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

Grizzly Bear


Grizzly Bear

By Josh Herwitt //

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

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

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

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

TV on the Radio


TV on the Radio

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

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

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

GRIZZLY BEAR

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

TV ON THE RADIO

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

From club gigs to the Hollywood Bowl, Bloc Party close their U.S. tour with their largest show ever

Bloc PartyBy Josh Herwitt //

Bloc Party with Bob Mould, Ezra Furman //
Hollywood Bowl – Los Angeles
September 25th, 2016 //

For those of us who attended college in the early 2000’s, Bloc Party were one of those bands that epitomized our most formative years. Back then, there weren’t many making music quite like the English quartet was, pioneering a sound rooted in indie rock, yet partially influenced by the surrounding UK electronic scene.

Now more than a decade after the release of their seminal debut LP Silent Alarm, Bloc Party are still going strong with Kele Okereke and Russell Lissack at the helm. The two Londoners have known each other for close to 20 years, and while each have their own projects outside of Bloc Party, what they’ve built together over five studio albums isn’t something to sneer at.

At the same time, it’s fair to say that the band’s last three records — 2008’s Intimacy, 2012’s Four and this year’s Hymns, which came out in January — haven’t struck a chord quite like Silent Alarm and A Weekend in the City both did. And with the departure of original band members Matt Tong and Gordon Moakes, it’s been on Okereke and Lissack to carry things forward while writing the group’s next chapter.

Bloc Party

But even after all the commercial success they’ve had, what’s cool about Bloc Party is that they’re still playing big and small venues. This was no more evident than at the end of their latest U.S. tour, which saw them go from playing 1,000-person clubs like Mezzanine in San Francisco (see our photos from the show here) to headlining the one and only Hollywood Bowl with support from former Hüsker Dü leader Bob Mould and 30-year-old indie singer-songwriter Ezra Furman, who crossdressed to impress with a bright red one-piece, black stalkings and a pearl-like necklace.

It was the second time in two months that we were invited to cover a show at the legendary amphitheater (read about our first time here), and while Sufjan Stevens, Kurt Vile and The Violators, and Ibeyi provided a more compelling billing with quite a few more theatrics (at least on Stevens’ part), this one had its own unique storyline that made it special to witness. After all, it only seemed fitting that after playing small clubs and theaters amid a myriad of festival dates over the summer, Bloc Party were wrapping up a months-long tour with their largest crowd ever on hand. Don’t ask me what the attendance number was, but I think it’s fair to say the venue was no more than half full. Of course, thanks to LA’s new music festival Music Tastes Good taking place in downtown Long Beach over the same weekend, it wasn’t surprising to see the top two sections of the Bowl completely empty for the latest edition of KCRW’s second World Festival series. But that’s really just how big the Bowl is in size — and how big of an artist/band it takes to sell the place out on a Sunday night in late September.

Feeding off the raw energy of Mould’s punk-fueled set, Okereke (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards, sampler), Lissack (lead guitar, keyboards), Justin Harris (bass guitar, keyboards, saxophones, backing vocals) and Louise Bartle (drums, percussion) dove immediately into their newest material, following a setlist that closely resembled, yet didn’t match past ones from the tour. For as high as Hymns has charted all across Europe and Australia though, the strength of Bloc Party’s live show remains firmly grounded in their first two LPs. If anything, their Hollywood Bowl debut, highlighted by A Weekend in the City fan favorites “Song for Clay (Disappear Here)” and “Hunting for Witches” in addition to Silent Alarm classics “Helicopter” and “This Modern Love” during a five-song encore, brought back memories of what it felt like to hear those songs for the first time. I know they say you shouldn’t live in the past, but for a little more than an hour in the Hollywood Hills, Bloc Party made it feel OK to do just that.

Setlist:
Only He Can Heal Me
So Real
She’s Hearing Voices
Mercury
Song for Clay (Disappear Here)
Banquet
Two More Years
Different Drugs
Octopus
Hunting for Witches
Virtue
Positive Tension
The Love Within

Encore:
Stunt Queen
Flux
Helicopter
Ratchet
This Modern Love

First Times: Covering a show at the Hollywood Bowl

Kurt Vile & The ViolatorsBy Josh Herwitt //

Sufjan Stevens with Kurt Vile and The Violators, Ibeyi //
Hollywood Bowl – Los Angeles
August 7th, 2016 //

No matter what you think of LA, whether you love it, hate it or hold no opinion of it at all, the Hollywood Bowl has remained universally loved as one of the city’s most prized possessions. It’s safe to say that the Bowl, as us Angelinos like to call it for short, has always stood as one of the world’s most legendary outdoor music venues. In fact, it’s still considered the “largest natural amphitheater” in the U.S. (whatever that means) at 17,500, but just do a quick Google search for “best outdoor music venues in the U.S.” and you’ll see how often it’s included in listicles ranking the best amphitheaters in the country. For that reason alone — although the glitz and glamour of LA have certainly never hurt — there has always been an understanding within the music industry that any artist who headlines a show inside the Bowl’s iconic band shell has officially “made it.”

Though I don’t know if the same can be said for my music journalism career, there have been at least a few bright spots, one as most recently as last Sunday, when I was invited to cover my first show at the Bowl. It might sound cliché (actually it definitely sounds cliché), but never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would get credentialed for a show at one of music’s most storied and historic venues, one that I grew up going to regularly as a kid. When you write for a small music blog like this one, getting the opportunity to cover a show at the Bowl doesn’t come around all that often, if ever. And what a show it turned out to be.

With a bill headlined by neo-psychedelic folk singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens and featuring sets from lo-fi indie rocker Kurt Vile with his backing band, The Violators, and French-Cuban soul/R&B duo Ibeyi, the lineup of performers on this night was eclectic to say the least. Yet, with two of the three acts already in California to play Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival (read our review here), NPR member station KCRW made sure to take advantage for its World Festival series.

Sufjan Stevens


Sufjan Stevens

It’s always tough for an opener to play the Bowl, and unfortunately Ibeyi had to find that out the hard way for its first appearance. With the show’s early start time due to the Bowl’s 10:30 p.m. curfew on Sundays (it slides back to 11 p.m. Monday-Saturday), most of the seats were empty when twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz took the stage at 7 p.m. sharp. It wasn’t until 7:40 p.m., when Vile and his three bandmates were subsequently up next, that the amphitheater started to fill up, especially in the upper-level sections. Vile, who has been touring heavily since the release of his sixth solo album b’lieve I’m goin down…, let out a few hoots and hollers as he opened his 50-minute set, doing his best to pump up the somewhat subdued crowd. But it was his music that ultimately got fans excited, leaning heavily on his newest material as he moved between electric guitar, acoustic guitar and banjo.

The spectacle of the night, however, was no doubt Sufjan Stevens’ set. The Michigan native, who professed his love for his home state on his 2003 LP, had it pretty rough growing up, as he details in “Should Have Known Better” from his latest studio effort Carrie & Lowell. The album, which recounts some of the more unsettling moments Stevens shared with his late mother (Carrie) and stepfather (Lowell) — including times when Carrie abandoned him as a child — and the emotional pain he felt following her death in 2012, has taken his career of almost 20 years to new heights, with many music critics pronouncing it his best yet.

On this evening though, Stevens did his best to spin things in a positive light, proclaiming at one point that he wanted to “sing about life” after spending “a year-and-a-half singing about death.” “Feel your heart and your lungs and the warmth of your skin, and know you’re alive,” he told us in between songs while preaching that we as a society need “less resistance” and “more acceptance.” Coming from a man who dons a pair of giant wings, a neon-colored track suit and at times, a bizarre balloon costume onstage, a spiritual pep talk as such could sound like a bunch of hocus pocus to glass-half-empty types. But the stories Stevens tells on Carrie & Lowell are real and heartfelt, ones that take guts to broadcast publicly like he does, and with a rainbow of fluorescent lights covering the Bowl’s band shell once night fell, the final stop on his 2016 summer tour felt more like a celebration of sorts than a memorial service. So, as the man in a foil-like suit ran through the crowd at the start of his encore, which concluded with a tribute to another one of his fallen heroes in Prince, I couldn’t help but smile and take it all in, knowing full well that the chance to cover a show at the Bowl may never come my way again.

SUFJAN STEVENS

Setlist:
Seven Swans
Too Much
All of Me Wants All of You
Come On! Feel the Illinoise!
I Walked
Vesuvius
Blue Bucket of Gold
Fourth of July
Should Have Known Better
Carrie & Lowell
I Want to Be Well
Impossible Soul
Chicago

Encore:
Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois
For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti
Kiss (Prince cover) (with Moses Sumney)

KURT VILE & THE VIOLATORS

Setlist:
Dust Bunnies
I’m an Outlaw
Jesus Fever
Goldtone
KV Krimes
Walkin’ on a Pretty Day
Pretty Pimpin’
Puppet for the Man
Freak Train

IBEYI

Setlist:
Elleggua
Lost in My Mind
Mama Says
I’m on My Way
Oya
Think of You
Oddudua
River

If we never see Nine Inch Nails live again, it’s been quite a ride

Nine Inch NailsPhotos by Rob Sheridan for NIN.com // Written by Josh Herwitt //

When Trent Reznor told Nine Inch Nails fans six years ago that it was “time to make NIN disappear for a while,” no one knew if they would ever have the opportunity to see the industrial rock goliath perform again.

As someone whose musical palette was heavily influenced by such 90’s masterpieces as The Downward Spiral and The Fragile — two albums that will likely go down as some of the best rock music that’s ever been made — but never got to see NIN live, it came as a shocking blow to my psyche.

For me, NIN was always that band whose music felt uniquely original and accessible, yet remained frighteningly dark in image. More than 20 years ago, it was MTV that was forced to significantly censor the music video for “Closer” — still NIN’s most popular song to this day — in which Reznor combined themes of religion, sex, animal cruelty, politics and terror to go along with his disturbingly eerie lyric “I want to fuck you like an animal.”

Still, for as creepy as Reznor made himself appear — and there may be no better example than NIN’s epic performance at Woodstock ’94, which was officially released online almost two weeks ago — there is no band that has bridged the gap between heavy metal and electronic music better than NIN. From his early days as a sound engineer to his passion for analog synthesizers and digital technologies more recently, Reznor created a genre of music that few have ever come close to emulating. While other industrial acts like Ministry, MDFMK, Killing Joke, Filter and Rammstein achieved moderate levels of success at one point in time, none of them ever garnered the same mainstream appeal that NIN has sustained for more than two decades.

Nine Inch Nails

But even with two Grammy Awards and nine full-length albums to his name, Reznor has had his doubts about keeping NIN going. It’s why he announced in early 2009 that the band would be done performing live “for the foreseeable future” before embarking on its “Wave Goodbye” tour, which culminated in a 37-song show at The Wiltern in Los Angeles, before that fire was eventually rekindled with the release of 2013’s Hesitation Marks last September.

It’s not that Reznor fell off the face of the Earth during that five-year layoff, though. With NIN on an indefinite hiatus, he went on to win an Oscar and a Grammy for his soundtracks to The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, write the theme music for the video game “Call of Duty: Black Ops II” and form the post-industrial outfit How to Destroy Angels with his wife and lead vocalist Mariqueen Maandig, whom he shares two children with now. Over the last two months, he’s managed to find the time to finish composing the soundtrack for David Fincher’s upcoming movie Gone Girl while touring North America with his NIN sidekicks for quite possibly the last time.

After all, from what he told the crowd last Thursday night in Chula Vista, Calif., Reznor has no plans for another NIN album or tour right now. Even if he continues writing music like he told us he would that evening, just miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, there is no guarantee it will be for NIN. And at this point, it would be completely understandable for Reznor to retire the band he once gave birth to 26 years ago in Cleveland, where it will likely return to some day for its induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Reznor, of course, isn’t getting any younger. At the age of 49, the NIN mastermind and only official member of the band has battled plenty of inner demons in his younger life, having overcome both drug and alcohol addictions, depression, social anxiety disorder and sadly, even his own suicidal tendencies. Now as a sober family man, he has openly admitted that the rigors of touring have taken their toll on him.



So, if this was the last time I ever got to see Nine Inch Nails perform live, I have no regrets attending four of the 26 shows that they are co-headlining with Soundgarden this summer.

In fact, seeing one of my favorite bands of all time at the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre was an absolute dream come true — a show that no doubt will go down in memory as one of the best I have ever witnessed in all my concert-going years. Then, there was Monday night’s noteworthy performance at the Hollywood Bowl, which marked another important moment for the band in playing the historic LA amphitheater for just the second time ever, with the first coming almost nine years ago following the release of 2005’s With Teeth.

Sure, seeing four shows (Red Rocks, Chula Vista, Irvine and Hollywood) on this tour might seem like overkill to some. For me, it felt like the right thing to do. It didn’t matter that the setlists have varied little from show to show over the last month. Instead, just having the chance to connect with the music and art that Reznor specifically curates for each NIN tour more than once is something I will always cherish, whether or not I ever get to do it again.

Because even if I don’t, I’ll know that those four shows I saw were worth every penny spent.

Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails

Bob Dylan at the Hollywood Bowl … warts and all

By Pete Mauch //

Bob Dylan //
Hollywood Bowl – Los Angeles
October 26th, 2012 //

Bob Dylan came to The Hollywood Bowl on Friday night and played a solid 15-song set that contained many raspy growls, bluesy harmonica solos and not-so-quiet sing-alongs. The 71-year-old living legend managed to put together a fine little show, despite having a frog in his throat the entire time on stage.

Any Dylan fan these days should know to expect the raspy voice, very little guitar playing and unusual song arrangements from his shows. Knowing this, I went in with an open mind and a sense of amazement that I was actually seeing Dylan. He has played the Bowl three times before this show, the first time being all the way back in 1965 when he was just 25 years old, back in 1965 was when he first plugged in and went full electric at the classic Newport Folk Festival.

He opened the show with the upbeat classic “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”, which I’ve always loved, and it was a great way to get things rolling. Dylan traded off between his mic stand and his piano the entire night. Not once did he care to pic up a guitar, which I felt was odd, but he does have Charlie Sexton on guitar duty. I was glad to hear “Tangled Up in Blue” early in the set. It had a nice bluesy solo by Dylan on harmonica, which was well-received by the crowd.

Being the enigmatic figure that he is, Dylan didn’t make good use of the many big screens at the Bowl. Instead of focusing in on his playing or at least giving us different perspectives on the screen, all they showed was a zoomed-out view of the stage. I’ve been to many shows at the Bowl, and these screens really do help with the overall show experience, so I felt bad for the many fans in the upper tiers. Dylan and his band continued with a standout version of “The Levee’s Gonna Break”, as he growled to the crowd in his raspy voice, which by this time had cleared up a bit.

Dylan has done a decent job of switching up songs this tour, except for his finale, so I was glad to hear “Desolation Row” and the swirly rocker “Highway 61 Revisited.” Dylan’s four-song finale was quite fun, as it consisted of classics of “Ballad of Thin Man”, “Like a Rolling Stone”, “All Along the Watchtower” and the stripped-down encore featuring “Blowing in the Wind”. It’s quite impressive knowing he penned all these songs, and I feel privileged to have seen him perform them live. I also found it pretty amusing to watch people try and sing along with Dylan because his arrangements and vocal phrasing are very different today then they were in all his classic albums.

Dylan is arguably the greatest American songwriter of our generation. Go see him live … warts and all.

Setlist:
You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere
To Ramona
Things Have Changed
Tangled Up in Blue
The Levee’s Gonna Break
To Make You Feel My Love (Billy Joel cover)
Cry a While
Desolation Row
Highway 61 Revisited
Love Sick
Thunder on the Mountain
Ballad of a Thin Man
Like a Rolling Stone
All Along the Watchtower

Encore:
*Blowin’ in the Wind

B.B. King, Tedeschi Trucks Band delight at Hollywood Bowl

By Pete Mauch //

B.B. King with Tedeschi Trucks Band //
Hollywood Bowl – Los Angeles
September 5th, 2012 //

Walking into the Hollywood Bowl armed with two bottles of wine, a six pack of beer, dinner and your lady by your side is guaranteed a good time. Now Throw in one of the all time great Blues guitarists, B.B. King, and  powerhouse  Jazz and Blues Rockers Tedeschi Trucks Band and a great night out on a Wednesday evening in Hollywood, California seems inevitable.

As we ventured to our seats we were greeted with a beautiful cover of  “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” originally from The Band. I really enjoyed the Tedeschi Trucks take on the song, especially Derek Trucks’ blistering lead solo after the final verse. The highlight of the set for me was the powerful cover of George Harrisons “Wah-Wah.” This was where Susan Tedeschi’s voice truly shined and was complimented well with Trucks’ finger picking greatness. You can tell that Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks are husband and wife – they seem so relaxed on stage and I truly believe it lets the music play itself. I highly recommend the Tedeschi Trucks Band to all music lovers.

B.B King’s set started off with his band jamming and switching off leads for a solid fifteen minutes, and it got the crowd roaring with anticipation. When B.B. finally took the stage, the 86 year old man was cracking jokes with the crowd and his band before they finally dove into some classic blues standards. It is really hard for me to write anything bad about B.B. King, but I must say it felt like he and his band were just trading off solos and not really playing full songs. The only true song that i remember him doing was “The Thrill is Gone,” and it was impeccable. I find myself asking why they didn’t play more songs, and for that I was left a little unsatisfied with B.B Kings set. 

The highlight for a lot of the crowd was the last song when Trucks, Tedeschi, and John Mayer joined B.B. for yet another solo oriented jam that had no real meat to it, except for Derek Trucks solo which was truly face melting. I witnessed two of America’s greatest guitarists jam together, and for that I am grateful.  B.B. King is a true American legend, and Derek Trucks is following in B.B’s footsteps. He began as guitar prodigy coming up with the Allman Brothers, and he is clearly one of the greatest guitarists. I look forward to following his career for a very long time.