Flashback 2015: The Devon Allman Band Rips Up Coach House


DEVON ALLMAN BAND played The Coach House Sep. 9

With all live concerts on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we decided to re-run this Devon Allman concert review from 2015:

There was a moment on Wednesday night at The Coach House, when bluesman Devon Allman (yes, of those Allmans) left the stage, wandered through the crowd, ordered a drink, came back on stage, took a swig, launched into a towering solo. The crowd may have come out of curiosity, wanting to see if Gregg Allman’s son has any chops, or because they were fans of his dad’s old band, but in that moment, it was clear the people in the crowd were going to leave as fans of Devon Allman.

Allman took to the stage all in black, and used the same guitar the entire show. His band also has an understated presence. They’re unassuming looking guys, but boy do they know how to play. Students and purveyors of the blues, they ripped the lid off of one song after the next, ranging from Allman’s days in Honeytribe and Royal Southern Brotherhood, to his solo albums and covers.

The opener, “Half the Truth” off of Allman’s latest album, Ragged and Dirty, set the tone for the night. A real southern foot-stomper with a menacing guitar riff, it got the crowd’s attention. It wasn’t until the fourth song, an instrumental jam that Devon really began to show his stuff. He put on a clinic, making the guitar shudder and cry. He brought it down to a whisper, then rammed it back up again, looking out at the audience as if to say, “What about this?” The kid came to play.

Showing respect for blues hero Eric Clapton, the band played an impressive cover of “Forever Man,” and even payed tribute to Allman’s heritage with wonderful covers of “Melissa,” and “One Way Out,” a blues standard made famous by the Allman Brothers Band in the 70’s. Interestingly, it was the band’s cover of Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry” that was the real showstopper. The iconic song had everyone swaying, and the band played it with just as much soul as the original. Bobby Schneck Jr., the band’s other guitar player played one of those solos that could make you cry, then Allman brought it home with a solo that went so quiet, he had the crowd hanging on every twitch of this finger.

The band played until midnight, taking a short break which thinned out the crowd to nearly half, making the small setting even more intimate, and appropriately bluesy. The band closed with “Midnight Lake Michigan,” a “spooky blues” instrumental track that Allman introduced by addressing the crowd, saying, “Thank you for supporting real music, made by real people, not drum machines and robots.” The crowd hooted in approval, as Allman made his way through the crowd mid-song, shaking hands and playing another transcendent solo. If you want to see a great guitar player, go see Devon Allman.

Royal Blood Reign Supreme In Santa Ana (Flashback: 2015)


REVIEW: Royal Blood at The Observatory photo: James Christopher

Flashback 2015: Royal Blood Concert Review

While playing to a sold-out crowd at the Observatory on Thursday, Mike Kerr of Brighton hard rock duo Royal Blood urged the crowd to be fully present. “We’re gonna play another song, but I only want to play it for people that don’t have a fucking phone in the air,” he said before launching into the monstrous “Loose Change,” off of their self-titled debut. This desire to take in the moment makes sense for Royal Blood, who have experienced a breakneck rise to fame. They released their first demos a mere two years ago, and have been riding a wave of buzz generated by high-profile fans like Arctic Monkeys, Foo Fighters, and hard-rock godfather Jimmy Page, ever since.

Playing one badass, heavy-hitter after another, like the swaggering “Better Strangers,” and the slinky “You Can Be So Cruel,” one finds it hard to believe that the colossal sound coming from the stage is made by just two people. Kerr, who handles vocals and bass guitar, strutted around the stage like an old pro, filling, then annihilating, any hole left by the lack of a lead guitar player. Drummer Ben Thatcher rounds out the sound with mammoth fills and hip-hop-influenced rhythms on a drum set that he doesn’t just play, but hurls himself at.

The chugging riffs on “Little Monster” and “Come On Over” are rooted in hard rock and even metal, but Kerr’s bass work balanced the heaviness with plenty of melody, while his slick vocals, alternating between hypnotic and drop-dead sexy, give the songs a moody slink. The swaggering “Figure It Out,” slide-bass inflected “One Trick Pony,” and the brash “Blood Hands,” were high points of an altogether phenomenal set, with Kerr joining Thatcher up on the drum riser for a jam-out, so in-sync that they seemed to be thinking with one brain.

The tinnitus-inducing “Out Of The Black” closed the show, pushing an already electrified crowd into near hysteria. With a series of false endings that included Thatcher crowd-surfing, a hair-raising rendition of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man”, and Thatcher ultimately kicking over his chair and savagely finishing the song while standing up, it was a fittingly epic conclusion for such a knockout show.

With a lot of buzz-bands, the hype can overshadow the actual talent of the group. This is definitely not the case with Kerr and Thatcher. Royal Blood is good, and they know it. With just two instruments, they create enough power to fill an arena, and if this show is any indication, they’ll probably be filling them very soon.

The show was opened by WAKRAT and Bass Drum Of Death.

Southside Johnny Brings The Real Deal To SoCal (2017 Remembered)


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

SOUTHSIDE JOHNNY 2017 interview remembered…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flashback 2015: Devon Allman Brings Bluesey Licks To SoCal With Two Shows


DEVON ALLMAN BAND plays The Mint Sep 8 and The Coach House Sep 9

Flashback DEVON ALLMAN interview from 2015:

Devon Allman will bring his blues-rock fusion to SoCal, playing The Mint in LA on Sep. 8, and The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on Sep. 9.

He’s got the family name, he’s got the guitar chops, but Devon Allman is doing his own thing. A talented blues musician, songwriter and producer, the fact that he happens to be Gregg Allman’s son is almost an afterthought. Almost.

He’s played with his groups Honeytribe and Royal Southern Brotherhood for over a decade, and has been headlining solo tours since 2012. But if you think he grew up in the back of an Allman Brothers Band bus, think again. Allman didn’t even meet his famous father until he was 16.

“I knew who he was, and I had heard the music and everything, but I was just a normal kid growing up in the 80’s listening to Iron Maiden and playing soccer, so I didn’t grow up in the eye of the hurricane with the famous dad,” he said. “I didn’t grow up backstage or on tour buses and all that, so my path to music was really organic and I’m really grateful that I had a normal kid obsession with rock-n-roll.”

However, when the limelight of the family business came knocking, his father’s legacy did give him a nudge.

“I ended up going on tour with the Allman Brothers instead of going and finishing high school, and that definitely inspired me. I figured out right then and there that, ‘Ok, I definitely want to do this.’ That was the final push I needed.”

That push has led to him finding his own way. For Ragged and Dirty, Allman left the southern sound of his family name behind, and headed north to Chicago, the home of the electric blues. The album is packed with original songs and covers that show off his blues chops as well as his versatility. Working with legendary Buddy Guy producer Tom Hambridge gave Allman that “Chicago, electric, nighttime, kind of mojo” he was looking for.

As far as writing the songs for the album, it seems inspiration can strike at any time for Allman.

“I’ve never been the cat that can write every day,” Allman said. “What I typically do is I’ll keep my iPhone by me and if I’m playing guitar and I have a little riff come up, or if I have a vocal melody idea, I just put it on a voice memo. Right now in my phone there’s probably about 300 entries. Now these are like, the most idiotic, bullshit, drum beats hummed in the parking lot of the grocery store in my home town, to a soundcheck in Little Rock with the whole band. I just catalogue ‘em. And then when I get to that deadline and I go, ‘Shit, I’ve got three months’, I go through this process, and I give myself a week or so off, and I fashion those things into songs. I pick the best 12, and hope for the best.”

Fans can expect plenty of songs from Ragged and Dirty at Allman’s live shows, which span his career.

“There’s some songs from the Honytribe era. There’s some stuff from Royal Southern Brotherhood, and I’ve got two solo records out so there’s definitely plenty of stuff from there, there’s a couple cool cover songs. I always throw in a song of my Dad’s. It’s a really high-energy show, there’s crowd participation, there’s some sit-down, mellow acoustic stuff. There’s a lot going on.”

When discussing Ragged and Dirty and the tour, the conversation strayed to Buddy Guy, with blues-loving admiration filling Allman’s voice as he talked about Guy’s latest album, Born to Play Guitar.

“I bought it the day it came out. I think it’s badass,” Allman said. “I think anything Buddy Guy does is badass because it’s so damn pure. I saw Buddy Guy play, in his club. Out comes the polka-dot Stratocaster, and he went onstage and he sliced everyone’s ass in half in thirty seconds. I have never seen anyone command 1000 percent of your attention. He brought it down to a whisper. You could hear a pin drop. And then, he just kicked it in and just knocked people in the teeth. Now that B.B. King is gone I think we can all rightfully say that he is the living godfather of the blues. That dude’s amazing. I’ve met all kinds of people, but two people have made me say, ‘I’m literally eight feet away from you, and I cannot approach you,’ and that is Buddy Guy and Neil Young. And I could have easily gone up and said, ‘Hey, I’m Gregg’s son, I’m a big fan, I love your work, pleasure to meet you,’ and yeah, I just couldn’t.”

As far as being in awe of his father, it seems more than anything, Allman is impressed with his Dad’s durability.

“The thing that a lot of people tend to forget is guys like the Stones, they have hundreds of millions of dollars. They don’t need another five million from another tour. Those cats that are out there over 70 that are still doing it, they’re still addicted to that buzz, man, and they want to got out there, and they want to turn people on, and make people feel good. That’s inspiring to me because that’s what it’s all about, you know? It’s a selfless act. You go out there and you’re rockin’ out for them.”

When asked if he sees himself out on the road at 70, Allman is adamant.

“Oh man, until they have to put me in a box, yeah. I’ve always said, and I stand by this, it’s a crazy world out there. You can read the news and see the evil going on and the greed and the corruption and the war mongering, and not to get too heavy, but music, and paintings, and films, and poetry and all of the arts, we act as a counterbalance to that darkness. That’s why art is so important to me because it balances out this crazy world.”

Indeed, Allman shows no signs of slowing down, having just produced an album for Australia’s No. 1 selling blues artist, Owen Campbell which he can’t help but gush about.

“We just cut his record in Memphis and it’s awesome. He’s a real good one. It will come out early spring, and I’m stoked for him.”

Allman will continue touring North America into the next year and has plans to record another solo album in November.

It would seem that the legacy continues.

Punk Lives On As Buzzcocks40 Comes To SoCal (Flashback 2016)


BUZZCOCKS play The Mayan May 26 and Observatory Santa Ana May 28; photo Ian Rook

Flashback: BUZZCOCKS 2016 interview…

Buzzcocks, Mancunian heroes of the 1976 British punk explosion, commemorate their 40th year with a world tour, Buzzcocks40, that stops in SoCal at The Mayan May 26 and The Observatory Santa Ana May 28.

Not content to shrivel away as a nostalgia act by cashing in on early hits like “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve?),” “Why Can’t I Touch It?,” “What Do I Get?,” and “Fast Cars,” the band has been active since their reunion in 1989, hitting the road and making new music.

Of the original members, the creative core, Pete Shelley (lead vocals and guitar) and Steve Diggle (lead guitar and vocals) have been the yin-yang energy driving the band since its inception.

Concert Guide Live caught up with Diggle to talk about the band’s legacy, not being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and what it actually means to be punk.

Diggle speaks in a warm, northern brogue, the kind of accent Americans imagine all Brits have, like a character in Peaky Blinders or a rakish villain from a Sherlock Holmes story. He’s charming, quick to laugh, and well-read, ever-ready with a Dickens quote or George Orwell reference. He was there when it all began, one of the few punk figureheads left, a fact that surprises him as much as anyone.

“I mean, we kind of thought we’d last four days. We just thought, if we get a few shows, and make a little bit of an impact, that’s as far as we’d go. But here we are, 40 years later, it seems to have flown by, to me. In a way it still feels like we’re starting [laughs].”

Diggle’s relationship with Shelley is also 40 years old, an impressive feat he doesn’t take for granted.

“We’ve been together longer than the partners we’ve had,” Diggle laughs.

“To be honest, if I was at school, and he was in the class, I wouldn’t have hung around with him. He was a geek, ‘I’m not hanging around with him!’

“But there’s an amazing chemistry there that you couldn’t bargain for. It has been a long journey, we’ve had lots of wonderful times, lots of heavy arguments. We’ve run out of things to argue about. It’s just a powerful, mystical thing. It’s hard to explain, but it works.”

For Buzzcocks40 shows, fans can expect a career-spanning set, with new favorites, the band’s standards, plus early, hidden gems like “Time’s Up.” Forming the set-list from such a beloved catalogue was a harrowing task, one in which Diggle approached with his typically self-deprecating attitude.

“Before we started the tour, we brought a lot of songs forward, then we had to cut it down. Sometimes it can go on too long [laughs]. It’s like, ‘Ok, we get the idea, you got to stop with this’.’’

The generational span of Buzzcocks fans serves as a testament to the timelessness of their songs. Unbelievably, the special place the Buzzcocks hold in rock history has been largely ignored. They still aren’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which Diggle contemplates with detached bemusement.

“You’d think when they look at rock’s rich tapestry as they’re supposed to do, that we’d be in it,” Diggle said.

“There are people who have done lesser things that are in there. Maybe we’re still outsiders to the game. I went around there when I was in Cleveland a few years back, and I noticed there wasn’t even a Buzzcocks poster in there [laughs].

“In some ways, we’ve never really been awarded for anything. Send them something that says ‘Why aren’t the Buzzcocks in there?’ they’ll probably go ‘Who? [laughs].’ Maybe it’s cool that everybody else is in. Even Christ had to carry his own cross. He’s not in the Hall of Fame either, so we’re in good company.”

Pressed further, some mild bitterness breaks through.

“There’s a few bands that are in that I go, ‘Hold on, they’ve told us they were inspired by the Buzzcocks, and they’re in there?’

“It’s really nice, and a great honor, but we’ve never been like, the teacher’s pet or anything like that. I do think, ‘Why not, what’s wrong with us that we can’t go in there? What the fuck, man?’

“But you’re better off being alive without an award, than being poor old David Bowie or Prince. They’re in there, but it’s no good to them now. As Charles Dickens said, ‘It’s no good being the richest man in the cemetery’.”

Regardless of the Hall of Fame’s recognition of such, Diggle is a key piece in the punk puzzle. So what about the state of punk, today? Who better to ask than one of its originators?

“Back in the day, it was The Clash, Pistols, and The Jam, along with the Ramones in New York,” Diggle recalled.

“We wrote the play, and all those after are acting out the script. It was about the attitude, and about excitement, inspiration, questioning stuff. When you listened to those early records, you had to rethink your whole consciousness about what music was doing to you. Those kinds of records are an assault on your senses. They make you feel alive. You think, ‘Wow, I can go out and do things myself.’ Even street sweepers were sweeping the street differently.”

More than a strict blueprint, Diggle considers what bands like the Buzzcocks and The Clash did was an invitation for people to do their own thing.

“Over the years, you start getting the stereotypical thing, ‘Oh a punk should be this and that’,” Diggle said.

“Well that’s the opposite of what it was about. It was about there not being any rules, and that’s what gets lost in a way. Punk is more misinterpreted than the Bible [laughs].”

Forty years on, Diggle is happy inspiration is still coming, happy that people still come to hear the Buzzcocks play, and happy with his place in rock history, hall of fame induction be damned.

“Maybe there are some little things I would change here and there, but I couldn’t do that without it changing everything else. I wouldn’t be where I am now, so I wouldn’t want to change much.”

Flashback 2016: Die-Hard Wanda Jackson Still Having Fun


WANDA JACKSON plays The Casbah Jan. 28 and The Coach House Jan. 31

Flashback 2016: Interview with WANDA JACKSON

Whether you call her The Queen of Rock, The Queen of Rockabilly, or by her plain old name, Wanda Jackson is a living legend. The music icon will be playing in all her fringe-trimmed, feline-growlin’glory at The Casbah in San Diego Jan. 28 and The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano Jan. 31.

The Fujiyama Mama herself talked to Concert Guide Live about her decades-spanning career, a new project, and of course, Elvis.

Growing up with a musician for a father, a life in music was practically written in the stars for Jackson. He purchased Jackson her first guitar and would take her to performances by country acts like Spade Cooley, Tex Williams and Bob Wills. Jackson was hooked.

“When I was about six years old I would see the girl singers in these bands. I would stand right at the front of the stage, and stare up all night long. It’s the only thing I ever wanted to do, and I didn’t make any backup plans [laughs], so it was like, ‘Ok, kid, you’ve gotta do this, or you’re in the soup line’.”

Trying to make her dream a reality as a teenage girl in the testosterone-fueled music industry of the 1950’s wasn’t easy. Jackson was famously turned down by Capitol Records producer Ken Nelson, with the now laughable words, “Girls don’t sell records.”

“You have to remember, the mindset of that generation. It was quite daring of me to just not want to get married and start having babies. I knew I didn’t want that. That’s part of why my daddy went with me, to help me. He collected the money, because I would forget to get paid. I would come home, and I had forgotten because I had so much fun! Isn’t that something?!”

After graduating high school, Jackson set out on her first real tour with another youngster who was just making his way: Elvis Presley. Presley and Jackson would briefly date, but it was his influence on her career that was crucial, and lasting.

“I had a crush on him before long. We got along fine and enjoyed being together, and my daddy liked him, so he would let me go out after a show, have a coke or a burger. Somewhere along the way he started talking to me about doing this new kind of music. There wasn’t a real name for it at that time.

“I would say, ‘Elvis, I love your songs and the way you do them, but I can’t do it. I’m a girl.’ See, that was the mindset. That type of music was for guys. He just kept kind of daring me. Then he double-dog-dared me. Then you’ve gotta do it, you know?! [laughs]”

Finding material was tough so Jackson took matters into her own hands.

“None of it was for girls, no one was writing it for girls, so my daddy, he said ‘Why don’t you just start writing your own? They sound kind of simple.’ And I said, ‘Well, I think you’re right! Maybe I could write one’.”

Jackson’s own material, combined with covers of “Hot Dog, That Made Him Mad,” “Fujiyama Mama,” and her biggest hit, 1960’s “Let’s Have A Party,” struck gold with listeners who were already in love with Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, and the newly crowned King. Dressed up in fringed dresses, high heels, and red lipstick, Jackson soon became the undisputed Queen of Rockabilly.

Once rockabilly faded from popularity, Jackson continued to tour and record country music. But, following her high-profile collaborations with Jack White for 2011’s The Party Ain’t Over and Justin Townes Earle for 2012’s Unfinished Business, Jackson is back in the spotlight where she loves to be. Lucky for us, another collaboration is in the works.

“Joan Jett is going to produce for me on Blackhearts records. I’m seriously looking for songs and I’ve already got about six or seven original songs to do, and I’m hoping she’ll do a duet with me if we can find a cute song. So, that’s got me excited.”

Looking back at then vs. now, it seems life on the road has only gotten sweeter for Jackson.

“I’m glad now that I stuck with it as long as I did. I still don’t want to quit. I guess I’m a die-hard or something. Most of us are. We just hate to give up the life that we love. I’m not wealthy by any means, but I can fly everywhere I go. I stay in nice hotels. Poor daddy and I used to stay in old run-down motels. We just didn’t make enough money for a nice room! I get home with the money now [laughs].”

When told that she’s certainly earned the right to more money, Jackson just laughs.

“Well I kind of feel like maybe I have!”

Royal Blood Darken SoCal With Three


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read 2015 concert review: Royal Blood Concert Review

Nick Waterhouse Executes His R&B


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“They’re supportive, I guess.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jean Luc Ponty Revisits The Atlantic Years With Original Band


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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Long Ryders Ride Home To SoCal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

CGL: How did the reunion come about?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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