Vaud & the Villains, The Mint

March 17, 2012 “Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future”. Turns out every Villain has a story, too. The “19-piece 1930s New Orleans Cabaret and Orchestra show” that goes by Vaud & the Villains seems to have stepped out of time to deliver us from ourselves. With the likes of The Animal, Big Daddy, Honeychild, Silky, Preacher, Babyface, Peaches Mahoney, Shady Sadie, Low Down Kate and a seeming cast of thousands under the watchful eye of one Vaud Overstreet, these Villains transport all who enter to an age when liquor only flowed through speakeasys, gals were skilled at financially relocating men’s wallets, and hard luck was religion.  Yeah it’s 2012, and they time-travel seamlessly. Part revival, part burlesque and all in, Vaud & the Villains dig deep into gospel, rhythm and soul, blues, New Orleans brass and Americana, to create a performance that resonates, entertains and seduces. This is a committed bunch – to the music, to the presentation and to the enjoyment of the audience. They have to be. Travelling from gig-to-gig with at least 4 horns, 3 singers, 2 dancers, fiddle, banjo, drums, upright bass, sousaphone, acoustic guitar and “one-string” guitar (as was the configuration […]

Dumpstaphunk, The Mint

March 1, 2012 Dumpstaphunk is slippery, stinky, smelly, funked up stuff. It says so in the name. We get it, but just to make sure nobody misses the point, Nick Daniels III and Tony Hall lock up dueling basses at every D-phunk gig. The prowess of the players is unquestioned, the history and Neville legacy familiar. Ivan’s indulgences and 14 years sobriety. His time as a Stones/Richards sideman. The fat Hammond sound and rich vocals he’s cultivated with Dumpstaphunk since 2003, along with numerous other projects and collaborations. Cousin Ian carrying the torch with the Funky Meters. Tony Hall’s double barreled Strat/bass attack and emcee theatrics. Nick Daniel’s III’s powerful digits. New addition Nikki GIaspie’s huge resume and Berklee chops. It all adds up to a solid unit that puts it in the dumpsta night in, night out.   Back in the day, Ivan Neville had more than a few residencies at The Mint and he’s no stranger to LA these days, either. The last time I caught Dumpstaphunk in town, they headlined a double bill with Rebirth at the Roxy and the energy was crazy. This time around, they were playing a room half that size over two nights. Scary. […]

Red Baraat, The Mint

February 25, 2012 The cultural reach of New Orleans music makes for a different kind of eclectic. Blender eclectic. Not every combination hits the sweet spot but the willingness to try anything out mirrors New Orleans resilience, roots and diversity to a tee. Where else could native Swedes Anders Osborne and Theresa Andersonn plant themselves and flourish like native Orleaneans. Or birth the New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars with their devoted legion of revelers to what can only be described as ethnically steeped music that approaches jam rock peaks, while remaining firmly grounded in both their New Orleans roots and Yiddish melodies. You couldn’t make this stuff up. The latest in this jambalaya tradition of mixing cultures and sounds to catch my ear is Red Baraat (Baraat is the Hindi word for wedding procession). Self described as a “Brooklyn dhol n’ brass band”. The Village Voice dubbed them “raucous Indian bhangra and funky New Orleans brass”. My best shot to the uninitiated is NOLA brass’n’drums strained through hot curry. The adjectives fly hard and fast with these guys, and for good reason.  Perhaps the band’s web bio says it best “… led by dhol player, Sunny Jain, the nine piece comprised […]

Honey Island Swamp Band, The Mint

February 10, 2012 You couldn’t miss it. She was vintage. All black and chrome. Gleaming under the streetlight. Probably mid-80s, but who knows. The guys had a bus. Rolling from gig to gig in comfort, if not style. Not flashy. The sight of that thing parked smack in front of the Mint on Pico (couldn’t fit it in around back) was pretty sweet. Not about ego, all about pride. For a band that has been a staple at Jazzfest for years and hitting their stride, it had to feel pretty good to be back in LA under their own power.   After making their Southland debut last June (see my post of that show deeper in this blog), HISB returned with a generous (2+ hour) Friday night set. The tunes are familiar, the vibe upbeat. Everyone seems to leave an HISB gig pretty damn happy.   The band is back in the studio aiming for a late spring release to add to their 3 album catalog (their eponymous 2007 EP, 2009’s Wishing Well and 2010’s Good To You), and the set had generous helpings from all their material. The raucous “Till the Money’s Gone”, the jammy “Wishing Well” and the […]

Galactic, Tipitina’s

December 31, 2011 Bill Graham spoiled me. The man knew how to throw a New Year’s party. 4-5 hours of cosmic Dead jams, epic substance abuse and 6,000 or so of my newest friends. The calendar would turn, Uncle Bobo would descend, Sugar Mag would kick in and all was right with the world. OK, so that was 30 years ago. Still, that ecstatic pull set a high bar few 12/31s have matched since. These days when milestones are counted in decades, New Year’s is often kept in quieter company and places, and indulgence swapped for reflection. But damn, the echo still haunts and the spirit craves a hit that only a hard wired all night jam or funk groove can provide. Add a few hundred people (or thousands or multiples thereof) primed to kick last year in the ass and anything’s possible. Call me a seeker.   Such was my latest NOLA pilgrimage that landed me at Tip’s in the waning hours of 2011 for Galactic’s annual year-end bash. With Eric Lindell’s Trio opening and billed guests including Anders Osborne, Corey Henry from Rebirth and Corey Glover of Living Colour (both Coreys vets of the last Galactic tour), prospects […]

Dragon Smoke, The Mint

December 7, 2011 “Supergroups” are described by Wikipedia as one “whose performers are already famous from having performed individually or in other groups”, citing a 1974 Time article that such configurations are an “amalgam formed by the talented malcontents of other bands”. Wiki does not know all, but the concept of taking a bunch of disparate talents of some repute, throwing them together and expecting them to live up to their progeny is typically a recipe for failure, or at least a really lame experiment (or an overt attempt to cash in). They’re not always stinkers, as this year’s “SuperHeavy” project, or the legacy of the “Travelling Wilburys”, and even “Blind Faith” exemplify. But what some may call a “supergroup” is often just another night in NOLA during Jazzfest, when the best of the NOLA music scene can’t stay away from each other and keep going ‘til dawn cracks the sky. These loose jam sessions don’t always click. Overly familiar material, too much noodling and no cohesion are not unusual. But other nights, magic gets sprinkled and familiar material becomes musical epoxy for epic jamming that can’t be bottled, or more daring tunes work their way into the mix. NOLA […]

Stephen Stills, City National Grove of Anaheim

November 22, 2011 Some songs, some artists, never go away. That’s not always a good thing. Times change, everyone ages, life gets tougher or better, and we go on. Since I was probably all of 8 the first time I heard “For What It’s Worth”, I was too young to really understand it, but still old enough to feel something. I knew the world was pissed off and somehow I grasped that music was more than a soundtrack to the events around me. At a recent stop on Stephen Stills’ Fall tour, the 60-something Hall of Famer (twice, on the same night) introduced “For What It’s Worth” as for the “99s”. It’s 2011, the world is still angry and artists from Tom Morello to Crosby and Nash have taken up musical arms with OWS. Some songs age well, even if the audience and performers don’t. Some find new life in new times. I wore the grooves down on every CSN/Y platter in all their permutations. The harmonies were the hook, but Stills’ fret mastery reeled me in and I’ve been an admirer of his playing and songwriting ever since. His wah-wah laced exchanges with Clapton on “Go Back Home” and […]

Return to Forever IV, Greek Theater

September 20, 2011 There are only so many seminal musical moments in one’s life, and the first time I saw Return to Forever live was one of them.  I felt as if my head cracked open and exploded from the inside.  But I digress. As a teen of the 70s, I was drawn (without explanation) to artists signed to Manfred Eicher’s ECM (e.g., Edition of Contemporary Music) label.  It wasn’t just the stunning zen like imagery on the cover of every pressing.  And I was probably still too young to fully appreciate the unprecedented freedom Eicher the producer afforded his international roster of artists any time they entered the studio.  Still, something about the utter musical liberation completely unmoored from tradition and the mainstream got its hooks into me.  Even if some of the music was so arcane and outside to my ears, I took pride in my ability, if not patience, to expose myself to such intellectual pursuits that aimed straight for the head.  I didn’t read Kerouac or Ginsberg (at least until later), I listened to Jan Garbarek and Terje Rypdal.  This from a kid who had been spinning Zeppelin, the Allmans, the Who, the Stones and anything […]

Babette Ho Benefit with Jackson Browne and Ben Harper, The Mint

September 19, 2011 A friend asked me to describe Ben Harper’s sound and the best I could come up with was world-infused, surf-influenced, rhythm, roots and soul.  Harper is a singer/songwriter/guitarist who defies description and has a relentless following (pun intended).  I’ve seen Ben Harper a few times – almost two decades ago in The Mint, when it was half the size and maybe 150 people squeezed in, and then in 2009 before 50,000 some odd headlining the Acura Stage at Jazzfest.  I am a fan, but more from afar, not knowing his deeper catalogue.  That same friend mentioned how influential Ben Harper’s music had been on her high school years, and I felt old, as the rise of this musician from the IE with the Weissenborn guitar that created such a stir is still freshly emblazoned in my musical memory.  Reflecting on the Mint show of the early 90s, I thought the cat who sang “Momma’s Got a Girlfriend Now” (from 1994’s Welcome to the Cruel World) with seemingly straight up truth, then busting out some wicked slide on a lap guitar that looked closer to a dulcimer, was pretty damn cool.  No airs, this one.  That stayed with […]

Donald Harrison, Jr. Electric Band and Jon Cleary’s Philthy Phew, Santa Monica Pier

September 8, 2011 As a native Angelino, attendance at any of the Santa Monica Pier Twilight Dance Series performances truly is a rite of summer.  Gorgeous nights, ocean air, sand between your toes.  Hard to beat.  Despite a rap that Southern California indulges in the frivolous and expensive – 8 figure “homes”, 6 figure cars, $15 cocktails, every summer Los Angeles and environs offers abundant opps to hear great music for nothing from downtown to Hollywood to the beach, and we are spoiled for it.  2011 marks the Pier Twilight Dance Series’ 27th year and if the last performance is supposed to mean that summer is almost over, it’s so not true.  We all know SoCal doesn’t really bake until October while the rest of the country tastes the first chill of autumn and winter ahead. I profess to only catching a few Pier shows the past few years, but could not miss Jon Cleary and his Philthy Phew (aka, Piano, Bass & Drums) with Donald Harrison’s Electric Band for the series closer on September 8th.  NOLA funk, meet Santa Monica mellow. I’ve seen Donald Harrison, Jr. in many configurations at Jazzfest, be it in full Indian regalia or blowing […]