Author Archives: Jason Miller

TVD Live Shots: Macklemore at the O2 Brixton Academy, 4/7

This review should be titled “A metal guy goes to a Macklemore show,” as it’s something that is completely out of the norm for me. Then again, I am someone who can honestly say that I listen to a bit of everything (at one point or another in my life).

The fact is that Macklemore is so huge in the States that I really wanted to see how the world of hip-hop-pop translates to the UK, and it does big time. Two sold out shows at the legendary O2 Brixton Academy turned out to be one of the biggest crowds I’ve ever seen crammed into the venue. The show was like a giant party—the songs were hook-laden anthems primed for audience sing-alongs, and Macklemore himself strutted across the stage as if he were royalty.

Not being too familiar with Macklemore’s catalog or new album for that matter, I did prep myself a bit by watching video clips from the previous gigs (which is essential for a photographer to get a sense of what to expect). The surprise for me was the second song of the night called “Firebreather,” which is a full on, hard rock explosion. The multi-instrumental genius that is Macklemore guitarist Cinque Kemp was on fire. Man, this guy can shred on guitar, and he makes it look epic at the same time. The energy in the room fueled by the blaring red lights and multiple pyrotechnics looked like a full tilt rock ‘n’ roll party from hell—in a good way, that is.

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TVD Live Shots: At The Drive-In and Death From Above at the Brixton Academy, 3/9

At The Drive-In and Death From Above sharing the same stage? Is this reality?

That’s the first question that popped into my mind when I saw the show announcement for the legendary Brixton Academy in London. Two bands that paved their way through a crowded clusterfuck of terrible early to mid-2000s alt-rock radio staples—one of them redefined the post-punk genre, and the other stripping rock ‘n’ roll down to its absolute core. Both have influenced many over the years—one could argue that their legacy is locked in place with neither have anything left to prove—yet none of that mattered this particular evening.

First up was Death From Above. Having dropped the unnecessary 1979 identifier from their name, the duo of Jesse F. Keeler and Sebastian Granger are currently touring in support of their first new record in three years Outrage! Is Now. It’s a bit of a different sound for the band as this time they’ve enlisted hitmaker Eric Valentine (Queens of the Stone Age, Good Charlotte, Ride) to produce the record. The result is exactly what you would expect—slick production, big hooks, tight grooves, a bit of funk, and several options for keeping the band relevant for their core audience while introducing them to an entirely new one.

When most bands go this route, their live show tends to mimic their polished sound on record. I’m happy to report that this is not the case with Death From Above. In fact, they might have gone the opposite direction just to point out that they are a fucking heavy, heavy band live.

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TVD Live Shots: Insecure Men, Raf Rundell, and Pregoblin at Scala 3/8

Whoever is behind the marketing for Insecure Men deserves a prize.

I had never heard of these guys, but I’m a massive fan of The Moonlandinz and Fat White Family. In fact, The Moonlandinz 2017 release Interplanetary Class Classics was my favorite album of last year. Based on my love of that band I was targeted with Fat White Family and Moonlandingz guitarist Saul Adamczewski’s new project, Insecure Men. It was a beautiful campaign that not only turned me on to the band but also got me to pre-order the record, and finally get a ticket to the show. This is exactly how digital marketing is supposed to work, and thankfully someone in Saul’s camp gets it, or otherwise this would have slipped by me.

Insecure Men is a supergroup of sorts formed by Saul Adamczewski and Childhood’s frontman Ben Romans-Hopcraft. The record is all sorts of lo-fi brilliance rolled up in ’70s AM rock production. Remember what MGMT tried to do on their second and third records and failed miserably? Well, Saul and Ben fucking nail it. Even taking it up a notch. It’s the perfect soundtrack for mellowing out while taking a break from the world as it seems to be destroying itself.

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TVD Live Shots: Imagine Dragons at the 3Arena in Dublin, 2/26

Finally, I get to see a band that is equally as big in Europe as they are in the US. In the case of Imagine Dragons, they may actually be bigger. The Las Vegas natives treated the sold-out 3Arena in Dublin to a spectacle of rock for the ages. It was exactly what the Irish capital needed before the snowstorm of the century known as the “Beast from the East” would bring the entire country to a standstill.

It’s refreshing to see a band of this magnitude lose the rock star mentality and use their platform for something bigger than just their music. During the show frontman Dan Reynolds shared an intimate moment with the capacity crowd detailing his struggles with depression and later rallied the fans around LGBT rights and the sad state of politics in the US. For those who say they don’t want a side of smart social commentary with their pop rock music, I’d ask what have you done to change anyone’s life? And by the way, there’s no line at the merch booth at the moment in case your bored in between songs.

It’s interesting to read the reviews from across the UK and Ireland. One critic called the band shallow (don’t bother the delicate genius), while others called it exhilarating. While not my exact cup of tea, one cannot deny that these guys can write some fucking massive hooks and fuse genres like no one else at the moment. At the end of the day critics should always take a back seat to the fans, and in this case I didn’t see or hear one disappointed fan out of the thousands who were there. Funny how that ratio doesn’t translate to many of the jaded critics.

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TVD Live Shots: Steel Panther at La Riviera, Madrid, 2/12

God bless Steel Panther. For those of us who grew up listening to “hair metal” and love the glory days of the Sunset Strip, we have a savior, or saviors, in the form of Michael Starr, Lexxi Foxx, Stixx Zandinia, and Satchel. ( I know, it’s like just Satchel?) Steel Panther continue their mission of keeping a lost art alive while taking excessiveness to a whole new level and reminding us all how ridiculous hair metal at times became.

Legend has it that Steel Panther were on the brink of signing the largest record deal in history back in the ’80s. All the major labels came to their showcase one night in LA, but the band never showed up. According to Dee Snider, their manager told them to be at the showcase, and they mistakenly thought he said to go out and get shit-faced. The labels ended up signing Jane’s Addiction, and the rest is history.

Fast forward 20 plus years and the band continues to celebrate a “fruitful” resurrection with their latest album Lower the Bar which “does exactly what it says on the tin.” Songs such as “Going in the Backdoor” and the insanely catchy “Poontang Boomerang” continue the insanity and political incorrectness that is the genius of this band.

But don’t let that fool you, these guys can write a great fucking song. The single “That’s When You Came In” is a remarkably well-written song led by an unfortunate chorus, but either way, this gem would stand up against any of the classic power ballads—”Every Rose Has It’s Thorn,” “Heaven”—you name it. While these guys may not take the genre too seriously—who still can for that matter?—they have some serious skills and noteworthy songwriting talents, in terms of pure unadulterated party rock ‘n’ roll, that is.

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TVD Live Shots:
MGMT at the Electric Brixton, 2/6

The fact that it’s been a decade since MGMT’s debut album Oracular Spectacular was released is mind-blowing to me. I remember getting an advance copy of this album back when I was working at Sony Music and playing it for everyone I knew. The reception was the same universally; this record was an instant classic. It was one of the most unusual records I had ever come across during my time in the music business, but it was brilliant, and the label was incredibly excited to release this one as was I.

I saw MGMT about a dozen times that year. From SXSW to the relentless touring, it was really exciting to witness a band go from completely unknown to one of the biggest buzz bands on the planet. I had met the band numerous times through a couple of tours, various retail promotions, and a slew of SXSW events. Both Andrew and Ben were pretty quiet, Andrew seemingly more of an introvert than Ben, but they were really cool guys. I don’t think they ever expected to be thrust into the limelight so quickly, then again they did sign to one of the biggest records labels on the planet.

It’s interesting to me how an artist responds to the pressure of following up a hit debut record with their sophomore effort. When Congratulations was released, it was pretty much a giant middle finger to the entire music business. MGMT had abandoned the hooks and synth-pop from their debut and went total Syd Barrett. I had heard rumblings that the label was pretty baffled as to how to promote this one, but they couldn’t say no to their new crossover darlings of the hipster music scene. But then it got even more confusing with the release of 2012’s self-titled record which the band admitted to fans that they would be “laughing with them.”

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TVD Live Shots: Arch Enemy, Wintersun, Tribulation, and Jinjer at Rockefeller Music Hall, Olso, 2/1

Is there a better way to see a Scandinavian melodic death metal band live than on their own turf? I think not. Last week I was in Oslo for a keynote speech on digital marketing (my day job), and after the gig, I ran over to the Rockefeller Music Hall. Oslo’s a beautiful place, and you can pretty much walk to anywhere in the city, but holy shit it was cold. I’m talking minus 16 cold. The entire city was like one giant block of ice, and I was wearing clothes for “London cold,” which as you can imagine put me in a tight spot.

Either way, I made it in time for the opening bands as I like to do. The venue was sold out, and it was jammed inside. (For the record, security and personnel at the Rockefeller were super helpful for a first-time photog at the venue, which is pretty killer all around.) I love the metal crowds—these are my people! I grew up with metal, and as I’ve mentioned before, there’s a certain camaraderie between metal fans, and as I’ve traveled around the world to see different metal shows, I’ve confirmed that it’s universal.

First up was Ukrania metalcore band Jinjer. This was my introduction to the band as I’ve never seen or heard of them before. They reminded me a bit of old school Lamb of God mixed with a bit of thrash and nu metal (yes, I hate that word as much as you do). Jinjer bassist Eugene Kostyuk recently told Metal Horizons that his band doesn’t like being compared to other female-fronted groups. He explained, “Firstly, we don’t see the point in differentiating a band by the gender of a front person.” I would agree—frontwoman Tatiana Shmailyuk is a force to be reckoned with and is a clear stand out among many of the current metal bands on the scene.

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TVD Live Shots: Asking Alexandria at the O2 Brixton Academy, 1/27

It blows my mind to see the differences in popularity for a band from the UK and the US. How can one audience be so different? How can a record label not figure out the right strategy or differentiate one? Why is the band on one label in the states but another overseas? I don’t get it and probably never will, but I will tell you as a global marketer myself I don’t see that big of a difference in the crowds at the shows in the UK versus the US, and vice versa. Asking Alexandria is one of these bands, but maybe their latest record will finally bridge the gap between two all-important metal nations.

I was a bit late to the Asking Alexandria party as the first time I came across these guys was while I was photographing the red carpet at the 2016 Metal Hammer Golden God awards. They walked in and played the rock star part better than any of their counterparts, even seasoned vets such as Anthrax and Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine. But there were only three of them that night to accept the award for Best UK Band. I would later figure out (I had moved to the UK the week before) that the band had recently parted ways with their original singer and were on a path to reinventing themselves with a new singer and new album that had just been released to stellar reviews across the board.

I’ve come to dig these guys over the past couple of years as they seem to have something that the other bands in their class didn’t: substance. Asking Alexandria might have started off in the metalcore/emo whatever category but they continue to evolve. I loved their last album The Black. I thought it was brilliant. It reminded me of the time when Eighteen Visions released their self-titled record back in 2006 on Epic Records where I worked at the time. One of the promo reps from Epic called it a “heavy modern-day Def Leppard Hysteria” and I agreed. Too bad the entire rest of the world disagreed, but who fucking cares. I loved that record and still do. The Black was Asking Alexandria evolving. New singer, new(ish) sound, new direction, and all things looked to be on the way up.

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TVD Live Shots: Cults
at The Garage, 1/25

I was first introduced to Cults back in 2011 when I was working at Sony Music. The band had a HUGE buzz about them, and Columbia Records was THE label to be on at the time. I was excited to have an opportunity to work this record to my accounts at the time, but alas they were given to the independent arm of the label and released through RED Distribution.

This was a play for credibility which didn’t make sense to me at the time. I mean, was the band on a major label? Yes. But they didn’t use the distribution? And who could work on this record? Would the band graduate to Sony Music proper? This happened all the time, and I’m not sure if anyone benefitted from the thought process here, but at least I got a copy of the debut record on vinyl.

There was a lot of mystery around Cults then too. I thought that was pretty cool at a time when social media was taking off that a band would forego all of the attention and retain their mystique. This was pre-Sia, so it certainly wasn’t the cool thing to do. The record was fantastic and had a ’60s California AM radio pop feel to it. The critics loved it, Pitchfork was all over it, and it looked like there was no stopping Cults from dominating the indie rock scene for years to come.

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TVD Live Shots:
Geoff Tate’s Operation: Mindcrime at the
Garage, 1/16

I’ve seen Queensryche about a dozen times over the years. They’re a band I grew up with and continue to celebrate. When they were fractured in two, I was devastated and confused. Always leaning toward wherever Geoff Tate took them, I followed him out of respect for his incredible work and his brilliant solo releases. But whatever happened, I still loved the band and wanted as much music from any incarnation moving forward.

The results were two very different things. Queensryche with a new singer went back to their roots and delivered a brilliant, crushing couple of records. Geoff Tate’s Queensryche focused more on pushing into new territories. The results were two releases that polarized the fan base and to be honest, probably cast a shadow of doubt on the future of both versions of Queensryche.

All that drama and bullshit was cast aside in London at The Garage on Monday night as Geoff Tate brought his band Operation: Mindcrime to perform the remarkable album with the same name in its entirety. Operation: Mindcrime (the album) isn’t just one of the best concept records of all time, it sets the bar for all others to be measured by—and continues to do so. I was a bit skeptical about seeing Geoff perform one of my all-time favorite records without the backing of his original bandmates, but holy shit was I happy that I went to this show. It was flawless, brilliant, sonically stunning—I can’t say enough good things about this show.

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TVD Live Shots:
Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes at O2 Brixton Academy, 12/9

My final, final show of 2017 is one that I’ve been waiting all year for. Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes at the legendary O2 Brixton Academy in London.

Frank made a record called Blossom a couple of years ago that is a post-hardcore top ten for me. Falling somewhere between Quicksand, Fugazi, and Refused, this record is solid from start to finish. It’s the kind of album that defines an artist’s career and one that we will all look back on twenty years later as not only a game changer, but as an iconic source of inspiration for those who chose to follow.

I had never heard of Frank Carter until I moved to the UK. The song “Juggernaut” popped up on a Spotify playlist (the predictive algorithms are getting very good) and I was hooked. This track is one of the heaviest things I’ve ever heard, and combined with its message, it makes you feel like you can take on the world and kick its ass twice over. It’s the song you put on at the gym and listen to ten times in a row. Then I heard it live and it was even better.

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TVD Live Shots:
Liam Gallagher at the Alexandra Palace, 12/7

What a way to end the year, Liam Fucking Gallagher at the legendary Alexandra Palace in London. I’ve seen Oasis twice, Noel’s High Flying Birds, and even Beady Eye, but holy hell has Liam found his post-Oasis sweet spot.

Touring in support of his brilliant new record, the critically acclaimed As You Were, Liam came out of the gates swinging with two Oasis classics in a row. I don’t think anyone saw it coming, but “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” and “Morning Glory” were delivered via a wall of sound that would have even Phil Spector contemplating retirement. It was loud, it was brash, it was bloody brilliant—and set the stage for the absolute best show I’ve seen in 2017.

If you’re like me, the first time you heard Oasis you got a chill down your spine. It was a sign of something special. The second Liam started singing the verse of the third song in the set “Greedy Soul,” that long-lost feeling had returned in full force. The big question is why the hell did it take so long for a Liam solo record? We all knew he had it in him, but we also know he’s a “band” guy. Whatever the hell you want to call it now, he’s certainly firing on all cylinders and has a record to back up his ego and the tagline for the release “As Good As He Said it Would Be” which has been plastered across train and tube stations in the UK.

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TVD Live Shots: My Vitriol at KOKO, 11/19

Every time I hear the name My Vitriol, it brings me back to the golden days of SXSW, a time when a sense of anticipation superseded the current state of immediate gratification. A time when you would hear about a new band and get so excited to see them live that you’d drop everything you’re doing for the night to line up early to make sure you’d get in. Given overwhelming circumstances, sometimes you would, sometimes you wouldn’t, but you could never Facebook and Tweet your way beyond the mystique. It was real, it was authentic, it was magical… and sadly it’s not ever coming back again.

One of these moments was the debut of My Vitriol in 2001. The record was called Finelines. The buzz was through the fucking roof. The mystique was there and it was real. If you could get in to see one of the band’s performances, you were among the elite of the music business, along with a few hardcore fans. When they hit the stage, the sound was both glorious and surreal.

This is the same feeling I get living in London every time I hear that My Vitriol is playing a show in the UK. It brings me back to that moment when exclusivity mattered more than reach. When you discover a new band for the first time and can’t wait to share it with your friends even though they might not understand, which is even cooler because then you have them all to yourself. Not great for record sales—but that’s not the point.

My Vitriol is one of the few bands today who retain this mystique while staying connected to their fans. 2016 saw the release of the long-awaited, direct to fans, Pledge Music campaign for The Secret Sessions. Was it worth waiting 15 years? Absolutely. I wrote a review earlier this year after their brilliant show at Scala which dives deeper into the significance and evolution of the band via that release which you can read here.

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TVD Live Shots: Airbourne at the Roundhouse, 11/15

I’ve seen some crazy rock ‘n’ roll shows in my life, but I don’t think anything could have prepared me for what I witnessed recently in London. Hailing from Warrnambool, Austrailia, Airbourne are AC/DC on steroids. It’s what Danko Jones was trying to do but on another level. This is one of those bands that have flown under the radar for me for some time now, but after seeing a photo or two from the beer can spraying bastard son of Lemmy, Joel O’Keeffe, it was finally time for me to see this for myself.

The Roundhouse is a unique venue in London. It’s hailed as one of the best venues in the world. It’a built inside the skeleton of a former railway engineer shed in North London, and it’s not the place I expected to see some balls to the wall, rip your head off style of high energy rock ‘n’ roll, but it worked beautifully. Airbourne have of course had their fair share of success and continue to do so, but they find themselves between venue sizes in London. Too big for the Electric Ballroom and just shy of a sell out at the Roundhouse.

While the band has done OK with record sales, the live show is really what carries these guys. The fact that they are one of the few bands who can capture the energy from the live performance onto a record doesn’t hurt, but either way, it’s incredible to me to see the size of the fanbase these guys have. Not to mention that every single person in this venue was losing their mind and going bananas during their set. No time for a ballads with these guys, it’s just a high potency mix of piss and vinegar from start to finish.

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TVD Live Shots: Jake Shears at Heaven, 11/14

The first time I heard the Scissor Sisters was at SXSW in 2004. I remember watching the show and thinking that this is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen at SXSW—glorious ’70s pop played with an incredible band and two flamboyant singers taking me back to the good old days of AM radio, but with a much slicker, modern production.

During the set, I ask the guy next to me who’s on stage, and he yells in my ear with a heavy British accent, “It’s the Caesar Sisters mate.” After that, I was on a mission to find out who the Caesar Sisters were and how I could get my hands on their record if they even had one. After researching further I, of course, figured out that the guy was yelling “Scissor Sisters” and I ran straight to Waterloo records and bought the album. I put the thing on, and I was hooked from the opening bouncing piano and distinctive vocals of the incredible Jake Shears.

Now the Scissor Sisters have been on hiatus since 2012, and both Shears and his counterpart, the equally brilliant Anamatronic, have been laying low with only a collaboration or two leaking out over the years. Then seemingly out of nowhere I see an ad that Jake Shears is playing two solo gigs, one in New York and the other in London. THIS is why I love living in London—you never know what or who’s going to announce a gig among the many different amazing venues that the city harbours. I immediately bought a ticket.

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  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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