Author Archives: Crystal Eckstadt

Joy Division, Unknown Pleasures–An Enduring Legacy

As the gritty 1970s turned into the gaudy 1980s, three friends on the brink of their twenties in Ruislip, a London suburb, Dave, Ken, and Mark, were consumed by music. Home to ancient parishes, Ruislip’s steel-laden sky dims the life beneath it. Dulling the atmosphere even further was Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, otherwise known as the “Iron Lady.” Clamping down upon workers’ unions, civil unrest, and racial tensions, the class divide soared and not much since has changed. Existence is an intermix of negative and positive tensions and the most compelling music is a mirror of these forces. Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures is its ultimate reflection.

Unknown Pleasures was released on June 15, 1979. Shoulder-to-shoulder with Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division are considered to be pioneers of post-punk and their music was unlike anything heard at that time. The album is a marriage of two genius individuals—lead singer Ian Curtis, author of inwardly perceptive and melancholy lyrics, and studio maven Martin Hannett behind the production console.

As drummer Stephen Morris said in a recent livestream, “Headstock Festival Presents: Moving Through Silence,” a tribute at the 40th anniversary of Ian Curtis’ death, “He’d have notebooks full of words. We’d just start playing the riff and he’d go into his MacFisheries bag and pull out a piece of paper and just start singing. At the time, everyone was starting a band, but he loved writing and poetry. He was into T.S. Eliot, and Burroughs, he was very very literate, and very creative. I met his English teacher, he’d sent me a nice email saying how much he thought Ian was very talented, even at school as a writer. If he hadn’t done music, he would have written fiction.”

With a background in chemistry, Hannett understood science but was fascinated by sound. Unknown Pleasures was his great experiment with the latest technology—the first AMS Digital Delay Machine. His control was legendary, drummer Stephen Morris made to play every drum separately on some tracks—an insane process that created the atmospheric space the album is known for. By isolating each member in the studio and also mixing the album himself, Hannett was able to craft Joy Division’s sound and style—the subsequent output a masterpiece that is just as avant-garde now as it was then.

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Needle Drop: Levenbirds, “Codependance” EP

Three brothers from Istanbul grew up in an unconventional environment without any exposure to secular music or television, and they did what most people in that situation would do—they moved to Los Angeles and formed a band.

It’s always interesting to see what music people gravitate towards when free will is exercised. For the brothers, now known as the Levenbirds, The National is a cornerstone and favorite. But for “Codependance,” their latest EP, David Byrne, Mitsiki, Anderson Paak, and house music pioneers, Moloko, were strong influences.

“Codependance” is a distinct departure from their first darker indie EP. While some themes have remained constant such as the confusion of love and lust and the overall temporal nature of life, they have been reconfigured for the modern dancefloor. The EP is a catchy mix of dark disco and melancholy ballads. Find the Levenbirds on most streaming services and playing shows all over Los Angeles.

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TVD Live Shots: Bloc Party at the Hollywood Palladium, 11/19

PHOTOS: JULIA LOFSTRAND | Britain’s NME voted Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm the best album of 2005 when it arrived in stores, yet in March, NME asserted that Bloc Party’s “Silent Alarm” tour will be worthless without its original line-up.

Yes, it’s true original drummer Matt Tong was replaced by Louise Bartle and bassist Gordon Moakes has been replaced by Justin Harris, but frontman Kele Okereke and guitarist Russell Lissack are permanent fixtures in Bloc Party’s DNA. Lissack is solely responsible for creating the aggressive and fun experimental guitar sounds that separate Bloc Party from the pack. Songwriter Okereke with his unmistakable British, soulful punk voice could never be replaced. All that is Bloc Party starts and ends with him.

Bloc Party has often been a band mired in controversy. Liam Gallagher once dubbed them “indie shits,” seething with obvious envy over their rapid success. As such Okereke has had an ongoing public feud with Gallagher, intellectually navagating the situation. In 2005 Kele was outed by the media—as a gay black man fronting one of the biggest post-punk revival dance bands in the UK, he’s been fighting racism and complacency ever since. Despite the tension, one thing has remained constant: Bloc Party hasn’t faded away like so many other acts and they’re still selling out venues.

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TVD Live Shots: 2019 Rock Godz Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at The Canyon, 10/27

PHOTOS: JULIA LOFSTRAND | The Rock Godz Hall of Fame launched in 2009 as a grassroots organization to honor the musicians who are not often in the public spotlight. Over the past decade, the ceremony has continued to grow as these frequently unheralded artists and linchpins of the music industry have received the recognition they quite well deserve.

They’ve made their mark on history as session or touring musicians, songwriters, producers, and engineers of timeless classics still in rotation today. Former inductees nominate their peers making this a highly respected event. Whether it was session bassist Bob Glaub who has recorded with everyone from Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and Donna Summer,  or songwriter/ session ace Richie Zito who has produced The Cult, Cheap Trick, and Bad English, the ballroom at The Canyon in Agoura Hills was filled with awe-inspiring talent.

It was an illustrious night of great surprises and performances. Yacht rock pioneers and inductees Peter Beckett and Burleigh Drummond, drummer and founding member of Ambrosia, shined on Ace’s “How Long” and Player’s “Baby Come Back.” Rick Springfield appeared and tore through Little Richard’s “Lucille” with Brett Tuggle who toured with Springfield in the ’80s on the heels of “Jessie’s Girl.” Inductee Rowen Robertson, the former Dio guitarist who joined the Dio band at the age of 17 after simply mailing off a cassette (a story he fondly retold) stood out on Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower.”

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TVD Live: Bastille
and Joywave at the Greek, 10/12

PHOTOS: JULIA LOFSTRAND | In these troubling times Bastille’s music feels like an antidote. Their simple tales of love, heartache, joy, and doom resonate with people worldwide. And it makes sense. Daniel Smith, the group’s lead singer and songwriter, has an English language and literature degree, and is an adept storyteller. They are out on this current tour supporting the release of their latest album, Doom Days.

Openers Joywave, an indie synth pop quintet from Rochester, NY played their entire set in matching neon yellow shirts and Adidas sweatpants preparing for a few up-and-coming shows where they will headline. Opening for Bastille is no easy task. Not that there isn’t enough talent in the world because there is, it’s just that their originality is hard to match. Smith, known for his fascination with film (every Bastille album cover resembles a movie poster) brought stage production values to this tour. Songs were played to easily movable sets much like a Broadway show, each song having its own space to tell its story.

The new album, Doom Days, focuses on our planet’s undeniable nihilistic condition, a theme constant for Bastille. Smith told the crowd that while making the album, they set out to create something optimistic but invariably created something depressing. They opened with a “Quarter Past Midnight” the first song off of Doom Days, and played material from each of their three studio albums including “Of the Night”—a brilliant mashup cover of two 1990s dance classics: Snap!’s “Rhythm is a Dancer” and Corona’s “Rhythm of the Night.”

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TVD Live: Incubus and Dub Trio at the Santa Barbara Bowl, 9/26

PHOTOS: JULIA LOFSTRAND | Driving an hour and half north of Los Angeles along the PCH, California’s coastline road, is a cool thing to be doing. Traveling along this infamous route to see Incubus’ 20th anniversary of the Make Yourself album at the Santa Barbara Bowl? An even cooler thing to be doing.

Openers Dub Trio, a longstanding instrumental group from Brooklyn consisting of guitarist DP Holmes, bassist Stu Brooks, and drummer Joe Tomino, took the early concertgoers on a tour of ska, punk, and metal. They’re a band that has long flown under the radar, but their members can be heard separately contributing to albums from many of hip hop and rap’s greats, such as Tupac Shakur, The Fugees, Mos Def, Common, and even Lady Gaga.

As the day turned to night, a 10-minute documentary appeared on screens highlighting Incubus’ journey from the album that dropped them into the mainstream. 1999 was at the forefront of the burgeoning electronic and rave music scene, and Incubus as an up-and-coming rock band was impacted by the new cultural milieu—a topic touched upon in the documentary. DJ Kilmore has always been an influencer within this band, fusing electronic elements with whichever genre of rock they have decided to explore over the years.

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TVD Live Shots: The National with Alvvays at The Greek Theater, 9/2

PHOTOS: JULIA LOFSTRAND | Alvvays is an indie dream pop band based in Toronto and fronted by the enigmatic Molly Rankin. I wasn’t too familiar with Alvvays’ music prior to the show, however Antisocialist and Alvvays, their two recorded albums to date, have produced a substantial amount of catchy music with an even stronger live presence.

In an interview with She Shreds magazine, Rankin said that for both albums she had listened to a lot of The B-52’s, Dolly Mixture, Felt, and The Cocteau Twins—the combination morphing into something familiar yet uniquely their own. Rankin’s voice is airy, the vocals are substantive, and for me, the band feels like an amalgam of post-punk and pop. It’s hard to capture how good this band is live and they definitely won me over. It’s no small accomplishment to keep a crowd engaged before the band they came to see, but Alvvays stood on their own here, and by doing so really set the stage.

By the time the band changeover was finished, every empty seat was filled at the Greek Theater, the smaller sister venue to the The Hollywood Bowl which is nestled inside Griffith park. It’s a venue within a forest—a respite from the chaos of the city and a beloved summer venue among Los Angelians.

This was my fifth time seeing The National here in Los Angeles and I am not alone in frequency—I heard one guy say this was his 57th National show. This band has a cult following much like the traveling fans of Phish and Dave Matthews Band, and despite forming in Cincinnati this show felt like a homecoming for them. I am not sure if it was the intimacy of the venue or the giant spruce trees looming around us, or the unusual amount of time that lead singer Matt Berninger spent in the crowd, but it was apparent that we all felt connected and the vibe was just right.

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TVD Live Shots:
Young the Giant and
Fitz and the Tantrums
at the Forum, 8/10

PHOTOS: JULIA LOFSTRAND | Feel good pop music continues to appeal to the masses. The Forum, an imposing piece of architecture in the heart of Inglewood, is a legendary Los Angeles venue built in 1967 to resemble a Roman Coliseum by the same firm that built Madison Square Garden. The Forum is a prestigious venue to play. But last Saturday, at a venue that has seen everyone from The Eagles to Diana Ross, modern indie pop music prevailed.

Not entirely sold out but close to capacity, the crowd was a mixture of families, fashionistas, and low-key people sporting Vans and Hawaiian shirts; hints to a more laid back Southern California lifestyle. The young children in attendance signaled a night of youthful and joyous, spirited music that only concerned parents would permit their children listen to. I was singing “Shout at the Devil” by Mӧtley Crüe at 6-years-old but hey…we all have different experiences and tastes in life, and that’s just what this show represented.

The night seemed a little motley too. The Nashville trio COIN, who define their music as pop songs with rock instrumentation in an interview with Billboard magazine opened the show and played their most popular hit to date “Talk Too Much.”

Fitz and the Tantrums took the stage bringing the kids to their feet as they danced to the band they no doubt came to see. But it wasn’t just the children who loved this 18-song set, the entirety of the arena sang along as Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs, the vocal duo of the group, powered through the high-energy Motownesque dance songs they are known for.

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