Leon Bridges Bares Soul @ LA's Greek Theatre

By Jessica Klausing

Leon Bridges photo by Jessica Hanley. Credit to  Buzzbands.la

Leon Bridges photo by Jessica Hanley. Credit to Buzzbands.la

The Los Angeles stars shined bright for Leon Bridges on his Good Thing tour stop at the Greek Theatre. Bridges brings to life a carefree nostalgic vibe with his 60’s inspired R&B grooves, soothing soulful voice, elegant ‘classic man’ apparel, and romanticized storytelling. The sold out crowd were in for quite a treat.

Khruangbin photo by Jessica Hanley. Credit to  Buzzbands.la

Khruangbin photo by Jessica Hanley. Credit to Buzzbands.la

Supporting act Khruangbin warmed up the crowd with their infectious Middle Eastern and psychedelic musical blends. Bass player Laura Lee grabbed the audience’s attention from the get go with her seductive vocals and hypnotic stage movements while guitarist Mark Speer and drummer Donald Ray “DJ” Johnson Jr. fueled the rhythm. The band is currently on tour in support of their second album, Con Todo El Mundo.

At approximately 9:25P, Leon Bridges and his band took stage dressed in matching chic white overall jumpsuits. A bright gold ‘LB’ banner lit up against a midnight blue crushed velvet curtain backdrop. The stage setting looked more like the interior to a snazzy Jazz club rather than an outdoor amphitheatre. Bridges was all blazing smiles as he crooned right into to the silky smooth opener, “If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be).”

Leon Bridges performs at LA’s Greek Theatre. Photo by Jessica Hanley. Credit to  Buzzbands.la

Leon Bridges performs at LA’s Greek Theatre. Photo by Jessica Hanley. Credit to Buzzbands.la

“Tonight let’s groove out! Don’t be scared to dance!” Bridges exclaimed as he busted a few smooth moves before serenading right into “Bad Bad News” off his newest release, Good Thing.

The talented retro- soul singer had the adoring crowd within the palm of his hand as he performed beautiful ballads such as “Brown Skin Girl” and his trademark hit, “Coming Home.” Throughout the entire evening fans swayed back and forth bellowing out the lyrics with as much passion as Bridges himself.

During “Beyond” Bridges held out the microphone while the audience cried out, “Space and time in the afterlife/Will she have my kids? Will she be my wife?/She might just be my everything and beyond.”

The biggest highlight of the night was John Mayer joining Bridges onstage for a bluesy rendition of “Mrs.” The crowd went wild as Mayer shredded into an intense guitar solo mid song. After the surprise adrenaline rush, it was time to slow things down with the reflective, “Flowers.”

As Bridges exited the stage, the audience roared for “one more song!” Luckily their wish was granted and then some. Bridges and his band returned for not one, but two more songs! The first encore was a beautiful rendition of “River” featuring Brides on an acoustic guitar with his backup singers. Cell phone flashlights lit up the theatre like a swarm of fireflies in the night.

Bridges had one more surprise left for his fans. John Mayer returned onstage to close out the evening with “Mississippi Kisses.”  Mayer wailed on his guitar as Bridges collapsed on his knees, howling out into the night sky. Mayer’s extended guitar solo carried on even as fans headed out of the theatre.

Leon Bridges’ stage presence and ability to draw in a crowd, through his lyrical and narrative performance is unlike any that I have seen. If you are into a lively show that gets you up on your feet, singing your heart out, and overall leaving you wanting just one more song this is the tour for you.

SETLIST:
If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be)
Bad Bad News
Better Man
Shy
Coming Home
Beyond
Ana
Georgia To Texas
Forgive You
Lions
You Don’t Know
Lisa Sawyer
Hold On
Brown Skin Girl
Mrs.
Smooth Sailin’
Flowers
ENCORE:
River
Mississippi Kisses

CONCERT REVIEW: Static and Surrender 'Electrifies' @ Hollywood's Hotel Cafe

Written by Jessica Klausing

Static and Surrender. Photo by Jessica Klausing.

Static and Surrender. Photo by Jessica Klausing.

Bay area rockers Static and Surrender are on tour throughout California in honor of their debut album release. Their energetic riffs and rhythms are on par with the alternative superstar acts such as Lifehouse and Matchbox Twenty. Jeff Campbell (lead vocals, guitar) backed by John Schuman (drums), Adam Schuman (guitar, vocals), and Lauren Stockner (bass player) – all stars in their own right – delivered a passionate performance at Hollywood’s Hotel Café.

Jeff Campbell puts his heart and soul into each song and it shows. He kept the set running smoothly and without interruption for the majority of the night. Opening up with “Killing The Vibe” Campbell belts a powerful vocal delivery that commands the attention in a room while his bandmates exerted lighting-in-a-bottle energy around the small stage with ease.

Jeff Campbell. Photo by Jessica Klausing

Jeff Campbell. Photo by Jessica Klausing

With such a strong reaction from the crowd, the level of energy and intensity only grew with each song.  The next song, “If Only We Could Sleep” was no exception.  John Schuman pounded the drums as if his very life depended on it! His intensity was so great, that at one point, he had accidentally knocked over his microphone stand.

As the night continued, the crowd was introduced to more memorable tunes including the bluesy rollicking “Not Another Dime,” the ever so catchy “Fall On The Blade,” and the melancholic “Slow Crash.”

The brooding guitar anthem “You Won’t Remember Me” prompted a crowd sing-a-long. Despite the song being new, the crowd jumped right in with the chorus, “I got high! So high!”

“Just Because” followed with a stripped down funky rhythm courtesy of Adam Schuman and Lauren Stockner. Campbell explained that the song is about society’s expectations for us to find love, marry, and procreate.

Static and Surrender perform at Hotel Cafe. Photo by Jessica Klausing

Static and Surrender perform at Hotel Cafe. Photo by Jessica Klausing

The tempo slowed back down for “Mary Shelley,” a thoughtful and soul searching song just before revving the guitars back up for a spirited rendition of David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream.”

Ending with “The Very Long Night,” Static and Surrender put on an electrifying performance overall.

Check out Static and Surrender’s debut album. If you get the chance to see them live, do it! Very few artists have that special knack to sound better live than in the studio. Static and Surrender is definitely one of those bands that kick it up a notch in the live shows.

SETLIST:
Killing The Vibe
If Only We Could Sleep
Not Another Dime
Fall On The Blade
Slow Crash
You Won’t Remember Me
Just Because
Mary Shelley
Moonage Daydream (David Bowie cover)
The Very Long Night
 

CONCERT REVIEW: Long Live 'Monks Of Doom' @ LA's Cafe NELA

Written by Jessica Klausing

Victor Krummenacher and David Immerglück of Monks Of Doom. Photo by Jessica Klausing.

Victor Krummenacher and David Immerglück of Monks Of Doom. Photo by Jessica Klausing.

Monks Of Doom are back on tour. Yes, you read this correctly. The surrealist progressive rockers are back in support of their newest album, The Bronte Pin. This album is the first of new material released in 25 years. The long wait, though highly frustrating, was indeed worth it. Victor Krummenacher (vocals, bass, and guitar), David Immerglück (vocals, guitar, bass, and mandolin), Greg Lisher (guitar), and Chris Pederson (drums, percussion) pulled listeners into a post-rock world of cryptic hysteria and psychedelic instrumentals at LA’s Café NELA.

From the psychedelia opening chimes of “Cherry Blossom Baptism,” off the 1991 album, Meridian, this was a strong performance with Lisher as the driving force, well supported in rhythm by Pederson on the back beat. Krummenacher and Immerglück kept the crowd totally encapsulated and mesmerized with their intricate guitar magic.

If there was ever any doubt, this powerful opener just proved that the Monks are still in fine eccentric musical form. The backdrop acted as a screen for colorful patterns that worked with the simple yet effective lighting to immerse the audience. The sound was good despite a few minor issues with the mic levels in the beginning. Overall the setup made for quite an exhilarating experience.

Victor Krummenacher gets ready to open with "Cherry Blossom Baptism." Photo by Jessica Klausing.

Victor Krummenacher gets ready to open with "Cherry Blossom Baptism." Photo by Jessica Klausing.

The set followed with the spacey rock instrumental “In Anticipation Of the Pope,” off the first album, Soundtrack To The Film: “Breakfast On The Beach Of Deception,” the essence of the distinct MOD sound that brought the band to the forefront in 1987.

Next up “Hieroglyphic” ventures into the realms of Ancient Egyptian psychedelia storytelling with  Immerglück overzealously proclaiming, “the sky is pregnant!”

The band seemed in great spirits with Krummenacher and Immerglück bouncing back and forth between playful stage banter introducing the newer tracks. They displayed their esteemed sense of dark humor by casually warning us that things were about to take an ominous turn.

“The Bastards Never Show Themselves” is an eerie moody piece and the way it is delivered exalts the gloom, the doom, and the angst. It’s a heavy bass thump that takes refuge in your mind and refuses to leave. “Up From the Cane,” another new dark one, delves into more heavy driving riffs. The emotion and aggressive energy of the music create a wave of unsettling tension.

David Immergluck shreds. Photo by Jessica Klausing.

David Immergluck shreds. Photo by Jessica Klausing.

As the night progressed on the Monks went back in time to revisit old favorites in their catalog, including “Going South,” “Oh Well,” and “Ukranian Technological Faith Dance.”

The biggest crowd reaction came from the powerhouse instrumental “Vaporize Your Crystals.” This song has a fantastic melodic dual between Lisher and Immerglück. The two attack it with spirited intensity and exuberance. The music ascends, never ceasing, never relenting, and communicating a driving and creative vitality in everything they do.

The set also included the riveting rendition of Syd Barrett’s “Let’s Split,” off the EP, The Insect God, before returning to The Bronte Pin for the ultimate guitar anthem “Osiris Rising,” which features a feverishly stellar guitar solo by Lisher.

Monks Of Doom perform at LA's Cafe NELA. Photo by Jessica Klausing.

Monks Of Doom perform at LA's Cafe NELA. Photo by Jessica Klausing.

Of course, no one was leaving without an encore and the band returned to close out the show with “Voodoo Vengeance,” from The Cosmodemonic Telegraph Company.

The Monks Of Doom tour runs until May 24 in Kingston ,NY. Prog rock fans are highly encouraged to attend but be warned: It’s bizarre, dark, euphoric, but mostly importantly – It’s alive!

SETLIST:
Cherry Blossom Baptism
In Anticipation Of The Pope
Hieroglyphic
The Bastards Never Show Themselves
Going South
Calvary
Up From The Cane
Oh Well
Vaporize Your Crystals
Riverbed
The Better Angels Of Our Nature
The Sinking Of The Essex
Tanguedia
Let's Split
Ukranian Technological Faith Dance
Osiris Rising

ENCORE:
Voodoo Vengeance
 

CONCERT REVIEW: Snow Patrol Take Back the City @ LA's Fonda Theatre

Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol photo by @U2Soul/Flickr.

Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol photo by @U2Soul/Flickr.

"Thanks for coming back," my friend Amy said to singer Gary Lightbody outside Los Angeles' Fonda Theatre last week. "We never weren't coming back," he assured us. It needed to be said anyhow. Gary has been open about the reasons the new Snow Patrol album, Wildness (due May 25th), has taken five years. As an artist with a wide-reaching platform, his frankness regarding his experience with depression will hopefully aid in its destigmatization, and further the discussion around mental health and addiction issues.

During the first song of the April 25th show (the third on their short promo tour), Lightbody kneeled and reached out to a photographer, providing the perfect shot, and received no reaction. "Smile, man!" he prompted good-naturedly between lyrics. "You're really close to me – smile!" Within 60 seconds of taking the stage, he'd both managed to command everyone's attention, and dish out a reminder to be present within the celebratory energy of the room.

I first saw Snow Patrol open for U2 in Ireland in 2005. I was an instant convert; I'd never seen so much joy bursting from one human, such a glowing smile, such a connection to the earth, the sky, the people. Despite the singer's ongoing struggles, and some vocal issues and technical false starts on the night, he is, with remarkable resilience, still smiling. “It’s one of the most incredible feelings, and I forgot," he said of being on stage. "Now I fucking remember.”

The same energy sparked from every corner of the stage – guitarist Nathan Connolly dancing up a storm, bassist Paul "Pablo" Wilson singing every word, keyboardist Johnny McDaid’s eyes twinkling.

Gary Lightbody and Minnie Driver perform photo by @U2Soul/Flickr.

Gary Lightbody and Minnie Driver perform photo by @U2Soul/Flickr.

Hearing the old songs live again was a blast. In the context of the evening, "Take Back the City" became a love song to LA, Lightbody's second home, with the honourary Angeleno opening his arms as if to embrace us. "Crack the Shutters" was joyful and reverent as ever; "Make This Go On Forever" a captivating, desperate plea. Minnie Driver even showed up to duet on "Set Fire to the Third Bar."

The group, supported by the force that is Jonny Quinn on drums, is adept at mixing straight-forward rock with more intimate moments, sometimes within the space of seconds. Halting the steady thump of "Shut Your Eyes" to silence, Gary turned the chorus over to the crowd, conducting us to build from a “sexy” whisper to a bellow.  

Outshining the hits, the new tunes were the real stars of the night. They are solid and catchy as ever, but lyrically cut deeper, wider. Fallen Empires, the previous Snow Patrol album, explored themes beyond typical relationship fodder, such as home, family, and childhood, and the Wildness songs previewed at the Fonda reveal an even broader scope of universality. I can’t help but think of the poem “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver: Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?


The first single, "Don't Give In," with its Don't you dare quit so easy chorus, acts as a buoy in a bleak world. Don't say you want it forever, Gary sings of the darkness. Anyone who's been in the abyss knows its appeal. Connolly adds a particularly blistering riff that alone might convince anyone in doubt that life is worth living.

Snow Patrol photo by Courtney Lavender.

Snow Patrol photo by Courtney Lavender.

"Empress," inspired by producer Jacknife Lee’s kids, seemed in part a tribute to the communal nature of live music, and also contained the singular, glorious truth that We’re all just human in the end. For an additional shot of pure perspective, you get the clincher, This is so damn simple, a reminder to reevaluate any useless preoccupation.

The mark of a great singer is measured less by vocal quality, and more by believability. Do you believe what you are singing? Do others believe you when you sing it? Though he may have tripped up technically at points, I never once doubted what Gary was communicating, nor did anyone in the rapt audience. "Heal Me" was dedicated to someone who saved his life. I've been standing in the fire for way too long, he sang, and I could feel the flames.

"Life on Earth" might be one of the best tunes the band has written. Murky, moody verses are countered with a simplistic, shouty chorus that cuts to the bone – It doesn’t need to be so fucking hard / It doesn't need to be the end of you or me / This is life on earth / It’s just life on earth. BE HERE NOW, the song insists, before four layers of harmony shoot you soaring into space.

Gary Lightbody photo by Courtney Lavender.

Gary Lightbody photo by Courtney Lavender.

Of course, in true Snow Patrol fashion, the vibe wasn't a heavy one, and the band/audience rapport elicited some hilarious banter. Gary spied a sign declaring I LOVE YOU with his name literally in lights. “Now I feel shy.” Another: Popping my Snow Patrol cherry tonight. “I’m not reading any more signs.” Later he admitted that the encore break was long because he had to have a pee and the bathroom was far away.

Perhaps one of the best things about this band is that their casual stage presence eliminates the barrier between performer and crowd, making you forget they’ve had a mega hit. It’s just you and them sharing a theatre with a few strangers, singing together, and laughing about being alive.

After the "long" break, Lightbody and McDaid returned alone for an absolute show-stopper called "What if This is All the Love You Ever Get." Bathed in magenta, motionless but for his hands, Gary delivered the most seemingly hopeless statement with delicately defiant hope. What if it hurts like hell? Then it’ll hurt like hell. It was a flawless performance –  passionate and plaintive, full of empathy, acceptance and gratitude. Why do we search unsatisfied, when what we need is all around us? I’m in the ruins too / I know the wreckage so well / Come on over, come on over here / What if this is all the love you'll ever get?

Their usual set-closer, "Just Say Yes," ended the night on a jubilant note. We could dance. Thanks for coming back.

SETLIST:
Open Your Eyes
Chocolate
Take Back the City
Called Out in the Dark
Don't Give In
Crack the Shutters
Empress
Run
Heal Me
Set the Fire to the Third Bar
Life on Earth
Make This Go on Forever
Shut Your Eyes
Chasing Cars
You're All I Have

ENCORE:
What if This is All the Love You Ever Get
Just Say Yes

CONCERT REVIEW: Umphrey's McGee Blows Minds @ LA's Wiltern

Written by Jessica Klausing

Umphrey's McGee photo by Paul Citone.

Umphrey's McGee photo by Paul Citone.

Umphrey’s McGee entranced the Los Angeles’ Wiltern theater for two, high energy-packed sets.

Amidst the hypnotic psychedelic light show and LED visuals, Umphrey’s McGee seamlessly weaves progressive rock, jazz, disco, funk, metal, and electronic genres into a cohesive dance mix. Each band member has a keen musical ear and an uncanny talent to communicate with each other on stage.

If you’re not familiar with these technically adept musicians then you might be a bit overwhelmed. At any given minute, the band may take a blues ballad and feverishly drive it into a tripped out psychedelic groove. Their classic hits are consistently being re-worked into a whole new sound.

The die-hard UM fans or “Umphreaks” will proudly express how each show is a completely different mind-blowing experience. Umphrey’s is known for their extended complex instrumental jams and abruptly switching songs mid way only to be re-visited later on in the set.  

Organ Freeman photo by Paul Citone.

Organ Freeman photo by Paul Citone.

The opener, Organ Freeman heated up the night with some organ centered instrumental jams. Rob Humphreys (drums), Trevor Steer (organ, key bass), and Erik Carlson (guitar) manage to intricate a funky aesthetic into their peppy soulful grooves. The trio had everyone up and swaying to the beat.

Umphrey’s came out next and launched right into the rock heavy hitter, “Dark Brush,” followed by the funkier “Bad Friday.” The first set comprised mostly of progressive rock melodies with Brendan Bayliss (guitar, vocals) and Jake Cinninger (guitar, vocals) alternating vocals between hard shredding electric riffs and bluesy stripped down rhythms.

Jefferson Waful (Umphrey's McGee Lighting Designer). Photo by Paul Citone.

Jefferson Waful (Umphrey's McGee Lighting Designer). Photo by Paul Citone.

After a twenty minute intermission, Umphrey’s returned with a more electronic trance fused second set, forcing everyone back up on their feet for “Wappy Sprayberry.” “The Floor” followed with Kris Myers (drums, vocals) and Andy Farag (percussion) flawlessly interweaving powerful percussions within the dreamy arrangements.

Without warning, Ryan Stasik (bass) rips us back in to the rock n’ roll endeavor “JaJunk.” Before closing out the set, Umphrey’s treated fans to a transcendental rendition of the Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime.” The performance left many excited whispers exchanged throughout the venue.

From left to right: Ryan Stasik (bass), Brendan Bayliss (guitar, vocals), and Jake Cinninger (guitar, vocals). Photo by Paul Citone.

From left to right: Ryan Stasik (bass), Brendan Bayliss (guitar, vocals), and Jake Cinninger (guitar, vocals). Photo by Paul Citone.

Umphrey’s McGee continues to astound with their precise technically crafted musicianship, their vast variety in sound over their discography and their ability to create sophisticated and fun-loving tracks to just dance to and enjoy. If you’re looking for a band that challenges the multi genre scope, Umphrey’s McGee is well worth the listen!

SETLIST

Set I:

Dark Brush

Bad Friday

Bridgeless

Example 1

Rocker Part 2

Draconian

Bridgeless

 Set II:

Wappy Sprayberry

The Floor

Booth Love

JaJunk

Once in a Lifetime (Talking Heads cover)

Maybe Someday

ENCORE:

Haji

The Silent Type