Dollyrots Happy Crazy Life With Music


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brian Bell’s Band The Relationship Gets Ready To Rock


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prog-Rock Hits SoCal With Stick Men


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

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

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

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

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


STICK MEN; photo Anya Roz

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

Stand Up And Dance – The English Beat Return


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

Alone Together With Dave Mason At The Coach House


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beach Goth Day 2: The Music Saves A Rainy Day

Beach Goth Day 2

Beach Goth Day 2 festival grounds; photo Reuben Martinez

For the uninitiated, Beach Goth is a two-day festival put on each year at The Observatory in Santa Ana by surf-garage kings The Growlers. It’s a hedonistic, grimy (in the best way), mutant display where people dress up in gory costumes and groove along to diverse lineups that always have a sense of humor (Devendra Banhart after Gucci Mane, anyone?). Let’s just put it this way, it’s held in a parking lot, and you’re not gonna see any damn flower crowns.

Before departing for Beach Goth Day 2, I spoke to a friend of mine who went the previous day (headliners: James Blake, King Krule, Bon Iver), and heard the usual complaints: oversold, overaggressive security, and hot as hell with no relief. These are things patrons have been complaining about for the last four years, so I was expecting them. I might even say, prepared for them. Not even close.

11:25am: I arrive. The line to get in is so long it’s offensive and it’s sprinkling. “It will let up,” I think. “It never rains all day in Southern California.” After all, I had dutifully looked up the day’s forecast and was promised a steamy 80 degrees for most of the day, so I dressed appropriately, i.e. sandals, a tank-top, and my soon-to-be-crushed naiveté.

12:20pm: I head over to the smaller of the two outdoor stages to see The Frights. On my way, I pass booths peddling merch, tantalizing fried chicken sandwiches, and whatever the girls in black t-shirts and no pants were promoting. I stop by The Growlers tent and pick up a “City Club” shirt for a reasonable 25 bucks. Reasonable in that it would save my life in about four hours.

The Frights

The Frights – Beach Goth Day 2; photo Reuben Martinez

12:35pm: The Frights went on right on time and slayed. Their high-energy, surf-punk songs about hating your parents and making out were a perfect kick-off. They sounded great, and got into the spirit of the festival by dressing up as characters from the Netflix show Stranger Things.

The lead singer was dressed as Eleven, complete with a nosebleed and Eggo waffles that he tossed out to the crowd, while his bandmate, dressed as Hopper asked the crowd, “Can anybody tell me where the fuck Will Byers is?” Oh, and they did a killer cover of Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So.” The rain had stopped, the sun was coming out, and I was in a state of bliss as I headed over to the Observatory stage for the next two sets.

1:20pm: There are two stages indoors, the tiny Constellation Room stage, and the larger Observatory stage. I head into the latter with no issue. It’s full, but not stifling, and I can hear the hum of an air-conditioner. I hunker down and get comfy, thankful that I’ll be out of the sun for the hottest part of the day (Oh, blissful ignorance). Smooth as clockwork, freak-folk outfit Timber Timbre went on at 1:35, and cast a spell with their spooky, moody magic. I was entranced by the dark atmosphere inside the venue, accented with red lights and Taylor Kirk’s demented gyrating.

2:35pm: BRONCHO, Ohio pop-punkers responsible for the di-di-di-di-di ear-worm “Class Historian,” were up next. I’ve seen them before and here’s the thing. I love their albums, but the way they mix their live sound, it winds up sounding like mush. There’s no distinction, and Ryan Lindsey’s nasally gurgle of a voice can barely be made out. The same thing happened this time around, but the songs are so good, that it’s still powerful and high energy…when you can tell what song it is.


BRONCHO – Beach Goth Day 2; photo Reuben Martinez

3:10pm: My stomach had started to growl during the BRONCHO set, so I decide to forgo Tops in the Constellation Room and head back to that tasty fried chicken tent I saw earlier. As soon as I exit the cozy darkness of the Observatory, all hell breaks loose. It’s raining. Hard. The exit reads “No Re-entry” and the surly security guards staring at me wordlessly enforce it. Besides, I’m hungry, so I take a deep breath and step outside. “This isn’t so bad,” I think as I purchase my chicken sandwich. I ravenously tear into my food, crouching over it so the rain doesn’t make it soggy. “I’m having a good time.”

3:20pm: I take respite in a port-a-potty. Sad, I know, but I gotta pee and write down some of my notes. I enjoy the dryness for longer than anyone should be in a port-a-potty and head back out into the wet.

3:55pm: Devendra Banhart starts his set at the larger of the outdoor stages. “You’re gonna get wet, but you can keep each other warm,” he tells the soaked crowd. For the current downpour situation, Banhart is the perfect medicine. His feel-good, latin-infused, psychedelic folk music makes me actually enjoy the rain. It’s soothing, cleansing, instead of the reason my toes are going numb. He plays songs off of his new album, Ape In Pink Marble, as well as old favorites that keeps the audience swaying as the rain came down even harder.

4:45pm: At this point, I’m soaked to the bone, freezing, and wanting shelter. Problem is, there’s absolutely none. Also, the number of people in this joint has increased, it seems, ten-fold. I can barely walk without stepping on someone. Add to that the confusion of the rain, and I’m surprised I didn’t get an eye taken out by all the drunken umbrella holders. I make an executive decision. I’ll miss out on some other acts so I can go back inside and camp out for The Buttertones at 6:15. I wait in the enormous, mob-like line to get indoors, putting on my new Growlers shirt in hopes it will stop my shivering.

5:10pm: Finally, I’m about to get inside. Sweet victory. Hallelujah. I can feel the welcoming dryness beckoning to me. I’m practically inside. BOOM. Huge Samoan security guard barrels into me, shoves me out of the way so hard that I nearly lose my balance, and cuts off the line, slamming the door shut. “No one else is getting in here,” he bellows. Shit.

Beach Goth Day 2

Beach Goth Day 2 festival grounds; photo Reuben Martinez

5:30pm: Back in the port-a-potty. Did I have to pee this time? No. Did I have to wade through ankle-height puddles that have made the main drag of merchandise booths look like Venice, Italy? Yes. People are huddling around food trucks for warmth, poor girls who spent hours doing their makeup (bloody gashes included), huddle sadly under upheld sweatshirts. I walk back toward the smaller outdoor stage. This seems to be the only place where there’s actual breathing room, so I take a seat on the cold, wet ground.

5:45pm: A lovely gay couple wanders over and we commiserate. We realize the stage has been shut down and they won’t get to see their beloved Grimes, the reason they bought their tickets in the first place. I won’t get to see The Drums, one of my favorites. We exchange condolences. The sounds of Unknown Mortal Orchestra waft over to us from the main stage. I tell them my plan to stick it out for The Growlers and then get the hell out. We part ways.

6:40pm: After one more expedition to the port-a-potty—during which I saw one poor girl lose her balance and tumble into a huge puddle, as well as a security guard slamming a seemingly innocent man’s face into a taco truck—I head back to the main stage where Future Islands is finishing up. Alas, it has finally stopped raining and I’m enjoying the communal heat of the crowd.

8:10pm: After a 40-minute delay—they had to put in a new soundboard—The Growlers finally take the stage. “Sorry we made it rain,” Brooks Nielsen explained, thanking the crowd for hanging in there through a brutal day. Dressed in matching burgundy suits, the band served a crowd-pleasing mix of new City Club tracks, plus perennials like “One Million Lovers” and “Someday.”

Nielsen is a happy host, part Willy Wonka, part carnival barker, genuinely happy to be there. “This is our festival, but it’s also all of yours,” he said.

As I swayed along to the music, I didn’t care that my toes were numb, that I missed half the acts I wanted to see, that I would probably contract pneumonia in the next few days. There was nowhere else I wanted to be.

The English Beat Rocksteady At The Coach House

Dave Wakeling, The English Beat

Dave Wakeling, The English Beat; photo Jackie Butler

“There’s a new dance called the tolerance,” Dave Wakeling sings in the English Beat classic “Sole Salvation,” which he played toward the end of their set at the sold-out Coach House last Saturday night. The relevance of his words were not lost on the audience who responded with a roar of approval. After an election so venomous and so polarizing, and probably more than a few Thanksgivings spent arguing, an evening full of feel-good hits like “Save It For Later,” “Hands Off She’s Mine,” and “Too Nice To Talk To” provided a much-needed escape.

Whether you call it, Ska, Rocksteady, or just plain Reggae, there’s something about its syncopated rhythms and breezy vamping that melts everything else away. Add an invigorating jolt of punk energy and attitude like the Beat did, and you’ve got music made for dancing. Wakeling and the rest of the band put on such a good show, that the Coach House clears out some of its signature tables for a designated dancing area. It was put to good use during favorites like “Twist & Crawl,” “I’ll Take You There,” and the one-two punch of “Ranking Full Stop” and “Mirror In The Bathroom.”

Though Wakeling is the only original member, his beautifully diverse band reflects the message of unity and love that the Beat and the reggae genre have come to represent. Besides that, these guys can play. In their matching Ska polos, they proved a formidable force, from the raging sax solos on “Hands Off,” and “Wine And Grine/Stand Down Margaret,” to the unstoppable groove provided by the dual keyboardists, to the off-the-charts energy of Wakeling’s young toaster. Obviously Ranking Roger can’t be replaced, but this new guy’s a charmer, pulling a less-than-amused little girl on stage during “Hands Off,” and a much more amused middle-aged man after he wouldn’t stop requesting “Ackee 1-2-3.”

As for Mr. Wakeling, he sounds exactly the same, his honeyed, crooner vocals surprisingly intact. He cuts quite the figure with his signature teardrop guitar and his goofy mugging, clearly having a great time on stage. The crowd was even treated to a couple of new tracks off an album set to be released next year, as well as the rest of their favorites like “Tears Of A Clown,” before which Wakeling joked, “It’s not a party until you’ve ruined a perfectly good Motown song…Sorry Smokey!”

The highlight of the night proved to be “Tenderness” which Wakeling actually recorded with General Public, not the Beat—not that anyone cared. An adorable little girl and her mother were pulled up on stage, and everyone was on their feet. No one in that whole room was thinking about anything other than the good time they were having, and everyone left feeling a whole lot lighter.

Where is the tenderness? Go and see The English Beat and there’s a pretty good chance you’ll find it.

Danny Hutton Still On The Road To “Shambala” With Three Dog Night


THREE DOG NIGHT play The Coach House Nov. 5; promo photo

Catch Three Dog Night at The Coach House Nov. 5 where fans can expect nothing but the hits (“The set takes off like a rocket and just keeps going. It’s like Bam! Bam! Hit! Hit! Hit!”).

Concert Guide Live caught up with Danny Hutton, founding member and lead singer of Three Dog Night, the day after the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 2017 nominees were announced. Once again, Hutton’s group, who have been eligible for induction since 1993, have been passed over. Like many other artists who have been snubbed, Hutton claims indifference, though a tinge of bitterness comes through.

“I could not care less,” he explained. “I don’t need any of those guys to validate me. Who picked this committee? Come on. We’ve done so many gigs where Hall Of Fame people open for us. I know our value.”

And what exactly is that value? Try 21 consecutive Top 40 hits, 12 gold albums, three #1 hits “Mama Told Me Not To Come,” “Joy To The World,” and “Black & White”, the launching of numerous careers for songwriters like Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson, and one wine-loving bullfrog named “Jeremiah”. Between the absurdly prolific and creative years of 1969 and 1974, no other group had more top 10 hits, or was selling out bigger crowds.

When Hutton first moved to LA’s Laurel Canyon neighborhood in the 60’s, it was as a songwriter for Hanna Barbera Records. He had a minor hit with, “Roses and Rainbows,” and ingratiated himself in the canyon scene, a non-stop party, wilder than anything in “Mama Told Me Not To Come.” Hutton even hung out with John Lennon and Harry Nilsson during their infamous “lost weekend,” and shared a street with the era’s biggest stars.

“Stephen [Stills] and Neil [Young] were neighbors and Neil would come over and play stuff for me, that’s when they were doing Buffalo Springfield. I kind of knew David Crosby, he was a little bit crazy [laughs], Roger McGuinn, Mark Vollman [of The Turtles] lived up the street, Joni Mitchell was down the street with Graham [Nash], Mickey Dolenz lived next door, so it was quite a vibe.”

It was during this time that Hutton met Chuck Negron and Cory Wells, and the “three” of Three Dog Night was born. Releasing their first album in 1968, the band found their niche as expert interpreters of other songwriters’ work. “One” by Harry Nilsson became a signature song, “The Loner” was given to Hutton by Neil Young, “Bet No One Ever Hurt This Bad,” helped draw some attention to a young Randy Newman, and “It’s For You” breathed new life into a cast-off by a little duo called Lennon-McCartney.

“Some people used to really irritate me when they would say, ‘Well you covered a lot of people,’ insinuating that we’re just a cover band,” Hutton said. “I used to call it resurrecting songs. Harry Nilsson had his album out and ‘One’ didn’t do anything. So we came along and resurrected it, put our spin on it, and made it a hit.”

The group’s significant skill with creative arranging, expert song choice, incredible genre versatility, plus their transcendent live performances won them legions of fans, and the hits kept rolling in. In spite of all their success, or more accurately, because of it, the persnickety music press turned their collective noses up at Three Dog Night, focusing on the lack of original songwriting or “commercial” aspect of the group. This attitude was portrayed most famously in the band’s 1972 cover story for Rolling Stone, penned by Ben Fong-Torres. Other than the Hall of Fame question, this is the only other time Hutton gets riled up.

“The hit piece! That bastard, I hate his effing guts! Years later, he wrote his book, and he talks about how they said, ‘Well this is one of the biggest groups in the world right now, so how can we get ‘em? How can we nail them?’ It’s all about management, all of this crap, and they never sit and really talk to us about music. It’s a big hit piece and I hate the asshole. That’s not being a good journalist.”


THREE DOG NIGHT; promo photo

Good journalism or not, it clearly sticks in Hutton’s craw, a scuff on all those shiny, gold records. One thing that can’t be tainted is the passion Hutton still has for performing. At 74, Hutton does around 80 shows each year with original guitarist Michael Allsup and a tight band of veterans. Cory Wells, who passed unexpectedly last year, has been replaced by the fabulous David Morgan, a choice Hutton attributes to fate.

“It was so serendipitous. Cory was having back problems, so he said, ‘Do the gigs, let the promoters know I won’t be there, and get a substitute. I recommend this guy, David Morgan. The cat’s fabulous, he can do it.’ And Cory was gone within two weeks. So that’s how he came in, through Cory. He’s incredible as a person, his work ethic, his voice, he just fits right in.’

Someone who still doesn’t quite fit into the lineup is the estranged Chuck Negron, who was barred from touring with the group due to his addiction. He has since recovered, and Hutton bears him no ill will, just don’t expect to see them onstage together anytime soon.

“It would be like asking a guy about his ex-wife when the guy’s happily married to a new wife,” Hutton said. “1986, how long ago was that? That’s the last time we worked together. We’ve both moved on. I don’t want to denigrate him at all. He went through a really tough time and I’m very happy and proud for him that he got out of that addiction. Very few people come back from that.”

Unlike some other groups, Hutton is happy to rest on his laurels. He’s got 21 hits, a beloved catalogue, sold-out shows with one of the best bands around, and couldn’t care less that he has to play “Shambala” night after night.

“You’re not there to please yourself,” Hutton expressed. “You’re there to please your audience. You’re not selling out, you’re selling tickets. This sell-out crap, get over it. There’s nothing better than happy faces walking out the door going, ‘Wow!’ We’re there to suspend time for an hour and a half. I don’t want to talk about politics, I want people to be transported to a whole different time and place, be uplifted, and say, ‘Oh my God it’s over already? That was so short!’ That’s what we want to do.”

Resident Ghosts Of The Coach House

the coach house

The Coach House Halloween photo: Andrella Christopher

The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano is a small but storied music venue, a diamond in the rough founded in 1976. If local legend and spooky tales from staff members are to be believed, excellent music acts are not all The Coach House has hosted over the years. A number of ghosts and other things that go bump in the night seem to have a permanent residency inside the venue, and they often make their presence very known.

“Weird things happen here when the lights go out and the music stops,” said Clyde, The Coach House manager. Over many years of late nights and early mornings Clyde has plenty of hair-raising stories, from the humorous, to the downright spine-chilling.

“One night me and August [a co-worker] were the only ones here, and I was puttin’ some stuff away. Now, you can hear through these walls, and I heard people talking over here (points to the wall by the bar). I thought, ‘Shit, August is talking to somebody.’ It was two voices, but you couldn’t quite hear what they were saying. But you could definitely hear ‘em.

“So when I left, I walked out of the door, and August is sitting outside having a cigarette, and I said, ‘August, who was in there? Who were you talking to?’ And he said, ‘I wasn’t in there, I’ve been sitting out here waiting for you.’ And I go, ‘Well there’s somebody in there!’”

Apparitions, spooky thuds, and unexplainable noises are par for the course if you work at The Coach House. Every employee has stories, and they’re quick to regale the creepy tales. Amy, a Coach House cook, is adamant.

“Oh they’re totally here! When I’m here by myself in the kitchen, it’s like 9 a.m. in the morning, I can hear glasses tinkling, and feet moving, and I know there’s no one here.”

With lots of nooks and crannies, dark corners, and eerie staircases, the “backstage” area seems a natural place for ghouls to come out to play. However, one of the upstairs hallways, lit by an ominous looking exit-sign, has a unique problem.

“They (ghosts) hang out at that end of the hallway [a dark, dreary corner that’s spooky just to look at], and they hang out by dressing rooms four and five. That’s where most of the stuff comes from,” Clyde said.

“I’ve never really experienced anything myself at the end of the hallway, other than the fact that you have a hard time keeping light bulbs on back there,” Clyde noted. “They burn out faster than any of the other bulbs.”
Fittingly, when shown the area, there is indeed, a darkened bulb.

As far as the dressing rooms go, number five, a 50’s-themed room centered around a coffee table covered in hodge-podge faces of mid-century idols like Ricky Nelson and Elvis Presley, once housed a haunted television.

“It used to go on by itself,” Clyde said. “The ghost hunter lady [a Coach House performer who took interest in the venue’s haunted history] was here and she was in this room talking, and the TV went on, and I told her, ‘Oh yeah it goes on by itself. It don’t go off by itself, but it goes on by itself.’”

The amateur ghost huntress once spent the night in the venue, reaching out to the spirits and even collecting an EVP, a recording that supposedly captures the voices of any ghosts who feel like being social. After analyzing her findings, she came up with an unexpected conclusion.

“She’s the one that told me she found five ghosts, and most of them are women, which surprised me!” Clyde said.

So who exactly are these women? Past performers? Loyal Patrons? Ex-employees? Clyde has a different idea.

“It’s not an old enough building for anyone to have died here, but I’ve always had a theory about that old wood by the stairs. Gary [the owner] and I got it at an old ghost town in Nevada. I think maybe the ghosts came with the wood, they’re in the wood, or lived in that house or something.”

Suddenly, he remembers another story.

“I worked with this lady here for years. She was a cocktail waitress, and she got cancer and died.

“I was sitting by the smoking door one night, just before the band started. At about 7:30, this mist went flying by me. It wasn’t smoke, it was this weird mist.

“Then we got the call the next day that she had died. I asked, ‘Well what time did she die?’ And they said, ‘About 7-7:30.’ And I think it was Rae, coming to say goodbye or something. It was just weird. Supposedly it’s a bunch of women, maybe she’s one of them.”

Helms Alee Bring Their Brutal Beauty to LA


HELMS ALEE plays The Complex Oct. 12; photo Ryan Russell

Helms Alee will be rocking out at The Complex in Glendale Oct. 12, offering up their signature blend of sludgy genre-bending hard rock. Their new album, Stillicide, has been widely lauded as their most hooky and melodic effort to date, a more accessible blend of the beauty and brutality that has become their calling card.

In the midst of touring with The Melvins, Ben Verellen (Helms Alee’s guitarist, singer, and Verellen Amplifiers founder) caught up with Concert Guide Live, to talk about the new album, nervous poops, and why metal bands are so darn sweet.

CONCERT GUIDE LIVE: How’s The Melvins tour been so far?
BEN VERELLEN: So fun! This is the longest trip we’ve done, so I think we were all a little apprehensive about how we were going to feel at this stage, smack in the middle of it, but everyone seems in good spirits. Nothing negative to report.

CGL: Jody Stephens gave you guys a tour of Ardent Studios in Memphis. What was that like?
BV: What the hell, right?! It was crazy. They reached out and asked if we wanted to come check out the studio. We had no idea. It wasn’t until we showed up that the receptionist was like, “Oh yeah, Jody Stephens from Big Star is going to be doing the tour for you.” He popped out and introduced himself. Dana [James] is probably the most familiar with Big Star, so she was really trying to contain her excitement about hanging out with that guy.

CGL: Ok so let’s go back to the beginning a little bit. How did you get into music?
BV: I was lucky. My older brother and his buddies got together and started a band (Botch) when I was coming up in junior high and high school, so I got to tag along with them. They were touring around the country and the world, so that was really inspiring, and set me on the path of, “Well, that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.”

CGL: Stillicide, came out a few weeks ago. You guys had 10 days to record it? Is that right?
BV: It was all positive. A little stressful, but I think we felt somewhat prepared. There’s always working out kinks at the last minute and finishing up the last little bits. Personally, I like the pressure of saying, “Here it is, we’ve got to do it.” It was definitely under the gun but Kurt Ballou, who owns and runs the studio over there, he’s really organized. We didn’t really have to worry about anything other than performing.

CGL: Noisey called the new album “weird stadium rock for music nerds” but a lot of other reviews called it your most accessible release to date. Were you consciously going for a more accessible sound?
BV: Definitely not going for anything like that, but once it was all done and in our hands, I can see it. To my ears, some of the songs have more hooks, some more catchy moments then the dissonant and more challenging stuff. There’s more head bob-ability [laughs].

Helms Alee

Helms Alee; promo photo

CGL: Do you or your bandmates have any weird pre-show rituals?
BV: Does poop count? That’s one. What other pre-show rituals do we have (he asks his band mates). Ya, Hozoji [Margullis] said it best: Be nervous, pace around and hopefully take a dump. The pre shit-show show-shit.

CGL: The heavier the music gets, the nicer the people playing it are. Do you agree with that?
BV: It’s therapeutic for sure, to scream and yell and play all this angry music. You get it off your chest, and then you get to be a normal human being. I’ve been playing in bands like this since I was 15, and I can’t imagine what it would be like if I didn’t get to do that, to get my hollering out and all that [laughs].

CGL: In addition to Helms Alee, you also started Verellen Amplifiers. What advice you would have for someone that’s trying to build something like that?
BV: Try and keep everything as cheap as possible for as long as possible. If you can work from home, do that as long as you can. Don’t think you have to have a space, that’s just a lot of rent and overhead. Use as much elbow grease and as little money as possible to get going. More importantly, this is no longer a time when you can have a faceless company. It’s much more personal now. All you have at that point is your reputation, and the way that customers and potential customers feel about what you’re doing. It’s making sure that you bend over backwards to take care of customers, and problems that will inevitably arise, and everything else should take care of itself.

CGL: Helms Alee is coming up on 10 years. How have you guys managed to keep the peace and keep everyone happy?
BV: These guys are my best friends first and foremost, so we’re going on camping trips every summer and everybody’s really involved in each other’s lives. We’ve also never made money playing in this band, in terms of paying our rent and whatnot. It’s always been the thing that we come home from work to do, to unwind and feel normal, as opposed to it being something we have to do to perpetuate our lifestyle. You just want to keep the business side of things out of the forefront as much as possible, and just remember that you’re doing this to feel like a human being, get stuff off your chest, and hang out with your friends.