Touché Amoré bring it back home to LA, headlining two intimate nights at Teragram Ballroom

Touché AmoréBy Zach Bourque //

Touché Amoré with City of Caterpillar, Thou //
Teragram Ballroom – Los Angeles
October 18th, 2017 //

Los Angeles post-hardcore native sons Touché Amoré returned home to play two nights of deep cuts at the Teragram Ballroom as part of their first club tour in years. Despite several local appearances supporting Thursday and Rise Against at larger venues like The Wiltern, the band hasn’t done a small headlining tour in quite some time. With no barricade at the front of the stage and a wide-open floor plan, the Teragram Ballroom proved to be a fitting location for Touché’s return to LA last Wednesday.

While Tuesday’s show (and the other tour dates) featured support from Single Mothers and Gouge Away, the following night’s bill was a rather unique one. Opening things were Baton Rouge metal act Thou as well as recently reunited, screamo cult favorites City of Caterpillar, the latter of which were back on the road after nearly 15 years removed from the stage.

With their slow, calculated doom metal, Thou were a heavy and fulfilling first course. The group was shrouded in a suitably dim stage setup and managed to capture the attention of everyone in the room despite many seemingly unaware of where this beast crawled in from. Drawing from 10-plus years of material, they filled their set time with ease, though that only amounted to a handful of songs when you factor in the band’s particularly long songs.

Touché Amoré

A decade and a half away did little to dull the sound for City of Caterpillar, as their remarkable set certainly lived up to the hype. While they have more than 15 years of studio material at this point, the foursome tore through a nearly hour-long set that featured tracks off their self-titled 2002 LP and a few other albums, including their newly recording epic Driving Spain Up a Wall. The jury is still out as to whether we’ll have to wait another 15 years before CoC tours again, so needless to say, this was a special one.

Over their relatively brief existence since 2008, Touché Amoré have amassed an impressively rabid fan base. This is due in large part to the band constantly touring, but also because of its frenzied, intense live shows. Frontman Jeremy Bolm is a force to be reckoned with, and it only becomes that much more apparent when Touché perform in a small venue like the Teragram. The band wasted no time plowing through three songs from their debut LP …To the Beat of a Dead Horse in rapid succession. Bolm noted that smaller venues have offered the band more freedom with its setlists, and Touché tapped into plenty of older songs while mixing in some newer songs like “Palm Dreams” and “Flower and You” off their latest album Stage Four. The audience rarely stopped moving throughout their set, and many fans were eager to get up as close to the stage as they could to be a part of the action.

When you tour as broadly and universally as Touché Amore have over the past couple of years, a pair of small hometown shows means something. Factor in Wednesday’s special support from City of Caterpillar and Thou, and it was all the makings for a truly once-in-a-lifetime show. Bolm was well aware of this fact, and appeared to be both humbled and appreciative for the opportunity to be a part of something so special. Looking around the venue after the dust settled and the show ended, I think everyone in the room shared that same sentiment.

Tortoise make their triumphant return to the stage after more than six years between albums

TortoiseBy Josh Herwitt //

Tortoise with Fell Runner //
Teragram Ballroom – Los Angeles
May 2nd, 2016 //

Monday night can be a tough night to play a show no matter where you are. Even in LA, where there is no shortage of live music seven days a week, Monday night shows can sometimes be a struggle for fans to commit to, especially when it comes to lesser-known bands performing at clubs and smaller-sized venues.

So, when I walked into the Teragram Ballroom a few minutes before local experimental rock band Fell Runner stepped onstage to open the show and noticed that less than a third of the room was full, I figured it would be a modest crowd on hand to catch headliner Tortoise, who hadn’t performed in LA since mid-2010. But little did I know, by the time the Chicago post-rock outfit was in the midst of its 75-minute set, the room was completely packed from the front to the back, making my Monday night feel more like a Friday night.

Tortoise, after all, have been around the block and back again. The five-piece that formed out of the friendship bassist Doug McCombs and drummer John Herndon forged has been at it for more than 25 years dating all the way back to 1990, when the band’s remaining cast of record producer/drummer John McEntire, percussionist Dan Bitney and former bass player Bundy K. Brown came on board. Brown has been gone for more than two decades now, but guitarist Jeff Parker has remained with the group for nearly as long, bringing a strong jazz background to Tortoise’s instrumental, heavily percussive tunes thanks in part to his collaborations with musicians like George Lewis, Ernest Dawkins, Brian Blade, Joshua Redman, Fred Anderson and Jason Moran.

Tortoise - John McEntire


John McEntire of Tortoise

What’s so impressive about Tortoise, especially for this first-timer, was watching all five band members play multiple instruments, with Herndon, McEntire and Bitney regularly switching between drums, keyboards and various percussion instruments (vibraphone and marimbas) during the show. Oftentimes when one song would finish, at least two of them would switch instruments. In fact, toward the end of the set, even Bitney strapped on the bass as McCombs moved over to play guitar and Parker manned his mini synthesizer. For a band that performs mostly instrumental music, it was this rotating element that kept things fresh from at least a newer fan’s perspective.

It took Tortoise six-plus years to drop their seventh and latest LP The Catastrophist, and while that’s certainly a long time between album releases, it has been well worth the wait. At the Teragram Ballroom, the quintet made sure to showcase a good portion of the 11-track record, which received generally favorable reviews from most major media outlets when it came out in late January and was one of our 10 albums to hear in early 2016. One notable highlight was no doubt “Shake Hands with Danger”, the experimental, yet haunting track that starts with McEntire laying down a simple groove on his drum kit and builds with more percussion from Bitney and some gritty guitar work from Parker.

For as well-rehearsed — the band has been touring for more than three months at this point — as Tortoise sounded on this spring night in LA though, it was surprising that their set didn’t extend past 11:30 p.m. considering the overall depth and breadth of their catalog. Yet, then again, staying out until almost midnight on a Monday night was plenty late for this slowly aging music fan.

Putting all of the pieces together, RJD2 sets the bar for how other electronic artists should perform live

RJD2By Josh Herwitt //

RJD2 with Nocando //
Teragram Ballroom – Los Angeles
April 8th, 2016 //

With CD sales now a thing of the past and the music business becoming increasingly reliant on touring, it’s been a challenge for longtime electronic artists to stand out from the rest of today’s EDM-era acts who have taken the industry by storm.

Ramble Jon Krohn, or RJD2 as his many know him, is no exception to this (read our interview with him here). The 39-year-old DJ/producer has been making beats since he was a teenager, culminating in 2007 when his track “A Beautiful Mine” was initially licensed for the opening credits of AMC’s hit TV series “Mad Men” and became known as the show’s theme song.

But Krohn first made his mark in the early 2000’s, when the digital world had yet to be fully realized. His debut album Deadringer, along with his 2004 follow-up Since We Last Spoke, played a crucial role in furthering the rise of instrumental hip-hop that turntablists like DJ Shadow and Kid Koala helped cultivate in the late 90’s. Of course, a whole lot with the way music is consumed has changed since then, and Krohn understands that as well as anyone.

That’s not the only change that Krohn has had to endure in more recent years, though. With his family back home in Columbus, Ohio, touring isn’t as easy as it once was, making it hard for him to leave his wife and son for extended periods of time. Couple that predicament with the ever-changing landscape of the music industry, and you have to wonder how Krohn has been able to remain relevant among the hoard of electronic musicians that only continues to grow day after day, year after year.

Yet, Krohn isn’t worried. If anything, his sold-out shows in Los Angeles and San Francisco this past weekend proved that his fans haven’t forgotten about him. In fact, what might have been more impressive than the capacity crowds themselves were the performances he orchestrated from start to finish.

RJD2

At LA’s Teragram Ballroom last Friday, Krohn played for almost two hours, reminding us how electronic shows used to be conducted before technology spread its influence. There were no laptops or fist pumps. There were no visualizers, lasers or special effects. For once, this wasn’t another cookie-cutter EDM show that’s sadly become the norm.

Instead, after briefly unveiling his spinning, wireless MPC remote, Krohn went to work on his turntables, constantly maneuvering between them while putting his cratedigging prowess on display. But with a drum kit and other instruments to the left of his DJ rig, it was evident that he wouldn’t be going at it alone the entire set.

After properly warming up the room, Krohn invited bassist Khari Mateen and drummer Chuck Palmer onstage, as the three-piece grooved to some older RJD2 material before it was time for Krohn to introduce two more special guests. While Mateen and Palmer added an element of live instrumentation that’s so often missing at electronic shows these days, vocalist Jordan Brown and Atlanta-born/Philly-bred rapper STS, whom Krohn made a collaborative album with last year, took the audience engagement to another level.

With Brown in the house despite dealing with an apparent injury (a pair of crutches made that clear), it was no surprise that Krohn dropped “Peace of What” as the sound of strings from the track’s opening bars elicited cheers almost immediately. Inspired by “Peace Is Not the Word to Play” from Canadian/American hip-hop group Main Source, the soulful single comes from Krohn’s new RJD2 album Dame Fortune, which he released late last month and has received mostly favorable reviews from the major media outlets at this point.

That said, STS’ appearance may have been the bigger surprise of the night. From his onstage charisma to his unique flow, he brought an extra layer of depth to the show, one that fit well with Krohn’s overall game plan. Sure, everything RJD2 may still start and finish with Krohn, much like how things unfolded at the Teragram Ballroom, but after more than 20 years as an electronic artist, his ability to curate a dynamic, yet cohesive performance is what puts him in a class of his own.

RJD2 embodies the spirit of Philadelphia on his new album ‘Dame Fortune’

RJD2Photo by Nick Fancher // Written by Josh Herwitt //

When Ramble Jon Krohn, better known as “RJ” or the beat-making nerd/longtime cratedigger who calls himself RJD2, moved to Philadelphia more than a decade ago, the eclectic producer, DJ and singer-songwriter settled on the City of Brotherly Love for a few reasons.

One was its proximity to New York City, a place he frequently had to visit early in his career while being signed to indie hip-hop label Definitive Jux (“Def Jux”) that was co-founded by El-P, the Brooklyn rapper, producer and entrepreneur now of Run the Jewels fame. Another was its cost-effectiveness, where “real estate was criminally undervalued,” he says.

By this point in time, Krohn, who was born in Eugene, Ore., and grew up in Columbus, Ohio, had already garnered a considerable amount of critical acclaim from his debut LP Deadringer and his 2004 follow-up Since We Last Spoke. Layering soul and R&B samples on top of classic hip-hop beats, his early work bordered on trip-hop, falling in line with what other prominent instrumental hip-hop producers like DJ Shadow were fashioning in the late 90’s.

But what the brains behind the theme song for the hit TV series “Mad Men” hadn’t realized is that the cultural underbelly of Philadelphia’s music scene fit perfectly for the type of music he had already been making before moving there.

“It ended up being an ideal place,” he says over the phone from his home in Columbus, where he moved back to last year after spending the last 10-plus years in Philadelphia.

“Even outside of the music being made there, Philly is an extremely musical city amongst the general population,” the 39-year-old continues.

Krohn returned to Ohio permanently so that he and his wife can raise their son around the rest of their family, but he had made quite a few connections, both business and personal, while living in Philadelphia, helping him lay the foundation for his later albums, including 2010’s The Colossus in 2010 and 2013’s More Is Than Isn’t, that he released on his record label RJ’s Electrical Connections.

One of those friendships that Krohn forged during his time in southeastern Pennsylvania was with Aaron Livingston, the Philly-based vocalist whose contributions on both aforementioned albums would eventually lead to him and Krohn forming a separate side project that they call Icebird (the indie-funk duo unveiled their debut release The Abandoned Lullaby in 2011).

On his sixth RJD2 album Dame Fortune that came out less than two weeks ago, Krohn taps back into that well, as Livingston, who goes by the stage name Son Little, drops some silky-smooth vocals on “We Come Alive”, an R&B-flavored tune with a catchy “diamonds flashing all in my eyes” hook you could even find on one of Gary Clark Jr.’s two most recent albums.

It’s the third straight RJD2 record that Krohn has collaborated with Livingston on, and it’s no secret at this point that the two of them have developed quite a chemistry working together in the studio. But Krohn also enlists the help of some other reoccurring guests on Dame Fortune, including rapper/R&B singer Phonte Coleman and Columbus emcee Blueprint, who RJD2 fans might remember for the hard-hitting rhymes he spits on the Deadringer cut “Final Frontier”.

“So much of it is pursuing curiosity,” Krohn explains about his approach to songwriting, “and curiosity at its core is what you know and what you don’t know — what you have experienced and what you haven’t experienced. The threshold defines one’s curiosity.”

Yet, the track on Dame Fortune that might embody the spirit of Philadelphia better than any other is the album’s first single “Peace of What”, which features vocalist Jordan Brown, who sang on Krohn’s collaborative album with Atlanta-born/Philly-bred rapper STS last year.

“(Philly) has a very working-class, blue-collar spirit to it,” Krohn says. “It really does feel like a fleshed-out city that has a very sophisticated musical history. I feel lucky that I landed there and spent so much time there.”

Part of what makes Philadelphia’s music scene so unique, Krohn says, is that unlike New York and Los Angeles, where young, up-and-coming artists often flock to in hopes of fulfilling their dreams, it breeds mostly homegrown talent.

“Nobody really moves to Philly to make it in the music industry,” he adds bluntly. “That just doesn’t happen.”

Of course, neither did Krohn, who heads off to California this weekend to play back-to-back gigs Friday at Teragram Ballroom in LA and Saturday at The Independent in San Francisco. He’s making sure to do things a little bit differently this time around, whether it’s concocting and constructing this spinning, wireless MPC remote to play onstage or adding sidekicks like bassist Khari Mateen and drummer Chuck Palmer to create the full live-band experience for this tour. There’s even the possibility of a guest vocalist making an appearance at the shows.

Krohn, nevertheless, is quite familiar with Palmer and Mateen, the latter of which he met in Philadelphia while living there. Both are good friends of his and have helped elevate his live show into something more dynamic than his typical solo performances.

“It allows us to do songs and get completely off the grid,” he offers.

While he’s getting off the grid at his gigs, Krohn doesn’t have all that much time these days to get on the grid when it comes to touring. With his family in Columbus, Krohn has had to limit his tours to a select few cities despite knowing full well that he could be playing shows every night of the week. It’s something that Krohn simply says he doesn’t want to be doing with his life right now.

But in an industry ultimately driven more by ticket sales than album streams, taking the road less traveled can seem like a dangerous one, especially for musicians who gained prominence in the CD age like Krohn did. Still, he isn’t worried about making ends meet, telling me at one point that “you just make it work.”

Whether that means producing new music, running his label or devising remixes like the one he did of Tycho’s “Apogee” last year, Krohn’s dedication to his craft remains as blue collar as Philadelphia’s music scene stands today. It just doesn’t allow for a whole lot of time to sleep.

“I’m living proof that the work never stops until your head hits the pillow,” he says.

RJD2 - Dame Fortune

Ty Segall shows us how to rock — and rock hard

Ty Segall & The MuggersBy Josh Herwitt //

Ty Segall & The Muggers //
Teragram Ballroom – Los Angeles
January 15th, 2016 //

If there’s one thing Ty Segall knows how to do well, it’s work — even if making loud, guitar-driven rock music might not seem like work to some.

At the young age of 28, the California native has already played in a handful of bands — most of which are comically named — like The Traditional Fools, Epsilons, Party Fowl, Sic Alps and The Perverts, and nowadays you can find him moonlighting between Broken Bat, GØGGS and most notably Fuzz, which released their sophomore LP this past fall.

Yet, it’s Segall’s prolific solo career that has earned him the most attention from critics and fans alike, one that will see him drop his eighth studio album Emotional Mugger in as many years this week, almost a decade after befriending John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees and releasing his self-titled debut on Dwyer’s label Castle Face Records.

Ty Segall & The Muggers

But if there’s another thing Segall knows how to do well, it’s rock — and not just rock, but rock hard (and that might be an understatement).

Playing the first of two sold-out nights in his hometown of Los Angeles, Segall and his band, appropriately named “The Muggers” for this current tour, shredded their way through track after track on his forthcoming album. The riffs were heavy, the sound was crunchy and the atmosphere was pure, unadulterated rock ‘n’ roll.

It’s also fair to say that Segall knows his fans and the way they respond to his music pretty damn well, because in retrospect, he couldn’t have picked a better venue for the occasion than the standing-room-only Teragram Ballroom. When Segall and his bandmates took the stage just after 11 p.m. on Friday night and ripped into the opening track “Squealer” from Emotional Mugger, the crowd, a mix of mostly hipsters in their 20’s and the occasional dad fan, lost its collective mind.

Ty Segall & The Muggers

Segall, after all, has no problem with dads. In fact, he reminded us several times to go home after the show and make babies, either “with someone you love or with someone you don’t care about.” As strange and funny as that might sound, Segall’s absurd stage banter was all part of the show, particularly once you realize that he chose a creepy baby doll to grace the black-and-white cover of Emotional Mugger (to perpetuate the theme, Segall wore a baby-face mask at the beginning of the show). At one point in between songs, he even spat in his hand and walked off stage to give it to his girlfriend. How sweet of him, right?

But Segall is no doubt a showman himself, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who expends as much energy onstage as he does in merely 90 minutes. His passion simply rubs off on his fans, who wasted little time climbing onstage and taking the plunge into a sea of hands for a couple of minutes. Segall, of course, also got in on the action at one point, as his shows are often known to feature crowd surfing from both band and audience members, and he made sure to take the mic stand with him while he horizontally slithered across the room.

When it comes to Segall and his live show, there’s really no way to sugarcoat it — the guy is an animal, ready to rip, claw and bite (or just spit) his way through a performance. And in many ways, it’s refreshing to see a musician who has little to no filter when he takes the stage. Just like his music, which borders on garage rock and glam rock and intertwines psychedelic and punk elements into it, his shows are raw and full of emotion. So, if that was his plan, to mug us of our own emotions for at least a short while on this cold, winter night, well then mission accomplished, Ty.

Setlist:
Squealer
California Hills
Emotional Mugger/Leopard Priestess
Breakfast Eggs
Diversion
Baby Big Man (I Want a Mommy)
Mandy Cream
Candy Sam
Squealer Two
The Magazine
Thank God for Sinners
They Told Me Too
You’re the Doctor
The Crawler
Spiders
Manipulator
Feel

Encore:
Finger
The Feels
The Singer