Billy Joe Shaver To Make Everybody Happy At The Coach House

BILLY JOE SHAVER

BILLY JOE SHAVER plays The Coach House Apr. 24 and Stagecoach Apr. 29

There is a grit and glory to country music that is epitomized by the songwriting of Billy Joe Shaver, one of the original country outlaws who’s penned lyrics for Willie Nelson, Elvis Presley and many more. Shaver’s biggest achievement was the writing of 10 songs on Waylon Jenning’s 1973 album, “Honky Tonk Heroes” which is said to have started the country outlaw music movement of the 70’s.

The 75-year-old tour warrior will bring his talents to The Coach House on Apr. 24 to play a makeup date for last July’s cancellation due to a hip replacement procedure, before heading over to play the Stagecoach Festival Apr. 29.

Concert Guide Live had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Shaver prior to last year’s cancellation.

“We just keep on going. We take some breaks sometimes, but not much,” Shaver said. “We’re in Ventura now, then heading to LAX to catch a plane back to Austin. I may even have time for a shower.”

Though never claiming household name status, musicians like Kris Kristofferson, The Allman Brothers Band and Bob Dylan greatly admire Shaver and have recorded his songs. Dylan even immortalized Shaver in his 2009 song “I Feel a Change Comin’ On,” singing, “I’m listening to Billy Joe Shaver and I’m reading James Joyce.”

Musicians are born with talent, but have to learn the ways of the music business. Long before writing songs for country’s biggest and best, Shaver was a man with a guitar and some songs, playing small venues and learning the ropes of the music industry while taking advice when he could get it.

“Early in my life, way before I got to Nashville, I was playing a place and I was having real trouble with the sound system,” he said. “Well, I was having a rough time with it and I was kind of letting everybody know about it. Not too much, but enough that this fella (I don’t know who he was), he just come over and he motioned for me. I took a little break, and he took me outside and he said, ‘Man, I want to give you some advice and you can take it or leave it,’ he said, ‘it’s up to you’.”

“Then he said, ‘Whenever you’re playing a show make sure that you don’t let anybody know that you’re having a bad time because people didn’t pay good money to see you have a bad time. You’re going to have to act a little.’ And I did, I had to act for a long time, as long as those crap mics were around. I took his advice and I’ve been that way ever since. It’s not phony, it’s just that you’re trying to make everybody happy and that’s a good thing.”

Shaver’s had to use that advice many times, working through life’s adversities while always being a touring musician. His life story reads like a country outlaw song; it has its fair share of sadness and trouble, but always a bit of optimism to keep the train moving forward.

Shaver was divorced twice and married three times to the same woman, Brenda Shaver. In 1999, Brenda succumbed to cancer and within a year of her passing Shaver’s son and guitar player, Eddy Shaver, died of a drug overdose. That night, Billy Joe still took the stage and played a show at the advice of his friend Willie Nelson, knowing the only way to get through the tragic events was to play on. In 2007, he was charged with shooting a man in the face outside of a bar near his home in Waco, Texas and was later acquitted by a jury, pleading self-defense. Shaver later wrote a song about the incident titled, “Wacko From Waco” that details the entire event.

Shaver’s most recent album, 2014’s “Long in the Tooth,” is his first in seven years. His songs present a man feeling the ups and downs of being a bit older and a bit wiser.

On “Long in the Tooth,” Shaver maintains his authentic songwriting style that can be found lacking in some modern country music. In the album’s song, “Hard to Be an Outlaw” which he sings with his longtime friend Willie Nelson, Shaver writes, “Some super stars nowadays get too far off the ground / Singing ‘bout the back roads they never have been down / They go and call it country but that ain’t the way it sounds / Makes a renegade like me want to terrorize the town.”
Shaver doesn’t think writing an authentic song is too hard. “The way I see it, there ain’t no rules, thank God,” he said. “The way I see it is, if I do about three chords and the truth, that’s good.”

As for the future of country music, Shaver is optimistic.

“Oh, it’s gonna turn over, about every twenty years or so it turns over,” Shaver said. “When I wrote that ‘Honky Tonk Heroes’ album that Waylon Jennings did, everything turned around and everybody started singing that way. It was really honest and rough. A lot of people didn’t like it. They didn’t think it would help, they thought it would hurt the country music business because they were into these cheating songs and sequins and things like that… It’ll turn over; I’m making a prediction that it will. I’m a prophet, but I don’t make no profit.”

Black To The Future Tour With Ghost

Ghost

GHOST play Beach Goth 4 Oct. 24, The Mayan Theater Oct. 26, The Observatory North Park Nov.2

Ghost is the band your mother worried you would start listening to. Six masked, nameless ghouls play riffs so heavy and thumping that your hand reflexively turns the volume dial up.

Lead by Satanic anti-pope vocalist, Papa Emeritus III, tasked with overthrowing governments and churches, serenades you with lyrics that read like a manifesto for the decidedly damned heading on an epic journey toward darkness.

On Oct. 24 that road of ungodliness will lead followers to Beach Goth 4 at The Observatory Santa Ana, where the veiled group of Swedish musicians will be playing and leading the masses towards damnation through the power of rock-n-roll. The procession continues to The Mayan Theater Oct. 26 then to The Observatory North Park Theater Nov.2.

Papa Emeritus III and his nameless ghouls recently released the third Ghost album titled Meliora, but did not anticipate their presence and reach to become so renowned. “Initially it wasn’t really the plan, albeit that we had a high ambition with the band, especially from a live point of view,” a nameless ghoul said.

With the naivety of new musicians the band mainly hoped to begin playing festivals. “We thought you can make a record and as long as you have a record out you can basically just go around and do a few festivals every year and you can put on this big show and everything will be swell, but then we noticed you have to work your way up to that,” a nameless ghoul surmised.

Now, with more than one million likes on Facebook, an epic 63-date international tour underway, and rumors of iconic musicians like Dave Grohl donning a Nameless Ghoul mask and joining them on stage from time to time, the group has still been able to maintain perspective.

“I think that even though we’re obviously aware that it (the music) has taken us somewhere, it’s still very much a situation where we are just like, let’s just see if we can go a few steps further before we sort of pull the plug on whatever is going to end up happening,” a nameless ghoul said. “As much as that can come off as not living in the moment and not enjoying what you have, it’s mental survival in a way, not to get too caught up in the idea that this is forever.”

Behind their silver horned masks, make-up, black cloaks and demonic pope hats is a pretty reasonable and simple effect of their anonymity. Once off the stage, they go on to lead fairly normal lives without being tempted by the siren song of personal fame that can so often lead musicians down the truly dark path of narcissism. A nameless ghoul explains, “As far as popularity goes, I think that our anonymity or our unconventional way of not being profiled as personalities, I think that is a good change because almost every other band on the planet is hysterically profiling themselves as persons, to a point where it’s almost ridiculous sometimes.”

Being anonymous songbirds for the devil definitely grabs attention, but Ghost finds itself with a rapidly expanding devoted fan base thanks to their dynamic and melodic compositions. Songs like “Circle” or “Majesty” off their latest album meld soaring pop-esque vocals with chugging guitar riffs and swelling choruses. Meliora is a heavy metal record with chamber music interludes that would probably best be listened to live under the acoustics of a stained glass cathedral. Alas, this most likely will not happen anytime soon thanks to the whole satanic worship thing.

Eagles Of Death Metal Hang Out At A Club Near You

EAGLES OF DEATH METAL

EAGLES OF DEATH METAL play Teragram Ballroom Oct. 19 and 23, Belly Up Oct. 21, Beach Goth 4 Oct. 24 photo: Chapman Baehler

Childhood friends, Jesse Hughes and Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), comprise the quintessential rock band, Eagles of Death Metal (EODM), and write songs that induce an intoxicatingly urgent desire to thrash, sway, and most of all, boogie. This month they’ll release their highly-anticipated fourth album, Zipper Down, seven years after their last release. In connection with the new record, the band will head out on a world tour, making time for four shows in SoCal including two at Teragram Ballroom Oct. 19 and Oct. 23, Belly Up Oct. 21 and Beach Goth 4 Oct 24 at The Observatory.

EODM, who win the nonexistent award for best band name ever, got their start in 2004 with the release of their first album, Peace Love Death Metal, but the musical partnership of Hughes and Homme begins way back in the days of recess and bullies. It’s their long history that makes their songs so unique, as if you are eavesdropping on the inside jokes and stories of two old friends.

With only a week left before the release of Zipper Down, the hilarious and ridiculously entertaining frontman Jesse Hughes spoke with Concert Guide Live about touring, celebrating women and really enjoying this thing called rock-n- roll.

Concert Guide Live: When you’re touring, what do you like to do in the towns your visiting when you’re not actually at the gig?
Jesse Hughes: First thing I do when I get to any city is go for a five-mile walk. That’s the truth. Because the first three years of rock-n-roll, I started to notice that the whole world was looking like the walk from the back of the bus to the stage and I really don’t want to be the dude who comes to the end of this cool thing I’ve been doing and say “I never saw the Eiffel Tower the 800 times I was in Paris.” That isn’t gonna sit well…I don’t ever want that to be me.

CGL: Do you have any pre-show rituals?
JH: I like to walk right out of life onto the stage and what that means is, I don’t know, maybe I’m weird, I like people. I like hanging out with people and it’s more fun in front of the stage than backstage, so I hang out and try to greet as many people as I can before I go on stage. And then when I go on stage I literally am not lying, I literally can look at people and I can say, “I know you guys.” So it’s more like being in front of your friends than being in front of people that may not like you.

CGL: What’s a bizarre moment from a tour?
JH: Let me think of one that won’t become evidence. I mean, I’ve had some really interesting moments. We were coming back from Canada and at the boarder crossing, as the boarder cops were going through our bus with a meticulous fine-tooth comb, the aurora borealis appeared in the sky and we sat on the street observing and beholding the great wonder of the northern lights while officers of the Canadian law had not even a concept that it was going on, they were too focused on the drugs they were never going to find. That’s rock-n-roll, baby, that really is. You can literally go through rock-n-roll and not see anything, but if you just open your eyes you’ll see some pretty fucking amazing things.

CGL: How and when did your friendship with Josh Homme turn into a musical partnership?
JH: You know the first time you ever have a deep conversation on something you really love, it’s memorable, it’s epic to you. And the first conversations I ever had about music were with Joshua. He’s a great intellect and he’s also fucking hilarious, and he likes people too.

CGL: A recurring theme on your recently released album, Zipper Down, is women, and your love and lust for them. Why do you think women and that subject matter make for such good songwriting?
JH: I would only modify that question a little bit in that I celebrate the amazingness that is womanhood in general (and you could spell women in this instance w-o-m-y-n), that being said, girl, you got a mirror over there (with you)? Look at it and jump for joy cause you’re hot, you’re a lady, and that’s awesome. It’s a joyous thing, girl. Like, think about it. God made man and he’s like, “Alright, this is cool, but I’m gonna make something awesome now.” And it was girls.

CGL: And they deserve a lot of songs?
JH: Duh, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord!” And I can’t think of anything more joyful. The two most joyful things I can think of are left breast, right breast.

CGL: What do you think is the best love song written for a woman out there?
JH: “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” sung by Roberta Flack, that song makes me cry every time I hear it. I mean, I’m not even kidding you, every time I hear it. The musicality of that song, it’s so beautiful and there’s no denying the poetry of it. The man is in love, there’s no denying it, and it’s not just a lust or anything else, it’s epic. That’s a beautiful love song. That or ‘We Want Some Pussy’ by 2 Live Crew.

CGL: Do you have any advice for new bands that are just getting their start?
JH: Well, it’s really easy to make it in show business and my advice is have a really incredibly talented 6’5” redheaded biking monster superstar best friend who will open all the doors and stand on the playground with you when you fight the bullies. It’s not really like being in anyone’s shadow; it’s like making it in the shade.

Truthfully though, people only know what you tell them and you don’t use words when you’re telling people anything, tell them your amazing. My grandmother had the best phrase, she’d say, “You catch more fish with a net than with a line,” and I’d say, “What the fuck does that mean?” and she’d say, “Well son, when you’re hitting on a girl, you go up to her, you talk to her, that’s a line, but an attitude is something you say to the whole room and you’ll catch every fish.” And that’s really the attitude that prevails in almost any situation.

Chris Hillman Sings Classic Byrds And More

CHRIS HILLMAN

CHRIS HILLMAN and Herb Pedersen play The Coach House Oct.18

In music, there are the icons that are incredibly well known and credited with keeping music evolving. Then there are those whose names don’t ring with the greatest of ease, but whose songs we know the words to, whose writing started new genres, whose achievements are intricately woven into the fabric of rock-n-roll history. Chris Hillman, bassist for The Byrds in the 60’s and member of The Flying Burrito Brothers in the late 60’s and early 70’s, is one of those people. Credited with being an originator of country-rock music, Hillman’s influence can be heard in the musical stylings of bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Eagles, Wilco, Zac Brown Band and so many more. On Oct. 18, Hillman will bring his lengthy catalogue to The Coach House.

He began his music career playing with different bluegrass groups in rural areas of San Diego. “I was 18, I had a fake ID and I was playing all these hillbilly bars,” Hillman recalled. “I loved it and then all of a sudden a door opened for The Byrds and I really lucked my way into that job.”

Hillman was offered a gig with the newly forming band, The Byrds, as a bass player. Not knowing how to play the bass, he still said yes to the opportunity and became a member of the band’s first incarnation, which would also include Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, David Crosby and Michael Clarke. The Byrds would go on to be known as America’s answer to The Beatles and record iconic songs like “Turn! Turn! Turn!” and “Eight Miles High,” the latter of which ushered in a new era of psychedelic music. “So You Want To Be A Rock-n-Roll Star” which was co-written by McGuinn and Hillman took the first steps into the genre of country-rock.

When Hillman left The Byrds in 1968, he teamed up with legendary lyricist Gram Parsons (who also briefly played with The Byrds in the later years) to form The Flying Burrito Brothers. Continuing the country-rock sound that had started with The Byrds, Parsons and Hillman wrote songs that expanded the realm of their budding style. The band never gained the fan base or commercial success that The Byrds had, but their albums have become cult classics in the music industry. Later Hillman would go on to have a successful career with the band Desert Rose and as a solo artist from the late 70’s through today.

What might most differentiate today’s music scene from what the industry was like when Hillman started his career is the difference in fluidity of bands. As Hillman notes, “It was the business, it was the music scene. You could work within that small, close-knit community. When you got on a record label, if you were good enough to get on a record label and you had the song, you had pretty much free reign to experiment and create. Now I look in on country music once in awhile and it’s really dreadful. It’s manufactured, it’s all image and the songs are insulting, the lyrics are all the same.”

Today Hillman is 71 and lives in Ventura, CA. Though he still writes and enjoys playing live, he’s not sure that another album will be in the works for him. “Am I chasing a career?” Hillman said. “I don’t think so.”

Whether another album comes out or not, Hillman has absolutely solidified his place in rock history. More than 50 years after joining The Byrds and beginning a lifelong career in music, Hillman’s performance at The Coach House is sure to be an inspiring and reflective show.

The Wayfarer Heads Into Year Two Devoted To New Music

The Wayfarer

VENUE SPOTLIGHT: The Wayfarer photo: Dan Atkinson

When people look at Orange County, a thriving live music scene might not be the first thing they see, but one small, reinvented spot is trying, with unwavering might, to change that. The Wayfarer: A House Of Social Provisions opened its doors in July of 2014, and a year later the spot is more popular, and important, than ever.

When the owner of the former Detroit Bar sold the location to local entrepreneur Jeffery Chon in early 2014, many Orange County residents hung their heads in disappointment. There was a panic that the area, already short on venues, was going to lose an establishment that had helped propel the local music scene. Musicians worried they were losing a home where they could test the waters as an artist then mature and grow into the genre they loved, or better yet, create a brand new sound that was all their own. Fears were laid to rest when it was announced that the new bar would maintain its music presence.

Keeping the reputation of Detroit Bar while making the space fresh and new was an interesting challenge for Chon. “I definitely was concerned with the Detroit Bar branding,” Chon said. “It was a double-edged sword. Obviously having its long-standing music reputation, but also having been around beyond its ‘prime’. It was a difficult thought-process in figuring out how to keep that great reputation while offering a new, improved ambience to our community.”

Chon’s remodeling concept involved a completely new style and appearance for the bar’s layout. Even a year later, his completed vision has customers blown away, to say the very least. The location has a fresh look, more space, and a much more accessible bar along with a new sound system, from local Costa Mesa company QSC, that has reinvigorated the performances. Visually, the biggest change has to be the unveiling of the space’s open ceiling. For those who have spent any time in the venue’s past incarnations, it’s hard to believe that hiding under those low ceilings was this beautiful piece of architecture. Fortunately, the opening of the ceiling didn’t damage the acoustics of the concert space since the room is small enough that sound reverberates out well.

The changes make it much easier for all people in the building to watch shows as well as socialize, play pool, or have a bite. Behind the bar sits the newly installed kitchen where Chon used his previous restaurant entrepreneur experience (Chon also owns The Alley in Newport Beach and Tabu Shabu in Eastside Costa Mesa) to put together a creative menu that adds an entirely new dynamic to the bar. Rather than having the choice of two fast food places a ways down the road for a quick, late-night snack, patrons can select from a house menu of eclectic treats, such as spicy shrimp scampi or avocado fries.

The vast changes weren’t all easy. The Wayfarer is Chon’s first experience operating a music venue, and there is a definitely learning curve to the endeavor. “Quite a few difficulties in learning anything for the first time,” Chon said. “But having a passion for something and being able to project this passion into a day-to-day effort to learn something new made it easier. Understanding the actual economics of music and the industry was my biggest challenge. Luckily with the help of more experienced people, like Eric Keilman (talent buyer), the learning curve was in my favor.”

Keilman has called 843 W. 19th St. his musical home for years, first as the house talent booker for Detroit Bar, and then carrying his role over to The Wayfarer during the ownership change. The man knows his music, local talents especially, and he’s had a front row seat while watching the Orange County music scene evolve.

“It seems like the bands in the area are getting better and better,” Keilman said. “There seems to be somewhat of a scene starting. It started at Detroit Bar, but it seems like it’s growing. Some of these local bands are coming out of the woodwork and playing great music. I mean, we’ve had some national stuff come through, but it’s really nice to see how strong the local bands are.”

It’s that passion and appreciation for local musicians that makes Keilman so good at his job. Although not a musician himself, music is fully ingrained in his life. “I’m always going to shows. I’ve been going to shows since I was like, 14 or 15, and I’m 39 now,” Keilman said. “I’ve resolved to working in restaurants my whole life just so I could go to the shows I want to.”

His devotion to music also makes him an empathetic talent booker. “I worked with local bands before doing booking so I know how their day goes. They go to work, they have to possibly load their car before they go to work, come straight from work, play all night, and then get home, so it’s a long day, and then they have to get up and go to work the next day. So you just appreciate the time they put in.”

Keilman seems just as impressed with Chon’s work ethic as he does with the local Orange County bands that make The Wayfarer their home. During the three-month renovation period, Chon was as hands-on as they come.

“He (Chon) was here every day, even with the construction, he was hands-on,” Keilman said. “He was here eight in the morning until close. Just to get the place done in three months, he had to be here everyday and help out. He’s here every day making sure everything is running right and it’s really nice to see.”

It’s rare to meet a new owner who puts so much personal time and sweat into a project and it shows a dedication that can be lacking at other venues. Chon’s devotion to the continued success of Orange County’s favorite spot for local music is evident in his desires for continued improvements in the building. Keilman describes Chon’s latest undertaking, “He just came up to us a couple weeks ago and said, ‘I’m going to extend the stage out.’ So some of his muscle is into that right now.” Chon’s dedication to The Wayfarer’s continued improvement provides hope that this music venue is here to stay for a long time.

Even before bands and customers could see inside the reimagined iconic spot, Chon was dropping his heart, talent, and a lot of cash into the place, not only working to restore the space to its prime, but to make it better than it had ever been. A year later, after so many epic shows, good drinks, and delectable meals, The Wayfarer crew can say, “mission accomplished.”

But what is the most rewarding part of it all for Chon? “Whenever I have opened a new venture, the most fulfilling part is the people, plain and simple,” Chon said. “Being introduced to a new group of ‘regulars’ new clientele is the thrill of the hospitality and entertainment industry. With the Wayfarer, I was lucky enough to have local music be just as new and exciting. Both customers and musicians alike, were the new experiences that provide the foundation of doing what I do.”

With Chon’s industrious creativity and Keilman’s unparalleled local music knowledge, The Wayfarer will continue to be a welcoming home for the many talented artists who develop in Orange County. It’s a place designed to nourish up-and-coming musicians, as well as provide a superior space for more established national bands that stop in town. Best of all, it’s a sanctuary for all those who love to listen. Many different genres of artists and audiences will pass through its open doors, but one thing will ring true to all, The Wayfarer is a gem of Southern California.

The Coathangers Return To Burger A-Go-Go

The Coathangers

THE COATHANGERS return to Burger A-Go-Go Sept. 4 Photo: Jeff Forney

With less sugar and more spice fueling their raw and commanding music, The Coathangers will head to The Observatory on Sep. 4 for the second annual Burger A-Go-Go festival. The band, comprised of Meredith Franco (bass / vocals), Julia Kugel (guitar / vocals) and Stephanie Luke (drums / vocals), will bring their punch-in-the-gut assortment of songs to the stage and deliver what is sure to be an energy-packed performance. With four albums under their belt and another soon to be in the works, the trio’s music has reached a new level of refinement while maintaining its high-intensity punk origins.

Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, The Coathangers originally formed as a quartet with the sole ambition of playing house parties and satisfying their insatiable appetite for fun. Without any previous experience playing music, the women grabbed gear, practiced a ton and started opening for bands like The Hiss and The Black Lips.

The band describes the music scene in Atlanta with a tenderness that is in juxtaposition to their hardline music. Supported by their Atlanta counterparts, their music quickly began to garner its own fanbase thanks to its raucous power. The Coathangers took the time to speak with Concert Guide Live and let us in on some of the fun that’s ensued since they first picked up their instruments.

CONCERT GUIDE LIVE: You’ve played Burger A Go-Go in the past. What is the event like as an artist? Are there any sets that you are looking forward to watching at the 2015 festival?
THE COATHANGERS: The event is always a blast, almost like a reunion of sorts because you get to see other bands you’ve played with in the past. As far as this year, we are stoked to see all of the amazing bands they lined up, really stoked for Cat Power!

CGL: What is one of the most bizarre moments that has happened at a Coathangers show?
TC: Ooof ha, well, recently when we were in Bulgaria, we played in this little square outside and the entire village came out, like grandma, grandpa, kids, homeless dudes, there were dogs and like maybe a handful of punk kids. While we were playing on this makeshift stage, they all slowly made their way up on stage with us dancing like maniacs, chanting, high fiving, it was madness but it was also one of our favorite shows of all time. There was also a shit ton of free whiskey at that show, so that probably helped.

CGL: How have your live performances evolved since you first started playing?
TC: Well they’ve gotten way better, that’s a biggie! We’ve also gotten a bit more serious, like no more balloons and cookies at shows, playing the correct amount of time, not a lot of talking between songs, we just wanna get the energy waaaaay up and try and keep it there.

CGL: Have you seen your fanbase change much over the years? If so, how is it different today than it has been in the past?
TC: I think for the most part our fanbase is pretty much the same, just bigger. Ha! We have fans that range from our friends’ moms to the kids in the “scene”. It’s really gratifying because we want everyone to dig the music and I think that’s what’s happening.

CGL: What is the Atlanta music community like?
TC: It’s great! Like one big family, everyone knows everyone and helps each other out with getting shows, merch, recording etc. Atlanta’s music scene can be looked over sometimes, but it’s really great. Everything from metal to indie to garage to soul to noise, good stuff.

CGL: Who are you currently listening to?
TC: I’m currently listening to Curtis Harding, King Tuff, CCR, Stooges, Fiend Without A Face…We listen to everything. I’m personally trying to catch up on older music I’ve missed out on, and it affects everything. I think that’s why although we are deemed “punk” or “indie”. We are a hard band to explain sonically, which I think is great. Mass confusion!

CGL: Your 2014 album Suck My Shirt definitely had a more refined feel, while maintaining the intensity of your previous three albums. Has your writing process changed at all over the years?
TC: It has. I think every album we try and step up our songwriting game, especially on the album we are about to record. We write a song then play it a billion times then go, “Well, what if we put the chorus as the intro? Or maybe shift that weird guitar part to the end?” Stuff like that.

CGL: Are you doing any recording currently? Any plans for a new album?
TC: We go into the studio to record our fifth LP Aug./Sep. and it’ll come out next spring, it’s gonna be some next level shiiiiiiit.

La Luz Crowd Surf The Night At Soda Bar

LaLuz

LA LUZ played Soda Bar in San Diego

Just six shows into their 64-date world tour, La Luz, the surf-rock quartet from Seattle, made a significant splash in the San Diego music scene. With the release of their sophomore album, Weirdo Shrine still fresh in the air, Shana Cleveland (guitar), Alice Sandahl (keyboards), Lena Simon (bass), and Marian Li Pino (drums) took the stage at Soda Bar to unleash some of their new tracks, as well as please fans with memorable tunes from their first album.

The members of La Luz could be seen wandering the venue, selling merchandise and watching the opening bands before setting up their own gear and diving right into their eclectic mélange of music. It’d be easy to throw La Luz into a category of reverb-saturated surf-rock that, though entrancing, is not particularly dynamic, but this is simply not the case. The nuances in the band’s writing, as well as their impressive showmanship on stage tell a much different story.

More often than not, three-piece harmonies adorn their sound with Sandahl, Simon, and Pino finding their nook in the song with grace and ease. Their intoxicating voices float delicately above the room and are supported by Cleveland’s full and passionate guitar and melodic lyrics. Just as their nearly sickly-sweet harmonies have entranced the crowd, seemingly putting people under a spell of rare focus, a slick bass line and vigorous drums pull everyone back from the precipice. The bobbing of the crowds’ heads turn into full-fledged body gyration. La Luz may as well have an electric wire running up everyone’s back with the control that they find over their audience’s state of being.

After a few songs, the band joked about their backstage conversations with Cleveland saying her favorite Spice Girl was Scurvy Spice, a well-chosen new nickname. The ladies then inclined the audience to form a conga line around the bar, which sits in the center of the venue. The conga line idea morphed into a new plan in which Sandahl would crowd-surf the entire venue counterclockwise around the bar. The successfully completed maneuver was surely one of the best crowd-surfs ever done, maybe even on par with Flaming Lips singer, Wayne Coyne, rolling atop music festival attendees in a translucent plastic ball. The shenanigans were well received, pumping up the Wednesday night crowd to Saturday night levels of enthusiasm. Even better, the crowd-surfing experiment united the venue, which can sometimes separate into those standing listeners, who are there mostly to see the music, on one side of the bar and the sitting attendees, who might find themselves socializing throughout the show, on the other.

It’s easy to feel like you are witnessing something in the midst of splendor when watching La Luz. The four women exude confidence and comfort with one another and their stage. It’s because of this that their reach continues to grow. Their latest album, produced by fuzz rock king, Ty Segall, is already receiving glowing reviews and drawing them renewed and well-warranted attention. In the middle of their Soda Bar show, Cleveland noted that the band always found a good crowd in San Diego and that this time there seemed to be more people in attendance than ever before. Their growing crowd at the Soda Bar is surely just a foreshadowing of what the future holds for this talented group of musicians.

The show ended with a two-song encore and another crowd-surfing session, this time with Simon riding the waves of hands, bass still thumping along in her grip, until her cord unplugged and the crowd was told to return her to the stage. Simon managed to plug back in just in time to hit the last bass note of the night, an ominous tone bathed in fun that was the perfect exclamation point to La Luz’s last California show of the tour.

Rocky Votolato Brings New Perspective To Constellation Room

ROCKY VOTOLATO

ROCKY VOTOLATO plays Casbah Aug. 20, Constellation Room Aug. 22 and more Photo: Amber Knecht

When Rocky Votolato steps out to greet fans attending his performance at The Constellation Room in Santa Ana on Aug. 24, they will see something rare for most current shows, one man and one guitar. No band, effects or gimmicks will join Votolato on stage, just his heartfelt, honest songs that perfectly capture the confusion and mystery of life.

Born in Texas, Votolato moved to the Pacific Northwest during his formative high school years. It was there that his love for music began, “I got up there and started going to punk shows and it was just such a vibrant all ages scene at the time,” he said. “I saw bands like Fugazi and Jawbreaker and I was really grateful to be exposed to everything that was going on.”

Encouraged by the Pacific Northwest’s flourishing music scene as well as local radio station, KEXP, Votolato began playing in bands and writing music.

“Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie and all those bands were just getting started,” he said. “Some of my first shows were Death Cab and there were so many people in that scene that I was a part of that went on to have really successful careers in music and I think it just kind of fed into the scene there. KEXP being there and supporting artists that didn’t necessarily want to be a part of the mainstream or had a more underground approach or a DIY approach was huge for me and for a lot of other bands. That’s something that helps fuel the fire.”

The influences of some of Votolato’s first shows are reflected in his music. Though his solo albums veer from his punk roots, they maintain an intensity that is personified in the music, a demand to heed the words being sung because they can start a revolution in your soul.

Using his own experiences as inspiration for lyrics, Votolato writes indie-rock/folk music that finds stability and harmony while navigating the tricky waters of intense emotions.

“The main thing is the lyrics for me, making sure that they are communicating something I want to and just telling stories and trying to capture something transcendent and beautiful that way,” he said.

His forthright lyrics and cradling melodies keep his career strong and steady. Fifteen years, seven solo studio albums and countless tour dates later, an unexpected discomfort with making music crept into Votolato’s mind.

“Trust that everything happening is perfect,” Votolato sings in the first song on his latest studio album, “Hospital Handshakes.” Those words carry extra meaning for the singer whose demons had him questioning his musical purpose. After suffering from a bout of depression that coincided with a lack of musical inspiration and writer’s block, Votolato found himself considering retirement from music for a more stable life. In the end, after taking time away from recording and touring, as well as seeking help with his depression, Votolato’s music came flooding back in a flurry of original songs that would end up being the tracks on his latest album.

“That whole experience was extremely difficult, but I think it was also a gift because it kind of clarified things for me and gave me a new perspective,” he said. “You know, just kind of not being so hard on myself and being a little bit less of a perfectionist with everything I did with my career and with my music and just trying to let things flow and have fun.”

As evidenced by his current tour schedule, jam-packed with cross-country dates, Votolato is back to doing what he loves most.

“Sometimes you need to get away from it for a minute and have perspective to know what you loved about it in the first place and go back to it with that original inspiration,” Votolato said. Votolato’s upcoming intimate shows in Southern California are sure to have attendees feeling his renewed creativity and passion.

Rocky Votolato is also appearing at Casbah Aug. 20, The Garage Aug. 24 and The Troubadour Aug. 25.

Baby In Vain Take On The Echo

BABY IN VAIN

BABY IN VAIN play The Echo Aug. 11 photo: James Christopher

It’s been a rather exciting year for the members of Baby in Vain, the Danish band comprised of Benedicte Pierleoni (drums), Lola Hammerich (guitar / vocals) and Andrea Thuesen (guitar / vocals). First, their heavy as lead, gain saturated guitar and melodic melancholy harmonies had them in the studio recording their debut full-length album. Then their blues-rooted, sludgy sound earned the trio a second invite to play a series of cross-country shows with critically adored band, The Kills. The two-week tour will culminate with Baby in Vain headlining their own crowd-worthy gig at The Echo in Los Angeles on Aug. 11.

En route to their next stop in Cincinnati, Ohio, just a short three-day drive from LA in a crammed SUV, Hammerich explains how the second tour with The Kills came about; “We played four shows with them last October. The first time we somehow came into the pile of bands that they could choose from, and they chose us .So they just invited us to come again because I think they liked us, ha-ha!”

With the young median age of 20 years old, the ladies of Baby In Vain are making a name for themselves, and picking up momentum with their reinvigorated take on 90’s stoner rock and grunge, a genre normally dominated by the middle-aged men of yore. They may be a welcomed addition to the reemergence of noise rock that’s found its home in the LA music scene, but in Copenhagen the group remains a musical outlier.

“There’s a lot of different stuff, we’re not really a part of anything,” Hammerich said. “We have some friends who play, but it’s not like a scene. There’s a lot of hip-hop and a lot of R&B, Danish R&B kind of thing. And then there’s a lot of electronic. There’s a lot of rock, but not the kind of rock that we play, it’s more like punk.”

Inspired by albums from artists like Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age, Baby in Vain found their sound after their formation in 2010, and evolved to become the enigma of the Danish music scene that they are today. Tunes like 2012’s “Sweetheart Dreams” drip with dangerously ominous guitar riffs. Slow and steady vocals float atop like witches singing while stirring a black cauldron’s thick brew. The effect is hypnotic, to say the least.

Though heavy sounds permeate the group’s performances, their music tastes outside of the band remain eclectic, even lighthearted.

“We just listened to Neil Young and I wanted to find this song ‘Traveling Soldier’ by the Dixie Chicks, but I don’t have it,” Hammerich said when asked about their music choices on the road. “I want to listen to it. If I had it, it would have been the first song we put on because it seems perfect for this desert drive.”

Like their taste in road trip playlists, the band’s character is not defined by their heavy recordings either. Though in music videos and performances they can present a mean mug and sinister glare, it is only one dimension of their image. In reality, though serious about their music, they are three friends enjoying the opportunity of touring and playing together with goofy moments and bizarre anecdotes following their every move.

“We kind of just try to have fun, but I mean we’re also aggressive on stage,” Hammerich said. “It’s not like we put on some character for the stage. I just think it’s more interesting to make music that’s not, you know, just all happy. That’s at least the music I listen to myself, but that’s only one part of who we are as people. So we can have a laugh even though our music is serious, but also our music can be humorous. It’s not all dark.”

With new songs to be released on their upcoming album, Baby in Vain continues to see their sound evolve and mature. “Old recordings, I can’t stand,” Hammerich said. “Like the old releases of ours I never listen to because I don’t think it’s good enough. But the new stuff we’re doing is a lot better.

“It’ll be our first full-length. It was the first time we’ve had more than five days in the studio! So we’ve taken our time with making it right and also for the first time we are working with a producer who we feel is taking songs where they are supposed to go.”

As with most artists, Baby in Vain can be their own harshest critic, but if past singles are any indication of what is to come with their 2015 album, listeners are in for a treat…and hopefully another (longer) U.S. tour.

Ready For Anything Pat Benatar And Neil Giraldo Play Three In SoCal

PAT BENATAR & NEIL GIRALDO

PAT BENATAR & NEIL GIRALDO play Belly Up Aug 4 and 5, Pacific Amphitheater Aug 6.

It’s been more than 35 years since Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo first began working together and released the album, “In The Heat Of The Night.” Now, to celebrate their timeless songs and musical partnership, the two head to Belly Up in Solano Beach on Aug. 4 and 5, then over to Pacific Amphitheatre Aug. 6 as a part of their 35th anniversary tour celebrating three-and-a-half decades of music, collaboration and love.

“We figured we’d better do an anniversary tour now before we got too old to remember which damn anniversary it was,” Benatar said.

Benatar and Giraldo’s partnership began in 1979 when Giraldo (who also goes by the nickname, Spyder) was brought in as a guitarist to work on a young, relatively unknown, Benatar’s debut album. With the help of Giraldo, Benatar’s music took on a power and forcefulness that would become her signature sound. Her first album included the rock n’ roll anthem “Heartbreaker” and had listeners everywhere aching to hit the same searing, mezzo-soprano vocals as the fierce Benatar. The album was the beginning of Benatar and Giraldo’s musical partnership, rock n’ roll love affair and eventual marriage.

The hits persistently poured out from Benatar and Giraldo’s collaborative relationship. They managed to continually push their music to supreme quality and in 1980, Benatar’s second album, “Crimes of Passion,” (which featured the single “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”) went five-time platinum.

“We have been each other’s champion since day one,” Pat said. “We have tremendous respect for each other as people and artists. Spyder has always pushed me out of my comfort zone and I reel him in so humans can understand what he’s talking about.”

Their collaborative artistry continued to cement their place in rock n’ roll history. A year after the release of “Crimes of Passion” Benatar and Giraldo became the first female and guitar player, respectively, to appear on MTV with the video for “You Better Run.”

For Giraldo, the pair’s achievements lie in their ability to be completely honest with one another and in their determination to exceed the boundaries of averageness.

“We are not satisfied with just being mediocre and we challenge that by being truthful about the creation of music,” he said. “We can say we don’t like something to one another and it doesn’t hurt our feelings. It’s also hard work; we are not lazy and I believe you have to reinvent yourself everyday, expect greatness and never quit.”

With Benatar’s nine Grammy nominations and four consecutive Grammy wins for Best Female Rock Performance in the early 80’s, it’s impossible to dispute the success of this vibrant couple’s collaborative maneuvers.

Though Giraldo may never have seen the same amount of spotlight or celebrity status as his wife, his influence runs deep in the iconic songs of their shared music. Entwined with Benatar’s soaring vocals are the dynamic arrangements of Giraldo. His guitar finds a zen-like balance in those timeless tunes, always there to provide a tasty riff when needed most, but confident enough to let Benatar’s vocals take the lead and allow lyrics like, “Before I put another notch in my lipstick case, you better make sure you put me in my place,” to be branded forever in the minds of the countless who listen.

“A great song has many elements and they have to all line up — lyric connection, tempo, treatment, recording the ghost on the track…on and on,” he said. “I’m grateful and thankful for the success we have received from many of those songs.”

Their music has always had the ability to be a soundtrack to life. Whether listeners need a moment to feel desperately in love, relentlessly heartbroken or ruthlessly rebellious, there is a Benatar/Giraldo song that is bound to hit the mark.
With their huge catalogue of timeless tunes to choose from, Benatar and Giraldo continue to tour and perform with energy, vigor and glee for their adoring fans.

“We’ve been really lucky…” Benatar said. “The audiences are still so enthusiastic and are different every night. We go out there ready for anything, which makes it a lot of fun.”

The couple continues to support one another both musically and romantically more than 35 years after first meeting and their collaboration continues today. “As for where we’re going next, musically…who knows?” Benatar said. “Spyder always has something up his sleeve.”

Love may be a battlefield, but Giraldo and Benatar are certainly masters of harmony.

The new LIVE “35th Anniversary Tour” is available now at iTunes, Amazon and your favorite music retailers!