Royal Blood Darken SoCal With Three

ROYAL BLOOD

ROYAL BLOOD play Observatory/Santa Ana Aug 13, Observatory/San Diego Aug 15, The Wiltern Aug 16; photo James Christopher

The walls will be shaking once again at The Observatory/Santa Ana Aug. 13, The Observatory/San Diego Aug. 15 and The Wiltern Aug. 16, when ultra-heavy, two-piece Royal Blood take the stage in support of their recently released How Did We Get So Dark?

With fans in high places like Jimmy Page, Howard Stern, Foo Fighters and the Arctic Monkeys, it’s hard to believe Brighton’s own Mike Kerr (vocals / bass) and Ben Thatcher (drums) made their first demos a mere two years ago. The name-dropping of the above titans does provide an insight into Royal Blood’s sound, a combination of all of Zeppelin’s most thundering moments, the melodic thrashery of Foo Fighters and the sharp, English sexiness of Alex Turner and company.

Friends since their mid-teens, Kerr and Thatcher joined up on a whim in their mid 20s, upon Kerr’s return from time abroad in Australia. The story goes, Thatcher picked Kerr up at the airport and the two listened to riffs and snippets of songs Kerr had written, which Thatcher loved. The duo fleshed out four songs and played their first gig that very same night.

This break-neck pace has become par for the course in the burgeoning career of Royal Blood. It wasn’t long before they were playing to crowds of 30,000, and opening for Arctic Monkeys at Finsbury Park for what was only their third show in London. All this occurred before the release of their self-titled, debut album, which was released in August of 2014.

Royal Blood is an impressive exercise in showing-off just how dynamic a two-piece can be. Songs like “Figure It Out,” “Come On Over” and “Loose Change” charge full-steam-ahead with Kerr’s distorted bass filling, then annihilating, any hole left by the lack of a lead guitar player, while Thatcher’s syncopated, machine-gun sound serves as the bedrock foundation for their ultra-rhythmic, yet melodic, style.

Their self-titled debut album was well-received by music fans and critics alike, and prompted more praise from Jimmy Page who said, “Their album has taken the genre up a serious few notches. It’s so refreshing to hear, because they play with the spirit of the things that have preceded them, but you can hear they’re going to take rock into a new realm – if they’re not already doing that. It’s music of tremendous quality.”

How Did We Get So Dark? took the band up a few more notches, hitting No.1 in the U.K. upon its release and selling out shows across the U.S.!

Read 2015 concert review: Royal Blood Concert Review

Nick Waterhouse Executes His R&B

NICK WATERHOUSE

NICK WATERHOUSE plays Teragram Ballroom Jun 21 and The Wayfarer Jun 24; press photo

Nick Waterhouse is traveling up and down the West Coast with his timeless, stylish R&B, playing Teragram Ballroom Jun 21, Belly Up Jun 22, Pappy and Harriet’s Jun 23, and The Wayfarer Jun 24.

When I call him on the phone, Waterhouse is in the middle of loading up a van for the tour. A van much smaller and more beat-up than the rental place promised.

“I project elegance with very primitive tools,” he explains, the slightest hint of self-mockery in his voice.

I can tell he’s not looking forward to slogging it, or “facing the realities of hitting the road on a low-to-mid-size budget,” as he tastefully put it, and he’s still jet-lagged from the string of European shows he just finished up in support of his latest record, Never Twice.

It’s clear that the last year has been hard on Waterhouse. He’s still nomadic, routinely going back and forth between San Francisco and Los Angeles, while all his friends are settling down and “domesticating.”

“I’m the only one who doesn’t know where I’m going to live next month,” he explains, the weariness in his voice making it clear that bachelorhood may be losing some of its charm.

The difficulties of making Never Twice, due to Waterhouse’s insistence on working with his old mentor Mike McHugh, have also taken their toll. McHugh—who took Waterhouse under his wing when he still ran The Distillery in Costa Mesa—had recently gotten out of jail and was in the midst of a psychotic break, making the process a waking nightmare.

“When you’re the subject of a paranoid fixation, and if you’re a sensitive person like I am, it’s really challenging when somebody is having a full-fledged episode,” Waterhouse explained. “I was being threatened, and it was really difficult.

“Maybe it was naive of me. I thought I could help and reestablish a relationship.”

Due to those difficulties, Waterhouse has been hesitant to jump back into the studio, quietly collaborating on new material with long-time friend Doc Polizzi in between tours.

For now, Waterhouse is making things work with that “low-to-mid-size budget” – something that has permeated and dictated Waterhouse’s career, from the single he self-released on a whim that led to his record deal with Innovative Leisure (“Some Place”) to the number of musicians he can take on tour with him (he’s had 12, he’s had four). “It’s always finance,” he drives home, stating that in a dream world his band would be a 13-piece. A full complement to what he fleshes out so beautifully on his albums.

It’s during the making of those records that Waterhouse refuses to compromise, budget be damned. Time’s All Gone (2012), Holly (2014), and Never Twice (2016) were all recorded with big bands (full horn section, two drummers, back-up singers), in addition to being created the old-fashioned way – all-analog. I ask how supportive Innovative Leisure—a successful but still independent label – is of his approach.

“They’re supportive, I guess.”

I press him about the “I guess”, and he explains that they do the best they can to meet what he wants, but not without a fight. He explains further that the artless joys of well-oiled bureaucracy are always the top priority, even for a small label.

“When you’re a very hands-on and principled artist, you become the bottleneck.”

The son of a fireman, Waterhouse grew up in Huntington Beach, a place he has always felt at odds with.

“Huntington never gave me anything,” he recalled. “It was really, really hard.

“It was almost like a ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ type thing. I didn’t feel alpha enough. But it also caused me to double down on things I liked and things I believed. I wanted out. Bad.”

Suddenly he remembers something. A drumstick, recently found, saved since childhood, signed by the drummer of the band that would play every year at the Fireman’s Sailboat Race to Catalina. Something about that band infatuated him, and it wasn’t until years later that he realized how they shaped a major part of his ethos as a musician.

“The job of the player was really a journeyman’s – not a hot shit pro thing,” he said. “Just being effective at making a large group of firemen, their dates, their families dance for hours.”

One listen to Waterhouse’s rhythm-driven, heavy-swinging tunes and you recognize the influence. His is music to dance to, music to entertain, to create a mood. Not music to be over-analyzed or deified. He doesn’t like a lot of attention, referring to himself as a “player” rather than an “entertainer,” cringes whenever he sees videos of himself performing live, and has stated multiple times that he has no interest in being a “star or an act.”

“My ambition lies in my ideas and executing those,” Waterhouse shared. “That’s secondary to me as a consumable good.”

He points out that “even the most indie, Pitchfork-y thing you can find” is still commercialized and manufactured for consumption.

“Everybody’s just getting dumber. It’s like Monsanto and food. It becomes really niche and hard to find something that’s unprocessed.”

It’s clear that to Waterhouse, “Pitchfork-y” doesn’t even really mean anything anymore, as he points out that the website is now owned by a conglomerate and likens it to “Rolling Stone in the 90s,” still retaining clout from years past, but now a corporate entity. A cog in the machine. It’s very clear that Waterhouse is making the music he wants, the best way he knows how, with no intention of making it palatable or cool for anyone else, but that’s not to say Waterhouse is in denial about the way people consume his work. “10% of what’s being sold is my music, and 90% is visual branding. The image.”

And what exactly is that image? With his horn-rim glasses, penchant for vintage clothing, and a super-slick Instagram presence that looks like Don Draper taking on social media, Waterhouse is held up as an anachronism—someone who was born at the wrong time, trying desperately to recreate an era of music he’s too young to have been a part of. When I ask Waterhouse if he ever feels pigeonholed, he sounds tired. “Sure. All the time. I’m a prisoner [laughs].”

The truth of the matter is, everything sounds like something else, everything has been done, everyone is influenced by something. Why Waterhouse is continually treated as a nostalgia act who’s playing at music instead of given the same attention and distinction as anyone else on the scene is something he’s obviously thought about.

“I don’t have a huge peer group, so I always get grouped in with Mayer Hawthorne, Amy Winehouse, Leon Bridges,” even though they’re not doing the same thing at all. He explains that Amy Winehouse was chewed up and spit out by a pop machine that would have changed her sound in a second if it would sell more records, and there’s no denying the distinction between the soul music of Bridges, and the rug-cutting, raw, pre-Beatles R&B vocabulary that Waterhouse speaks fluently.

I say that pre-ROCK with a capital R music isn’t treated with the same amount of – “Reverence?” he finishes for me.

“It’s like saying Virginia Wolf and Ernest Hemingway write the same,” he continues.

“That’s not how it works. [Music writers and fans] are able to distinguish between hundreds of bands that are four white males with guitar pedals that all sound the fucking same to me, but they can’t tell the difference between me and four other people?”

Whether it’s stupidity, laziness, or the fact that there are probably few people on earth who know more about R&B than him, he certainly has a point. One of many great ones.

“A lot of times when I actually do see an interview I do,” he explains, “I’m surprised at how few of my points actually make it in.”

A shame considering Waterhouse is extremely smart, jaw-droppingly well-versed in music history, and clearly enjoys discussion, – beginning thoughts by saying things like, “To get really esoteric…” I wish I could have just published the interview verbatim, but my damn recorder kept cutting out, leaving me with about three minutes of our 40-minute conversation.

If you’re reading this Nick, I’m sorry. I did my best.

Jean Luc Ponty Revisits The Atlantic Years With Original Band

JEAN LUC PONTY

JEAN LUC PONTY plays Saban Theater Jun 3 and The Coach House Jun 7; press photo


In the world of violin, Jean-Luc Ponty is akin to The Beatles or Brian Wilson, a beloved figure and beacon of innovation for not only his instrument, but the genres of jazz, rock-fusion, and prog-rock. On tour with his original band from his most prolific period in the 70’s and 80’s, Ponty is playing Saban Theater Jun. 3 and The Coach House Jun.7.

It’s called the “Atlantic Years” tour—named for the albums he recorded for Atlantic Records— and for Ponty fans or fans of any of the genres he helped change forever, these are shows you don’t want to miss! Concert Guide Live chatted with Ponty—at home in Paris about fatherhood, moving to LA to play with Frank Zappa, and why this tour could be his last.

CONCERT GUIDE LIVE: You were born into a family of classical musicians. Was there any other choice for you as a career, or was it music all the way?
JEAN LUC PONTY: It was a natural attraction to music. It’s not because you have parents who are both musicians, and they could force you into it [laughs]. I loved it from the beginning, except for when I wanted to become a fireman because I loved the shiny helmet. As soon as I started learning musical instruments I loved it.

CGL: Was there a time you ever considered doing anything else?
JLP: No, in fact between 13 and 14, my mind was really set on becoming a musician. Music was my life. My parents were not too crazy about it, because they were struggling as music teachers, and they were worried for my future. It took me awhile to convince them to let me do it. My father said, ‘Ok, but you really have to do it right, and you really have to become good at it. You have to practice five hours a day from now on.’ At age 14 I started getting locked in the house and practicing five hours a day [laughs]. It was a bit tough, at that age, but I knew it was the price to pay and I was ready to invest my energy, because I wanted to do it. I wanted to dedicate my life to music.

CGL: One of your daughters is also a musician. Did you find that you experienced some of those same anxieties and fears that your parents had?
JLP: Exactly the same. And she behaved exactly like I did with my parents [laughs]. What’s important is to make sure someone has a strong will and a strong intuition about what they want to do and also that they have the talent to do it.

JEAN LUC PONTY

JEAN LUC PONTY

CGL: You’ve traveled all over the world playing your music. What do you look forward to about touring the U.S.?
JLP: I moved to America in 1973 when I was 31 years old. So many things were happening there at that time, musically, creatively, that was really the place to be. I didn’t know what would happen when I moved there. The first thing I did was tour with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, but beyond that I didn’t know. Once I was in the states, it was a chain of opportunities, one after the other. I decided to start my own band because I was writing music and it was important to me to start performing my own music. So I started my band in 1975 in Los Angeles. My real career, with my music, started in America, so I have a special relationship with the American audience because of that and Los Angeles in particular.

CGL: This tour is called the “Atlantic Years”. Why this tour? Why now?
JLP: After all these years, there was a renewed interest in the music of the 70’s and 80’s, my music and others. South America in particular, where I have a strong following, they really wished to see me come back with the same band. This was a few years ago. So we went to South America and then same thing in Europe.

CGL: Then the compilation was released [Electric Fusion: The Atlantic Years]?
JLP: They asked me to collaborate with the remastering and choice of pieces and all that. I’m not the kind of guy who listens to his own music all the time. I just move on to new experiences. It’s like when you look at old photos. You say, ‘Wow, that was many years ago. Ok.’ It’s not something that’s a priority. Having to work on the remastering, I rediscovered what I did then. So the touring in South America and the release of this compilation made me relive this period and I discovered that there are a number of pieces that still sound good today. They did not age.

Then, three years ago I crossed paths with Jon Anderson, the singer from Yes. We met in the 70’s or 80’s already and had talked about the possibility of doing a band together. There was a mutual interest in each other. But it didn’t happen. We were both busy with our own lives and projects. So many years later, we meet again and said, ‘Well maybe we should do it now.’ So we did it. When we put the band together, we were looking for a mixed band of rock musicians who had worked with him, and musicians who had worked with me. For different reasons, it turned out that we ended up with all my musicians who had toured with me in the 80’s. Being reunited with them really gave us the desire to do a reunion tour and revisit the music that we did together.

CGL: So you’re enjoying playing this music again?
JLP: Because there are sections where we improvise, it’s not like rehashing the past. It becomes alive again because we improvise, maybe we change a few arrangements and each of us also has had different musical experiences, so we’re somehow richer musically and that’s why it feels so good.

CGL: Most musicians who have been touring and performing as long as you have find it to be a bit grueling. Are you at that point? Or do you still love to get out there on the road?
JLP: I agree, it’s grueling. It’s grueling [laughs], but it’s still worth it. I don’t want to call it my last tour or a farewell tour, because you never know, but it’s one of the last for sure. There are not going to be many more after that. It all depends, physically. At my age I feel blessed that I have no pain. Some musicians tell me that I play better than ever. As long as I can physically be in shape and play well, it pays off for the grueling experience of going through airports and traveling. Once you’re onstage and you reconnect with the audience and longtime fans, it’s precious and such a reward. I feel very blessed to be able to do it. So that pays off all the pain of traveling and jet lag and all the rest.

CGL: You are widely regarded as an innovator of your instrument and innovator of jazz, of rock-fusion. Do you think there is still room for innovation like that in modern music? Or has everything been done?
JLP: No, I think there is still room for innovation. There’s less than when I started. My generation, when we were in our 20’s, it was like discovering a new land. There are very talented young people, it doesn’t stop with a generation. They find ways, with hindsight, to absorb what guys like us did before. I meet a lot of young musicians around the world who like what we did and have been inspired by that. Those who are really talented and musically intelligent find ways to create music that takes the good things and gets rid of the bad [laughs]. What they took is the spirit of adventure in adapting jazz or rock to today’s style and feeling.

On this tour, I’m inviting young violinists who are really very talented, to come join me on the stage. That makes me feel good to know that there are young talents who, once I disappear, are going to keep doing it. I’m reassured that music is in good hands with the young generation.

The Long Ryders Ride Home To SoCal

Whether you call their country-punk hybrid sound Paisley Underground, Alternative Country, or even Cowpunk, there’s no denying that LA band The Long Ryders were there at the start of it. Formed out of the remnants of the Laurel Canyon scene—country-tinged acts like The Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers—and the punk wave that washed up on both sides of the Atlantic, The Long Ryders inflected songs like “Looking For Lewis And Clark” and “Tell It To The Judge On Sunday” with more cowboy boots and suede vests than their Paisley Underground peers—The Three O’Clock, The Dream Syndicate, or The Bangles—giving them a special place at the beginning of modern Americana music.

After breaking up in 1987, The Long Ryders are returning to SoCal for their first proper US tour in 30 years, playing The Constellation Room Apr 28, The Roxy Apr 29, and Stagecoach festival Apr 30. In anticipation of their return, Concert Guide Live caught up with drummer and co-founder Greg Sowders to talk breakups, reunions, and new Long Ryders music.

CGL: Let’s go back a bit. What first got you into music?

GS: When I was in elementary school—my older brother was already out in the world. When he went to college he left me his Rolling Stones, Beatles, Beach Boys, and Chuck Berry records, and I started listening to this stuff. As I got older—in the late 60’s, early 70’s—I started listening to all that British rock and roll music.

When I was a little kid my parents took me to my first concert, and it was Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and The Everly Brothers. When I heard that beat, I knew I wanted to play the drums. So many of us—especially the record generation—there were always records around the house, so you found them and played them. Either music is just something that you like that’s in the background—everybody likes music—or it becomes an obsession. It picks you.

CGL: How did you meet Sid Griffin [Sowders’ Long Ryders co-founder]?

GS: Sid was in a group called The Unclaimed, which was kind of a 60’s, psychedelic, punk band. I was in a ska band called The Box Boys. We were playing a club, and Sid’s band was on the bill with us and we got to talking. My band broke up, and I heard from a mutual friend of ours that he was forming a new band. It was all the stuff I liked: country-western, punk rock like The Ramones and X, 60’s psychedelic stuff like The Byrds, and of course Gram Parsons. It was like, ‘Oh, somebody’s starting a band that likes all this stuff? I’m in.’

CGL: Explain to me what this Paisley Underground scene was born out of.

GS: The Paisley Underground was a loose amalgamation of new bands that were starting up in LA. It was certainly a reaction to the late 70’s, huge arena rock bands like Peter Frampton, The Eagles, Rolling Stones that had become so big and bloated.

THE LONG RYDERS

THE LONG RYDERS play The Constellation Room Apr. 28, The Roxy Apr. 29 and Stagecoach Festival Apr. 30; photo Paul Slattery

Then the post-punk thing happened, so in England you start getting bands like The Fall, The Smiths. We all started playing shows together, and like any live music scene, you start seeing the same kids at the shows, the bands hang out. We didn’t sound alike, but we all had a DIY thing. Let’s put on our own shows, let’s put out our own records, let’s support each other. Let’s not compete—you always want to compete creatively—but let’s not compete commercially. It was an underground scene, and it stuck.

CGL: The Long Ryders are often referred to as “The right band at the wrong time.” Why was it the wrong time?

GS: [laughs] That’s true! We were actually pretty popular outside the US and chugging along here, but we also were like The Band or Buffalo Springfield where we had multiple lead singers, which was kind of confusing for the MTV generation, and kind of confusing for people that wanted hits on the radio.

And every band needs money to keep going. It’s the oil that keeps the whole thing running and you have to make a decision at some point if you’re going to be able to get this thing to the next level or are we running out of steam? Keeping a band together is very challenging. You have what makes you good: four different personalities, four strong opinions, and four strong egos, but sometimes that can wear you down. So you get to that moment where you’re sort of out of money, you’re unsure if your fan base is growing, and you’re really getting on each others nerves, and one guy says, ‘Hey, I can’t do this anymore.’ And if you pull one wheel off the wagon it falls over. We all kind of said, ‘Well, the big record company machine has beaten us.’ We didn’t play together for 12 or 13 years.

CGL: How did the reunion come about?

GS: I think after fast-forwarding some years, you start to realize that all these fights we had about creative control and whose songs are on the record, and the hundreds of dollars we thought we should make, not even thousands, hundreds, and you realize we are really brothers. What brought us together was a love of music and a love of playing together, and life is short, let’s see what we can do together. So we started playing together maybe 10-12 years ago. Just dipping our toe in the water. After 30 years what’s the fucking rush [laughs].

It is great to get out there and sweat a little bit, throw it down. I still work in the music business, I’ve been doing it for 25 years, but there’s still greater joy for me in sitting behind the drum kit and playing a backbeat for those other three Long Ryders. Money is nice, fame, success—these are all things that sometimes come to a band, but not always. To me, what’s more special, and fragile, and fleeting is that artistic connection—that special thing that people exchange when they play music together. That is very unusual and I think we’ve always had that.

CGL: Does working within the business side of the industry [Sowders works for Warner/Chappell publishing] make it even more annoying for you, the way you guys were mishandled?

GS: When you really see how the industry actually works, it can be a little depressing. The other side of that coin is there are some genuinely cool people that are there for the right reasons. I always say I’m a drummer with a day job. Being a musician helped me in my publishing career because I’ve learned to be bilingual—I speak business and creative—but thank God I have a thick creative accent. When we were in the band we were crusaders. We knew the deck was stacked against us so let’s just try and disrupt a little bit wherever we can. That’s how I’ve always felt in my job as a publisher. I want to be an advocate for the writers and the artists. While my job is to find hits, and I work for a very big, mainstream company, I still try to display respect for the artist and respect for the creative process, with some dignity, some elegance around the edges.

CGL: You guys are working on new studio recordings. What can you tell us about that?

GS: For our friends, our fans, anybody out there that wants to hear it, we have a new song that we’re gonna put out. It’s a song that our bass player, Tom Stevens, wrote and we’re really excited about it. It’s a good-old, rock and roll, Long Ryders song, and I think we surprised each other with how much fun it was. Depending on how everybody feels and timing, we’ll hopefully have some other new music available by the end of the year.

CGL: What is your favorite thing about playing shows specifically now, as opposed to thirty years ago?

GS: I have more gratitude. When I get on stage, I know that it’s not a given that I’m going to do this forever. It’s the highlight of my day instead of, ‘Oh my God I can’t believe I have to play another show.’ I think that as an older musician, you have more self-confidence. When we were young, if somebody made a mistake on stage, God help ‘em after the show. There would be an argument, maybe a fistfight, because everything is so intense. That’s part of being young. As older musicians, you don’t take yourself too seriously, so if somebody makes a mistake on stage, well, that’s just part of the show. Each night is different, each night is unique, and each night is a gift to be able to play music for people.

Southside Johnny Brings The Real Deal To SoCal

SOUTHSIDE JOHNNY AND THE ASBURY JUKES

SOUTHSIDE JOHNNY AND THE ASBURY JUKES play The Coach House Apr. 7 and Whisky A Go Go Apr. 8; photo Daniel Gonzalez

In the 60’s and 70’s, Asbury Park, NJ was crawling with musicians, long-haired, bleary-eyed hopefuls, who would jam well into the wee hours of the morning just for the hell of it. This was party music, high-powered soul and maximum R&B made for dancing.

While Bruce Springsteen may be Asbury Park’s most famous export, Southside Johnny Lyon and his Asbury Jukes remain the truest crystallization of that time and place, and they’re bringing it to The Coach House Apr. 7 and the Whisky A Go Go Apr. 8. It’s their first trip to the West Coast in over 10 years and for anybody looking for live music that’s the real deal, this is not to be missed.

Though he’s a Jersey boy through and through, Lyon actually likes it here and even lived in San Clemente for a while. “We don’t play out there that much,” he explained over the phone, “It’s just too expensive to cart this great big band around.”

He may have moved back east, but he still loves The Coach House, calling it “one of the good places to play in the world.” His sentiment makes sense, considering the well-worn, unglamorous atmosphere of The Coach House, along with its reputation of booking veteran, road-warrior musicians, makes it a perfect match for the working-class ethos of Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes. When I point out the “institution” status of both the venue and his band, Lyon interjects, laughing, “So you’re saying I should be in an institution? Is that what you’re saying?!”

His latest album, Soultime, a throwback, 70’s R&B album, has garnered him some of the best reviews of his career. Something he takes little notice of. “I don’t read reviews. It could be really good, and then they’ll say one thing they don’t like, and I go, ‘F—k you!’ [laughs]. It’s irrational, but that’s me.”

Songs like “Looking For A Good Time” and “Spinning” are filled with fat, Stax horns, funky rhythms, and a groove that’s straight out of 1972.

“I was in a liquor store and “Superfly” came on by Curtis Mayfield, which starts with this great, sinuous bass thing, and then the horns go “Duh-na-na” and people were moving and bopping. Everybody in there was subconsciously caught up in the groove. I said, ‘Ah-ha! That’s what I need to do next. Make music for people to groove to’.”

Lyon has been fascinated by this groove his whole life, growing up on his parents’ unusually hip record collection filled with blues and R&B greats. As a teenager, Lyon’s older brother Tom would take him to the city to catch whoever was in town, an education that he never forgot.

“We saw Muddy Waters, John Hammond, Cream at the Cafe-A-Go-Go—a little 200 seat club— we would go all the time. We saw the Jeff Beck Group at the Fillmore East, Albert King, Tim Buckley, Frank Zappa and the Mothers. Bands would come to Asbury Park, too. We saw Ray Charles there, The Stones when they first came over. We were young and music was the only thing that really mattered.”

Never taking himself too seriously, Lyon remains one of the most normal musicians around. He’s never been one to kowtow to the powers that be, he’s never envied the more visible and profitable success of Springsteen—who he counts as a friend—and he’s unapologetically who he is. After a floundering recording career spent jumping from label to label, Lyon started his own, Leroy Records, and built a career on the road, making a living up on stage, not in the studio.

Decades spent on tour took their toll, burning Lyon out and taking all the fun out of performing. He briefly relocated to Nashville where no-strings-attached jamming with local musicians brought him back to the start. “It became real to me again. It became something I loved to do. It’s still grueling traveling on a bus for 15 hours, but still, you get in front of an audience, and it makes it all worthwhile.”

Lyon co-founded the Jukes with “Little” Steven Van Zandt, who would shortly switch over to join Springsteen’s band. In his book, Born To Run, Springsteen even describes the night it happened, when he first rolled into the Upstage Club to try and jam. Lyon, who read and enjoyed the book, also remembers that fortuitous night.

“He had long hair, his gold Les Paul, and he was doing this song about the nuns teaching him the meaning of the blues. He was not their favorite student, they used to beat him, and he took a lot of crap from them. But one day, one of the nuns brought in a B.B. King album and played some stuff.

“So he’s singing the song, and he’s playing, and he’s got this charisma, and I’m going, ‘Who the fuck is that?!’ He was in my club, singing on my microphone [laughs]. But he was great, it was unbelievable, he was almost fully formed. You could tell right there that he was somebody to be reckoned with.”

The two quickly became friends, and have been entwined ever since, with Springsteen contributing some of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes’ biggest songs like, “The Fever,” “Hearts Of Stone,” and “Talk To Me.” And while Lyon may not have nearly the same notoriety, they share a working-class philosophy and an electric stage presence, born out of the hours and hours they spent in dark smoky clubs, and their Jersey upbringings.

“I wouldn’t have a career if I wasn’t part bulldog. That’s part of the Jersey thinking. There’s nothing subtle about it. You’re gonna do it, you’re gonna do it the way you want, and if there’s people that don’t like it, screw ‘em. It’s that blue-collar thing again. We know what it’s like to work, we’ve seen our parents work, we know what work is and we’re not afraid it. There’s always an audience for what you want to do as long as you do it honestly.”

Dollyrots Happy Crazy Life With Music

DOLLYROTS

DOLLYROTS play Hideout 3/29, Hi Hat 3/31 and Slidebar 4/1; press photo

Pop-punk veterans The Dollyrots—forged around the partnership of spouses Kelly Ogden (lead vox and bass) and Luis Cabeza (guitar)— have been making melodic, badass, guitar-driven tunes for years. The band is self-releasing their sixth studio album, Whiplash Splash, on Mar 24, and will be bringing their electric live show to The Hi Hat in LA on Mar 31, and Slidebar in Fullerton on Apr 1.

Think you’re busy? Just ask Ogden what she’s doing on any given day. Concert Guide Live squeaked into Ogden’s insane schedule to chat about the new record, Trump, and how she balances life on the road with the most rock-n-roll thing of all—raising a family.

CONCERT GUIDE LIVE: What’s on the agenda for today?
KELLY OGDEN: Oh my God, we showed a house that we are property managing, ate Taco Bell, went to Staples to buy postage for the pledge, and got back here just in time. I had to cancel a writing session with Jaret [Reddick] from Bowling For Soup—we’re gonna do a duets album together—and I totally forgot that I have three other things to do this afternoon [laughs]. As soon as I’m done here, I’m gonna go stuff CD’s in envelopes and then we have a Skype interview, we’ll eat somewhere in the middle…maybe.

CGL: You guys are getting ready to head out on tour. How do you handle touring with the kids?
KO: It starts out really hard at the airport, because we have two guitars, two children, two car seats, a whole bunch of merch, and then suitcases. In so many ways, being on tour is actually easier.

I feel like the hardest part of parenting little kids is when they get bored. When they get bored, they misbehave, and when we’re out on tour River [Ogden and Cabeza’s oldest] doesn’t really have a chance to be bored.

Luckily, Daisy [their new daughter that Ogden was pregnant with while recording Whiplash Splash] is a pretty chill baby. Once she’s also walking, I think we’ll have to take a little time off touring, because I don’t think we can do two running toddlers [laughs]. We’ll do it, because we’re crazy.

CGL: That’s such a cool experience for them!
KO: Whenever we get near the airport, River’s like, ‘Are we going on tour?!’ It’s something he really looks forward to, and we have an awesome crew that helps us with merch, and driving, and baby wrangling, and they’re kind of like his aunts and uncles. We’re really, really lucky. I kind of can’t believe this is our reality right now. It’s so cool.

CGL: What makes Whiplash Splash different from your other albums?
KO: I think that it’s more spontaneous, because we didn’t have time to overthink anything. The whole thing was written in less than a month. Luis would record an instrumental overnight, and then I would wake up the next day and go in and record vocals, so we did a lot of things separately. I think it’s more mature, but still a lot of fun. It’s a little bit less 8th grade poetry, but we’re still really good at 8th grade poetry [laughs], that’s still there.

CGL: What’s your favorite thing about going the fan-funded route?
KO: We have a real relationship with our fans now. They know how it works, we know what’s expected of us, which is an awesome album that they like—or we hope they like it because they already bought it—so we can’t disappoint them. It makes us a better band, it makes us more efficient, we have to stick to the deadlines that we give them, and it gives us tons of freedom as artists because the only approval we need is our own. We’re not asking a label, we’re completely DIY at this point. Everything is between us and the fans, which makes a more pure product.

CGL: That must be gratifying that they keep showing up.
KO: This’ll be the fourth album that we’ve put out this way. Each time it has gotten bigger. We make sure we do lots of silly, behind the scenes footage and bonus content. It suits our lifestyle, and it means that we can keep making music, and we can have a family, and we can tour, and we can meet all these people who believe in our band.

CGL: You guys recorded two albums on Joan Jett’s Blackheart Records. What’s she like?
KO: She is absolutely one of the coolest people I’ve ever known. We were on Warped Tour with Joan Jett and I gave her what would become “Because I’m Awesome” and they gave us a call about a month after the tour like, ‘We listened to the CD and we love it! You want to be on our label?’

We didn’t expect to even get to know Joan—we figured she was kind of a figurehead—but through the years we would go to her shows, and watch her perform, and see her team working behind the scenes, and we learned the things that were important to her like animal rights, LGBTQ rights, and it really helped form our opinions about the best way to utilize the band. We would joke, ‘What would Joan Jett’ do all the time in the early days.

CGL: You guys decided to do the band full time back in 2000 when Bush won the election. I can’t imagine how you’re feeling now that Trump is in the White House.
KO: It’s so bad, it’s almost funny. I still don’t quite know what to do, except march, and make phone calls, and send postcards, and be much more politically aware than I was before. I think that’s more on a personal level, than on a band level. A political song will end up on each album, but it’s not blatantly a political song, like “S.O.S,” or “Starting Over Again.” We do put our two cents out there. But it’s a shit show. I can’t believe it.

CGL: All these years of being a female-fronted rock band I’m sure you’ve experienced your fair share of sexism.
KO: Luckily the kind of music that we play—it’s rock and roll, it’s pop-punk—those scenes have always included women. Joan Jett would always say, ‘You just do you, and be best that you can be. Prove people wrong.’

I want to be someone that younger girls can look to. Now I’m a mom, and I’m still in a band, and you can sort of do it all. You need a lot of help [laughs] but it’s definitely a beautiful thing if you can make it happen.

CGL: I feel like in the past, and maybe even now women in rock are expected to be a certain way: single, hard-asses, with no kids, that stay out late, party hard. I love that you are so open about being a mother and are constantly posting about your kids, and breastfeeding. Are those conscious decisions you’ve made?
KO: When you become a mother, it’s all-encompassing. But sometimes I’m thinking, ‘Well, maybe we won’t post any pictures of the kids on social media.’ But that’s impossible [laughs]! The type of band we are, and our relationship with our fans, they really want to see the happy family that we have, and are so lucky to have. We’ve been together since we were kids!

I just feel like we’ve been so fortunate to have the life that we have, and there aren’t a whole lot of great examples, so it’s kind of our place to be that. It isn’t the easiest thing either. Kim Gordon did it, but I can’t really call her and be like, ‘What do I do about this situation,’ and that didn’t really have a happy ending anyways, so…[laughs].

CGL: What’s your advice for up and coming female rock musicians?
KO: Getting out on tour is probably the most important thing you can do. You will become more confident in your performance, you’ll become more confident in your person.

I think it’s so easy for people to just make music, and record it, and post it online, and wait to see if people like it. I think that without all those years of us just being in a band, in a van, driving back and forth across the United States for months at a time, without that there’s no way that any of this would be working.

Brian Bell’s Band The Relationship Gets Ready To Rock

THE RELATIONSHIP

THE RELATIONSHIP plays The Constellation Room Feb. 9 and The Hideout Feb. 10; press photo

For some, the name Brian Bell might not ring one (get it?), but the band he plays guitar in sure does. Maybe you’ve heard of a little group called Weezer that has been a fixture of the LA music scene. Alas, even playing in one of the coolest bands around can get old when you’ve been “Sayin’ It Ain’t So” for almost 25 years.

To shake things up, Bell is dusting off his other band, The Relationship, after taking time off to record the Grammy contender, Weezer (aka The White Album), and the departure of guitarist Nick Shaw.

The Relationship have a mysterious new power-pop album on the way—a long-awaited follow up to 2010’s self-titled debut—and a small tour, including SoCal shows at The Constellation Room in Santa Ana on Feb. 9, and The Hideout in San Diego on Feb. 10.

Concert Guide Live caught up with Bell to talk about the LA music scene, becoming a front man, and the Grammy’s.

CGL: How did you come up with the name, ‘The Relationship’?
BB: I’ve always been drawn to band names that have multiple layers of meanings and that are easy to remember. Also, I’m drawn to the weight of the word, The Relationship. It’s all in how you say it.

CGL: You guys released a 7” with Burger Records in 2015, “Oh Allen” b/w “Young Temptations”. What was your favorite thing about working with the Burger guys?
BB: My favorite thing about putting a 7” record out on Burger Records was playing Burgerama IV in Costa Mesa and seeing all the inspired young faces that will shape our music scene in the future.

CGL: What’s been the biggest adjustment for you, going from sideman to front man?
BB: I didn’t start this band to be a front man. I’d call it Brian and the Belle’s and have an all female backing band if that were the case. But quarterbacking a band is really about being a good communicator and listener. No one wants to just paint by numbers and recreate a demo. The depth of the music comes from the players working together. The reason to
have a band is for that synergy.

CGL: You’ve been a part of the LA music scene for around three decades now, so you’ve seen a lot of things come and go. How would you describe the current vibe?
BB: LA has been very kind to me. All the musical knowledge I was seeking was here. I just had to go out and find it. I wasn’t going to find it back in my hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee. I’ve seen so many bands and trends come and go. What’s the same with all the decades that I’ve been a part of the scene, is the way the industry can hype something but always it’s the underground that dictates what is going to stick and what isn’t. This is what is exciting about the emerging music scene in Los Angeles. Audiences aren’t going to trust or stand behind a corporate machine, not because it’s a corporate machine, but because if that artist they are digesting isn’t legitimately ground breaking they’ll see right through it.

CGL: What would you say has changed the most about the scene from when you first moved here, to now?
BB: One very exciting thing that has changed with music since I’ve been in LA is that most every band I see live these days is really good. Maybe I’m just being more selective. But I feel that something is in the air and that gives me hope for our art form.

CGL: What was your favorite album of 2016?
BB: My favorite record of 2016 was Leonard Cohen’s You Want it Darker.

CGL: Congrats on the Best Rock Album GRAMMY nomination by the way! Will you be attending?
BB: Thank you it’s always nice to be acknowledged in regards to the Grammy nomination. I’m very proud of Weezer’s Weezer (aka The White Album) and thrilled to be nominated for the Best Rock Album of 2016. Since I can’t vote for myself I’d give the award to Cage The Elephant for Tell Me I’m Pretty. Yes, I will be attending the Grammy’s. I’m looking forward to just being a part of the spectacle.

Prog-Rock Hits SoCal With Stick Men

STICK MEN

STICK MEN play Baked Potato Jan. 24 & 25; The Coach House Jan. 26, Brick By Brick Jan. 27; photo Dion Ogust

So-Cal prog-rock fans rejoice! Stick Men are bringing their one-of-a-kind live show to The Baked Potato in Los Angeles on Jan 24 and 25, The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on Jan 26, and Brick By Brick in San Diego on Jan 27.

Stick Men hold an interesting place in today’s modern rock landscape. The band has the unique distinction of being comprised of two members of King Crimson—Tony Levin since 1981 and Pat Mastelotto since 1994—and touch guitar progenitor, Markus Reuter, which is a combination that makes for some of the most adventurous instrumentation in rock.

Besides Reuter’s mastery of Touch Guitar, Mastelotto is a forerunner of electronic drumming, and Levin stands as one of the earliest virtuosos of the Chapman Stick—an uncommon instrument in the guitar family from which the band gets its name—which he’s been playing since the 70s with the likes of Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, and Yes.

Since forming in 2007, the group has recorded five studio albums, released two live albums, and toured the world—whenever the three members can catch their breath between tours with their other bands, that is. Their latest effort, Prog Noir, features more of the band’s signature compositions—mostly instrumentals—filled with heady time changes, distinctive rhythms, and equal parts dystopian, industrial chug, and imaginative, exploratory, musicianship. In other words, it’s everything you want from a prog-rock outfit.

STICK MEN

STICK MEN; photo Anya Roz

As far as live performances go, the Stick Men’s three members are seasoned road dogs, and definitely know how to put on a show. The Stick that Levin plays has both bass and guitar strings, meaning he can play bass lines, melody lines, and chords simultaneously, resulting in the band sounding much bigger and more intricate than their trio setup would initially suggest. Expect lots of improv, a setlist comprised of selections spanning their discography—as well as some King Crimson selections, and unbelievable musicianship from all three Stick Men.

Stand Up And Dance – The English Beat Return

ENGLISH BEAT

ENGLISH BEAT play Microsoft Theater Jan. 28; photo Bryan Kremkau

With a new album on the way and a never-ending tour, The English Beat’s Dave Wakeling took some time out of his busy schedule to talk music, politics, touring and more. Their next SoCal stop is the Microsoft Theater Jan. 28.

It’s Election Day, but Wakeling can’t vote, though he’s lived in LA for the last 20 years. He still carries a green card as a citizen of the UK, his origin corroborated by a hardy, Birmingham accent.

“I didn’t really vote when I was in England either,” he explains. “I was taken at an early age by some posters that said, ‘Whoever you vote for, it’s only the government that gets in.’”

Throughout our interview, Wakeling expresses a unique perspective on politics and the US government – which he feels enough ownership of to refer to as “our government” multiple times – while maintaining just enough distance to see the system for what it really is. In other words, he’s the perfect person to talk to on a day like today. In a few hours, Donald Trump will become the president-elect, but the future of the nation is still very much undetermined.

Wakeling’s sharp opinions are unsurprising considering The English Beat was born out of the tumultuous British punk movement of the late 70’s, a time when people had every right to feel a sense of protest. Enter The English Beat with their danceable mix of reggae, ska, and punk, which took them to the top of the charts with “Tears Of A Clown,” “I Confess,” “Save It For Later,” “Mirror In The Bathroom,” and “Stand Down Margaret,” a song lamenting England’s then-prime minister, Margaret Thatcher.

The English Beat was political from the start, something Wakeling attributes to the protest nature of punk and reggae, a proven mixture also utilized by peers like The Clash and The Police.

“People say, ‘Well, reggae’s a happy music,’ and I always say that it’s actually protest music. The happiness is a sort of joy to do with survival, rather than celebration. In tough times, you have this music instead of dinner, not after dinner.”

When asked if it’s discouraging that songs like “Stand Down Margaret” and “Big Shot” seem like they could just as easily be about the two current candidates, 30 years later, Wakeling offers a hopeful reprieve.

“It does sound very familiar doesn’t it? I visit every state, multiple times every year, and have done for a decade. So I see more of America than most Americans, unless you’re a truck driver. By the time it gets to two candidates, these two ideologies, it’s almost the exact opposite of the experience I have of America. Because of the diversity, the vast majority of Americans are way more tolerant than a lot of other places I’ve been to. That’s the reality.”

Wakeling, who became infatuated with music early on and used to play his cricket bat like a guitar in the mirror, knew he wanted to be a musician after winning a childhood swim meet, a feat rewarded with an orange Fanta and control of the radio as he rode home in the car with his father.

ENGLISH BEAT

ENGLISH BEAT logo

“So I had the radio on, the Fanta, my medals in my hand, chlorine in my eyes, and the radio played “Walk Away Renee” by the Four Tops, followed by “Ruby Tuesday” by the Rolling Stones. I had never felt those needles and pins before. That was the first time that music hit me that hard.”

After trading in a National steel guitar for his signature teardrop one – “I really liked Brian Jones” – Wakeling hooked up with The Beat, becoming the band’s guitarist, singer, and songwriter. After three successful albums, the band called it quits. Wakeling and bandmate Ranking Roger formed General Public, while Andy Cox (guitar) and David Steele (bass) formed Fine Young Cannibals.

Today, Wakeling still tours as The English Beat with a killer backing band that “sounds as loud as an airplane”, routinely selling out venues around the country and showing no signs of slowing down.

Alone Together With Dave Mason At The Coach House

DAVE MASON

DAVE MASON plays The Coach House Dec. 2; photo Chris Jensen

With an acclaimed solo career, famous guest spots on iconic recordings (The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Fleetwood Mac!), and a coveted spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a founding member of Traffic, Dave Mason is a walking, talking piece of music history. In anticipa-tion of his Dec. 2 at The Coach House, the English guitar legend talked about early influences, recording with George Harrison, and his current tour.

CGL: These show’s coming up are part of the Alone Together Again Tour, where you’re playing the album (1970’s Alone Together) in it’s entirety. What made you decide to do that?
DM: Partly because I’ve never played the whole album [laughs], but also, it became such a classic album, and a lot of people out there know it. We’re also gonna segue into some Traffic songs and stuff from my solo career. I’ve re-recorded the whole album, and frankly it’s better than the original. The CD is multi-colored like the original multi-colored vinyl, with the same fold-out sleeve.

CGL: Tell me about that famous marble vinyl. Was that your idea?
DM: Well it was originally supposed to come out like a sunburst, but there was no controlling the colors in the presses, so every one of them came out different, looking like a bowling ball, or like somebody just threw up [laughs].

CGL: What can you tell me about this band you’ve put together?
DM: Johnne Sambataro (guitar/vocals) he’s been with me on and off for 30 plus years, my drummer, Alvino Bennett, has been there 12-13 years, Tony Patler (keyboards/bass) has been around for six years, and they’ve all played with a lot of different musicians, they have great track records of their own. It’s a great little unit, very talented people.

CGL: Let’s go back a ways. What was the moment when you said, “I have to play music”?
DM: [laughs] I don’t know. Learning to play guitar seemed like a good idea. I was born in 1946, at the beginning of rock-n-roll, so that whole thing caught me. I loved The Shadows, Hank Marvin was my guy. At 14 and 15, I loved Duane Eddy, The Ventures, then I got older and more into music and I got into the blues, the litany of all the great blues guitar players. There would be no Dave Mason, no Eric Clapton, if it weren’t for people like B.B. King or Buddy Guy. The British Invasion is actually an American story. That’s where we got it all from.

CGL: I’m not going to ask you when Traffic is getting back together. Instead, is it strange to you that this band you were in for two years when you were a young kid still looms so large in your career?
DM: It was just great music. There were some great songs in there and they still hold up. It’s like great jazz or blues, or even classical, if it’s good, it lasts. I’m a big proponent of authenticity, in everything. If you’re authentic in what you do, it doesn’t matter what age you are. People will get it. Traffic had very diverse musical tastes in there, we incorporated everything. Pop, jazz, blues, gospel. You name it, it was in there. Traffic is sort of one of the original alternative bands.

CGL: How did you wind up playing on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass (1970)?
DM: In England, pretty much everybody finished up in London. Unlike America, which had a number of musical centers, we only had one. I got to know (Paul) McCartney because the lady I was with at the time was designing some furniture for him. So I would go to Abbey Road some-times, especially when they were cutting Sgt. Pepper, and I got to know them, and I got to know George and he gave me my first sitar. He invited me to come and be one of the many players that were on All Things Must Pass.

CGL: Was Phil Spector around at all when you were recording?
DM: Oh yeah, Phil Spector was there with his . 38 revolver sitting on the console [laughs].

CGL: Were you on the same Delaney and Bonnie tour as George?
DM: No, but Delaney and Bonnie did a show at Croydon Hall in England, and George came down to the show. I showed him a little part I played on that song, “Comin’ Home,” because he said, ‘’Well what am I gonna play?’’ I said, ‘’Here, this is really simple, it’s a slide part.’’ He said, ‘‘I don’t really know how to play slide guitar, but show me what it is.’’ A few years back I read an article where he said that what I showed him led him to do that guitar style of his that he used so often.

CGL: Have you ever thought about writing a book? I mean, you knew everybody.
DM: [laughs] If I had a dollar for everybody on Facebook that keeps asking me about a book, I wouldn’t need to write the book! This is the problem. Someone in an interview will ask me, ‘‘What was your first gig?’’ And I say, ‘‘God, I have no idea. I don’t remember!’’ My memory for specific times and places is not that great. It’s all been one long event for me. Maybe I’ll write it one day when I’m sitting in a rocking chair and can’t get out of it.

CGL: Your twitter bio says “Rock and roll is an attitude, not an age.” What does that mean to you?
DM: What that means is, if I can’t still conjure up that 15 year-old kid, learning guitar, then it’s time to stop. I love playing and I love making music. And I can still do it, so why not.