Author Archives: Jason Miller

TVD Live Shots: My Vitriol at the Islington Assembly Hall, 11/1

Few bands in the world have a flawless catalogue and a reputation for consistently over-delivering, one of those being My Vitriol. Technically speaking, the band has only delivered two full-length records during their twenty-year run. Still, both of them are brilliant in every aspect of modern music, especially their juggernaut of a debut Finelines, which still holds up flawlessly. Add to that a certain mystique around the band and the fact that they single-handedly invented the genre of “nu gaze” (an evolution of the shoegaze but more accessible and forward-thinking).

This would be the third time I’ve seen My Vitriol since moving to the UK three years ago. They don’t tour very often these days, so when they do, it’s a pretty big deal and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Not only is it a spectacle for the eyes, but the sonic explosion that happens with My Vitriol live is unlike any show I’ve seen before. Touring as a three-piece Seth Taylor, Som Wardner, and Ravi Kesavaram (bassist Tatia Starkey remains on temporary leave) the trio wowed a near-capacity crowd for almost two hours and there was never a dull moment.

The setlist pulled heavily from Finelines with a dozen songs from their masterful debut and surprisingly only four tracks from 2016’s Secret Sessions. It was great to hear “It’s so Damn Easy” early on in the set as it sounds brilliant live. Other highlights were the staples, including “Losing Touch,” “Cemented Shoes,” “The Gentle Art of Choking,” “Alpha Waves,” and of course, “Always Your Way.” Between the lights and the sonic bombardment, this was a show that assaulted all of your senses in the nicest possible way. Parts of the show were so heavy that a decent sized mosh pit formed just in front of the stage. I’m not sure that was necessary as I’ve never seen one at a My Vitriol show, but the show was that intense.

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TVD Live Shots: The Cult at Eventim Apollo, 10/27

I’ve seen The Cult a dozen or so times over the years, but this would be my first time catching them in London. It’s quite a difference as they sold out the legendary Eventim Apollo (the old Hammersmith Ballroom), and the venue was packed to the gills. I’ve never seen a show there this full—you literally could not move. And for extra fun, I forgot my step stool, and the photographers had to shoot from the soundboard.

Now, this review may be slightly biased as The Cult are one of my all-time favorite bands—I celebrate their entire catalogue, even Ceremony, and the underrated self-titled record. If that wasn’t enough, they are touring in support of the 30th anniversary of Sonic Temple, the record that pretty much defined my teenage years.

Sonic Temple is a sonic masterpiece from start to finish. That’s what happened in the ’80s when Bob Rock produced your record. From the opening of “Sun King” to the epic “Fire Woman,” the power ballad for people who hate power ballads “Edie (Ciao Baby),” and of course the soaring chorus of “Sweet Soul Sister,” this record has it all. While early fans of the band would never recognize the transition from post-punk/ goth rock to heavy metal, the band was heading that way regardless. Did it even really matter what these guys did anyway? The songs from Love and Dreamtime fit perfectly into the evolution of the band’s setlist in a way that no one could have predicted. It just works.

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TVD Live Shots:
Gary Numan at the Roundhouse, 10/26

I’ve always been a casual fan of Gary Numan over the years, and then I moved to the UK. Not only is he the godfather of electronic music, a composer, producer, badass guitar player, and incredible frontman, he’s elevated himself to demi-god status in London.

While most of us know him for his groundbreaking ’80s staple “Cars,” there’s so much more to this guy than many of us give him credit. I mean, yeah, he pretty much single-handedly invented an entirely new genre with the release of the near-perfect synth juggernaut The Pleasure Principle in 1979, but he also puts on one of the most epic live shows I’ve ever seen.

This is one of those gigs where I go into it thinking I know Gary Numan, but then come out having gone down the rabbit hole of this guy’s insanely impressive career. Starting with the new wave band Tubeway Army before going solo after two UK chart-topping releases, it was time for Numan to introduce his genius to the world in the form of his debut. The Pleasure Principle gave the world a glimpse into the future and primed the world for synth music to take center stage in the ’80s. Its legacy would go on to influence not only Nine Inch Nails and pretty much the entire industrial and electronica movement, but hip hop too.

I attended the second night of two sold-out jam-packed gigs at London’s legendary Roundhouse in Camden. This was my first time seeing Numan live, and it was quite the spectacle. Numan is sixty-one years old but has the energy and stage presence of a young Trent Reznor and his finest, angriest moments. This works perfectly with the futuristic goth-punk wasteland theme of the lights and staging which push the songs and the atmosphere over the top.

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TVD Live Shots: Big Wreck at The Crocodile, 10/24

SEATTLE, WA | There’s something extraordinary about the band Big Wreck. They’re one of the few rock bands on the planet that has managed to create a unique sound that is all their own. I’m still struggling to describe exactly what that sound is, but when I hear it, I know immediately.

If I had a gun to my head, I guess I would say it’s riff-heavy hard rock layered with deep blues, massive grooves, and soaring vocals. There’s no denying that frontman Ian Thornley sounds a bit like Chris Cornell in his prime, but there’s much more than that. Hell, this is the guy who turned down vocal duties for Velvet Revolver because he didn’t feel comfortable singing without playing guitar. This begs the question, what does he do better? The answer isn’t very straightforward.

You see, Ian Thornley is the kind of songwriter that other songwriters aspire to be. He’s the whole package: a unique and incredible voice, guitar god, and most importantly, he can write a fucking song that makes you stop and think how one human being could possibly be able to write such majestic choruses.

Take, for example, their breakthrough “hit” if you will from 1996 “The Oaf.” Of course, it’s got a catchy intro and verse, but when the chorus kicks in, it’s what separates Big Wreck from the rest of the pack. Then take a listen to “That Song” from the same record. Holy shit, this one takes it up another notch by adding storytelling and incredibly smart lyrics. (My friends and I in college spent weeks debating what the fuck a “pocketbook Brando” is.) Furthermore, “That Song” is a story told in song that makes you feel something, it transports you to a specific moment in your life—it’s familiar—yet it’s something that doesn’t happen very often in a modern song.

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TVD Live Shots: Gwar at Showbox SoDo, 10/21

SEATTLE, WA | Last week I was in Seattle for a series of meetings for my day job and happened to be in town to witness another epic Gwar gig. In between corporate presentations and happy hours with my teammates, I was able to take in a show at the legendary Showbox SoDo. What better way to spend a Monday night in Seattle than celebrating 30 years of all things offensive and disgusting with Blothar, Balsac the Jaws of Death, Jizmak Da Gusha, Beefcake the Mighty, and Pustulus Maximus?

It was only a matter of time before Gwar set their sights on the current state of affairs and built an entire show around the most horrible thing to ever happen to the US: Trump. The scumdogs of the universe are back with new storylines, antics, decapitations, and of course, vast amounts of blood and space jizz. I was a bit surprised to not see the venue wrapped like a kill room in the TV show Dexter. Was there going to be less blood this time around? Short answer, no.

Having photographed Gwar several times in the past, I knew the rules of engagement. The more you cover up with a plastic wrap, raincoats, or camera condoms, the more you got it. So I went in with zero protection, just ready to embrace the chaos. I lost focus with the new intro for just a second and was immediately blasted by a torso that had just been beheaded to kick off the gig. My Nikon Z6 better be waterproof, I thought as I ran to the side to wipe the blood off my camera lens and get back into the action.

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TVD Live Shots: Thom Yorke at the Paramount Theatre, 10/20

SEATTLE, WA | Thom Yorke is living in a world that not a lot of us can truly understand. He’s a true disruptor in both a musical sense and as an industry pioneer. He did exactly what the music business SHOULD have done by embracing technology instead of fighting it. He broke the mold for releasing and promoting new music and continues to innovate.

Having seen Radiohead several times over the years, this would be my first-time seeing Yorke solo. The music is so different with its atmospheric overtones driven by electronic beats and offbeat electro-funk, one could ask the question, would he be selling out venues without Radiohead’s success on his resume? That’s the wrong question to be asking, though. While the solo music may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it does carry forward the complexity of Radiohead’s later records, even pushing them into new territory once again.

The Radiohead frontman was joined on stage by Nigel Godrich and visual artist Tarik Barr. The setup was quite small with a couple of digital turntables and a slew of synthesizers, but the sound was enormous. Yorke weaved in and out of the turntables, twisting and turning knobs with the look of confidence in his art, with a glimpse of a smile in between moments where he seemed to be in a trance with the music.

I looked around frequently at the capacity crowd at the beautiful Paramount Theatre. I saw a crowd completely immersed in not only the sonic landscapes echoing through the historic space, but also drawn to the laser-like light show interpreting the sounds by painting with light.

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TVD Live Shots: Alice Cooper, The Stranglers, and MC50 at the O2 Arena, 10/10

The godfather of shock rock, Alice Cooper is alive and well as he delivers one final masterclass in all things horror, rock ‘n’ roll, and stellar musicianship.

He’s 71, but you would never guess it. His band is full of incredible musicians, and the stage show is a theatrical masterpiece celebrating everything that society fears, both past and present. At times it’s undoubtedly comical with the giant inflatable babies and twenty-foot monsters in chains, but the message never gets lost, and it’s incredibly entertaining. On top of all that, you have one of the most celebrated catalogues in rock ‘n’ roll history to pull from as the centrepiece.

Cooper pulled out all of the stops for this one including the guillotine, Frankenstein, straitjackets, an insane mental ward nurse (played by his lovely wife), along with a cast of monsters and ghoulish tricks that ended with a shower of confetti and a full house of fans singing “Schools Out” at the top of their lungs. Joining Cooper on stage for the encore was none other than original Alice Cooper band bassist Dennis Dunaway who looked right at home jamming alongside the newbies.

The setlist that night pulled from Cooper’s incredible catalogue and didn’t discriminate between the ’70s, ’80s, or ’90s albums as there were gems drawn from each. “Roses on White Lace” from Raise Your Fist and Yell? Holy shit. I didn’t see that one coming. Not to mention, “He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask),” the theme from Friday the 13th.

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TVD Live Shots: Keane and Marie White at Royal Albert Hall, 9/28

Keane made a triumphant return to London’s famed Royal Albert Hall for a two-night stint which sold out almost instantly—one week after the release of their new record Cause and Effect and six years since their last studio record. Strangeland came out to mixed reviews back in 2012, but I would argue it’s the crown jewel of the band’s catalogue, a clear indicator that the band was at its creative peak both musically and visually. I saw them twice in the States on that tour, and both shows were above and beyond anything I had seen that year.

A few years into Keane’s hiatus, Tom Chaplin answered the question on everyone’s mind—can he write the songs and go solo? The Wave was a swift and masterful response and a resounding yes; this guy can pretty much do it all, even when sober, when many musicians often lose their creative edge and fail. Throw in a Christmas album and a tour of the UK where Chaplin brilliantly performed the songs of Queen, and one would think that this would be a set up for Strangeland part two: bigger, bolder, braver. But was that even necessary?

Fast forward to just a few weeks ago, Keane returned after seven years with the much-anticipated Cause and Effect. In true Keane fashion, it’s another curveball of a record for the hardcore fans. All the elements that make this band so great are here but they’re stripped down a bit—the experimentation and theatrics that made Strangeland so daring and perfect are missing. And that’s OK because the songs, the stories, and most importantly the voice are all there. It’s as if the band wanted to go back to basics. Make no mistake, this is a pop record, but with a level of substance that’s missing from the overproduced garbage dominating the radio today.

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TVD Live Shots: The Pixies at the O2 Academy Leeds, 9/17

They’ve influenced an entire generation, created an iconic signature sound, and nearly forty years later they still have plenty to say. The Pixies are seemingly more popular today than they were at their peak in the late ’80s early ’90s, especially here in the UK as it’s near impossible to land a ticket to one of their gigs across the country. I found myself on assignment for my day gig with an evening free in the Northern UK. The O2 Academy Leeds is one of the highest-rated venues in all of the UK so what better chance to check it out than to see the Pixies. 

 Touring in support of their seventh studio record, Beneath the Eyrie was recorded in an abandoned church near Woodstock, NY with producer Tom Dalgety. What in the hell is an eyrie? Yeah, I had to look that one up as well. According to Dictionary.com, it’s “a high or inaccessible place from which someone can observe what is below them.”

There’s no doubt that the atmosphere contributed to the darkness of this record. Some say it’s a return to form and that Black Frances finally caught lightning in a bottle once more after mediocre reviews for the past two records. I think the band is just pissed off and made a record fuelled with the current bad dream we all hope to wake up from. Either way, Eyrie is undoubtedly worthy of taking its place alongside the greatness and mystique of the first two albums.  

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TVD Live Shots: The Flaming Lips at the O2 Brixton Academy, 9/7

2019 marks the 20th anniversary of The Flaming Lips’ masterpiece The Soft Bulletin. Hailed by critics and fans alike, it was a landmark record that saw the band transforming from the weirdest band on the planet to the most respected one. In 2009 during its 10th anniversary, the critics were at it again calling it an “undeniably essential listen that belongs in every record collection.” 20 years on, it still holds up incredibly well as a record, but when performed live it’s on another level—it’s nothing short of magical.

This is the fourth or fifth time I’ve seen The Flaming Lips, but the first time seeing them in London. The legendary Brixton Academy brought the fans out in droves to see the spectacle that creative genius Wayne Coyne would deliver. I’m not really sure how to describe the crowd that included someone wearing a giant crying baby head and numerous rainbow and glitter-infused outfits. I even ran into The Clash’s Mick Jones at the show as it was rumored that he would be guesting that evening in one form or another (unfortunately, it was just that, a rumor). Earlier this year The Flaming Lips tapped Jones to serve as narrator on their surreal new song, “Giant Baby,” from their latest album King’s Mouth.

The Flaming Lips took to the stage, and an incredibly humble and personable Wayne Coyne chatted the crowd up and welcomed them to the show an detailing the night’s setup. Gazing into a mystical disco ball center stage, Coyne began to orchestrate the opening number with his back to the audience as a perfect build-up to what’s to follow. The show instantly transformed into an insanely colourful explosion of smoke, confetti, giant balloons, with a crowd that is losing their minds. But it’s not like one of those shows where the giant balloons bounce around the audience for one song, this went on for the ENTIRE show.

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TVD Live Shots: Pete Doherty and Carl Barat at Hackney Empire, 9/6

My quest to see The Libertines live in the UK since I moved here three years ago got a bit closer to completion. Earlier this year I saw a spectacular show from Pete Doherty and the Putra Madres, and now I can check Pete and Libertines frontman Carl Barât off the list.

It was billed as an acoustic gig, so I accepted the invite thinking two dudes, two guitars, one stripped-down acoustic set. I couldn’t have been more wrong. As part of an event series called SOMEWHERE, which is known for hosting a series of unusual shows around the world, somehow figured out how to light 1001 candles to illuminate the stage in one of the most beautiful venues in London, Hackney Empire.

Let me start by saying that I was there for the second night of two sold-out performances in what one would consider an “intimate” venue for the primary two Libertines. It’s also worth noting that you have to live in London to appreciate how much this town loves Mr. Doherty. From the infamous breakfast photo in Margate which would later become a full-on work of art as a mural, to just last week when the tabloids reported Pete on a Boris bike riding through central London with two huskies. There was one Tweet that captured this fascination with the musician perfectly, “It’s Pete Doherty’s world, we just live in it.”

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TVD Live Shots:
Laura Jane Grace and
the Devouring Mothers at Liquid Rooms, 8/27

It’s like the time that I was at SXSW years ago before it became a bloated corporate mess. You could see a band play a set to an unassuming crowd and you just had a feeling that this was something special—music with a fucking purpose that’s going to make a difference. It’s remarkably well written and story-driven with the perfect balance of wit, angst, and emotion.

This is how I felt during and after watching Laura Jane Grace with her latest project The Devouring Mothers in Scotland last week at the Liquid Club. Touring in support of my new favourite record of 2019 Bought to Rot, she had the audacity and sheer confidence to play the record in its entirety and then say goodbye. No encore, just a simple thank you. And that was enough.

This isn’t Laura Jane’s usual forte in terms of musical genres. She’s trading in her punk rock roots for a mix of Springsteen, The Old 97’s, and The Sex Pistols for Bought to Rot and it works remarkably well for a live club gig. “Amsterdam Hotel Room,” “The Hotel Song,” “The Apology Song,” and the climax of the album in the form of “Valeria Golino” and the masterpiece closer “Manic Depression.” It plays like a concept album even though it’s a bit schizophrenic at times. The storytelling, the crescendos, the highs and lows—all take the listener on a journey.

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TVD Live Shots: Skunk Anansie at the O2 Brixton Academy, 8/17

Skunk Anansie live at the legendary Brixton Academy in London—something that not many Americans can claim that they’ve witnessed.

One of the UK’s most successful and exciting bands of the Britrock movement of the early ’90s, Skunk Anansie are celebrating 25 years and touring in support of their latest release [email protected] which features 25 tracks taken from across their six studio albums, all captured live from various performances on their 2017 tour. Even if you are somehow not familiar with the band, you will undoubtedly have heard of their incredibly talented frontwoman Skin. Skin is one of Britain’s more acclaimed rock singers, as well as a fashion icon, a renowned DJ, an actress, and an activist.

The first time I heard Skunk Anansie, I was living in St. Louis and working at a record store in college. The rep from Epic records sent a copy of the advance CD with a note that said, “this is going to be huge.” Epic had one hell of a track record at the time for breaking new artists including Korn, Rage, and Prong just to name a few. So they were definitely on the right label at the right time, so why didn’t they break?

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TVD Live Shots: Queensryche at the Islington Assembly
Hall, 8/14

The mighty Queensryche made their triumphant return to London last week, stopping by the Islington Assembly Hall for an intimate gig between a slew of European metal festivals.

Touring in support of The Verdict, their third studio record with bonafide rock god Todd La Torre on vocals, the band finds themselves with a functional problem: too many great songs for one set. How does one select songs from such an incredible legacy and catalog to fit into a 90-minute set? I would love to be a fly on the wall in that conversation as the band painstakingly chooses between pre-Mindcrime and post which represent two incredibly different styles for the band. Which one is better? The answer is neither, as they are equally epic in their own right.

The new album is an absolute beast of a metal album from start to finish. I won’t go as far to say that The Verdict is a return to form, because that happened on 2015’s breakthrough Condition Human. Oh, and did I happen to mention that La Torre played the drums on this record filling in for the recently departed Scott Rockenfield? Take a moment to let that soak in—this guy hits the notes on the classics without breaking a sweat, takes it up a notch or two on the new material, and now he’s taking over drum duties from one of the all-time greats? This guy is a fucking juggernaut of all things metal.

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TVD Live Shots: Dead Kennedys at the Electric Ballroom, 8/9

Dead Kennedys remain a force to be reckoned with, four decades on, with yet another triumphant return to London.

This time instead of two shows in a smaller venue the band opted for one night only at the legendary Electric Ballroom. The excitement around the recent release of the three-CD set, simply titled DK 40, and the jam-packed venue makes a clear statement about the sign of the times—impending doom for the climate and the political landscape—but also offers up a lesson in longevity. East Bay Ray, Klaus Flouride, D.H. Peligro, and Ron “Skip” Greer were once again in top form tearing through a blistering 75-minute set that celebrated one of punk rock’s most excellent catalogs.

It’s way, way, way past time to stop with the lazy comments, “It’s not DK without Jello,” because it is. Go see this fucking show and tell me you didn’t think it was spectacular. Skip does a brilliant job keeping the original angst of the songs while also adding a jolt of his own explosive style. I think it’s time to see the band record a new album with him as the chemistry is 100% there and the fans are ready. It’s clear that the band is open for a reunion and the ball’s in Jello’s court. While he says he’s just too busy to make it work, but we can all bet that it will happen in time, DK 40 certainly lays the groundwork while provoking the question of a new record.

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  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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