Friday, September 28, 2007

Little Felt Wonders: The Happy Hollows and the Movies @ the Echo September 24, 2007

At some point over the last, oh- I dunno, 9 months or so, the Happy Hollows seemed to burst into popularity around here and pretty much all the L.A. bloggers could not stop talking about them. Suffice to say I was curious. However, I kept missing their shows. This past September they had a residency at the Echo and seeing as how they had a steady date set, and time, it made it somewhat easier to get there. And in my true fashion I kept forgetting until this past Monday, finally. And dammit am I kicking myself now.

There was a strong support line up tonight and I had also been trying to get around to catching Death to Anders. However, the Echo likes to do this thing where they list the bands that are playing, and when you show up, they've thrown the names into a hat and picked at random who would go on first. So, I missed Death to Anders by, maybe 15 minutes. Argh. If you want to read a nice review of their album though, you should click here.

So, the Movies were who started playing once we got there. For whatever reason I had mixed them with another band, possibly Midnight Movies, cause when they took the stage I got a confused look on my face cause they were not who I thought I was going to see. Regardless, the people there LOVED them, and they were entertaining to watch. The lead singer has this deep voice that he uses to shout, and he was dark shades on the whole time he jumps about the stage. The music felt like dark British music, or maybe I just could be safe and lump it with post punk,or not, that might be rude. I dunno. In the end we ended up heading outside due to the crushing crowd in there so we missed the end of the set.

Right before the Happy Hollows came on I figured that while I was here and that it happened to be the rare occasion I was carrying more than 2 dollars on me, I went and looked at the Merch table. And there was a whole treasure trove of felt goodness. They could have been ipod cozies, but since I refuse to buy an mp3 player for the simple reason that I don't need one, I use the cozy now to keep my phone safe from the endless dropping and abuse it goes through on a daily basis. All the little felt things were different colors with different colored owls on the front. I got a very "Fall" one which was brown with an orange owl on it. I *heart* crafts so much. Oh, and I also picked up a cd, in case you're wondering.

So, my best way of describing the Happy Hollows is sweet indie pop with frenetic dancing and noise thrown in for good measure. Sarah Negahdari is a little firecracker who coos songs and then switches rapidly screeching out sounding like Kathleen Hannah's younger sister. She and bass player Charlie Mahoney bop around the stage and look very pleased to be up there, all grins. I feel like whenever I start describing the people in bands I need to go through the roster, so, Chris Meanie plays some mean drums, and I should know, I drum too. Now, since I am relatively new to the songs, I know that they did play "Colors" (which is stuck in my head, even at times when it shouldn't be), and I think the Canal Song and the Monster Song among a bunch of others. I really need to start asking for set lists. Anyway, tonight's show proved that all the hype was much, much deserved. I need to see them again, and also because a friend of mine wants an owl cozy too.

My one only peeve for the night was all the freakin' flash bulbs going off in my eyes. Tonight there seemed to be an obscene amount of people with cameras. I know that when I have my camera on me I like to snap some photos, but these people (not all of the people with cameras I should say, but definitely a bunch) get up in front of you and just bully you out of the way. What the hell guys- and I do mean guys, not a single female doing this tonight- there are some of us trying to watch the show too. Argh, anyway, other than that, rad. Totally rad show.

Monday, September 24, 2007

And the Storm Held Off: Air, Sondre Lerche, and Sea Wolf @ the Greek Theater September 21, 2007

This night already had two strikes against it. For one, a horrible thunder and lightning/ flash flood inducing storm was on its way to Los Angeles County. The other was that I found out my friend payed way too much for her tickets to see Air at the Greek Theater- like highway robbery too much. So the night had the symbolic black cloud over it as well as the giant ones hanging in the sky. Or so I thought.

For whatever reason the 'storm' held itself at bay for most of the night. There was a bit of spitting that our garbage bag coats kept us from (we came prepared). And it was pretty light and then just stopped altogether for the majority of Air's set. It stayed that way until we reached our cars. Due to the insane amount of cash my friend felt it necessary to fork over, it did ensure that we were close to the stage and that exiting the Greek would be relatively painless. So once it was over we were able to jet out to the car, and then sit and wait for 15 minutes till we could leave the stacked parking. The timing was just too perfect- as soon as we got inside the car the drops began to fall and then it just started to pour. Awesome.

Right, so yeah, there were 3 acts Friday night (I just needed to get the lucky weather related story out of the way). First up was the local band Sea Wolf- who are all over Indie radio right now and rightfully should be. Their new album is super and live they are also, well, super. They played some tracks off the new album and received a positive response from the sparse crowd. Most of the movement came from Alex Church (also was in Irving) who ferociously strummed his guitar, while the other bandmates grooved along in the back. The only crap part was that the set was so short, less than 30 minutes I believed. But I guess I should be used to big places like the Greek skimping on time for the opening acts.

Second up was Sondre Lerche- who I learned two things about tonight. 1. He is Norwegian (which had I ever bothered to look up any info on him I could have found out myself) 2. How to pronounce his last name correctly. He's a sprightly little fellow. Bopping around stage, just himself and his two guitars, he awkwardly told stories and thanked the crowd for pretty much not walking out when he took the stage. His set was also pretty short, stopping around the 30 minute mark. He played some songs off his newest release Phantom Punch including "Say It All", "She's Fantastic", and "Phantom Punch" as well as some older ones-"Modern Nature", and a couple tracks from a movie that he is writing the soundtrack to (Dan in Real Life). One of the things that strikes me about him is how much of a crooner he sounds like. I guess I never really payed attention to it before, but was very apparent sounding when it was just him tonight. And, he pulls it off.

At some point the Greek got pretty packed. They make a big deal about having the trees lit up with different lights, so it actually looked real pretty once I craned my neck to look around. Air took to the stage and I felt like I was back in 1995. Cause they were still wearing the same clothes and singing the same songs. Seriously, if you want a general idea of what a Frenchman looks like, here: tight white pants, white wind breaker with the collar turned up and the sleeves pushed to about a 3/4 length, and a baby blue polo shirt underneath. There; French.

But anyways, the crowd was a mix between indie kids and club kids and just plain drunk obnoxious people who won't tell you to your face that you're blocking their view, but will just yell to no one in particular about it. You know who you are, jerk. Um. So, Air started off with a live band and about a million electronic things all over the stage with lots of smoke pouring out and pretty dancing lights going off in several directions. They had some new songs I didn't recognize, and they played a slew off their earlier releases. This was also the first show in awhile I've been to that had a real encore. Thankfully it was only 3 songs long and did not go on for another hour. I was a bit on the tired side this night, which may have contributed to the half-amused approach I took to the whole show. Also the rain. Ugh.

At some point I want to go back to this venue when it is not raining and maybe some kind of Orchestra is playing instead- there is a slight chance there will be less drunk people screaming how they can't see the French Horn player.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Some People Only Go for the Fireworks: Pink Martini @ the Hollywood Bowl September 16, 2007

I've slowly started to make the Hollywood Bowl my yearly summer treat- I've only been out here FIVE years now, I should be enjoying it. Anyways, one of the fun parts to going is that you can still see fireworks in September here; they make the summer (along with the 85+º temps) seem to last just a little bit longer. However, who you'll see is kinda hit or miss. I caught the Tchaikovsky Spectacular last year, which I enjoyed, cause I enjoy the composer. This year we caught Pink Martini, and found out Carol Channing is still alive.

I have nothing against Lounge-y type music. It can be fun; I own a couple of the Ultra Lounge cds (mainly cause some are fuzzy or include games on the front, but whatever, I listen to them). So I was sorta prepared for the songs of Pink Martini from the Cocoanut Grove. It was kitschy and fun. Although, I liked when the girl sang in another language as opposed to English- cause then the words sound ridiculous and you feel you should be playing the slots somewhere while old ladies in tassels hand you watered down margaritas. However, if you were there solely for the firework show then it may have been a bit of a groan.

What surprised me were the fans of Pink Martini there. I've heard their name tossed around plenty of times but I never bothered to listen to them. Honestly, at some point I thought they might have been a chamber group or something along those lines. Anywho, there was a group of kids (UCLA kids) in front of us who were actually singing along to the lyrics. And not just the Pink Martini version of "Que Sera Sera" (the 'dark' version...), but also to those songs that were penned by Pink Martini themselves. Yah- that means that they own and have listened to their old and current cds. For whatever reason children several years younger than me doing this makes me think that they were all musical theater majors, HAVE to be. A lot of older people were singing along to, but these kids were at most 18.

So, I guess I have to back up a minute. The night actually started out with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra doing a few instrumental songs- which were treats from the time of Carmen Miranda and the like. And the conductor, Thomas Wilkins, was a really great storyteller besides being the man waving the stick. It was remarked upon how he kept up his enthusiasm and felt fresh, even though this was the third night of doing the show.

Oh, and backing up even before that (sorry, my mind is at a snail's death crawl right now) outside at the bottom of the Bowl when we showed up was this bizarre marching band from Portland, OR (where P.M. is also from) dressed up like they belonged in a Rockabilly Burlesque show. Later on in the night they appeared on stage for a song or two and then just as quickly were gone. That was the odd thing about the 'guest' performers... they all had very brief spots. Also, they were very old. The two singers coming on with P.M. were Henri Salvador, who is 90 and French, and Carol Channing, who is 117 and can still dance. Carol was incredibly entertaining and really did dance- not a freaking ballet or anything, but she did shimmy. It's insane though that her smile seems so wide that so swear, if she wanted to, she could unhinge her jaw and swallow a piano whole. The Henri guy I guess is really popular in France and was once a suave guy, however during "There's No Business Like Show Business" I felt a little bad as he mumbled the words and hid behind a piece of paper- I wonder what he was like the other two nights?

The fireworks at the end were awesome, even if they can't do a HUGE show due to the possibility of setting people on fire in the crowd. They started off kinda pitiful, what with the two tiny streamers that reminded me of Sparklers but then got out the big ones and had bursts of fire and all that as I sat agape with childlike awe. I love fireworks in part for their ability to still put a little wonder back into my jaded, cynical life.

I don't know if tonight turned me into a Pink Martini fan, but it did give me another reason to love going to the Bowl. That and the their shuttle system is friggin' superb.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

One Man and a Bunch of Guitars: Anders Parker @ the Hotel Cafe September 14, 2007

Were you at the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood last night? Chances are you were not, which is too bad. I hate going into Hollywood on a Friday night as much as any westsider, but Anders Parker was playing a show so I had to brave the bad traffic, outrageous parking fees, and Mötley Crüe wannabes to get over there.

I know Anders Parker through Varanline, who haven't been around for awhile, so honestly I wasn't so aware of all his newer work, but I was happy to find out he still sounds as wonderful as ever. He played a solo set, and an early set too. 7pm. Rush hour was still happening on our way over there, so we ended up getting there about 10 minutes late. I'd never been to the Hotel Cafe before. You have to go down an alley, and then around the back of a building to get in, however the inside is pretty comfortable, with little tables and a tiny, tiny stage- perfect for one person and their many guitars. I couldn't tell if the people sitting in watching were there for him, or just stumbled in- one guy had a tourist guide at his table. Regardless, everyone (about 20 of us) was enjoying themselves and the sound was pretty spot on.

Anders Parker reminds me of what's his face from Neutral Milk Hotel. It's that drawn out, acoustic guitar work that is full of emotion with tinges of electric guitar thrown in for good measure. There's just something very satisfying in the combination of his voice and the guitar, even more so as a solo act here this night. I recognized some songs off the last album- or at least I think I did, man I'm crap at guessing these things.

Listening to him tonight made me think of how many really good singer-songwriter people are out there who just do not get enough recognition. Yes, Tweedy and Meloy are good, and that's why they do well. Let them have their Volkswagen commercials and make some room for some people who deserve a little more outward push.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Boob Slapping: Bob Log III @ Spaceland September 11, 2007

I had no intention of going out last night for a show. However, while browsing for something to do, Bob Log III was stumbled upon and I was informed I should go see this guy. He's a bit odd but sure to be entertaining.... he wears a motorcycle helmet with a telephone mic through the front. How could I not go? So I ended up at Spaceland looking for a good time.

I have a small special place for the white man blues in my heart; I absolutely adore the Black Keys. Bob Log III falls somewhere on the outskirts of this genre. But other than that and a part in Doo Rag, I knew nothing about him (also nothing about Doo Rag, except for the fact I was told this is where he was before). I also didn't know that old dorky guys ever actually ventured out to Spaceland. It looked like outside the Sony studios at lunch with droves of guys in cargo shorts and UFO t-shirts wandering around. I suddenly found myself in cock-rock-ville.

I have no idea who the two opening bands were. Spaceland did not post anything on their site or myspace or wherever. All I know is that fans of the second band seemed quite pissed off that no one really "appreciated" the band and that the guys shouldn't have brought their girlfriends to the show. Huh? Whatever. Cock rock.

So, this Bob guy. He came out on stage donning a silver sparkly motorcycle helmet with a black phone as a mic that looked like another motorcycle man may have gotten pissy and shoved it in place there. He also was wearing a black leather one piece, that was just slightly loose, and studded with metal squares. I think it said "LOG" on the back spelled out with those too. I couldn't see his feet, however I was told he had a small bass drum and a cymbal that he feet used. Most of the songs he was using a slide for, very blusey-country sounding. There was also occasionally the sampled beat coming from somewhere as well. All this while seated in a metal folding chair.

Maybe it was because I was not familiar with the music, but after a while the off beat guitar picking and one-two thumping coming from the drums/cymbal seemed to blend into each other. The energy levels kept up though, and the crowd suddenly turned into a frat party at some point, complete with the really drunk dude running in circles. And subsequently running to a bathroom. There was also the rarely seen encore tonight. For the second half a chick ran up on stage in a tubetop and may or may not have flashed the audience, but regardless stayed on stage rubbing/smacking her boobs for the "Clap Your Tits" song. Again, I felt like I was at a college party.

It was unlike anything I've seen really before, although some performers down on the 3rd St. promenade come close. He really reminded me of a sleazy guy from some backwater town, but I didn't mind. And no one else did either.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Cold Water Music: Old Time Relijun @ the Echo August 30, 2007

I will admit to occasionally listening to some far away, hillbilly Appalachian music. Bluegrass or whatever. But it's weird to consider it joining forces with another form of music so polar opposite from it, like indie rock. Oh, and sounding good. Real good. Or maybe it's just that the front-man of Old Time Relijun, Arrington de Dionyso, looks as if maybe he crawled his way out of some backwater village out in the Ozarks. Regardless, it was another hot night over at the Echo August 30, and also marked the start of a much needed vacation for myself.

Let's just say that in the summertime, smoker or not, taking a break on the smoking patio out back is almost a necessity when you can only allow yourself shallow breaths inside. That said, we showed up as close to the start time of OTR as possible, however we always get bored waiting and end up at the Echo earlier than planned. Also, tonight there was a butt load of bands playing beforehand (Jail Weddings, the Holy Kiss, Woman, and Jeremy Jay).

Deciding to hit the merch table before OTR played, we were able to catch Jail Weddings. First, they're all kinda entertaining to watch, what with the gazillion people on stage (okay, 8 I believe). Their music is a mix between garage, doo-wop and that 60's bad girl music I so adore and have an ever-growing collection of 45's from. They were fun however it got too stuffy so we went outside. IF it had been a bit more accommodating then maybe we would have stuck around for the whole set. (Yes, I know by this point I must seem like some kind of high maintenance type that is easily annoyed by heat... and smells. But I'm not that bad.)

Taking the stage, this four piece seems to have an aura of something slightly odd about them. They seem dressed up in suits or dress shirts, but slightly frayed around the edges, like a worn disguise. And then before you realize it, de Dionyso is down to his undershorts and starts howling, eyes bulging out at you. It's a bit scary if you're not expecting it; but we were and found it delightful. Launching into the set, pounding drums and a haunting sax, lyrics seems to be torn from throats while Aaron Hartman makes frantic love to his stand up bass. It's part spectacle, part tribal dance. Getting lost in the music I forget the set, however they did play a number of tracks off their new, soon-to-be released album "Catharsis in Crisis" on K Records. And they did a crazy fast version of "Cold Water" and yet still made it last for what seemed 10 minutes. That maybe have been the highlight of the show, screaming the refrain back at the band. It was an amazingly good show, one I've enjoyed the most as of late. And yet the place cleared out towards the end. Too bad, ya'll missed a good one.