Watching Starsailor perform one can only wonder how on earth any one band can make such glorious music. Every single song is absolute perfection and frontman James Walsh has one of the most remarkable voices on the planet. When I saw that they would be coming to San Francisco on their current tour I was beyond excited. When I heard they were playing a new song in their current set, I got the sense that there has to be a new album in the works, right?
The first time I saw Starsailor was at SXSW back in 2002. It was a time when SXSW was all about showcasing new bands instead of building a four-story Doritos branded stage in the middle of downtown Austin for Snoop Dog to headline. Starsailor was THE buzz band that year and they took to the stage at one of the biggest venues in Austin at the time, the Austin Music Hall.
The place was jam-packed and a remix of “Poor Misguided Fool” played over the monitors teasing the crowd a bit as they took to the stage and tore into the original version. It was epic.
I’ve seen some crazy live shows before in my life but I have to say that Refused is the absolute fucking craziest. Last time I heard these guys they had just released their groundbreaking record that changed everything, The Shape of Punk to Come. This was the first time anyone had ever fused together so many genres so beautifully while making such a bold statement at the same time. Just as Punk Rock had killed Disco in the early eighties, Refused would seek to kill the Pop Punk movement.
While they didn’t necessarily succeed with their mission before disbanding, their swan song would go on to inspire many bands across many different genres long after its release. Finally metal fans and punk fans can share the same mosh pit and find common ground on what they love so much about their genre of choice. Kerrang! listed The Shape of Punk to Come at #13 on their 50 Most Influential Albums of All Time and the legacy lived on last week at The Great American Music Hall.
The show sold out in about 5 minutes upon the announcement. Being a photographer, it’s a nightmare scenario trying to capture the energy of the show and rock ‘n’ roll theatrics of the band when you have a crowd that just wants to throw a brick at your head. But in the name of all things punk rock, I squeezed my way up to the front and pretty much got beaten into the side of the stage for as long as I could take it, give or take twenty minutes. The results, well, I’ll let you be the judge.
“Put your fucking phone away and live in the moment,” says Noel Gallagher to a fan in the front row who seemed to be bootlegging the entire show at the Warfield last week.
Gallagher is a rare breed of singer-songwriter. Having represented the better half of Oasis for more than a decade, he continues to deliver and build upon his legacy with his solo project The High Flying Birds. How important is this man to rock ‘n’ roll? Beatles’ producer George Martin described Gallagher as the “finest songwriter of his generation” and he recently won NME’s prestigious God Like Genius Award.
Gallagher has nothing left to prove in terms of his contributions to rock ‘n’ roll. So it’s enough to make a music fan ill reading some of the reviews for his latest record Chasing Yesterday. It’s difficult enough for a well written album review to shine through in a world taken over by peer-to-peer recommendations and user-generated reviews. It’s even worse when it’s written by a snarky over-opinionated critic who’s struggling to stay relevant. (By the way, the record has 74 five-star reviews on Amazon—and Pitchfork gave it a 5.9 which loosely translates to mediocre; not good, but not awful).
Do The Jesus and Mary Chain still matter? Of course they do. This groundbreaking Scottish band paved the way and drew the blueprint for some of the most innovatively original bands of the last two decades. The Raveonettes, BRMC, Catherine Wheel, and countless others pretty much owe their existence to the sound that the Reid brothers perfected. Last week The Jesus and Mary Chain celebrated the 30th anniversary of their seminal masterpiece Psychocandy by performing the record in its entirety for two sold out nights at The Warfied.
I totally missed this record when it came out back in 1985 as I was celebrating hair metal at the time (and still do actually), but I would later became a big fan. To be completely honest, Psychocandy wasn’t the record that pulled me in. I discovered the band for the first time when I heard Jim Reid sing “I wanna die just like Jesus Christ, I wanna die on a bed of spikes.”
It was 1992’s Honeys Dead and their stint on the Lollapalooza tour that year that pulled me in. I would later go back and revisit the critically acclaimed Psychocandy and even though I dig the record, I think Honey’s Dead and its follow-up, the terribly underrated Stoned and Dethroned, are superior records in every way. Maybe it’s a time period thing, I don’t know, but I just prefer the songwriting, the lyrics, the production, and the evolution of the band over those two records in particular. I think it was their creative peak.
Having missed the two Faith No More shows here in San Francisco because I was on the Monsters of Rock Cruise, I had to figure out another way to see one of my all-time favorite bands. It just so happened that in between a couple of speaking gigs for my day job, I would be in Toronto for their show at the acclaimed Sony Centre. Problem solved, and better yet, I can now add international photojournalist to my LinkedIn profile.
Faith No More are touring in support of Sol Invictus (Latin for “unconquered sun”), their first new album since 1997’s appropriately titled Album of the Year. To be honest, I never really thought that Mike Patton and crew would ever deliver new music, and if they actually did, I wondered would the near two decade long break make a difference. Would it stifle their creative genius and would they still have their quirky edge and sense of humor?
Those worries were laid to rest during a surprise performance at Amoeba Records last November where the band released the first single”Motherfucker” exclusively on 7″ vinyl to coincide with Record Store Day’s Black Friday. The band also debuted another new song called “Superhero” that was equally as brilliant. Faith No More was back, and they were calling their own shots this time around. No major label bullshit to deal with, they were doing it because they wanted to—and it showed.
The Manic Street Preachers are the closest thing my generation has to the Sex Pistols. Their seminal 1994 masterpiece, The Holy Bible was the band’s finest hour.
I remember first coming across this record during CMJ in 1994. At that time I was working as a college rep for Universal Music and it was my first time in New York City. I went straight to what was the Wizard of Oz of record stores at that time, the massive Virgin Megastore in Times Square. They had a few copies of The Holy Bible for sale as an import, and I enthusiastically grabbed a copy and continued to peruse the levels and levels (I think there were 4?) of epic entertainment at the store.
It was tough to get import records at this time. Either you had to special order them and wait for weeks on end to receive it, or find a very cool record store that stocked them automatically. Imports at this time were non-returnable for stores so it was a gamble each time a shop placed an order. Anyway, I listened to The Holy Bible on repeat for pretty much the next ten years. It’s considered one of the greatest albums ever recorded and last week I got to see the mythical Manic Street Preachers played this masterpiece live in its entirety.
It took less than a second for the sold out crowd at the Warfield to erupt into sheer enigmatic joy as Matt and Kim appeared on stage. The Brooklyn duo looked as if they were about to lead the crowd into battle against everything not fun. A single platform which held the duo’s weapons of choice was rolled up to the front of the stage with lighting that was reminiscent of a jumbo jet landing behind them. Wikipedia refers to them as an “indie dance duo,” but I would update that description to something more along the lines of “musically inclined instigators who bring the party.”
It was my first time seeing Matt and Kim live and it came highly recommended by some hipster tech marketing friends of mine. (By the way Matt and Kim, if you don’t know this, already you have a segment of tech marketers who fucking love you; queues up conference season schedule). The only thing I really knew about these two was that they had one hell of a buzz around them for what seems like an eternity and somehow managed to stay just enough under the radar that they kept their indie cred.
As a photographer shooting the first three songs from the photo pit, I can tell you first hand that it’s a remarkable experience to see this show from the front row. Throughout the show Kim is sort of like a one woman Cirque Du Soleil as she uses her bass drum as a platform to perform a sort of rock ‘n’ roll freestyle ballet.
There are possibly no two things in this world that go so perfectly well together, aside from maybe peanut butter and chocolate, than heavy metal and horror movies. There is one man in metal who stands above the rest at that crossroads, and that is Kirk Hammett, guitarist of Metallica. For years, Kirk’s obsession with all things horror-related has been well-known, and the collection of horror artifacts that he has amassed over the years has grown to astounding proportions.
For the second year in a row, Kirk has put together a weekend celebrating the unity of these two worlds, known as Kirk Von Hammett’s Fear FestEvil. This year’s fest was held at the Rockbar Theater in San Jose, CA. Two days of metal bands, horror luminaries, and more made for one interesting and fantastic weekend in California.
I arrived at Rockbar mid-afternoon, and a carnivalesque midway was already in full swing. Grotesque costumed figures wandered the premises and vendors hocked their wares, selling horror memorabilia, t-shirts, face painting, and other distinctive homemade goods. A personal highlight here was meeting John Russo, co-writer of the infamous horror classic Night of the Living Dead.
To be honest I had no idea who Father John Misty (aka Josh Tillman, formerly of the Fleet Foxes) was until just a few weeks ago. A fellow concert photographer had posted an amazing photo of him in a Facebook group and said it was a fun shoot. So, I buy the CD (yes, sometimes I still buy CDs) brought it home and ended up leaving it on the kitchen countertop in my house. I have a four-month old baby and the record is called I Love You Honeybear. My wife comes home to find the CD and based on the title thinks it’s a children’s record, that is until she gets to track 6 which is called “Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow.”
To make a long story short, she asks me about it and I tell her that I just got it and haven’t listened to it yet, but I think it’s some sort of hipster rock or something. He’s coming to play two sold out shows at the Fillmore in April, I tell her, and I want to check it out thinking that I am pretty tuned into the music scene and somehow missed this one. Even with a 7am flight to the Monsters of Rock Cruise in Miami happening the next day, I’m committed to seeing what all the buzz is about.
Simply put, it was remarkable. What I witnessed last week at the legendary Fillmore was easily the best show I have seen in 2015, and quite possibly one of the best shows ever. Artistry beyond artistry if you will, 50 shades of musical genius. Father John completely blew me away. He opened up with a swooning version of the title track “I Love You Honeybear” and then the songs and performance just kept getting better and better. I’m not sure Father John is capable of writing a bad song, but if he ever did hit a sour note, his stage presence made up for it. “I’m working hard up here folks,” he says to the crowd. Not in an egotistical way, but more of an “I fucking love to entertain this room” type of scenario.
Somehow I totally missed The Replacements when they were in their prime. Maybe it’s because I was just a bit too young or maybe it was because Motley Crue’s Too Fast For Love came out the same year. Regardless, I discovered the genius of this band late and I was absolutely thrilled that I would be able to witness their legendary live show first hand earlier this week in San Francisco. Paul Westerberg and company came out all guns a-blazing. It was like a cross between The Rolling Stones and The Sex Pistols and I loved every minute of it.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the strange antics at the band’s shows including Paul pouring salt and pepper on his guitar, but this time it was beyond strange. There was a tent on stage in the back corner—a camping tent nonetheless—that would play a pivotal role in the show. It served not only as an interesting stage prop, but also doubled as a poetry reading space and a backstage pre-encore gathering area. Whatever the hell it was, it just added to the fun.
The setlist that night was a cornucopia of classic songs that spawned the band’s brilliant catalog. Opening up the night with “Taking a Ride” the first song on their 1981 debut, these guys were flying around the stage like they were trashing a hotel room. Then they tore right into “Favorite Thing” from their third album Let it Be and they were off to the races.