The Bellwether offers LA’s music scene a breath of fresh air

The BellwetherBy Josh Herwitt //

Whether you’re born and raised, a transplant or just visiting from out of town, Los Angeles has a music scene that not many other cities around the world can rival.

Sure, it’s true that New York City and Las Vegas have also been tagged with the “Entertainment Capital of the World” label, but when it comes to live music, there’s something for everyone in LA. From arenas and amphitheaters to clubs and theaters, LA County remains home to more than 50 music venues that are currently in operation. There’s the iconic Hollywood Bowl (read our past coverage here), legendary Troubadour and the state-of-the-art YouTube Theater, although we would be remiss to not mention the Greek, Orpheum, Roxy and Wiltern, too.

But with mega promoters AEG and Live Nation maintaining a stranglehold on the marketplace, is there really room for another music venue in LA and one that’s actually independent?

Michael Swier and Gregg Perloff believe so. That’s why three years after signing the lease on a 45,000-square-foot property west of the 110 Freeway and adjacent to downtown LA, the two business partners opened The Bellwether in July as one of the city’s newest nightlife destinations and have already seen acts like Carly Rae Jepsen, HAIM, Phantogram, Silversun Pickups, Slowdive and Wilco grace its stage.

Baroness at The Bellwether

Baroness at The Bellwether

Swier is no stranger to the live entertainment business. He cut his teeth running music venues in the Big Apple, turning Bowery Ballroom and Mercury Lounge into Manhattan mainstays on the Lower East Side before taking that success cross country to LA where he owns and operates the Teragram Ballroom and Moroccan Lounge. Perloff, similarly, has a wealth of knowledge and experience after working alongside renowned promoter Bill Graham and putting on shows for a couple of decades as the CEO of Bay Area company Another Planet Entertainment, which has organized the annual Outside Lands Music Festival (read our past coverage here) since 2008. So with both Swier and Perloff at the helm, it should be safe to say that The Bellwether rests in good hands.

The space itself, meanwhile, is gorgeous despite its immediate surroundings externally. While the City West and Westlake neighborhoods are some of the remaining few in LA that have yet to gentrify at all, inside the vibe feels like a completely different world than what lies right outside its front doors. The big horseshoe bar in the foyer greets guests as they come in, and if you get there early enough, you might have some time to check out the outdoor lounge that offers a 270-degree view of the downtown skyline or go VIP with an upgraded ticket to the Looking Glass Lounge.

Before we go any further, there’s some pretty cool history about the building that we can’t help but share here as well. In the 80’s, it was a trendy, “New York-style” nightclub for the elite known as Vertigo where entry was often based upon appearance — that’s LA for you — even if you had your name on the guest list. That was all before Prince bought the place in the early 90’s and turned into his own purple-shaded Grand Slam palace complete with carpeted walls, naked bodies on columns and a dance floor featuring an embedding of his ankh-styled “Love Symbol.” But after less than three years, it would change hands again and mostly be used for private events. At one point later it was called the Tatou Supper Club and then 333 Live/The Gold Room at 333 Live prior to becoming a home for the queer disco party series A Club Called Rhonda, yet nothing at 333 South Boylston St. has survived for very long, let alone has as much promise as The Bellwether does.

Much like The Regent Theater (read our venue review here) only over a mile away and Lodge Room in Highland Park, there’s a restaurant component to The Bellwether named The Virginian that serves small bites, pizza by the slice, specialty cocktails and other nourishment one hour before doors open. It might not have a menu that’s as gourmet as Checker Hall‘s — there’s no whipped feta with burnt honey butter and Urfa chili — but the options are a step up from what you would find at an AEG or Live Nation venue. After all, who doesn’t want a $19 poke bowl before a full helping of live music?

Baroness at The Bellwether

Baroness at The Bellwether

At a capacity of 1,600, the multifaceted destination fits nicely into LA’s music venue ecosystem. Many of the popular spots for artists and bands to perform are either well under and over that number, with next-door DTLA neighbors The Belasco (1,500) and The Mayan (1,700) two of the closest in size. The main room gets its character from the dance floor’s parquet pattern and an expansive mezzanine, accessible via staircases on either side, that provides excellent sightlines of the stage. Once the show begins, bars on the first floor and balcony of the ballroom make it so that you don’t have to walk very far to get a drink and miss any of the action. Swier’s brother Brian was tasked with overseeing the design and interior of The Bellwether, and after an initial encounter recently, we can’t say we aren’t impressed by his aesthetic and execution.

Our introduction to the new kid on the block came on a Saturday night more than four months after its grand opening as alt-prog-sludge four-piece Baroness stopped through on their “Sweet Oblivion Tour” with a bevy of support — Primitive Man, Midwife and Agriculture — following last year’s bone-rattling performance on a wild Oscars night. This time, though, things were a little different for the Savannah-based outfit comprised of John Baizley (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards, percussion), Nick Jost (bass, keyboards, backing vocals), Sebastian Thomson (drums) and last but not least, Gina Gleason (lead guitar, backing vocals), after the release of its sixth studio album Stone in September. Compared to what we witnessed at The Echo, there’s no doubt that The Bellwether was the better (and naturally, bigger) setting for the Grammy-nominated rockers who treated us to the tour debut of “Take My Bones Away” toward the end of the evening.

That’s a testament to what Swier, Perloff and their entire crew have accomplished so far at a time when economic trends have been more unpredictable than ever coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. What is most inspiring is their continued belief in what they are doing, especially when everything shut down in 2020, never wavering in their commitment and pouring in millions of dollars without one outside investor. And now, it’s finally paying off for them.

Not only that, but for anyone who thought the City of Angels didn’t need or couldn’t support another new music venue, The Bellwether is quickly proving otherwise and delivering a simple but important reminder to us all at the same time: Don’t underestimate the power of live music.


Last Word
A Horse Called Golgotha
March to the Sea
Beneath the Rose
Under the Wheel
War, Wisdom and Rhyme
Chlorine & Wine
Shock Me
The Gnashing

Take My Bones Away (tour debut)
The Sweetest Curse

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
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)”


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 has 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.


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.

California Hills
Emotional Mugger/Leopard Priestess
Breakfast Eggs
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

The Feels
The Singer