After going viral this year, Royal Blood play The Wiltern again & show a sold-out crowd in LA why they are one of rock’s most exciting acts

Royal Blood - Mike KerrBy Josh Herwitt //

Royal Blood with HotWax //
The Wiltern – Los Angeles
November 9th, 2023 //

For any of you reading this who were unfamiliar with Royal Blood prior to May 28th, there’s probably a good chance that you have heard of them now.

Mocking a lackluster and “pathetic” crowd at BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend — it really was but you can judge for yourself here — before flipping them off might not have been the way Mike Kerr (lead vocals, bass, keyboards, piano, guitar) planned for the project he has fronted since early 2011 to go viral, but that quickly became his reality by the following day.

The music media, not surprisingly, seized on the moment, permeating our news feeds and timelines with an onslaught of headlines all pointing to Kerr’s onstage banter and behavior in Scotland. Merely a week later, he was on BBC Radio 1’s airwaves to address the incident with his sidekick Ben Thatcher (drums, percussion, piano), confessing that he “felt like a sort of pro wrestler” and “pantomime villain” during the performance but “meant no offense … and applause is optional.”

Despite all of the subsequent backlash Royal Blood received online, it hasn’t exactly put a dent in their ticket sales — at least in a major U.S. metropolis like LA with endless opportunities to see live music — less than six months later. Take last Thursday’s sold-out gig at The Wiltern for instance, as the English alt-rock duo packed one of the larger-sized venues that they are playing in North America this fall, with the historic theater filled from the reserved pit and GA floor sections up to the mezzanine and balcony for the band’s first time there in six years. It was also the first time in almost two decades visiting that I have witnessed a legitimate mosh pit break out.

Fresh off a nine-day break after their latest shows in the UK and Ireland last month, Kerr and Thatcher were primed for a big night under the bright lights of LA. Much like their appearance more than a year ago at what was then the brand-new Ventura Music Hall (read our show review here), these lads were once again joined by touring member Darren James (keyboards, backing vocals) as their newer studio material starting with 2021’s Typhoons sees them leaning more into synthesizers and keyboards than sticking with the original recipe of only bass and drums they cooked up for their first two albums. What results is a more dance-forward sound that has continued on their fourth LP Back to the Water Below, which was released in September and serves an excellent complement to the rest of their catalog.

Royal Blood

The grungy, post-punk tendencies from their fellow countrymates in HotWax, who were making their debut in the states, proved to pair well with the evening’s main course, and by the time Royal Blood walked out around 9 p.m. to a thunderous applause like the ones they are used to, we were ready to scarf up everything that Kerr and Thatcher put on our plates. They fittingly began with “Mountains at Midnight” — the lead single on Back to the Water Below — and then took us back in time, unleashing the blistering one-two punch of “Boilermaker” and the ensuing “Lights Out” at one point to set the tone for the rest of the night.

Those of us who have caught Royal Blood on previous tours know what they’re capable of when they take the stage, but it’s always exciting to see how their new songs will play out in front of an audience. The fuzzed-out “Shiner in the Dark” and already fan favorite “Triggers” both delivered, and though you won’t necessarily find the album’s title represented in the tracklist like their previous two full lengths, it does come from a lyric during the piano-led single “Pull Me Through” with a groove that will have you singing along or at least nodding your head to by the final chorus, offsetting some of the machismo we have become accustomed to from both Kerr and Thatcher. There was “Tell Me When It’s Too Late” as we neared the finish line, with a triplet feel on the bass drum that the late John Bonham would be most likely proud of, and even though it’s the shortest track on Back to the Water Below at well under three minutes, it’s as big and bombastic as anything else they have done.

Since our last encounter, the core of Royal Blood’s setlist hasn’t changed with “Come on Over”, “Hook, Line & Sinker”, “Little Monster”, “How Did We Get So Dark?”, “Loose Change”, “Out of the Black”, “Ten Tonne Skeleton” and of course “Figure It Out” all making a return this time. While we can’t say we don’t enjoy hearing these songs when they are performed, it would be nice if Royal Blood mixed things up a little more or expanded upon what they have already recorded to make every show feel special. Yet, in fairness, they did bring out HotWax’s Tallulah Sim-Savage to play guitar on “Waves” at the start of their encore — something we hope they will consider doing more of in the future. We would also like to see their concerts extend past the 90-minute mark, even if it were only for a little bit longer, and there’s no question that should be the case in due time.

Regardless of our commentary on Royal Blood’s current live show, Back to the Water Below has easily ascended, alongside Queens of the Stone Age’s In Times New Roman…, to be one of our favorite rock albums of 2023. It shares the same accessibility 2014’s self-titled effort and 2017’s How Did We Get So Dark? have, and at the same time, sonically still manages to move the needle forward enough for now.

We can imagine at this point that Royal Blood would just like to forget BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend, and we are definitely not interested in dwelling over past indiscretions anymore. Kerr and Thatcher have not only the bravado and charisma, but also the chops to stake their claim as a top-notch rock act for a long time. And hey, maybe a little notoriety never hurts, too.

Setlist:
Mountains at Midnight
Come on Over
Boilermaker
Lights Out
Shiner in the Dark
Hook, Line & Sinker
Triggers
Trouble’s Coming
Typhoons
Pull Me Through
Little Monster
How Did We Get So Dark?
Tell Me When It’s Too Late
Loose Change
Out of the Black

Encore:
Waves (with Tallulah Sim-Savage)
Ten Tonne Skeleton
Figure It Out

Goose make a compelling case in their Santa Barbara Bowl debut why they’re one of the hottest (jam) bands to catch live right now

GooseBy Josh Herwitt //

Goose //
Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA
September 29th, 2023 //

What is it about jam bands that makes them so polarizing? Is it their penchant for improvisation, their long-running songs or their loyal, dedicated fans?

From the Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers to Phish, Widespread Panic and many more, a lot of folks I come into contact with either love ’em or hate ’em. Regardless of where you stand on the matter though, the reality is that they have been part of the music ecosystem dating back to the early 60’s and continue to be more than six decades later.

With that in mind, there should be little debate to assert that Phish have stood squarely at the top of the jam-band mountain for the past 30-plus years. The Burlington foursome that formed in the early 80’s at the University of Vermont has taken the torch from the Dead and in their own way kept that fire burning bright, building a unique community of diehards often known for traveling far distances to see them rock out at least three hours each night.

But there’s a new kid on the block now, and even though they might call themselves an “American indie-groove band from Connecticut,” it’s no secret that Goose like to “jam” when they step onstage. Phish’s music, after all, has always been rooted in grooves, and in that regard, it feels like the five-piece named after an Anatidae waterfowl rather than an aquatic animal is certainly paying homage to Trey Anastasio, Jon Fishman, Mike Gordon and Page McConnell with that sort of description for their sonic creations.

For those following closely, the million-dollar question — figuratively and literally — in the jam scene of late has been if Goose are next in line to eventually succeed the almighty Phish. The two groups have already formed a friendly bond, with Anastasio sitting in with Goose last year for the second of two sold-out gigs at Radio City Music Hall that featured a more unexpected cameo appearance by Father John Misty, too.

Goose - Peter Anspach

Yet, it was less than six months after those shows in NYC that Rick Mitarotonda (guitar, vocals), Trevor Weeks (bass, poetry), Ben Atkind (drums), Peter Anspach (keyboards, guitar, vocals) and Jeff Arevalo (percussion, drums, vocals) were touring with Anastasio and his solo project on an eight-date run that offered them even more exposure to Phish’s fan (or should we say “phan”) base.

Every member of Goose, similar to Phish, is an excellent musician. Mitarotonda’s virtuosity and emotive solos are assuredly reminiscent of Anastasio’s at times, and you wouldn’t know that Anspach, a guitarist first and foremost, only started playing keyboards when he signed on as the fourth member of Goose in 2017. The formal training that Mitarotonda, Atkind and Arevalo each received while they were at Berklee College of Music in Boston is quite evident when you watch them perform, but for a band showcasing as much musicianship as Goose, their vocal capabilities are equally impressive. It’s something Mitarotonda has worked very hard at according to Anspach, whom he shares the role of lead vocalist with, and what could ultimately help separate Goose from the pack when you consider that singing hasn’t always been a priority for some musicians in the jam world.

Of course, Goose’s pursuit to not only be an outstanding outfit in the live space but also one that takes the album-making process just as seriously is another side to the quintet that’s refreshing and can’t be overlooked. After 2016’s Moon Cabin sans Anspach and subsequently 2021’s Shenanigans Nite Club, they made such clear when they hired an outside producer for the first time, and their decision to elect D. James Goodwin, who has worked with Bob Weir as well as established indie acts like Kevin Morby and Whitney, proved to be a good (no pun intended) choice for the release of Dripfield in 2022. Goose have made songwriting a priority early on in their ascent, but a smart marketing strategy that saw them gross more than $100,000 during the COVID-19 pandemic by livestreaming eight concerts from a barn in their home state has propelled them rather quickly into the mainstream. In fact, few jam bands have earned the opportunity to perform on late-night television like Goose have.

You could tell by the turnout Goose received at their Santa Barbara Bowl debut — a day before making an inaugural appearance at Ohana Fest and a day after headlining The Wiltern in LA for the first time — they have come a long way in less than a decade. Though the 4,562-seat amphitheater wasn’t sold out, it was mostly full from the GA floor up to the A, B and C sections, a promising sign for any young band on the rise, with chants of “Gooooose” ringing out as the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.

Like any top-notch jam band, Goose craft a unique setlist every time they take the stage with an arsenal of covers at the ready and this outing would be no different. Much of the first set was carried by live cuts of material that has yet to be officially laid down in a recording studio, but Bruce Hornsby & the Range’s “The Way It Is” and Echo & the Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon” that kicked off the evening’s second set provided everyone at the Bowl with a couple of familiar reference points. Nevertheless, the accessibility and hooks that Dripfield offers listeners are what sets Goose apart from other jam-oriented artists, and as its tracks — “Arrow” and “Hot Tea” plus “So Ready” (an alternate version of “Slow Ready” featuring some auto-tune from Mitarotonda) were what we were treated to in this case — take on their own size and shape under the bright lights, they’re destined to fill a room no matter how big or small it is. So with a European tour lined up next month and a couple of more arena performances before 2023 concludes, there’s no telling how high these guys will be flying by this time next year.

Setlist:
Set 1
Earthling or Alien?
Mr. Action
Time to Flee (with “Honeybee” teases)
The Way It Is (Bruce Hornsby & the Range cover)
Seekers on the Ridge pt. I (>)
Seekers on the Ridge pt. II
So Ready

Set 2
The Killing Moon (Echo & the Bunnymen cover) (>)
Arrow
Same Old Shenanigans
Everything Must Go

Encore:
Hot Tea

My Morning Jacket & Fleet Foxes don’t let a tropical storm stop them from eventually sharing the stage at the Hollywood Bowl

My Morning Jacket - Hollywood BowlBy Josh Herwitt //

My Morning Jacket & Fleet Foxes //
Hollywood Bowl – Los Angeles
August 28th, 2023 //

When I was invited to photograph my first show at the Hollywood Bowl more than seven years ago now (read our review here), I already understood how special it is for those who have the opportunity to play under the amphitheater’s iconic bandshell.

As I explained back then, any artist or band with a headlining date at the historic music venue can officially say that they have “made it” and nothing has ever changed there. But for a group like My Morning Jacket that has been around 25 years, performing at one of LA’s most prized possessions carries a little extra weight.

That’s because the Louisville-bred rockers were so inspired by the place more than two decades ago that they chose a photo of it to serve as the cover artwork for their sophomore LP At Dawn.

“Something about its otherworldly shape spoke such magic,” MMJ recently shared on social media.

My Morning Jacket - Hollywood Bowl


My Morning Jacket

And yet, somehow 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) had never taken the stage at the Bowl despite plenty of trips to the City of Angels in the past.

Because as much as things have changed for Jacket since 2001, let’s be real: the three-time Grammy nominees still aren’t popular enough anywhere, let alone Southern California, to fill the 17,500-person landmark on their own. MMJ would be lucky to sell half that number of tickets, especially on a Monday night after Tropical Storm Hilary postponed the event’s originally scheduled date more than a week.

The folks at KCRW fortunately had the answer. Finding a suitable partner in Fleet Foxes to pair with MMJ, the NPR member station assembled a co-headline bill that was one of the most enticing we’ve seen in a while. The Bowl can certainly offer them with its massive capacity, and we have attended a few good ones over the years — from 90’s alt-rock outfits Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden to 2000’s indie darlings Grizzly Bear and TV on the Radio (read our show review here). Nevertheless, we can’t say it doesn’t come with some drawbacks.

There’s something about sitting at a rock concert that doesn’t feel right to me, and fresh off MMJ’s two sold-out shows at Red Rocks (read our review here) over the weekend that saw them surpass the two-hour mark both nights, it was quite a stark contrast to what we experienced in Colorado with most fans there standing from Row 1 to Row 70. The “wine and cheese” crowd in LA, on the other hand, couldn’t be bothered to get out of their seats for much of the night. James and company didn’t let that stop them from closing their 2023 summer tour with a powerful set, though — even if it was only 75 minutes. “Off the Record” and “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2” got extended outros, and “Wonderful (The Way I Feel)” with Fleet Foxes frontman Robin Pecknold was a treat. It’s not everyday that you get to hear two of the best voices in music today collaborating onstage together, and moments like those always feel in retrospect a little extra special to witness.

Fleet Foxes - Hollywood Bowl


Fleet Foxes

Speaking of Fleet Foxes, this wasn’t our first time catching them at the Bowl. A co-headline performance with Beach House in 2017 actually served as our first encounter, and it just so happened that it was also the indie-folk act’s Bowl debut.

Pecknold (lead vocals, guitar) and his four sidekicks Skyler Skjelset (guitar, mandolin, backing vocals), Casey Wescott (keyboards, mandolin, backing vocals), Christian Wargo (bass, guitar, backing vocals) and Morgan Henderson (upright bass, guitar, woodwinds, violin, percussion, saxophone), plus touring member Christopher Icasiano (drums, percussion) and New York-based brass quartet The Westerlies, had no problem filling the stage and the space with their beautiful harmonies and thoughtful lyrics. And after last summer’s sold-out gig at the Greek Theatre (read our show review here), it’s clear that 2020’s Shore has not only offered them more commercial success but also the opportunity to keep the current lineup intact. After all, it’s not very often that you get to see an artist or band perform with 10 musicians due to financial concerns, and Fleet Foxes’ eclectic instrumentation as well as Pecknold’s golden pipes are what really elevates their material in a live setting.

Of course we would be remiss to mention the Buffalo Springfield tune “Expecting to Fly” that Fleet Foxes took on with James a couple of songs before waving goodbye, something that they also did at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley. Despite their psychedelic tendencies, MMJ have always leaned in the folk direction, and while Grizzly Bear might be the perfect fit for a co-headline situation with Fleet Foxes, MMJ are able to turn up the energy a lot more with their huge sound — no further proof was needed than the finishing punch of “One Big Holiday” and “Dancefloors” from 2003’s It Still Moves as the clock struck 10:45 p.m.

As much as our ears would have liked to hear more, it wasn’t in the cards. A strict curfew of 11 p.m. at the Bowl has always been in place, and that wasn’t going to change this time (or ever). But you could do a whole lot worse than to spend an evening at the Bowl with MMJ and Fleet Foxes before summer in LA finally slips away.

MY MORNING JACKET

Setlist:
Wordless Chorus
Off the Record (Extended outro)
Spring (Among the Living)
Gideon
Wonderful (The Way I Feel) (with Robin Pecknold)
Steam Engine
Circuital
Love Love Love
Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2 (Extended outro)
One Big Holiday
Dancefloors

FLEET FOXES

Setlist:
Sun Giant
Sunblind
Can I Believe You
Ragged Wood
Your Protector
He Doesn’t Know Why
Third of May/Ōdaigahara
Phoenix (Big Red Machine cover)
Bedouin Dress
White Winter Hymnal
Mykonos
Montezuma
Blue Ridge Mountains
Grown Ocean
Expecting to Fly (Buffalo Springfield cover) (with Jim James)
The Shrine/An Argument
Helplessness Blues

Celebrating 50 years of hip-hop, Tierra Whack makes one thing clear to her fans at The Broad: ‘Don’t worry about me’

Tierra Whack - The BroadPhotos by Joseph Gray // Written by Rochelle Shipman //

Tierra Whack //
The Broad – Los Angeles
August 26th, 2023 //

More than five years have passed since Tierra Whack gifted us with the ingenious Whack World, a stunning spitfire glimpse into the heart and mind of the North Philly rapper. It’s safe to say a lot has changed since then, but her debut album remains highly acclaimed. Whack made a rare appearance in LA last weekend to celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, playing a set at The Broad before none other than Grandmaster Flash himself. She sure wasn’t kidding when she sang, “Don’t worry about me / I’m doing good, I’m doing great, alright” back in 2018, and at this point, she might need to update her lyrics since that’s clearly an understatement.

She took the stage in a classically eclectic outfit: a custom-made dress comprised of three (!!!) different pairs of Levi’s jeans, complete with chunky white boots and spiky, neon red pigtails. The crowd’s initial anxious anticipation evaporated immediately as she bounded onstage, hopping around with a Tigger-like energy. At no point did she pause or falter under the unquestionable weight of all that denim, an appropriately wonky metaphor for some of the messages derived from her music if there ever was one.

Whack is well-known for being a brilliant wordsmith, but she’s equally known for her inventive visuals and the just plain fun she brings to her music. Finally seeing her in person makes that element a bit clearer; she quite simply has no choice because that child-like joy is embedded into her personality — for example, she rolled up to the show with a Bop-It in hand (and no one has ever looked cooler).

Her performance was tight and explosive, her toes nearly on the edge of the stage as she reached out to touch the hands stretching her way. She rapped ferociously, almost as though she was battling the sold-out crowd, rolling through hit after hit without another thought. Only when something would catch her attention did she veer slightly off course with wonder, letting her unscripted vulnerability take center stage, like when she gleefully noticed that some residents in the apartment building looming over us were getting a free show.

Tierra Whack - The Broad

“Sing it to the windows!” she shouted during “Pet Cemetery” before turning and leading the crowd in crooning “all dogs go to heaven.”

One of the most impressive parts of Whack’s talent is how creatively she’s able to balance heavy subjects with a perfectly weird sense of humor and a touch of reality-based absurdity on top of that. At the age of 28, she emanates glee no matter what the topic is. Before launching into her country-tinged diss track “Fuck Off”, Whack requested middle fingers in the air, “even you VIP folk.” She scanned the attendees before landing on the lone photographer to the right of the stage. “Hey hey hey, you, with the shirt. Middle finger.” The photographer responded by lifting his camera to capture the direct attention she was giving him. “Nope, no camera. Middle. Finger,” she stated calmly. Once he obliged, she turned back to the crowd and said, “OK, let’s do it. We’re ready,” before launching into her zany, embellished country accent to sing, “Well honey, I’ve been so sick, so sad, whenever I’m happy it makes you mad / I hope your ass breaks out in a rash, you remind me of my deadbeat dad, fuck off.”

Whack worked her way through Whack World and offered a few of her loosies like “Meagan Good” and “Only Child”. As if it wasn’t enough for her to grace us with her presence — a seldom occurrence for an artist who certainly plays shows but never seems to tour — she showcased some brand-new material, instilling hope for 2024 back in the world. It was called “Shower Song”, and it sounded like it could have been a collaboration with Thundercat. It wasn’t to be clear, but it was so funky and so effortlessly funny that it would have easily fit into the fold on Thundercat’s 2017 LP Drunk. Tierra, if you are reading this, you goddamn do sound good when you are singing in the shower. Hang in there, folks … new Tierra Whack is imminent, and it is fire — although if you are paying attention, you already knew it would be.

It’s not every day you get to see a musical unicorn — not to mention two in one night — and it’s even more uncommon for an artist of that stature to truly deliver. Whack showed us that she may as well own UPS at this point, and she’s barely just begun. Pairing her with the legendary Grandmaster Flash proves that Whack, thankfully for us, is woven into the threads of hip-hop’s future, and we have a lot to look forward to in the next 50 years. Because if this set was any indication, hip-hop remains in good hands.

Setlist:
Flea Market
Pretty Ugly
Cable Guy
4 Wings
Hookers
Pet Cemetery
Fuck Off
Silly Sam
Fruit Salad
Sore Loser
Only Child
Shower Song (new song)
Meagan Good
Hungry Hippo

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard close out their U.S. residency tour with an epic, three-hour marathon at LA’s iconic Hollywood Bowl

King Gizzard & the Lizard WizardBy Josh Herwitt //

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard //
Hollywood Bowl – Los Angeles
June 21st, 2023 //

Call me dramatic, but I think it’s fair to say that King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard are music journalism’s worst nightmare.

As those devoted to The Gizz know well by now, pinning them down to one genre, one sound or one anything is damn near impossible. Psych rock, psych pop, prog rock, krautrock, boogie rock, heavy metal, hip-hop, synth-pop, jazz fusion, blues and everything else in between has been on the table for the Australian sextet since it formed more than a decade ago, and that’s exactly what makes them so intriguing to see in the flesh at a time when not many bands are commanding the same kind of listens, album sales or attendance numbers that many did three decades earlier.

Nevertheless, if there’s a cliché that can be attributed to these mates out of Melbourne, it’s that they are truly in a league of their own with no other outfit even remotely resembling what KGLW do. But arguably what is just as impressive as their affinity for experimenting with multiple genres is the fact that their fan base continues to grow at what feels like an exponential rate.

Their epic, three-hour marathon last Wednesday at the Hollywood Bowl to close out their U.S. residency tour marked my third time catching them live, and with each show, the band has noticeably graduated to bigger venues beginning with the Hollywood Palladium in 2018, the Greek Theatre in 2019 and now the world-famous, 17,500-person amphitheatre tucked into the Hollywood Hills off the Highland Blvd. exit on the 101 Freeway (note: they also headlined Desert Daze in 2022 with Tame Impala and Beach House).

Since their last proper LA performance (read our show review here), Stu Mackenzie (vocals, guitars, keyboards, flute, bass guitar, percussion, sitar, piano, organ, violin, clarinet, saxophone, zurna, drums), Ambrose Kenny-Smith (vocals, harmonicas, keyboards, percussion, piano, saxophone, guitar, organ), Joey Walker (guitars, vocals, bass, keyboards, piano, setar, percussion), Cook Craig (guitars, bass, piano, keyboards, percussion, vocals), Lucas Harwood (bass, piano, keyboards, percussion, vocals) and Michael Cavanagh (drums, percussion, vocals) have unloaded nine more albums in less than four years to reach a staggering total of 24 in their catalog. Of course some will remember the five LPs they dropped in 2017 along with 2022, and while it would be a surprise for them to top that output this year with merely one out so far and six months to go, you never really know what tricks KGLW have up their sleeves coming off a 15-date run across the states this month that featured four gigs at The Caverns in Tennessee and three at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado (including two on a weekday no less), The Salt Shed in Chicago and Remlinger Farms in Washington before taking a giant step forward under the Bowl’s iconic bandshell on the first day of summer for their final U.S. stop.

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard

Given those circumstances and the fact that most of the seats throughout the venue were filled all the way to the top, this one felt like there was something a little extra special to it. The setlist matched the moment at least, with Mackenzie and company opening with the first three tracks on 2013’s Eyes Like the Sky — marking the first time they had been performed since 2018 — as well as “Evil Man” off the 10-song LP, which has only been played five times with the last coming more than seven years ago at the NME Awards.

But the release of PetroDragonic Apocalypse the week prior had provided KGLW fans all of five days to reacquaint themselves with the group’s brand of thrash metal it had debuted via 2019’s Infest the Rats’ Nest, and although we didn’t hear a lot of new material from these Aussies, they made sure to sprinkle in some that included “Gila Monster” (with a “Gaia” reprise to up the ante), followed by “Supercell” and “Witchcraft” toward the show’s midway point.

By then, I was being offered bourbon and methamphetamines by a middle-aged man in a Grateful Dead T-shirt who supposedly had traveled all the way from Tucson, Ariz., and had happened to find a home in the same Terrace Box — his seat was somewhere else from what he told me — that I agreed to occupy after finding another photographer sitting in my assigned seat. Not that I was interested in fighting over seat assignments or accepting any contraband from strangers, but the unexpected exchange certainly added to the overall weirdness and peculiarity of the evening.

Fortunately, there were still plenty of twists and turns for KGLW to unveil down the homestretch. From a snippet of the Beastie Boys’ “Intergalactic” at the end of “The Grim Reaper” to the thunderous drum solo following “Astroturf” that Cavanagh entranced us with, the night was not short on highlights thanks to the jams we were subsequently gifted around “Shanghai” and “Ambergris”, too.

What left the biggest impression on this particular bystander though had to be the face-melting trifecta of “Hypertension”, “Magma” and “The Dripping Tap” that would ensue over the final 45 minutes and draw a standing ovation by the time KGLW waved goodbye shortly after 10:30 p.m. And as I turned around with the packed crowd’s applause echoing throughout the venue, a sincere sense of gratitude quietly washed over me. I might not be able to name every album or song that these prolific, eccentric weirdos have put out like some diehards can, but if there was one show in 2023 I’m glad I didn’t skip, it very well could be this one.

Setlist:
Eyes Like the Sky (first time since 2018)
Year of Our Lord (first time since 2018)
The Raid (first time since 2018)
Evil Man (first time since 2016)
Rattlesnake
Pleura
Gaia (>)
Gila Monster (with “Gaia” reprise)
Supercell
Witchcraft
Organ Farmer
Crumbling Castle (>)
The Fourth Colour
The Grim Reaper (with “Intergalactic” by Beastie Boys at the end)
Magenta Mountain
Down the Sink
Astroturf (with drum solo after)
Shanghai (“I wanna grow wings and fly” jam)
The Garden Goblin
Ambergris (preceded by “sex” jam)
Iron Lung (>)
Hypertension
Magma
The Dripping Tap (with “Cellophane” tease)

*Editors’ Note: You can watch the full performance here.

It’s great to see Mike Patton back onstage & performing once again as Mr. Bungle rile up a sold-out crowd at Hollywood Palladium

Mr. BungleBy Josh Herwitt //

Mr. Bungle with Melvins, Spotlights //
Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles
May 11th, 2023 //

When news broke in Sept. 2021 that Faith No More and Mr. Bungle had canceled their upcoming tour dates with lead singer Mike Patton citing “mental health reasons” for the decision, I was concerned.

Patton, after all, had been one of my favorite vocalists growing up, and considering all of the incredible musicians we have lost over the past decade, I was afraid we might have another leave us far too soon. The sudden and tragic passing of Chris Cornell back in 2017 had hit me hard as it had for many fans of 90’s alternative rock, but I knew that losing someone as influential and talented as Patton would also be difficult for me to stomach.

Thankfully those fears of mine didn’t come true despite Patton battling depression during the COVID-19 pandemic and eventually being diagnosed with agoraphobia. Because with a vocal range that spans six octaves, the Northern California native has carved out a rather unique career as a singer, producer, film composer and voice actor over the last three decades, regularly collaborating with other genre-bending artists like avant-garde jazz saxophonist John Zorn, hip-hop producer Dan the Automator and classical violinist Eyvind Kang on music outside of the heavy material he has been known to write as a member of FNM, Mr. Bungle, Fantômas, Tomahawk and Dead Cross.

Patton, nevertheless, has always maintained a relentless work ethic. His schedule would often see him juggling a myriad of projects simultaneously — whether it was fronting one of his five bands, serving as a producer for Merzbow, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Sepultura, Melvins, Melt-Banana and Kool Keith or running Ipecac Recordings alongside co-founder Greg Werckman for the last 20-plus years.

But that all changed in 2020 when the coronavirus spread and much of the world locked down. Afraid to go outside and be around people, Patton turned to alcohol as a way to cope but found himself unable to perform and in need of some professional help. The isolation, like it had for plenty of others, had gotten to him and zapped his confidence, causing him to freak out right before FNM were slated to hit the road and pull the plug on a dozen shows (none have been rescheduled so far).

Mr. Bungle - Mike Patton

“That’s when I kind of lost it, and it was ugly and not cool,” he told Rolling Stone last summer about his struggles. “I didn’t want to be in front of people, which is weird because I spent half of my life doing that.”

So when Patton made his first appearance onstage a few months later when Mr. Bungle toured South America, there was a sense of relief that the 55-year-old was finally in a better place and back on track. Then came a spring tour announcement at the beginning of this year, offering further evidence that he was ready to make up for lost time on an 11-date run on the West Coast with labelmates Melvins and Spotlights that included a sold-out showing at the Hollywood Palladium last Thursday.

For everything that he has been through, Patton seemed to be in good spirits when Mr. Bungle took the stage in LA shortly after 10 p.m. The quintet made up of Patton (lead vocals, keyboards, samples), Trey Spruance (lead guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), Trevor Dunn (bass, backing vocals), Anthrax’s Scott Ian (rhythm guitar, backing vocals) and Slayer’s Dave Lombardo (drums, glockenspiel) has been kicking off several of its headlining sets on the “Geek Show 2023” tour with a cover of John Sebastian from The Lovin’ Spoonful before tearing into tracks — including “Bungle Grind”, “Eracist”, “Anarchy Up Your Anus”, “Methematics” and “Raping Your Mind” — off the group’s fourth LP titled The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo that dropped toward the end of 2020, and with the Palladium’s large ballroom floor packed to the gills, you could tell that the capacity crowd had been waiting eagerly through both supporting acts to be whipped into a frenzy.

No further indication of that was necessary less than a minute into Mr. Bungle’s performance, as one crowd surfer after another came crashing into the photographer’s pit at the front of the stage and into multiple pairs of arms from the venue’s security team. And while the conditions for those of us on the photo list weren’t totally ideal given that we were only allowed to capture Mr. Bungle’s first two songs (plus unexpectedly dodge numerous horizontal bodies), it was quite a way to cover live music for the first time since being sidelined with a ruptured Achilles tendon.

I will be first to admit that Mr. Bungle, which only reunited a few years ago as a thrash metal outfit with Ian and Lombardo signing on, isn’t my favorite project featuring Patton. After more than a 20-year gap between albums, their latest is actually a re-recording of the outfit’s first self-released demo tape from 1986. That doesn’t make it bad of course, though it would be nice to hear something else new by this current iteration of the band. But as someone who has experienced his own health setback recently, I know it’s not always easy getting back out there, and that could certainly still be the case for Patton at times. You never know what someone else is going through or when will be the last time you see them, and that’s something you often learn with age. But life moves pretty fast, too … and right now we’re all better off with Patton in it once again.

MR. BUNGLE

Setlist:
Welcome Back (John Sebastian cover)
Bungle Grind
Eracist
Spreading the Thighs of Death
Territory (Sepultura cover)
Hypocrites
Speak English or Die (Stormtroopers of Death cover) (changed to “Speak Spanish or Die”)
Glutton for Punishment
Anarchy Up Your Anus
Methematics
Hell Awaits (Slayer cover) (intro)
True / Cold War / True
Raping Your Mind
World Up My Ass (Circle Jerks cover)
Sudden Death

Encore:
Loss of Control (Van Halen cover)
My Ass Is on Fire (with PEP tag)

MELVINS

Setlist:
Snake Appeal
Zodiac
Copache
I Want to Hold Your Hand (The Beatles cover)
Hammering
Never Say You’re Sorry
Evil New War God
Let It All Be
Blood Witch
Your Blessened
A History of Bad Men
Honey Bucket

SPOTLIGHTS

Setlist:
The Alchemist
Sunset Burial
Algorithmic
False Gods
Part IV

FOALS deliver another ‘sweaty good time’ at Hollywood Palladium while traversing the globe on their ‘Life Is Yours Tour’

FOALS - Yannis PhilippakisBy Josh Herwitt //

FOALS with Inner Wave, Gustaf //
Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles
November 16th, 2022 //

What is it about FOALS that makes them one of the best rock ‘n’ roll bands to come out of the aughts? You know, that decade after the 90’s beginning more than 20 years ago?

A good starting point for most longtime listeners and fans of the British outfit would be Greece-born frontman Yannis Philippakis, whose gorgeous vocals and emotive guitar solos are often juxtaposed against his morose, yet impassioned lyrics.

And boy, let me tell you … when you’re feeling down, putting on one of FOALS’ masterpieces like 2013’s Holy Fire and 2015’s What Went Down can offer the emotional strength one might need to keep moving forward. You can hear it in Philippakis’ voice, and you can feel how much he’s pouring his heart and soul into the music. It’s really a beautiful thing to take in when it feels like the music industry has been largely condensed to 30-second soundbites with the rise of TikTok and proliferation of NFTs.

With founding member Edwin Congreave’s departure more than a year ago to pursue a postgraduate degree in economics at Cambridge University, the once-sextet has shrunk down to a trio consisting of Philippakis (lead vocals, lead guitar), Jack Bevan (drums, percussion) and Jimmy Smith (rhythm guitar, keyboards, synthesizer, backing vocals) in the studio, but you wouldn’t notice much of a difference from the sound of their seventh LP Life Is Yours that arrived in June and saw them collaborate with a number of producers, including John Hill, Dan Carey, A. K. Paul and Miles James, for the first time.

FOALS

If anything, the result is a shinier and catchier collection of songs in a pop sense, with its title track and lead single “Wake Me Up” setting the tone for the rest of the album. Life Is Yours was preceded by five singles, more than any other FOALS studio effort to date, and while others have had the same number of singles in the end, it wasn’t until after those records were released that they reached such a mark. In that regard, Life Is Yours is easily FOALS’ most accessible piece of work, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of praise with Philippakis, Bevan and Smith sharing songwriting duties. It actually still fits in quite well with the rest of their burgeoning catalog, even if it isn’t as wide-ranging or commercially successful as 2019’s two-part Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost that would eventually top the UK Albums Chart.

FOALS, nonetheless, are still touring as a six-piece with three hired guns — Kit Monteith of Trophy Wife (percussion, sampler, backing vocals), Jack Freeman (bass, synthesizer, backing vocals) of Jagwar Ma and Joe Price (keyboards, synthesizer, backing vocals) — rounding out the lineup while always making sure to deliver a “sweaty good time” as Philippakis declared last Wednesday evening at the Hollywood Palladium during their first LA show since headlining the Shrine Expo Hall more than three years ago — and over six since the last time they set foot in the Art Deco-style theater (read our show review here).

The three-time Mercury Prize nominees were in good spirits as they often are when they come to town, particularly one where they spent time working on Life Is Yours and Smith also now resides. But on this night, FOALS weren’t just going to settle for the same setlist they uncorked less than 24 hours earlier in Oakland. Unlike our Bay Area counterparts, those of us in sunny SoCal would have the distinct pleasure of witnessing the tour debut of “Neptune” as the 10-minute epic came packaged in between What Went Down cuts “Snake Oil” and “Mountain at My Gates” heading into a brief encore break, marking only the fourth time it has been performed live so far. Of course I had hoped we would get to hear the full length’s namesake too with it being a personal favorite of mine, but considering the song hasn’t been in rotation for months dating back to July, it wasn’t all that surprising it wasn’t in the cards.

When Philippakis and company returned to the stage amid a roaring applause, it felt like they were just getting started. At the very least, FOALS know how to take things up a notch or two in the encore, and with Philippakis ripping through “Inhaler” while making his way through the crowd, it only reaffirmed their brand as an absolute force in live music. Some might claim the 60-plus stops on the “Life Is Yours Tour” extending into 2023 won’t stand up to some of their previous shows when we look back at them, but as our eardrums rattled for a final time to “Two Steps, Twice” off their 2008 debut Antidotes, it served as an immediate reminder that these past 15 years have truly been one hell of a ride for FOALS and those of us who have been here for them all.

Setlist:
Wake Me Up
The Runner
2001
(summer sky)
Olympic Airways
My Number
Black Gold
2am
In Degrees
Spanish Sahara
Red Socks Pugie
Providence
Snake Oil
Neptune (tour debut)
Mountain at My Gates

Encore:
Inhaler
Two Steps, Twice

A little rain doesn’t stop Bonobo from finishing his U.S. live tour for ‘Fragments’ with an electric hometown show at LA’s Greek Theatre

BonoboBy Josh Herwitt //

Bonobo with Tourist & O’Flynn //
Greek Theatre – Los Angeles
October 22nd, 2022 //

For those who have been following Simon Green’s work under the Bonobo moniker that the British DJ, producer and musician created more than two decades ago in the seaside city of Brighton, it shouldn’t necessarily be a surprise to hear his seventh LP Fragments arrived in January almost five years to the day since 2017’s Migration came out.

A lot has happened around the world over that span, though none more impactful than the COVID-19 pandemic of course. Green has even stated in interviews that the isolation he experienced during the lockdown stifled his creativity for much of 2020.

In fact, it wasn’t until he received Jamila Woods’ vocal parts that Fragments would begin to take shape, with “Tides” featuring the Chicago-based singer-songwriter, rapper and poet serving as its centerpiece. So while the 12-track album embodies Green’s struggles and introspection over the past two years with a deep sense of sorrow, it also offers moments of liberation and joy for the three-time Grammy nominee.

All of those emotions were channeled through Green’s music last Saturday at the Greek Theatre in his adopted hometown of LA. This wasn’t actually the first time he was headlining the historic amphitheater. No, we were there for that (read our show review here) as he shared the stage with Canadian electronic duo Bob Moses and demonstrated why his live performances are truly something special to witness.

Bonobo - Nicole Miglis


Nicole Miglis

Nonetheless, this gig marked the final date of his U.S. live tour in support of Fragments, and what better way to end a weeks-long trek across the states than on a rainy night in the City of Angels? Green might very well disagree given that the inclement weather had fans abandoning their seats for shelter on each side of the venue, but the precipitation would fortunately last for only part of Tourist’s opening set as the clouds parted before the evening’s main attraction.

By the time Green stepped onstage with his live band after 9 p.m., the Greek was ready to welcome him with open arms. It’s not often he performs with a string section behind him, but with the increasing costs that have come with touring on a larger scale, Green knows it’s not likely he’ll be able to do this again in the same capacity down the road as he confessed recently on social media. Almost a third of the songs that he would unveil featured Nicole Miglis of Hundred Waters on lead vocals, and with her touching on some newer and older Bonobo material, she filled in seamlessly as a proper substitute for Green’s wide swath of collaborators that has included Joji, Nick Murphy (aka Chet Faker) and Rhye to name a few.

There was a small hope in us too that Green would debut his brand-new single “Defender” after its drop three days prior, but despite our wish not coming true, the inclusion of “ATK” following its release in early September as well as 2019’s “Linked” proved this tour was more than just a celebration of Fragments. If anything, it was him reminding us how much his eclectic sound has been rooted in the UK dance clubs it pervaded amid the early 2000’s.

With the live music industry still in a state of recovery as many established artists struggle to make ends meet, there’s no telling what a live Bonobo show will look like in the future. One could see Green scaling back to not have as much instrumentation and instead utilizing more prerecorded stems to ease some of the financial burden — or he could simply stick to the major markets and pass on the smaller cities such as Flagstaff, Ariz. Either way, we have little doubt that however Green’s performances look one day, they will be like they have always been: beautiful, euphoric, sad and all of those feelings in between.

Setlist:
Polyghost
Rosewood
Counterpart
Surface (feat. Nicole Miglis)
Tides (feat. Nicole Miglis)
Kiara (feat. Nicole Miglis)
Bambro Koyo Ganda
Cirrus
Outlier
ATK
From You (feat. Nicole Miglis)
No Reason (feat. Nicole Miglis)
Linked
Age of Phase
Otomo

Encore:
Break Apart (feat. Nicole Miglis)
Kerala

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

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 all, this is an act that has always kept its fans on their toes, and as MMJ gear up this weekend for their most significant shows of the tour with two sold-out nights at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, there’s no telling what’s in store when James steps into what he has coined “the birth canal of the universe.” Call it whatever you want Mr. James because either way, we’ll be there for it when the lights go down and the first note is struck.

SANTA BARBARA BOWL

Setlist:
Never in the Real World
Lay Low
Compound Fracture
Least Expected
Mahgeetah
Feel You
Victory Dance
Gideon
Holdin On to Black Metal
I Will Be There When You Die
If All Else Fails
Tropics (Erase Traces)
Spring (Among the Living)
Steam Engine
I Never Could Get Enough
Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 1
Love Love Love
Complex
One Big Holiday

Encore:
In Color
Circuital
Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2
Wordless Chorus

HOLLYWOOD FOREVER CEMETERY

Setlist:
Feel You
What a Wonderful Man
Off the Record
I Will Sing You Songs
Victory Dance
Evil Urges
Golden (dedicated to “Toto” from “The Wizard of Oz”)
I’m Amazed
Spring (Among the Living)
Complex
One Big Holiday
State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.) (Jim James song)
Love Love Love
Least Expected
Circuital
Dondante
Wasted
Dancefloors

Encore:
Wordless Chorus
Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2

As his career continues to soar, Grammy winner Thundercat emits hypnotic joy in his hometown for a sold-out crowd at The Broad

ThundercatBy Rochelle Shipman //

Thundercat with Ginger Root //
The Broad – Los Angeles
July 21st, 2022 //

“Is this real?” I remember muttering out loud, squinting at the words “Thundercat plays The Broad.” Not a music venue but instead, a fancy art museum in downtown LA that’s so LA it might as well be located in Los Feliz and it may or may not be pronounced “The Brode.”

Of course it was real. This is LA. So despite my best attempts to spend last Thursday on my couch in solitude, I found myself going to a show on an otherwise-perfect couch night, standing on a grass plot amid a concrete jungle. It wasn’t a big space, with the stage tucked behind a thin line of bicycle racks and high-rise apartments towering over us on both sides of the designated performance area. But as part of its “Summer Happenings” series, the museum remained open to all attendees, offering a brief reprieve from the sold-out crowd and a prime opportunity to check out the exhibits without having to schedule another visit. I wasn’t expecting Thundercat to lead me to my first-ever Basquiats IRL, but what can I say? The man contains multitudes.

Psych-soul-pop trio Ginger Root took the stage before Thundercat, and the Huntington Beach natives had the crowd cheering before they struck their first note. Band leader and singer-songwriter Cameron Lew looked like he was born to be up there, directing touring members Matt Carney (drums) and Dylan Hovis (bass) as well as the audience with minimal effort while crooning into a bright red, upside down telephone. They were a perfect pairing with the main attraction on an ideal summer night, their bubbly tunes impeccably catchy and impossibly funky.

After that, the man himself — the coolest man I’ve ever seen — took the stage. A man who is truly more cat than human. No literally — peep the paw prints on his palms. Born Stephen Lee Bruner in his native LA, he even moves with the energy of a feline: swift and sleek, totally in control and always on his own terms. His fingers flew across the bass strings as quickly and naturally as he cracked the next joke in his songs. A handful of times throughout the night, his concentrated demeanor melted away and he blessed us with his brilliant child-like smile.

It’s really hard not to smile yourself when you’re at a Thundercat concert. It’s almost like his long fingers emit this hypnotic joy, electrifying his fans and spreading pure glee. Even when he isn’t grinning, the 37-year-old musician and actor has this air of amazement, as if he can’t believe how talented he is either.

After welcoming us a few songs into his set, he paused and said, “I’m in Star Wars.” Everyone cheered and he beamed, proudly repeating, “I’m in Star Wars. I can’t believe I get to say that. I’m in Star Wars.” The well-deserved applause intensified, and Thundercat smiled while closing his eyes, soaking in the tender moment.

Thundercat

Over the next hour or so, the lawn and the stage were enveloped in a mutual bliss, everyone forgetting they were smack in the middle of DTLA; Thundercat center stage showing us exactly why it’s OK — in fact, better — to just breathe in and go with the flow. The result will inevitably be beautiful, and if you’re lucky (or Thundercat), a straight jam. His bedazzled Gucci hair barrettes sparkled in the spotlight as he shredded, a constant glinting reminder that Thundercat is a star.

For a man who isn’t afraid to say what all of us are thinking (for example, “If you’re not bringing tacos, I suggest you turn and walk away” and “I may be covered in cat hair, but I still smell good”), Bruner was surprisingly demure onstage. He wasn’t exactly quiet, but when he did talk, he was intentional and he didn’t mince words. He spoke about how many friends he has lost lately, noting how the entire crowd has lost so many loved ones over the last two years, before dedicating a song to comedian Jak Knight.

“We just lost Michael Henderson, too. Do you know him?” Silence. “I assumed as much … He played with Miles Davis.”

Not so fast — he backtracked, noting that Michael Henderson also did way more than play with Miles Davis. As if that wasn’t enough. His tone was solid but somber.

“It is what it is,” he stated with a wistful, yet peaceful acceptance while directly referencing his Grammy-winning album It Is What It Is that dropped in 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the commonly used phrase isn’t just the title of Thundercat’s latest masterpiece. It’s also a lesson we could all benefit to keep in mind as we watch society disintegrate and our planet melt through the gaps in between our fingers. There’s only so much chaos and heartache we can stomach before we have to accept it for what it is. Not to roll over by any means but instead find acceptance and balance throughout life. Because why go down in a panic when we could enjoy the ride?