LA Bluegrass Situation, Greek Theatre

October 3, 2015 Yup, we got an LA Bluegrass Situation on our hands, and with Way Over Yonder a goner and a tinge of real time Hardly Strictly Bluegrass envy, that 10-hour hang at the Greek on a balmy Fall day couldn’t be any more welcome round these parts. Ed Helms, who co-founded BGS, and Amy Reitnouer their Executive Director, love the music deeply. Well, they hit their mark without missing a strum, and it showed in a strong lineup and front porch feel that continued long after the sun went down. Featuring generous sets from Dawes, the Punch Brothers and the ever rising Lone Bellow, LA BGS 2015 also showcased new grassers Della Mae (who just killed it), Gregory Alan Isakov and his stirring writing, and Nashville émigré Jonny Fritz palling up with Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith on the Greek’s main stage. During the earlier part of the day (music started at 2 PM), a smaller stage was set up by the venue entry, and featured acts almost at eye level to folks listening, dancing or taking in a smattering of games, crafts and food trucks – a nice Sunday in the park atmosphere. Wild Reeds, L.A.’s Dustbowl Revival (do […]

KAABOO, Del Mar

September 17-20, 2015 With summer and festival season coming to a close, in steps KAABOO, a 3-day inaugural event held a sea breeze away from the Pacific at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The brain child of Denver based Bryan Gordon and a huge supporting cast, the fest offered a broad spectrum musical experience mixed with comedy, artists of many media and a late night party with an emphasis on the creature comforts for the masses that many festivals lack (real toilets for all!), and top flight culinary options in one of the best craft beer counties in the U.S. The challenge for any first timer with big ambitions is to establish not just an identity, but to create a distinctive experience that separates itself from the pack of an ever more crowded festival field. It is not enough to draw a weekend’s worth of headliners to a town near you with an eye chart worthy promo poster in tow. There is a lot on the line for KAABOO. Until now, there has not been a Southern California event with the musical diversity to befit the region that isn’t branded Coachella, and there has been a vacuum in San Diego since […]

Newport Folk Festival 2015, Day 3

July 26, 2015 Proudly sitting on a half century plus of tradition, the Newport Folk Fest feels more like a mellow picnic with your pals and belies its legacy as one of the most important music events of past and present. With attendance capped at 10,000 and the historic Ft. Adams setting on Naragansett Bay, it is a personal, friendly experience. One where the event co-founder, 89-year old George Wein, is still scooting around the Fort shaking hands, talking to people and taking it all in. A gathering built of sturdy roots and tradition, one that honors the music first, and where most favor their ears, (and the space between them), over their smartphones. I recently came across a HuffPo piece on whether music festivals have lost their mojo and devolved into customized super concerts for Generation Distracted. It’s a fair, but debatable point. And one that warrants further appreciation that Newport Folk exists at all. It’s hard to grasp now that just the mere act of plugging in by a young Bob Dylan in 1965 was taken as both rebellion and betrayal (still debated today). The stakes were that high (Elijah Wald’s excellent “Dylan Goes Electric! Newport, Seeger, Dylan, […]

Wheels of Soul Tour – Tedeschi Trucks Band, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings and Doyle Bramhall II, Greek Theatre, Los Angeles

June 10, 2015 The musical marriage of Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks spawned a heckuva family. The band sports a 3 piece horn section that drapes Tedeschi’s voice and excellent blues stringing, and provides many a jumping off point for Trucks’ fiery bottleneck excursions. Casual fans may not know that long before their union, Susan Tedeschi had established herself as an exceptional blues player and vocalist in her own right, while widening the road for the likes of Samatha Fish, Beth Hart, Carolyn Wonderland, Ana Popovic and many others. Tedeschi’s voice draws easy comparisons to Bonnie Raitt, but she gets to grittier places with the force to match. Trucks’ years with the Allmans, leading his own band and supporting others (the 2006 Derek & the Dominoes rich Clapton tour, was particularly memorable) all led to here. He almost seems hotwired to another plane and the fierce intensity of his playing belies the meditative expression that accompanies most of his solos. The only flash Trucks bares is in the soul tearing notes he pulls from his SG. Some years back, I heard Trucks interviewed at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, when asked about his no pick/full fingered technique, his […]

Galactic with Kung Fu, El Rey Theatre

March 5, 2015 Yes, it’s that time of year again. Jazz Fest is a month or so away, Opening Day even closer, and Galactic lit up the El Rey Theatre on their regular March swing through the Southland. Flashing 20 years of musical intuition and their unique brand of NOLA funk, the set featured several guest vocalists, most prominently, the very talented Erica Falls (Galactic + Falls covering “Rock Steady” = meant for each other), as well as Jurassic 5er, Chali2na and, Nicki Crawford. As if the place couldn’t get any more jacked up, The Revivalists’ David Shaw (whose band was sharing the bill with uber-jamsters Umphrey’s McGee the following night) joined late in the set for Hey Na Na. Stanton Moore is the man, and his hard hitting brushes during a solo had to school every drummer in the house. Kung Fu proved to be an excellent foil, with the Connecticut based quintet delivering their own tightly wound new funk propelled by Robert Somerville’s tenor and Tim Palmieri on guitar.                               

Southern Soul Assembly, Regent Theater, Los Angeles

November 18, 2014 The Southern Soul Assembly is not the horn laden, Stax driven sound the name could conjure. Southern, yes, with Mark Broussard, Luther Dickinson, J.J. Grey and Anders Osborne covering that geographic territory. The soul is of a more personal nature. Four stringers and singers, trading songs, telling stories and swapping licks. The Assembly’s individual voices and playing are usually heard at higher volumes, often accompanied by furious soloing (Osborne), frets both foreign and familiar (Dickinson), swampy blues (Grey) and straight up blue eyed soul (Broussard). But in this configuration, they are songwriters first, just sharing tunes in a chill musical setting. The SSA was wrapping a western tour when they arrived last week at the Regent Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles. The Regent is a 100-year old gem freshly reopened after 8 years by Mitchell Frank and his Spaceland crew, and perfectly suited to the occasion It’s bigger than your living room, but not by much (for this seated show, maybe 20+ rows of chairs plus a horseshoe balcony), and your bar isn’t as well stocked. Step outside, and you’re in the middle of downtown’s new golden age. So, as big a fan as I am of […]

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers + Steve Winwood, The Forum

October 10, 2014 Tom Petty has been an L.A. boy for 40 years. You can say he’s more than adopted the city as his hometown and the feeling is mutual, the crushing goes both ways. Petty and the Heartbreakers are pretty much synonymous with this town. So, it was completely fitting that his current US tour ended here with two nights at the spectacularly renewed Forum. The evening proved to be a master class in garage rock (meant in the best way) featuring just about every iconic guitar and classic guitar tone imaginable. From the dueling Tele shredding on a tribute to the late Paul Revere’s “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone” to the twin Thunderbirds tearing at the throat of “You Wreck Me”, guitar geeks everywhere were drooling from start to finish. Vintage Les Pauls, classic SGs, Flying V’s and Rickenbackers, teardrops of a few shapes and sizes, a bright red Gretsch with more odd angles than an AP trig test, to name a few, all made appearances before the evening was out. But the Friday night show I attended was so much more than just the compadres Petty and Mike Campbell flashing their collections. Petty made himself right at […]

Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters, Hollywood Palladium

October 7, 2014 Few voices in rock stand as tall and as memorable as Robert Plant’s. Whether it’s the reverb drenched “aahs” in “Black Dog” or the screaming howl that caps “Whole Lotta Love”, that voice is embedded into the brain of any fan born before 1965, and then some. But Plant has rebooted himself more than a few times since the salad days of his old band and continues to challenge himself as an artist, while neither running from, or towards, his legacy. Many of Plant’s musical contemporaries will roll along familiar ground until the wheels come off. But not Plant. In his solo career, the Staffordshire born Brit has embraced Americana and roots in recent years with the likes of T-Bone Burnett, Allison Krauss and Patty Griffin, and now turns the planet on its ear fusing world beats and African sounds with his Sensational Space Shifters. Forget reinvention. This is career forged exploration from a man still trying to live the “golden god” moniker down. No phoning it in. Musical bravery, if you ask me. Plant scheduled a handful of US dates for his “lullaby…and the ceaseless roar” tour, and I was fortunate to catch the start of his […]

Way Over Yonder Festival, Santa Monica Pier

September 26-27, 2014 Day one of Newport Folk Festival’s little sister, Way Over Yonder, at the Santa Monica Pier had familiar headliners, solo strummers and new discoveries, true to the Newport spirit. The perfect weather, great beer and ocean setting didn’t hurt. Lucinda Williams delivered a career crossing set to tee up crowd faves, Local Natives. Drums/guitar duo Little Hurricane lived up to its name, Moses Sumney claimed his buzz. The Far West got all honkytonk-abilly, Joe Fletcher spun road weary tales. Bootstraps and straight outta Indy Houndmouth were both personal and energetic, and the Wild Reeds played well with the carousel crowd. This sophomore effort was off to a good start.                         Day 2 was a keeper. The music was as sparkling as the weather. Missed The Barr Brothers, but heard great things. The Main Stage was strong from start to finish, but the stunner for me was The Lone Bellow. Soulful, punchy, grounded with stories to tell and the tunes to match, only to be followed by Jamestown Revival who didn’t miss a beat and kept the energy and emotion high. Joe Pug at the Carousel Stage […]

Yes with Syd Arthur, Greek Theatre

August 24, 2014 Sure prog rock is so 1974, yet, the stuff holds up. Hear me out. The bongs and headphones crowd may have moved on to second wives/third mortgages. But, long before World of Warcraft and GOT, stoner nerds nursed their souls to music that was complex, epic in scale and classically influenced, inasmuch the twain ever met (confession, first time I really heard Stravinsky was the recorded opening of 1972’s “Yes Songs”). Emerson, Lake and Palmer may have grabbed my head, but Yes had me at “Your Move/All Good People”. Steve Howe’s 12-string laud, Jon Anderson’s lilting vocals, Chris Squire’s rowdiness pushing all the niceties out of the way.  I even bought into the grandeur of “Tales from Topographic Oceans” the 1973 double album comprised of four sides/four tracks based on Hindu scripture (and clearly Jon Anderson’s dive into the deep end). And then there was Roger Dean’s cover art that seemingly made the other worldly accessible. Alas, by the late 70s, new wave and punk spat on such indulgences and Yes along with their prog brethren strove for the middle and drowned in the rebel yell of the time. Not that prog every really went anywhere. Bands […]