Author Archives: Jason Miller

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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TVD Live Shots: !!!
(Chk Chk Chk) at Festsaal Kreuzberg, Berlin, 11/6

Somehow I completely missed !!! (Chk Chk Chk) over the past twenty years. I remember seeing their record on the shelf at Waterloo Records in the mid-2000s during my time in Austin, but I wrote them off as the next big thing for hipsters, which I am not. They were one of those bands for the cool kids it seemed who celebrated Radiohead’s newfound approach to “freeform jazz explorations to festival crowds”—something I was not into at all. But holy hell was I wrong, and now two decades later I’m kicking myself in the ass for not seeing them sooner.

Being a metal guy at heart, I tend to lean towards the heavier stuff, specializing in hardcore and ’80s hair metal (yeah, I’m all over the place). I also have a special spot in that headbanging space for well-written pop with an edge. For example, the first time I saw Scissor Sisters I was blown away, and now they are one of my all-time favorite bands. I never thought I would have another musical awakening like that, but I did—and it was last week in Berlin. The band was called !!! (Chk Chk Chk), and they absolutely blew my mind.

What do they sound like? I’m not sure as I was dancing my ass off with the rest of the crowd (and I don’t even know how to dance) while trying to take some decent photos for TVD. I do remember every single song was a gem and the insane chemistry between Nic Offer and Lea Ratcliffe put the entire show over the top for me. It’s a rare thing to see a band pull off what is commonly referred to as dance-punk in a live environment, but !!! makes it look easy. If you see this show live and don’t immediately jump out of your seat and start celebrating life, then have someone check your pulse immediately.

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TVD Live Shots: Starsailor at KOKO,
10/26

When I watch James Walsh and Starsailor perform, I think to myself, how can any band in the world create such glorious music? The fact that they not only perform their studio albums perfectly in a live setting but also turn them up a notch is a feat that a lot of their peers can’t accomplish. I’ve seen the band six or seven times over the past two decades, and I would without a doubt say they sounded better than ever before in London.

When I heard that Starsailor would be releasing their long-awaited sixth studio album All This Life, without hesitation I pre-ordered the super deluxe package as James Walsh and Co. can do no wrong in my book. Since its September release, I’ve given this record a few spins hoping that it would bring back the feeling that I had when I first heard Silence is Easy or On the Outside. It didn’t immediately resonate, although the live show brought the record to life for me—as it should have.

The tried and true formula of a band releasing a new record and then immediately, and tirelessly, touring to support it works because it showcases the music as it was meant to be heard—performed live. Positioning this as a “Greatest Hits” tour was probably not the best idea as it makes the band sound like a nostalgia act who is either trying to get out of a long-term deal with a record label that treated them like shit, or a band living in the past. While the set did include some Starsailor “hits,” it should have centered around the new record. Combining both left several gaps in the “hits,” while exiling any rarities that could be mixed into the set.

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TVD Live Shots: Dead Kennedys and LOOM at the O2 Islington, 10/14

Punk rock legends Dead Kennedys made a triumphant return to London for two sold-out shows at the O2 Academy in Islington. I was fortunate enough to be at night number two and witness one of the finest examples of the first wave of punk. East Bay Ray, Klaus Flouride, D.H. Peligro, and Ron “Skip” Greer were in fine form, blasting through a frantic yet tight, no frills 75-minute set that celebrated one of punk rock’s greatest catalogs.

This was my second time seeing the band over the past few years, the first being in LA, and you would never guess that these guys started nearly forty years ago. Struck in the head with two beers from the crowd during the shoot revealed the crowd hadn’t missed a beat either. While I prefer UK punk over that from the US, Dead Kennedys put on a show that proved the San Francisco Bay Area can still hold its own and even surpass expectations.

While we are on the subject of expectations, it’s time to move on from the tired, fruitless comments that “it’s not Dead Kennedys without Jello.” Yes, it is—and it has been for more than a fucking decade so get over yourself and move on like the rest of the music world. Punk is a mindset and an attitude and it’s alive and with Ron Green as the current frontman. He plays the part so brilliantly that the classics not only have a new life to them, but they’ve evolved.

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TVD Live Shots: Igorrr at Razzmatazz in Barcelona, Spain, 10/7

I’m traveling to Barcelona to speak at a marketing conference for my day gig and checking the touring schedules, as I often do, to see who might be playing in town during that time. As this is my first trip to Spain, I have no idea what the scene is like or what to expect, but I see that French musician and producer extraordinaire Gautier Serre’s Igorrr project will be making an appearance at Razzmatazz, the renowned music venue in Barcelona.

I reach out to the publicist at Metal Blade Records to ask for a photo pass to do a feature on the show, and he makes the necessary arrangements and adds an interview. I fly into Barcelona, speak at the marketing conference, then run over to the venue to meet with the visionary behind Igorrr. We find a table and chairs behind the venue in what looks like an industrial park of sorts. Gautier Serre is French and speaks excellent English. He’s unassuming and not quite who I expected to meet after listening to his music and watching his groundbreaking cinematic videos.

I jump right into the conversation and ask the big question: If you had to describe your music in one word, what would it be? He replies without hesitation, “Myself.” He goes on to describe that he created his style of music because there simply wasn’t anything out there that was like it. So he began mashing up very different types of music, including black and death metal, baroque music, breakcore, and trip-hop. Doing so provides him with a “form of total musical freedom.”

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TVD Live Shots: Sigur Rós at the Eventim Apollo, 9/22

I’ve seen thousands of concerts in my life, but nothing could prepare me for my first Sigur Rós show. Billed as “an evening with” and a 15-song set split into two sets, it was the final night of three sold-out shows at the Eventim Apollo in London. Touring as a stripped-down trio, the critically acclaimed Icelandic band looks to be testing new material currently being written toward a forthcoming eighth studio album.

Moments into the set you are transported to another world. It’s like a live cinematic experience of both beauty and darkness. Frontman Jónsi Birgisson’s falsetto vocals and the use of bowed guitar (think Jimmy Page, but with grace) build a wall of sound that is complemented by some of the most incredible lighting I’ve ever seen. While the trio’s music is very ethereal and atmospheric, when it goes dark, it gets heavy.

Drummer Orri Páll Dýrason transforms from a fusion style jazz drummer in an instant to a raging power player, hitting each drum with the force of a cannon. It’s an incredible dynamic to watch live, and at certain points I literally thought his drum set was going to break apart.

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TVD Live Shots: The Struts at the Electric Ballroom, 9/18

Here’s something you don’t see every day—a UK band that’s much more well-known in the States than their home country. I’m talking about English glam rock band The Struts. Being a fan of all things glam rock myself, these guys have been on my radar from the day that they signed with Interscope Records when a friend of mine sent me a message that only read, “You need to hear this.”

It’s no secret that The Struts wear their influences on their sleeves and that’s a good thing because they know exactly who they are. Frontman Luke Spiller is the spitting image of the late, great Freddie Mercury, and he has the moves and voice to back it up. You can tell within the first few seconds of a Struts show that this guy was born to do this. He uses every square inch of the stage at his disposal and ignites the crowd with the energy of a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific.

Highlights from the set? How about the entire fucking set was one big highlight. New songs “One Night Only” and “Who Am I” take the band’s songwriting to a new level underscoring the fact that these guys are the real deal. “Kiss This” and “Could Have Been Me” just about blew the roof off of the Electric Ballroom.

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TVD Live Shots:
The Sisters of Mercy
and Therapy? at the Roundhouse, 9/2

One of the most architecturally astounding and unique spaces in London hosting one of the most influential rock bands of the UK post punk scene—The Sisters of Mercy with two sold out nights at the Roundhouse had the makings for one of the most epic shows of the year, and it delivered big. “We rock like a motherfucker,” says Sisters frontman Andrew Eldritch in a recent interview, and that certainly was the case.

If there was ever any doubt that the Sisters of Mercy are a full-blown rock ‘n’ roll band, that can be fully put to rest within the first few songs of their live show. While Eldritch remains the only “original” member of the group, he’s hired some incredibly capable musicians to back him for his electrifying live show.

Although the Sisters of Mercy only officially released three studio albums, they are a prime example of quality over quantity. Whether this is because of a war with their former record label Warner/ East West, it does beg the question—what could have been? Eldritch has mentioned over the years that while the band has recorded bits and pieces, there are no plans for a new record as the value of recorded music continues to be questioned. But he did mention that if Trump gets elected that there would, in fact, be a new Sisters record. So if there is one tiny sliver of goodness that comes from the nightmare that is Trump, this could be it.

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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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