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

Moby might think he’s old, but his 15th and newest album doesn’t sound it at Apogee Studio

MobyPhotos by Brian Feinzimer // Written by Josh Herwitt //

Moby //
Apogee Studio – Santa Monica, CA
March 26th, 2018 //

When Richard Melville Hall released his fifth album Play in 1999, probably much to many’s surprise now, it wasn’t an immediate success. Hall, after all, had hit a bit of a rough patch a few years earlier with his fourth LP Animal Rights, which saw him venturing into punk rock and straying far away from the eclecticism that delivered critical acclaim for its predecessor Everything Is Wrong in 1995.

But Play eventually propelled Hall — or “Moby” as his parents called him due to an ancestral tie to Moby Dick author Herman Melville — to mainstream status like his previous records had never before. Boasting eight singles (yes, you read that right) and selling more than 12 million copies worldwide at a point when music fans were still purchasing CDs, it became the biggest-selling electronica album of all time. Rolling Stone, in fact, has included Play as one of its 500 greatest albums on two different occasions. I don’t know about you, but it’s a masterful piece of work that immediately transports me back to the late 90’s, to a time when groove-oriented electronic music was actually starting to be considered “cool.”

Employing everything from early blues, African-American folk music and gospel to hip-hop, disco and techno on Play, Moby created sounds that our ears had never heard before. Today, he stands as one of electronic music’s, if not simply music’s, most important figures, having worked with David Bowie, Daft Punk, Brian Eno, Pet Shop Boys, Britney Spears, New Order, Public Enemy, Guns N’ Roses, Metallica and Soundgarden over a career that has spanned 40 years to date.

That’s a long time for anyone to be making music, but at the age of 52, Moby hasn’t let it catch up to him. Part of that could be related to his diet (he has been vegan for about three decades now), leaving his longtime home of New York City for sunny Los Angeles back in 2010 and an unwillingness to tour extensively anymore, though his latest studio material doesn’t offer any evidence that he has lost the ability to craft a well-conceived/produced song either.

Moby

On Monday night in Santa Monica, Hall took the stage for KCRW’s Apogee Sessions series in support of his 15th full length Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt, which arrived via Mute earlier this month. The record’s title serves as just another reminder of Moby’s passion for the late Kurt Vonnegut’s work, referencing Billy Pilgrim’s epitaph in Slaughterhouse-Five, but he isn’t the only literary influence who shines through on the 12-track album. The second single “Mere Anarchy” from Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt, in fact, was inspired by a quote from Irish poet W. B. Yeats, someone Moby has been a fan of for quite a while and even more in these chaotic, uncertain times under the Trump administration (as you can see from his Instagram account here, he is also very politically outspoken).

Still, despite all of the negativity that’s out there in the world at the moment, Moby appears to be in a relatively happy place on a personal level. He has been sober for about four years after being a self-proclaimed alcoholic and has owned his vegan restaurant Little Pine in LA’s ultra trendy Silver Lake neighborhood since 2015. And for the past two years, he has also found the time to organize his own Circle V festival as a way to celebrate music, vegan food and animal rights, the latter of which being another cause that Hall has dedicated his life to from an early age. Oh, and did we mention that he had a collaborative LP with The Void Pacific Choir come out last year? When you stack them all up, it’s pretty incredible to see Moby juggling so many projects simultaneously and juggling them all well (props to his manager, that’s for sure).

His guitar playing, meanwhile, may be just as impressive, if not surprising to some. Less than two weeks before Moby stepped into Bob Clearmountain’s diminutive recording studio, I was fortunate enough to catch him the final of his three shows at The Echo, and it was there as he performed a variety of songs from Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt, Play and a few other albums, that I fully realized just how talented he is with a black Gibson SG in his hands. He may be an electronic musician, but unlike a lot of them today, Moby is a musician in every sense of the word. While his vocals at times sound more like spoken word than actual singing, he has found more than capable sidekicks in Julie Mintz (keyboards, vocals) and Mindy Jones (vocals) to assist him in that department. Jones’ ranging voice, in particular, is one that suits his music well, and when you hear her sing, her pipes elevate the song to a whole new level.

Moby is no doubt a quirky guy. He’s not too insecure to make fun of himself, call some of his music “bad” or say what’s on his mind. Having been his friend for more than 25 years, KCRW Music Director Jason Bentley most certainly knew this, but as he traded questions for answers midway through his performance at Apogee Studio, you could tell even Bentley was surprised by how candid Moby was. The small crowd, of course, couldn’t help but laugh, as Moby made a point of telling us that he’s “old” and later on how the music video for his single “We Are All Made of Stars” was a $1 million disaster that never saw the light of day after being played only once on MTV. But as he juxtaposed the trip-hop that permeates throughout his newest album against the more old-school, ambient vibes of his past work, it was Moby who proved that his star, almost 20 years after Play dropped, continues to burn bright in 2018.

Setlist:
The Ceremony of Innocence
Falling Rain and Light
Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?
Porcelain
Like a Motherless Child
This Wild Darkness
The Tired and the Hurt
Extreme Ways
The Sorrow Tree
We Are All Made of Stars

Our favorite performances from 2017

Best live shows of 2017 - The xx, Miguel, Moderat & Coldplay

2017, where the hell did you go? It just felt like the other day that we were ringing in a new year, and yet, here we are again as we plow straight ahead into 2018.

But before we officially put a bow on 2017, it’s time for us to revisit the past 12 months at Showbams. This year, we had the opportunity to capture many amazing moments in live music, and while we couldn’t pay homage to every single performance we witnessed, we made a conscious effort to include a wide range of talent spread across the industry.

Whittling down our list, though, was not that easy. Those who didn’t make the cut but still deserve to be mentioned here include the following artists, DJs and bands (in alphabetical order) whom we either covered at their own show and/or at a music festival this year:

21 Savage, The Accidentals, Action Bronson, Alice Cooper, Alina Baraz, alt-J, Amber Mark, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, Animal Collective, Atlas Genius, The Avalanches, The Band Perry, Beach Slang, Belle and Sebastian, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Bleachers, Blonde Redhead, Bob Moses, Car Seat Headrest, Cate Le Bon, Cigarettes After Sex, Circles Around the Sun, City of Caterpillar, The Coathangers, Claude VonStroke, Chris Robinson, Con Brio, Conor Oberst, Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile, Crystal Castles, The Crystal Method, Daniel Caesar, Dawes, Dead Meadow, Deafheaven, Deep Purple, Diet Cig, DIIV, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Dr. Dog, Dr. Octagon, Duke Dumont, Eagles of Death Metal, Electric Guest, Emancipator, Emily King, Empire of the Sun, Foxygen, Future Islands, Gabriel Garzón-Montano, Gatecreeper, Girl Talk, Gone Is Gone, Grizzly Bear, Gucci Mane, Hamilton Leithauser, Hazel English, Hinds, The Hip Replacements, Hiss Golden Messenger, How to Dress Well, Iggy Pop, Isaiah Rashad, Jack Johnson, Jagwar Ma, Jamestown Revival, Jamie Isaac, Jay 305, Jen Cloher, Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas, Jessie Ware, Jim James, JR JR, Julie Byrne, Julien Baker, Justice, Karen Elson, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, KAYTRANADA, Kelis, K. Flay, Khalid, Khruangbin, Kilo Kish, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Kurt Vile, La Femme, LANY, Lauv, L.A. Witch, Lettuce, Lil Yachty, Little Dragon, Lo Moon, Lorde, Lord Huron, Miike Snow, Milky Chance, Minus the Bear, Mister Heavenly, MØ, Mondo Cozmo, Neon Indian, Nicki Bluhm, Norah Jones, North Mississippi Allstars, NVO, Oh Sees, OK Go, Once and Future Band, Pallbearer, The Palms, Passion Pit, Peaches, Perfume Genius, Petit Biscuit, Phoebe Bridgers, Playboi Carti, Pond, Porcelain Raft, PRAYERS, The Radio Dept., Real Estate, The Revivalists, Royal Blood, Sampha, ScHoolboy Q, Sheer Mag, serpentwithfeet, Silversun Pickups, Sleep, Sleigh Bells, SOFI TUKKER, Solange, Spiritualized, Styles P, Sunflower Beam, Talib Kweli, Tank and The Bangas, Tash Sultana, Tei Shi, Temples, Tennis, Tennyson, Thou, Thundercat, TOBACCO, Touché Amoré, Tool, Tove Lo, Travis Scott, Twin Peaks, Ty Segall, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Vagabon, Vance Joy, Vic Mensa, Warpaint, Weezer, White Fence, Woods, YG, Young the Giant.

Now, it’s time for The Bam Team to present our favorite performances from 2017.

The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2017

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2017:


Best of 2017 - Run the Jewels

Run the Jewels

Date: February 1st
Location: Shrine Expo Hall – Los Angeles

Yet, in just four years, Run the Jewels have already reached hip-hop’s mountaintop with their politically charged lyrics and hard-hitting beats. Just take last Wednesday’s sold-out show in LA for example. With the duo’s third studio album still only a few weeks old, 5,000 or so fans poured into the spacious Shrine Expo Hall to watch El-P and Killer Mike fuck shit up (for lack of a better term). And that’s exactly what they did after opening sets from The Gaslamp Killer, Nick Hook, Gangasta Boo and CUZ. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2017 - BADBADNOTGOOD

BADBADNOTGOOD

Date: February 23rd
Location: The Fillmore – San Francisco

As one of the bands to take the coveted headlining spot for NoisePop25, BADBADNOTGOOD seemed as — perhaps more — excited as all of the fans who made it to their sold-out show at The Fillmore. Combining consummate instrumentation with classic MC-style showmanship led by drummer Alexander Sowinski, the Canadian jazz-rock quartet has mastered the art of keeping the audience guessing where they’re going. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by James Pawlish


Best of 2017 - Spoon

Spoon

Date: March 7th
Location: Apogee Studio – Santa Monica, CA

In total, Spoon performed five songs from the new record, including “First Caress” to open a brief encore that left us eager for more. But as the five-piece rocked “Rainy Taxi” from 2014’s They Want My Soul to close, I couldn’t help but think to myself that this is one band I never should have slept on. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Larry Hirshowitz


Best of 2017 - Sigur Rós

Sigur Rós

Date: April 8th
Location: Greek Theatre – Berkeley, CA

Now a trio, Sigur Rós have been delivering goosebumps for over two decades — and it’s a delight to hear Jónsi’s voice-as-an-instrument this clear, this powerful and as confident as ever. It would be a wonderful treat to check in on this outfit every 5-10 years going forward and realize they are still going strong. -Mike Frash, photo by James Nagel


Best of 2017 - DREAMCAR

DREAMCAR

Date: April 9th
Location: Great American Music Hall – San Francisco

Fresh off a stop at Berkeley’s Hearst Greek Theatre the night before, Adams showcased some older favorites and a slew of new tunes from his 16th and latest studio album Prisoner, which came out in February. SoCal fans were treated to some extended full-band jamming, a couple of solo acoustic performances and Adams’ usual witty banter over the course of the evening.
-Jared Stossel, photo by Jared Stossel


Best of 2017 - A Perfect Circle

A Perfect Circle

Date: April 13th
Location: Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco

In the world of rock supergroups, there are few that have sprung up in the last few decades that can hold a candle to A Perfect Circle. From the onset, APC have been a powerhouse on the senses, combining members from bands such as Tool, The Smashing Pumpkins, Failure, Primus and more over the years. Their body of work has been met with high praise across the board, and they have been able to solidify themselves as one of the most unique and tenured groupings out there, as opposed to bands like Zwan and Velvet Revolver. -Andrew Pohl, photo by Mike Rosati


Best of 2017 - Radiohead

Radiohead

Date: April 14th
Location: Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA

Yes, the sound problems (all three instances) put a real damper on what was easily one of the most anticipated performances of the weekend. This was the third time Goldenvoice called on Radiohead to headline Coachella, and for one of rock’s most important bands over the last 30 years, it certainly wasn’t a charm as the saying goes. In that moment, it was pretty hard not to feel bad for Thom Yorke, who could only make light of the situation by cracking a joke even if it wasn’t supposed to be one — or so he claimed. But Radiohead more than made up for it with a masterful setlist that opened with A Moon Shaped Pool cuts “Daydreaming”, “Desert Island Disk” and “Ful Stop” before circling back to older hits such as “Everything in Its Right Place”, “There There”, “Idioteque” and even “Creep”. -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Coachella


Best of 2017 - Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar

Date: April 16th
Location: Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA

All hail, King Kendrick! Or should we say “Kung Fu Kenny?” The Compton rapper reached hip-hop’s mountaintop more than two years ago with his Grammy-winning masterpiece To Pimp a Butterfly, but headlining Coachella was still on his to-do list. In fact, it was only the second time he had ever been booked to perform at Coachella after being listed on the last line of the 2012 poster. Closing out the fest is no short order for any artist, let alone one who dropped his new album less than 48 hours before taking the stage, but K-Dot lived up to the billing with a show that provoked as much thought as it entertained. -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Coachella


Best of 2017 - The xx

The xx

Date: April 17th
Location: Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco

Playfully alluding to their material’s emotional sentiment, Romy Madley Croft (vocals, guitar) and Oliver Sim (bass, vocals) managed to entrance all of us with their tension-filled gazes and syncopated dance moves. Prolonging vocal arrangements, especially during their accelerated live interpretation of “Infinity”, were also stunning to witness. About halfway through the set, Jamie Smith (beats, MPC, production), aka Jamie xx, took the lead and transformed the room into a giant disco party thanks to an onslaught of consecutive dance hits before finishing with “Loud Places” from his 2015 solo LP In Colour. -Molly Kish, photo by Norm de Veyra


Best of 2017 - Moderat

Moderat

Date: April 20th
Location: Mayan Theater – Los Angeles

Moderat subsequently circled back to III, performing “Intruder” before exiting the stage to a rousing applause. Yet, when the house lights didn’t come on right away, the suspense began to build once again. Less than a minute later, the three-piece reemerged, giving the audience more than its money’s worth. Two-encore shows are usually reserved for high-profile groups with extensive catalogs like Radiohead, but Moderat have never played by any rules. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2017 - The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips

Date: May 9th
Location: The Theatre at Ace Hotel – Los Angeles

The Lips, of course, made sure to play that song, and even though it was without Watts, it still proved to be an unforgettable moment due to the fact that Coyne rode a life-size unicorn from one end of the stage to the other as he belted out lines like “Yeah, there should be unicorns / The ones with the purple eyes / It should be loud as fuck / Hope the swans don’t die” to open the tune while wearing a big smile across his face. If that’s not psychedelic to you, then I don’t know what is. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2017 - Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams

Date: June 3rd
Location: Greek Theatre – Los Angeles

Fresh off a stop at Berkeley’s Hearst Greek Theatre the night before, Adams showcased some older favorites and a slew of new tunes from his 16th and latest studio album Prisoner, which came out in February. SoCal fans were treated to some extended full-band jamming, a couple of solo acoustic performances and Adams’ usual witty banter over the course of the evening.
-Stephanie Port, photo by Stephanie Port


Best of 2017 - Jay Som

Jay Som

Date: June 17th
Location: Potrero del Sol Park – San Francisco

Melina Duterte’s band goes by the name Jay Som and hails from Oakland. Do yourself a favor and remember this name: Jay Som. The Polyvinyl-signed songstress bathed the crowd at the Potrero Stage in her dreamy vocals and inanely catchy tunes that appeal to a wide-range of music fan; her songs could feel just as viable in the 90’s college rock area as they do today. Highlights from the set included a vibe-soaked rendition of “Baybee” as well as “The Bus Song”, arguably the artist’s first real “hit.” -Kevin Quandt, photo by Emmeline Munson


Best of 2017- AIR

AIR

Date: June 23rd
Location: The Masonic – San Francisco

AIR’s live performances focus on capturing the crisp, detailed production style that the duo has honed over two decades. It’s a vibrant, textured sound. Centered around acoustic guitar, synthesizers and the breathy timbre of the duo’s immaculate harmonized vocals, the use of live drums helped round out the contrast between both the artificial and acoustic sounds in songs like “Cherry Blossom Girl”. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Steve Carlson


Best of 2017 - PLANETARIUM

PLANETARIUM

Date: July 21st
Location: Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland

PLANETARIUM’s music, which channels Stevens’ reflections on astronomy, science and even the intricacies of human consciousness, is a fusion of styles from all four band members that evokes feelings of unity. The group’s performance was accompanied by otherworldly visuals that filled the backdrop as it traversed the Solar System with quite a few emotionally charged songs inspired by the planets and other celestial bodies like “Neptune” and “Jupiter”. -Norm de Veyra, photo by Norm de Veyra


Best of 2017 - The Drums

The Drums

Date: July 21st
Location: The Fillmore – San Francisco

By the time The Drums took the stage, the intimate venue was packed to the brim with fans. The Brooklyn outfit made as much of an impression as it did when frontman Jonathan Pierce and company exploded onto the scene in 2009 with their initial EP Summertime! From then on, it became glaringly obvious with their eccentric band members and seemingly effortless style that they possessed an energetic presence. And at their SF show, it didn’t take long for the capacity crowd to fall into a groove as the venue’s whole atmosphere lit up. -Jacqueline Moore, photo by Jacqueline Moore


Best of 2017 - Miguel

Miguel

Date: July 23rd
Location: Annenberg Space for Photography – Los Angeles

Once the sun set and Miguel stepped onstage, the audience was transported somewhere else entirely. Born and raised in LA, the 31-year-old’s silky-smooth voice floated through the cool evening breeze over the twinkle lights in the trees, giving the impression of an island retreat rather than a concert in the park. -Rochelle Shipman, photo by Rochelle Shipman


Best of 2017 - The War on Drugs

The War on Drugs

Date: August 5th
Location: Apogee Studio – Santa Monica, CA

Granduciel’s raspy voice, as well as his driving (no pun intended) guitar rhythms and reverb-laden riffs, are largely what separates The War on Drugs from the rest in a crowded indie-rock scene, but the sum of the band’s parts — Charlie Hall (drums), David Hartley (bass), Anthony LaMarca (guitar, keyboards), Robbie Bennett (keyboards) and finally Jon Natchez (saxophone, keyboards) — also creates a sound that while familiar, still feels uniquely different. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Larry Hirshowitz


Best of 2017 - Gorillaz

Gorillaz

Date: August 11th
Location: Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, Golden Gate Park – San Francisco

Easily one of the most anticipated acts of the weekend, Gorillaz’s Humanz tour made its West Coast debut on Day 1 at OSL. After a six-year hiatus, expectations ran extremely high for this headlining performance. On previous tours, the band’s members had played second fiddle to the cartoon projections of their alter egos onstage, but everyone was visible this time around. Several collaborators from Gorillaz’s previous albums, including Kali Uchis, Yukimi Nagano and Del the Funky Homosapien, came out to join them, and the Damon Albarn-led group still pulled some even bigger surprises with cameos appearances from De la Soul and Pusha T. -Molly Kish, photo by James Pawlish


Best of 2017 - Cage the Elephant

Cage the Elephant

Date: August 12th
Location: Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, Golden Gate Park – San Francisco

While the cancellation of Queens of the Stone Age was a blow a week prior to the event, the replacement that was lined up more than delivered a blistering set of rock ‘n’ roll. Cage the Elephant are now being widely considered festival-headliner material, and frontman Matt Shultz is making a strong claim for that accolade as he continues to elevate his stage act to near-Mick Jagger levels of pomp and energy. “Come a Little Closer” and “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” received hearty sing-alongs from a decidedly youthful crowd as Cage have become a favorite of Generation Z. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Marc Fong


Best of 2017 - J.I.D

J.I.D

Date: September 9th
Location: Day N Night Fest, Angel Stadium – Anaheim, CA

While the headliners thrilled as expected, it was at the side “Day” and “Night” stages where the festival’s biggest highlights were generated. J.I.D, the rising Atlanta rapper who is signed to J. Cole’s Dreamville imprint, absolutely thrilled during his set. Dazzling with his rapid-fire and agile flow, J.I.D showed off his ability to command a crowd with songs such as “General” and “EdEddnEddy” before jumping into the crowd for the tempo-changing hit “Never” that left the crowd chanting for “one more song!” -Joseph Gray & Rochelle Shipman, photo by Rochelle Shipman


Best of 2017 - SZA

SZA

Date: September 9th
Location: Day N Night Fest, Angel Stadium – Anaheim, CA

Saturday, meanwhile, featured the vintage gospel spirit and warm vibes that have elevated Chicago emcee Chance the Rapper to superstardom. Earlier in the day, SZA, this summer’s breakout star, delivered her first festival performance since the release of her well-received debut album Ctrl. Swaying, spinning and singing her raw emotions and shortcomings while coming of age, the Top Dawg Entertainment songstress didn’t disappoint. -Joseph Gray & Rochelle Shipman, photo by Rochelle Shipman


Best of 2017 - Bonobo

Bonobo (Live)

Date: September 27th
Location: Greek Theatre – Los Angeles

The real reason things felt different this time around, though, was the music. Extending and reimagining his tracks for easily one of the largest crowds he has ever performed in front of, Bonobo followed an uplifting opening set from Canadian electronic duo Bob Moses with an array of soothing sounds that paired beautifully with his lighting setup and entrancing stage production in the same way Scott Hansen (aka Tycho) creates an awe-inspiring audio-visual experience during his live-band performances. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2017 - Coldplay

Coldplay

Date: October 4th
Location: Levi’s Stadium – Santa Clara, CA

Coldplay took the stage shortly before 9 p.m. as a video montage of fans who introduced them as “the biggest band in the world” played onstage. While I’m pretty sure there are a few other artists or groups from their side of the pond (ehem, U2) who might take issue with that claim, they certainly did nothing during their electric, almost two-hour performance to dissuade that sort of thinking. Chris Martin and company, in fact, wasted no time getting down to business, flooding the stadium with confetti and firing off pyrotechnics at a steady clip while opening with “A Head Full of Dreams” and subsequently all throughout the night. -Steve Carlson, photo by Steve Carlson


Best of 2017 - Broken Social Scene

Broken Social Scene

Date: October 26th
Location: Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland

Here’s the thing about BSS — after 15 years, the web of musicians that makes up the collective have created their own individual projects, from Metric to Stars to Feist to Do Make Say Think to Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton. And while many of the band’s members who have gone on to find success in their own solo careers didn’t happen to join the group on this particular tour, the sense of professionalism built into the BSS live experience remains prevalent. Every person who stepped onstage demonstrated consummate abilities in their own realms, never missing a beat or a note. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Norm de Veyra

Best of 2017 - Jim James

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Grizzly Bear are making ‘chamber pop’ sound cool again as we discovered at Apogee Studio

Grizzly BearPhotos by Dustin Downing // Written by Josh Herwitt //

Grizzly Bear //
Apogee Studio – Santa Monica, CA
September 26th, 2017 //

With the way the world moves now — one tweet, status update or Instagram photo at a time — five years between studio albums can feel like an eternity, even when your last one received as much critical acclaim as Grizzly Bear’s did.

But for the quartet that formed in Brooklyn more than 15 years ago, 2012’s Shields served as more than just a strong follow-up to the group’s seminal LP Veckatimest. The album, which saw the band purposely take a more collaborative approach during the writing process than ever before, became Grizzly Bear’s highest-charting effort, surpassing the No. 8 position that Veckatimest reached on the Billboard 200 by one spot. And even with the struggles that they faced along the way, with the band scraping most of the early material it recorded for Shields in Marfa, Texas, and subsequently starting over by returning to Cape Cod, Mass., where they conceived their sophomore LP Yellow House, Grizzly Bear managed to still come out on top.

If one thing is clear, it’s that patience has been a virtue for Ed Droste (vocals, keyboards, guitar), Daniel Rossen (guitar, vocals), Christopher Bear (drums, vocals) and Chris Taylor (bass, vocals). It’s why we shouldn’t be surprised that their fifth full length Painted Ruins, which dropped in mid-August on RCA (their first with the label since they left Warp), took almost twice as long to reach fans as any of their previous albums did and yet, at the same time, holds just as much water as any of them, Veckatimest included. Painted Ruins, in fact, could very well be Grizzly Bear’s most accessible album to date with four singles and one of them being “Four Cypresses”, which opened their private show in Santa Monica for KCRW’s Apogee Sessions last Tuesday.

Grizzly Bear

Apogee Studio has been a special place for artists and bands to showcase new music over the last five-plus years, but this performance was particularly significant, and not just because it was a celebration of Grizzly Bear’s latest feat, but also because it marked the 75th live session at Bob Clearmountain’s private recording studio since he first opened his doors to KCRW back in 2011. From Ryan Adams to The War on Drugs (read our review here) and everyone else who has graced the room’s diminutive stage, it’s arguably KCRW’s best series to date, bringing fans as close as humanly possible to some of their favorite musicians in a setting that’s as intimate as you’ll find anywhere.

While the champagne flowed on this celebratory night, that intimacy played exceptionally well for Grizzly Bear, as the band and touring member Aaron Arntz (piano, keyboards) dug into tracks almost exclusively from Painted Ruins for the first half of their set before Rossen and Taylor both sat down with KCRW Music Director Jason Bentley to share their own stories as a band (and a few laughs, too). But despite some awkward moments during the interview, Bentley did offer an interesting observation, at one point describing Grizzly Bear’s music as “chamber pop.” For those not familiar with the term, chamber pop refers to a style of rock ‘n’ roll that was born out of the 60’s by groups like The Beach Boys and predicated on the use of strings, horns, piano and vocal harmonies, the latter of which being a characteristic you can often hear in Grizzly Bear’s music. Because it’s not all that common that you find a band with members who all can sing (and do it well collectively), and with that in mind, Grizzly Bear are certainly among rare company these days.

For a long time, I couldn’t quite put my finger on Grizzly Bear’s sound. The only descriptor I could conjure up was the lame and trite “indie rock” label, even though I knew I was doing a total disservice to the music. But as the four-piece ran through some of its fan favorites, from “Sleeping Ute” to the wildy popular “Two Weeks” that hinges on a beautiful vocal harmony, I thought about what Bentley had said minutes earlier and just how much truth there was to it. Chamber pop might be a thing of the past, but if there’s one band making it sound cool again, Grizzly Bear, as we came to find out, are that band.

Setlist:
Four Cypresses
Losing All Sense
Yet Again
Cut-Out
Mourning Sound
Sleeping Ute
Two Weeks
Three Rings
Foreground
While You Wait for the Others

Encore:
Sun in Your Eyes

The War on Drugs’ new album sounds like another masterpiece after their preview at Apogee Studio

The War on DrugsPhotos by Larry Hirshowitz // Written by Josh Herwitt //

The War on Drugs //
Apogee Studio – Santa Monica, CA
August 5th, 2017 //

In today’s hypercompetitive, oversaturated music industry, following a great album with an even greater one can be a tall task for any band, no matter how much commercial success it has had.

Adam Granduciel, for one, should know that by now.

Because when the once-Philadelphian dropped The War on Drugs’ third LP Lost in a Dream more than three years ago on longtime indie label Secretly Canadian, there was no way for him to know what the response would be. As the band’s frontman and primary songwriter, Granduciel and a rotating cast of sidekicks had received a modest amount of fanfare up to that point, with 2011’s Slave Ambient garnering critical acclaim from the music media, but nothing quite like what he would amass by the end of 2014.

After debuting at No. 26 on the Billboard 200 chart, Lost in a Dream would go on to produce five singles and top numerous “Best Album of the Year” lists, earning universal praise from fans and critics alike. It’s an album, with plenty of depth both lyrically and sonically, that’s undeniably one of the best soundtracks for the open road — a modern-day hybridization of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Rod Stewart all rolled into one aural experience that fits perfectly as you roar down a long stretch of highway in the middle of nowhere with the top down on your 1967 Ford Mustang convertible.

The War on Drugs

Granduciel’s raspy voice, as well as his driving (no pun intended) guitar rhythms and reverb-laden riffs, are largely what separates The War on Drugs from the rest in a crowded indie-rock scene, but the sum of the band’s parts — Charlie Hall (drums), David Hartley (bass), Anthony LaMarca (guitar, keyboards), Robbie Bennett (keyboards) and finally Jon Natchez (saxophone, keyboards) — also creates a sound that while familiar, still feels uniquely different. And as we came to find out last Saturday night in Santa Monica, that formula only continues to shine on The War on Drugs’ forthcoming record A Deeper Understanding, which they previewed in part during their private show for KCRW’s Apogee Sessions.

The last time we were invited to Apogee Studio, we were lucky enough to catch psychedelic indie rockers Spoon (read our review here) performing songs off their new album titled Hot Thoughts before unleashing it earlier this year. But in the same way Britt Daniels’ departure from Los Angeles and return to Texas informed Spoon’s latest studio effort, Granduciel also told KCRW Music Director Jason Bentley during a brief interview midway through the group’s performance that his recent move to the City of Angels provided the same kind of inspiration during the writing and recording process for A Deeper Understanding.

With the LP’s release date set for August 25th, it won’t be long before the whole world gets to hear what Granduciel and company have been up to over the last two years — and after what we heard inside Apogee Studio, there’s a lot to be excited about. Opening with “Pain”, which they released just one day prior, The War on Drugs presented four other tracks from A Deeper Understanding, including their single “Holding On” that picks up right where Lost in a Dream left off, before closing the first set with “An Ocean Between the Waves”, a seven-minute-plus voyage through peaks and valleys that ranks right up there with their more celebrated songs like “Red Eyes” and “Under the Pressure”.

Though we only got to hear half of A Deeper Understanding, what we did get to hear from the 10-track LP felt like something that believe it or not, has all the makings to be just as special as 2014’s Lost in a Dream. That may be hard to fathom considering that the band’s luster has likely worn off by now, but if so, it will be a testament to Granduciel’s vision and an ability to forge a deeper connection with his bandmates than he has ever had to before. Unlike Lost in a Dream, which was written entirely by Granduciel, A Deeper Understanding has been coined a “band record,” and as we witnessed on this warm, summer night in Southern California, one that’s certainly worthy of our time and attention once again.

Setlist:
Pain
Holding On
Strangest Thing
Accidentally Like a Martyr (Warren Zevon cover)
An Ocean Between the Waves
In Reverse
Eyes to the Wind
Lost in a Dream
You Don’t Have to Go
Under the Pressure*

*Editor’s Note: “Brothers” was originally listed on the setlist

Spoon give us plenty of ‘Hot Thoughts’ during their private show at Apogee Studio

SpoonPhotos by Larry Hirshowitz // Written by Josh Herwitt //

Spoon //
Apogee Studio – Santa Monica, CA
March 7th, 2017 //

I don’t know why, but Spoon are one of those bands I’ve never given enough of a chance. I suppose I could chalk it up to the fact that there are too many options out there these days, that the market is simply too oversaturated, though it’s not as if I hadn’t heard of or known about them.

In fact, I even own some older Spoon albums like 2005’s Gimme Fiction and 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. But that still wasn’t enough for me to ever dive deep into their catalog and get hooked. In more recent times, they’ve been that band with the “Cherry Bomb” song in that ubiquitous Dr. Pepper Cherry commercial to me. It’s only been in the last couple of months that I’ve taken more of an interest after hearing what the group has shared so far from its upcoming ninth LP Hot Thoughts.

I’d like to think it didn’t take me nearly 25 years to come around to Spoon’s unique sound that borders somewhere between indie rock and psychedelic rock (call it psychedelic indie rock if you want), but that’s unfortunately not the case. I can’t call myself a fan yet, but as it’s often said, there’s no better time to start than now, right?

Spoon


Spoon & KCRW DJ Anne Litt (center)

My curiosity in the Austin outfit took me to Santa Monica on a Tuesday night, where it was playing a private show for KCRW’s Apogee Sessions less than 24 hours after performing in front of a capacity crowd at The Observatory in Santa Ana for its second U.S. show of 2017. Apogee Studio has been home to a number of special performances over the years, one of which was The Avett Brothers in September (read our review here), but this one felt extra special due to the fact that we were hearing songs that hadn’t been officially released yet.

Hot Thoughts won’t drop until next week — March 17th to be exact — but KCRW DJ Anne Litt assured us before they hit the stage that just like every Spoon album that had come before it, this one really was “the masterpiece.” Less than three years have passed since Spoon put out their last studio album They Want My Soul, long enough for frontman and founding member Britt Daniel to leave Los Angeles and return to his home state of Texas. Daniel, who serves as the band’s primary songwriter, has watched Spoon go through a bevy of lineup changes over the years, including the recent departure of multi-instrumentalist Eric Harvey, but through it all, drummer Jim Eno has remained his partner in crime. It’s essentially why Daniel decided to move back to Austin, where Eno’s studio Public Hi-Fi is located and some of the tracks for Hot Thoughts were laid down. And along the way, they’ve added several talented players like Rob Pope (bass, guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), Alex Fischel (keyboards, guitar, backing vocals) and Gerardo Larios (guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), with the latter signing on to replace Harvey as a touring member earlier this year.

At the center of it all, though, is and always has been Daniel, and as Spoon kicked things off with a new tune called “Do I Have to Talk You Into It” before seguing into the title track from their forthcoming effort, it was easy to see why he remains the band’s guiding force. After he won us over with another Hot Thoughts track entitled “I Ain’t the One”, Daniel sat down with Litt for a few minutes to discuss the writing and recording process for the album. For those of us lucky enough to be in the room, it was a chance to learn more about what makes him tick. In total, Spoon performed five songs from the new record, including “First Caress” to open a brief encore that left us eager for more. But as the five-piece rocked “Rainy Taxi” from 2014’s They Want My Soul to close, I couldn’t help but think to myself that this is one band I should have never slept on.

Setlist:
Do I Have to Talk You Into It
Hot Thoughts
Inside Out
The Beast and Dragon, Adored
I Saw the Light
I Ain’t the One
Rent I Pay
Can I Sit Next to You
Do You
Small Stakes
My Mathematical Mind

Encore:
First Caress (Live debut)
Rainy Taxi

Spoon

The Avett Brothers take us inside their new album for an intimate performance at Apogee Studio

The Avett BrothersPhotos by Davis Bell // Written by Josh Herwitt //

The Avett Brothers //
Apogee Studio – Santa Monica, CA
September 19th, 2016 //

Before The Avett Brothers were ever THE Avett Brothers, Seth and Scott Avett were Margo and Nemo. Margo was Seth’s high school rock band, and Nemo was Scott’s band that he formed in college. While Seth’s band would eventually merge with Scott’s to form an even bigger Nemo, it wasn’t until the two brothers self-released their debut EP, titled The Avett Bros., in 2000 that their partnership as an eclectic folk-rock outfit was realized.

More than 15 years later, The Avett Brothers are riding high after their ninth and latest studio album True Sadness debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart when it dropped back in June. The LP, which Seth describes as “a patchwork quilt, both thematically and stylistically,” drew its fair share of applause and jeers from the music media, but in the file-sharing world we live in now, selling 40,000-plus copies in an album’s first week ain’t half bad.

The Avett Brothers


The Avett Brothers & KCRW Music Director Jason Bentley (center)

Currently on tour in support of True Sadness, The Avett Brothers followed up their Sunday set at KAABOO Del Mar with a private show in Los Angeles for KCRW’s Apogee Sessions the next night. Tucked away on the eastern edge of Santa Monica along an industrial stretch, Apogee Studio is a hidden gem in LA’s ever-growing music scene, a state-of-the-art recording studio that at times doubles as a petite concert venue with a maximum capacity of 200.

What you might not know, though, is that The Avett Brothers are more than just musicians. As we found out during KCRW Music Director Jason Bentley’s interview with Seth and Scott prior to their performance, both are visual artists as much as they are musicians. The sheer number of hours spent creating the album cover for True Sadness more or less proves their attention to every last detail, from the melodies they write to the stories they tell with their lyrics. Of the 14 songs they performed at Apogee Studio, eight of them were from True Sadness, and rightfully so. The Avetts have come a long way since their days as Margo and Nemo, and with legendary producer Rick Rubin at their side throughout it all, there’s no need for them to look back now.

Setlist:
D Bag Rag
True Sadness
Laundry Room
Satan Pulls the Strings
Morning Song
Divorce Separation Blues
You Are Mine
Fisher Road to Hollywood
Smithsonian
Ain’t No Man
Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise
No Hard Feelings

Encore:
Stay All Night
Murder in the City

The Avett Brothers