern

Jim James


Jim James

By Josh Herwitt //

Jim James & The Claypool Lennon Delirium with Uni //
The Wiltern – Los Angeles
July 3rd, 2019 //

Ever since he launched his solo career more than five years ago, Jim James has been trying to bring people closer together.

The frontman and primary songwriter of My Morning Jacket frequently preaches peace, love and equality on and off the stage, but at a time when technology continues to dominate our way of life and our political divides grow bigger by the day, unity has become a challenging proposition to achieve no matter how famous or popular you are — unless you’re Oprah.

It’s not for a lack of effort from James (born James Edward Olliges Jr.), though.

Claypool Lennon Delirium


Claypool Lennon Delirium

The Louisville native remains steadfast in his commitment to doing and saying the right things, whether it’s helping to get out the vote or raising awareness and funds around a number of important environmental, climate and humanitarian issues.

Because when James sings “No use waiting and wondering why / Better get together while we still got time” on his third solo album Uniform Distortion that dropped last year, it’s a message that many of us could learn from. After all, actions speak louder than words, and a songwriter with as much talent, insight and creativity as James certainly knows that.

Embarking on a 33-date North American tour that included festival stops at Shaky Knees and Bonnaroo in support of the 11-track LP, the 41-year-old multi-hyphenate was back in LA — the city he now calls home since moving there in 2016 — on the eve of Independence Day for only one night at the always-beautiful Wiltern. The last time we caught James in the City of Angels, he was headlining another historic SoCal venue just a few miles down Olympic Blvd. after the release of his second solo effort Eternally Even. And boy, was that a lot of fun at the Orpheum Theatre as celebrity fanboys like Christopher Mintz-Plasse (aka “McLovin” from the 2007 film “Superbad”) showed their appreciation for one of rock’s last remaining guitar heroes.

Jim James


Jim James

But things were a little different for this occasion, in large part because James would be billed as a co-headliner alongside his psychedelic counterparts in The Claypool Lennon Delirium for much of the tour. Even so, with Primus bassist and lead singer Les Claypool being a legend in his own right and guitarist/vocalist Sean Lennon conceived by a couple himself, we had quite the pairing for a Wednesday affair. Heck, the duo even covered Pink Floyd, King Crimson and The Beatles among cuts off 2016’s Monolith of Phobos and its stellar follow-up South of Reality that arrived in February. So if you like psych rock with an extra dose of weird, then these guys are probably for you.

That said, one could argue fairly easily that James’ songs are a bit more accessible than The CLD’s, and with that in mind, it wasn’t hard at all to understand why the man who has also put out music under the pseudonym Yim Yames assumed the closing duties for this tour. It became even more evident once James took the stage, shredding his way through tracks on Uniform Distortion like “Over and Over” and “You Get to Rome” before going to an acoustic guitar for “A New Life” from 2013’s Regions of Light and Sound of God. James would end up performing almost all of Uniform Distortion, but the real standouts of the show were in fact slightly altered versions of the Marvin Gaye-inspired “Here in Spirit” and the ever-haunting “Same Old Lie” to close what felt like a roller-coaster set full of peaks and valleys — and of course, plenty of screeches and squeals emanating from his Gibson ES-335, too.

James didn’t break for long before beginning a three-song encore with one from My Morning Jacket’s catalog in “I’m Amazed” and then dueting with Amo Amo’s Lovell Femme on “Of the Mother Again”. While it may have been somewhat predictable for him to offer us “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.)” as a parting gift, it wasn’t as if it came unwanted. If anything, it was a strong reminder of how powerful music can be as a unifying force and a gateway to a more positive and promising future, especially with someone like James serving as a guiding light.

JIM JAMES

Setlist:
Over and Over
You Get to Rome
A New Life
Out of Time
Just a Fool
Throwback
No Secrets
Here in Spirit
No Use Waiting
All in Your Head
The World’s Smiling Now
Yes to Everything
Same Old Lie

Encore:
I’m Amazed (My Morning Jacket song)
Of the Mother Again (with Amo Amo lead singer Lovell Femme)
State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.)

THE CLAYPOOL LENNON DELIRIUM

Setlist:
Astronomy Domine (Pink Floyd cover)
Blood and Rockets: Movement I, Saga of Jack Parsons / Movement II, Too the Moon
Little Fishes
Cricket and the Genie (Movement I, The Delirium)
Cricket and the Genie (Movement II, Oratorio Di Cricket)
South of Reality
The Court of the Crimson King (King Crimson cover)
Easily Charmed by Fools
Boomerang Baby
Breath of a Salesman
Cricket Chronicles Revisited: Part 1, Ask Your Doctor – Part 2, Psyde Effects
Tomorrow Never Knows (The Beatles cover)
Third Rock From the Sun

A sold-out crowd at Hollywood Palladium propels Local Natives to new heights in their hometown

Local NativesBy Zach Bourque //

Local Natives with Middle Kids //
Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles
June 22nd, 2019 //

Hometown indie heroes Local Natives packed the Hollywood Palladium to its capacity while on tour in support of their fourth studio album Violet Street. Selling out the venue is a pretty rare achievement that’s often reserved for more popular acts such as LCD Soundsystem and Nine Inch Nails, but low and behold, the local boys made it happen with Middle Kids on the bill as the evening’s opener.

A brand-name indie show on a weekend night normally draws a big crowd in LA, but this one proved to be even grander. By the time Local Natives took the stage around 10 p.m., there was nary a space to stand unless you were camping out through Middle Kids’ exceptional opening set. The Aussie rockers have been making a name for themselves on the festival circuit of late, and they did a fine job filling up the Palladium’s expansive floor. With Hannah Joy cementing the power trio’s sound on guitar and vocals, it was a performance that seemed to catch many spectators off guard. Middle Kids’ songs possess the perfect amount of 90’s nostalgia to keep things catchy while remaining unpretentious and accessible, so expect big things from them in the future.

Middle Kids


Middle Kids

Local Natives, subsequently, began with “Vogue” off Violet Street before cranking up the heat during fan favorite “Sun Hands” from their 2009 debut LP Gorilla Manor. Midway through the tune, Taylor Rice (vocals, guitar) launched himself into a sea of arms in what appeared to be a joyful exercise, which apparently didn’t bother the ecstatic crowd that was pressed up against the barricade. The harmonies didn’t stop with the quintet’s vocals either, as fans experienced a 21-song set that ebbed and flowed between old hits and new sounds with relative ease. Even more, material from all four Local Natives records coalesced into one fluid live experience that put the exceptional musicianship of Rice, Kelcey Ayer (vocals, keyboards, percussion, guitar), Ryan Hahn (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Matt Frazier (drums) and Nik Ewing (bass, keyboards, vocals) on full display.

The band’s subdued lighting setup let the music do the talking and echoed its simple formula for success. Sometimes three amazing vocalists singing in harmony is all that you need to sell out a 5,000-person theater. While Local Natives haven’t taken a whole lot of risks over the last decade, including on the 10-track Violet Street, they still know how to hit you right in the feels every time. Nonetheless, time will tell which room they can sell out next. Here goes nothing …

Setlist:
Vogue
Sun Hands
You & I (extended intro)
Shy
Ceilings
I Saw You Close Your Eyes
Coins
Megaton Mile
Someday Now
Heavy Feet
Past Lives
Fountain of Youth
Café Amarillo
Airplanes
Wide Eyes
Garden of Elysian
Dark Days
When Am I Gonna Lose You

Encore:
Gulf Shores
Tap Dancer
Who Knows, Who Cares

The Chemical Brothers give fans at Shrine Expo Hall the electronic show they desperately need in 2019

The Chemical BrothersBy Josh Herwitt //

The Chemical Brothers //
Shrine Expo Hall – Los Angeles
May 15th, 2019 //

When former childhood classmates Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons burst onto the scene in the mid-to-late 90’s as The Chemical Brothers, electronic music for most was still a relatively new phenomenon — even in their home country of England.

Sure, some of the UK duo’s counterparts such as The Prodigy and Fatboy Slim were attracting more mainstream appeal around the same time, but that commercial success at the height of the big beat movement doesn’t hold a candle to what many of the biggest EDM stars today are amassing in the social media age. Just look at what Calvin Harris, Diplo, Skrillex, Zedd or The Chainsmokers are bringing home if you don’t believe me (hint: it’s well over eight figures). Of course, those Las Vegas hotel residencies sure do help their cash flow.

The Chemical Brothers, nevertheless, have managed to maintain a loyal following for three decades now and that was evident by the sold-out crowd that welcomed them to the Shrine Expo Hall last Wednesday for the first of two dates in LA. It’s not often that an artist or band books two different venues in the same city while on tour, but that’s exactly what Rowlands and Simons did with their other LA show taking place up the road at the Greek Theatre only one day later. That said, the Shrine Expo Hall’s open floor plan proved to be perfectly suited for the pair’s dance-ready tracks.

The Chemical Brothers

Leading off with “Go” from their 2015 LP Born in the Echoes, The Chemical Brothers delivered a 24-song set that covered all nine studio albums, including their newest effort No Geography that dropped in April. They seamlessly transitioned from one banger to the next, keeping our spirits high and leaving us not a minute to rest our feet. The onstage production, meanwhile, was next level. With an arsenal full of lights and lasers as well as a massive projection screen mounted behind them, Rowlands and Simons created a scintillating audio-visual experience to remember and one of the best we’ve witnessed in a while.

At a time when electronic music has become relatively predictable and almost formulaic, The Chemical Brothers are still experimenting with new sounds and breathing some fresh air into their live sets. Case in point on this night was a cover of New Order’s 1982 single “Temptation” and a rendition of Come with Us cut “Star Guitar” that wrapped up with a snippet of “Gravity Drops” from No Geography. But the Brothers saved what we all had been anticipating for last, uncorking “Block Rockin’ Beats” off 1997’s Dig Your Own Hole before their encore break.

When they returned, Rowlands and Simons gave us a few more before waving goodbye — not that we needed anymore to feel satisfied. Because if this was what an electronic show in 2019 is supposed to feel like, then we can safely say … mission accomplished, boys.

Setlist:
Go
Free Yourself
Chemical Beats (with vocal sample from “Sometimes I Feel So Deserted”)
MAH
EML Ritual
Swoon
Temptation (New Order cover)
Star Guitar (with “Gravity Drops” outro)
Got to Keep On
Hey Boy Hey Girl
Eve of Destruction
Saturate
Elektrobank
No Geography
Escape Velocity
Hoops / Get Up on It Like This
Under the Influence / Dig Your Own Hole
Wide Open
Galvanize
Leave Home / C-H-E-M-I-C-A-L / Song to the Siren
Block Rockin’ Beats

Encore:
Got Glint?
Catch Me I’m Falling (with “Hold Tight London” intro)
The Private Psychedelic Reel

Modeselektor return to U.S. soil & pound our ears with their new material at a sold-out Echoplex

ModeselektorBy Josh Herwitt //

Modeselektor //
Echoplex – Los Angeles
April 4th, 2019 //

As electronic music continues to evolve in 2019, it appears as if the EDM craze that once was has started to fade. Sure, dance-centric festivals such as Ultra, EDC and Electric Zoo continue to thrive, but the amount has slowly tapered off over the last few years with hip-hop and R&B grabbing more of the mainstream spotlight lately.

So, where does a veteran electronic act like Modeselektor fit into the equation these days?

We’re not quite sure to be honest, but after making music together for more than two decades, Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary are still selling out clubs with their dark, pulsating beats and brash, in-your-face sounds.

The Berlin IDM (short for “Intelligent Dance Music”) duo is a favorite of Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke’s believe it or not and yet, has only released four studio albums to go along with a handful of EPs since forming in 1996. Although to be completely fair, their side project with fellow German electronic musician Apparat (born Sascha Ring) under the name Moderat has also been quite the success in recent years as we have witnessed on more than one occasion, including the 2016 edition of Lightning in a Bottle (read our festival review here) and a stellar performance at The Mayan (read our show review here) in 2017 after playing Coachella’s first weekend (read our review here).

Modeselektor

One of those four LPs is Who Else, the eight-track release after a nearly eight-year layoff that dropped in February on Modeselektor’s own Monkeytown Records as the follow-up to 2011’s Monkeytown, which earned them a closing set in the Mojave Tent at Coachella a few months later where Yorke surprisingly joined them onstage for “Shipwreck” during Weekend 2.

At LA’s Echoplex last Thursday, we didn’t have the fortune of getting another surprise cameo from Yorke, but it was intriguing to see a sold-out crowd welcome Bronsert and Szary back to the City of Angels under the Modeselektor moniker for the first time in a long time (and on a school night no less). And considering they were only stopping through two U.S. cities — LA and NYC the night before at Elsewhere in Brooklyn — on this tour, the show felt a little extra special for those of us in attendance due to the circumstances.

Bronsert and Szary made mention of the jet lag that they were experiencing more than once, and with both now being of a certain age, it’s not quite as easy as it once was for them to get onstage night after night and do their thing. They certainly overcame it, as Szary jumped on top of their DJ booth several times while performing to engage an audience that conveyed its appreciation for his efforts (he even took a cigarette break onstage later on, too).

Who Else runs only 34 minutes long, with “Wealth”, “I Am Your God” and “Who” serving as its three singles, which meant that Modeselektor had time to sprinkle in some of their older material throughout a 17-song gig lasting roughly 90 minutes. One of those tracks was “The Black Block” off their 2007 sophomore full length Happy Birthday!, while even two remixed covers — Shed’s “Dark Planet” and Headhunter’s “Prototype” — were on the setlist. But the finale is what stuck out most, as Modeselektor showed Yorke some more love with an Atoms for Peace cover of “Default” on the supergroup’s lone record Amok that came out more than six years ago. It was a fitting choice given the connection Yorke has had with the outfit, and one that proved Bronsert and Szary, nevertheless, have what it takes to keep us right on our toes after all these years.

Setlist:
Grillwalker
Dark Planet (Modeselektor remix) (Shed cover)
WMF Love Song
Kalif Storch
German Clap
The Black Block
I Am Your God
(Unknown)
Prügelknabe
Wealth
Prototype (Modeselektor’s Broken Handbrake Remix) (Headhunter cover)
One United Power
Who
Wake Me Up When It’s Over
Berlin

Encore:
Blue Clouds
Default (Atoms for Peace cover)

Modeselektor

Modeselektor

Modeselektor

Courtney Barnett reminds us why she’s simply the coolest at LA’s Greek Theatre

Courtney BarnettBy Rochelle Shipman //

Courtney Barnett with Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, Waxahatchee //
Greek Theatre – Los Angeles
October 5th, 2018 //

Courtney Barnett is the coolest. There’s no way around it. And if you’ve been lucky enough to see her live, you know it and you also know that she, somehow, still doesn’t know it herself.

Take this for example: Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks and Waxahatchee supported her at the Greek Theatre last Friday, and Malkmus brings out former Sonic Youth member Kim Gordon (maybe the only person cooler than Barnett). I felt like they were going to turn the lights on after Malkmus’ set and end the show by accident.

Of course, they didn’t, and towards the end of her headlining set, Barnett introduced her own special guest, which, mind you, could’ve been almost anyone on the planet since this was LA after all and Gordon was probably still backstage.

But she reintroduces Waxahatchee, who joins her for a cover of Elyse Weinberg’s “Houses”. It was a song I’d never heard before, but it was crisp and tender and almost broke my heart with how perfect they sounded. I was so damn happy that Barnett was cool enough to invite one of her opening acts back out onstage instead of inviting, say, Slash.

Courtney Barnett

When she wasn’t sharing the spotlight with Waxahatchee, Barnett was sharing it equally with the rest of her stellar backing band, but it was mostly just difficult to take your eyes off of her. Everything she does feels casual, from her outfit to her guitar playing, slinging her instrument around like it was an extension of herself. Even her delivery of the wrenching reality that the 30-year-old Australian singer-songwriter articulates so well is casual, singing like the end of the world isn’t a mere 22 years away.

Barnett’s second studio LP Tell Me How You Really Feel is the pissed-off soundtrack that 2018 deserves, but she still couldn’t help but smile throughout the show. She walked the length of the stage as if she owned it (though casually), clearly having found her comfort level playing to thousands.

For an hour and a half, Barnett mostly just reveled in the music and the company, keeping the banter limited and the breaths nearly nonexistent. But for a few moments here and there, she looked like she’d just realized that she’s the coolest. And then she’d switch the focus and start another riff.

Setlist:
Hopefulessness
City Looks Pretty
Avant Gardener
Need a Little Time
Nameless, Faceless
I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch
Crippling Self Doubt and a General Lack of Self Confidence
Small Poppies
An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York)
Small Talk
Depreston
Are You Looking After Yourself?
Elevator Operator
Houses (Elyse Weinberg cover) (with Waxahatchee)
Charity
History Eraser

Encore:
Everything Is Free (Gillian Welch cover)
Anonymous Club
Pedestrian at Best

Grizzly Bear & TV on the Radio unite for one night in their new hometown to play the Hollywood Bowl

Grizzly Bear


Grizzly Bear

By Josh Herwitt //

Grizzly Bear & TV on the Radio with Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith //
Hollywood Bowl – Los Angeles
September 23rd, 2018 //

In the early 2000’s, Grizzly Bear and TV on the Radio emerged out of Brooklyn’s crowded indie-rock scene as two of its biggest darlings. Both bands, in fact, would go on to release their seminal albums a little less than a decade later, starting first in 2008 with TV on the Radio’s Dear Science and continuing the following year with Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest.

But Grizzly Bear and TV on the Radio have each issued two additional LPs since then and somewhat surprisingly, have both made the cross-country move out to LA within the past several years. So, when NPR member station KCRW revealed the lineup for its 2018 World Festival series at the iconic Hollywood Bowl, the final performance on the docket was one that easily stuck out with the two Brooklyn-bred outfits co-headlining and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith opening.

As the glow of a full moon shined bright against a dark sky, Grizzly Bear and TV on the Radio gave us one last taste of summer on the season’s final day. And though it felt rather fitting for them to share a stage in their new hometown, especially one that’s as big as the Bowl’s, each group exhibits its own unique sound and style through a wide range of influences. They may get slapped with the generic “indie rock” tag by some lazy music critics, but without a doubt, their music is much different from the other’s.

TV on the Radio


TV on the Radio

The last time we caught Grizzly Bear was almost a year ago, when they performed at Apogee Studio for KCRW’s Apogee Sessions series (read our review here) and reminded us how they were making “chamber pop” sound cool again. The intimate gig came just a few weeks prior to TV on the Radio’s last show in LA (at David Lynch’s Festival of Disruption), and with their most recent album Seeds from 2014, this was probably one of the final times that they would be specifically showcasing that material live. Nevertheless, they made sure to close out their 70-minute set with a bang, finishing with classics like “Repetition” from 2011’s Nine Types of Light, “Wolf Like Me” off 2006’s Return to Cookie Mountain and lastly “Staring at the Sun” on their 2004 debut Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes.

Similarly, the gig also marked one of Grizzly Bear’s last performances in support of their fifth LP Painted Ruins, which they released last year on RCA Records, and having already played a two-night run at The Wiltern back in December, this was more of a victory lap than a coming-out party. Unfortunately for us, the five-piece had to cut things short due to the venue’s strict Sunday night curfew, ending on a rather sudden note. That’s just part of the deal at the Bowl, though. For those of us who have to work on Monday morning, it’s actually more of a blessing in disguise than a disservice to the overall concert experience as we’ve come to realize.

After all, any evening under the stars at the Hollywood Bowl feels like a magical one. There’s just something comforting about taking in some live music at one of the world’s most famous amphitheaters, no matter who’s listed on the marquee. And although there’s no telling when Grizzly Bear and TV on the Radio will tour again, let alone together, this was one pairing that we’re glad we didn’t miss before we officially said goodbye to summer.

GRIZZLY BEAR

Setlist:
Southern Point
Losing All Sense
Yet Again
Fine for Now
Ready, Able
Four Cypresses
Sleeping Ute
Two Weeks
Foreground
While You Wait for the Others
On a Neck, On a Spit
Three Rings
Sun in Your Eyes

TV ON THE RADIO

Setlist:
Young Liars
Lazerray
Golden Age
Province
Happy Idiot
Could You
Winter
Red Dress
Shout Me Out
Trouble
Repetition
Wolf Like Me
Staring at the Sun