Archive for the ‘Los Angeles’ Category

It’s Sunday night.  The rest of New York Shiddy is curling up to watch either football, House of the Dragon, or for more creative potatoes, both at once.  But underneath the scaffolding, amidst perpetually dirty streets and fresh graffiti tags, the family was gathering.  The almighty Fishbone were coming to the conclusion of their small “Fly in the Buttermilk” tour, a familiar term for old Fishbone heads.  Flies in the buttermilk are out of bounds.  They defy limitations and expectations.  As the band says on their Facebook, to be a fly in the buttermilk is “a badge of honor as a band of color in a stereotypical music genre.  Too black for white radio, too rock for black radio.”   It takes guts to be the odd ones out, no matter how radical nor earnest nor unbounded, which draws radical earnest unbounded fans.  Fishbone brought along pop punk outfit Action/Adventure, a band of fellow flies out of Chicago making music only white suburban kids are supposed to make (if you answer to the machine).  Together they made some beautiful noise down at the independent bastion Le Poisson Rouge.

Action/Adventure started the night off with some really solid tunes.  While pop punk isn’t my flavor of tea necessarily, this fivesome rocked pretty good.  Their drummer can put out some beastly clamor.  They sound like they’d be at home on alt-rock radio.  For all of my memories of fakery from pop punk bands two decades ago, these guys had none – they were, frankly, adorable, and mock the ye olde concept of poser-ism in their music and their own brand of hot sauce, Poser Poison.  Even though these guys are clearly playing a genre they love, but aren’t “supposed” to love, they vocally stood firm in their convictions that people can do whatever the hell they want regardless of the continents in their blood.  That’s as punk as it gets.  

Then came Fishbone.  What is there to say about your sixth Fishbone show?  “Sunless Saturday,” “Everyday Sunshine,” “Ma and Pa,” “Servitude,” the classics roll off the tongue.  There were old punks who were-there-when, some from the Chili Peppers tour era, which impressed Angelo and Norwood.  There was new blood too.  I spotted a couple kids in their twenties, and even one youngin’ out well past his bedtime, finding his joy in the morass of whirling bodies.  Go get ‘em, kid.  

Of course there was a pit.  A Fishbone pit is a high impact high velocity hug-a-thon for the seasoned rock kid.  One older pro in a pork pie hat started the surf, and before I knew it, I was holding up Angelo’s thigh while he sweat-dripped Sunshine on our faces.  I took a pit edge position, playing defense for a photographer and trying to keep sturdy against the onslaught.  Of course there were moments the pit took me off my feet, but there was no fear, because this Fishbone pit felt less like elbows and shoulders and more like jumping the waves at the beach.  I must have wrapped my arms around dozens of fellow meatbags, and they around me.  A sea of flies, wing in wing.

It was gorgeous and I am exhausted.  Here are some other thoughts, in no particular order:

  • More women than I have noticed before
  • Sweat
  • HORNS ON HORNS ON HORNS ON HORNS ON HORNS
  • Dr. Madd Vibe laying down poetry
  • Norwood in tie-dye still looking good
  • Happy Birthday Norwood with special guests 
  • Dirty Walt’s very dirty microphone
  • Chris Dowd being a ham 
  • A series of almost comically larger and larger saxophones 
  • Angelo Moore’s delicious asscrack
  • I hope Angelo saw my Thumpasaurus shirt because that would be a mind-blower lineup
  • John Steward keeping rhythms tight
  • Mark Phillips with the shred
  • I don’t know who I took that picture with but I love you too
  • The bartender was cool as hell
  • Family of strangers
  • Fishbone being now and forever red hot

Fishbone Instagram  ★  FishboneLive.org

Action/Adventure Instagram  ★  Action/Adventure Bandcamp

A Summer Among Sparks

Posted: September 7, 2022 by Kat Meow in Experimental, Los Angeles, Pop, Sparks
Gorgeous

Sparks!  Sparks, the ever-morphing pop duo of Ron and Russell Mael, has seen enormous resurgence.  I am of that resurgence.  The Edgar Wright documentary The Sparks Brothers is a relatable primer for these obscure titans, and a well done doc in its own right thanks to its combination of warm storytelling and slightly warped animations.  It was meant to invite in curious millennial music kids like myself who have been hearing Sparks on the periphery of our attention for years.  From the jump you can see why they are icons.  It’s like they’ve always been there, but the nostalgia machine hasn’t been feeding them back to us like they have been Bowie and Freddy.  Perhaps it’s because you couldn’t sell Sparks as nostalgia if you tried.  They aren’t of an era because they are of all eras.  I also think images of Ron Mael’s unnerving yet seductive face unlocked a core memory for me, like big sis had MTV on while I was playing Legos and it branded his mustache onto my unconscious.

But I really found Sparks through FFS, their 2015 collaboration with Franz Ferdinand.  I had maybe a couple weeks to vaguely research them before they played a packed house at Terminal 5, excited by what little I managed to learn.  The show was unreal.  I mean these old-ass dudes were full of pure energy.  And Ron’s face!  I remember his intense concentration looking like fury, until he stepped up from his keyboard and finally delivered some tall and skinny dance work of his own.  I fell in love, but I kept putting them off – their catalog was too daunting to start, and time moved on.  

Fortunately The Sparks Brothers acts as a guide to different eras in their sound, while also highlighting key songs that best exemplify different eras of their music.  So I went further on the journey this summer with the film’s guidance.  So far, I can boast repeated listens to Kimono My House, Introducing Sparks, No1 in Heaven, Terminal Jive, Angst in My Pants, Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins, Lil’ Beethoven, and Exotic Creatures of the Deep.  I also returned to FFS.  Here are some songs that exemplify what I love about Sparks that didn’t get the Edgar Wright treatment in the film.

Equator (Kimono My House – 1974) – The struggle of a protagonist whose lover said she’d meet him at the equator.  It’s desperate and at times exhausting.  Russell keeps his bluesy falsetto so far up in the stratosphere it becomes breathless.  Each repetition gets more panicked, and the backing femme vocals sound like they’re mocking him.  Poor sap.  Unbelievable piano rock.

Goofing Off (Introducing Sparks – 1977) – Fuck being in fashion.  Sparks put out an ode to the wonders of the weekend in a rock and roll klezmer tune.  Klezmer.  Twenty-plus years before Gogol Bordello made it cool. After a blistering guitar solo, the song comes to a triumphant close.  Are they even Jewish?  Who cares.  

My Other Voice (No.1 In Heaven – 1979) – This song could mean anything.  Maybe it’s Ron referring to Russell in a loving tribute to the power Russell gives his lyrics.  Or maybe it could be a metaphor for someone’s emergent new self: “you’re so independent but that’s gonna change real soon/with my other voice I can destroy this room.”  Either way, the simple beat and heavenly synth atmosphere make this one a triumph of the Giorgio Moroder era of Sparks.

Young Girls (Terminal Jive – 1980) – This one messed me up, because on the first listen it was a really sweet bubblegum song with gentle vocals, until the lyrics set in, and dear god.  Yeah, it’s just like that Oingo Boingo song.  But whereas Danny Elfman merely liked offending people, Ron was often performing a social criticism.  He traveled in the same scenes as all the other 70s rockers – many of whom were shacked up with children – was anyone else in the machinery of pop questioning it?

Instant Weight Loss (Angst In My Pants – 1982) – I hear this as a great-uncle to Cut Copy’s first album, Bright Like Neon Love.  The drums have this delicious skip in its rhythm, this kind of double-tap *howdoyado* that gives it a little hip along with its breezy keys.  In typical form, the lyrics tell of a man who is willing to pull some wild Christian Bale weight loss/gain antics over a woman.  

Serving Face

Nicotina (Angst In My Pants – 1982) – A dramatic post-punk opera song about a sentient cigarette meeting her horrifying fate.  ‘Nuff said.

I Thought I Told You To Wait In The Car (Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins – 1994) – The inner monologue of a simp being barked at by his desire. Russell’s fay spoken-word shines against the dark 90s techno as he reflects on being someone’s dirty little secret. What old-Hollywood power player inspired this?

Suburban Homeboy (Lil’ Beethoven – 2002) – Ron and Russ have never once in their life given a fuck.  This sprightly pop track is anything but “homeboy” as it comes from the perspective of every upper-class WASP that ever wore a du-rag.  Omnomnom, archetype schadenfreude.

I’ve Never Been High (Exotic Creatures of the Deep – 2008) – Sparks is illustrated as a band that didn’t spend their yesteryears nose-deep in powder.  But rather than being haughty, this tune is wistful, even regretful, of never having been damaged enough to publicly circle the toilet because of addiction.  It ends with a wry poke at how it might have garnered them more public attention: “then I’ll be something, then I’ll be something/look there’s a camera, smile and say cheese.”  After all, self-destruction sells records and builds legacies.  Isn’t that screwed up?

Police Encounters (FFS – 2015) – Written as FFS alongside Franz Ferdinand, this one is just fun fun fun.  But the references to elder cultural figures feels so out of place.  Albie and Pinter plays?  Feeling like P.T. Barnum?  It occurs to me that this song might be a period piece, with a character regretting leaving Harlem because he’s being pursued by cops.  It makes me think Ron’s voice stepped into the mind of someone brown or black who ventured too far south of 125th street while trying to get a little culture.  You can marinate over the setting and the protagonist’s thirst for dangerous women while the “bomp bomp diggy diggy” becomes your inner rhythm.

Iconic

Where the fuck is it?  I’m toiling around the streets, knowing I am vaguely close because of the shift in quality of graffiti.  A guy as equally confused as I am is spying the environs on this corner of Wyckoff and Weirfeld, looking for a music venue.  He spots it first.  The name Trans-Pecos is outlined in some kind of black tape on a facade of cheap wired government glass NYC uses to build public buildings, causing this little gem to stay hidden from passers-by.  But inside, this venue’s booth-lined dance floor glistens with refracted starlight and neon. Tonight, I am again following the paths of Logan Kane and Nicole McCabe further into jazz, along with sound artist Claire Dickson, and punk/jazz outfit CGI Jesus.  

The show eases in with a sophistication.  Brooklyn-based Claire Dickson uses her vocals and a keyboard setup to layer her sound.  There may have been different songs, but the layperson couldn’t tell because her set was continuous and uninterrupted by applause.  From there, she selects a sparse palate of tones, bells, and ethereal vocals and lets them waver and warp naturally, aided by gentle nudges from her toolkit.  She conveys this existential kind of thing that fills up the room.  There’s a mindful smallness you feel when listening to tones like this, like listening to silence at night.  What do you call that, tinnitus of the sublime?  It takes away all of the petty pressures of being human.  And I think, I pay my therapist $20 a week to relax my mind when I could do it at a $12 show.  If you have ever spent a night in bed with Tangerine Dream, it’s worth spending an evening at the venue to wash your face with these kinds of waves. I never have before.

I started chatting up Confused Guy from earlier, spreading the gospel of music I love.  He was tempted to clap for Dickson, but it would have interrupted the tone and he wanted to be respectful.  Still, he seems floored.  He’s the type that sees what’s playing and goes out mostly blind, a sense of adventure that I can appreciate, having flown solo at most shows as of late.  Suddenly his tone shifts.  He’s needy, looking for a party, but I am not a party.  I become uncomfortable, firstly because I had thought I might end the night with a new show-hopping bud, and secondly because I am reminded of what I have read about jazz scenes and chemical self-destruction.  There’s that mortality that permeates the topic of jazz.  He’s gone before CGI Jesus, and I wonder if he enjoyed the music beyond what was necessary to score.  It feels grim.

Next was Dolphin Hyperspace, the LA-based duo being joined by drummer Daniel Rossi.  They started with fat whomper “Buster Boy,” setting the pace for the set.  The audience was awash in bouncing bodies, including mine.  Kane bounces, his red-capped head bopping in full bass face euphoria.  McCabe had the bounce too, though she was limited by proximity of her horn to the mic, and I wonder what she would do if she could clip one on somehow.  But she was still enough that I could check out her dope tats when I wasn’t looking at her fingers gliding on the sax. I see the way they watch each other and take turns ripping it as the drummer whips out sick *kssssh kssssh* beats.  At one point (I think it was Lizard Sisterz?) the combination of electronics and instruments sound like Fingathing with new ingredients, and I am in heaven.  “You fucking murdered me,” I shout, because my mania is on 11 and I don’t know how to make more words than that.  With a cavewoman’s cadence I ask “that was jazz?”  “Well, hyperjazz.” McCabe answers, vaguely undecided.  It’s too late to change. The word ricochets off the walls of my mind, lighting it up like a pinball machine.  hyperjazz .  

Google yields little but this word is so coooool

The final act was CGI Jesus, a group led by bassist and composer Kevin Eichenberger.  Their bandcamp suggests a combination of “trash jazz” and “chamber punk,” which are also new favorite word combinations that I have never encountered before.  There were drums, guitar, and trumpet on deck for the night, although I couldn’t tell you who was “in” the band and who was “with” the band.  Jazz doesn’t seem to have these kinds of clear demarcations, which makes me wonder if seeing shows and all of these different individual instrumentalists is kind of like trying all the flavor/topping/sprinkle combinations at Rita’s Italian Ices.  You’ll never really get through ‘em all.  CGI Jesus leaves me with a prog aftertaste, but they had so many different types of sounds and emotions going on.  Sometimes you’re grooving, sometimes it’s angsty, sometimes it’s discordant, and sometimes it’s yearning.  Sometimes it was mournful, like when Eichenberger dedicated a tune to trumpeter jaimie branch, who recently departed – she was my age and build – untimely.  There’s that shadow again.  This was probably her community.

In hindsight it was all emotional whiplash, but that’s what makes it experimental.  You don’t get on a rollercoaster for a smooth ride. 

On the way out, the venue is playing a cover of King Crimson’s Schizoid Man.  I have seen them live twice, once with John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin on the bill, too.  How much jazz have I heard in their music, unaware?  Or in Jones’s?  It’s funny, my notion of jazz used to be so plain, singular.  But you have to go beyond the portal to really see what’s up.  There is nothing really plain about it.

Claire Dickson BandcampClaire Dickson Website

Dolphin Hyperspace BandcampDolphin Hyperspace Instagram

CGI Jesus BandcampCGI Jesus Instagram

Laser Cars EP Cover

If you’re one of the person who follows this blog, you know my obsession with rising stars Thumpasaurus is practically diagnosable.  So in following the individual careers of its members, I learned that Los Angeles-based bassist Logan Kane is a scene unto himself.  The dude is prolific, having put out projects with Thump bandmate Henry Solomon, with saxophonist and partner Nicole McCabe, and with his own idol David Binney, and a stable of other collaborators.  He’s got octets and nonets, and probably one day, an orchestra of robots playing instruments fused to his neurons.  This young human, still in the springtime of his career, seems to have carved out a devoted niche for his own experimental sound, and he churns it out with a proliferant speed like he’s competing with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.  Kane’s latest EP, Laser Cars, is five tracks of high density sound that he describes as “a fun summer record [that] ultimately… turned out pretty dark.”  

Dark didn’t seem like the word to use here, or at least, not when I first listened to Laser Cars.  Then again, I have been struggling to figure out how to put words on Kane’s music.  See, I don’t know much about jazz, and Kane’s mastery is experimental jazz.  I like to think I understand musical genres and I can explain them accurately, but truth be told, my knowledge leaves a lot of gaps.  And jazz is probably the biggest gap.  So, going into Logan Kane’s musical history has been a challenge because, truth be told, I don’t know what the actual fuck I’m talking about.  Jazz as a genre is like this heralded niche that only the few and mighty can belong to, and if you don’t “get” it, you don’t get it.  And if you don’t play an instrument, or have any real music education beyond a few books and documentaries, you really don’t get it.  So I am approaching this inaccessible thing like a puzzle to be solved, and to be honest, I’m a little… intimidated.

I mean, his music has a lot going on.  It’s challenging!  When he’s composing these songs, notes are packed up into timespace so densely that there is hardly space to breathe, in organizations that seem random but still form wildly swinging melodies.  Take some of the offerings on Kane’s 2021 offering, Planet Mirrors.  Tracks “Numbers,” “Try So Hard,” and “Frustrated” are full of so much sound, they can feel difficult to parse.  Tracks “Sing Thing” and “AHH Causin a Ruckus” are further colored by the agile windwork of Nicole McCabe’s alto sax.  This is music at maximum entropy and it demands mindful attention.  My natural state when listening to music is to float away.  How do I appreciate this the right way?

Planet Mirrors cover

“Laser Cars” goes from 0-60 in a heartbeat.  Here, Kane sounds like an algorithm programmed to make music after being fed the last fifty years of high-speed video game midis.  Atop it is a pop-autotune vocal and lamenting driving oneself crazy.  What the fuck am I listening to?  It’s like the elements of the song veer into wild directions every 15-20 seconds.  So I paid close attention and realized that as the song goes on, it starts to even out into some kind of clarity.  Suddenly it occurs to me that this song makes a lot of sense.  Anxiety attack, is that you?  The high-speed plucks, shifting rhythms, bursts of instrumentation… yeah, I think I’ve had that panic attack at least once.  The lyrics seem to corroborate a fear of running out of time.  He’s sorting himself out, reminiscent of Planet Mirrors dispirited bopper “How Am I Alive.”  Mortality seems to hang over Kane (and jazz on the whole, having recently read about bass icon Jaco Pastorius and his untimely death at 35). Is this the darkness Kane was referring to?

The EP’s second track, “Blur Obscured,” is a rhythmic dance incantation that ends with some of Logan’s most expert plucking.  If “Laser Cars” was about getting on the road, “Blur Obscured” is the left lane with cruise control, no traffic, and the streets outlined in neon.  The shit I like most from Kane’s body of work is what makes me move without conscious thought, and there’s some real gems in the catalog – Planet Mirrors self-titled track moves my head around, as does 4:30am goth-industrial nightmare “WORMY” (With McCabe as Dolphin Hyperspace).  But “Blur Obscured” really leans into being a dance song with Kane’s otherworldly elements, and at moments it really feels like Cornelius meets Röyksopp, and I am living for it.  This is easily my favorite track.

Via Logan Kane’s Bandcamp. Are those… Pokemon cards?!

From here the EP takes off into VGM territory.  I could swear that Logan took his cues from 90s era video games.  Then again, it could just be that his computer-produced jazz is poking me in the nostalgia.  “Box of Facts” specifically has a tone that reminds me of the soundtrack for Taz-Mania on the SEGA Genesis, a game that did some really profound things with sound in its day and that I never really appreciated until listening to this tune.  Why, oh why, is this music dusting off the cobwebs in my hippocampus?  Have I been somehow listening to jazz music all along in my years of love for game music?  Best part is, dude hits us at the end with a vaguely political haiku.  I counted those syllables.  That was fun, like an easter egg only an English teacher could catch.

In listening to Laser Cars over and over, I started to realize the experience of listening to jazz is different from listening to other music.  I can’t walk around my house singing the songs on Laser Cars the way I have been singing songs by Sparks.  But I can have a really unique emotional experience by sitting in my feelings in jazz, even if the feeling is odd or uncomfortable, because maybe the goal is to make me feel oddness or discomfort.  And that at various times, the sounds can wander into and out of shoulder-shimmying groove or evoke experiences and arcane connections.  But I also think all music can do that.  

Hey, wait. Did I just figure out how to appreciate jazz?

Logan Kane and Nicole McCabe came through New York this week, playing a cozy cocktail bar on the edge of Bushwick, so I stopped in for my first-ever visit to a jazz club.  I tucked myself into a corner with an obscured view and listened.  The two were joined by drummer Tim Angulo and pianist Lex Corten, and a horde of young jazz acolytes watching with concentration.  Surrounding the scene were smatterings of casuals in for a no-cover drink, people alternating between quiet conversation or dancing the seated-shoulder-shimmy when the rhythms hit right.  Suddenly a drama arose as Kane, on his upright bass, fingered out an intense solo.  I couldn’t see him, but I could see eyes glued to him.  Conversations had lulled to near quiet.  The crowd was intensely focused on Kane’s deep vibrations.  Finally, the solo peaks and the tension releases.  The kids erupt in shouts and applause as the rest of the players come back in and take back the music.  For a moment in time, the jazz musician was able to make a room of people sit and take notice.  And I realize, yeah. I can get into this.

Logan Kane’s Bandcamp ★ Logan Kane’s Linktree ★ Logan Kane’s Instagram

left to right: Eric Dover, Roger Joseph Manning Jr., Tim Smith

From the minds of melodic masters comes a new bag of dreamy alt-rock tunes. The Lickerish Quartet is comprised of Jellyfish alumni Eric Dover, Roger Joseph Manning Jr, and Tim Smith (the fourth member of the quartet must be WE, the listeners). Unlike Volume 1 and Volume 2, THREESOME: Volume 3 is spacier and dreamier, and perhaps a little dark. Written pre-2017 and subject to pain-in-the-ass COVID logistics, these guys outfitted their home studios to record, mix, and finalize this collaboration, and the results are gorgeous.

The EP takes off with pop-rock bopper “Fortunately.” The song is a call to awaken from the fear of the underworld and live in your choices in the present. The keys and harmonic background vocals give it a really dreamy affect. There’s some sinister imagery in the song (“a powerful child who tortures then grieves.” sticks out to me) but it juxtaposes with the sweetness of the melody to create a kind of feel-good agnosticism, if that’s a thing.

The second track, “New Days,” is a spaced out hippie jam that sounds like the grandchild of ELO’s Mr. Blue Sky with touch of indica. Heady and woozy, the lyrics seem to tell of reflection and periods of transition that come and go in one’s life. The way the lyrics have a monotone affect really help the bridge come alive. This one is meant to be enjoyed while laying on fresh grass during a “purple orange” sunset, after an afternoon fadoodle (if ya catch my drift).

It took me a minute to dig the third track, “You All Alone,” because it does that thing where the drums sound out of sync with the song and it takes a few bars for it to snap into place and start rocking. But from there, the different flavors of sound marinate and that’s when the song really starts to soar. Suddenly there’s a surprise turn and the tune ends with an unexpectedly dramatic energy. I didn’t expect it to become my fave of the EP, but this one really grew on me.

The EP ends strong with “In The Meantime,” a familiar lamentation for anyone who feels caught stagnating in the world as it is while darkness looms on the horizon. The lyrics ask, “Where do we go in the meantime? When all of our love’s by the wayside/Turning my cheek to the sunshine we go down without a fight.” Perhaps delicately political, perhaps not, this tune feels a lot like waiting to hit bottom so we can start climbing back up again. Is it powerlessness or patience? It is hard to know.

Time and time again, the alumni of that beloved gelatinous aquarian pop group create sounds that make the mouth water. Smart lyrics and psychedelic pop sounds make THREESOME Volume 3 a great addition to an alt-rock playlist.

The Lickerish Quartet: THREESOME Vol 3TLQ WebsiteTLQ Instagram

Eaddy and TheOGM of Ho99o9

Cut to a chilly Saturday night at Bowery Ballroom. The stores are closed, but whole street glistens with spray-painted names and signs. A young *somebody* in a hand-altered hoodie is having his photo and video taken by onlookers. A clown-faced goth waits for her friends in front of a tequila bar. Randoms donned in black get their last burn of rolled flower before getting their wristbands. Some fresh-faced kid tries to take a piss in the waning daylight while his friend stands guard. New York City.

I’m mostly a stranger to the many worlds of hip hop. Until recently I hadn’t found that band that gave me an “in” to start really looking around the alternative hip hop universe. Then M-S-G OG Soda invited me to a free show one Halloween night to see Ho99o9, a band he saw open for Korn. Holy fucking shit. I got to watch TheOGM tear a wedding dress off of his body while being assaulted with the most guttural cyber-queer industrial noise I have ever heard. It was glorious and terrifying at the same time. So when Soda told me they were coming around again, I knew I had to be there.

The show starts with Baseville, a duo of New Jersey locals known as The General and Hoddy the Young Jedi. It didn’t take long until the crowd jumped into a frenzy and a pit opened up. Baseville’s beats are deep and deliberate and throbbing with noise, and it suddenly occurs to me how close punk and hip-hop really are in terms of attitude and rage. “Never Nothing No More” sticks in my head as a song with a kind of frustrated gravity, while one of their other tunes held a repetitious refrain of “I’m working” that that caught me as a little mischievous. The songs rang quick and short and burned with noisy undertones. The set ends, and Soda comments about already seeing a bloodied face in the men’s room. “He’s like, ‘do I need stitches? Do I need them yet?,'” quoting a stage diver worried about the impact of his head wound on his viewing experience. That kind of night.

I had no idea what to expect from N8NOFACE, only knowing that my friends heard good things. I’m burning up the last sips of a vodka double when up on stage comes this man with a glorious moustache and crazed expression. He simply declares “I’m N8NOFACE and this is synth punk.” Seconds later this man is shouting his stories of drugs and sobriety, murder and suicide, all over fast-paced darkwave synths. Who the fuck brings Xymox to the hip hop kids? N8NOFACE does, with an austere DIY setup and his own devilish madness. He pulls his shirt up over his own head and beats his own face while screaming in a kind of excited rage, as if reveling in his self punishment. He switches between devil horns and post-punk shimmying. His gruff facade fits right in with the gangster genre, but he’s got a sense of humor about himself, too. There’s also something nougaty he’s trying to show you in his mentions of lost friends, or his request for kindness at his sole acoustic number. I immediately swarmed his table and bought the good shit. N8 is one to watch.

N8NOFACE

Then came 999. Past mixtures of punk and hip-hop were never my flavor, but the two genres become blood brothers here. Eaddy ironically sports an L.A.P.D. tee to poke at the law, a favorite song topic. The cacophony is noisy and rhythmic, and the crowd pumps in time. Someone jumps on stage at the start, brandishing a shirt that says “God is Gay” to “a roar of enthusiasm,” as Olivia Cieri of Invisible Oranges writes. Stage jumpers make OGM and Eaddy light up. “Motherfucking Action Bronson” they call one tattooed fella who jumps into the crowd. I worry that the crowd parted for his landing. Dark thumping beats vibrate the brain stem during fan favorites like “Bone Collector” and “Battery Not Included.” At one point, Hoddy sits on the side of the stage watching the show, still in his orange jumper, before using his Young Jedi mind tricks to make eye contact with the pit and launch himself into the crowd. I swallow my last double so I can free my hands to pump with the crowd.

A brief interlude as we approach the end of the show and TheOGM lights a joint and sways softly to Crystal Waters’ legendary house track, “Gypsy Woman.” I see his head and shoulders hanging backward in a cloud of smoky ecstasy, thick dreads falling down his back, *feefeefeeling* it. The lyrics thicken now that they’re nestled between Ho99o9’s biting assaults on police brutality, politics, and dystopia. He then smiles and then flirts at Eaddy, who strips off his teeshirt to reveal a tattooed musculature. Eaddy responds with a grin. TheOGM is repulsive and divine… and terrifyingly sexy.

Ho99o9 is just full of these wild juxtapositions, sometimes darkly comedic, causing them to pull up a really diverse crowd. “Punks, goths, queers and queens,” Soda says, noting the sprawl, a melting pot of subcultures others would think too insular to meld like this. In front of me, a duo of elder punks make space to avoid of the clutches of the pit. Across the floor, rave kids in bunnies and rainbows talk to hip-hop kids in all black streetwear. Kids in Los-Angelean baseball jerseys share the floor with platform-boot goth girls and genderfuckers, all united by the horror and political rage and dirt of lives lived in America’s economic taint. It seems it’s the one thing we all have in common.

Hoddy & Baseville BandcampBaseheadTV Youtube

N8NOFACE BandcampN8NOFACE Linktree

Ho99o9 InstagramHo99o9 Website

I need to throw some love at this duo. Hailing from an empty cargo freighter wired with black lights and a subwoofer the size of a Chevrolet (California), Male Tears are fresh off of their second album Trauma Club and are still going strong with new single “Domin8.” More Xymox than Depeche, “Domin8” is a cigarette-length goth-night-at-the-club stomper – 98% ethically-sourced pure cacao darkwave. Sturdy and kinky, the groans of “capitulate” and “rid me of my soul” reveal masochistic self-loathing, but that beat is all thrust, baby. Male Tears, comprised of duo James Edward and Frank Shark, seem to be mixing their potion a little better with each release.

Also check out the fun aesthetic on their recent video for Trauma Club banger “Model Citizen.”

Male Tears BandcampMale Tears InstagramMale Tears Linktree

Now this crew puts on a one-of-a-kind show. Hailing from Los Angeles, this five piece has a cult following for their raucous combination of punk and funk, and for good reason – behind the space-punk aesthetic and DIY ethic is otherworldly musicianship. Being that the critical mass of the band is educated in jazz and are prone to inventiveness, their new live album Live at the Echo becomes a whirlwind of genre-bending talent and high energy fun. They know how to yank a person out of their head and onto the Space Barn, where all that matters is sweat, dance, and joy.

Live at the Echo captures their lunacy from the get. Compared to album versions, songs take on faster speeds and add unique musical elements that ensure no live show is ever just “playing the album.” They remind me of the phrase “tight but loose” from Led Zeppelin’s canon. Thump shows give you the sensation that anything can happen. Maybe it’s an otherworldly sax solo on “Alien” that saxophonist Henry Solomon thought of in the moment. Or it could be keyboardist Paul Cornish adding a random classical undercurrent in the middle of “Flamingo Song.” Maybe it’s Logan Kane’s utterly ridiculous bass skills that make me wonder where he’s hiding his extra fingers, because there’s no way he’s doing all that with just the ten. You don’t know what you’re going to get, and sometimes the mix is so brash and unexpected you go the fuck? but only long enough to realize it’s working, and boy aren’t you glad you just experienced something you never experienced before?

And what is life but a series of moments – as a culture of humans watching our own mortality slowly decline on devices that eat away at our consciousness, wouldn’t it be gnarly to be able to experience the unexpected with awesome results for a change? We are a people that desperately need to start living to the beat of Henry Was and his drum kit and his slick kshhhhk kshhhhk bounce. There’s this part on “Space Barn,” you can hear it, where he does this *tibbytibbytap* and it palpates my brain stem. There’s an endless number of spicy little flourishes.

And then there’s Lucas Tamaren. Lucas is a maestro of the crowd’s energy, leading the Space Barn passengers through the highs and lows of the journey through his vocals and guitar. It’s Lucas that is the chief songwriter, so lots of these lyrics and melodies are infused with his comedic sensibility while also being so easy to grasp and relate with emotionally. Songs have this disarming honesty that’s wrapped in self-affirmation and even optimism. And then he fucking screams into the microphone. Because why not? Don’t you just want to scream sometimes, too? His screaming is not abrasive, it’s cathartic, and it’s inflected just right between his speech-singing and random scatting and the occasionally very lovely singing.

If I had to choose, I would suggest music-lovers watch the live video. Firstly, the video allows sixth Thump Ben Benjamin to showcase his essential contributions to the Thump aesthetic in the form of visuals. The show is reframed as a rebellion against the digital lobotomization we’re experiencing as un/willing participants in the soul-deadening metaverse (she says, after losing an hour to useless yet hypnotizing Facebook reels). It turns out rebellion looks a lot like dancing your jiggly ass off and shaking the numbness that bogs us down in the blue screen light. It’s this aspect of the Thumpaverse canon that gets me, because having universal worldwide super-villains lets me see Thumpasaurus as heroic underdogs. Secondly, Lucas is an absolute madman and he never stops. As a front man he is charismatic as hell, and his drag is giving constant face every time he twiddles something glorious on his guitar or delivers a lyric in character. You can also catch members of the band giving each other glances as they whip out new skills, perpetually impressed with each other, as if to say “check this shit out… no check this shit out.” Director Oliver Salk captured all of that electricity.

Keep ears (and eyes) open for a uniquely beautiful version of “Beta Lupi” with Paul Cornish giving it a baroque (the fuck?) accompaniment, and a surprise version of “Lovin’ You” you might otherwise only find if you peruse the deep corners of their Youtube. (That said, go peruse the corners of their YouTube). Live at the Echo is worth 90 minutes of your loosest socks-on-a-hardwood-floor dance energy, and is a proper analogue until the Space Barn sets down in your own neck of the woods.

Live at the Echo (Youtube)Thumpasaurus InstagramLive at the Echo (Spotify)

A big thanks to my buddy Soda for giving me the space to share some tunes with you!

Thumpasaurus greeted the world with their 2018 sensation “Mental Karate,” and now the rest of us will have to spend our lives scouring eBay for hard copies of their brash debut, Book of Thump. Now they’re back with their sophomore effort Thumpaverse, a flavor bomb of dance, punk, funk, and jazz that has Spotify addicted to their sound.

Thumpaverse’s twelve tracks are a journey.  The album opens with “Emotional Pain,” a building tidal wave of funk that hits the peak of falsetto tension before slamming you against the beat.  From there it’s like you’re listening to rest of the album through your hips. Try to stay still when songs like “I’m Pissed” and “Struttin’” cross your eardrums.  These tracks are guaranteed to get your body shakin’ at maximum wiggle and laughing at their ridiculous setups.  But this is not a one-note band – they bob and weave through musical genres with equal parts appreciation and irreverence. Vocalist/Guitarist Lucas Tamaren gives every song a whole different persona. There are no two songs on this album that sound alike, and yet they all THUMP.

These guys are eclectic and often swing in unpredictable directions.  Zeppelin reminiscent “Reaching” weaves delicate instrumentations and tense vocals through a journey until the song literally gives birth to itself. But they can also swing in the entire opposite direction and deliver something folky and sweet like “High School.” Somewhere behind the beat and humor is a kind of emotional self-awareness that can sneak up on you after a few listens, like in “Emotional Pain” or auditory hug “End of the Night.”

Thumpasaurus is a band that is at home in the cosmos (by way of Los Angeles).  But a real ride on the Space Barn can only happen when you see them live.  Fortunately, they recently recorded a live album, an exciting development we hope to see soon.

Buy Thumpaverse on Bandcamp

Thumpasaurus.com

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RJMJ - Glamping

“Glamping is a portmanteau of glamorous and camping and describes a style of camping with amenities and, in some cases, resort-style services not usually associated with ‘traditional’ camping.”

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And now that you know what Glamping properly means, we finally have a sound to associate with it as well, in the form of Roger Joseph Manning Jr.’s new solo EP of the same title. So, let me first ask, how do YOU know about Roger and his many sonic contributions to the universe? Maybe you recently discovered a tiny mad scientist keyboard madman on a tour with Beck? Or…maybe you have hung on since his college rock indie days back in the late 80’s when he joined Beatnik Beatch with Andy Sturmer? For me, it’s what happened after Beatnik which put Roger on my radar at a very young age, that project was Jellyfish. Ask me about that another time if you already don’t know of how that band changed my life. Roger has been turning out music for 30 plus years at this point. Whether he’s doing session work, or pushing the envelope with one of his own original bands or giving us polished and scrutinized solo work…whatever it is, he’s certainly giving stellar efforts.

So…let’s discuss Glamping, cause for this moment, that is why we are here. This is Roger’s first new solo recording in about 10 years. And his agenda, as far as I know, was to put more solo music out for the last few years but he had gotten caught up with some other cool work outside of his own – Last Winter RJMJ surprised us all with an absolutely unreal Pledge Music campaign which would coincide with the release of Glamping…to get it out, to get it in the hands of music lovers and beyond. This was no regular run of the mill campaign. With this, came a peek into Roger’s world a bit. Video updates while on tour with Beck kept a smile on our faces, a glance (literally) into his closest as he sold off Jellyfish clothing from the early nineties (WOW!) Pieces of gear he was parting with, chances to hang and record shop with him and a slew of other fun and juicy bits to be involved with. Hardly 48 hours had passed on that campaign and a number of components had sold out. Roger considered it a huge success and I know was very touched by the response. And, because of that very reason he has promised more solo music, sooner than later. This whole thing also allowed him to reissue his first two records which both had Japanese releases and under the radar domestic ones as well. There is a lot to get into here and I don’t want to veer off course too much more…

So, again…Glamping. This 4 song EP is quite an appetizer to what will hopefully be followed soon by a main course. A contribution that leaves you with a belly rumbling, it whets a pallet that had been starving for a taste for nearly a decade. The perfect and pristine songwriting in which Roger has painted himself into a decadent corner for so long does not disappoint. An avid fan of the 70’s, Mr. Manning certainly wears his heart and influences on his sleeve for this one, maybe more than ever(?) It’s a very focused and streamlined collection of songs. Perhaps the fact that there are only four songs this go round didn’t leave much room for the wackier more experimental stuff to creep in. What you have here is four delicate yet deliberate songs keen on love, playful on adventure and confident in delivery. The production is clean and smooth with Roger doing the bulk of the work with a little help from some amazing friends. Brother Chris (the Witchdoctor himself) is present with some assistance in the vocal department and helping in general to bring all of this out of RJMJ. Jason Falkner plays some guitar, Bleu McAuley sings a little, Lyle Workman plays a bit of guitar too…it’s a cavalcade of radical folks curating a really unbelievable set of tunes that ends just a bit soon. These songs are sang so sweetly, it always sounds like Roger has a smile on his face when he sings and that attitude really comes across here. First track, “Operator” is a cute and clever song sprinkled with a dash of loneliness, “Operator, I need a favor…could you take some time, I’m in need of a connection in the worst way, so don’t say goodbye.” A song possibly too smart for it’s own good! Next up is “Funhouse”, which is appropriately titled as it is probably the most playful of the set, sounding like it could easily transport you to the carnival with just a little imagination. It is also, the only song which Roger writes the lyrics to completely on his own, the others have Chris Price assisting or handling them in full. Third track, “Is it All A Dream?” is my personal favorite, it’s just such a beautiful song with a chorus that you’ll be singing for days, a perfect pop song with hook, line and sinker. The EP ends with the longest in the collection, “I’m Not Your Cowboy”, a modest song about a modern man who simply knows his place and graciously accepts his role as a non-superhero. Perhaps the most complex of the songs, “Cowboy” is triumphant and ends the release big. The musicianship throughout is top notch of course. I just wish in the end that Roger had handled all of the lyrics on his own. Either way, can’t wait for more original music from Mr. Manning!

Listen to first track on Glamping, “Operator” below!

ALSO, If you have extra time, check out this great conversation I had with Roger a few years ago in which he drops many hints about Beck, Glamping and a bunch of other cool stuff!