Monday, October 12, 2015

Live Show Photos, May - October, 2015: Mastodon, D'Angelo, Foo Fighters, Ghost. . . .

Kurt Vile & The Violators, 930 Club, Washington DC - 10/8/15

Sturgill Simpson, Lincoln Theater, Washington DC - 9/23/15

Ghost, The Fillmore, Silver Spring MD - 9/22/15

Ghost, The Fillmore, Silver Spring MD - 9/22/15

Ghost, The Fillmore, Silver Spring MD - 9/22/15

Ghost, The Fillmore, Silver Spring MD - 9/22/15

Ghost, The Fillmore, Silver Spring MD - 9/22/15

Ghost, The Fillmore, Silver Spring MD - 9/22/15

Eagles of Death Metal, 930 Club, Washington DC - 9/15/15

Eagles of Death Metal, 930 Club, Washington DC - 9/15/15

Chelsea Wolfe, U Street Music Hall, Washington DC - 9/11/15

High on Fire, Baltimore Soundstage, Baltimore MD - 8/20/15

Pallbearer, Baltimore Soundstage, Baltimore MD - 8/20/15

Lucifer, Baltimore Soundstage, Baltimore MD - 8/20/15

Failure, 930 Club, Washington DC - 8/11/15

Hum, 930 Club, Washington DC - 8/11/15

Deftones, The Fillmore, Silver Spring MD - 7/31/15

Black Breath, Rock & Roll Hotel, Washington DC - 7/9/15

Foo Fighters, RFK Stadium, Washington DC - 7/4/15

Basement Jaxx, 930 Club, Washington DC - 6/30/15

D'Angelo, The Fillmore, Silver Spring MD - 6/25/15

Calexico, 930 Club, Washington DC - 6/5/15

Mastodon, Pier Six Pavilion, Baltimore - 5/16/15

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Live Show Review: Tame Impala - 6/6/15

Tame Impala
Date:  June 6, 2015
Venue:  Echostage, Washington, DC

It's pretty fun, and increasingly rare, to get on board early with a promising new rock band and watch them rise from relative obscurity to international super-stardom in the short span of five years.  I'm talking about psychedelic rockers Tame Impala, all the way from Perth, Australia.  I fell hard for this band when I downloaded their debut album, Innerspeaker, on a whim in the summer of 2010 (my curiosity initially piqued by a sweet album cover that reflected the woozy lava-lamp sound inside) and caught them live with a small crowd of early converts at the divey Black Cat just down the street from my apartment.  I saw them again six months later with a much larger crowd at the same venue, then two years on at a sold out gig at the 1,200 capacity 9:30 Club with the release of their sophomore album Lonerism.  This past weekend, just a couple months ahead of their third album release Currents, I was fortunate to catch them a fourth time in DC with a 4,000-plus throng of revelers at a sold out Echostage.

Tame Impala, Echostage, Washington DC - 6/6/15

Echostage is a cavernous venue best known for hosting massive EDM events headlined by dance music pied-pipers like Avicii, David Guetta, and Tiesto, so it follows that in 2015 Tame Impala seem to have tweaked their sound and adapted their live show to appeal to the wub-wub generation.  All but gone is the nimble jazz-fusion of the band's early rhythm section, now streamlined with the colossal drum kicks, breakbeats, and booming subs of more festival-appropriate genres like hip-hop and EDM.  Likewise, guitars are primarily utilized for color, texture, and the occasional solo, as much of the band's organic jamming is now heavily morphed by samplers and synthesizers to mimic the cuts, fades, drops, and other sonic manipulations commonly employed by deejays.

As EDM deejays have always done, Tame Impala increasingly play off the cycle of anticipation and catharsis favored by the club congregation.  The band opened their Echostage set with new single "Let it Happen," a driving eight minute disco groove featuring a stuttering crescendo and inevitable "drop" that sent the crowd into hysterics.  Later, "Endors Toi," originally a space-rock jam packed with knotty snare rhythms, was retooled and extended with that ubiquitous one-two dubstep beat bros can't resist.  More subtle selections from debut LP Innerspeaker, like "It Is Not Meant To Be," sounded downright anemic by comparison with nary a fist pumped in the whole venue; but newer hits from Tame Impala's breakout sophomore album Lonerism, like their stomping glam-rock anthem "Elephant" and epic multi-part set closer "Apocalypse Dreams" had the masses roaring in approval.  Current single and forthcoming Currents album highlight "'Cause I'm a Man" predictably garnered huge reaction too, with its ironic sexed-up slow jam vibe and elementary (if misunderstood, because they sound sexist at first, but actually aren't if you listen carefully) singalong lyrics - "'Cause I'm a maaaan, woman!" 

Tame Impala, Echostage, Washington DC - 6/6/15

Despite my sardonic tone here, I have to admit Tame Impala put on a great show and I had a blast.  The band's sonic and visual dynamics have greatly improved from their early days of affected shoe-gazing and minimal oscilloscope projections (yes, the oscilloscope squiggles still made an appearance during an appropriately dubbed mid-set goof off called "Oscilly") with band founder and apparent sole creative force Kevin Parker stepping up (literally, on the monitors spraying the crowd with water from a bottle) as a charismatic front man.  Old school fans and cynics might feel discouraged by the band's thriving success, growing fan base, and new musical direction, but Tame Impala's exploration of popular dance music tropes seems natural and inevitable.  Rave adopted and carried the spirit of bygone rock psychedelia after all, and Parker always cited the Chemical Brothers as an influence.  I'm more excited than ever about an ascendant rock band, still on an upward trajectory against all odds (will rock ever really die?).  With their major label debut Currents set to drop in July, Tame Impala are on the verge of bigger things and the next time I see them might very well be at an 18,000+ capacity arena like DC's Verizon Center.  It might not have the charm of the Black Cat, but I'll be there just the same.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Album Review: Mini Mansions: The Great Pretenders

Mini Mansions:  The Great Pretenders
Label:  Capitol Records
Released:  March 23, 2015


Despite what some of the press might tell you, Mini Mansions aren't really a Queens of the Stone Age side project.  Mini Mansions are an LA-based psychedelic pop trio comprised of Zachary Dawes (guitar and bass), Tyler Parkford (keys and vocals), and Michael Shuman (percussion and vocals) - a distinct animal all its own.  Yes, Michael Shuman has been playing bass in Josh Homme's marauding rock collective Queens of The Stone Age since 2007, but arguably wasn't a full-fledged Queen until contributing to their chart-topping Grammy-nominated tour de force ...Like Clockwork from 2013 (my favorite album that year).  By that point Shuman and his Mini-cohorts had already been kicking around for years, putting out a stellar and criminally overlooked self-titled debut in 2010.  That first album, Mini Mansions (released on Homme's own indie imprint Rekords Rekords) whose sonic palate comprised mostly of piano and saccharine vocal harmonies, sounded like a back-alley showdown between John Lennon, Brian Wilson, and Elton John.  I can't say for sure, but I suspect some of that album's deft piano balladry and malevolent carnival atmospherics informed quite a bit of the Queens' new fever-dream keyboard sound on ...Like Clockwork.

On their T-Bone Burnett produced major label sophomore outing, The Great Pretenders, Mini Mansions raise the stakes, blowing out their sound into wider panorama with more color, texture, volume, and a new stomping glam-rock swagger that would make Marc Bolan proud.  They're not breaking barriers exactly, but I'm tempted to coin a new genre term for what Mini Mansions are doing - "psychedelic power-glam."  The band once again create an album-as-journey, with excellent track sequencing from start to finish.  Songs swirl, ebb, flow, and melt into each other like hot wax.  The lumbering Farfisa-infused "Honey, I'm Home" glides right into the hip-swiveling trance and frenzied noise-rock crescendo of "Mirror Mountain" while the infectious "Fantasy" boasts so many transitions and pop hooks the band could've easily unraveled and cut it into multiple singles.  Lyrically, co-vocalists Shuman and Parkford rein in some of the nonsense surrealism of their debut and focus (mostly in falsetto) on introspective matters of the heart, like on the self-conscious "Creeps", the yearning "Heart of Stone," and the shimmering comedown "The End, Again".

Mini Mansions also bring a few heavyweight friends to the party.  Having already borrowed some of Brian Wilson's trademark harmonic magic and production aesthetic for their debut, this time the band actually rub shoulders with the legendary Beach Boy himself on the anthemic slow-build of "Any Emotions" (official video, starring Colin Hanks).  Sexy and sinister, and something of an album mission statement, album centerpiece "Vertigo" (official video, NSFW) has cocky Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner sauntering in mid-song with his gooey Midlands croon delivering the album's dick-swingin'est verse - "and since you're such a stunner/ send us something sunset colored/ let's make love to one another/ run for cover."  Lecherous come-ons aside, The Great Pretenders boasts dynamic songcraft and fearless grandiosity rare in contemporary pop music and, though traditional rock guitar seldom features, the album never comes across as anything less than rock & roll.  With no low points to speak of, and its myriad ear-worm melodies looping in my head daily these past few weeks, this is easily my favorite album of the year so far.  Now let's see what Mini Mansions' nearest stylistic peers Tame Impala bring with Currents, that band's forthcoming third album and major label debut (apparently featuring less guitar and more keys, Mini Mansions' modus operandi from the start).  The Great Pretenders will be a tough act to follow.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Live Show Photos, February - March, 2015: Helmet, Swervedriver, Torche. . . .

Torche, DC9, Washington DC - 3/29/15

Swervedriver, Rock & Roll Hotel, Washington DC - 3/25/15

Helmet, Black Cat, Washington DC - 2/25/15