faUSt Promises Splendid Mess At The Broad

faUSt play The Broad Jul 28; press photo

faUSt play The Broad Jul 28; press photo

FaUSt, the legendary 60s German experimental rock band, will make a rare appearance July 28 at Summer Happenings: Social Shamans at The Broad in Los Angeles, supported by the Goethe Institut.

Concert Guide Live caught up with founding member, Jean-Herve Peron the day after arriving in the U.S.to talk about the upcoming tour, politics, and music. En route to their Air BnB in Chicago, Peron was a little bit punch-drunk, excited and ready for the first show.

“We are totally ready,” Peron enthused. “We are jet-lagged. We are nervous. We are standing right in the middle of a huge traffic jam. The weather is too hot. We are ready!”

CONCERT GUIDE LIVE: Will you have any sort of stage show or are you just going to play your instruments and go for it!?
JEAN-HERVÉ PÉRON: It’s going to be a splendid mess. A great touted performance. There will be women and men involved and water tanks and all kinds of things happening. Dada, punk, poetry…

CGL: FaUSt has been around for nearly 50 years, which means you must have a fanatical fanbase. Are you making new fans, as well?
JHP: Our bodies are aging and our bones and muscles are getting involved in time. But our spirit is not getting old for some reason. Sometimes I wonder, am I infantile or am I senile? I’m not sure which end I’m at. So that keeps us in a position of always looking at the world with newborn baby’s eyes, and the same with art. My friend, Zappi (co-founder Werner ‘Zappi’ Diermaier) and myself are still curious about things, we like to explore new things, we like to discover the digital world, all kinds of things.

CGL: Going back to the beginning, what were some of your early musical inspirations that lead you to doing this type of music?
JHP: The major factor that was triggering our energy was that we wanted to find our own destiny. Let me put it this way – Germany was a cultural wasteland after WWII. The USA helped Europe to get back on their feet. The economy got much better but there is always a side effect to this.

Obviously, all the European’s are very thankful that the USA helped us get out of this mess. But the side effect was that we were invaded by a new culture, a new way of food, of art. I’m talking about like the McDonald invasion and also, I’m not being arrogant about this, but this wasn’t enough for us young people. I’m talking about 1960, fifteen years after WWII was over. We were young, and we wanted to have our own way of thinking. And certainly, the lyric of typical rock-n-roll didn’t satisfy us, and the three-chord endless sequence didn’t satisfy us. We were eager to find our own identity. That was the main motivation.

CGL: It’s probably that way for every generation.
JHP: Absolutely. In 1968 we were the May ’68 children and we wanted to change everything socially, politically, economically, sexually, Everything. And nowadays I notice, and for this I have an excellent thermometer, I have a daughter who is as young as I was in ’68, and I feel they are confronted with a similar situation and I feel that there is a lot of energy that is similar to the energy that we had back in ’68.

My daughter’s generation is having a hard time. There is a powerful drift to the right and it’s all over the world. In Europe it’s very clear to see and in other countries also. And the young generation doesn’t want to go right. A huge majority of them don’t want to go right. They have other values in life. I can feel in my daughter’s communication that she’s desperate, but she certainly isn’t helpless. She’s conscious of the environment she’s conscious of the political weirdness of the time and she’s acting against it. I am very proud of this generation.

CGL: When you put together your set list do you know what you’re going to do in advance?
JHP: We have more of a general idea of what we are going to do, and the rest of the set list will be influenced by whatever happens on the days before or directly on the day. But since we know that technical matters are involved of course we know roughly what will happen.

And may I mention, it will be quite exceptional – we will have this splendid group of three colorful ladies called Ernsthafte Angelegenheiten. That means in German, “Serious business. Serious matters. Serious Issues”. They will bring this new blood into FaUSt. And that promises to be for us and everybody involved very challenging but very interesting.

CGL: Are they playing with you or are they playing separately?
JHP: They are playing with us as part of FaUSt. We also have some friends playing with us.

CGL: Is there anything else you’d like to add or talk about?
JHP: We are extremely excited to be performing in the United States. It’s a bit complicated to get into your country but once we are here, it’s great. Meeting so many people in the audience. Meeting so many different artists in so many different cities. We are privileged.

The Los Angeles portion of the tour will include founding members Jean-Hervé Péron and Werner ‘Zappi’ Diermaier along with Amaury Cambuzat, Braden Diotte, and possible surprise guests.

Tribute To Tributes: Queen Nation

QUEEN NATION

QUEEN NATION (Queen Tribute); press photo

Although it’s no longer possible to go see the classic line-up of the British rock band Queen due to the death of Freddie Mercury in 1991, tribute bands across the globe have stepped up to help others experience the influential musical group in its prime. One of these bands is Queen Nation.

Founded in 2004 in California by Dave Hewitt, the vice president of entertainment at The Canyon in Agoura Hills, Queen Nation has striven for 13 years done their utmost to capture the look, sound and style of Queen.

However, given the emphasis placed on giving great performances, Queen Nation’s tireless efforts to perfectly capture Queen’s unique music are not easy. Mike McManus, who plays the role of Queen’s legendary guitar player Brian May, admits that is quite task.

“I think because with the instrumentation, obviously Freddie Mercury’s vocal range, the harmonies and the song writing, it’s really difficult to pull off. I think, as a musician, it’s probably some of the most challenging music to perform.”
It’s even more herculean as McManus and his group do their utmost to emulate everything about Queen specifically during their iconic run during the 80’s.

“We wanted to make people who had seen Queen back in 1980 to kind of give them the feeling they were seeing that all over again. We try to do the same outfits they wore around the same time and the same mannerisms. We want people to kind of revisit the classic Queen concerts.”

QUEEN NATION

QUEEN NATION (Queen Tribute); Big Time Photo

The group is so devoted to replicating Queen’s trademarks it even goes so far as to actively promote audience participation.

“We try to get them involved as much as possible. We encourage singing along. We tell them right at the beginning of the show that ‘we’re not going to do all the work. We want to hear you guys singing loud and clear,’ and it usually works.”
McManus says the effort is worth it. To him it is an honor to commemorate a group whose music and efforts were invaluable in helping him and his bandmates becoming musically active.

“I always said that if I was ever going to be in a tribute band that the only one that I would ever would be to Queen because they’re my favorite band. They’re the reason that I started playing guitar and making music in the first place.”

The group’s efforts for 13 years have not only become “second nature” but made the group of the most prolific Queen tribute bands in the United States. The group has this year enjoyed a very busy schedule for instance.”

“Our first year together we did five shows and now this year we’re ending the year off with I think like 97 or 98 shows,” reports McManus.

That is in fact the norm for the group. McManus says that he expects the group to attain more just as much, if not more, appearances next year.

“We’ve already got 45 shows lined up for 2018. It’ll probably be closer to a hundred shows again next year.”

It’s also helped the group play to great fanfare at local music venues and county fairs but high profile venues too such as Angels Stadium and Las Vegas Hilton. Yet no matter the locale, one thing McManus and his group love more than sharing their love of Queen at such venues is being able to meet fellow Queen fans.

”I could sit here all day and go over how lucky we’ve been as a touring band to meet some of the greatest people you’d ever want to meet.”

For example: McManus specifically recalls playing at the 5th Annual Rock Against MS Benefit Concert & Award Show in Los Angeles last year. Not only did the group headline along with legendary groups such as Foreigner and Whitesnake but equally iconic musicians who grew up with Queen.

“Nancy Wilson from Heart was there, Scotty Hill from Skid Row, Steven Adler from Guns ‘n’ Roses, Jerry Cantrell from Alice in Chains. It was a big star-studded charity benefit and they all loved Queen, just like we did.”

It’s that kind of love for the music of Queen that looks to keep the members of Queen Nation busy for some time McManus says.

“The beauty of this music is that it goes from generation to generation. We have families come to see us every year and we watch their kids grow. We’ve made some really good relationships over the years with our fans and we hope to continue that.”

Just as Queen Nation shows no sign of stopping in helping preserve the legacy of Freddie Mercury and Queen, neither will their music which McManus states firmly will keep going on indefinitely.

“They’ll be playing Queen when you and I are both long gone,” McManus said.

ALBUM REVIEW: The Orb “No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds”

The Orb “No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds”; cover art

The Orb “No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds”; cover art

The Orb are back with their excellent new album No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds (NSAOOB) released June 22, on Cooking Vinyl Records.

NSAOOB finds The Orb expanding on the minimalist sound of their previous two releases and instead bringing in a host of singers and players to create an album that harkens back to the bands’ earliest days while also managing to sound current and fresh.

Album opener “The End Of The Road” kicks things off with keyboards bubbling away and a thundering bassline all elevated with a fantastic lead vocal by Emma Gillespie…and straight off you know this is a return to the song-oriented structure that have made The Orb dancefloor superstars throughout their long and storied career.

Speaking of bass there is lots of it on NSAOOB and the very next track “I wish I had A pretty Dog” grooves along with a bass line so deep and thundering it would put a smile on King Tubby’s face, as would the trippy dub effects and samples that float along like glitter dropped from the heavens floating in and out of the mix at just the perfect moments.

Legendary former Public Image LTD. bassist Jah Wobble is joined by Roger Eno on the track “Pillow Fight At Shag Mountain”, a groovy instrumental number that might sound just as at home on the second Orb album U.F.ORB (released 1992) as it does here. And why not as Mr. Wobble also made an appearance on that album too. Here he gets the same type of spacey groove going that he is justly famous for while Roger Eno’s keyboards add a shimmer to the rootsy bottom end.

NSAOOB is a decidedly English sounding album, even more noticeable after the excellent but minimalist sound on their last two releases. It is also the most commercially accessible album (and I mean that in the very best way possible) that The Orb have released in years. So, to all the old school Orb fans out there – this is the one you’ve been waiting for, and the one you’ll be hearing on the radio and in the clubs for years. In other words, it’s a classic.

Appearing on No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds:
Youth, Thomas Felhmann. Michael Rendall, Andy Caine, Holly Cook, Emma Gillespie, Gaudi, Rev Eno, Jah Wobble, Guy Pratt, Mary Pearse, Brother Culture, Rihanna

The Orb is Alex Paterson

Cash’d Out: Live! Authentic! And in SoCal!

CASH'D OUT

CASH’D OUT (Johnny Cash Tribute); press photo

Sadly, not too long ago we lost the great Johnny Cash. Fortunately, however, we have San Diego based Cash’d Out – a band who continues to bring us the sounds and styles of the legendary artist. Existing for eleven years now, they have traversed the country countless time and earned the praises of fans and critics alike for being “the next best thing to Johnny Cash.”

Currently, Cash’d Out is Douglas Benson on vocals, George Bernardo on drums, and Stephen Rey on bass. But what got this band started in the direction they have taken? “I just like the way he sounds, number one. I like the stories that he tells. I like the man that I’ve learned about and what kind of a man he was. Plus, I can kind of sound like him a little bit”, Benson explains with some humor. ” I put an ad in the San Diego reader, and a few people answered it. One guy I ended up hooking up was Kevin Manuel who became our guitar player. And we formed the band from there. Actually, now I’m the only original member who’s left. But my business partner/drummer/backing vocalist George Bernardo, him and I run it now. And he’s been with me for about ten years now, I guess.”

The first step was like nearly every band, i.e. how long should we play, what songs should we learn, etc. “The first song I learned was “Cry, Cry, Cry” or something like that, it was real simple. We had probably had about fifteen songs to play, maybe, the first time we played. I think it was about a half hour of music,” Benson recalled to the best of his ability. “I remember it was my cousins wedding reception. He got married the same day; we went to dinner, and after dinner he brought the wedding reception party over to the little venue we had booked already. Cuz I didn’t know, that was a last minute thing he did…So it worked out pretty good, we had a pretty good sold-out show.”

As they began to play show after show, Cash’d Out began homing in on exactly what it was they wanted to do. Johnny Cash has an extensive career thus it is not easy for a band to reference all his material in a single show. Thus, the band chose to primarily focus on and combine two areas of the Man in Black’s career: The Sun Records/early Columbia sound and the energetic performances showcased on the prison recordings done at Folsom as well as San Quentin. While these are the most popular eras of Johnny Cash’s music, this was not the reason Benson chose them, “Those are my favorite years. The Sun and Columbia years were my favorite years of Johnny Cash music. So, obviously, that’s where I wanted to start. Why not start from the beginning, as much as possible?”

To date, the oft-quoted number of songs in the bands repertoire is 150, but factors along the way point to a different number according to Benson, “Yea, I probably have learned closer to 300 songs out of the 3600 he wrote and stole. Probably due to, like, personnel changes, and the bass player and guitar player here and there. And the time allotment. Most clubs don’t want you to do a three-hour show anymore. When we first started out, that was what we were doing every time…We try to keep it to 90 minutes and if they want to hear an encore, we have plenty of songs we can do in the encore.”

It is this dedication and authenticity which has garnered them so much praise over the years. Cindy Cash saw Cash’d out and was so moved she gave her father’s locket to Benson; Lou Robin, a longtime Cash manager, stated that closing his eyes at their shows was like “going back in time.” It doesn’t even stop there, since Benson even received the honor of playing one of Cash’s guitars and the official Johnny Cash website endorses them.

One of the most fascinating examples of this was when longtime Cash drummer W.S. Holland sat in with the band for a session. “He was at a show, we did a thing for Bill Miller, owner of JohnnyCash.com…Before he moved to Nashville, he used to live up here in Corona. There was a Fender guitars education center and he used to live kinda close by. And they had room and asked him to do a kind of make-shift Johnny Cash musuem. He set that up in there for awhile, and having us come up and sing at shows, and events, and stuff. And one time, W.S. Holland just happened to be up there working, you know, doing drum classes for kids and stuff like that. And we asked him if he would mind sitting in on a couple songs. After drumming all day, I figured he was gonna be tired. But he sat in and did three hours straight with us after he had been working with the kids all day. He’s got alot of fire still left in his blood, and it was alot of fun. Real pleasure working with him.”

Cash’d Out is still going strong, with ambitious plans for the future. There are tentative plans on going in the studio with musician Jackson Taylor and doing some Smiths’ song, in the spirit of where Cash left off with songs such as his cover of “Hurt.” In addition, they have just recently released a live album of their own as well.

The Melvins Keep The Freak Flag Fly

THE MELVINS

THE MELVINS play Observatory Jul 12 and Troubadour Jul 13; press photo

Somewhere along the course of American history, the name, “Melvin,” became associated with pocket protectors, questionably sized eyeglasses, bowl cuts, and feeling passionate about long division. With this connotation firmly in hand, it seems only fitting that this word would go on to describe the gut-churning heavy, sludgy, gleefully dark and aggressive music of The Melvins.

Their music is unique, heavy, dark, and weird. And luckily for Southern Californians, these adjectives and more will be on local display once again as they return to the Observatory/Santa Ana Jul. 12 and the Troubadour Jul. 13.

In the meantime, Buzz Osborne was kind enough to share some of his thoughts on making music, having weird hair, and staying out of the political fray.

Concert Guide Live: When you sit down to write a song, do you have any specific goals? Or do you just let it come out organically?

The Melvins

The Melvins

Buzz Osborne: You just kinda play, and hope something will come out of thin air (laughs).

CGL: So you’re not really into concept albums or anything like that?
BO: Maybe to some degree, but then sometimes you’ll just be playing some riffs and all of a sudden something’s really cool. But then you end up with a massive amount of that stuff. And you dig through it all, and most of it doesn’t get used at all. The vast majority of it, you know?

CGL: Your hair is very intriguing. What’s the story there? How do you feel it expresses who you are?
BO: I don’t know, I don’t mind looking freaky. I’m just like Little Richard; I don’t give a shit about any of that. It’s everybody else who cares about that. But I also understand, going out into the world looking like a freak, I’m gonna have to deal with a lot of stuff that normal people don’t. Fine with me. I made my bed, and I will lie in it.

CGL: So you don’t really view it as a way to live out your ideology of being true to yourself?
BO: I never really thought about it that much. I just wanna look like a weirdo.

CGL: Do you ever aspire to speak your personal opinions through your music?
BO: Well, I don’t like to go graphically into politics, because I don’t think it’s my place to do that. What I am, is an artist-musician who does what he wants to do, and maybe some people will care about it and it will make their lives a little better. Because it makes my life a little better. I mean, I feel the same way that people like Bob Dylan felt. Which is that they’re not “joiner-inners.” You got a protest; I don’t want nothing to do with it. I don’t feel good there. I don’t want to be a part of your club.

CGL: What advice would you give to younger musicians just starting out?
BO: Be as peculiar as possible. That always works. Don’t be a “joiner-inner.” Practice your instrument, but don’t practice things you’re never gonna play. I mean, beyond exercises, I never wanted to play Eddie Van Halen or Randy Rhoads type of solos, so I never learned them. Why should I bother? Try to figure out what bands the bands you’re into were into. I mean, clearly they were listening to something that inspired them. So, what was that, you know? Rehearse. Make records that you like. Don’t concern yourself with the outside world, in terms of, “Oh, I wonder what my fans can handle.” I figure my fans can handle whatever I do. And if they can’t, they clearly have no understanding of who I am. So be it.

Come Hear Legendary Guitarist Dick Dale!

DICK DALE plays The Coach House Jul. 14; press photo

DICK DALE plays The Coach House Jul. 14; press photo

Legendary guitarist, Dick Dale, continues to play to live audiences everywhere and will return to San Juan Capistrano’s icon, The Coach House, July 14. SoCal has been fortunate to hear Dale perform at The Coach House numerous times partially because he and the owner go way back.

“Gary (Folgner) and I have been very dear friends from the beginning of time,” Dale mused. “Many, many, many years ago he called me up and said ‘I would like you to come and play at my place’.”

This was back when Dale had a 15 piece rock band with keyboards, horns, backup singers, double drums, etc. and there was no way he could pay the whole band to play at his place.

“So my drummer and my bass player said ‘We’ll come and do it, Dick, you just bring your guitar and we’ll back ya’,” Dale recalled. “I got afraid because usually I have the whole band to fall back on. But they convinced me.”

Once he had stripped down the band it naturally led to creating his now signature style of guitar playing but don’t limit it by calling it “surf”. He plays a variety of music from Rockabilly to Boogie Woogie to Jazz to Big Band and everything else.

In fact, Dale pointed out that the word “surf” can actually become a negative and prefers not to use in advertising because it limits his attendance.

Many years ago, he performed a sold out show at Fullerton College, but when he returned several months later, something was amiss and the place was only half-filled.

“When I went outside the building there were all these surf posters so I took the booker and walked him up to a black man and I said ‘Excuse me, sir. Would you go and see the king of the surf guitar?’

“And he said ‘No, man. That’s not my bag, man.’

“Then I said it in a different way. I said, ‘Would you see a guitar legend, even if you never heard of him?’

“His reply was, ‘Oh man, I dig guitar, man. I’ll be there in a minute’.”

Several years into his career, in the late 50s, Dale wanted to give his band a name like many of the bands of that era, which is when The Deltones came about.

“We would perform at Riverside National Guard Armory in San Bernardino,” Dale recalled. “We thought the radio would be the big deal. We would take ads out on the radio that would say ‘Go see Dick Dale and The Deltones’.”

Now, 30 plus years later, people still remember the name The Deltones. Dale says people often tell him he looks familiar, or ask him if he plays guitar, but it’s the name The Deltones that they seem to remember more than his own name.

“You know why they remembered The Deltones?” Dale asked. “Because it was the last thing that was said to them on the air – Dick Dale and The Deltones!”

Dale’s lengthy career has witnessed and pioneered much in the music industry and he has a lot of stories to boot. He rarely does interviews anymore because he feels there’s too much sensationalism and wonders why people can’t just write good things. This is something he and his wife, Lana, feel strongly about.

“All we want to be is left alone. Let us take care of God’s creatures, the animals. And we will entertain and try to help people who have the same ailments that we have by showing them, ‘Look at me, I’m still on this stage and I’m not taking drugs to do it’.”

Having said that, when he’s off stage Dale does like to converse with people and share the things he and Lana have been through, showing he’s the same as they are.

“We are just showing the people that we are like them and we give them little tips when they ask us, ‘How do you perform on that stage? It looks like there’s nothing wrong with you and you’re what, 80 years old? ’,” Dale said. “But there are times I’ve had to sit in a chair. There are times they had to carry me on the stage, the pain was so great.

“I’ve been in the martial arts ever since I was 18. It’s been a way of life. I learned things to help fight pain and how to deal with it.”

Over the course of the interview, Dale shared some of the things he’s learned by experience over time which are akin to words of wisdom.

“I have a statement I’ve always said – when anything hits you in the face whether it’s illnesses or pain – I always say, ‘Deal with it.’ Then I say, ‘Get used to it.’

“The other one is, ‘Your body follows your mind. Don’t be so weak in your mind that you will allow something in your body that will kill you.’ Your body is your temple. Treat it like your temple. That’s what we do.”

Mark your calendar and don’t miss witnessing some legendary music and you may even get to hear a few funny or enlightening stories in between the songs.

James Williamson And The Pink Hearts Live Debut

JAMES WILLIAMSON AND THE PINK HEARTS play El Rey Theatre Jun. 29; photo Heather Harris

JAMES WILLIAMSON AND THE PINK HEARTS play El Rey Theatre Jun. 29; photo Heather Harris

“About this time last year, I started feeling like I wanted to write some more music,” guitarist, James Williamson (The Stooges, Iggy Pop) recalled. “But I really don’t write lyrics. I’m just no good at it. At this point in life I’ve finally admitted it, so I don’t even try anymore.”

JAMES WILLIAMSON; photo Heather Harris

JAMES WILLIAMSON; photo Heather Harris

He reached out to a couple of people, including frontman, Frank Meyer (Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs), who played with Williamson on his previous L.A. show for his solo album, Re-Licked.

“I knew he could sing and I knew he had a good stage presence,” Williamson divulged. “But I didn’t know if he could write lyrics.

“I contacted Frank because it would be great if someone could write lyrics and sing them, too. He just jumped all over that. He could turnaround lyrics like in a day. So as quick as I could feed him new riffs, he could write lyrics to them.”

All of this songwriting resulted in the album Behind the Shade, a new project called James Williamson and The Pink Hearts which not only features Williamson on guitar and Meyer on vocals but also vocalist/violinist, Petra Haden.

The group will perform for the first time Jun. 29 at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles followed by a show in San Francisco, marking the live debut of the new material. If all goes well, more dates will follow.

“We’ll focus on the album but that’s only 11 songs and so that’s not enough for a set,” Williamson explained. “So, we’ll kind of dip into my old catalogue and pull out another 9 or 10 songs and fill out the set.

“It will be a mixed bag, but I think you’ll like it because this is really a different band in a lot of ways. When you hear Frank and Petra sing some of my old catalogue it’s like a brand-new song.”

JAMES WILLIAMSON AND THE PINK HEARTS play El Rey Theatre Jun. 29; photo Sarah Remetch

JAMES WILLIAMSON AND THE PINK HEARTS play El Rey Theatre Jun. 29; photo Sarah Remetch

Joining the trio on stage will be the regulars from the album, drummer Michael Urbano (Smash Mouth), bassist Jason Carmer (Cat Power), and keyboardist Gregg Foreman. Andrea Watts, who wasn’t on the album but who played with Williamson on his last Los Angeles show, will be doing backing vocals.

Williamson has long been noted for both his aggressive guitar playing and sound on 1973’s Raw Power, a classic, explosive, rock album put out by Iggy and The Stooges. His amp-guitar combination came from a suggestion by the engineer at CBS Studio when they recorded in London.

“My go to guitar is a Gibson Les Paul Custom,” Williamson stated. “I’ve pretty much played that for my entire career. Yes, I’ve had many other guitars. And yes, I had many other guitars before I started playing those but that was the guitar that sort of established my sound on Raw Power and that along with the Vox AC30 is kind of my sound.

“Since then though, I’ve started using a kind of imitation of that guitar put out by a company called Eastman. I put my pickups in them cuz I have some custom-wound pickups that are terrific. You’ll see, if you come to the show, I’ll play a Gibson Les Paul, and also an Eastman, and believe it or not, for a couple of things, I’ll even play a Telecaster, so it’s all over the place.”

He still prefers to keep his guitar effects “old school”, using a treble boost pedal for a little extra sustain when playing solos. That’s pretty much it.

“But I do have something that’s a little bit unique to me,” Williamson said. “In my Eastman guitar I have a Piezo electric bridge that I had them put on the guitar, it comes from Fishman. What I had them do is to split it out, make it a stereo signal. So, I have the magnetic pickups and the Piezo pickups, and it goes out stereo, but I can split it outside of the guitar and send one of those sides to an acoustic emulator, so I get a very convincing acoustic sound and at the same time, I can also get the magnetic sound so that I can play some acoustic numbers on the album. It’s pretty cool.”

Williamson put his guitar aside for the tech world for many years, claiming both things required total commitment. Picking it back up was difficult, but he managed.

“Probably the more amazing thing was that I managed to do the tech thing which was really a big sort of existential gap,” Williamson laughed.

“Let’s just say it was difficult from time to time but I managed it cuz it was so exciting. I mean tech at that time was really friggin’ amazing with all the things that have happened. It was a very interesting sort of front row seat.”

Fortunately, he has picked his guitar up again and with renewed songwriting, a little bit Americana, a little bit “Stooges”, the new music fits nicely with the new millennium.

Warped Tour 2018: A Tale From The Photo Pit

The Final First Day of an Era

BLACK VEIL BRIDES -Warped Tour 2018/Pomona; photo Lauren Ratkowski

BLACK VEIL BRIDES -Warped Tour 2018/Pomona; photo Lauren Ratkowski

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to celebrate this thing called Warped Tour. This tour has a very special place in my heart. It was my first TRUE credentialed show circa 2011. I had just graduated high school two weeks before. I still carry the wristband in my wallet to this day to remind me how far I’ve come in this crazy world of photography. When I found out that this was its last year as a cross country tour, I knew I had to shoot it. I HAD to.

MAYDAY PARADE -Warped Tour 2018/Pomona; photo Lauren Ratkowski

MAYDAY PARADE -Warped Tour 2018/Pomona; photo Lauren Ratkowski

The tour kicked off Jun 21 in Pomona, CA – the same place I shot my first Warped Tour! I grabbed my photo wristband and ticket and then hopped in line. Doors didn’t open for another 45 minutes. Why was I there so early? Ah, any Warped vet knows the set times are different each day for every band. And those times are not announced until the day of. One does not simply have their day planned like most other festivals. If you miss the first hour, you could risk missing someone you really wanted to shoot, no matter how big or small.

ISSUES-Warped Tour 2018/Pomona; photo Lauren Ratkowski

ISSUES-Warped Tour 2018/Pomona; photo Lauren Ratkowski

Once inside, I grabbed a paper schedule and a Sharpie. Let the plans begin. It made me happy to see that there were three bands on the lineup that I also photographed my first Warped. For nostalgias sake, I knew I had to be in the pit for them. My day started at the main stage with the band, ISSUES. In 2011, Issues front man Tyler Carter was fronting WOE, IS ME on the iconic Hurly Bubble Stage. Yes, things had changed but from a side stage to the main stage in just a few years is quite the accomplishment!

KNUCKLE PUCK-Warped Tour 2018/Pomona; photo Lauren Ratkowski

KNUCKLE PUCK-Warped Tour 2018/Pomona; photo Lauren Ratkowski

Once Issues was done, it was on to KNUCKLE PUCK, MAYDAY PARADE and REAL FRIENDS. While shooting each band, I had a few things to keep in mind. The biggest was the location of the sun in relation to the stage. Yes, outdoor lighting is great, but it can be just as challenging, especially when shooting in the early afternoon. The sun is at its highest point in the sky at that time of the day meaning harsh shadows and bright exposure spots. I had to keep reminding myself to keep an eye on my exposures as I was shooting each act in case that pesky sun was shining too bright.

MOTIONLESS IN WHITE-Warped Tour 2018/Pomona; photo Lauren Ratkowski

MOTIONLESS IN WHITE-Warped Tour 2018/Pomona; photo Lauren Ratkowski

The most challenging set of the day was for MOTIONLESS IN WHITE. If you’re not familiar with the band, they perform adorned in black and white stage make up. Normally I’d be all for the theatrics, however the sun was shining directly onto the stage. This mean it was going to be more challenging to get a correct exposure to capture the “skin tones” of the band while not either blasting out whites or having the backgrounds appear as a dark abyss. In a perfect world, I’d have time to adjust for each shot, or to just move the sun. I decided the best way to go about it was to adjust as needed until I found that middle line exposure.

THE MAINE-Warped Tour 2018/Pomona; photo Lauren Ratkowski

THE MAINE-Warped Tour 2018/Pomona; photo Lauren Ratkowski

Back to the main stage for one of my personal favorites, THE MAINE! It was late afternoon, which gave me more even lighting and less worry about the location of the sun. After The Maine it was time for THE USED. I have been DYING to shoot The Used. Their set time fell during the wonderful “golden hour”- what more could I ask for?! To round out the night were two other bands that I captured during my first Warped – the ever so energetic 3OH!3 and BLACK VEIL BRIDES.

3OH!3-Warped Tour 2018/Pomona; photo Lauren Ratkowski

3OH!3-Warped Tour 2018/Pomona; photo Lauren Ratkowski

I could sit here and pour my heart out about the meaning of Warped Tour to me personally and to the world of music, but we’d all be here for a very long time. It broke my heart to know as I left that night, I was leaving Warped behind me as I knew it. I had four great years visiting Warped. I was able to meet some of my favorite bands, made countless memories, and beyond. But the thing I am most grateful for is Warped giving me a chance, a platform, to start my music photography journey. I wouldn’t change one sweaty, hot, dirty moment I spent on those black tops. Suppose I’ll keep it simple. Thank you, Warped for everything.

Magic Giant Stomps Back Into SoCal

MAGIC GIANT play Fonda Theater Jun. 29, Belly Up Jun.30; photo Wilder Bunke

MAGIC GIANT play Fonda Theater Jun. 29, Belly Up Jun.30; photo Wilder Bunke

Magic Giant shall soon be coming to SoCal to woo audiences with their remarkable brand of indie folk-rock music. The trio is scheduled to play at the Fonda Theater in Hollywood Jun. 29 and the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach Jun. 30.

Zambricki Li, one of the three main band members of the group, is especially looking forward to these two upcoming dates.

“We’ve been on tour really since December,” Li said. “It’s a celebration of us coming back to southern California after I don’t even know how many shows. So at both of those shows we have a lot of people I think are coming to both nights so it’s going to be a really fun party.”

Southern California, Li says, is not only immeasurably instrumental to shaping Magic Giant’s music along with their success in the music industry but is the best possible place there is for people who come to see them play live to truly enjoy themselves.

“Nothing beats coming to Southern California for a couple of days and going to shows and going to the beach and going through Hollywood and having like a crazy night.”

But whether they’re playing in California or someplace else, Li and his bandmates have made their unique, acoustically driven music equally fun for themselves and concertgoers of all sorts since forming Magic Giant in Los Angeles during 2014.

And it’s fun that Li and his bandmates aim to produce for audiences at each show.

MAGIC GIANT; photo Brantley Gutierrez

MAGIC GIANT; photo Brantley Gutierrez

“If you’ve never heard it before, it’s kind of the energy and instrumentation of Arcade Fire and almost some of the storytelling of Tom Petty,” Li proclaims. “If you read through the lyrics and kind of sync into the meaning of the songs, there’s a story there. But the shows are like huge dance party events.”

Magic Giant already enjoys a devoted fanbase due to this unique approach to their music which has helped make their first full-length album In the Wind a success with fans and critics alike. The song “Set on Fire” still remains among the 40 songs currently listed on the Billboard Alternative musical chart a year after the album’s release.

Li credits the success of the group’s very first album due to the group taking an unorthodox approach to its composition and creation which he credits with helping in its success.

“We bought a little shuttlebus and we put solar panels on it and basically took all of our recording equipment and retrofitted it into this bus,” Li recalled. “As we played festivals and we played shows we were also recording our album and we were also writing along the way.”

In the Wind is also unique due to being recorded in locales such as a redwood tree on the coast of California not to mention a daisy field and airstrip in Colorado. Being able to create such music at such places is not only a stimulating and fun process but results in what they consider to be the ultimate sharing experience that occurs when they finally have the opportunity to play it live.

“Playing it live is like getting to make a painting and then literally carry the painting along around the country, around the world, showing people our art,” Li mused.

Magic Giant isn’t at all afraid to show off art in progress. If you’re lucky and attend a concert then you may even be privy to hear songs that the group is in the progress of creating.

“We try not to be pretentious about stuff and our art and not take ourselves too seriously,” Li admitted. “So, we’ll write on the road and then we’ll kind of debut songs on the road before it’s even demoed or recorded, and we’ll see how people react to it and their response and we might even rewrite the song after playing it out.”

Live performances have always been important to the band. By trusting the feedback of concertgoers, Li says Magic Giant is able to better guarantee that they make songs that people wish to hear both live and in recorded form.

“It’s a little risky but it allows us to make this the show experience and the things we learn on the road get baked together into the songs.”

Even though their current summer tour ends at the end of this month with two additional appearances next month in July, Li says that he and his bandmates are already planning.

“We’re getting back in the studio once we get off the road this summer and do some new material,” Li said. “We’re so happy we get to tour and we’re already working on a fall tour. It’s already kind of in the works so we’re doing that, new music and all that good stuff.”

The Musical Glow That Is Al Jardine

AL JARDINE plays The Coach House Jun 16; photo Spud

AL JARDINE plays The Coach House Jun 16; photo by Spud

“My pal, Brian Wilson and I, went to college together,” muses Al Jardine of the legendary Beach Boys. “And we started at El Camino Junior College. He introduced me to his family; I came up with the production money to make our first record – my mother actually gave us the money for it, that first record – a recording called “Surfin’”.”

Al Jardine is now on tour, aptly titled A Postcard from California, From the Very First Song with a Founding Member of The Beach Boys, and it is described as a storytelling tour.

“That’s what my concert is all about, how we generated that first song,” Jardine explains. “And we give a little soliloquy or monologue at the start of the show, bringing people into the living room of the home of Brian, Carl, and Dennis Wilson. Looking through the recording glass window while we are making our very first song. You know what I’m sayin’, right? It’s like a trip through time.

“And then we come out of that recording, there’s an actual tape recording of conversation rehearsing the song. At the conclusion of that, Matthew Jardine my son, Jeff Alan Ross, and I sing the song in its entirety. That’s how the show starts.”

So why a storytelling tour at all, and where did such an idea come from? Jardine has the answer: “To be honest with you, it was a long developing idea an agent brought to my attention some time ago. He came back with it eight years later because he has had success with Peter Asher and Jeremy Clive, a couple of English musicians who were popular at the time. They have combined their forces to do shows here; Peter of course was a producer of great renown, Linda Ronstadt to name one and James Taylor is another. He has his own band now and he is doing it with Jeremy. And it has been such a success story for Peter that it was brought to my attention.”

In 2010, Jardine released his solo album A Postcard From California, which featured a wide variety of musicians.

“It’s people I have grown up with during my Beach Boy years, and we all have shared the stage with,” Jardine said. “We all have fond memories of the sixties and seventies. I just called people and they were generous with their time and ideas.

AL JARDINE; photo Randy Straka

AL JARDINE; photo Randy Straka

“Glen Campbell is featured in a video explaining his involvement with The Beach Boys. And I go on to extend the conversation to his involvement with me and my album. It’s kind of informative and beautiful. He was our sixth Beach Boy at the time, Brian Wilson couldn’t tour at the time and Glen Campbell came in to help us out.”

The tour also features each member displaying their wide range of abilities. Jardine elucidates this aspect: “I play the upright bass, just for fun. On that first record, that’s what I played and on the very first Beach Boys song. We have one of those that I play. I play acoustic and electric guitar. Matthew plays guitar and percussion as well. Jeff Alan Ross does the keyboard orchestration and the video imaging that we have on stage, which is very impressive.

“I’ve always loved singing harmony, I’m a harmony guy,” Jardine continued. “I just love singing with Brian Wilson, and the guys, and my son Matt now. Matt and I both tour with Brian Wilson when he is touring. When we are not with Brian, we go out in our trio, celebrating the stories behind the music.”

Like almost any musician, there are pre-show rituals he likes to engage in.

“We like to get there early and get sharp,” according to Jardine. “We like to get the lighting and the sound right. But with a trio, it’s so easy. It’s so much fun. You don’t have the constraints of so many mixes and challenges, like with the major systems of an arena. We have a jazz club sound, you know. The mixes are tight; they always sound great cuz there is very little that can go wrong.”

Bask in the magic and history of Al Jardine and The Beach Boys when he comes to The Coach House on June 16th.