Mike Knott at The Viper Room

Two things I’ve heard.

You should never meet your heroes in person and The Viper Room is crazy loud. Fortunately, meeting Mike Knott a couple times never once diminished my love for his incredible discography. The Viper Room is ridiculously loud for sure. Unfortunately, I didn’t get there to see Mike Knott with Andy Prickett, Eric Campuzano, Ed Benrock and Robert Meyer. Post-major label letdown with Aunt Bettys and pre-vagabond wandering, this show is pretty slick and controlled because it was a label showcase.

Rather than suck all the guts out, that makes for one of the best bootleg listens I’ve heard in ages. Recorded directly from the soundboard, this is a must for fans of Knott and The Prayer Chain, and everyone else tired of soulless auto-tuned radio drivel.

https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=4122991968/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/tracklist=false/transparent=true/

 

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Review: The Gaslight Anthem w/ Against Me! Live at 930 Club

20140910_201938Attending two live shows in three days at the same venue definitely gives you a unique perspective. As I sit down to write this review, I find myself comparing the shows. This would be unfair even if the artists were similar. In this instance, they aren’t, so I am ardently to look at last night’s show in a vacuum.

Last night’s show featured two bands that share relatively similar genres…and not much else. At this point in time, Against Me! has become an elder statesman on the punk circuit. With six albums and over a decade of touring under their belts, they have built up a relatively small but diehard following. Known primarily for combining fast, punchy guitar riffs with pulsing drum beats and lyrics that are overtly political, Against Me! knows what they are good at, and they execute.

But what made last night’s performance so intriguing was the widely publicized subject of lead singer Laura Jane Grace and her gender dysphoria.  Born Tom Gable, Laura Jane Grace announced she would be transitioning to life as a woman in a powerful and extremely poignant article published in Rolling Stone in 2012. This was the second time I had seen Against Me!, but the first since 2012. I’m unashamed to admit that I was curious to see what, if anything, might be different about the band and its lead singer.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out the answer: very little had changed, and a lot had changed. Against Me! was the same in-your-face,  unapologetic whirlwind of punk that I had enjoyed as a younger version of myself, when their songs about subjects such as teenage anarchy, disenchantment with the military industrial complex, or drinking too many Guinness resonated most deeply. With their new album Transgender Dysphoria Blues, the whirlwind is still there, even if the subject matter has changed. With the album title setting the stage, the new Against Me! isn’t shy about attacking head on the issues that Laura Jane Grace has faced in her transition to being a woman – fear, rebellion, hatred, desire for acceptance, and many others. The album is powerful because it’s personal, and that comes through even more live. In many ways, Against Me! is as good and relevant as ever.

The headliner of the night was The Gaslight Anthem, a band that has now released five albums since 2007, the most recent being Get Hurt in early August, 2014. This show was the opening act of a tour for the aforementioned record, a tour that will take them all over North America and Europe.

20140910_214537I don’t secretly like The Gaslight Anthem – they have been one of my favorite bands for over six years. This was my second time seeing them live, while also seeing a solo acoustic show a few years back with lead singer Brian Fallon. But coming into last night, that favoritism had begun to wane. Get Hurt takes Gaslight in a new direction. Gone are the days of uber-catchy, vivid, punk-inspired, heart-broken, modern-day Springsteen tracks. In place are grungier, arena-sized rock anthems that leave a lot to be desired. And the change is just as evident live as it is on the new album. An over-the-top light show attempted to distract from the fact that they played very few songs from their previous four albums. This didn’t feel like a band wanting to proudly unleash new tracks to the world – but rather, a band that was hiding from its past. As if their fans had forgotten where they came from.

Admittedly, the show was entertaining throughout. But what it more readily accomplished was to defend my pre-conceived notions that the band had changed, and in my opinion, not for the better. No single moment better portrayed Gaslight’s attempt at transitioning to serious rock band than their choice for final song of the night – The Who’s “Baba O’Riley (Teenage Wasteland).” This, apparently, was a page ripped directly from their primary inspiration for the new album – Pearl Jam. Unfortunately, it came across as far too contrived, and left a lot to be desired until The Gaslight Anthem (hopefully) goes back to their roots.

Set List

2014 Week of the Concert

The vast majority of my posts for Pop Heart Etc. consist of concert reviews. This week will be no different – just more of the same in a condensed period of time. Here is my concert-going schedule for the upcoming week. Reviews of each will follow shortly after.

Monday, September 8
Ryan Adams @ 930 Club in Washington, D.C. (This is an album release show for Ryan’s upcoming self-titled album)

Wednesday, September 10
The Gaslight Anthem w/ Against Me! @ 930 Club in Washington, D.C. (Gaslight is touring on their newest album, Get Hurt)

A Throwback Worth Throwing Back For

Brand New at FillmoreI have been on a bit of a losing streak recently when it comes to seeing bands from my youth some 10 years past their prime. While most of these shows – but not all – had been of the anniversary/reunion-type, they did all have another thing in common – they were extremely disappointing.

– The Ataris’ “So Long Astoria” 10 year anniversary tour earlier this year, of which Ryan posted about in March (I saw them in DC, and my review would not have been as kind as Ryan’s)

– Thursday’s “Full Collapse” 10 year anniversary tour back in 2010

– Jealous Sound’s “Kill Them With Kindness” 10 year anniversary tour in 2013

So much so that I had begun to question a couple things. Yes, whether they were worth my time and money. But more importantly, whether they were harming the memories from my youth of seeing the same bands. There is something unsettling about seeing someone on their last leg trying for one last gasp, whether it be a musician, athlete, politician, etc.

So I was necessarily skeptical about seeing my all-time favorite band – Brand New – at the Fillmore in Silver Spring, MD. Would this just be a repeat – a band from my youth trying their best to stay relevant, despite evidence to the contrary?

No, this was not an anniversary show. But Brand New has been one of the most enigmatic bands of the last decade and a half – touring when/where they want, going silent for long stretches of time and reappearing without any new material, refusing to give interviews, being detached and cold with audiences and fans. So it was anybody’s guess what to expect.

They did not disappoint. This was the 5th time that I had seen Brand New live, and their performance end up trailing only a 2003 show at the House of Blue Sunset Strip in Hollywood, CA.

Touring without new material is often a hit for audiences – you are assured to hear songs from whatever your favorite album may be, rather than half the setlist being compiled of tracks nobody knows. That was the case here. Brand New played a well-rounded mix from 3 of their 4 studio albums, with debut album “Your Favorite Weapon” being the odd man out.

See below for a setlist.

The Color Morale, Born of Osiris at Outland Ballroom

On a whim, the other night, I wandered over to a metalcore/deathcore show at Spingfield, MO’s fine live venue The Outland Ballroom.

I came in on the tail end of The Color Morale’s set, the band’s final set before embarking on Warped 2014. Exuding a kind of earnest passion and optimism not often seen/heard in metal, I really enjoyed the three songs I heard.

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The first thing I noticed upon arrival was someone bleeding from a head wound which more or less sums up the sound of Born of Osiris who followed TCM with a brutal, pummeling set which delighted the assembled throng of fans who came to get crazy. Not my normal scene but I had a blast. My only question is, does every current metal band have to use so many backing tracks? (including an entire set with a distinctly separate rhythm guitar)

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Future Islands play The Observatory OC

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It seems like Future Islands is one of those bands that burst onto the scene in a thunderstorm of buzz. It began with an appearance in March on the David Letterman show where their performance left the host nearly speechless.  Then they scored a slot at the famed Coachella festival where front man Samuel Herring’s eccentric stage performance set the Internet a chatter with accolades ranging from worship to down right disgust.  So when I had the chance to see them during Localchella here in the greater Los Angeles area I knew I couldn’t pass it up.

The crowd packed into the intimate Constellation room at The Observatory OC until we were sardines sharing sweat and oxygen. As soon as Future Islands took the stage the crowd broke into a “Happy Birthday” serenade to Herring. Turns out he recently celebrated his 30th birthday. Sweetly he thanked the crowd then turned to his band mates and spun around singing out the first notes of what was to prove to be a wild show. For several songs the crowd cheered, sang along and danced with Herring.  Each time he did his signature squat dance moves (refer to the YouTube video below) the fans shrieked with excitement.  At times Herring was so lost in his music that he began singing to imaginary people/objects/or maybe lost memories. He’d reach his hand out as he was singing and then pull it back to himself hitting his chest or shoving it in his mouth only to fling it back out like he was resurrecting something lost deep within himself. Somehow it all worked. We were transfixed.

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By the fourth song in the set the crowd started surging with increased intensity as Herring danced and gyrated on stage. These fans didn’t just love this band they were eating up every single disco move, guttural growl and drip of sweat until  that energy was thrown back to the stage.  His performance verges on crazy and Herring himself described his dance moves as weird, but this over-the-top performance is what the fans love.

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Another part of what draws people to Herring, I believe, is the mash up of a singing voice. He goes from singing pop hooks when suddenly he drops down into a low cookie-monster-like growl when a mischievous grin spreads across his face and a quirky high pitched voice comes out.  But the thing is when he actually lets go and sings, the man can sing! His baritone voice is clear, deep and emotive. When he allowed himself those pure singing moments I could hear and see the talent that moved beyond the theatrics. He clearly is a romantic and finds joy in what he does and possibly all the dancing and death metal growling that he does is the purest expression of that joy. Like all buzz bands, Future Islands really isn’t an overnight sensation; they have been a decade in the making and don’t seem to be disappearing anytime soon. I walked out of the show knowing that the buzz surrounding Future Islands is no joke, this is a dynamic synth-pop group that will no doubt continue to rise to stardom.

 

Cut Copy play the Hollywood Palladium

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What’s the sign of a good concert? When you completely forget about taking pictures, remembering the set list and thinking up creative descriptions of the performance, all because you were too busy dancing. That’s exactly what it was like when Australia’s synth-pop band Cut Copy played at the Palladium in Hollywood. While Mixing hits from their first three albums such as ‘Lights and Music’, ‘Take Me Over’ and ‘Hearts on Fire’ combined with new dancy-pop goodness off their latest album, Free Your Mind. Dan Whitford was true to his zealous and energetic stage self; singing and commanding the audience while bringing LA to its dancing knees. Enjoy the few pictures I snapped when I had the presence of mind to stop moving for a split second and digitally capture the moment.

 

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 This was Cut Copy’s last North American show for the time being, but don’t fret, if they tour Free Your Mind anything like Zonoscope, they will be back before you know it.

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