Author Archives: Jason Miller

TVD Live Shots: Band of Horses at the Troxy, 2/23

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There’s a certain mystique surrounding Band of Horses when one listens to their records. It’s a sort of atmospheric elegance led by Ben Bridwell’s dreamy vocals which are in contradiction to his dark, withdrawn lyrics. That all gets blown to hell though when you see the band live. In an instant, it goes from quiet and reserved to a full-blown rock ‘n’ roll explosion. It’s night and day compared to the record, but isn’t that what a live show is really supposed to be anyway?

Falling somewhere between the Avett Brothers and Sunny Day Real Estate, Seattle’s Band of Horses are touring in support of their fifth studio album Why Are You Ok. The critics will say it’s a return to form for Bridwell, but then again those are the same people who criticised the brilliant Mirage Rock. Now, before we start debating this, I will tell you that in my not so humble opinion Cease to Begin is the band’s masterpiece and I would simply call it an extension, or an evolution of that record.

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I know what you’re going to say next—Infinite Arms was the band’s breakthrough. And I would say to that, great record, but a major label and a Grammy nod don’t make the record “a breakthrough.” The songwriting on Cease is arguably some of the best from the first decade of the 2000s. But enough about debating what’s best, let’s get onto the show.

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TVD Live Shots: Meshuggah and The Haunted at the O2 Kentish Town Forum, 1/20

I’ve seen some metal shows in my time, but Meshuggah is by far the heaviest. They make Lamb of God sound like Air Supply. Their time signatures are so incredibly insane that even Stephen Hawking would have trouble deciphering them. It’s controlled chaos that’s orchestrated perfectly by one of the most forward-thinking bands on the planet—and it’s a fucking mind trip to watch live.

Meshuggah‘s name (almost) literally translates to “crazy” in Yiddish. It’s the perfect word for encapsulating the contribution this Swedish experimental death metal band has provided the genre over the past 25 plus years. The band’s eighth studio album, The Violent Sleep of Reason, continues to push forward and evolve their very complex sound.

Drummer Tomas Haake (named by Rolling Stone as one of the greatest drummers of all time) recently talked to Loudwire about the songwriting process which is equally as complicated as the song structures. Haake says, in a nutshell, that the band doesn’t write on tour because “they tend to compartmentalize their responsibilities and even a show three months out can disrupt the writing.”

The process of writing actually starts on a computer and later translates into a live setting. Rehearsals take months to perfect the mind-bending rhythms and time signatures, and the band has reported playing one song more than 50 times straight through in rehearsal with an additional 20 in order to nail the recording.

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TVD Live Shots: Sabaton, Accept, Twilight Force at the Brixton Academy, 1/14

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“We are Sabaton and we play heavy metal,” says Joakim Brodén singer and frontman of Sabaton. This Swedish power metal band are the masters in their niche of singing songs about war and historical battles. Make no mistake, Sabaton wear their influences on the sleeves, well more like on their (camouflage) pants, literally. Army helmets, cannons, fire, explosions, tanks—these guys are not f*cking around when it comes to putting on a full-blown metal show and the fans hang on every single note.

I’ve seen some metal shows in my life but never have I seen a crowd fist pump in unison so perfectly. The energy in the room was undeniable and the comradery that Sabaton orchestrated with their fans is absolutely remarkable. That crowd was losing their sh*t the ENTIRE time and it was contagious.

Touring in support of their 8th studio album, The Last Stand is a concept which takes inspiration from famous defensive “last stand” battles. Released in August of last year, The Last Stand debuted at number one in the Czech Republic, Finland, and of course their home country of Sweden. It’s a testament to the power of metal and the insanely large fanbase in Europe.

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TVD Live Shots: Biffy Clyro at the O2, 12/8

Having moved to the UK only a few months ago, Biffy Clyro has not always been on my radar, but after an awakening of sorts last night, I have now seen the light. It absolutely blows my mind that one band can be so massive in one country but never quite break through in another. Such is the case with Biffy. Back in the States the band plays 500 or so capacity clubs (and I regret not going when I had the chance), but in the UK they sell out 20,000 seat arenas. It begs the question; what’s the US missing and why does the UK get it?

This is an age old question that’s been haunting record labels for decades. All it takes is one spark to ignite an audience anywhere around the world and for one reason or another Biffy reigns supreme seemingly everywhere but the US. After hearing the band’s seventh album Ellipsis, with my pick for song of the year in “Howl,” you would think that world domination is right around the corner—and that still might be the case.

I haven’t been to an arena show in years. I mean, how many bands can even fill an arena these days? Maybe a handful. Standing in the world famous O2 Arena and watching the capacity crowd sing along to every single word while simultaneously whipping themselves into a frenzy, it’s undeniable that this band has something for everyone.

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TVD Live Shots: The Damned at the 02 Brixton Academy, 11/26

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What better way for me to see my first live Damned show than to see the band in their hometown at the legendary Brixton Academy. They’re touring with a two hour set that opens with the classic punk masterpiece Damned, Damned, Damned played in its entirety—which is just ridiculous in a good way.

It’s hard to believe that The Damned are celebrating their 40th anniversary as the band is still going strong. Having been the first UK punk group to release a single AND a full-length album is one hell of a legacy to live up to, but frontman Dave Vanian and guitarist Captain Sensible are certainly up to the task.

Having grown up in the US midwest, The Sex Pistols and The Clash were the only UK punk bands on my radar back in the ’80s. While both played their own unique role in the punk rock explosion, you could argue that The Damned were the spark that lit the match. Somehow I completely missed The Damned, so I have a hell of a lot of catching up to do.

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TVD Live Shots: The Dead Daisies at the Electric Ballroom, 11/22

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The Dead Daisies took over Camden’s Electric Ballroom for an old school rock ‘n’ roll show that is truly one of a kind these days. Touring in support of their third album Make Some Noise, this supergroup has a rotating lineup that never disappoints. On deck for the Daisies during their UK tour are Brian Tichy (Ozzy Osbourne, Foreigner), David Lowy (Mink), John Corabi (Mötley Crüe, Union, The Scream) and Marco Mendoza (Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake), and guitar virtuoso Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake, Dio).

Let me start by saying that these guys might be the hardest working rock band on the planet. Not only do they connect with their fans in meaningful ways at their shows (they do meet and greets every single night), but they are masters at social media marketing at which most artists are flat-out terrible.

From live video performances to video updates and exclusive photos across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, these guys could give a masterclass in social media to 99% of their rock ‘n’ roll colleagues. It’s always an approach that makes all the difference and these guys are leading the way and setting one hell of an example for their peers.

But back to the music. I have two words for you: John Corabi. This guy is one of the most underrated/ under-celebrated talents on the planet. He’s got it all—the voice, the chops, the personality—it’s as if he was born to lead a super-group, and I think he’s found a perfect home for his talents.

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TVD Live Shots: Death Valley High at the 02 Brixton, 11/4

There was a magical time in the mid-90s when a seemingly new genre took over the world, led by the likes of Marilyn Manson, Filter, Nine Inch Nails, and distilled even further by Mindless Self Indulgence, Prick, and Orgy. These were the highlights while a more generic movement was spawned on the flipside, led by the Dave Matthews Band and Counting Crows. It was the golden age of industrial if you will, but it would soon go back to where it came from—the underground clubs—before losing its edge during the rebirth of the rave scene that it helped to create.

Fast forward 20 years and a new torch-bearer has emerged with an updated spin on the forgotten genre with multiple personalities. Doom pop, gothic, industrial, cinematic art rock, whatever you want to call it, Death Valley High are primed to re-introduce the world to a time when music pushed the very boundaries of art. The new record is called Cult [As Fvk] and the first single is a brilliant number called “Ick Switch,” coupled with an equally impressive video.

The live show was a mix of punk fueled industrial rock and these native Californians have mastered the delicate balance between man and machine. While many in this genre have relied too much on the latter, eclectic frontman Reyka Osburn leans more on his performance and audience interaction to seal the deal. The end result is a band that’s paying their dues on the road and seem ready to embrace the spotlight and the long grueling touring years ahead that follow the release of a highly anticipated new record.

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Motor City rockers Warrior Soul ready new live set and UK tour

“Give me a fucking drink” shouts Warrior Soul frontman Kory Clark as he launches into an assault against all things un-rock n roll. It’s the opening line to the Warrior Soul classic “Fuck the Pigs” and it’s one of the most powerful shows you will hear and see this year. Kory Clark is a master of the lost art of combining poetry, politics, and aggression with a punk rock, in your face attitude. As Clark puts it simply, “Warrior Soul is an aggressive artistic riot.”

The band kicks off a UK tour this Saturday night at Proud Camden and if you’ve not seen this spectacle, you need to get off your ass immediately and do so. What makes this performance so special is that Warrior Soul will be releasing their new live album appropriately titled Tough as Fuck, Live in Athens the day before. “Athens is such a strong supporter of rock ‘n’ roll and the fans of the music there share my political views in many ways. It was such a special night with the crowd and the playing is phenomenal; there are no overdubs. My voice is a little shot as it was the very end of the tour, and the day after the sold out show in London at the Borderline, but it still holds up very good and to us it sounds the way it should.”

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Having recently completed both a US and UK tour, Clark finds the audiences not very different at all. “Americans seem to be in a much meaner place in general. Competitiveness and jealousy make it hard for me to operate there. The fans have the same enthusiasm, but it’s often the clubs and people who do the sound that have a less flexible approach.”

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TVD Live Shots: Tom Chaplin at the Islington Assembly Hall, 10/31

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Everyone loves a Hollywood ending, but when it comes to  the music business the final note is often one of tragedy, not triumph. In the case of Keane vocalist Tom Chaplin, I’m happy to report that it’s the comeback story of the year. Chaplin’s honesty regarding his struggle with addiction is both sobering and inspiring. The result is Chaplin’s recorded debut as a songwriter, simply titled The Wave, and it’s a fucking masterpiece.

“I think of the album as the before, during and after,” says Chaplin in a recent interview. He continues, “That’s when I was faced with the choice of stopping or carrying on and losing everything—my marriage, family, my career—as well as facing up to the fact that I might die.” This statement sets the table for songs of hope and a self-awakening orchestrated by Chaplin and produced by Matt Hales of Aqualung fame.

The first time I saw Keane was in Houston Texas at a tiny club back in the mid 2000s and I knew there was something special about this band. Having seen them three or four times since, I would never have guessed what they would evolve into. If you listen to the band’s last record, I would say they’ve left their contemporaries in the dust.

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TVD Live Shots: Phantogram at the House of Blues Boston, 10/21

Electro rock, dream pop, electronica, whatever you want to call it, Phantogram have enjoyed a slow burn over the past decade to emerge as a supernova in 2016. The stars are truly aligned for the Greenwhich, New York based duo of Josh Carter (vocals, guitars) and Sarah Barthel (vocals, keyboards). A brilliant new record simply titled Three finds them at the top of their game with some of their best songwriting to date.

While their early material was very Cocteau Twins-esque, Phantogram continue to evolve their sound into something much more organic. I would guess that the years of touring and expansion of the live band have played a role in achieving a much more holistic view of songwriting. This was the first time that I’ve seen the band live and I would say that they have virtually perfected the live show.

The House of Blues in Boston is such a fantastic venue. Even when it’s sold out it’s not miserable like many other venues that continue to jam people in at capacity. The show opened up with a sort of semi-transparent black screen with the band lit up as silhouettes projected to the crowd. Although I feel like I’ve seen this before, it really added an element of mystique, and when the curtain finally dropped for song number four, Phantogram were locked and loaded.

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  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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