Wet But Wonderful Reggae Fest

IRATION; photo Andy Ortega

IRATION; photo Andy Ortega

One Love Cali Reggae Fest held its 4th annual 3-day music festival once again at the grounds next to the Queen Mary in Long Beach. This year there were returning bands and artists such as Iration, Pepper, Stick Figure as well as some new bands on the rise in the reggae scene.

Arriving to the festival grounds is pretty easy since there were plenty of lighted signs directing you to the surrounding area where there were several parking structures. If you arrive during the day, don’t hesitate to head for the main parking area since it’s not crowded and easy to get into. Once you’re parked, there’s a short walk to the shuttles that run every few minutes to take you over the bridge to the peninsula where the event is held.

Once at the entrance, there is strict security which has become the norm at any large event – even at events called “One Love”. In any case, you’ll be glad to know that there’s many precautions made by the One Love event team to be sure we have a good time while being safe. Although you’ll see people getting wasted on various concoctions at any music event, it’s reggae and it’s such a chill environment with families and even children and babies! Be sure to read the list of prohibited items before getting into the festival since I did see someone getting their bottle of booze confiscated.

Inside the festival, you’ll find plenty of ways to satisfy your hunger, thirst or shopping desires. There was food provided by restaurants and food trucks such as The Jamaica Place, Fat Dragon, and The Pink Taco truck. Just about every band had a merchandise booth so you could dance the night away in your favorite artist’s T-shirt if you wanted to.

ATMOSPHERE; photo Andy Ortega

ATMOSPHERE; photo Andy Ortega

February in SoCal usually brings rain, and this year it rained each festival day and I was able to spot out the newbies pretty easily. They wore white canvas shoes with insufficient tread and not enough upper body clothing. I’m glad you feel cute, but the One Love Festival is serious business and you’ll need to prepare for partying in cold downpours. I’m talking hiking boots and multiple layers, plus a hat or even better, a beanie and gloves. On the first night, I wore two thermal long sleeve shirts and a hoodie, but I was still cold. Hey, we’re Californians and we forget how cold and rainy it gets in February sometimes.

Hiking boots will give you special privileges and abilities at this festival. There are pockets of muddy and slippery areas even though the event staff laid out some turf material over much of it to prevent slips – I still saw people fall in the mud and everyone would cheer (and help them up of course). It was awesome. But with hiking boots, you can walk right through muddy areas where no one else dares venture. You can have your own private area in the middle of a giant puddle if you want!

There were a few performances that really stood out for me this year. While Dispatch isn’t quite reggae, their show on Saturday afternoon was filled with energy and it was contagious. Iration never fails to attract large crowds. As their set began, even though I wasn’t anywhere near the front of the stage, my personal space dwindled away with more and more people trying to move closer until I could barely move without bumping into someone. Another artist that turned lots of heads was Atmosphere. He’s a rapper from Minneapolis and he doesn’t mumble. You can actually understand everything he says, and you’ll love it. Atmosphere took the energy at One Love and turned it up about three notches. We needed it too because it was freezing but there’s nothing like being next to the California ocean, palm trees silhouetted against the sunset and rocking out to your favorite artists.

Bauhaus Summons Fans On Rainy Night In Anaheim

Peter Murphy of Bauhaus; photo James Christopher

Peter Murphy of Bauhaus; photo James Christopher

Prancing and preening, Peter Murphy, currently sporting an admirable gray goatee, gave Bauhaus fans exactly what they desired with his stage antics bringing each song to life. He was completely locked in from the opening strains of “Double Dare”, which kicked off the main set that featured In The Flat Fields in chronological order.

It may have been pouring rain outside on a Wednesday night in SoCal, but the Bauhaus faithful didn’t let that stop them from showing up and they were rewarded tenfold. This was the first night of the US portion for the 40th anniversary tour and the band was on fire!

David J and Peter Murphy of Bauhaus; photo James Christopher

David J and Peter Murphy of Bauhaus; photo James Christopher

David J, with his signature fair hair and dark shades, was back in the fold and his style of playing bass brought an element to the songs not easily duplicated. His nimble fingers picking and strumming his fretless bass through the set of songs he helped create 40 years ago.

Mark Thwaite effortlessly played the guitar riffs and melodies Bauhaus fans know so well as he has many times over the years with Murphy. I couldn’t see who was playing drums, but he captured the recognizable drum patterns of songs such as “Nerves” throughout the night.

Peter Murphy of Bauhaus; photo James Christopher

Peter Murphy of Bauhaus; photo James Christopher

Murphy’s voice was extremely strong, recreating all the hooks and nuances of every song, while simultaneously moving about the stage. He never stopped moving the whole night. At times he reminded me of a caged predator, a feral cat at the San Diego Zoo, pacing back and forth in its cage. The stage was his cage and he covered every inch of it as he transformed from one character to the next, subtle clothing changes included.

Peter Murphy of Bauhaus; photo James Christopher

Peter Murphy of Bauhaus; photo James Christopher

His command of the audience grew with each song, captivating and mesmerizing, as the second set kicked in with eight more beloved Bauhaus songs including, “She’s In Parties,” “Silent Hedges,” “Dark Entries,” and the granddaddy of them all, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”. Seldom played in its entirety, often as part of a medley, tonight Murphy gave it his best. The crowd went insane as his sinister glare, piercing blue eyes, and otherworldly stance mimicked the iconic vampire while chanting the lyric “Undead, undead, undead”.

Peter Murphy of Bauhaus; photo James Christopher

Peter Murphy of Bauhaus; photo James Christopher

All night the lighting on stage captured the atmosphere of the music, often awash in shadow and dark colors yet, each member was spot lit just enough that you could engage in what was happening. The sound mix was reliably superb as is standard for the Grove of Anaheim.

“Passions Of Lovers” began the first encore followed by the T. Rex classic “Telegram Sam” and Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust”.

Murphy spun, pranced, paced and captivated the audience for 90 minutes ending with one last haunting encore of Dead Can Dance’s “Severance”.

Jonty Balls of Desert Mountain Tribe; photo James Christopher

Jonty Balls of Desert Mountain Tribe; photo James Christopher

But earlier, before Bauhaus delighted us, kicking off the night was the English psych band Desert Mountain Tribe. I was thrilled to see they were on the bill and they were fantastic. The crowd was drawn to the music from the very first song, their energy and hypnosis sucking them in. The trio had a perfect, full sound, all instruments mixed together nicely.

Shouts of “What’s the name of your band?” could be heard by the second song and finally singer/guitarist Jonty Balls said something along the lines of, “Got off a fucking plane two hours ago. We’re from London. We’re called Desert Mountain Tribe.”

Matthew Holt of Desert Mountain Tribe; photo James Christopher

Matthew Holt of Desert Mountain Tribe; photo James Christopher

I don’t think anyone caught the name because after a nice, long, trippy instrumental bit that spellbound the audience, I could hear more shouts of, “Who are you? You’re amazing.” A couple cornered me and asked me point blank the name of the band, which they repeated back to me a few times until they got it.

If they really did arrive two hours before hitting the stage they must have been running on pure adrenaline, playing their songs seemed second nature because they were tight and got more amped as their set continued.

Frank van der Ploeg of Desert Mountain Tribe; photo James Christopher

Frank van der Ploeg of Desert Mountain Tribe; photo James Christopher

By their last song, “The King” which builds nicely for five or six minutes, the guitar reaching sonic proportions to the groove laid down by the bass and drums, the crowd was ecstatic and cheered enthusiastically.

Goth meets Psych. A seamless transition to the new millennium.

If you’re a fan of Bauhaus, you can still catch them in L.A. at the Novo Feb. 28 but arrive early to catch Desert Mountain Tribe. You’ll be glad you made the effort.

Darkwave Rolls Through L.A. Courtesy Of Felte

PUBLIC MEMORY; photo James Christopher

PUBLIC MEMORY; photo James Christopher

Nestled among the dark, quiet residential neighborhood just west of the 110 freeway in downtown L.A. lies the Pico Union Project and scene of Felte Records two-day celebration of live music featuring bands on their roster.

The historical synagogue was the perfect setting both architecturally and atmospherically for the music that was performed.

DEVON CHURCH; photo James Christopher

DEVON CHURCH; photo James Christopher

I got there early to catch all four bands on Day 2 and found a spot in one of the pews to kick back and watch Devon Church. His haunting, sexy, heartfelt songs were the perfect way to start the evening. Their minimal sound was full, hypnotic, easing you to drift away while nodding to the dirge-like rhythm. Offsetting the lead singer/guitarist was the keyboardist dressed in striking red from head to toe.

PUBLIC MEMORY; photo James Christopher

PUBLIC MEMORY; photo James Christopher

A DJ took over the music during a quick set change while people got up off their pews and began to fill the floor in front of the stage for Public Memory. They were rewarded with a surprisingly energetic set albeit too short.

Always in constant motion, it was hard to take your eyes off Robert Toher as he moved between his keyboard and the microphone simultaneously jumping and dancing as he sang. Holding the mic with one hand and gesturing with the other or playing a tambourine or shaking the hell out of a maraca he frantically moved around the stage, giving his all to the music.

The addition of a live drummer truly added another dimension to this dark, comforting, weird, unusual music. His tight rhythm patterns absolutely complimented the songs I knew so well. I appreciate a drummer that doesn’t hide behind the splashing of symbols.

PUBLIC MEMORY; photo James Christopher

PUBLIC MEMORY; photo James Christopher

There was another keyboardist who was often mouthing the words while he energetically danced and played, head bobbing, body bowing adding yet another dimension to the effects and noises, odd patterns and overall strangeness.

This was one of the bands I particularly came to see and clearly, I was not alone. Shouts of “yes” and screams of recognition could be heard as the first note of nearly every song began.

Speaking to a fan after their set she said, “These guys are like me.” She completely connects to their music.

They left us wanting more.

RITUAL HOWLS; photo James Christopher

RITUAL HOWLS; photo James Christopher

Ritual Howls was the other band I was looking forward to seeing. The floor was still packed which told me that they were also highly anticipated by the rest of the crowd.

RITUAL HOWLS; photo James Christopher

RITUAL HOWLS; photo James Christopher

Right from the start the band seemed to have sound issues on stage but from the audience side of the stage it was a joy to hear so many of the songs live after hearing them through car speakers for a couple of years!

RITUAL HOWLS; photo James Christopher

RITUAL HOWLS; photo James Christopher

Paul Bancell’s familiar guitar hooks and melodies were clear as a bell as were his deep vocals. Ben Saginaw’s pulsating basslines and Chris Samuels’ synth samples and drum machine drove the songs, at times there was a distinct dance groove. Somehow the melancholy feel of the music often makes me think of a spooky Joy Division and yet Ritual Howls has their own very recognizable sound.

ODONIS ODONIS; photo James Christopher

ODONIS ODONIS; photo James Christopher

Odonis Odonis closed the night with their hypnotic, industrial trance music. Synth-driven by Constantin Tzenos and Denholm Whale. Drummer Jarod Gibson stood between them banging out rhythms on an electronic drumkit and/or snare drum. I wasn’t familiar with the group, but their deliberate mesmerizing beats and synth sounds won me over, at times reminiscent of Nitzer Ebb.

ODONIS ODONIS; photo James Christopher

ODONIS ODONIS; photo James Christopher

Felte Records is the rare type of label that if you like one, or even two bands on their roster, chances are you’re going to like more. I wish I could have made it to both nights because I’m sure I would have discovered a lot more!

The Mowgli’s Come Home!

THE MOWGLI'S; press photo

THE MOWGLI’S; press photo

The Mowgli’s stormed The Constellation Room last Sunday, playing to a sold-out crowd, along with support from some of their local friends. A devoted audience was there from start to finish, with plenty of band and audience interactions peppering each band’s set.

First up was The North Morlan group, a laid-back indie band hailing from the city of Orange. Led by the younger brother of Mowgli singer/guitarist Colin Dieden, their songs about love got the crowd rocking and singing along in no time at all.

Elijah Noll took the stage next with his unique brand of soul-tinged alt pop. He was full of nervous energy, it being his first tour and all, and launched into one song after another. Despite admitting the drummer and him had just started playing together, they were a tight duo who demonstrated their ability to communicate through the music. The new track “Poison” got plenty of cheers from the crowd who seemed to already know the lyrics to it.

After this came the infectious sounds of Arms Akimbo. Playing a high energy set full of the catchy melodies people love them for, the audience danced faster with this new pace. And they in turn seemed to get a kind of fuel from this enthusiasm. The group never let up either, perfectly setting the stage for the band that was to follow.

At last, The Mowgli’s stepped up to the plate. The crowd went wild with glee as they launched into their first song, “Bad Dream.” At times, it was impossible to tell who was singing the song; the band, the audience, or both! On tour in support of their new EP I Was Starting To Wonder, their set was comprised of fresh new tunes sprinkled with favorites from their past albums.

THE MOWGLI'S; photo Cortney Armitage

THE MOWGLI’S; photo Cortney Armitage

The inclusive nature of The Mowgli’s music was on full display, as the vibe in the room was as if this was one giant band rather than one performing in front of an audience. The group was even relaxed enough to tell a joke, told by singer Katie Earl, “A peanut was walking down the road and it was assaulted.” While making fun of themselves for such a bad joke, everyone loved it none the less.

Their new song “Real Good Life” received just as warm of a reaction as their more well-known songs as well. When they played “Say It, Just Say It”, the audience exploded into jumping fits while still managing to sing every word along with the band.

Overall, it was a fantastic show showcasing the optimism of the local scene, which The Mowgli’s have been a large influence on. Make sure to scoop up their new release, I Was Starting To Wonder, as well as the music from these up and coming bands.

Amerikkant but Ministry Took Command In Anaheim

MINISTRY

MINISTRY; photo James Christopher

MINISTRY was in top form at House of Blues Thursday night, kicking off the Amerikkant tour. They played well, sounded good, the stage was well-lit, the live mix was LOUD but spot-on allowing enough separation between instruments – a feat in itself – with up to eight musicians at any one time.

MINISTRY; photo James Christopher

MINISTRY stage; photo James Christopher

An eye-catching stage was adorned on each side with monstrous blowup chickens (turkeys?) sporting weird Trump-style hair and anti-Nazi symbols. Stacks of neon television sets were strewn about the stage and a sea of creepy cool mic stands woven with skulls and silver bones were front and center. A video screen furiously projected in the background throughout the set as the anger within the newer songs grew and grew.

Al Jourgenson MINISTRY; photo James Christopher

Al Jourgenson MINISTRY; photo James Christopher

Whether you’ve been, following Ministry through their various incarnations, or new to the world of Uncle Al Jourgensen, I cannot urge you enough to check out the latest album Amerikkant before seeing them on this tour. It’s in your best interest to familiarize yourself with these new songs – they’re the theme and motivation for the tour.

Sin Quirin MINISTRY; photo James Christopher

Sin Quirin MINISTRY; photo James Christopher

Ministry ushered in the evening with three tracks off Amerikkant beginning with the live debut of the lengthy, industrial-metal song, “Twilight Zone” that brings you into the fold, setting a unifying tone before moving into the live debut of, “Victims Of A Clown”. It’s another sure-to-be classic Ministry song, with guest vocalist Burton C. Bell (Fear Factory) taking over lead vocals while Jourgensen sang occasional backup but mostly played stunning guitar on his teardrop, masterfully using a distorted wah-wah effect and slide.

Cesar Soto MINISTRY; photo James Christopher

Cesar Soto MINISTRY; photo James Christopher

A little past the midway point of the set, some of the “older” songs from the late 80s, early 90s, began to appear “Just One Fix,” “N.W.O.,” “Thieves,” and “So What”. The band was truly locked in at this point and became even looser playing the longtime fan favorites, culminating in a 13-song setlist, plus a single song encore – 1999s “Bad Blood”.

All night, the frenzy of the crowd escalated as the energy of Ministry continued to fire on all cylinders. It never felt like they were just phoning it in. Everyone seemed keen to be on stage, playing great music both old and new.

Al Jourgenson MINISTRY; photo James Christopher

Al Jourgenson MINISTRY; photo James Christopher

Ministry definitely took command in Anaheim, but they also provided a platform to let your inner angst run rampant for a couple of hours.

Don’t forget to do yourself a favor – check out Amerikkant.

One Love Cali Fest Day 2: Beautiful Moments Abound

ARISE ROOTS; photo Andy Ortega

ARISE ROOTS; photo Andy Ortega

For those of you unfamiliar with Long Beach’s annual One Love Cali Reggae Festival, it is exactly what you would expect a festival called “One Love” to be: music about peace, love, and weed being played to peaceful, loving people smoking weed. But it was also so much more than that. As I made my initial voyage through the festival grounds last Sunday, I could not keep from smiling up at the warmth of the sun, as the breeze blew gently through the air, my body already bouncing to the music as it wafted in from the distant speakers of the main stage. I don’t think I realized it then, that the smile would last the entire day (my cheeks are actually sore). The general “vibes” I felt from the fans, the festival personnel, and the performers created an almost tangible atmosphere of goodwill and soulful freedom. When you throw in a whole day of reggae music played by artists who radiate peace and love, then you can maybe start to imagine the boundless joy that was the One Love Cali Reggae.

MATISYAHU; photo Andy Ortega

MATISYAHU; photo Andy Ortega

Throughout the day, I found myself perpetually in awe of the bands onstage. To the uninitiated, reggae music might seem simple and repetitive. But there is an intricacy that belies the slow tempos and basic chord structures. This thought comes to mind particularly when I think back to MATISYAHU’S performance that day, who outright manifested exactly what I am trying to say. Performing the setlist from his beloved Live at Stubbs album, his command over the music and the crowd was absolute. By all means people were jazzed up about HIRIE, but when Matisyahu went deep into the thickness of his groove, his soaring vocals, frenetic dancing (at one point he was just kicking and flailing around, it was awesome), and general musical prowess had us all under his spell.

ARISE ROOTS; photo Andy Ortega

ARISE ROOTS; photo Andy Ortega

Still drunk off of Matisyahu’s swagger, I made my way to the festival’s smaller stage, the Flav Stage, eager to keep the fire going with help of ARISE ROOTS. With the majestic Queen Mary glinting in the backdrop, the band and surrounding atmosphere was markedly “chiller.” Having just been electrified by Matisyahu, the easy-going tempo and body-hugging basslines made it seem as though the whole world took a hit from a bong. As I swayed to and fro with the rest of the crowd, I found myself flushed with warmth as lead vocalist, Karim Israel, took the time to spread the love he was currently feeling. Not just for his fans, but for the festival and the music, and his band and the world. It was a welcome reminder to be grateful for where I was, surrounded by love at a One Love festival. Looking around at all the smiling faces, I could tell I wasn’t the only one feeling that sense of privilege. What a beautiful moment. And then Hirie came on stage; hype levels rose dramatically. They performed a couple songs together, but honestly it was all just a blur of cannabis clouds and moving hips. Needless to say, after I left the dancefloor, it was time to refuel.

NATTALI RIZE; photo Andy Ortega

NATTALI RIZE; photo Andy Ortega

The various festival eateries took you on a cuisine trip around the world. As a vegetarian, I found myself with plenty of options. With veggie spring rolls, veggie burgers, fruit cups, probably a veggie burrito somewhere, I never really felt limited. There was also CBD-infused cotton candy and donut ice cream sandwiches, simply because the festival runners know their target audience. I ended up having a vegan Jamaican wrap with sweet fried plantains. I had never had anything like it, but it did not matter. Whatever flavors were happening to my mouth, they seemed universally delicious.

It also feels worth noting that the various lines I had to stand in felt entirely reasonable, often even enjoyable.

THE ORIGINAL WAILERS; photo Andy Ortega

THE ORIGINAL WAILERS; photo Andy Ortega

Not only because of their brevity, but also because everybody I met in a line or at the cash register was nicer than the last. I found myself caught in an endless stream of people who were just radiating positive energy. From the shoeless dancing afro guy who was entranced by my shirt, the group of girls who started a backpack pile for everyone so we could all dance without the weight of our stuff, to the swing dancing environmentalist who ended up joining our group and filling the night with stoned laughter and passionate dancing, the people of One Love Cali Reggae deserve a shout out from the bottom, top, and middle of my heart. This goes especially for those who shared in the unforgettable experience of THE ORIGINAL WAILERS.

THE ORIGINAL WAILERS; photo Andy Ortega

THE ORIGINAL WAILERS; photo Andy Ortega

I feel as though it goes without saying: any festival called One Love Cali Reggae should require at least seven Bob Marley songs be performed by the end of the festival. The Original Wailers gladly took up the task with both hands on Sunday, breathing authentic life and energy into the classic reggae “standards.” As the band laid down the sweet sounds of “Could You Be Loved,” the crowd began building a wall of passion and energy around the stage. Everyone, and I almost literally mean everyone, was singing along to every Bob Marley song they played. It had me wondering if the spirit of Robert himself had returned from the ethereal plane to surround and enliven us with the love I often feel through his songs. As the band neared the end of “Is this Love,” they took their cue and stepped aside. What followed was a bursting, angelic chorus of smiling faces singing the whole song all over again, acapella. The whole crowd swayed and sang in unison as the sun set against the surrounding oceanside, in an unforgettable display of what felt like humanity’s true potential. Is this love? You better believe it.

LONG BEACH DUB ALLSTARS; photo Andy Ortega

LONG BEACH DUB ALLSTARS; photo Andy Ortega

I could go on and on about the artists that day. SAMMY JOHNSON sang with unmatchable beauty, as always. BARRINGTON LEVY raised the roof and brought it crashing back down with his rambunctious and tireless crowd-hyping. LONG BEACH DUB ALLSTARS played some of the happiest, energetic reggae I’ve ever heard, with a brass section that simply commanded you to bring your best dance moves.

SAMMY JOHNSON; photo Andy Ortega

SAMMY JOHNSON; photo Andy Ortega

While we’re at it, I also want to take the time to mention the sound engineers. All of the bands were mixed flawlessly, with audio levels that made every single act seem like a headliner. The attention to sound design really made a difference throughout the day, allowing me to fully escape in the vision of each artist. And escape I did. Not just in the music, but in the general frivolity we all shared together. It was truly a beautiful day, one I cannot wait to repeat both in my dreams, and in the years to come.

One Love Cali Fest Day 1: Good Vibes Aplenty

ATMOSPHERE

ATMOSPHERE; photo Andy Ortega

Arriving at the Queen Mary, it was quickly apparent that the promoters were serious about throwing an epic reggae festival. Even though it was a bit overcast, no one in attendance was going to let that slow them down. The grounds were packed with people milling about, exploring the vendors, and getting familiar with the two stages.

Getting from one stage to another was a fun experience in that you had to cross a bridge or go through a tunnel; this made it almost feel like you were going into a different venue altogether. This also prevented the bands from bleeding into each other’s sets, thankfully while providing room for the myriad of vendors and people milling about.

It seemed that nearly every kind of food could be had: burgers, tacos, vegan, and the list goes on and on. There were also plenty of vendors for smoking enthusiasts showcasing all the varieties of vape juice, papers, and everything else.
Of course, the main draw was the artists.

FORTUNATE YOUTH

FORTUNATE YOUTH; photo Andy Ortega

FORTUNATE YOUTH was one of the earliest acts in the day, and their unique sound got the crowd going. Their bongo player was especially intense, with furious whirlwind hands creating some interesting rhythms. What really stood out was the full band lineup, and the way they used it to create the good vibe sounds people love about reggae.

MATISYAHU; photo Andy Ortega

MATISYAHU; photo Andy Ortega

MATISYAHU also went on early in the day, putting his full weight into bringing his unique vibe to the party. The band was loud, exploring noisy and spacey terrains they have become heralded for. And the steady rhythm section paired with Matisyahu’s signature lyric/writing style created a fascinating wall of sound that got the whole crowd buzzing.

TOMORROW'S BAD SEEDS; photo Andy Ortega

TOMORROW’S BAD SEEDS; photo Andy Ortega

TOMORROW’S BAD SEEDS were a major crowd favorite. Minutes before they took the stage, a chant of “TBS! TBS!” could be heard from many devoted followers. Their upbeat set began, and immediately the whole crowd was moving. The fusion of rock, reggae, punk, and pop was apparent; it also sounded awesome. As they got to their more rock numbers, a mosh pit furiously began becoming tough to avoid. Throughout their set, it was quite a treat to see TBS and the fans feed off each other’s energy. Sadly, it was only a thirty-minute set but was a shining example of the shared camaraderie of this scene.

Then ATMOSPHERE took the stage. As the crowd cheered, lyricist Slug disarmed them by sarcastically clapping and saying “Atmosphere, yay…..” (evoking a number of laughs from the audience).

As the beats rolled out, the crowd began vamping without hesitation. With a trippy projection screen behind them, they laid out their trademark sound and styles. Atmosphere didn’t hold back their darker songs, either. But Slug realized where he was and apologized, stating, “That was a bad vibe song. You’re not supposed to play a bad vibe song at a good vibe show! Here’s a good vibe song.”

Their hour-long set was diverse, with some great melodies and real talk by Slug that showcased why Atmosphere is so legendary.

The Long Beach reggae scene came together as one, and put on one excellent festival. The lineup was diverse, with nearly every permutation of reggae-inspired music on display. Whether you’re a newcomer or a devout fan, the One Love Cali Fest is a great way to get to know this music on a more intimate level.

The Raw Power of Dhani Harrison

Dhani Harrison; photo Andy Ortega

Dhani Harrison; photo Andy Ortega

Dhani Harrison brought a heady mix of noise, psychedelic meanderings, and heavy rock-n-roll to the Constellation Room on Nov. 28. Anyone who came expecting a folk-rock set, a pop concert, or any other pre-conceived notion was in for a surprise.

The band itself was comprised of two guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards. Throughout the set, Harrison also invited a number of different guests on stage with him. There was plenty of hard rock vamping, guitar solos, and what we all love about rock bands; however, many numbers saw Harrison employing a keyboard and/or effects unit to create hypnotic drones. In addition, several instances of experimental feedback looping (the kind seen in modern noise centric bands) was used as well.

Dhani Harrison; photo Andy Ortega

Dhani Harrison; photo Andy Ortega

All of the hard rocking and experimental layers blended beautifully with the melodies and song structures created by Harrison. There were sprinklings of his dad’s influence throughout the set of course (most evident in the vocal inflections of his voice and the use of multi-voiced harmonies.) Yet it was all too evident he has painstakingly crafted a style/sound all his own. The songs had the power pop feel about them, but also a subdued atmosphere of darkness and mystery.

Although he reveled in introducing some songs as “loud,” the set was still an intimate one. That is not to say it was not loud, because it most certainly was. But instead of the volume causing tinnitus, it was that perfect level of loud that helped to convey the intensity of the songs. His other favorite moment seemed to be every time he brought up a special guest, something which happened almost every other song. He addressed the crowd a few times, mostly notably letting everyone know they should continue to “be lovely and be excellent.”

Overall, Harrison did a spectacular job of pulling aspect from every decade of rock since the sixties. There were sixties vocal harmonies, seventies style jamming, post-punk experimentalism, nineties rock riffs, indie rock sounds, electronic drones, and more. All of this was on vivid display during the last song of the encore, as all the guest members piled on stage for a raucous cover of “I Wanna Be Your Dog” by The Stooges. It took me by complete surprise, and will go down as one of the best show I’ve ever seen.

Pinky Pinky Jump Start The Night

pinky pinky

Anastasia Sanchez of Pinky Pinky; photo James Christopher

Local teens, Pinky Pinky, had fun while remaining serious about playing their music at The Constellation Room. First of two bands on the bill for The Strokes’ Nick Valensi’s current band CRX, Pinky Pinky played to what began as a low-keyed audience of early arrivers. But, as their set progressed, some “whoops” and hollers erupted from the crowd.

It was hard not to admire this young female trio. Bassist Eva Chambers had some low-down, almost bluesy chops that complemented the deep, sultry voice of drummer/vocalist Anastasia Sanchez. Pony-tail flipping back and forth as she beat out the rhythms, her big eyes and captivating smile made it difficult to look away.

pinky pinky

Isabelle Fields of Pinky Pinky; photo James Christopher

But, when guitarist Isabelle Fields would go into one of her many solos, I had to watch and admire the natural skill and her ability not to rush. It made me wonder what records her parents listened to and if it had a subtle influence on her tone and style. A throw-back to early 70s rock guitar, her riffs and rhythms led me to toe-tapping and made the young men near me start dancing to the music.

Looking comfy but natural, two of the band members dressed in retro gas station attendant/car repair mechanic attire. Sanchez work pink jeans with her white short-sleeve shirt that read “California Towing” on the back while Fields wore a blue jumpsuit that had her ready to crawl under a car to begin repairs.

pinky pinky

Eva Chambers of Pinky Pinky; photo James Christopher

When the last song of the short but strong set was announced, the audience responded with a resounding “No!”, followed by genuine thunderous applause.

In fact, the audience managed to stop them from picking up their gear and leaving the stage, insisting they play one more. Looking slightly embarrassed and unsure, they obliged with one more song.

Keep an eye out for Pinky Pinky and watch their musicianship continue to develop and grow. You won’t be disappointed.

Modest Mouse Bares It Soul At HOB

MODEST MOUSE; photo Lauren Ratkowski

MODEST MOUSE; photo Lauren Ratkowski

At precisely 8:01pm on this particular night, I found myself walking briskly through the pristine, still newly constructed halls of House of Blues Anaheim, concert ticket clutched firmly in hand. As I neared the corner, the unmistakable sound of a crowd “whoo-ing” at the dimming of overhead lights bounced off the walls and into my ears. And thus the signal to quicken my pace had been received. My fast walk evolved into a light jog, my mind and body both determined to bask in the music of the opening band, Morning Teleportation, as soon as possible.

I stand by that light jog; I enjoyed every single second of their performance. Mind you, I do not get to say that about an opening band very often. I also do not think the audience was prepared for how much they would feel that way, as well. It seemed like every song was met with people turning to other people, with bemused excitement, to express at how good it was. Considering how deftly the band mixes funk with psychedelia and 90’s alt rock, one shouldn’t be surprised. For the resulting mixtures are some of the most inventive, viscerally dynamic compositions I’ve ever had the pleasure of dancing to.

MORNING TELEPORTATION; photo Lauren Ratkowski

MORNING TELEPORTATION; photo Lauren Ratkowski

Kicking things off with the titular song of their debut album, Expanding Anyways, the band successfully set the tone for the unexpected. The song floated wearily into existence, the pitter patter of a ride cymbal was soon met with an ethereal, spacey, echoey guitar. Together these sounds filled the bated air, and for a moment, we were all floating above ourselves. Whatever lightness of being that this effect inspired, was suddenly undercut by Tiger Merritt’s sporadic, lightning fast melody. Bursting to the brim with words and concepts, I could barely keep up with him as he spouted on about the universe, and love, and who knows what. But that’s the beauty of this band; I don’t quite understand what is happening to my brain when I listen to them, but I know that I like it.

One moment they are telling my body to sway gently in the audial breeze, the very next I am compelled to bang my head and swing my arms with no regard for those around me. They’ll hit you with hip-thrusting funk right before they melt your mind with a psychedelic breakdown. Their disregard for any kind of song structure often gave way to otherworldly jam sessions, in which every member solos at the same time. Somehow, I expect through magic of some kind, these jams were never muddied by the simultaneous virtuosity. Instead they took on the form of a sonic wall, engineered to perfection by the House of Blue’s staff. They also saw to it that the band had a fully choreographed light show, which only enhanced the band’s welcomed assault on the mind. You don’t see too many opening bands with light shows; one might say they’ve earned it.

MORNING TELEPORTATION; photo Lauren Ratkowski

MORNING TELEPORTATION; photo Lauren Ratkowski

Never once addressing the crowd beyond a “thank you,” their stage presence was somewhat mystical. Their collective composure never rose above a cool and collected swagger, as though they could play their set in their sleep. In my eyes, this dissonance between their collectedness as a band and the mayhem of their music puts them squarely within the definition of rock stars. Whatever we see when we know a band’s “got it,” I can tell you with confidence that nearly every person in that room saw it in Morning Teleportation.

With the audience loosened up and ready to go, people were basically frothing at the mouth when the lights dimmed once more in anticipation of Modest Mouse.

MODEST MOUSE; photo Lauren Ratkowski

MODEST MOUSE; photo Lauren Ratkowski

They took the stage amidst a deafening crowd, each person trying to out-whoo the person next to them. This went on all night, really. Everyone in that crowd was apparently very stoked to be a part of that crowd. This infectious, radiant energy envelopes my memories of the night. I can still hear the impassioned cheering ringing in my ears.

Thankfully, said cheering was not let forth in vain. It was certainly well deserved, as the band made their way through a decades-spanning set with the ease, purpose, and skill of accomplished professionals. The extent of their catalogue was not lost on them, opting to play some older favorites (“Missed the Boat” and “I Came as a Rat”) before they touched any material off their latest album. Older songs were mixed evenly, consciously, with the new. While they shied away from playing songs with the most radio time — such as “Float On” or “The World at Large” — it didn’t feel wrong. It felt right to give way to deeper cuts in favor of overplayed singles that don’t define the band by any means. I imagine those songs are a bit like how “Creep” is to Radiohead. At a certain point, no one expects to hear that song at their concerts, in spite of how foundational it was to their current status. But honestly, everyone there was such a die-hard, I don’t think it mattered for a single moment.

MODEST MOUSE; photo Lauren Ratkowski

MODEST MOUSE; photo Lauren Ratkowski

In addition to knowing what songs to play, more importantly, they know how to play them. At various points throughout the night, they brought out a banjo, an upright bass, a violin, and a cowbell, depending on what the timbre of the song demanded. As a result, the production of each song felt greatly deliberated. There was a clear effort to bring the songs into as full an existence as humanly possible. Many of the musicians were multi-instrumentalists, allowing for seamless transitions between songs, and for me personally, a definite awe-factor. It’s not every show you get to see someone shred on trumpet, then hop on the piano, only to follow it up with some backup percussion.

But really, everyone on that stage bared their soul to the world, merged with their instrument, etc. Every single song was played as though tomorrow was already gone. At the epicenter of the band’s primal energy was Isaac Brock. He was a maestro of madness, with his unique brand of rap-singing delivered with such raw intensity, I got the feeling that he deliberately bottles up his emotions between shows, so as to make sure we leave those shows feeling invigorated by his gushing release. And while one could barely understand what the hell he was yelling about, it didn’t matter. What mattered was the feeling of being there in that room, of being a thread in a thriving, thrashing tapestry of emotional and musical release.