Beats Antique, Lettuce join forces at Club Nokia to bring electronica and funk together for one night

Beats Antique


Beats Antique

By Josh Herwitt //

Beats Antique, Lettuce with Lafa Taylor //
Club Nokia – Los Angeles
February 12th, 2015 //

It’s not often that you see a modern funk band sharing the stage with an electronic music act on the same night, let alone a weekend night in LA.

For that reason, it was hard to deny when last Friday’s co-headline show featuring Lettuce and Beats Antique was first announced that it felt like somewhat of an odd pairing between two well-established groups that have made their mark in very different ways. While Lettuce have inevitably cultivated jam-band fans with their tie to funk/jazz trio Soulive (keyboardist Neal Evans and guitarist Eric Krasno are members of both groups), Beats Antique have built their own unique audience, one that frequents Burning Man, Lightning in a Bottle and other “transformational” events put on by The Do LaB.

Lettuce


Lettuce with Nigel Hall

But if there’s one constant running through both bands’ music, it’s their ability to make their fans move. Sure, funk might not be what’s trendy among mainstream music fans these days, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a group of musicians cooking up a better batch of funk than Lettuce. If anything, the No. 1 position on Billboard‘s U.S. Jazz Albums chart that their fourth studio album Crush earned firmly stamps the band’s place in today’s music scene. And even with Lettuce performing sans Krasno — to some fans’ dismay — on this night, the collective threw down one groove after another, as bassist Erick “Jesus” Coomes and drummer Adam Deitch laid the foundation for Adam Smirnoff’s guitar licks or the band’s three-piece horns section to take center stage. That, of course, was all before Nigel Hall stepped onstage and grabbed the mic for the group’s final songs, letting it all hang out during a cover of Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Gratitude” in memory of the late Maurice White, who passed away earlier this month at the age of 74.

When it came time for Beats Antique to join the party, the Oakland-based trio quickly made its presence known, as multi-instrumentalist David Satori, drummer Tommy “Sidecar” Cappel and belly dancer Zoe Jakes often do, with a performance that makes you feel like you’re at the circus or at the very least, a psychedelic-inspired carnival. Pair that with their own take on neo-gypsy electronica and tribal fusion dance, and you get the whole experience of a Beats Antique show. Jakes started off the set by riding a stationary bicycle high above the ground and eventually grabbed ahold of a bass drum for the group’s ensuing song, pounding away with both arms as if she were leading her own marching band onstage. Joined by frequent guest musician Sylvain Carton (baritone sax, clarinet), Beats Antique dove deep into their catalog, one that’s starting to near the 10-year mark believe it or not.

Beats Antique


Beats Antique

The highlight of the night, though, was no doubt the encore, which saw Deitch and Lettuce’s horns section jump back onstage for a couple more tunes. It didn’t take long for the highly sought-after Deitch — the Berklee College of Music graduate who has also produced hip-hop tracks with 50 Cent, Redman, Talib Kweli and Xzibit and now splits his time between Lettuce, Pretty Lights and Break Science, the latter being the Brooklyn electro/hip-hop/soul duo he formed with keyboardist/producer Borahm Lee in 2009 (read one of our show reviews here) — and Cappel to capture some of the spotlight, as the two drummers battled it out on the skins while exchanging a few smiles and laughs along the way. As surprising as it was to see these two bands teaming up for the very first time, it was a special moment for the fans who stuck around until the early-morning hours, one that they will likely not forget.

RAC validates its headliner status at Club Nokia

RACBy Josh Herwitt //

RAC with Big Data, Geographer //
Club Nokia – Los Angeles
November 20th, 2015 //

You know an artist must be destined to play in LA when their first big hit is titled “Hollywood” and another one of their songs is named after the city’s most infamous freeway.

But for André Allen Anjos, who started Remix Artist Collective (RAC) in his college dorm room as a remixing side project when he couldn’t land an internship or job in the music industry (read our interview with him here), it’s been a steady progression over the past three years. Since remixing some of indie rock’s biggest bands, the native of Portugal has written a whole album’s worth of original material and played some of the most reputable U.S. music festivals in the last 12 months.

With Friday night’s gig at Club Nokia serving as an unofficial Goldenvoice showcase thanks to opening sets from two established “solo” projects if you will — Geographer, the San Francisco indie-rock band founded by singer-songwriter Mike Deni, as well as Big Data, the electronic music project of Alan Wilkis that has taken the airwaves and charts by storm with its single “Dangerous” featuring Joywave — Anjos and his sidekicks made their return to LA for the first time in more than a year, arriving onstage well after midnight to cheers from a rather modest crowd of mostly 20-somethings.

RAC

When you think about RAC’s backstory and what it started as, it’s a relatively unique one that most contemporary artists don’t share. But while Anjos has made original songwriting more of a priority for RAC now, he also hasn’t forgot where he came from or who he was when he founded the project. Heavy hitters like “Hollywood” and “Let Go” were worked into the show as expected, but the standout moments of the night came from a short, yet dynamic list of hybrid covers/remixes that were sprinkled in here and there. RAC made sure to tap into the indie-pop well early with Two Door Cinema Club’s “Something Good Can Work” and Foster the People’s “Houdini”, but it was Joywave’s “Tongues” and ODESZA’s “Say My Name” that triggered the loudest response from fans. “3AM”, RAC’s newest track that features Colorado vocalist Katie Herzig, also made an appearance at one point, although it was Liz Anjos, aka Pink Feathers, who was tasked with delivering the pop-infused cut’s heartbreaking lyrics.

Nevertheless, for all his accomplishments so far, Anjos has plenty of more work to do. After all, with only one studio album to date (the other recording being the soundtrack to the 2010 film “Holy Rollers”), RAC is still very much in the process of learning how to play the role of headliner — and with greater opportunity comes greater expectations. That’s not to say RAC can’t or won’t live up to them, but as Anjos and his bandmates continue to gel and build more chemistry in and out of the studio, there’s reason to believe after Friday’s performance in LA that there are more good things to come from this one-of-a-kind “collective.”

RAC is more than just a master remixer

RAC - André Allen AnjosPhotos by Jon Duenas // Written by Josh Herwitt //

André Allen Anjos remembers what it was like to be an undergraduate unsure of his future.

More than a decade ago, he left his home in Portugal to attend Greenville College, a private, Christian liberal arts school in southern Illinois with an enrollment of only 1,100 students. It was there that Anjos would pursue his love for music, learning about the ins and outs of the business after spending his teenage years studying piano and guitar in his home country.

But it was during his sophomore year in college that he also started to become worried about the career path he had chosen for himself.

“I was starting to freak out because I was applying to all these internships — any kind of position in a studio or at a record label that I could find — and I just couldn’t get anything,” he says by phone one day last month. “I applied for everything I possibly could.”

While Anjos was hoping to get a foot in the door any way he could, he realizes now that his résumé was likely just one among a stack of thousands. So, rather than filling out more job applications, he started to focus his efforts on something else: remixing.

At the time, remixing had largely been associated with electronic dance music, a world where both DJs and producers are regularly known for putting their own unique spin on their fellow colleagues’ work. But Anjos’ remixing interests didn’t lie with EDM. Rather, they aligned more with bands that fit under the indie-rock umbrella.

“I’d love to say I had some grand vision, but it was really me just trying to get by,” Anjos says.

What started as a “very casual thing” between Anjos and a couple of online friends quickly took off three months later when their remix of The Shins’ “Sleeping Lessons” went viral. With an upbeat, electro feel to it, the track would go on to earn a spot on the band’s B-side single release for “Australia” and immediately caught the collective ear of other established indie-rock bands like Tokyo Police Club, Bloc Party and Ra Ra Riot.

It wasn’t long after that Remix Artist Collective, or RAC for short, was born out of Anjos’ dorm room as he worked tirelessly over the next several years to expand his remix portfolio, which nowadays includes some of indie rock’s biggest names, whether it be Phoenix, Death Cab for Cutie, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Two Door Cinema Club or Lana Del Rey.

“I never thought that this would still be going,” Anjos admits as he thinks back to his initial goals and aspirations for the project. “It has sort of morphed into something completely different.”

Today, RAC is much more than simply a remix side project. With a full-length album to his name and his own set of touring members, Anjos has turned RAC into a legitimate band over the last few years. He has been releasing original material ever since 2012, when he dropped his first song “Hollywood” on the Mountain Dew-sponsored label Green Label Sound, and even more, he’s turned RAC into a commercially successful act with high-profile festivals stops at Ultra and Coachella — two large-scale U.S. music festivals with very different vibes — this past spring. For Anjos, who just entered the fourth decade of his life this year, playing both festivals is already one item he can cross off his bucket list.

“It’s been a bit of a goal to be in the middle of those two worlds,” he adds in discussing RAC’s appeal to both the electronic and indie crowds that Ultra and Coachella each foster.

Yet, after years of making a living on remixing some of his favorite artists, what made Anjos want to start writing his own songs?

RAC - André Allen Anjos

“It felt like the right time,” he says. “I had been writing original music for a while. It wasn’t necessarily foreign territory, but it just felt like the right time.”

Released on Interscope Records, RAC’s Strangers came out in early 2014 with singles featuring Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke and Matthew Koma, but what fans might not know is that most of the album’s songs were written in 2011 by Anjos, who employed many of the techniques he had learned from remixing to his songwriting process.

“The two go hand in hand,” he explains when it comes to creating remixes versus writing original songs. “When I sit down to write something, whether it has a vocal (part) or not, it’s still a very similar process for me.”

But in many ways, Strangers, which also includes tracks with Tegan and Sara, St. Lucia, Penguin Prison and Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, has additionally served as Anjos’ musical coming of age, one that continues to offer him new and exciting opportunities much like this Friday night’s headlining show in LA at Club Nokia that boasts openers Big Data, Geographer, filous and Karl Kling.

And with new material planned for the performance and his backing band clicking on all cylinders after playing together for the last two years, it’s a chance for Anjos to not only show RAC fans what’s next for the group, but also to prove how far he has come as an artist since his early remixing days.

“I feel really lucky,” he says while reflecting on his career so far. “Hopefully it continues.”

New material or not, it’s good to see Jurassic 5 still giving it their all

Jurassic 5By Josh Herwitt //

Jurassic 5 //
Club Nokia – Los Angeles
July 9th, 2015 //

In 2002, Jurassic 5 were on top of the hip-hop world. After achieving moderate success from its first two studio albums, the LA-based group’s third LP Power in Numbers soared to No. 15 on the Billboard 200 thanks, in part, to its hit single “What’s Golden” before other tracks like “Freedom” and “Hey” would later propel the six-piece further into the mainstream.

But by 2006, things had started heading in the wrong direction for the alternative hip-hop collective. DJ/turntablist Lucas Macfadden (Cut Chemist) left the group to focus on his solo career, and J5’s subsequent full-length record Feedback, despite its commercial success, was met by some rather ho-hum reviews. Less than a year later, the group broke up, citing “musical differences” for its decision to call it quits. Each of the remaining members — Charles Stewart (Chali 2na), Dante Givens (Akil), Courtenay Henderson (Zaakir aka Soup), Marc Stuart (Marc 7) and Mark Potsic (DJ Nu-Mark) — went their separate ways after the split, with some pursuing their own individual projects while Henderson was eventually forced to work a job at Nordstorm to make ends meet.

Jurassic 5 - Marc 7


Jurassic 5’s Marc 7

Seven years passed before Jurassic 5 would resurface, though this time it was in front of a packed crowd on the polo fields of Indio, Calif. The group’s Coachella performance in 2013 would signal a reunion of sorts, one that has continued through the first half of 2015 with shows overseas in Australia, New Zealand and Japan prior to this summer’s headlining U.S. tour, which featured a hometown date at Club Nokia last Thursday night.

And although Jurassic 5 hasn’t released any new material besides the Heavy D-produced track “The Way We Do It” last year, they still sound just as tight as they did in their early-2000’s heyday. In its native LA, the group appeared to be in high spirits from the minute it walked on stage. Chali 2na, arguably the group’s most beloved emcee among fans due to his deep baritone voice and remarkable rhyming ability, looked like his old cheerful and playful self, flowing effortlessly while flashing his great, big smile in between verses.

Jurassic 5 - Chali 2na


Jurassic 5’s Chali 2na

The DJ battle that ensued midway through J5’s set, meanwhile, reminded both new and old fans that the talent within the group extends equally from the front to the back of the stage. Because for as gifted as DJ Nu-Mark is, it’s hard to think of Jurassic 5 without picturing Cut Chemist behind the decks. During the few months that the group performed without him after his departure, something felt missing. It’s that relationship between DJ and emcee, after all, that makes iconic hip-hop groups like J5 so special to experience in a live setting, even more than two decades after they were formed.

At Club Nokia, Jurassic 5 never showed their age. They hit upon just about every big track they ever released and even welcomed legendary rapper Percee P to the stage late in their encore. But as nostalgic as it was hearing tracks like “Jayou”, ” The Influence”, “Quality Control” and “Improvised” more than a decade after they were written, Jurassic 5 won’t be able to live off them forever. Whether it’s next year or the year after, there will come a time when the group’s members will have no choice but to re-enter the studio and assemble a new record — if not to generate more radio play, then to at least continue touring. For now though, all six seem happy to be performing together again and similarly, so do their fans.

LA gets a taste of Down Under thanks to Jagwar Ma, Flume

Jagwar Ma & Flume


Australia’s Jagwar Ma (left) and Flume (right) played to big crowds in LA last week.

By Josh Herwitt //

Over the past five years, Australia has become a hotbed for electronically-tinged music, and Los Angeles got to experience that first hand last week from two of the country’s biggest up-and-coming acts in 2014.

Headlining the Twilight Concert Series‘ fifth annual “Australia Rocks the Pier” show, Sydney psych-dance trio Jagwar Ma returned to Southern California for the first time since packing the Gobi Tent on Coachella‘s opening day back in April. And with a rather youthful crowd flocking to the Santa Monica Pier on Thursday night, Gabriel Winterfield (vocals, guitar), Jono Ma (guitar, beats, synths, production) and Jack Freeman (bass, vocals) ran through a large chunk of their 2013 debut Howlin’. Having played Lollapalooza in Chicago and Osheaga Music and Arts Festival in Montreal the weekend before, the band has maintained one of the most rigorous touring schedules this summer.

Yet, you wouldn’t have known it from the way Winterfield and Freeman jumped around on stage while Ma manned the decks, pumping life into each song through a number of synths and drum machines. What makes Jagwar Ma such an intriguing act right now is the way it can stretch out its songs and make the most of its relatively limited catalog — much like we reported after the band’s set at Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival on Saturday.

But what was just as impressive to see was Jagwar Ma’s ability to maintain an element of surprise even with Howlin’ being almost a year old now, as it doled out covers of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” and Nirvana’s “All Apologies” after winning over the audience earlier in the night with fan favorites like “Uncertainty” and “Man I Need.” For those who hadn’t heard anything from the Aussie outfit until arriving at the beach that night, they couldn’t have asked for a much better introduction to a band that has sold out shows all the across the globe at this point.

Meanwhile, it’s hard to say that there’s an artist who has created more buzz for himself in the last year than 22-year-old Australian prodigy Harley Streten — or as his fans better know him, Flume. Streten, who started making music at the age of 13 after discovering a production software disc in a box of cereal, released his self-titled debut in late 2012 and a year later, found himself winning awards for “Best Male Artist” and” Best Independent Album” in his home country.

Since then, Streten’s newborn success has only continued to spread across the Pacific Ocean and into the states, where the shift toward electronic music is more apparent than ever these days. By the time he played Coachella this year, he had already proven to be too popular to be performing in a tent, evidenced by the thousands of festivalgoers who were spilling outside of the Gobi’s canopy for his 50-minute set.

Opening the first of three sold-out shows at Club Nokia on Friday night, Streten proved to not be in any rush, strolling out on stage almost 30 minutes after his expected 11 p.m. start time. If he was told that showing up late was the “cool thing to do” when you play in LA, it’s not — not when you have fans that waited in line as early as 4 p.m. for a chance to stand up front.

Maybe that didn’t matter to Streten, though. After all, he seems to be everywhere of late, squeezing in sets last weekend at Splash House in Palm Springs on Saturday and Outside Lands in SF on Sunday (read our report, which included some hilarious tree dancing) between his three headlining gigs Friday, Saturday and Monday in LA.

At Club Nokia, he was absolutely adored by the 18-22 demographic that dominated the dance floor. He broke out the hits early, getting the crowd moving to his infectious single “Holdin’ On” before dropping some hip-hop on the crowd compliments of “On Top,” which features New York rapper T.Shirt.

However, for as catchy and well-produced as Streten’s tracks are, there’s still something about paying to watch a so-called “musician” stand behind a laptop — without anyone knowing what he’s truly doing — that feels somewhat disingenuous. That’s not to say that technology has no place in today’s music scene, but in an industry that has become increasingly dependent upon live performance to survive economically, very little about Flume’s show felt “live.”

If there was one element of the 75-minute show that stood above everything else, it was undoubtedly the visual component, which featured original video clips synced to each track. As cool as that was, it wasn’t anything worth spending $90-100 on, which is what tickets were being resold for on StubHub as well as Craigslist (retail ticket prices were $20-40, plus service fees).

With Jagwar Ma and Flume leading the way, there’s certainly plenty of promise for the future of music in the land Down Under. Whether both acts can continue living up to the hype that they’ve garnered from their debut albums, well, that remains to be seen.