The first time I saw Black Joe Lewis was at a Christmas party at the Granada Theater in Dallas about six or seven years ago. He wasn’t signed to a label, and I remember my friend Mike Schoder, who owns the venue, was raving about this new guy from Austin who sounds like James Brown crossed with the White Stripes. I was completely blown away. With his band The Honeybears, these guys combined blues, soul, and garage rock into one hell of a powerful live show.
Fast forward several years and three albums later they continue to do just that. Touring in support of their latest release Electric Slave, Black Joe Lewis has dropped the Honeybears and taken the guitar up a notch. “Electric Slave is what people are today, with their faces buried in their iPhones and the only way to hold a conversation is through text,” Lewis explains in the album’s press release. It’s bound to be on many end-of-year top album lists and rightfully so. It’s a bit less heavy on the funk but still a formula for sounds that only Lewis is capable of.
This night at the Fillmore, though, would be a different type of show as Lewis had broken his foot and was kicking out the jams from a chair. Nonetheless, it didn’t seem to faze the audience or the energy in the legendary ballroom. Highlights from the show included the new single “Come to My Party” as well as classic material “Sugarfoot” and the crowd pleaser, “Bitch, I Love You.” Another highlight was the surprise guest on tenor sax, Steve Mackay (Stooges, Violent Femmes), who stepped in for a few.
For those of us who grew up listening to “Hair Metal” and love the glory days of the Sunset Strip, we have a savior of sorts, and they call themselves Steel Panther. Michael Starr, Lexxi Foxx, Stixx Zandinia, and Satchel ( I know, it’s like just Satchel?) are keeping a lost art alive and well, while taking excessiveness to a whole new level and reminding us all how ridiculous hair metal became at times.
Legend has it that Steel Panther were on the brink of signing the largest record deal in history back in the ’80s. All the major labels came to their showcase one night in LA, but the band never showed up. According to Dee Snider, their manager told them to be at the showcase, and they mistakenly thought he said to go out and get shit-faced. The labels ended up signing Jane’s Addiction, and the rest is history.
Fast forward 20 years, and what has been hailed as the greatest album ever created resurfaces at Universal Republic. It turns out that the band is alive and well, ready to stage the greatest comeback of all time. They released their debut Feel the Steel in 2011 to critical acclaim and quickly followed up with 2012’s Balls Out.
The first thing that comes to mind when one mentions the name Johnny Marr is, of course, his legacy with The Smiths. Marr started the band back in 1982 and went on to release four classic albums, none of them entering the charts lower than Number Two.
He would go on to play in The Cribs, Modest Mouse, The The, and Electronic before going solo and releasing the much-anticipated and highly praised The Messenger. Touring in support of this album, he treated a jam-packed Fillmore to a night of classics both old and new.
I have to admit that I am not the biggest Smiths fan in the world, but I truly appreciate what the band has done, and Marr in particular. He planted the seed for many great things to come, including Arctic Monkeys, Radiohead, Suede, The Libertines, and countless more. Marr’s bio reads like a real life Forrest Gump, as he always seems to be in the right place at the right time, all while making history along the way.
One of my favorite stories is the one where Marr meets a very young Noel Gallagher and loans him one of his hallowed Smiths guitars. Urban legend has it that guitar was possessed with voodoo spirits of great melody that would assure Oasis’s success.
A Pale Horse Named Death is the brainchild of Sal Abruscato. Sound familiar? It should. This is the guy who founded Type O Negative with Peter Steele, played on the legendary Type O classic Bloody Kisses, and also manned the drums for Life of Agony. His resume speaks for itself and APHND is a culmination of everything that has come before, combined with a bit of something new.
APHND is also garnering quite a few comparisons to Alice in Chains and for good reason. Their latest album Lay My Soul to Waste is both melodic and heavy, and I mean HEAVY on the riffs. Abruscato’s vocals at times are very reminiscent of the late Layne Stayley, and that’s a good thing because it works. I always say the world could use more metal that can take on such a big sound and succeed, and APHND do it well.
Live, it’s even better though. Current Danzig drummer Johnny Kelly lays down the thunderous back bone and newcomer Matt Brown adds a layer of Les Paul expertise that really compliments Abruscato’s songwriting.
The track “The Needle in You” was a highlight of the evening along with “Shallow Grave,” and I was a bit surprised they didn’t play their current single and video “DMSTL.” Regardless, great show, great band, and I would love to see them play a longer set next time.
Rock ‘n roll photography and music blogging is a hobby of mine that I take very seriously. While I don’t get paid for it per se, and my career as a marketer is first and foremost, it’s something that I put a lot of time and energy into. What makes it all worthwhile for me is when I get turned on to a new band like The 1975 and get to document how they blew the roof off of a jam-packed club and share the experience through text and images.
The 1975 are a Manchester based, breakthrough band of 2013. Having supported The Rolling Stones at Hyde Park over the summer and then scored a number one album with their self-titled debut in September, these guys are just getting started and it’s going to be an exciting story to watch.
I think I have said this a few times in 2013, but this band is incredible, both as songwriters and performers. Their sound falls somewhere between The Killers in their heyday (I say first album) and when Snow Patrol burst onto the scene with atmospheric songwriting that redefined Brit-pop for the majority of us in the U.S. I’m happy to say that it’s happening again.
Brick and Mortar are a drum and bass duo from New Jersey, but they don’t play traditional drum ‘n bass. It’s simply their instruments of choice. Singer and bassist Brandon Asraf and drummer John Tacon have just released the best debut album I have heard in the past ten years. It’s my pick for album of the year in 2013 and if this band is not a household name, or topping every hipster’s playlist in the near future, then I am sorry to say that the entire music industry is broken.
Imagine that Adele had a secret love child with Hot Hot Heat that was raised by a band of storytelling gypsies. The songwriting is brilliant, the subject matter is riveting, and the musicianship is stellar. This is the type of band that comes along once every decade or so if we are lucky. I love this record so much that I reached out and requested an interview with these guys to learn more about them, and I had some questions around their mysterious songs and videos.
What you are about to read is a conversation that I had with a band that I think is going to be the biggest breakout success story of the year in 2014. The answers are honest, revealing, and quite surprising from a band that is on a “major label” and getting ready to hit the road for their first U.S. tour. Read the interview, then go buy the record. You will not be disappointed.
Hailing from New Jersey have you ever seen Jon Bon Jovi or the Boss around town?
Brandon: I work at the movies part-time, and after we got back from Lollapalooza, I was back at work and Bruce Springsteen came in and I sold him some water and Popcorn. I of course told him I was in a band; he was really nice. I never thought I would meet Bruce Springsteen while serving up popcorn, but I did. I’ve never come across Jon Bon though. I always come across a dude that I think it’s him because of the hair, but then they turn around and it’s just a housewife.
You guys call him Jon Bon in Jersey?
Brandon: No one really talks about him up here, so we don’t have to call him anything.
A very brief history of Gwar: Eons ago, there existed an elite group of chaos warriors who ravaged the galaxy with a boundless hatred of all things alive. They were called the Scumdogs of the Universe, and they grew in might and fury, the greatest weapon in the arsenal of their cosmic Master. But they became too powerful, and too defiant, and for their cosmic crimes were banished to the most insignificant planet in the universe…the seething mudball known as Earth.
Gwar are legends in their own right. Oderus Urungus has brilliantly lead Earth’s only openly extraterrestrial metal band for more than twenty-five years now. Touring in support of their latest record Battle Maximus, Gwar are still going strong and are equally, if not more, offensive now than when they first began back in 1984.
It was jam-packed with hardcore Gwar fans at the Regency Ballroom. The floor was covered with plastic, along with half the stage, as well as the staff at hand. Everyone is well-aware of the chaos that takes place at a Gwar show. I hadn’t seen the band in close to 15 years, and more importantly, I had never attempted to photograph the pure unadulterated bloodfest that was about to occur.
Cincinnati natives Walk the Moon played a sold-out show at the Regency Ballroom last week. This is a really interesting band that I first heard while traveling in LA over the summer. Their song “Ana Sun” was being played what seemed to be every 15 minutes on the radio. Yes, the radio. I was in a rental car with no auxiliary cable for Spotify. It happens.
Needless to say, the song Esquire magazine claims as their number one “must listen to” song of the summer was etched in my brain for good, and why not? It’s an incredibly catchy song, very well produced, and falling somewhere in between Imagine Dragons and Passion Pit. They seem to be a leader in this new cross-over, indie-rock synth-pop movement that is currently being blown wide open.
I was a bit surprised as I must have missed the memo about the face painting at the show. I kept thinking of the Seinfeld episode “The Face Painter” where David Putty paints his face to “support the team.” This was about the time I decided that I would never be a “face painter” for either sports or music, that is until KISS does their final-final-final farewell tour, which I am hoping for next year.
As most of the publicists I deal with know, I am a sucker for a pair of free tickets and a photo pass, especially if it’s to the legendary Fillmore. Now if you can throw in even the slightest buzz around the artist, I’m sold. Needless to say, I got an invite to see Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, and I gladly accepted. Tape Deck Heart is one of those records that I have seen over and over again but never listened to. After seeing this show, the record is now on repeat, and I have a new favorite T-shirt.
How familiar am I with Frank Turner? To be honest, not very, but I do love a good story of the underdog winning. That’s exactly the case here as Frank Turner has risen from the ashes of his hardcore punk band Million Dead and started over as a sort of folky punk troubadour. Trading in his post-hardcore edge, Frank has done a complete musical 360 and stripped down to just acoustic guitar, with some incredibly compelling stories to tell.
Fast forward several years, and Frank Turner has taken his acoustic solo show to a whole new level, growing his band along with his fan base. He’s garnered a massive following in the UK that is now spreading quickly in the US. San Francisco welcomed Frank and his Sleeping Souls with a sold-out crowd that literally hung on every note from the energetic frontman.
The Avett Brothers closed out the summer concert series this past weekend at The America’s Cup Pavilion. It was the perfect ending to what turned out to be an epic race on the San Francisco Bay.
Up against seemingly impossible odds, Team Oracle rallied from an 8-1 deficit to win eight straight races and win the Cup. The Pavilion will begin to be disassembled this week, but the slew of amazing concert performances that it hosted will live on. One could easily argue that they saved the best for last.
The Avett Brothers are simply an amazing talent unmatched in their singer-songwriter achievements. Scott and Seth Avett, along with Bob Crawford and Joe Kwon, seem to be on the brink of breaking wide open into the mainstream but continue to fly just under the radar. Even with powerhouse producer Rick Rubin at their side, they just can’t seem to get that breakthrough that their peers Mumford and Sons have achieved. And that’s okay, because the better band in this case is doing just fine and is ready to release their new album Magpie and the Dandelion.