I’m enthusiastically working hard this week. My take on the music biz, or “the grind,” is that all of this is work, so every now and then I’ll take a break to count stars and dream of magical destinations. This week’s hour-long playlist is the soundtrack to one of those destinations. In my mind, it’s tropical.
Speaking of stars, my sister-in-law won an Oscar last Sunday. Even though I see Patricia only now and again, I am actually very proud of her and honored by her grace.
“They are the princesses of punk. They are the matriarchs of metal. They are goddesses of grunge. They were riot grrrls. Now they’re riot moms, ” Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine said to the sold-out Roxy crowd as he introduced Babes in Toyland to the stage.
It was their first time performing since disbanding in 2001 and Morello recounted the time he fell in love with Babes in Toyland in 1993 when Rage Against the Machine and Babes in Toyland toured together during Lollapalooza.
It was that same year when I went to Lollapalooza. It was a very impressive lineup that featured Primus, Alice in Chains, Rage Against the Machine, Fishbone, and Tool. But the band that really left a big impression on me was the Minneapolis trio Babes in Toyland—so much so that I immediately bought their CD on the drive home. That album was Fontanelle, released in 1992 that spawned bruising guitar songs and screaming anthems like “Bruise Violet” and “Handsome & Gretel.” That day, Babes in Toyland left a lasting impact on me and introduced me and, I’m sure, a lot of people as well to the Riot Grrl scene—a movement that embraced girl power and the power to change the status quo.
So when news broke that Babes in Toyland would perform for the first time in 14 years fans snatched up tickets, selling out the Roxy in minutes—this from a band who hadn’t released any new material in two decades.
As Mercury comes out of retrograde, Valentine’s Day weekend finds itself tripping over the realization that today is Friday the 13th.
I would describe the week as chaotic—there was a lot happening this past week in LA. Despite the small window of free time, I couldn’t resist fumbling through my record crates. As usual, I looked toward my record collection for clarity on the course of recent events. My truth is that music is the vehicle by which I understand the world. In my mind, it’s to satisfy a thirst.
It’s been a long road and it’s taken a lot of doing. These songs of mine I think of as a mystery play—the kind that Shakespeare saw when he was growing up. I think you could trace what I do back that far. They were on the fringes then, and I think they’re on the fringes now. And they sound like they’ve been traveling on hard ground.
It’s through these twenty or so songs that I am processing a moment that happened last Friday at LA’s annual MusiCares pre-Grammy gala. I witnessed Old Bobby Zimmerman take the stage and give an acceptance speech…
PHOTOS: CHAD ELDER | We know all too well what happens with musicians from Seattle left to their devices in a place that’s raining and grey for over half the year—they’re stuck inside. And what do you do inside? Listen to a lot of records and play a lot of music.
The darkness and the dreary weather and seclusion of the indoors has made Seattle a breeding ground for loud, heavy, weird—and awesome. My Goodness, themselves from Seattle have that heaviness, but don’t sound quintessentially of Seattle. Their sound is an almost perfect melding of blues, metal, and simple but hard hitting punk chords—yet there is nothing slouchy here…the band is very, very tight.
My Goodness pulls off the delicate balance of paying a small homage to their influences, and sounding completely different at the same time. Although these genres are often interchangeable and have been stirred and shaken by the best music mixologists (we salute you Mr. Jack White) you have never heard anything quite like this. These guys deliver live like a true hardcore band, unrelenting and driving from song to song where you can’t look away, sneak to the restroom, or even talk to you friend standing next to you about what a great show it is, but at the same time I could take my most sensitive of friends who prefer seeing music in a VIP box at a stadium or a nice seated theatre, and they wouldn’t be turned off.
From West Hollywood to Silverlake, the streets of LA are ablaze—this week the Grammys are in town. It’s the industry’s networking dream, but to my nagging dismay, what music industry are we talking about? Who are these artists? For me it’s more like, “why are their songs here and when will they go away?” There must be an alternative universe where those in this business thrive.
I guess if they’re not eating McDonald’s they’ll eat Jack In The Box? The truth is many folks want non recyclable, but easily disposable “fast food music.” I guess it’s OK? I mean “god bless the Grammys.” I know the people. They’re music lovers and are trying hard to make their three and half hours of prime time meaningful.
One of the finer things about Los Angeles is the abundance of culture. LA is a melting pot of people, few of whom are from here. Having such a rich cross-section of cultures translates into incredible food—and great music.
Dengue Fever is a cross-section not only of cultures but of eras. The band’s sound is a take on ’60s era Cambodian psychedelic pop, a little Bollywood, and surf rock played by a group of alt rockers and fronted by former wedding singer and the lone Cambodian, Chhom Nimol. If this doesn’t excite you or have you curious, you need to get your pulse checked.
Nimol sings in her native tongue (note to you—buy the record to read the lyrics) with her vocals both sinuous and sensual—it’s world music for the cool kids.
This week the band celebrates the release of their sixth album, The Deepest Lakeon their own label, Tuk Tuk. This hometown show tonight at the Echoplex will not only be a worldly delight, but the crowd is bound to be refreshingly diverse as the headliner’s sound.
Greetings from Shoreditch High Street, London, England!
“…Anything that you wanna do / anyplace that you wanna go / Don’t need permission for everything that you want / Any taste that you feel is right / Wear any clothes just as long as they’re bright / Say what you want / ‘cos this is a new art school / Do what you want, ‘cos this is the new art school…”
This week my rock ‘n’ roll journey brought me back to jolly ol’ England. It’s been two years since I’ve made the long journey from my cozy canyon to the great city of London. In many ways the city has changed.
Again my music business activities have been centralized in Shoreditch and around the London Bridge area. High tech coffee houses are everywhere and when you are 8 hours behind, a high skilled barista is quite a welcome sight.
PHOTOS: MANNY HEBRON | There’s one thing that’s almost as exciting as seeing a great show, and it’s seeing a band in the early stages of being great—where you know that they’re really good now but after 200 shows, they’ll be amazing. This is Waters, a stellar work in progress with infinite potential and we were thrilled to be there to see the very beginnings of what could possibly be our new favorite band.
The best thing going on in alternative rock right now is that it is indefinable—there are synths, electric guitars, acoustic guitars, tambourines, sleigh bells, mellotrons…banjos—you name it…alternative means anything. Alternative rock I think has been burst wide open and made nebulous due to its age and of course technology. If you’re between the ages of let’s say 18 and 35 (which most new young bands are) chances are that you grew up listening to everything—The Beatles (we hope), The Notorious B.I.G, LCD Soundsystem, Dave Matthews, Jay Z, Soundgarden, Faith No More, Fiona Apple, Spoon, N’ Sync etc. Having influences and access (thank you internet) to all genres and styles of music have made lots of indefinable sounds, all lumped under “alternative rock.” Enter Waters
I didn’t know anything about Waters going into this show except that they were from San Francisco and that I really loved the record, so I was surprised to see band with an acoustic guitar up front in an “alternative rock band.” Their sound is jammy, catchy, it jangles and it rocks. I can’t really describe it , except for being Waters. One of my favorite things is that they wear their hometown on their sleeve, possessing a wonderful air of San Francisco charm—the charm of peace and love that is ever-present in the place that birthed the summer of love and where hippies once ruled, and in a sense still do, but that’s for another article.
Starting the year with a three-day holiday weekend was just what I needed—a tiny bit of space to get my head around 2015. Events did unfold however. Sadness spread up in the canyon with the news that former CSN&Y drummer Dallas Taylor had passed at 66.
Legendary canyon party boy turned rehab guru to the rock elite, everybody knew ol’ Dallas. I ran into him a couple of months ago and I told him that I had spun the live audio of “Long Time Gone” with Tom Jones on the Idelic Hour, and teased him about being a much more soulful player than he ever got credit for. He chuckled, saying he always wanted to see the footage of that performance. Dallas, your legend will live on.
To go along with the Dallas news, I also read somewhere online that in a matter of days a huge asteroid will zoom by, narrowly missing the Earth (and I dare say our canyon!) It didn’t seem like anyone else noticed that news, but it did get me thinking—what if I did know an asteroid was heading our way?