Big Bad Voodoo Daddy Play Around SoCal

BIG BAD VOODOO DADDY

BIG BAD VOODOO DADDY play The Coach House Jul 8; photo James Christopher

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy bring their full ensemble to perform their throwback swing music at The Coach House Jul 7 and The Cave Jul 8. The Coach House has been fortunate to have Big Bad Voodoo Daddy perform on a somewhat regular basis.

“It’s just a fun, old concert venue. It’s been there for a long time. Everybody has played there,” Marhevka said. “The reason we’re able to perform there more often is because we’re a Southern California based band so I think it’s a little easier for us to schedule that in around our touring schedule. You’ll see a lot of great artists play there all the time. It’s one of those fun, classic, American music halls.”

Scotty Morris, guitar/vocals, and Kurt Sodergren, drums formed the nine-piece band in 1993. The rest of the members joined soon after bringing a mix of woodwind instruments, a double bass, and piano to the mix. In the 1990’s they became one of the prominent bands of the swing revival with their combination of jazz, swing and Dixieland music.

Back when Big Bad Voodoo Daddy first started to play live, they were often greeted by stages too small to fit the whole band.

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy; photo James Christopher

“Up in San Francisco we used to play Club Deluxe which we couldn’t even fit on at all. So half of the band had to stand on the floor,” Marhevka recalled. “We’ve been so tight on stage it’s been difficult but we always make it happen!”

One of their most notorious singles, “You & Me & the Bottle Makes 3 Tonight (Baby)”, was featured in the soundtrack for the film “Swingers”, as well as “I Wan’na Be Like You” and “Go Daddy-O”.

This success led to three albums on Capitol Records, the platinum selling, “Americana Deluxe,” and the follow up albums, “This Beautiful Life,” and “Save My Soul.”

The group recently released a new album Louie, Louie, Louie, their first since 2013’s Christmas album It Feels Like Christmas which features both traditional and original Christmas songs.

“We’ll be doing stuff from all of our albums,” said Marhevka. “We’ll kind of do an eclectic mix of everything.”

ALBUM REVIEW: Michael Monroe “The Best”

MICHAEL MONROE "The Best" album cover

MICHAEL MONROE “The Best” album cover

On his latest release The Best (available Jul 7 on Spinefarm Records) Michael Monroe sings, sneers and struts his way through the 29 songs on this excellent double disc collection of his solo output.

Monroe is one of the true believers. One of those artists that worship at the altar of The Stones, The Dolls and The Dead Boys. That guy that always wears black Ray-Bans, a leather biker jacket, and is always the sharpest dressed guy in the room. A troubadour misfit who’s on a mission to help us remember how good rock-n-roll can sound when it’s played with heart and above all with style.

Monroe was lead vocalist with star crossed rockers Hanoi Rocks a band that burned out before they gained much traction (at least here in the USA). But since then Mike Monroe has been putting out album after album of near perfect glam rock ear candy, the best of which has been collected on these two discs.

Opening track “Dead, Jail Or Rock n’ Roll” sets the thematic tone for 30 years of dirty sleazy rock played just the right way. By the right way I mean grinding guitars, catchy hooks and a fuck you attitude…all set to a beat you can dance to.

Michael Monroe

Michael Monroe

Listening to this collection as a whole what really stands out is the high quality of material Monroe has been able to maintain over ten albums and three decades. Honestly, it’s a wonder he hasn’t achieved a higher profile in the States; maybe that’s a good thing.

This music sounds like it was created by an artist who’s still hungry and that gives the music from the first track recorded 30 years ago to the very latest tracks recoded exclusively for this collection an urgency and electricity that many lesser talents lose after so many years in the game. Like I said Monroe is a true believer and his mantra is three chords and a dream.

This is a great Friday night record. Have a few friends over. Have a few shots of tequila (ok have many shots of tequila). It’s going to be a long night of partying and you’ve got 30 years of great rock n’ roll for your soundtrack, what are you waiting for?

Just Give In And Check Out Hazel English

hazel english

HAZEL ENGLISH plays Bootleg Theater Jul 19; photo Andy Ortega

Hazel English will stop by Bootleg Theater for one night Jul 17 with a new EP Just Give In / Never Going Home under her wing.

Concert Guide Live reached out to Hazel English prior to her string of SoCal dates in February of this year to find out more about her songwriting, performing and her live band.

CONCERT GUIDE LIVE: When did you realize you wanted to be a performer and play in front of people?
HAZEL ENGLISH: I think I’ve always wanted to be a performer. I used to be a gymnast and a dancer from a young age so I think there’s always been a part of me that enjoyed performing for people. But it wasn’t until I was about 16 that I actually started to play music for people.

CGL: I believe you were born in Australia, what effect, if any, do you think it had on your music?
HZ: I’m not sure growing up in Australia has really had a strong effect on my music because I’ve always listened to music from other places, mainly British music actually. In Australia there is still a huge influence from the US and the UK when it comes to the music industry.

CGL: Much of your lyrical content is questioning, searching, and full of uncertainty yet the music is dreamy and somewhat relaxing, almost meditative. Is this contradiction a conscious effort or just the way your songwriting works out?
HZ:I don’t really analyze my own songwriting process, I feel like I’m already neurotic enough as it is. Though I do think that in having a dreamier, more mellow vibe, it’s easier to say difficult things without creating a really sad sounding song. I also just prefer to listen to dreamy types of music and I tend to write about what troubles me, so I guess you could say it’s just those two things coming together.

hazel english

Hazel English; photo Andy Ortega

CGL: Do you write both the lyrics and music? Which comes first?
HZ: It’s not a strict rule but I generally come up with a melody and/or chord progression first and then I will find lyrics to fit. Though sometimes it all happens at once and that can feel really magical.

CGL: Who is in your live band, and what do they play?
HZ: David Vieira plays guitar and keys, Eric Sugatan plays bass/synth & Liam O’Neill plays drums. We’re all really close friends, which makes it even more special to me. I feel lucky to have such a great band for the live show.

CGL: Tell me about one of your favorite songs from your EP.
HZ: I would say my favourite song is “Never Going Home”. It was the first song I wrote and recorded for the EP. I had no expectations or pre-meditations so it felt kind of pure in a sense. I wrote it in the studio and we recorded it really fast, so there was no time to second-guess myself.

CGL: What’s next on the horizon for 2017?
HZ: Getting ready to go on my first U.S. headline tour, which I’m really excited about. Also working on some new material which is always fun! I expect it’s going to be a busy year.

CGL: What do you like to do when you’re not playing?
HZ: I love reading sci-fi novels. I just finished reading “Fahrenheit 451” which I’ve heard is a book most people read in high school but I didn’t. I also really enjoy biking if it’s a nice day out.

King Crimson Brings Musical Circus Act To SoCal

KING CRIMSON

KING CRIMSON plays Humphrey’s By the Bay Jun 19 and Greek Theater Jun 21; press photo

King Crimson is in the midst of their 2017 U.S. tour intriguingly called the “Radical Action Tour” perhaps as a nod to the three-part song of the same name. They’ll be stopping at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles which is somewhat of a homecoming.

“I know King Crimson used to play there way back when I joined the band in the 80s,” bassist Tony Levin recalled. “That was our L.A. venue.

“It’s a sophisticated audience and we have a lot of fans there.”

Concert Guide Live spoke with Levin about the fascination of watching three drummers perform, cell phone taboo, David Bowie and a whole lot more.

CONCERT GUIDE LIVE: So, was last night the first night of the U.S. tour?
TONY LEVIN: Yes and no. Really the first concert is tonight. But last night, as we usually like to do with King Crimson, we like to do a full-dress run-through concert. We call it a friends and family show. In essence, it’s a real show but it’s not public. So here in Seattle we had more than a few friends and family, I think there were 600 people. It was a full show in every sense but it wasn’t the beginning of the tour.

Like everything with King Crimson the answer is not the normal.

CGL: It sounds like it went well, did you get enough sleep?
TL: I did get enough sleep, thank you, and it did go very well. It went a little long, it was over three hours. I’m guessing that we’re going to shorten the show a little bit from tonight on but we’ll see. Actually, Robert Fripp, our leader, makes up the set list each morning and presents it to us in the afternoon because we have a wealth of material that we can do. We like to do a lot of it but we can’t do all of it each night so I won’t know what tonight’s set will be like until this afternoon when I arrive at soundcheck.

CGL: I was going to ask if you were going to play pretty much the same set each night, but I guess not!
TL: No! For sure not. This tour we’re doing a lot of one-nighters. I think even with one-nighters we’ll change it from night to night. I don’t mean the set will be completely different. As I said, we have a lot of material to consider presenting.

CGL: Does the band take a break during the set or play on through?
TL: I can’t say what the show in Los Angeles will be like but here where we have time to do the full three hours that we want to do, there is an intermission in the middle.

CGL: In regard to the current live lineup, is it an eight piece and are there 3 drummers?
TL: Yes, it is an eight-piece and yes there are three drummers. In a way, there are four drummers [laughs]. We have four drummers in the band but this tour we’re only having three of them play. Bill Rieflin, a drummer who also plays very good keyboards, is playing keyboards on this tour.

For one reason is we have to figure out a way to get four drum kits on the stage. And for another reason, all of the drum parts over the last few years have been very elaborately devised to be divided among three drummers. So, it’s going to be a major re-write to have four drummers but we might do that in the future.

But right now, there are three drummers and they are presented in the front row of the stage so when the audience looks up they see drums across the entire stage. And on a riser behind them are the other five of us. If it sounds like a circus act it is a musical circus act.

I know I can’t help but watch the drummers. It’s a fascinating thing to see the way they’ve divided up the parts. They really don’t pound out the same part ever. They have a number of strategies. Even within one song, they have a number of very interesting strategies and the audience can easily follow along even if they’re not paying attention to the rest of the music which is also pretty special, I think.

We have a lot going on and what I really value about the Crimson show is all these things are very different than other bands. It’s not easy even if you’re a progressive band, quote/unquote, it’s not easy to do things that haven’t been done before, that a lot of bands aren’t doing. King Crimson really is involved in trying very hard to do that in all ways with our music.

Even if King Crimson is presenting a lot of classic King Crimson material from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, and 2000s, and also some new material and also some improv, even though we’re doing that we’re doing that in a way of not just playing it the way it was. We’re trying to re-interpret it and do everything as if it’s new music being played by a band that really is progressive and forward-thinking.

CGL: I noticed you’re playing the Greek Theatre and Humphrey’s in San Diego which are both outdoor places, will there be a light show or stage show, as well, or is it just music?
TL: How shall I put this? [laughs] It’s unusual. There isn’t a big light show in fact there’s a noticeable lack of light show but there is a lighting change. One. So, yes and no. Yes, there is a light show but in a way there isn’t a light show.

I think the nature of this band is there’s a lot to listen to and there’s a lot to watch in the interaction among the players and of course the drummers in the front row. But we’re not trying to distract the audience with production.

I think also in a way it’s kind of unusual that we do what bands would like to do, but don’t often do – we insist that the audience not take pictures with cell phones and videos and not lessen the experience of the other people in the audience by distracting them with their cell phones. We have a pretty well-enforced rule – no taking pictures and no videos – until the very end when I pick up my camera, because I love to take pictures of the show of the audience.

I can tell from looking at my pictures every night of the audience many of them are waiting and very happy to take out their cameras at the end and take pictures of us. That’s what I see in my pictures – a whole lot of people taking pictures of me.

It hasn’t been an easy road trying to insist that the audience do that but it’s been very worthwhile. We try to do our best to have our music at the highest level we can and it’s a good feeling to know it’s not being utterly messed up by somebody holding their camera in front of somebody else.

CGL: King Crimson recently covered Bowie’s “Heroes”, just curious what that song means to you personally?
TL: For me, of course it was a rough year losing David Bowie and I had played on a couple of his albums most recently The Next Day. So, like all fans that was a big emotional thing last year.

Last year Robert decided to add “Heroes” as a surprise encore to our German shows. And for those who don’t know that song “Heroes”, the original recording had a very distinct guitar solo by Robert Fripp. It’s the only piece we do that wasn’t written by King Crimson. Musically it’s quite a big surprise because it’s so simple compared to the very complex King Crimson pieces that we do.

It was a nice counterpoint and wonderful to hear live and in person Robert doing that sound and that wonderful distinctive thing that he had done on that record so long ago.

CGL: Speaking of Bowie, you worked with him as well as Lou Reed, what was it like working with them? How did they differ?
TL: Very different. I only worked with Lou Reed when I played on the Berlin album in one of those typical studio situations that’s not the most gratifying. I didn’t even meet him, he wasn’t there when I played bass on a track or two. A producer brought me in. I’m pleased to have been on that record but it wasn’t a musical interaction of any kind.

Later I met him when I was part of a movie, a Paul Simon movie that Lou Reed was in. I met him and interacted with him and that was great.

With David Bowie however, like I said, I played on a couple of albums and I was just so impressed with what a good musician he is. In addition, of course, to being a great performer, a great artist, a great writer. You wouldn’t know it, necessarily, seeing him on stage because he’s focused on his singing. But a really excellent pianist and he can really run the band.

The way he brought in that material to that album The Next Day he just laid it down for us. He played it perfectly each time and sang it perfectly. And as a side man or a musician collaborating on a record that’s what you want. You don’t want to be searching for the tempo and the feel. When it’s all given to you and all you have to do is find your part, everything moves along smoothly and well. That happened very much and it’s a testament to his talent that he could do that in addition to all the other things.

CGL: Considering your longevity in the music industry, what advice do you have for bands that are starting out today?
TL: That’s a challenging question. I’m more inclined to get advice from people who are doing well [laughs]. I treasure the playing and the directions of people who do things different than me. I’m not a band who started out and succeeded as that. You are correct, I do have longevity in the music industry but I’m very much a bass player.

I know as a musician there are many ways to do it. But what I have in common with a lot of the musicians that I work with is that we always, only, wanted to play music. That was the only option for us. And I think some other people who have other options, have in their journey gone off to the other options.

Even though music is very satisfying and gratifying, there are a lot of challenges and there’s a lot of disillusionment on the road to becoming successful as a musician.

And what I’ve experienced is it’s a wonderful career, a wonderful thing to do just to go around and share your music with people as a living and being able to do that your whole life. I consider myself a very lucky person to have been able to do that.

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.

Sons Of Texas To Raise Hell In SoCal

SONS OF TEXAS

SONS OF TEXAS plays The Parish at House of Blues Jun 16, Whisky Jun 17, Observatory North Park Jun 18; photo Chris Phelps

Sons of Texas will headline The Parish at House of Blues Anaheim on Jun 16 then open for Hellyeah at the Whisky A Go Go Jun 17 and again at the Observatory North Park Jun 18. They are currently in the midst of a U.S. tour, part of which was with Fozzy and Kyng.

“The guys in Fozzy were real good to us and Kyng are fun to hang out with,” guitarist Jes De Hoyos commented.

Hailing from McAllen, Texas, De Hoyos notes “that’s about as deep south as you can go in the United States.”

They were naturally brought up with a variety of cultures that all played a part in the music they create, which centers around hard rock and a little bit of metal.

“We’ve got some groove in our music, we’ve got some of the blues and some rock,” De Hoyos said. “I think when you tie it all together it creates the sound that we have.”

As a next generation of bands from Texas, Sons of Texas is a fitting name as their music is often referenced to other bands from the state.

Sons of Texas

Sons of Texas

“Before we were called Texas but that name was already taken so we had to come up with something,” De Hoyos recalled. “We would play shows locally and we kept getting referenced that we sound like this or we sound like that and a lot of the bands that would be referenced would be Texas bands. So, we just started to call ourselves like a NexGen kind of thing.”

Their debut album, Baptized In The Rio Grande”, was released in 2015 on Razor & Tie and a new one is completed and ready to be released later this year, also produced by Josh Wilbur (Lamb of God, All That Remains, Hatebreed).

“It’s been great working with him so far,” De Hoyos said. “You know the first album was awesome. It kind of doesn’t even feel like work sometimes. It feels like dudes hanging out. [laughs] It makes for a good workflow and I think we get things done like that.”

Everyone contributes to the songwriting – De Hoyos, Jon Olivares (guitar), Mike Villareal (drums), Nick Villareal (bass) – while most of the lyrics are penned by vocalist, Mark Morales.

“Typically, I’d say nine times out of ten it starts with a riff,” De Hoyos explained. “Jon or myself will come up with an idea and we’ll try to build on that and if everything flows naturally then we keep going until we’re finished. We just feed whatever feels good, pretty much.”

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.

Orchestrated Chaos With Fu Manchu

FU MANCHU

FU MANCHU play The Wayfarer Jun. 10; photo courtesy of Scott Reeder

Stoner rock legends Fu Manchu have been cranking out crunchy, raunchy, gut-punching music for over 27 years now. Their expansive catalogue is chock full of riffs that inspire breaking speed limits and furniture, and has undoubtedly been the soundtrack to countless nights of debauchery and mayhem. And now, after three years, the band is gearing up to add some more weapons to their sonic assault, and more reasons to grow out your hair and bang your head aggressively.

On the figurative eve of this new album, the band will take the stage in the small, intimate, hipster room that is The Wayfarer in Costa Mesa on June 10. If you know anything about this band’s stage presence, you know that it’s a powerhouse of intense, bursting energy. With solos that melt your face off your face, drums that throttle your limbs to exhaustion, and vocals that bring the thrashing punk out of us all, the band is set to shake the little Wayfarer to its foundations.

Speaking about the new album, as well as his views on music and art in general, drummer Scott Reeder checked in for a quick chat in advance of their upcoming show.

CONCERT GUIDE LIVE: Your last album came out in 2014. Which begs the question, is anything currently in the works? Is this a typical amount of time between records for you guys?
SCOTT REEDER: Well, it’s not like we’ve been sitting around for three years. This year we actually had to kind of go, ‘Ok, we’re not playing any shows, we have to focus on doing an album’. You know, because once you start playing shows, you gotta rehearse, and it’s a whole switching gears thing. But it’s actually worked out, because we have kind of like a special thing that we’re trying to get done with this record. We’re trying to do something – it’s nothing huge – and I don’t really want to reveal anything yet on it…

CGL: But it’s something different?
SR: Yeah, it’s something different for us. And if we can pull it off… we were actually supposed to start recording tomorrow. But we pushed it back because the facilities weren’t exactly what we wanted for right now. You know, all the minutiae. It’s hard to find that kind of shit.

CGL: Well, attention to detail is what makes a good album though.
SR: Well yeah, but we’re hoping to get all this stuff done by June and have the record out in October. And then be doing the States and then Europe, the whole thing that we usually do.

CGL: So, could we expect to hear any of these new songs at The Wayfarer?
SR: Hmmmm… Maybe… It’s a possibility… (laughs). I’m always up for doing that. It’s just – whether the singer can remember the new words. Which really doesn’t matter, because no one knows the words anyways. But yeah, I’m pretty sure we’ll play some new stuff. That’s pretty much all we’ve been rehearsing is all the new stuff.

CGL: You mentioned earlier that you don’t think there’s a place for acoustic music in Fu Manchu, because that’s not what people want to hear from your band. Does this mean that you guys write music with the feedback from fans in mind?
SR: Ahhhh… no, we really don’t write for the fans. It’s more for us. Because you can never go like, ‘Oh people will like this’. You have to be stoked on shit first before other people can get stoked on it. You can’t just play stuff you don’t like and be all, ‘Well, we’re gonna play this because we know people will like it’.

CGL: Yeah, that’s not what art is really about…
SR: Well, I’m not an artist. I don’t paint houses. I play drums. C’mon. The whole artist thing is a little bit overblown, I think. ‘Oh, I’m an artist’. Oh, you’re an artist? What, you play with clay, and sculptures and all that shit? ‘No, I play drums’. C’mon.

Fu Manchu

Fu Manchu

CGL: Okay, so then what do you consider art to be?
SR: It’s sort of in the eye of the beholder I suppose. If people want to label it that, they can. But from my perspective… I think it’s people trying to put a higher meaning on what they do. You can do that. But it’s subjective. People are the ones who put the meaning on what you do. They put the meaning on it by relating it to their experiences and common experiences that everybody has. So, in that sense, you listen to something and go like, ‘Oh man, this guy thinks the same that I do,’ or, ‘He says that thing that I’m trying to say, that I can’t say. And it makes me feel good because I feel like he gets me’.

And that’s really what makes community, I think. So, I guess if we were involved in any kind of community it would be like, we do the thing that we do and I guess we have to like it before anyone else does. So, in that sense, we are connected to other people who like our music.

Drum Legend Corky Laing Moves Mountain!

CORKY LAING

CORKY LAING; photo Joachim Juttner

Spring & Summer 2017 World Tour!

Corky Laing, the powerhouse drummer of the legendary bands Mountain and West, Bruce & Laing is taking Mountain’s music back on the road. Since 2015 Corky has infrequently played in Europe and the US as Corky Laing plays Mountain. The audiences’ response to Corky’s passion, energy and respect for the music has been enthusiastic and a momentum has been building. Spring and summer of 2017 see Corky embark on a World tour.

Corky Laing Plays Mountain World Tour 2017
06/02 – Beverly (N. Boston), MA – 9 Wallis
06/03 – Philadelphia, PA – Kung Fu Necktie
06/05 – Raleigh, NC – Kings
06/06 – Wilmington, NC – Reggies
06/08 – Atlanta, GA – Southern Comfort
06/09 – Hattiesburgh, MS – Thirsty Hippo
06/10 – New Orleans, LA – Siberia
06/11 – Houston, TX – White Oak
06/13 – San Antonio, TX – Sam’s Burger Joint
06/14 – Austin, TX – Barracuda
06/16 – Denver, CO – Electric Funeral Fest
06/17 – Santa Fe, NM – Boxcar
06/18 – Phoenix, AZ – Club Red
06/20 – San Diego, CA – Brick By Brick
06/21 – Los Angeles, CA – Regent

06/23 – San Francisco, CA – Thee Parkside
06/24 – Sacramento, CA – Starlite
06/26 – Portland, OR – Dante’s
06/27 – Seattle, WA – El Corazon
07/01 – Calgary, AB – Palomino
07/04 – Madison, WI – High Noon
07/05 – Chicago, IL – Reggies
07/06 – Cleveland, OH – Grog Shop
07/07 – Detroit, MI – Token Lounge
07/08 – Toronto, ON – Garrison
07/09 – Pittsburgh, PA – Cattivo
(More dates to be announced.)

Coco Montoya Grateful To Play Live

coco montoya

COCO MONTOYA plays The Coach House Jun. 2; photo Joseph A Rosen

Fans in South Orange County have been fortunate to see blues guitarist, Coco Montoya play at The Coach House many times over the years. In fact, they’ll get another chance Jun. 2.

“I’ve just always liked the vibe of the place,” Montoya said. “The sound system is always great and it’s just a fun place to play. Definitely The Coach House is one of my favorite venues.”

CONCERT GUIDE LIVE: Do you remember when and where your very first concert was?
COCO MONTOYA: I wouldn’t call it a concert but when I was kid we did all the teen dances and all those sort of things. Those were the first experiences with being in front of the public and being appreciated. And some of them, maybe appreciated too much (laughs). You have to go through that part as well.

CGL: Were you nervous or did you take to it right away?
CM: Always nervous. You have your moments of real confidence and you definitely have moments of doubt.

CGL: Is there anything in particular you like to do right before you go on stage?
CM: Not really. There’s no real kind of thing I do other than tell myself how grateful I am to be able to go and do it one more time. I need to let myself know how I feel about that and let the audience know how this can all be taken away and some day it will be, you know?

COCO MONTOYA

COCO MONTOYA; photo Yves Bougardier

CGL: You’ve played tons of live shows, in all sizes of venues, what is it about performing live that you like so much?
CM: It’s just the immediate reaction of people. I mean that to me is the whole reason to be out here doing it. You know, it’s just to get that immediate reaction from folks. It beats studio, it beats all the things for me. To do a live performance and be appreciated and accepted by the people is probably the ultimate for me in playing music.

CGL: In your early days you played with both Albert Collins and John Mayall and in a sense maybe they were kind of like mentors to you. Have you ever taken a blues guitarist under your wing or has any guitarist looked to you in the early stages of their career?
CM: Well, I know that I’ve always tried to be open and in discussion with a young player. It depends. There are some guys, young kids that are coming up that I’ve definitely tried to be there for them and any questions they may have I try and guide them. Give them the knowledge that was given to me so freely.

CGL: It seems like blues players, more than any other genre, try to keep the spirit and roots of the music going from generation to generation.
CM: I just know within the blues, especially coming from my age group, that the old originators of this music who are not here anymore, my experiences with them was that they always nurtured. They always found a way to let you know what they know – sometimes with a pretty rough edge on it (laughs) – that’s still good for you, you know? Yea, you try to pass that along because the blues has always been about that. It’s always been the originators of the music were always very open and very willing to tell you how to go about it.

CGL: Tell me about the new album Hard Truth. How did you choose the songs that you covered and where did you find the inspiration for the songs that you wrote?
CM: The songs being covered were kind of trying to come to a meeting ground with the record company, I’ll just be honest with you. And some weren’t songs I picked but we went in there and what’s great about the blues and the producing of Tony Braunagel was to interpret these songs in a brand new way which I think we accomplished.

Coco Montoya

Coco Montoya; photo Marilyn Stringer

The inspiration for the songs we wrote is just a continuum of writing with my co-writer, Dave Steen. Just getting together and coming up with songs. We’re pretty proud of what we’ve done.

CGL: Do you have a favorite off the new album, or a couple of favorites?
CM: It’s hard to call any of them a favorite. Because when you do an album they all have their place and what they mean to you. “Devil Don’t Sleep” was a great accomplishment for me because it was way out of my comfort zone. That one was trying something you’re not sure is going to work but you’re glad you gave it a shot, you know? That I always enjoyed.

“Truth Be Told” is one I wrote with Dave that I really like. They all have a certain attraction a certain reason why you gravitated toward those. The whole thing of recording, for me anyway, is to step outside the box and accomplish something.

CGL: So you play a Strat – is that your preferred guitar?
CM: Yea, that’s what I use, they’re pretty durable, I’ve been using them for a long time. And playing unorthodox like I do, I kind of need something that’s fairly consistent. Switching guitars and all that stuff too often, I’m not real good at that. I’ve had my Strats for a long time and they pretty much do the job for me.