w/ Little Joy El Rey Theatre
Los Angeles, CA
July 28, 2009
Regina Spektor is not your average singer, as anyone who has seen her live performance can attest to. Armed simply with an arresting voice and piano, she has a way with words that is both serious at heart and whimsically amusing.
She began the show at El Rey with several cuts from her latest offering, Far, which would become a staple of the evening as all but one of its songs were represented. Ranging from the powerful first single, “Laughing With,” to the darker “Machine” and the playful “Dance Anthem of the 80s,” Spektor’s maturation as a songwriter was on display, backed by string players and a drummer.
Her idiosyncrasies still shone, though, especially when she grabbed an electric guitar on “Bobbin’ for Apples” and “That Time.” But it was some of her well-known older tunes that received the biggest response from the audience, including the somber piano ballad “Samson,” which turned “Us” and “Fidelity” into sing-alongs.
Throughout the evening, she expressed thanks for the turnout and seemed a little sheepish by the crowd’s continual yelling. She closed the 90-minute set with what she dubbed as her version of a country song, “Love, You’re a Whore,” which fittingly ended things on an upbeat and wholly unique note.
On The Radio
Time Is All Around
One More Time With Feeling
Dance Anthem Of The 80’s
Bobbin’ For Apples
Poor Little Rich Boy
Genius Next Door
Man Of A Thousand Faces
Love, You’re A Whore
w/ Kevin Devine & Brian Bonz The Roxy
July 21, 2008
Over the past eight years Brand New has produced three acclaimed albums and amassed a devout following. As a token of appreciation, frontman Jesse Lacey recently embarked on a short solo tour that included a stop in Los Angeles.
While Brand New has progressed musically with each record, acoustic guitar-driven songs have always remained intact and were represented from the old (“Soco Amaretto Lime”) to the new (“Coca-Cola”). Lacey also delivered several Brand New staples, including “Jude Law,” a country-folk version of “Jesus” and an impressive rendition of “Degausser,” while throwing in some Modest Mouse and Neutral Milk Hotel covers.
Openers Kevin Devine and Brian Bonz were good at setting the tone early on, and the three were constantly onstage helping each other out. However, while Devine’s set was an effective blend of politically charged folk, the night clearly belonged to Lacey, proving a rare treat for Brand New fans.
New Found Glory
w/ International Superheroes Of Hardcore Safari Sam's
May 19, 2008
First off, New Found Glory is one of my favorite bands of all time. Not only were they one of the first punk bands I started listening to back in the day, but they’re also one of the major reasons why I got into music in the first place. Therefore it’s not lightly that I say this was arguably the best I’ve ever seen from them, my eighth time, even though they always put on a great show. Since this was the CD release show for Tip Of The Iceberg, they played the entire EP before opening it up to crowd requests. This resulted in witnessing many songs I had never seen before, notably “Boy Crazy,” “Vegas” and “The Story So Far.”
The show took place at a little venue in Hollywood called Safari Sam’s, which has a capacity of 500 or so. There aren’t any barriers and security is pretty lax, so there was a ton of stage diving with the crowd going nuts. In all, NFG played for around 100 minutes, which is easily the longest set I’ve seen them do.
Meanwhile, their side band, International Superheroes Of Hardcore, played its debut show beforehand. This consisted of everything from Takin’ It Ova’ – though not in order – and, when combined with NFG’s set, meant the five guys were onstage for more than two hours. Overall, it was quite an impressive display, especially considering that Steve hurt his leg and threw up onstage after "At Least I'm Known For Something." It's a testament to his dedication that he only missed one song.
Afterwards, I was able to briefly talk with Jordan – who played guitar live for the first time ever during ISHC – and learned a few updates on the new album. The band is currently finishing pre-production and is set to head into the studio June 2nd to record with Mark Hoppus producing. Jordan described it as a tentative mixture between Sticks And Stones and Catalyst, but a little more mature sounding. He also mentioned there are no new developments yet on the label front.
On a random side note for those interested, it appears that Chad and Hayley are now dating. When Chad introduced her onstage for "It Ain't Me Babe," he said something along the lines of "Here's the prettiest woman in the world next to my mother." Also Chris from Saosin helped guitar tech, and Andy from Fall Out Boy was hanging out as well.
New Found Glory Set List (Not 100% About Order):
01. Tip Of The Iceberg
02. Dig My Own Grave
03. If You Don’t Love Me
04. No Reason Why
05. Here We Go Again
06. Cut The Tension
07. At Least I’m Known For Something
08. Sincerely Me
09. 3rd And Long
10. Boy Crazy
11. Dressed To Kill
12. 2’s & 3’s
13. Never Sometimes
14. Ballad For The Lost Romantics
16. It Ain’t Me Babe (Feat. Hayley Williams)
17. The Story So Far
18. Truth Of My Youth
19. Minor Threat (Cover)
21. On My Mind
23. Passing Time
24. The Glory Of Love
25. Hit Or Miss
26. All Downhill From Here
28. My Friends Over You
On Sunday night, over 1,500 people came to Chase Gymnasium to celebrate Biola’s 100th anniversary, and with festivities the founding fathers never would have envisioned a century ago. Yet for today’s generation, Switchfoot — almost assuredly the most successful band to ever play at Biola — was the ideal candidate to host the party.
“We’ve never actually played a birthday party for a school, let alone a 100 year type thing, so we figured, ‘Why not?’” frontman Jon Foreman told The Chimes before the show. “It sounded like a fun thing to do.”
After more than a decade of making music, Switchfoot knew exactly how commemorate the achievement. With a set list nearly identical to the one from last year’s “Appetite For Construction” tour with Relient K, the band delivered 11 of their biggest hits with electric precision.
Whether it was blasting off on openers “Oh! Gravity” and “Stars” or slowing things down with “Only Hope” and “On Fire,” Foreman and company proved they have the rock star performance thing down to a T. This was also evident on songs like “This Is Your Life” and “Awakening,” which showed why their music is a natural fit for that big arena setting — or in this case, a gym.
In the midst of it all, Foreman was quite the center of attention. Whether it was spinning around in circles while smashing on a cymbal or waving a banner across the stage, his enthusiasm was contagious. One of the concert’s obvious highlights, to which many students will also attest, was when Foreman went up into the bleachers during “On Fire.” With the crowd singing along, it was a stirring sight to witness.
To close things out, Switchfoot finished with the mighty one-two punch of “Meant To Live” and “Dare You To Move.” The rousing anthems were the perfect way to cap off the night, and their inspiring messages couldn’t have been more fitting as Biola looks ahead to its next 100 years.
Prior to Switchfoot’s appearance, The Myriad got things off to an impressive start with an all-too brief set. These up-and-comers definitely have great things in store and a live show to back it up. Then up next was singer-songwriter Tyrone Wells. While he couldn’t match the performances of the two bands he was sandwiched in between, he still put on an entertaining set which most of the audience seemed to enjoy.
In the end, though, it was clearly Switchfoot who took the cake. Literally. Since this was a birthday bash after all, three songs into the set Foreman brought out a birthday cake and called up Biola’s President Barry Corey. With the clock ticking down to midnight, the crowd cheered as Corey blew out the candles, and a whirlwind of confetti was unleashed. And then it was back to the music.
With each of their respective discographies, Brand New and Thrice have constantly reinvented their sound and pushed musical boundaries, leading them to become two of the most respected bands in today’s music scene. Last weekend, they each brought their dynamic live show to the Wiltern for a three-night stand — the first two of which I saw — and, with help from indie rock guru mewithoutYou, put on arguably the best concert I’ve seen this year.
MewithoutYou’s unique sound, which oftentimes consists of more speaking than singing from lead singer Aaron Weiss, translated remarkably in the live setting. Over the course of half an hour, the band’s high level of energy amid fine musicianship was clear from watching Weiss and his unpredictable behavior, which ranged from running wildly around the stage to playing an assortment of instruments, including tambourine, maracas, accordion and acoustic guitar. The songs, about half of which were from last year’s Brother, Sister, frequently blended into one another, feeling like a series of separate movements in an epic composition.
Orange County’s Thrice was simply flawless. Playing a shade under an hour, they showcased a nice mixture of old and new material, including five songs off of last month’s The Alchemy Index. The new songs sounded fantastic, from the blazing “Firebreather” and “Burn The Fleet” to the airy electronics of “Digital Sea” and “Open Water,” which was particularly impressive to see pulled off live.
Former Biola student Dustin Kensrue’s voice was spot on, and the entire band never missed a beat, revealing their exceptional skill as musicians. Fan favorites “Deadbolt,” “Stare At The Sun” and “The Artist In The Ambulance” were all precisely executed, with other standouts being “Silhouette,” “Red Sky” and “The Earth Will Shake.” The latter was the perfect song to end with, and its intense finale was a sight to see.
Closing it out was Brand New, who went for 90 minutes and were expectedly incredible. On the first night, they played everything from 2006’s album of the year, The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me, and only three old songs — “The Shower Scene,” “Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t” and “The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot.” For the second night, they played everything off of Devil minus “Welcome To Bangkok,” as well as “Tommy Gun,” “Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades,” “Jaws Theme Swimming,” “Demo 1” and “Play Crack The Sky.”
Night two turned out to be a definite step up from night one, with the band sounding tighter over the improved set list. Highlights included “You Won’t Know” and “Limousine,” along with “Jesus Christ” and the moment when singer Jesse Lacey brought out his acoustic guitar for a solo performance of “Demo 1,” segueing into “Play Crack The Sky.”
Lacey was more talkative on the second night too, and his vocals were especially strong, from his delicate whispers to his raw screams. The select usage of two drum sets, which they employed on their last tour, was again carried over, and helped in the creation of a power-charged atmosphere. Guitarist Vinnie Accardi furthered this factor, providing solid backup vocals while tearing into certain songs with an untapped ferocity.
The band chose to encore with “Untitled,” an unusual decision but one which paid dividends. Accardi first came out and played a few riffs, looping them over one another, and then Lacey came out, adding a few more. This produced a cacophony of tones until eventually the rest of the band joined in, culminating in a raucous jam session. It was unlike anything I had seen before, and a potent display of their avant-garde nature.
Not only do I consider these three bands unbelievable live performers, I also rank them among the most innovative artists writing music today. They demonstrated both facets each night, even though Brand New didn’t quite match the power of their performance from earlier in the year. In the face of the vapid landscape known as mainstream music, mewithoutYou, Thrice and Brand New prove that if you venture below the surface, not everything is barren.
Cornerstone Festival started in Illinois in 1984 and has since become one of the largest and most acclaimed festivals in the country. In June, thousands of fans flocked to the annual five-day event, featuring performances by bands such as Anberlin, Copeland, Flyleaf, Pillar, Skillet, Switchfoot and Underoath. Borrowing a page from last year’s Bamboozle Left, Cornerstone decided it was finally time to make their hard-hitting presence felt in Orange County last weekend, Sept. 28-29.
Night one’s schedule included Emery, Thousand Foot Krutch and Demon Hunter, but the second night was the main attraction. The first highlight belonged to Orange County’s own Project 86, who turned in a vigorous set consisting of eleven songs. Led by the active charisma of singer Andrew Schwab, the veteran rock outfit skewed towards material off of this summer’s Rival Factions.
While they pulled it off handedly most of the time, as evidenced by scorching opener “The Forces Of Radio Have Dropped A Viper Into The Rhythm Section” and “Evil (A Chorus Of Resistance),” during others it was a more mixed affair (“Illuminate,” “Pull Me Closer, Violent Dancer”). The band should have chosen to stick closer to their guns and pull more from their strong discography, as they did on “The Spy Hunter” and “My Will Be A Dead Man.” Closing with the only song of the night off of Drawing Black Lines – arguably their best album – “Stein’s Theme” proved they were merely saving the best for last. It all amounted to another solid outing from one of OC’s finest.
Anberlin was up next, putting on nothing short of a terrific performance. Kicking things off with “A Whisper & A Clamor” and “Never Take Friendship Personal,” the band’s set was equally full of both old and new material. Although “Readyfuels” was the only song from their debut record, the big surprise was that they played six off of their second. The noticeable standouts were the rocking “Paperthin Hymn” and “The Feel Good Drag,” but it was especially satisfying to see “Dance, Dance Christa Paffgen” live.
The band spent the rest of the time highlighting one of this year’s best releases, Cities. This included tracks “Hello Alone” and “Adelaide,” both of which were precisely executed, while the powerful duo of “Dismantle. Repair.” and “Godspeed” ended things in an emphatic manner.
Lead singer Stephen Christian did a pretty good job with the vocals, not quite up to his best but far from his worse, and impressed on a couple of high notes. He displayed a charming command of the stage as well, helping to compensate for the times when his frail voice was overshadowed by the guitars.
The Florida five-piece also maintained a high level of energy, led by rhythm guitarist Christian McAlhaney and bassist Deon Rexroat, with Nathan Young pounding away behind the drum kit. When all was said and done, Anberlin confirmed why they have become one of today’s brightest up-and-coming bands.
Metalcore act Underoath was given the task of closing out the festival, and the organizers couldn’t have selected anyone more fitting. The six-piece band, taking time out from their first headlining tour in over a year, brought their “A” game with a dominating 12-song set. They came onto the stage to the instrumental murmurs of “Salmarnir,” offering little more than a tease of what lay ahead, before exploding into the brutal one-two punch of “Returning Empty Handed” and “In Regards To Myself.”
Quick to follow were “It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door” and “You’re Ever So Inviting,” showcasing the dual vocals between screaming frontman Spencer Chamberlain and singer/drummer Aaron Gillespie. A portion of their quieter, more experimental nature was next demonstrated on the epic “To Whom It May Concern,” the closer off of last year’s phenomenal Define The Great Line.
“A Moment Suspended In Time” and “Young And Aspiring” kept things progressing at a high pace but were soon eclipsed by “Writing On The Walls” and “Everyone Looks So Good From Here,” which cranked the dial all the way up to eleven. Chamberlain then unexpectedly joined in on guitar for a stirring performance of “Casting Such A Thin Shadow” before the band closed with an oldie, “A Boy Brushed Red…Living In Black And White.”
Despite the festival’s constraints of production aspects and a limited set time, Underoath held nothing back and delivered an excellent show. Their seemingly limitless stamina, from the headbanging madness of keyboardist Chris Dudley to the controlled frenzy of guitarist Tim McTague to the vicious beatings generated by Gillespie, was living proof why they rank among the top live acts in today’s music scene.
In the end, Cornerstone California’s inaugural year turned out to be a fair success. While the lineup could have been stronger – it still has quite a ways to go to match its Illinois sibling – the headlining bands, especially the electrifying Underoath, proved they were up to the challenge. With some additional improvements and slight tinkering here and there, Cornerstone’s newest addition could be a force to reckon with for years to come.
Fresh off their opening stint for Fall Out Boy during this summer’s Honda Civic Tour, The Academy Is… is now in the midst of the first headlining tour in support of their second album, Santi. Boasting three very good opening bands, all of which were solid live, last Friday night’s stop of the Sleeping With Giants Tour at Anaheim’s House Of Blues is likely to be one of the best shows this fall.
Starting the night off was San Luis Obispo’s own Sherwood, who turned in a 30-minute set of seven delectable pop-rock songs. “Never Ready To Leave” got things going right off the bat, led by the dual vocal exchange of lead singer/bassist Nate Henry and singer/guitarist Dan Koch. For the rest of the time, they drew almost exclusively from their latest release A Different Light (the only old song was “Learn To Sing”), with highlights including “The Best In Me,” “Song In My Head,” and the stirring closer “For The Longest Time,” which showed off Henry’s vocal range. My only complaint was the similarity between this set list and those from their last two tours. It would have been nice to see them switch things up more or better yet receive an extended playing time. Nevertheless, it was another impressive display.
After Sherwood was The Rocket Summer, who stole the show with a 30-minute set simply bursting forth with energy. From the first song “Break It Out,” they had the whole place moving, and it never let up from there. Whether it was oldies “Around The Clock” and “Brat Pack” or new stuff like “Do You Feel” and “So Much Love,” it was all fantastically done, easily turning into the highlight of the evening. Lead singer Bryce Avary is one of the most energetic frontman I’ve seen, constantly moving around and giving his all while never missing a note in the process. Switching off from guitar to piano almost every other song, he showcased his extraordinary musical talents, even playing the drums during one transition. The only disappointment was once again how short the set was. The release of this summer’s Do You Feel and a live show that can’t be missed should ensure it won’t stay that way for much longer.
Armor For Sleep was given the difficult task of following up The Rocket Summer. While they weren’t able to match their effort, they still put together a solid nine-song, 40-minute outing. Kicking things off in high fashion was “The Truth About Heaven,” displaying a harder rock sound than the rest of bands on the bill. They went on to play several favorites off of their last release What To Do When You Are Dead, with obvious standouts being “Remember To Feel Real,” “Stay On The Ground” and “Car Underwater.” The New Jersey outfit also showcased a handful of new tunes off of next month’s Smile For Them, indicating a heavier direction on tracks such as “Williamsburg” and “Smile For The Camera.” Throughout the set, singer/guitarist Ben Jorgensen delivered consistent vocals, and the other band members sounded tight musically. Even though it was the weakest performance of the night, it was by no means a bad one, and proved why they have now achieved major label status.
Closing the night was The Academy Is…, who put on an entertaining show over the course of their 75-minute set. The Chicago quintet started things off in style with “Same Blood” before transitioning to older songs “Attention” and “Slow Down.” This proved to be a trademark of the night as the band split 18 songs evenly between their two albums. All of their best songs were included too, from the old (“The Phrase That Pays,” “Black Mamba,” “Down And Out,”) to the new (“We’ve Got A Big Mess On Our Hands,” “Bulls In Brooklyn,” “Neighbors,” “Seed”). They closed with “Checkmarks,” one of their finest songs to date, before coming out to encore with the b-side “40 Steps” and an impassioned performance of “Almost Here,” which ended things perfectly.
Frontman William Beckett’s rock persona was also on full display the entire night, which was quite amusing. Whether strutting around on stage or posing atop the risers, he demonstrated a remarkable presence, and it seemed he was able to work the crowd into a frenzy with the simple twist of his hand. Despite the antics, he never came across as arrogant or ungrateful, and his vocals were spot on for almost every song. The rest of the band, while not nearly as fun to watch, performed well in his shadow.
It baffles me how The Academy Is… has not received more mainstream attention, especially considering how they are among Fall Out Boy’s inner circle and Beckett can actually sing and perform live (unlike Panic!’s Brendon Urie). With their set, they not only showed off the musical diversity of Santi but played almost everything off of their debut as well, which was more than enough to please both old and new fans alike. Coupled with three other great up-and-coming bands, including an amazing showing from The Rocket Summer, it turned out to be quite the night for music.
For the better part of the past decade, Incubus has been one of the forefront bands in mainstream rock. Since 1999’s Make Yourself, they have gone on to sell over 7 million records, spawning several huge radio singles in the process. On tour in support of last year’s Light Grenades, their sixth album, they brought their powerful live show to the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Irvine last Friday.
Before the main event, The Bravery had the job of getting things started and, for the most part, the New York quintet performed well. The band began with the energetic duo of “Fearless” and “Believe,” kicking things off on a high note. However, the rest of their 11-song, 45-minute set wasn’t without its share of ups and downs.
Splitting their songs almost evenly between their self-titled debut and this year’s The Sun And The Moon, the band was at its best with the latter and failed to impress during the former. Outside of the opener and the hit “An Honest Mistake,” the older material tended to mesh together and skewer towards a generic styling of similar sounding bands. The newer material, such as “Time Won’t Let Me Go” and “Every Word Is A Knife In My Ear,” fared much better, showing an improved musicianship and songwriting ability while employing a fuller rock sound.
Performance-wise, guitarist Michael Zakarin threw in a couple nice solos, and lead singer Sam Endicott’s voice translated fairly well live, although he did struggle a bit on some of the higher notes. He also needs to learn to keep a guitar in his hands at all times because on the few songs without one, he flailed about with the mike stand in tow, demonstrating an awkward stage presence. Overall, the band’s show was solid if unspectacular, merely providing a glimpse at their future potential.
In front of a roaring, sold-out crowd, Incubus opened with the subdued “Quicksand” before blasting into the rocking trio of “A Kiss To Send Us Off,” “Nice To Know You” and “Anna Molly.” The remainder of the hour and forty-five minutes consisted of an eclectic 18-song set list, which should have come as no surprise to fans of the band.
While hits like “Stellar,” “Drive,” “Megalomaniac,” “Dig,” and their latest “Oil And Water” were scattered throughout, the band also went deep into their catalogue with songs “Nowhere Fast,” “Circles,” “Pistola,” “Here In My Room,” a b-side to Light Grenades entitled “Punch-Drunk,” a cover of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” and even dusted off oldie “Summer Romance (Anti-Gravity Love Song).” Noticeably missing were classics “Pardon Me” and “Wish You Were Here,” as well as others like “Warning” and “Talk Shows On Mute,” but these omissions proved to be the set’s only disappointments.
The Calabasas five-piece is an undeniably gifted group of musicians, and that talent was on full display over the course of the night. Lead singer Brandon Boyd has arguably the purest voice in rock music today, and his vocals were pitch perfect the entire time. Guitarist Mike Einziger demonstrated his amazing creativity with several impressive solos, and the band wasn’t afraid to break out into some improvised jam sessions as well. This was no more apparent than during their striking rendition of “Sick Sad Little World,” which featured remarkable drum, bass, and guitar solos, one right after another.
With no pyrotechnics or fancy light show sharing the spotlight, Incubus let their music stand for itself. After being together for over 15 years, it is rare to see a band like this continually push themselves musically while at the same time maintaining a high level of quality. Therefore it was only fitting they chose to close with the Asian-tinged “Aqueous Transmission,” complete with Einziger playing the Japanese instrument pipa, going out in their own unique style. As Friday’s night performance indicated, this is a band clearly in their prime.