Author Archives: Jason Miller

TVD Live Shots: Star Shaped Festival at the
O2 Kentish Town, 8/5

Oh, how I loved the ’90s, and especially the music that came out of it. While the US had is a fair share of breakthrough acts gracing the airwaves, the UK pretty much kicked everyone’s ass when it came to quality. The Brit-pop movement of the ’90s brought us some of the most revered records of all time and gave birth to legends such as Oasis, Blur, and The Verve. But some of the very best of that decade got lost in the mix and overtaken by the next wave of whatever.

Say hello to the Star Shaped Club which reminds us all why we loved this era and proves that these under celebrated artists still have quite a lot to say. The Star Shaped Club puts on monthly Brit Pop parties around the UK with the slogan “Come party like it’s 1995.” They shine a light on the best of ’90s Brit-pop both popular and obscure, brilliantly tapping into nostalgia and keeping the lights on in the house that NME and Melody Maker both built.

Headlining the half day indoor festival was The Bluetones, a band that I missed completely in the ’90s as they didn’t enjoy much success stateside but were massive here in the UK. These guys scored thirteen Top 40 singles and three Top 10 albums in the UK charts, and were the only band on the bill that has remained pretty much active since their heyday. Furthermore, frontman Mark Morris just released a new solo record via Pledge that seems to be doing quite well after achieving 250% of its goal. Having never heard these guys before I was impressed enough to pick up a T-shirt on the way out and added them to my Spotify playlist. How they never broke through in the States is a mystery to me.

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TVD Live Shots: GOAT and The Moonlandingz at O2 Brixton Academy, 7/29

Swedish experimental fusion group GOAT made a triumphant UK return to the legendary O2 Brixton Academy in London last week. It was everything you would expect from a mysterious, masked band with unknown identities and a knack for writing incredibly diverse soundscapes.

Currently based in Gothenburg, GOAT originally hails from Korpilombolo in Sweden which, according to the band, has a history of voodoo worship after a witch doctor arrived and lived there. Supposedly, when Christian crusaders came and destroyed the village, the surviving people fled and placed a curse on the town.

In a recent and rare interview with the Guardian, GOAT’s reclusive leader claimed that the “shamanic group go back two centuries.” He continued discussing the challenges of keeping anonymity in a social media connected world, and the groups dislike of photographers—which all makes sense to me now after doing my best to capture the live show under the most challenging lighting I think I’ve ever had to shoot. (I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.) The full interview is fascinating and can be found here. I imagine that KISS had similar challenges in the ’80s, before the rise of the camera phone.

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TVD Live Shots: Blink 182 at the O2 Arena, 7/20

I’m not sure I’ve ever taken Blink 182 seriously, and that’s probably what the band wants. The southern California trio has built an impressive career bringing their unique brand of pop punk to the masses, and it’s a success story built on a band who never take themselves too seriously and pushed the world out of a dark place when grunge had everyone muting their colors and drowning in a giant pool of self-inflicted sorrow. 

Fast forward 25 years—yes, I know you are feeling old right now, so am I—7 records and two-thirds of the “original” band are still going strong. So strong that they sold out two nights at London’s famed O2 Arena. Having not seen the band in 20 years or more, I wasn’t sure what to expect, especially since founding member Tom DeLonge’s departure and Alkaline Trio’s frontman joining the group full-time.

Those feelings of uncertainty were laid to rest after the first few songs. Matt Skiba is an absolute rock star and an explosive addition to the band. This guy is half punk rock, half Pete Townsend and fits in so well you would have thought he’d been there since the beginning. He brings a certain edge to the band that had been absent over the years, but not necessarily missing. It’s the dawn of a new chapter for the band since the delivery of that first album with the “new guy”—and in this case they hit it out of the park.

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Tommy Victor of Prong on their new Zero Days: “It’s the consummate Prong record.”

The first time I heard Prong was back in 1990 on Headbanger’s Ball. The song was called “Beg to Differ,” and it was pretty much the coolest thing I had heard since discovering thrash metal.

But this was different; it was a new type of thrash. It was hardcore, but also very melodic. I was hooked and instantly became a fan that would hang on every release that followed. Prong would continue to evolve by experimenting with industrial sounds before finding success through MTV and relentless touring, only to be eventually caught up in major label bullshit and drowned out by the unstoppable grunge moment.

Prong founding member Tommy Victor would carry the metal torch forward and continues to deliver new Prong music for over a decade. The power trio is on tour now in advance of the release of the band’s 13th studio album Zero Days, in stores on July 28th. I joined Tommy on his bus in the States to ask him about the new record and a few other burning questions I’ve had as a long time fan.

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TVD Live Shots: Spoon
at the O2 Kentish Town Forum, 6/30

Spoon is a very special type of band, one that has to be heard just once to recognize and celebrate their genius. Watching this band perform live begs the question, how on earth does any band write such remarkable music over and over again? From its beginnings, Kill the Moonlight forward, each of this band’s records has displayed growth—not just pushing the boundaries, but exploring how far they can take a simple idea and have it blossom into something weird and unexpected, yet remarkably catchy.

The first time I saw Spoon was back in 2005 at the Austin City Limits festival where the band played in front of tens of thousands of attendees. I believe the festival was capped at 55K that year, but I remember seeing the largest crowd I’d ever seen before in downtown Austin. It was surreal. It’s not unusual for a “local” band to be much more popular in their hometown, but Austin is a different story—this was a case where the local band would be playing to the same size crowd as headliner Oasis.

Fast forward to last week in London where Spoon played their second show this year, the first being an intimate gig at Club 100 which I would have killed to get into but couldn’t. So it only made sense that they come back and play a proper show for the rest of us. The venue was the O2 Forum in Kentish Town, and the show was everything you’d expect from one of the most original bands on the planet.

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TVD Live Shots: Bash & Pop at The Garage, 6/29

It wasn’t all bad news when The Replacements split up in the early ’90s—the world of rock ‘n’ roll was given the gift of Bash & Pop. And while the band only delivered one full-length record, it was a righteous debut and birthed the anthem known as “Friday Night is Killing Me.” However short-lived it was, it was great to see Tommy Stinson put down the bass and pick up a six string and step up to the helm.

Stinson has the resume of a seasoned vet anchored of course by his time with alt-rock pioneers The Replacements, but also through his stellar projects in the form of Bash & Pop and Perfect. While both projects were equally short-lived, they showcased an incredibly talented frontman with some serious songwriting skills. Add to that a stellar decade-plus journey with the greatest front man of all time as the bass player for Guns N’ Roses and you have a bonafide rock ‘n’ roll juggernaut.

Fast forward to last week when Bash & Pop dropped into The Garage in North London for a warm-up club gig. The band would be gracing the big stage in Hyde Park the following weekend with Green Day, Rancid, and The Hives just to name a few. Bash & Pop were absolutely on fire and came out of the gates swinging. There’s a certain sense of punk rock-ness that comes alive when Stinson gets going. It starts about 2 seconds in and doesn’t let up until the last chords come crashing down.

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TVD Live Shots: Cheap Trick at the O2 Forum Kentish Town, 6/27

I have seen Cheap Trick live more than a dozen times now and they never cease to live up to the announcement that precedes this legendary quartet taking the stage, “The best fucking rock band you’ve ever seen.” This time though was different as it was the first time I would be seeing the band perform in London.

Forty years strong, the band continues to fire on all cylinders. Touring in support of their brilliant new record, We’re All Alright, Cheap Trick brought their latest show to the O2 Forum Kentish Town in north London. The magnetism of Robin Zander, the charisma of Rick Nielsen, the thundering 12 string bass of Tom Petersson, and the bombastic drums of Nielsen’s son Daxx played an incredibly diverse set full of deep cuts, hits, and new material.

It was amazing to see the man of one thousand voices, Mr. Robin Zander decked out in his black leather Dream Police uniform. His voice sounds amazing as well. He’s still got the power and plenty of range to hit all the notes in all the right places—while still enjoying every last bit of leading such an epic band. Rick Nielsen’s personality remains bigger than his collection of oddball guitars, and his quick wit and connection with the audience is second to none.

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TVD Live Shots: Jeff Lynne’s ELO at Wembley Stadium, 6/24

Jeff Lynne’s ELO and a sold out Wembley Stadium—are you kidding me? This one had all the makings to be one of the most epic shows on the planet, and it delivered. I’ve seen hundreds of shows in my life and several stadium shows, but I can tell you that this was one for the ages. The handful of rock bands who can even attempt to play stadiums cannot hold a candle to the magic that is Jeff Lynne and his expert band of musicians.

2017 is shaping up to be an epic year for Jeff Lynne. Earlier this year ELO was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2017, and now a string of sold out stadium and arena tours of the UK. What’s in store for the rest of the year? Many fans are hoping it’s a US tour announcement.

This show was my first time in a proper stadium (capacity here is 90,000). Walking through the halls as I was heading to my seat, I got a sense of just how much history had taken place in Wembley. From Live Aid back in 1985 to just a few weeks ago with the triumphant return of The Stone Roses who also packed the venue to capacity, to the upcoming four-night run from Adele, this place has—and continues to host—some of the biggest shows on earth.

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TVD Live Shots: Idina Menzel at Royal Albert Hall, 6/15

The title of this article should be “a metal fan goes to a pop show.” After taking my wife to numerous metal shows around the world, most recently King’s X and Guns ‘n Roses (within the same week), she asked me to get tickets to a show that SHE wanted to see. She was dead set on seeing Idina Menzel perform live, and I owed it to her. To be completely honest I wasn’t familiar with who Idina Menzel was, although I like to think if myself as that one music fan that does listen to “all types of music.”

I scored third row center seats for us because I thought, if I’m going to see a pop show of this magnitude, I’m going to get the absolute best seats possible—in case I have a miserable time, I’ll at least have a killer seat. Add to it that the show is at the legendary Royal Albert Hall. It’s my first time seeing a show there and it’s starting to get interesting. The stage is set, and after a fantastic dinner I take my wife to our seats and I head back to the soundboard (which is way, way, way in the back) to get ready to take a few shots and try to capture a story within the first three songs (standard photog rules of engagement). Then Idina hits the stage.

Any parent who has a toddler will recognize her voice in about 2 seconds. I have a 2 ½-year-old little girl who dreams of being a princess and can’t stop watching the movie Frozen. I’ve heard the soundtrack so many times I feel like I was its producer—3 to 4 times a day for the past year, I’ve probably heard these songs more than any other rock/ metal classics in my lifetime.

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TVD Live Shots:
King’s X at the Islington Assembly Hall, 6/14

The first and last time I saw King’s X live was back in 1994 at Mississippi Nights in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. I was 19 years old and thought I knew what amazing musicianship looked like, but I was wrong. Doug Pinnick and company were touring in support of their landmark album Dogman, and it was one of the most incredible musical spectacles I’ve ever seen. These guys make a hell of a lot of noise for a three-piece, but furthermore, their musicianship is unmatched.

Pinnick is known for playing a 12 string bass live. If you’ve never heard one of these beasts live, it pummels your chest and rattles your soul, laying the groundwork for one of the most precise (and animated) drummers on the planet, Jerry Gaskill. The rest comes to life by Ty Tabor’s vivid calm-to-roar style guitar playing. It’s the type of music that the metal heads love as well as the prog folks—and even the Beatle-maniacs.

So why was it the band never broke through to the mainstream? I haven’t a clue, and neither do the majority of critics and fans alike. Eddie Trunk takes a stab at solving this mystery on his radio show which you can listen to here. The pieces were all lined up many times over, but while lightning certainly did strike on stage, it never equally struck the charts.

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