Category Archives: TVD San Francisco

TVD Live: Tears for Fears at the Fox Theater Oakland, 9/24

Photographed by Jason Miller-5

If you don’t celebrate Tears for Fears‘ entire catalog of genius and the fact that they pretty much led the second British Invasion of the ’80s, they you clearly don’t appreciate extremely well crafted pop music. Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith founded Tears for Fears back in 1981 and last week the duo graced the Bay Area with a fantastic night of classic hits, and brilliant musicianship, all served up with a huge helping of nostalgic fun. The capacity crowd at the Fox Theater was a mix of aging hipsters and Silicon Valley elitists alongside a whole new generation of fans, and they were all treated to a show for the ages.

Their six studio albums have sold over 30 million copies worldwide and produced some of the most recognized songs from the New Wave movement. Tears for Fears’ phenomenal 10-million-selling second album Songs from the Big Chair marked a transition in the band’s sound and catapulted them to international superstardom. The setlist that night would prove that this album is truly a timeless classic that sounds just as amazing as it did when the world first heard it back in 1985. (Jesus, has it been that long? Yes it has.)

Photographed by Jason Miller-2-2

There are rumors swirling about that Orzabal and Smith aren’t getting along as well as they used to, but if that’s the case then they certainly fooled me. They were perfectly in sync on the stage together and I caught them smiling away at one another several times as they genuinely seemed to be enjoying playing together and the crowd ate it up.

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TVD Live: Karen O at the Great American Music Hall, 9/22

Of course you know Karen O as the eclectic frontwoman of the critically acclaimed Yeah Yeah Yeahs and as a fashion idol among the masses of hipster girls, but there’s a side to her that many of us have probably been missing. Last week Karen stopped by San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall for one of the few intimate shows in support of her newly released solo album, Crush Songs.

The show sold out in minutes and the venue would provide the perfect backdrop for her stripped down solo debut. Recorded in 2006 and 2007, Crush Songs is an intimate collection of lo-fi, bedroom recordings in the vein of Karen’s Oscar-nominated “The Moon Song” from the Spike Jonze movie Her. Perfect timing for Karen after performing the song live to a record 43 million viewers, the largest audience for the show in 14 years.

Photographed by Jason Miller-5-2

Joined on stage by the ultra-stripped down duo of Moses Sumney and Holly Miranda, Karen O was stunning in her gold dust woman styled, long sparkly dress. She seemed to be in sort of trance as she sang each of the songs, barely opening her eyes at all to see the capacity crowd. The lighting was at a bare minimum that evening while the trio performed under a neon lit sign that appropriately read “Crush Palace.”

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TVD Live: Sam Smith
at the House of Blues Boston, 9/15

Photographed by Jason Miller-1-2

While Sam Smith might not sing and write the type of music I usually cover here at TVD, I am making an exception for an exceptional talent. I was fortunate enough to catch Smith during a recent trip to Boston where he kicked off his US tour. This UK crooner is quite close to being the hottest ticket on the planet as he has quickly gone from buzzworthy crossover artist to full-on global superstar.

For those who somehow don’t know this phenomenon, Sam Smith is a soul singer/songwriter who rose to fame two years ago when he was featured on Disclosure’s breakthrough single “Latch.” Earlier this year his debut album, In the Lonely Hour was released and has so far moved over two million units. That is unheard of in this day and age of streaming and single downloads.

Photographed by Jason Miller-2

Smith wears his influences on his sleeve often recalling Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse, but I would say he’s much closer to a male version of Adele with a touch of classic, hipster soul. Smith took to the stage at the sold out House of Blues in Boston walking into an array of brilliant white lights. The look on his face was a mix of confidence and appreciation—confident that he was truly coming into his own and appreciative for the crowd who would hang on every single note from that point forward.

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Rich Robinson,
The TVD Interview

Best known as the guitarist, songwriter, and founder of the Black Crowes, Rich Robinson is touring in support of his third solo record, The Ceaseless Sight. 

I sat down with the man himself backstage at The Chapel during a recent show here in San Francisco to discuss the past, present, and all sorts of things rock ‘n’ roll.

My first question for you, back when you guys first hit the scene on Headbangers Ball, the Crowes were really nothing like any of the other bands they played and I wouldn’t call you a hair band per se. Was it part of the plan to debut your music there?

When we came out, that’s all there was—heavy metal—I mean, one of our first tours was with Metallica, AC/DC, and Queensryche.

You toured with Queensryche?

We were the first band on the stadium tour. It was us, Queensryche which—the techs for AC/DC called the Queens-wrong—so it was us, Queens-wrong, Motley Crue, Metallica, and AC/DC.

Did you like any of those bands?

I loved AC/DC.

When Nirvana came out did you foresee the demise of the genre?

Well, we really brought that down, I mean we weren’t solely responsible, but if you look at the context, that shit was dying. When our record came out, Shake Your Money Maker, it was so different from all that stuff, and it was the most played video on MTV that year. It was one of the biggest records of that year and it went on to sell over seven million copies.

Nirvana didn’t really come out until the beginning of—I want to say the beginning of when Southern Harmony came out, when that first video showed up. And I remember thinking like, “Wow this is really cool.” If you really think about it, it’s roots music. Nirvana was way into The Police and The Replacements and punk-pop music which was The Replacements all day, even lyrically. I thought it was a little heavier than The Replacements, but it was cool.

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TVD Live: Little Dragon at the Fox Theater, 8/22

Little Dragon Live at the Fox Theater Oakland-8-2

Gothenburg-based underground superstars Little Dragon might be the most difficult band to describe in words. I just read three different reviews of their brilliant new record on three elite hipster blogs, and after referencing the urban dictionary several times, none of them made any sense. It drives me crazy when a critic reviews a record and tries so damn hard that they end up confusing the hell out of the reader who just wants to know whether or not they should check out the band.

So, before I turn into the very critic that I am critiquing above, let me tell you how great Little Dragon is live. They deliver the entire package here folks—it’s not just a show but more of an experience. The music falls somewhere between Massive Attack, Portishead, and Motown’s Greatest Hits, while the performance is sort of like Pink Floyd hosting a rave in outer space with a charismatic MC leading the charge in the form of sultry, Swedish-Japanese vocalist Yukimi Nagano.

Little Dragon Live at the Fox Theater Oakland-6

Nagano recently told Rolling Stone that during the recording process, she wandered around the band’s longtime hometown of Gothenberg in winter while listening to Janet Jackson. If that’s what it takes to make an epic record of this magnitude, then I would suggest that Ms. Jackson should make a comeback any day now. Maybe Thom Yorke and Chris Martin should take note as they could really use a unique angle on their new records.

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Tesla’s Frank Hannon,
The TVD Interview

Over 14 million records sold and one hell of a live show have made Tesla one of the longest running and most successful bands from an era when bands were known more for their hair than their music.

The blue-collar Sacramento rockers have just released a new record entitled Simplicity and they are currently in the midst of a tour across the country. Founding member Frank Hannon called me before a sold out show in Columbus, Ohio to talk about the past, present, and future of the band.

Do you have a favorite touring moment past or present.

It’s been 30 years with a lot of highlights that included both extreme highs and extreme lows. Back in the day when we were first starting out opening for David Lee Roth was a great thing. I remember we were playing in Buffalo, NY and every day he would go out and jog no matter what. This particular day there was a blizzard and I remember him walking in completely covered in snow. Then at the end of the tour, he invited us up to his hotel room and he had a different kind of snow.

I read somewhere that when you were a kid you broke your leg one summer and that’s how you really got serious about the guitar…

When I was a kid I had a little dirt bike, actually it was too big for me since I was only eleven. I actually started listening to music before that and started playing the guitar when I was ten. 1976 was a great year for music, Frampton Comes Alive, Aerosmith was big, and I loved the Rolling Stones, but when I broke my leg on that dirt bike, I was laid up for the whole summer with nothing to do except really practice my guitar. When I got out of my cast I was a lot better.

What was the first record you owned?

In 1976 on my tenth birthday I got a little turntable. My mom knew I loved the Peter Frampton record so she got me that, but I was also introduced to Johnny Cash and Chuck Berry then as well.

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TVD Live Shots: Slash with Myles Kennedy & the Conspirators at the Fillmore, 8/13

Slash 2014 World on Fire (11 of 12)

San Francisco Slash fans got a special treat in the form of a last-minute surprise performance by the legendary top-hatted axe man. Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators are currently on tour with Aerosmith, but due to an illness within the band, the Aerosmith camp was forced to cancel their show in Concord, California only 13 hours before the performance was scheduled to begin. Like any good seasoned road warrior would do, Slash decided to bring his show to the iconic Fillmore for an intimate evening of epic rock ‘n’ roll greatness.

The 20 song set was a perfect mix of Guns N’ Roses classics including “Night Train,” “You Could Be Mine,” and an epic, almost 20 minute version of “Rocket Queen,” as well as new songs from the forthcoming album World On Fire, including “Stone Blind,” “30 Years of Life,” and the title track.

Slash 2014 World on Fire (1 of 12)

Slash of course was in fine form as he flawlessly jammed on his familiar Les Paul while donning his signature top hat in front of a wall of custom Marshall amps. And frontman Myles Kennedy, where do I start? I have been a huge fan of this guy since he led the terribly underrated Mayfield Four back in the late ’90s. They released an album called Second Skin that very well may be my favorite rock album of all time—it’s a fucking masterpiece in every sense which got destroyed by a major record label.

I love the fact that Myles has found a home where he can truly shine, and that’s exactly what he did this night. This guy’s voice is flawless. He hit EVERY single note perfectly and made it look easy. I would guess there are maybe 5-10 singers on the planet that have the capacity or talent to sing like this.

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TVD Live: RX Bandits and The Dear Hunter at the Fillmore, 8/7

RX Bandits (1 of 6)

RX Bandits and The Dear Hunter on the same bill—this would have made no sense back in the early days of the RX Bandits, then again, The Dear Hunter weren’t even around then. My point being, if you remember RX Bandits during the early to mid 2000s, then you would remember them as one of the leaders of the so-called “third wave of ska” movement. I’m here to tell you that this is a much different band, one that has both matured and evolved into something very unique since that time leaving their cohorts in the dust.

The band’s latest record Gemini, Her Majesty was just recently released through Pledgemusic (of which I am a huge fan) and it’s quite a remarkable record. There are elements of pop-punk (think Acceptance at their peak) mixed with a bit of early ’80s Police (think “Message in a Bottle”) but fueled by some very progressive musicianship that reminds me of King Crimson during their finest hour (which I would say is the Red album). This is cool stuff folks, and while you might be thinking that my description is insane, I can promise you that it all comes together brilliantly both live and on the record.

RX Bandits (1 of 9)

In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a crowd get more into a show at the Fillmore over the past 4 to 5 years that I’ve been going there. These fans are lifers for sure and the band delivered. An enormous capital R and an equally large capital X backlighting the legendary stage at the Fillmore was one of the coolest setups I’ve seen (although very difficult to shoot).

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TVD Live: Mötley Crüe and Alice Cooper at the Shoreline, 7/23

Alice Cooper Performing Live at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View (1 of 13)

Last week I saw one of my favorite bands on the planet perform on their final tour. I’ve seen Mötley Crüe 6 or 7 times over the years and I could easily see them play many more times. It’s been a good run for the bad boys of rock having sold over 80 million records, sold out countless tours across the globe, and spawned more than 2,500 Mötley Crüe branded items available in over 30 countries.

They’ve built a heavy metal empire and along the way set the bar very high for what defines the best and the worst elements of being a rock star. But, you have to respect these guys for knowing when to call it a day. Leaving the fans with a lasting memory while they are arguably at their finest, this show was everything I had hoped it would be and more—a mind-blowing mix of fire, explosions, and musicianship set to a stellar choice of cuts from the band’s extensive catalog.

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In between it all, Nikki Sixx would get intimate with the crowd and talk about the band’s formation and the early days. I wouldn’t be surprised if his eyeliner might have smudged with a few tears because he was starting to get emotional.

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TVD Live: Filter, Helmet, and Local H at the Independent, 7/15

Filter Performing Live at The Independent San Francisco

“The Anti-Folk Revival Tour in Drop-D” stopped by San Francisco last week. Filter, Helmet, and Local H, three bands that need no introduction, combined their raucous brand of hard rock into one enormous sonic boom of an evening at the Independent.

Each of these bands have left their signature on the post-grunge scene of the mid-nineties and continue to leave their mark through touring and releasing new records. I never thought I would see these three artists sharing the same stage, but it happened, and it was a brilliant night of both old and new favorites jam-packed into a club that was accommodating, but way too small in regard to the enormous talent that would pummel the stage.

Filter Performing Live at The Independent San Francisco

Kicking off the night was Chicago duo Local H. Scott Lucas has kept this band going since 1987 and recently released new music in the form of The Another February EP. Back when I worked at Sony Music, I had spent some time with Scott during the promotional stage of the terribly underrated 12 Angry Months album. Lucas is an incredibly down-to-earth guy, and contradictory to his ferocious stage presence, a pretty fun guy to hang out with, but that’s another story.

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