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

Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen & Julien Baker deliver all the feels at LA’s Greek Theatre on ‘The Wild Hearts Tour’

The Wild Hearts Tour - Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen & Julien Baker


Sharon Van Etten (center), Angel Olsen (left) & Julien Baker (right)

By Steph Port //

Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen & Julien Baker with Quinn Christopherson //
Greek Theatre – Los Angeles
July 28th, 2022 //

It was a beautiful summer night in LA last Thursday as “The Wild Hearts Tour” featuring the powerhouse indie trio of Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen and Julien Baker rolled into the Greek Theatre for the first of two much-anticipated dates. The show left us with all the feels, completely in awe of all three artists, and ultimately not wanting it to end.

After cheekily walking onstage to Manfred Mann’s “Quinn the Eskimo”, Alaskan-born singer-songwriter Quinn Christopherson opened the evening with a set of his dreamy, minimalist pop songs from across his catalog of EPs and singles.

Julien Baker


Julien Baker

Baker then took the stage and opened with an old favorite in “Sprained Ankle” before unveiling mostly newer songs from last year’s Little Oblivions as well as a few from 2017’s Turn Out the Lights. Baker’s powerful vocals and raw, vulnerable lyrics had us glued to her visage and utterly impressed by the 26-year-old’s skilled, energetic guitar playing the entire way.

The sun went down just in time for Angel Olsen to serve us a dose of her quintessential moody-musical medicine. Joined by a large, colorful band that included a string section, Olsen’s performance contained a slew of the brooding ballads that we love her for, many from her new album Big Time that came out in June and of course her breakout hit “Shut Up Kiss Me” off 2016’s My Woman. Although her songs bend toward the emotional, Olsen’s stage banter featured lighthearted jokes and jovial crowd interactions that only endeared us to her more.

Angel Olsen


Angel Olsen

Finally, the incredible Sharon Van Etten brought an energy and focus that had us fully entranced and powerless to her presence. Her signature, edgy brand of rock was on full display as she and her band traversed across her deep discography, including tracks off her sixth LP We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong the New Jersey native unleashed back in May. Playing in her new hometown of LA since she moved cross country in 2019, Van Etten spoke to the crowd about the origins of her latest material after writing and recording as a new mother in her home studio during the COVID-19 pandemic. We listened as she humbly opened up her heart to share her experience with us.

Olsen joined Van Etten onstage to close out the evening with a crowd-pleasing rendition of their popular 2021 duet “Like I Used To” that was produced by Grammy winner John Congleton. As the tote bag being sold at the merch stand proclaimed, “I went to ‘The Wild Hearts Tour’ and all I got was emotional.” While that’s certainly true, in reality we ended up getting much, much more.

Sharon Van Etten


Sharon Van Etten

QUINN CHRISTOPHERSON

Setlist:
Bubblegum
Just Like Céline
Evelene
Loaded Gun
2005
(Unknown)
Thanks

JULIEN BAKER

Setlist:
Sprained Ankle
Bloodshot
Tokyo
Shadowboxing
Favor
Relative Fiction
Heatwave
Ringside
Faith Healer
Hardline
Ziptie

ANGEL OLSEN

Setlist:
Dream Thing
Big Time
Ghost On
Right Now
Shut Up Kiss Me
Sister
Go Home
Through the Fires
All Mirrors
All the Good Times
Chance

SHARON VAN ETTEN

Setlist:
Headspace
Comeback Kid
No One’s Easy to Love
Anything
Come Back
Hands
Every Time the Sun Comes Up
All I Can
Darkish
Born
Mistakes
Seventeen

Encore:
Like I Used To (with Angel Olsen)

Fleet Foxes show a sold-out crowd at LA’s Greek Theatre why they are one of our most important indie bands over the past 15 years

Fleet FoxesBy Josh Herwitt //

Fleet Foxes with Tim Bernardes //
Greek Theatre – Los Angeles
July 8th, 2022 //

What is it about Fleet Foxes that makes them one of the most important indie bands over the past 15 years? Is it frontman Robin Pecknold’s golden baritenor and clever lyrics or is it the group’s lush vocal harmonies and eclectic instrumentation?

While the talent coming out of Pecknold’s mouth has been evident ever since the indie-folk act from the Seattle area dropped its debut EP in 2006, Fleet Foxes’ sound has continued to evolve and grow in that time past the Grizzly Bear comparisons, with 2020’s Grammy-nominated Shore exhibiting more of that sonic progression despite a three-year hiatus in the mid-2010’s and signing to their third record label in four albums.

None of those subplots seemed to have much effect on the final product, though. The gorgeous 15-track effort, if anything, represents another major step forward for Pecknold, and at the age of only 36, there’s no doubt that in a crowded landscape he has already proven to be one of the best songwriters out there after 2011’s Helplessness Blues and 2017’s Crack-Up cracked (no pun intended) the Top 10 on the U.S. Billboard 200.

But even though Shore didn’t quite reach the same level of commercial success after being intentionally released on the autumnal equinox, it boasts some of Fleet Foxes’ catchiest melodies. It also established Pecknold (vocals, guitar) as more than just the band’s primary songwriter and truly the project’s creative mastermind after making the record without any of the other full-time members’ involvement. He instead worked with a myriad of collaborators in the studio, from Christopher Bear and Daniel Rossen of Grizzly Bear to Kevin Morby and horn quartet The Westerlies, overseeing every step of the process right next to recording and mixing engineer Beatriz Artola. So in many ways, Shore is Pecknold’s baby and his baby alone after he was locked down for three months in his New York City apartment at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fleet Foxes

That said, you wouldn’t necessarily just know that by seeing one of Fleet Foxes’ shows on their current 28-date North American tour that included a sold-out stop in LA last Friday at the Greek Theatre, which Pecknold told us was his favorite venue in the country when he walked onstage to introduce opener Tim Bernardes, the Brazilian musician who also contributed vocals to “Going-to-the-Sun Road” on Shore. It was actually a surprising admission to hear from Pecknold, but considering that his parents don’t live far from the historic amphitheater and were in attendance this night, you could have thought Pecknold was just playing to the crowd early on. Or maybe it’s his admiration for The Beach Boys, who are scheduled to play the same stage later this summer, that has helped inform his opinion. Don’t get us wrong … the Greek is undeniably one of the best places in LA to witness live music, and it’s even in our Top 10 U.S. venues. We just can’t necessarily agree with Pecknold on this one as much as we admire and respect him. All differences aside, he did sound as good as he ever has — and maybe even better than on the last Fleet Foxes tour cycle when we caught them co-headline the Hollywood Bowl in 2017 with Beach House and perform at Coachella the following year — with his voice maturing like a fine wine.

For this run, Pecknold has been joined by more than just his usual four sidekicks in 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). Christopher Icasiano (drums, percussion) has come onboard this year as a touring member, and with likely a bigger budget than the last time, Pecknold made sure to bring three-fourths of The Westerlies on tour, too. There was even a call for “Post” … you know, as in the 27-year-old Post Malone, who has become friends with Pecknold in recent years and invited him in May to sing “Love/Hate Letter to Alcohol” with a choir during his “Saturday Night Live” performance. It’s too bad he was allegedly sick, according to Pecknold.

Fleet Foxes have been setting the tone for these latest gigs with the first three tracks off Shore before going all the way back to their self-titled debut LP to deliver “Ragged Wood”, “Your Protector” and “He Doesn’t Know Why” respectively. Of the 24 songs that we heard at the Greek, nine were from Shore, with “I’m Not My Season” earning the solo acoustic treatment midway through the set. Pecknold has been known, however, to accept song requests while engaging with fans, and he did his best to oblige us on at least a couple of occasions over the course of two hours while also issuing a few jokes about Gen Z culture. There was the second half of “The Shrine/An Argument” dedicated to Pecknold’s friend Kerwin Frost, who was sitting a few rows in front of us, and the live debut (albeit a partial performance) of “Young Man’s Game” that was prompted by the audience.

It’s not uncommon at any concert for folks to head home when a band walks offstage to take its encore break, but when Pecknold and company returned from theirs after a few minutes, they were greeted by a roaring applause. After all, these were no fair-weather fans, and in a city like LA that has been on the receiving end of such criticism, nothing felt further from the truth as Fleet Foxes sent us home with the Helplessness Blues title track. Maybe it was because Pecknold proclaimed within the first few songs of the evening that this was the best show he had ever played or because it was the first time in nearly 11 years that the band had played the Greek. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that there’s still plenty of love for Fleet Foxes in the City of Angels and far, far beyond.

Setlist:
Wading in Waist‐high Water
Sunblind
Can I Believe You
Ragged Wood
Your Protector (followed by joke with “Montezuma” tease)
He Doesn’t Know Why
Featherweight
Third of May/Ōdaigahara
White Winter Hymnal
Phoenix (Big Red Machine cover)
Mearcstapa
Mykonos
I’m Not My Season (solo acoustic)
Blue Spotted Tail (solo acoustic)
The Kiss (Judee Sill cover)
The Shrine/An Argument (“An Argument” only; dedicated to Kerwin Frost)
Drops in the River
A Long Way Past the Past
Young Man’s Game (Live debut – partial; audience request)
Blue Ridge Mountains
Grown Ocean

Encore:
For a Week or Two
Going-to-the-Sun Road (with Tim Bernardes)
Helplessness Blues

Looking back looks oh so good on Bright Eyes at LA’s Greek Theatre

Bright EyesBy Rochelle Shipman //

Bright Eyes with Cate Le Bon //
Greek Theatre – Los Angeles
June 23rd, 2022 //

There’s good news, and there’s bad news. The bad news is that Americans with uteruses lost the right to make a decision about their own bodies last week. The good news is that Conor Oberst is OK. And therefore, somehow, some day, some way … we will be OK, too.

Bright Eyes haven’t exactly had a smooth start to their pandemic-plagued “Down in the Weeds Where the World Once Was Tour” across the U.S., with Oberst hurting his wrist from a fall during their Detroit gig early on the first leg. Concerned fans came out of the internet woodwork shortly thereafter, nearly cataloging his onstage behavior night to night, wondering if his well-documented demons would let him make it through the next show. The tour’s second leg kicked off this month with markedly less hitches, and by the time Oberst and his sidekicks made it to LA (“a second home for many of us” as he noted), they delivered a performance that was nothing short of astounding.

With Bright Eyes fresh off the release of their first three companion EPs in May, it’s clear that looking back looks good on them. The band was tighter than ever, with Nate Walcott perched on his rightful podium of keyboards and strings and Mike Mogis flanking Oberst as his literal righthand man. They opened with “Dance and Sing” before testing the fabric of the crowd’s emotions with a one-two punch featuring “Lover I Don’t Have to Love” followed immediately by “Bowl of Oranges”. (Personally, I am writing this from the grave as a result.)

Bright Eyes weaved in a rightful amount of newer material, finally offering 2020’s Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was the proper live show it deserved. And it genuinely looked like they had a blast. Oberst showed off some new dance moves he must have learned while in lockdown, thrashing about the stage with a single earring and a glittery black guitar. The entire show carried an underlying adrenaline rush, quiet but consistent, threatening to burst through.

However, nothing set the crowd off quite like the older tunes, especially after two and a half years at home isolated from society. We were treated to classics like “Old Soul Song”, “Falling Out of Love at This Volume”, “Poison Oak”, “Another Travelin’ Song” and even “Something Vague” as well as “Neely O’Hara”. As if that wasn’t enough, they hit us with an unbelievable encore led by “First Day of My Life” and “I Believe in Symmetry” before closing a perfect night with “One for You, One for Me”.

Bright Eyes

There is something about seeing a band you never thought you’d get to see again — an anticipation and unspoken electrical tension lingers before the music actually starts. It melts away into an elated disbelief after about 4-5 songs as wide-eyed fans exchange toothy grins with perfect strangers, saying everything without having to say anything at all. Everyone at the Greek Theatre held that night close with the same precious care, still unable to believe to some degree that we were back together again, finally back with Bright Eyes. You could have heard a pin — or in California, a vape pen — drop during “Poison Oak” off 2005’s I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning as screams of “I love you, Conor!” filled the air during breaks in the action. Oberst moved about the stage with a ferociousness that made it difficult to tell just how genuine his own enjoyment was, but he did touch upon the importance of us treating each other with care and kindness while clasping hands with some stunned fans in the front row. At one point, he even made a joke about having a stock of “cry tests” on the group’s tour bus with their COVID-19 tests. If anyone in the band isn’t sad enough he trolled, they’re fired.

As far as Bright Eyes shows go, this was one for the books. It was so solid, in fact, that I found myself getting angry during it. “Who are these people online to question Oberst, to act as though he was ever pretending to be someone he’s not, here in the year 2022?” I pondered. Sure, he slurred a few words throughout the set, but I can’t recall a show in the last 15 years where he didn’t. As a lifelong Bright Eyes fan, yes, there are days and moments I lose worrying about his own wellbeing, but then I stop myself. I remember that’s part of what I signed up for as a fan of Oberst’s work, and that listening closely to any album he’s released reminds me it’s actually par for the course. I often try to consider the fact that quite possibly those faceless fans haven’t been lucky to see him live as many times as I have. Or perhaps they found him a bit more recently via Phoebe Bridgers, unaware just how deep Oberst’s emotional register actually goes. Maybe they just don’t realize that he’s singing pages out of his personal diary.

Here’s the thing about Oberst: the man is depressed. At the age of 42, he has never even pretended that he’s not depressed. He was born that way and has lived that way for decades, documenting it in plain sight. A few years ago, he went through a divorce, suddenly lost a brother and battled some health issues. Then came the pandemic, which halted life in a very specific way for musicians in particular. We were all pretty isolated for about two years, which is the last thing a depressed person needs no matter what they might say. And despite all of that depression, he still drags himself onstage night after night, year after year, to tell us in person that he’s depressed. As someone myself with a crippling case of lifelong depression, I can honestly say I don’t know how he does it.

The fact that Oberst has made it through alive to this point is an achievement in and of itself. Simply the fact that he’s still here at all, after the past few years of hell we have all collectively gone through, is an accomplishment deserving of flowers — bouquets on bouquets that we must hand out while the native of Nebraska is still here to receive them.

It’s safe to say that Oberst is doing phenomenal, all things considered. I have to admit his worldwide web warriors had me a little worried before this show, but he proved them wrong. Bright Eyes will be here to serenade us through much, much worse for years to come. After all, Oberst said it himself by quipping near the end of the night: “We’ll be back, don’t you worry … like a real bad cancer.”

Setlist:
Dance and Sing
Lover I Don’t Have to Love
Bowl of Oranges
Mariana Trench
One and Done (with “Whole Lotta Love” drum outro tease)
Old Soul Song (for the New World Order)
Jejune Stars
No One Would Riot for Less
Falling Out of Love at This Volume
Persona non grata
Something Vague
Stairwell Song
Neely O’Hara
Poison Oak
Another Travelin’ Song
Comet Song

Encore:
First Day of My Life
I Believe in Symmetry
One for You, One for Me

I celebrated my birthday at LA’s Greek Theatre with a proper probing by Puscifer as ‘The Existential Reckoning Tour’ rolls on this summer

PusciferBy Josh Herwitt //

Puscifer with Billy Howerdel, Moodie Black //
Greek Theatre – Los Angeles
June 12th, 2022 //

California has already felt its first heat wave this year, and we’ve only reached the middle of June.

For those of us living in the Golden State who are more familiar with the notion of June Gloom than triple digits, that should only serve as a warning sign that the next three months could be unfavorably H-O-T.

While the high temperatures might play well for the live music industry with this summer marking the first since it returned to full form due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the coronavirus still remains a major part of daily life in the U.S. For that reason alone, it’s these long days when the weather is warmer (than usual) that can feel particularly reserved for us to safely catch live music outside before the days become short and a chill fills the air again. Call it “outdoor concert season” if you’d like. Either way, it’s certainly one of our favorite times of the year.

In my own case, being invited to cover Puscifer’s show at the Greek Theatre seemed like a cool way — even if there was some “work” involved — to celebrate my birthday. After all, what could be better than watching your favorite vocalist perform on your special day at one of LA’s most historic music venues?

Puscifer

Maynard James Keenan has long been known as the frontman for the critically acclaimed rock bands Tool and A Perfect Circle dating back more than a couple of decades ago, but the third project that the 58-year-old multi-hyphenate — which includes his acting and winemaking ventures over the years — considers to be his “creative subconscious” has been making music for almost 15 years with its latest LP Existential Reckoning dropping toward the end of 2020.

Puscifer, in many ways, feels inspired at least in part by Keenan’s brief stretch in Green Jellÿ during the early 90’s that saw him sing those high-pitched backup vocals as one of the pigs on the 1992 hit “Three Little Pigs” (you might recall the song’s classic claymation music video, too). Half comedy rock and half joke metal, the trio that also consists of Mat Mitchell (guitar, bass, keyboards, synthesizers, production) and Carina Round (vocals, guitar, percussions, keyboards) as permanent members has found a niche among MJK fans who don’t always take their rock ‘n’ roll so seriously. As you can see from our photos below in fact, there were actually a couple of spectators sitting near us who dressed up in costume as Keenan’s “Billy D” character and special agent Round complete with a metal briefcase.

That’s, of course, all part of the fun at a Puscifer show. Never short on theatrics, the group often plays pre-recorded videos during its live performances that only provide the audience with more laughs and further entertainment over the course of two hours. Even those who aren’t familiar with Puscifer’s four studio albums like “V” Is for Vagina and Money Shot should get a kick out of agent-in-training Keenan trying to play a strange game of celebrity lookalike on screen at one point in the evening.

Yet I would be remiss to not mention that when Puscifer announced “The Existential Reckoning Tour” in February, the slogan for the 21-date run was “Prepare To Be Probed.” And despite the message’s erotic undertones unsurprisingly, it does feel rather fitting as our world becomes more uncertain by the day. No one can know for sure if Planet Earth will be overtaken by extraterrestrials in the future, but with Keenan opening our eyes to the possibility while still managing to make us giggle, spending a night with Puscifer isn’t just an escape from reality whether you’re blowing out candles or not.

Setlist:
Act I
Bread and Circus
Postulous
Fake Affront
The Underwhelming
Grey Area
Theorem
Vagina Mine (Remixed)
UPGrade

Act II
Apocalyptical
The Remedy
Personal Prometheus
A Singularity
The Humbling River (Nagual del Judith Mix)

Act III (Billy D on vocals)
Bullet Train to Iowa
Flippant
Conditions of My Parole
Bedlamite

Animal Collective haven’t forgotten how to be delightfully weird, delivering a manic mind melt at LA’s Greek Theatre

Animal CollectiveBy Rochelle Shipman //

Animal Collective with SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE //
Greek Theatre – Los Angeles
May 20th, 2022 //

It’s safe to say that a lot has changed in the world over the last two years, but there’s one thing that has thankfully remained the same about Animal Collective: they’re still weird as shit and delightful as all hell.

Their triumphant display at the Greek Theatre felt like a long-awaited psychedelic hug, a comforting two hours of pure and manic mind melt. Animal Collective’s music can be somewhat divisive, so to be with 5,000 of your newest friends at a concert screaming along to some of your most treasured songs … it never gets old, even if you don’t know exactly what it is that they’re saying all the time. In fact, that only adds to the beauty of it since they formed more than two decades ago.

Friday’s headlining performance in LA all the sweet spots. The last pre-pandemic tour or two had each member of Animal Collective tucked behind rightful, yet artful individual podiums, which decorated the stage and elevated the show in its own right. But after a chaotic couple of years for all of us, it felt really good to have all four of them together on the same stage, instruments spread about, baring it all in front of a live audience with nothing except a few cables and some keyboards separating them. It was a solid reminder that these guys make these stunningly intricate songs with their own human hands after all.

Avey Tare (David Portner), Deakin (Josh Dibb) and Geologist (Brian Weitz) pivoted back and forth from strings to keys and synths, rarely looking up and never missing a beat, while just watching Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) coo and harmonize from behind his drum kit damn near felt like a privilege. And yet, they hardly exchanged so much as a glance at each other, somehow bringing an even more impressive layer to the group’s already-electrifying catalog.

Animal Collective

The setlist was perfect, the visuals were on point as ever and the band was tight on this night. Animal Collective are never loose per se — their music literally doesn’t allow it — but they glided through each song with such a familiar air of ease. In the handful of shows I’ve been lucky enough to catch over the years, they tend to use their live shows to test out brand-new material and dip into older songs — both beloved favorites and those that don’t always get to see the light of day. Given the COVID-19 pandemic over the last two years, it’s safe to say that their 11th and newest studio album Time Skiffs didn’t exactly get that same pre-release tour treatment. This show made up for that, not only with the band righteously tearing through the bulk of the nine-track LP that dropped in February, but also with the packs of “Time Spliffs” rolling papers available at the merch table (right next to the safe abortion access information).

In addition to the Skiffs and one or two new songs, Animal Collective offered cuts from Centipede HZ, Strawberry Jam, Merriweather Post Pavilion and two songs off ODDSAC. They didn’t touch Painting With or any of the fantastic singles from the EPs surrounding it, and they didn’t dig into anything pre-Strawberry Jam. As a Strawberry Jam purist, I again felt privileged to be there. Not only did we get to hear “Chores”, but we got a fiery encore of “Unsolved Mysteries” right into a raucous rendition of “For Reverend Green” to close out a four-song encore.

Within seconds of the house lights flickering on, someone in front of me lamented the absence of “My Girls”. He turned around and said, “I don’t get it. That was such a weak ending. Why wouldn’t they play their biggest hit?” To clarify (and as I confirmed by the look on his friend’s face), “For Reverend Green” was not a weak ending. It was, in fact, exhilarating. And it’s nothing against that dude — it was his first Animal Collective show. He’ll probably enjoy the next one more because he won’t be expecting it, and maybe he’ll even be surprised.

Animal Collective didn’t play “My Girls” partially because that guy expected it. They don’t champion their biggest hit in a way that many bands would. They’re not there to play the hits, and it’s clear at this phase in their career that they don’t have to be. Their live stage time is and always has been cherished among them, reserved for the songs they feel like sharing with fans and nothing else. For us, it’s just a privilege to bear witness after all these years.

Setlist:
Passer-By
Bluish
Gem and I
Wide Eyed
Prester John
Cherokee
In the Flowers
Working
Strung With Everything
We Go Back
Chores
Applesauce

Encore:
Screens
No More Runnin
Unsolved Mysteries
For Reverend Green

The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2021

Best of 2021 - Olivia Rodrigo, Quicksand, Modest Mouse, My Morning Jacket, Moses Sumney, Caribou, Outside Lands

The past 12 months have been interesting to say the least. While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the world after almost two years, 2021 did prove to be a little better than its predecessor on the calendar and a big reason for that was undoubtedly the return of live music during the second half of this year. For so many of us after being locked down at home, just having the chance to attend a concert or festival in person again provided some sense of normalcy to our everyday lives.

But as we look forward to hopefully better days in 2022, it’s time for us to unveil our annual “Best of” lists like we have done since this blog first began (see our 2020 picks here). No, we didn’t have time to catch every show or hear all of the albums released in the last 365 days, but forcing ourselves to make difficult decisions can be a fun exercise that helps us reflect on the year in music before turning the page.

So, without further ado, Showbams presents The Bam Team’s five favorite shows, albums and songs from 2021.

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2021:

My Morning Jacket (Jim James) at Santa Barbara Bowl


My Morning Jacket at Santa Barbara Bowl // Photo by Josh Herwitt

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2021
1. My Morning Jacket at Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA – September 23rd
Almost six years had passed since the last time Jim James and company performed at one of Southern California’s best music venues, but after surviving 18 months without witnessing any live music, the wait for MMJ’s return to the stage felt even longer. Fortunately for us, the Louisville-bred quintet brought its A game to kick off a string of West Coast dates and powered through a collection of 23 songs at the Santa Barbara Bowl that included the emotive “In Color” off the band’s new self-titled album as well as “Where to Begin” from the “Elizabethtown” soundtrack. MMJ have earned a reputation over the years as one of the best live acts still out there, and they certainly validated that claim with a 2.5-hour performance that made the 90-mile drive from LA on a weeknight totally worth it.

2. Modest Mouse at The Theatre at Ace Hotel – Los Angeles, CA – September 25th
3. Caribou at Greek Theatre – Los Angeles, CA – November 15th
4. Lord Huron at Hollywood Forever – Los Angeles, CA – September 30th
5. Primus “A Tribute to Kings” at Greek Theatre – Los Angeles, CA – October 17th

Top 5 Albums of 2021
1. The War on Drugs – I Don’t Live Here Anymore
What can we say about Adam Granduciel that hasn’t already been said? After composing and producing The War on Drugs’ best material during his previous two trips into the studio with the latter effort winning a Grammy, we knew it would be tough for the Philadelphia native to match that same level of excellence attained in 2014 and 2017 with Lost in the Dream and A Deeper Understanding. And though I Don’t Live Here Anymore doesn’t quite get there, it marks another LP from Granduciel and his cohorts that you can listen straight through from start to finish without skipping a track. Because in an era when our attention spans have been shrunk thanks in large part to technology, that’s something we should all applaud.

2. Modest Mouse – The Golden Casket
3. DARKSIDE – Spiral
4. My Morning Jacket – My Morning Jacket
5. Royal Blood – Typhoons

Top 5 Songs of 2021
1. Royal Blood – “Boilermaker”
The English alt-rock duo comprised of lead singer/bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher shared “Boilermaker” in the lead-up to releasing its third full length this year, and the promotional single certainly stands out from the pack as one of the best songs on Typhoons. Produced by Queens of the Stone Age leader Josh Homme, it opens with Kerr’s fuzzed-out riff and quickly builds into a head-banging anthem over the course of three and a half minutes. If you haven’t heard it before, just make sure to also check out the badass music video that’s directed by and stars Liam Lynch. Enjoy!

2. My Morning Jacket – “In Color”
3. Modest Mouse – “Walking and Running”
4. The War on Drugs – “I Don’t Wanna Wait”
5. Bonobo – “Rosewood”

Favorite remix: Four Tet – “Never Come Back” (Caribou)


Quicksand - Distant Populations

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2021
1. Kowloon Walled City at The Golden Bull – Oakland, CA – November 30th
Regardless of the fact that I didn’t go to many shows this year, this would have likely been my No. 1 even if I went to more. I had only recently been turned on to Kowloon Walled City, but I was immediately drawn to their heavy sound and they proved to replicate that sonic fury live. The Golden Bull is a nice, intimate setting for live music, and the fact that KWC were able to dial in such a balanced sound at a small club made a huge difference given how BIG they sound on their studio albums. Everyone was fixated on the band throughout its entire set, and I barely noticed anyone looking at a phone — one of the modern-day signs of a great show.

2. Quicksand at Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA – October 15th
3. Bad Religion & Alkaline Trio at The Masonic – San Francisco, CA – November 24th
4. The Slackers & The Aggrolites at Cornerstone Berkeley – Berkeley, CA – December 9th
5. Lagwagon with Red City Radio & Decent Criminal at Bottom of the Hill – San Francisco, CA – November 4th

Top 5 Albums of 2021
1. Quicksand – Distant Populations
During a turbulent time like what we’ve all been collectively experiencing since last year, I think this album resonated with me so much because Quicksand has always been such a solid standby. Distant Populations is heavy in all of the right ways without being abrasive while also effectively showcasing Walter Schreifels’ dynamic song-crafting abilities. Quicksand aren’t necessarily breaking the mold here, but they’re a band that had already set the bar high with their earlier albums and this LP is an excellent continuation of their contribution to the hardcore scene.

2. Turnstile – Glow On
3. IDLES – Crawler
4. Kowloon Walled City – Piecework
5. Snail Mail – Valentine

Top 5 Songs of 2021
1. IDLES – “The Wheel”
I love how IDLES have the ability to take a song about a heavy subject like chemical dependency and turn it into an absolutely infectious banger. “The Wheel” is a perfect example of this, leaving you drawn in and tapping your foot while giving you something to ponder. The way that it can make you feel equal parts uplifted and uncomfortable is part of the appeal to me, and this was easily one of my most played songs of the year.

2. Decent Criminal – “Reap”
3. The Dirty Nil – “Doom Boy”
4. Kills Birds – “Rabbit”
5. Snail Mail – “Valentine”


Adam Schatz


Adam Schatz at The Gold Room // Photo by Rochelle Shipman

Rochelle Shipman // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2021
1. Adam Schatz at The Gold Room – Los Angeles, CA – November 18th
The Landlady frontman actually served as the opener on this night, but armed with little more than his saxophone, keyboards and loops, it’s safe to say Schatz stole the entire show. Fresh off a tour playing with Japanese Breakfast, he stepped onstage and quite literally let loose. It was the most refreshing, freeform, organic set full of wit and wonder, offering a sharp reminder why we need to protect the live music space (and to buy the killer album Landlady put out this year, too).

2. Foxx Bodies with Suzie True & Lando Chill at Resident DTLA – Los Angeles, CA – November 7th
3. Islands at Lodge Room – Los Angeles, CA – September 9th
4. Spoon at Teragram Ballroom – Los Angeles, CA – September 28th
5. Armand Hammer & The Alchemist at Echoplex – Los Angeles, CA – September 19th

Top 5 Albums of 2021
1. Foxx Bodies – Vixen
The raw emotions that come through Foxx Bodies’ debut on indie label Kill Rock Stars grabbed me by the ankles and knocked me off my feet the first time I heard it. For an album that explores everything from mental illness, sexual abuse, eating disorders, gender fluidity and beyond, it’s equally shocking how upbeat and uplifting it comes off. It’s part empowering riot grrrl and part rollicking surf punk, full confessional. Trigger warning: it will change your life.

2. Olivia Rodrigo – Sour
3. Tyler, the Creator – Call Me If You Get Lost
4. Backxwash – I LIE HERE BURIED WITH MY RINGS AND MY DRESSES
5. Noga Erez – KIDS

Top 5 Songs of 2021
1. Hiatus Kaiyote – “Red Room”
This song is the antithesis to 2021. It’s so warm and beautiful, so intimate as though it was conceived in a world where social distancing doesn’t even exist. Nai Palm’s soft, raspy vocals envelop you, and the uncharacteristically subtle sounds (for Hiatus Kaiyote) deliver perhaps the most consistent semblance of peace felt this year.

2. Olivia Rodrigo – “Brutal”
3. Foxx Bodies – “BPD”
4. Yaya Bey – “fxck it then”
5. Little Simz feat. Cleo Sol – “Woman”

Favorite remix: Kari Faux feat. J.I.D – “While God Was Sleepin’… (Remix)”

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Caribou kick off their North American tour at LA’s Greek Theatre & make the case why they’re among today’s best live-electronic acts

CaribouBy Josh Herwitt //

Caribou with Jessy Lanza //
Greek Theatre – Los Angeles
November 15th, 2021 //

Whether he’s creating new material in the studio or hitting the decks to share the music that has inspired him with others, Dan Snaith has been honing his craft for more than two decades now.

The Canadian musician who performs under several stage names got his start recording as Manitoba, but in 2005, NYC punk rock singer Richard “Handsome Dick” Manitoba of The Dictators came calling and threatened Snaith with legal action, prompting him to make a change. Shortly thereafter, Snaith’s new recording alias Caribou was born.

But maybe Manitoba barking up Snaith’s tree over a silly name more than 15 years ago was actually a small blessing in disguise. After all, it’s only subsequently led Snaith to make several excellent Caribou records, most notably 2014’s seminal Our Love but also last year’s Suddenly that dropped just weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic took the world by storm. And of course there’s Snaith’s DJ side project Daphni that allows him to focus on more club-oriented sounds as Caribou’s live-electronic aesthetic has simultaneously grown in its appeal to larger audiences.

So after having his return to Coachella in 2020 postponed due to coronavirus cases skyrocketing at the time, that could be why Snaith decided to kick off Caribou’s tour across North America in LA to mark the Greek Theatre’s final gig of the year. While it would have been a lot to expect a full house on a Monday night in mid-November, the outdoor amphitheater with a 5,900 capacity still managed to welcome a few thousand folks inside its gates as Snaith’s fellow Canadian Jessy Lanza, who collaborated with him on the Grammy-nominated Our Love, warmed up a modest crowd as part singer, part electronic producer.

Caribou

Snaith, like Lanza, has taken a somewhat similar approach with Caribou, though even one step further live as a four-piece band that sees him not only incorporating various samples into the performance but also his vocals. Suddenly is actually the first Caribou album that features Snaith singing on every track, and you could sense it was a point of emphasis at the Greek over the course of 14 songs that spanned the project’s last three studio efforts and included new single “You Can Do It” from this past August.

That said, it isn’t often that you come across an electronic act as eclectic as Caribou. Snaith, in fact, has a knack for making dance-ready tracks that blend everything from 70’s funk and soul to 90’s hip-hop and R&B, with some of the highlights on Suddenly — whether it be the glitchy “New Jade” or soulful “Home” — serving as prime examples. But the real standout on the 12-track LP has to be the infectious “Never Come Back”, which has amassed nearly 28 million streams on Spotify and closed Caribou’s set with a version that employed elements of Four Tet’s extended remix.

And while it was a little bit surprising that Lanza did not join Snaith and company onstage at point in the evening, a Caribou concert wouldn’t be complete without hearing “Can’t Do Without You” before heading for the exits. The Our Love opener is no doubt a favorite for many Caribou fans, and at a time when the live music industry is still recovering after being shut down for 18 months or so, it was a simple reminder to soak up every second of the show we had left.

With plenty of uncertainty still surrounding the pandemic, there’s no telling what the future will hold for live music. If all goes as scheduled though, Snaith and his sidekicks will be back in California next year for a date at the Fox Theater Oakland on February 16th, and we can tell our Bay Area friends right now that’s one you won’t want to miss in 2022.

Setlist:
New Jade
Odessa
Our Love
Silver
Lime
Bowls
Like I Loved You
You and I
Ravi
Sun
Home
You Can Do It
Never Come Back (with elements of the Four Tet remix)

Encore:
Can’t Do Without You

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

King Gizzard & The Lizard WizardBy Josh Herwitt //

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

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

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

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

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

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

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

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

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

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

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

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