Tag Archives: band

Tourist in My Backyard: Best Coast @ the US Open

9 Aug

Courtesy of the beautiful Lisa Aoyagi

I absolutely adore Best Coast. Their angst-driven lyrics about unrequited love and the pitfalls of dating make me wish I had their tunes to comfort me when I was in high school. And “Summer Mood” epitomizes California garage-pop and makes me feel understood and close to home even when I’m in a far-off land.

When I heard they were playing a free show at the US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach I had to play hooky from work – there was no way I was going to sit in an office when I could have a quintessential Orange County experience in Surf City, USA. Best Coast didn’t go on until 5:30 PM so we made a day of it. The cooler was full of Blue Moons and my flask was full of vodka. We parked miles away from the beach in a residential area to avoid the insanely inflated event parking fees and sipped our libations as we walked to the beach.

The US Open itself was pretty anti-climatic, even though we stood on the wet shore just a few yards from the action. The beach was packed with locals, tourists and teeny-boppers, who couldn’t have been older than 16 and were wearing unflattering and uncalled-for Brazilian-cut bathing suits with obnoxious writing all over their bodies proudly displaying their phone numbers or the words “free hugs”, “single” or some kind of ridiculous hash tag. I prayed to God I would not run into my 18-year-old sister because if I saw her dressed like that I would have to bury her in the sand until I could find her a cover-up.

Just before the show started we left the half-naked kiddie display to grab a drink on Main Street. We ended up at Sharkeez and ordered Long Island Iced-Teas that tasted like lemonade and cost $8. Do not go there. The chips were stale and the $7 shots weren’t even an ounce. Thank God for my flask…

When it was time we joined the herd and pushed our way through the massive, tightly packed crowd from the side of the stage and tried our best to get as close to the front as we could. The crowd waited anxiously for the threesome to appear and wailed as lead singer Bethany Cosentino started strumming her guitar. Do not be fooled by Best Coast’s surfer-stoner vibe or they’re less than perfect acoustic renditions – they have serious talent and are even better live because you can hear the full depth of their sound. Their “I Want To” and “Boyfriend” performances made me fall in love with these songs even harder because I got to feel them and at one point I found myself dancing so hard I bumped into my poor neighbors.

Best Coast is moody, melodic and punky but watching them perform as I swayed, singing along with sand between my toes, felt like the proper way to experience this band. Their name is Best Coast after-all and here we were – on the coast.

Davis Fetter: The Interview

17 Sep

                                                                                                                            Photo: Haley Reed

Davis Fetter was the creative force behind Venus Infers but he’s recently decided to step out on his own. He’s foregone his previously enigmatic presence and now records songs that peer directly into his soul. Read on as Fetter opens up about his involvement with Venus Infers, how he’s never really been in love and how he’s transitioned from a guitarist and songwriter to a one-man band.

A: People are always comparing you to other artists, from Bono to Julian Casablancas. Does that make you feel like you’re being stereotyped? Like you’ve been put into a box?

D: People come at you with comparisons all the time. Like a fan will say I like your song because it reminds me of this and I think that’s cool because that means they’re personalizing it, but if they’re comparing it in a bad way and dismissing it because it’s a derivative of something else, that’s not as fun but I think it’s okay.

I always think if people are listening then my job is done, I’ve gotten them to listen to it. You can’t force people to like your music, you can only have them interact with it how they want to and that’s the beauty of music. Everyone is going to have their own personal taste.

Music is funny because people take it so personally, even when they’re not creating it. And it can mean everything or nothing at the same time, to two different people. For me, there’s certain artists that everything they’ve ever done or will do I’ll probably love.

A: Who would those people be?

D: Anything that Morrissey is involved with. I have everything the Smiths have ever created except for maybe a couple random B-sides. They’re my all-time favorite band but definitely like the Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, John Lennon – all the greats.

A: I love Lou Reed and when I saw your older band’s name, Venus Infers, I thought that had to be a play on the Velvet Underground song, Venus In Furs.

D: Definitely. I always loved that song but I thought it represented American psychedelic music in the best way. Lyrically it’s cool and you can delve way into it and get creeped out, or you can take it for pop music and enjoy it.

I think that’s the coolest thing about Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground’s stuff. It can be kind of twisted and dark or it can be like poetry and observations, or pop music.

A: I was checking out your YouTube channel and from the songs you covered it’s evident that you have an eclectic taste in music and a good range of your voice. Was it hard for you to find your own unique style and develop your voice?

D: Oh man, I’m learning everyday. I picked up a guitar when I was young but I never wanted to be a singer and I only started singing about 4 years ago. When I started Venus Infers I was just writing the songs, and then from writing more and more I would get into the scene just to hear how they should go and then slowly but surely just kind of kept going with it and here I am.

Those covers, they’re just for fun. I always play those songs live. I like picking songs that are either requests or just songs that I’m really into. Lyrically, vocally, it’s a challenge for me, wanting to sing like Hank Williams, or try to sing like James Brown. It’s just trying to sing like these guys that I really look up to.

A: Do you think your ability to sound like them has actually helped you find your own voice?

D: Yes and no. When I first started learning other people’s songs, that’s when I was playing guitar and I was real little and that was just about learning exactly perfect. Like every Buddy Holly song I learned on guitar, I learned it perfectly. And then I played them from time to time and now I sing them, sort of how the artist would have done, it but I try to put my own little spin on it. It’s almost like I try to emulate it so that I can change it when I play the song.

A: There’s a quote on your Myspace about how much you love singles. Why do you think you like singles so much?

D: I think the root of it all is probably from my parents giving me their collections, 45, singles. It’s just about discovering bands through one good song at a time. I feel like sometimes you can get more from a single than a whole album. I see the counter argument, I can hear my friends saying, no, fuck you man, Love’s ‘Forever Changes’ was amazing from start to finish and there are great albums out there, of course, I have them, but singles are rad because at the birth of rock and roll and pop music you got one song at a time because that’s how it was released. You got to really listen to that song and just get it, and absorb it.

I really like pop music and I think it has a negative connotation to it now but over time pop music was the best music, for me anyway. When I say pop, I don’t mean Lady Gaga necessarily, but I mean like Elvis, and Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, the Beatles and John Lennon, all the great artists that we’ve ever known.

You get that mood, you get that vibe because whoever created that single they were thinking, okay let me say what I need to say as concise and simple as possible. I think in a modern way, pop stars kind of dumb down the audience, but the classic greats were more like, no, let me give the audience the best and most concise version of what I have to say.

I was talking to a friend of mine who’s getting a PhD in Russian and we were talking about Russian propaganda and how it’s very succinct and simple but there’s so much message inside one phrase. I feel like singles are the same way because at least for me, one song will affect me more than the whole album. And also with me going under my own name, I want people to digest the song and get the message because I write hundreds of songs but it takes a while to get that one song that 10 others were trying to say.

Photo: Haley Reed

A: When you say now you’re going by your own name, did Venus Infers break up or were you playing with the guys and now you’re stepping into the limelight as just yourself?

D: Venus Infers was what I liken to Bright Eyes. It was the same situation – Conor Oberst wrote the songs and then put a band together. In Venus Infers, I was the only full-time member in the group and I wrote the songs, wrote the lyrics, wrote the music. It was a collective of artists. A few of the guys stayed in for quite some time, like a couple of years, but it was always my intent to write songs under a pseudonym.

A: And why do you think you needed to write under a pseudonym?

D: I think because at the time it was my first stab at writing and I was probably just nervous to go out on my own. At first it was kind of freeing because if you look at the entire Venus Infers catalogue, it was all over the place. There were albums with two different singers, 4 EPs where I was singing and then I had different musicians playing on the record.  Any whacky idea I had, I could pursue.

When I started writing songs a year ago, they were so personal and so focused and I was kind of like, whoa, this might not work for Venus Infers. These songs were about very real things that I’ve experienced so I thought I’d almost be doing a disservice to the listener if it wasn’t from me.

A: I heard you were chosen on the Locals Only playlist on KROQ?

D: My first single ‘Euphoria’ was just played a few weeks ago and then I had 3 singles released on KROQ that I did with Venus Infers. I’m really excited about my new song ‘L.O.V.E.’ because it’s kind of inspired by Roy Orbison.

In the studio I’m really into the 50s and the 80s, as far as recorded sound. It’s like the two decades I feel are the most unique in sound: the 50s being the most raw version of recorded pop music and the 80s being the height of recording technology. So when I recorded ‘I See Love,’ to me the chords and the message of the song make it a 50s song but the guitar pedals and the technology that we used was 80s technology.

Photo: Haley Reed

A: In that same quote where you professed your love for singles you also talked about how all your songs are about love. Do you find it easier to write when you’re in love or in lust? Or when you’re in some sort of love-induced turmoil?

D: I’ve seen it all and I’ve written about it all. I have 10 songs recorded and finished but I’m releasing them one at a time and I’m hoping people see the progression. ‘Euphoria’ is about looking for that feeling of perfection, basically longing for love. But ‘I See Love’ is a little bit darker like, ‘man, everyone is so happy and everyone is in love and I’m not.’ You’re out and about and you see a couple…

A: And you almost resent them…

D: You go through these emotions right? You get envious, you get jealous and then you might hate them and then you realize, ah, I’m happy for them.

This next single called ‘L.O.V.E.’ is about losing love – a break up song so to speak, which definitely did happen. I feel like ‘Euphoria’ is about how I’ve never really been in love. I’ve said the word before but I don’t think it was that pure, unconditional love where you lose yourself and you find yourself.

To answer your question, I’ve never been in a situation romantically where I’m like, I’m so happy, let me write about it. I’m just trying to write about what’s real to me. It’s easier when you’re hurt or you’re longing or searching for love to write about it, because I’m still searching for it. That romantic love between two people, I’ve never really had that.

I’m old school and I like 50s music so I believe in romance and when I was in college and reading Shakespeare, I believed that stuff and I still do. I think it’s harder to find these days, I think our society right now is a bit troubled and love is kind of a gray area for most people these days but I still believe and hope it’s out there.

I made a list to myself about all the songs I wrote about and the one thing I didn’t write about was love and I was like, holy shit, what’s wrong with me? Why haven’t I tackled that subject? I started thinking about it a lot and trying to get out exactly how I feel and what I ended up with was, yeah I don’t think I ever really have been in love and I really want to fall in love, but I think I’ve never been there so maybe I can write about that. I think, if I can’t say I love you, maybe I can still write about, you give me ‘Euphoria.’

 (Originally published in OC Music Magazine)

Saint Motel: The Interview

1 Jul

Photo: Diana King

The tunes of the Yellow Magic Orchestra boomed in the background as singer A/J Jackson and guitarist Aaron Sharp of the “garage glam” indie band Saint Motel walked through the Hollywood Bowl and tried to find a quiet place for our interview.

The quartet, including but not featuring bassist Dak and drummer Greg Erwin, recently played the SXSW festival and are known for their over-the-top high-concept performances like their annual Zombie Prom and their traveling Rock and Roll Circus.

As they passed a bottle of Jim Beam back and forth, the two caught up with OCMM discussing their current southern California tour, how their film school backgrounds have contributed to their success and of course, groupies.

You were all in film school together – what inspired you to form a band?

A/J: Sharp and I were in both in bands all the way through school and Sharp started out as a classical guitar major. I didn’t want to study music – I wanted to make music and the music I wanted to make wasn’t taught in school and Sharp felt the same way.

I saw Aaron and he was pretty renowned as the best guitarist on campus and I wanted to meet him. “Hey, join my band, man,” (AJ reflects, in a mocking tone.) So we exchanged credentials and I had to woo him.

ASharp: You had to woo me? Is that what you said? I had many suitors at the time… (Sharp quips) no, I – once I saw them perform I knew that there was good songwriting and a good foundation for everything that I wanted to do in music so I joined the band and a couple of bands later we formed Saint Motel. We met Dak our junior year and Greg our senior year.

Why the name Saint Motel?

A/J: We were a different band in college but when we graduated we wanted something new. We went through about a thousand names, I’d say, and Saint Motel was kind of a hybrid of some of those names. Really, we just liked the dichotomy. We wanted something where the two words don’t necessarily fit together but they felt right together. And also we wanted something that had negative and positive connotations that balanced somehow. Our comic board was just full of political…

ASharp: Yeah and we’re not a political band at all, that’s not our agenda, so we just decided: we’re having a good time right now, let’s just change the name. So then, we did. We knew we wanted the name to be really powerful and that’s why we took our time with it, I think, instead of settling for something along the way.

You guys are known for your theatrical performances and visuals. Can you tell me how that got started and what goes into creating these events?

A/J: Around the same time we became Saint Motel, we decided we didn’t want our shows to be like every other show. We wanted the experience to be different. By this time, we’d been going to a lot of shows and when we started out we made the concert room like a living room or a study. We had lamps on our amps and we had taxidermy heads mounted to the walls and all sorts of trees in the “living room,” the “sex den”. We experimented with a lot of different lighting and makeshift ideas of what an entire show could really look like.

Since we’ve always been live thus far, out of necessity I think, we had to be kind of creative. But then we started doing video stuff with our live shows, like we did the video piano that we still use today and that just keeps getting crazier and crazier. And that led to having live cameras mounted on the stage so it kind of felt like a stadium concert show in a small venue because there was a whole lot of action going on and it’s a little bit of a sensory overload but we like that. There were a lot of people jumping around and jumping off things, cameras mounted on the stage, in the audience, light shows. We want as many things as we can.

ASharp: And the Go Pro show…

A/J: Yeah, we had cameras mounted all over our bodies and on our heads and Go Pro sponsored the event and we wanted to see if it looks cool or not and they all fell off our heads.

ASharp: It’s pretty funny because I told them that was going to happen but they wanted to do it anyway.

A/J: And also we like all our shows to be events. We’ve done a lot of pretty high-concept things. Rock and roll circuses in New York, and the Zombie Prom in LA and Vegas and the Kaleidoscopic Mind Explosion in 3D, the Future Father’s Day concert, all kinds of things. We do it mainly because it’s fun but also because it keeps us interested.

So did your background in film contribute to this? Because you’re almost building sets on stage…

A/J: Yeah, 100%. We make posters and trailers and it’s very much like a film. We’ve had new actors and hosts and surprises every time and it’s usually some sort concept behind the event. It’s very, very cinematic and I think our music is too.

What’s been your favorite show so far?

A/J: I had a lot of fun at Make Music Pasadena.

ASharp: Oh yeah, Pasadena was great.

A/J: We don’t play favorites. Every show is our favorite.

ASharp: Well, I mean, every show we do what we do. If we play in a backyard we’re going to put on the same kind of show as if we’re playing at the Roxy. If we’re in a stadium or the back of a Dodge Caravan…

A/J: Oh yeah, in the back of a U-haul, right?

ASharp: Yeah that was a fun show. We played in the back of a U-haul in a parking lot, totally illegal to chill with a generator. People were jumping inside the U-haul and outside. That was crazy.

A/J: Yeah, that was so dangerous. We played underwear/panty parties. We should play more of those, don’t you think, Aaron?

ASharp: Definitely. Here, here! I second that notion, Sir!

Because of these elaborate performances do you prefer performing at intimate venues where you have more control or are festivals just as fun?

A/J: I think it’s about the energy of the crowd. You play better.

ASharp: And if we’re all in a bad mood before the show because we’re tired or whatever and 300 kids came early just to see a rock band, that’s going to cheer us up instantly. I love shows like that, when you get the vibe off the crowd and you get happy. It’s really a great experience.

Your behind the scenes videos make the filming process of your music videos look like a blast. What don’t we see?

A/J: Well, a lot of times they’re pretty low budget so you don’t see that everyone on the set is pretty much doing favors and you don’t see that everyone in the band is wearing many hats. We all contribute and get everything ready. It looks like we’re chilling, kicking back while it’s getting made, but that’s not how it is.

ASharp: We have too many thank-yous that we need to send to all the people that have helped us behind the scenes. Like my family has helped a lot with all the gear and you don’t see them.

A/J: You probably do see a lot of our friends on set.

That was my next question. It seems like you know all your cinematographers, producers and choreographers. Or do you just get close while on set?

A/J: We only work with friends at this point. If it wasn’t directed by a band member, it was directed by a friend.

Did you decide to give away the free download of Puzzle Pieces to combat piracy, get your name out there, or are you guys just generous?

A/J: We wanted to put out some new music and we’re still working on our next release. We thought it was a good way to put something out before the album comes out. It’s tempting… you’re sitting on this big pile of music and it gets kind of frustrating sometimes. We have a lot of new material; we’re just trying to figure out a way to release it that makes sense right now. The Puzzle Pieces download for free was just, we were really excited and anxious to put something out there because it had been so long since we released anything.

ASharp: And ForPlay, we put that all out at once, we’ve never experienced putting out a single so it was pretty cool to see the response.

What inspires your songwriting and who writes the songs?

A/J: It’s a collaboration. Usually I start out with the basic idea and then I bring it in and then we all just build on it from there but it’s usually about whatever is going on in our life at that point. Usually it’s more focused, like there’s this one song called “Skullet” and we wanted a song called that so it was, what does that sound like?

ASharp: Normally they just build on themselves and some stuff you’ll never hear. Not that you’ll never hear but they didn’t make the cut.

A/J: Yeah, we try to record our rehearsals and ideas as much as possible because any idea can become something, even out of context. And a lot of the basis of our music comes from messing around, like between rehearsals and we’ll go back to it a few years later and record it. That’s what happened with Puzzle Pieces.

ASharp: Puzzle Pieces is an old song from when I was in middle school. I used to play piano as a kid and then I tinkered off of it and started playing saxophone and bass and guitar and Puzzle Pieces was what I always did on piano and it was like, oh shit, let’s make this a song.

A/J: Yeah, and there’s a few things on the record that are old like that. (Sharp hands him the bottle of Jim Beam) Thank you, sir. (He takes a swig and passes it back) But yeah, it’s fun right now we have about a week’s worth of free time, play time for us, before we go back on tour and it’s pretty much time to play out new ideas.

Now for the question on every girl’s mind: Do you have girlfriends or are you dabbling in the groupie love?

(They laugh)

ASharp: Saint Motel is single. The entire band is single.

A/J: You can ‘friend’ us. (We all laugh) I think this is the first tour we’ve all been single on. We’re in a relationship with each other.

ASharp: Kind of the way I’ve been seeing it recently is I kind of already have three other girlfriends that I have to deal with and I don’t need another thing that’s going to stress me the hell out. I need to focus on…

A/J: What about love, Aaron? What about love?

That’s why I asked about the groupie love…

A/J: We don’t really have groupies, we have lovely people that are interesting and that we have conversations with.

Mm hmm…

CDs, MP3s or vinyl? What’s your medium of choice?

A/J: Cassettes, yo!

ASharp: Floppy disks, old floppy disks.

A/J: I think all forms of music get the point across but nothing compares to live. That’s the trick behind Saint Motel. We need to figure out how to put the live experience on record and it’s really hard to do that. That’s a constant struggle for us to keep recording new tunes and get the sound we want. It’s daunting sometimes, but fun all the time.

What was your favorite band in high school?

A/J: I don’t know, I went through a lot of phases. I was really into Ween. A lot of my friends were really into Fish but I was still in my punk phase. I listened to a lot of my parents’ records – Jim Carroll Band and Blondie, everything that I love today.

What do you expect from your current tour?

A/J: Ideally, we’ll be playing shows that are really fun and therapeutic and finding some good music out there and meeting a lot of interesting people and going to a lot of interesting places we’ve never been to before.

What’s next for Saint Motel?

A/J: More touring, abroad. Hopefully we’ll go to Canada again soon. A subsequent album that will be dropping at some point. New music, new videos, I don’t know… there’s always something new for Saint Motel.

(Originally published in OC Music Magazine)

Kiev’s 3D Debut

3 Jun

                                                                                                                         Photo: Carlos A. Mor

It’s a rare feat in the music business that an opening band draws a larger crowd than the better-known headliner, but Orange County’s own Kiev did just this last Tuesday at the Samueli Theater in Costa Mesa with the debut of their custom designed stereoscopic 3D projections that beautifully merged the worlds of music and art.

Animations, graphics, and video clips were projected above the band, bringing Kiev’s music to a whole other dimension. Layered visuals of alternating colors, shapes, and designs created the 3D effect and changed depending upon the mood and timing of the songs.

The audience, a sea of zombie-like onlookers clad in 3D glasses, bobbed their heads and lightly swayed while staring at the space above the band, which, at times, turned into what looked like the end of a brilliantly colored kaleidoscope.

Fans seldom broke their mesmerized gaze and halfway through the show, lead singer Robert “Bob” Brinkerhoff took note of this, joking, “Alright, you can look at us now. Actually this next song is really pretty.”

The May 24th show was marketed as Kiev’s “first and possibly last 3D performance” but judging by the seamless coordination of entrancing visuals synced with their jazzed up old-school-meets-new-school tunes, Kiev’s experimentation with the possibilities of art and music have only just begun.

“It’s something that’s been a long time coming. It was just the right timing and the right venue. We could take it up to a new level that we wouldn’t be able to at another bar in Orange County,” said keyboardist Alex Wright.

Before its debut, the band members only watched the projections in their entirety during two rehearsals. “But still, we really didn’t get to watch it because we were playing. You’d lose your mind,” said sax player Andy Stavas, with a laugh.

To create the 3D footage, Kiev collaborated with Bob’s father’s company, Martin Brinkerhoff Associates, as well as friends and family members who presented their own pieces. “The people that were involved beside the band, this is what they do. It’s an everyday thing. And we’re so grateful to be able to come together with everybody and make it one thing,” said Wright.

“Each song was done by a different person with their own style and it could have come across as disjointed but I think at least the 3D layer aspect came together,” said Wright. “We all tried to give in our two cents and there was coordination to it but we really let everyone just go wild.”

That night, Kiev let the visuals and the music do the talking. As images of people walking, pyramids floating, or splattered paint that spelled out the lyrics danced above the stage, you knew you were witnessing something groundbreaking.

After the show, as they took their instruments backstage, it became obvious that Kiev was a hard act to follow. The 3D experience not only captivated the audience by engaging the senses, but it gave them a taste of the future of music.

By the time Portland’s Menomena began their set, the packed crowd dwindled to an intimate gathering and the lead singer joked about the obvious reduction saying, “for those of you who stayed this long…” and ending the set with “we really appreciate you sticking around.”

You can chock it up to home advantage, the promise of stunning visuals, or their recent OC Music Awards title of Best Indie Band of 2011, but after seeing Kiev perform for the first time, I would venture to say it’s their undeniable talent and ability to put on a good live show that filled the theater.

(Originally published in OC Muisc Magazine)

Petty “Won’t Back Down”

7 Oct
                                                                                                                              Photo: Sam Jones

Suits, stoners, soccer moms, hippie chicks, bikers, bros, hipsters and party girls – the eclectic range of fans at Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Oct. 2 Irvine concert proved that the group’s music has yet to “back down.”

Concert-goers young and old filled almost every seat and patch of grass at the Verizon Amphitheater to be a part of the classic band’s “Mojo Tour,” aptly named after their first album release in eight years. A digital copy of Mojo was included with every online ticket purchase, which allowed fans to brush up on the new tunes before the concert began.

Judging by the influx of attendees well after 8 p.m. and the massive tailgating party in the parking lot, hardly anyone took the 7:30 p.m. start time seriously. As a result, opener ZZ Top played their last show of the tour to a much smaller crowd than the concert’s headliners.

Texas blues-rock legend, ZZ Top, played hit songs, like “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Legs” and “La Grange,” ending their 65 minute set with 1975’s “Tush,” as the fashionably late found their seats.

After intermission, excited fans grew restless. Suddenly, the stage lit up and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers started playing “Listen to Her Heart.” The entire crowd seemed to jump to their feet at once, belting out the lyrics along with frontman Petty, while the air appeared to immediately fill with the smoke of, um, some funny smelling cigarettes.

The group formed in 1976 after Petty was in several other bands that didn’t last. Currently, the Heartbreakers are comprised of guitarist Mike Campell, keyboardist Benmont Tench, bassist Ron Blair, guitarist/keyboardist/harmonica player Scott Thurston and drummer Steve Ferrone.

The soulful band who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 has had a multitude of hit singles off their 12 studio albums. They continue to show that their popularity isn’t faltering, which was proven by the packed amphitheater and sold out shows across their 2010 tour.

What makes a Tom Petty concert a Tom Petty concert, is the communal feeling audience members experience.  The night started with groups of meandering fans making their way to their seats, but by the end of the show, the crowd swayed and sang in unison, sharing, er, cigarettes.

Saturday’s attendees were treated to a rendition of the band’s most well-known songs. The lineup included “I Won’t Back Down,” “Free Fallin’,” “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” “Breakdown,” “Learning to Fly” and “Refugee.” The encore included “Running Down a Dream” and “American Girl.”

While the crowd sang their heart’s out during these songs, the moment the Heartbreakers began playing songs off their latest album, listeners flocked to the restrooms and concession stands – typical for any band whose hits are decades old.

Petty, who turns 60-years-old this month, showed the crowd he’s still got it after 34 years with the Heartbreakers. His distinct nasally yet melodic voice hasn’t changed a bit, and the aging rockers proved that you’re only as old as you feel.

The lyrics from “I Won’t Back Down” appear to have become the group’s anthem as they show fans they’re here to stay: “No I’ll stand my ground / Won’t be turned around / And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down / Gonna stand my ground.”

Originally published at The Daily Titan

RATATAT Ramps Up Audience

30 Sep

For a band whose music is almost entirely instrumental, RATATAT puts on a show that makes it immediately apparent to adoring fans that this band must be seen live to truly appreciate its genius.

RATATAT played last Friday at the Fox Theatre in Pomona. With a large projection screen behind the duo playing their corresponding music videos, two smaller holographic projection screens on either sides of the stage, impressive light installments and laser beams (all of which are synced perfectly to the rhythm of each beat) concert goers were able to see their beloved songs come to life.

Multi-instrumentalist/producer Evan Mast and guitarist Mike Stroud play a set with such intense psychedelic images, it rivals the legendary Pink Floyd Laser Spectaculars and trippy acid rock projections of the ‘60s and ‘70s.

The Brooklyn-based ensemble, who refuse to describe their sound, layer explosive guitar rifts, synthesized beats and audio clips for a resulting mix of electronic indie dance rock with an instrumental twist that is uniquely their own.

From the moment RATATAT stepped on stage, the dance floor below the balcony did not stop moving.  Mast and Stroud played several songs off their June released album, Lp4, and closed with their first single from 2002, “Seventeen Years.”

Though the band said little to nothing throughout the entire performance, the stunning visuals told the story behind RATATAT’s melodies. With each changing song, the holographic projection screens boasted rotating images of birds, floating statue heads, baroque-style men playing instruments in white powdered wigs, funky dancers shaking their hips and bouncing gold chains. The music was so loud it reverberated through the entire venue and a trip to the bathroom or bar meant standing in line while your feet vibrated.

The mood completely changed when RATATAT played “Drugs,” while the music video displayed on the projector above them. What started out as an oddly hilarious depiction of wholesome people standing before a backdrop as if they’re about to have their picture taken shifts to a creepy array of faces that seem to be looking right through you. For the attendees whose sobriety was compromised, this segment of the concert probably left them reaching for their friends’ comforting hands, but by the roars of laughter throughout the venue, it seemed to be just another crowd-pleasing moment.

In our current musical age where lip syncing, auto-toned vocals and performances that are more about the artist’s dance moves seem to have become the norm, RATATAT blows fans away with a performance that is better than their recorded albums. How many bands can say that?

Originally published at The Daily Titan

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