Show Reviews

Show Review: Birdy Bardot Record Release Party – Casbah – 6/23/17

A thrilling intensity filled the Casbah when Birdy Bardot and band took to the stage last month and unleashed their new material during the record release party for Birdy Bardot II. It was a festive night for the Redwoods and the SoCal music scene, as Birdy was supported by the revival of San Diego favorites The Heavy Guilt, Los Angeles indie rockers The Dead Ships, and label mates Dani Bell and the Tarantist.  Everyone was in high spirits and the band was anxious to celebrate their efforts and share the results with the Casbah crowd, who were primed to graciously receive. As mentioned, Monofesto was lucky to team up with local photographer Kristy Walker who not only shared her knack for capturing the fabulous ladies of the Redwoods and especially Birdy’s increasingly dynamic stage presence but also chronicled the frenetic flow of the night perfectly (check out Walker’s photo slideshow of the night below). 

 

There was no doubt that even in this talent rich evening, the star of the night was Birdy herself. From start to finish, she demanded that every eye in the house was fixed on center stage. Early in the set, when she ripped into the new album’s featured single “Fortune”, it felt like an arrival for Ms. Bardot, rising to a new echelon as a performer. Consistently animated since her days fronting San Diego’s New Kinetics and The Rosalyns, Birdy was now in complete control of the stage and crowd, matching her ferociously beautiful roars with sudden bursts of bodily force.  

The band was happy to pick up on her momentum and bring their own personalized heightened antics to the performance. Oft-touted as a San Diego all-star line-up, each section proved worthy of the billing. Dillon Casey and Matt Molarius  (guitars) ripped powerfully but more impressively filled every sonic space with tight fills, evenly balanced and partnered. Jake Najor on the drums was resoundingly awe-inspiring in his exacting perfection, and Jason Littlefield was equal to demonstrating his tight professionalism on bass. Daniel Schraer  (keys) was fluid and nuanced in his accompaniment. Of course, Alfred Howard held it all together neatly with his bag of rhythmical tricks (his theremin-inspired manipulation of radio static on his old boombox a particular treat to behold) and limitless passion, seemingly picking up and channeling every rhythmic turn and beat through him simultaneously.  

Birdy had the material from the new album noticeably surging, but she also brought a new welcomed edge to the self-titled freshman album cuts. The crowd was animated throughout, including a captivated crew of young San Diego men lining the front of the stage. Whether looking for a footing to climb the precariously tight Casbah sound rigging or whipping her head back to assault the looming ceiling, Birdy brought infectious life to every word and note. The night capping encore opened with a patient but building rendition of “Right Back” (Bardot II’s closing track) that highlighted Schraer’s moving ability to float Birdy’s vocals out over the heads of the crowd and into the night. They then returned to the first album to close the night with fire. 

Ensuring that the high intensity never faltered was Redwoods ringleader and local legend in the making, Howard. Howard was especially demonstrative this evening in his percussive and explorative sound display,  keeping the Birdy set pumping. Impressive considering his workload for the evening. By the time he took the stage with Birdy he was already on his 4th set of the night, as he not only opened the night bringing his longtime project The Heavy Guilt back to the scene but also bolting from main stage to the back Casbah lounge stage to fill every possible space with raucous rhythms with two Dani Bell and the Tarantist masked-sets between main stage sets. 

Dani Bell and the Tarantist: photo by Kristy Walker

Dani Bell and the Tarantist: photo by Kristy Walker

Dani Bell played their role beautifully, supporting their label mate by keeping the night fresh and alive at every turn. They turned on the spectacle and magic with the flip of a switch like the seasoned and confident act they have worked to become over the past years. The stage connection between Bell and Howard is inescapable and somewhat enigmatic but nevertheless seamless at this point.  

Eric Canoza and Howard of The Heavy Guilt

Eric Canoza and Howard of The Heavy Guilt: photo by Kristy Walker

The Heavy Guilt opened the night with obvious excitement to be performing together and to be presenting new material. Eric Canoza and Howard are joined with a fresh and talented new line-up; Austin Burns (guitar) Aaron Hook (bass), and Peter Williams (drums). Canoza’s voice continues to melt wonderfully into the screaming wall of sound, creating an uplifting urgency. It was great to see the addition of Burns, fully showcasing his instrumental skills this time around, as North County San Diego has long enjoyed his vocal talents with the likes of Second Cousins

Austin Burns : photo by Kristy Walker

Austin Burns : photo by Kristy Walker

Additionally, the Dead Ships definitely gave the night a boost with their poppy reverb laden grooves delivered with metal fierceness. The professional commitment to their sound and performance was evident, making them a fun band to experience in San Diego as they continue to play and spread their name along the West Coast.

The Dead Ships: photo by Kristy Walker

The Dead Ships: photo by Kristy Walker

One last striking thing about the evening was the civility effectively balanced with the raging power and emotion of the music and gathering.  Part of Birdy Bardot and the Redwood’s appeal is undoubtably the talent housed in such a polite, gracious, and approachable group of musicians and the lovely, well-intentioned people they attract around them. 

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The Gotobeds at the Soda Bar Nov. 9th

Newly signed to SubPop,The Gotobeds performed at the Soda Bar on November 9th promoting their 2016 release with the parodic title Blood//Sugar//Secs//Traffic. Young and looking like permanent residents of a tour van, the band is upbeat and energetic though it’s not hard to imagine these guys stumbling out of that hot boxed van with beer bottles tumbling out seconds before taking the stage.

First-timers in San Diego, The Gotobeds’ are a Post-punk quartet sounding somewhat like the Strokes with a blend of more unconventional indie rock and noise rock. The band’s various tempo changes and skilled guitar dueling that provides a cool stereo effect, were at times reminiscent of San Diego’s own indie rock band No Knife.

Twice throughout the show, the band partook in a seemingly ceremonial round of mid-set tequila shots. A third proposition by chatty singer/guitarist Eli Kason, possibly nervous due to the intimate setting of the venue, was refused by the rest of the band and the music continued. The show, at times, felt more like a frat party than a rock show, but it was a good show nonetheless with plenty of energy, only a minimal amount of pretentiousness, and enough tequila to make The Gotobeds go to bed early.

Kason, who’s showmanship sometimes border lined with showboating, proceeded to wrap his entire head in masking tape for the finale, seemingly having nothing more to say. An appropriate ending, if anything, for such an eccentric performance. As the ringing subsides from the Soda Bar patrons’ ears, the band continues their North American tour and Blood//Sugar//Secs//Traffic sits on the shelves awaiting your hard-earned dollar bills.

The Gotobeds

Photo by Shawn Brackbill. Courtesy of SubPop.

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Go See It: Mouse on the Keys @ Soda Bar – Nov 10, 2016

This is not one to be missed!  Mouse on the Keys are a trio from Japan that blends math rock with, jazz and classical piano aesthetics.  Really interesting and inventive stuff.  Hard to describe but easy to enjoy! Two of the members were from the well-known Tokyo-based band Nine Days Wonder, who were active in the 1990s and recently payed a reunion show. Mouse on the Keys are doing their first tour of the United States with LITE (also from Japan) after successful runs Europe and Asia. I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while. See you there!Mouse on the KeysFrom the Mouse on the Keys Website:
“A blend of minimal phrased piano and dynamic drumming.
The pursuit of a live experience composed of visual and audio expression. Formed in 2006, with elements of jazz, funk, post‐rock and electronic music, Mouse on the Keys fits into a genre of their own.
The trio consists of two former members of the influential Japanese underground band Nine Days Wonder, Akira Kawasaki and Atsushi Kiyota.
They teamed up with Daisuke Niitome, who has played drums as well as composed music for countless jazz‐funk and hip hop bands. Their unique sound, comprising two pianos, two keyboards and drums, continue to stand at the forefront of the Japanese indie scene.”

Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds – The Araña Es La Vida

Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey BirdsI recently caught the first night of tour for Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds. They have a new album that was just released on April 22 on the great In the Red Records. It is fantastic!  I had the songs stuck in my head for days after hearing these tunes.  Deliciously warped yet pleasing to the ears.  Kid Congo is a legend in his own right (The Cramps, The Gun Club, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds) but to make his sound even better Kid has surrounded himself with a band that whips serious ass. Amazing musicianship, yet still rough around the edges in just the right ways. Drummer Ron Miller has recorded their albums in his crazy school gymnasium studio out in Kansas. He gets some seriously great sounds. The vibe of their live performance is playful and rocking but still feels a little dangerous.  I’ve caught them a couple times and it’s always a good time. Great music and great people.  Catch them if you can on their current tour across the US, or on their overseas dates.

Oldie but a Goodie: Santana Debut Shredfest

Legend has it that when the members of the completely unknown band Santana arrived at Woodstock in 1969, they were told that they would be playing later in the day. Shortly after dropping acid the members were then given the grave update. They would actually be playing much sooner than previously being notified. As it turns out they hit the stage high on LSD to an audience of 400,000. That seems like a recipe for disaster, yet they burned brightly. Despite seeming a tad phased, the members of Santana rose to the occasion and delivered a seriously burning performance.

When you check out bands these days, especially at mammoth festivals, there is so rarely an opportunity to see someone at the edge of their abilities. Pushing the limits seems like a calculated risk that few venture to take in our time. Just like the banks that are “Too Big to Fail”, the festival fodder of modern times seem to mail it in. Sadly, the crowds have grown accustomed to sequenced backing tracks and a semi-performed set that accompanies a fashion show. I’m not into it.

I’m not a massive Santana fan by any stretch, but when rummaging through my vinyl I was blown away how raw and ripping the debut Santana album is. Michael Shrieve the 19 year-old drummer is particularly fantastic. A great drummer and 2 other latin percussionists is a fine, fine combination. The whole band is great on this slab. Here’s one of my favorite cuts from this awesome debut, recorded quickly and shortly after their Woodstock performance.

Melvins and Big Business @ the Casbah, San Diego – 8/27/2015

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Photos: Jenny Morgan

When the Melvins and Big Business perform together it’s not just a show but an uncompromising experience. After an explosive performance by Big Business alone, the two bands come together as one like some sort of mighty morphing power group to cause some detrimental damage to the eardrums.

One might be skeptical of two drum sets fitting on the Casbah stage since it cannot be considered one of the biggest stages in the world, let alone big enough for a band with two drum sets. Big Business took the stage as a two-piece having plenty of room to maneuver, but it became a little cramped when Dale Crover and Buzz Osborne joined them. King Buzzo was pitted in the far left corner of the stage in his cult robe covered with eye balls and his aluminum guitar mirroring the excited expression of the audience.

The minimal room on the stage didn’t seem to inhibit anyone of the members of the “Big Melvins” to do their thing however, especially not Buzz who still found the room to bob his massive grey fro around as he rocked out to some of his classics. The two drummers, Dale Crover and Coady Willis kept the beat together immaculately as splinters from their drumsticks rained over the crowd like when Shamu splashes everyone in the front rows at Sea World. Jared Warren for his part kept the rhythm going heavily with his distorted bass, even taking over some lead vocals with his Buzz-complimenting voice.

The Melvins tend to collaborate with many bands but Big Business is one of the rare few that are able to literally become one with the group as well as play the role of opening act that properly readies the audience for the inexorable entity that is the Melvins.

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Photos: Jenny Morgan

Metz @ the Casbah, San Diego – 8/19/2015

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photo: Jenny Morgan

A live performance by the Canadian noise-rock trio Metz is an incomparable force to be reckoned with, in fact, it’s not something that can be handled by the weak stomached. Metz is a band that plays so loud and aggressively that they may leave you concuss for days after seeing them play. The band’s performance at San Diego’s Casbah on August 19th was no exception, leaving many San Diegans with a severe ringing in their ears thereafter.

Touring in support of their second album, Metz II, the North American rockers were only a few decibels away from literally tearing the roof off of the famous venue. The show was proof that the band’s two albums are immaculate representations of what happens when the three members get together and the intense energy they produce. Each song Metz played was a harder punch to the gut than the previous with heavily distorted and dissonant guitar riffs played over irregularly timed and quick-paced rhythms.

Opening with “The Swimmer” from Metz II, the band played with an unstoppable momentum the entire duration until finally ending with “Wasted” from the former album leaving everyone there, including themselves, completely drenched in sweat. Metz epitomizes the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll and has proven to be one of the most relevant additions to the Sub Pop family as well as one of the most critical contributors to modern music.

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All photos: Jenny Morgan

Steven Schick @ MCASD Sherwood Auditorium, La Jolla – 8/12/15

Steven SchickI had the great pleasure of attending the La Jolla Summerfest presentation of “An Evening with Steven Schick” tonight.  The world-renown percussionist is a true treasure to San Diego’s music community.  Strangely, Schick is not a well-known character too far outside the New Music circles but for those in the know, his performances are not to be missed.

Some fun facts about Steve Schick:

1) He has championed contemporary music for more than 40 years, being a visionary in the field of solo percussion performance.

2) Steve Schick is a co-founder of the fantastic Bang on a Can All-Stars.

3) Recently, Steve walked from his home in La Jolla 500 miles to San Francisco, where he proposed to his now wife.

As we took our seats, the stage was literally packed with percussion instruments of all varieties.  The first piece was an improvisation played atop the sonic background of a pre-recorded tape loop. The subtlety of the delicate sounds filled the quiet air of the small auditorium. This was followed by denser, complex solo percussion pieces by Xenakis and Stockhausen. The variety of sounds and dynamics were brought to full light through Schick’s intense yet playful delivery. As the sounds were produced, each movement had it’s own subtle choreography. This concept was later fully illustrated though a piece where Schick performed a complex series of movements to accompany a pre-recorded piece consisting solely of computer manipulated vocalizations.

A show highlight was when Schick was joined by four members of the percussion ensemble Red Fish Blue Fish and the amazing Michelle Kim on violin.  The piece was Lou Harrison’s “Concerto for Violin and Percussion Orchestra”. The clash of primitive, rhythmic percussion ensemble playing against a dissonant and beautiful violin performance was stirring, challenging and inspiring.  Kim played in a harmonic manner, outlining strange chords and playing double-stop simultaneous notes with utterly perfect intonation. With both the precision of a machine and heart wrenching emotion, the five musicians made a heavy impression on the audience, ultimately bringing the crowd to their feet. Steve Schick managed to combine high art, articulate intellectualism, violent physicality, tenderly soft dynamic sweetness and a central clever playfulness into a musical performance that compeled the audience participants throughout the duration of the concert.

For me personally, as a former music student at UCSD, I was able to study with Steve Schick and attend his highly entertaining, challenging and informative classes. There was a lot to learn from this man and even in scratching the surface in our time together, I gleaned enough information to light a fire of curiosity that continues to this day. My mind was blown seeing his percussion ensemble Red Fish Blue Fish 20 years ago and my mind was blown again tonight. If you get the chance to see one of Steve Schick’s performances, do your self the service of attending. There’s nothing else like it.

The Agar Petri Dish of the Mattson 2

Being a North County San Diego Resident, I’ve had many many occasions to see the local identical twin duo Mattson 2. They are a source of pride for many Encinitas resident music enthusiasts. I first encountered them as small kids, they may have been 14 or 15 at the time. It was refreshing and surprising that such young, precocious kids would be so inspired to play jazz music. It’s definitely the exception to the rule as of late. Since our first encounters way back, this dynamic duo have pushed their boundaries and furthered themselves along the musical quest. The results of their endeavors are unique, bold and brave. These guys also happen to make one hell of a racket for only being two in number. Through the use of looper electronic delay pedals they are able to easily fill out the sonic space live. On their previous records, other musicians have been tapped for filling out a bigger, more orchestrated sound. A direction I also happen to enjoy. For this outing, the Mattson 2 have captured a reckless live in-studio performance with few overdubs. It’s a move that takes confidence and a desire to really distill the “twinchronicity” of their bretherenesque E.S.P..

I caught them live last night at the Leucadia Music Festival (Summer Fun on the 101, courtesy of Michael Schmitt). It was the ideal environment to catch them. Under a wispy group of trees, armed with a modest P.A. system, the Mattson 2 delivered the goods. The thing that caught me most distinctly was two-fold. First, it was how much their music has been symbolic of the funky Leucadia pride felt in our community. The Mattsons are many in our community and as they continue to grow and evolve, continue to be a source of admiration, respect and enjoyment for many. Second of all, their fearlessness was astounding. Jonathan and Jared are both great players, but not without the occasional wrong note or stilted rhythm. Anything that could be criticized in analysis of perfection in performance or technique falls away when one considers the bold, brave foray into controlled improvisation. Rather than try and perfectly reproduce a previous recorded performance, the music of the Mattson 2 is apparently in a constant state of flux and development. It’s the best of both worlds, jazz-like improvisation in a hip song framework that speaks across musical genres or generational differences. The new record Agar captures the special interplay between Jonathan and Jared and I’m sure they are proud of this latest release. I know I would be if I had cooked this one up!

Atash Steal Show at Joshua Tree Music Festival

Austin’s award winning, unique world music collective.

My family and I recently ventured out to the Joshua Tree Music Festival for the first time.  It was truly a family festival. My kids had a blast, and we were all very impressed with the eclectic and diverse selection of performers at the festival.  There was no doubt amongst our camp, however, that Atash’s performance in early afternoon on Saturday was the highlight of all the acts that took the desert painted stage. The winds were swirling and everybody was flowing and dancing within minutes of them starting to play. It fit the time and place and will forever be cemented into my mind along with the racing clouds and expansive sky of a Joshua Tree afternoon.

In their own words:

Atash is not a typical band. The members of the group, each of whom collaborates in the creation of Atash’s music, come from many corners of the world. They are unified by a religious devotion to their craft, and a love for making people dance in a celebration of life that borders on ecstatic mysticism. Sounds of east and west, of Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Americas, meld seamlessly into a sound which is both hypnotic and vibrantly danceable. This is music about breaking down barriers, building bridges, connecting and celebrating. 

Couldn’t be more inline with what Monofesto is all about.

There is very little media available for the band online, but I suggest tracking down as much material as you can find from them. Here is a nice video of them performing in Austin.