SWMRS / Twin Peaks / Wavves @ The Observatory Santa Ana, CA 9/11/15

This past Friday, September 11th, I found myself once again at the accessible, quaint, and dimly- lit venue of The Observatory in Santa Ana, California. This place, although often overlooked, is the watering hole for music fans in the desert that is the music scene of Orange County. Tonight I flocked to see Wavves, an indie/ garage rock band from picturesque San Diego, California, as well as two other rock bands of whom I have never heard. Packed closely in the intimate– and by intimate I mean really-fucking-packed in a tiny ass room that genuinely felt like an oven. I was literally sweating minutes after I walked through the black velvet curtains– Constellation room I felt mildly surprised that Wavves was put into smaller “reject” room, because I thought they were well known enough to warrant the main event room. Regardless, they definitely had enough of following to cram the Constellation Room to a questionable maximum capacity.

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There are two things thing you might first notice about the rock band SWMRS (yes, you do pronounce it as “swimmers”). These guys are young and attractive. Well, what do you get when you have a band with that powerful combination? A lot of screaming fan girls. As soon as the boy band started their set the whole atmosphere of the room was cranked– way up. Screaming girls, raging boys, and spontaneous crowd surfing unfurled around me. Arriving at the show I was not expecting such an animated crowd and when it became apparent that it was I inwardly patted myself on the back for choosing to don my protective Doc Marten’s instead of my Converse. SWMRS, while undoubtedly rock oriented, have short, fast, and up-tempo songs that braid in mixtures surf and pop elements that put them into the Surf Punk genre. After seeing them it made sense to me that this band would appeal to a younger audience; they have a fun and carefree sound with some rough edges that give them a vicarious excitement. These guys are extremely rambunctious on stage which made them, at least for me, comically entertaining. I actually have on video footage of lead guitarist, Max Becker, leaping into the crowd while continuously playing. It made me wonder if all of their shows were this… vivacious. I’m very curious to see where these guys are in the next few years because they’re only going to get taller and cuter. Ladies watch out!

Alright here some photos I got of the firecrackers. FYI, I got much better footage than I did photos.

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Following SWMRS came the five piece band rock band from Chicago, Illinois with a curious name of Twin Peaks (boobs, anyone?). These guys have a 60’s rock vibe with some interesting vocals. I remember during their performance I was trying to pinpoint who their singer was only to realize that there really wasn’t just one. Almost all of them, save for the drummer and the keyboardist, would either sing the lead or take turns. I though that added a pretty cool dynamic, especially because their vocal styles were quite different. When its Clay Frankel you get a combination of smooth deep vocals with the sprinkling of some throaty screeching and barking (listen to the song “Making Breakfast” if you don’t believe me). And when it’s Caiden Lake James or Jack Dolan, you get a softer, younger sound.  Twin Peaks songs are also extremely catchy, and you gotta point to the power pop sound for that. I like that their music isn’t very rough. It’s melodic while maintaining that young sound you hear from bands that are playing at a house party. Their lyrics were somewhat ambiguous which I also liked because, well, ambiguous lyrics are kinda fun–  you get to insert your own meaning. Twins Peaks music reminds me of warm summer nights, booze, and small bonfires gently highlighting the faces of friends, carefree and uninhibited by tomorrows worries. It doesn’t surprise me either, that they have a large young following. I recall being highly entertained in particular by Clay Frankel that night because he seemed to be on a good one. It is possible that all of his swaying, unbalanced demeanor, and comical faces were just a manifestation of how in-tune he is with his music, but I’m betting my money he had a little help– always artists and their vices. Best part of Twin Peaks set, though? Well that would be when Jack Dolan, their bassist, followed Max Becker’s footsteps and decided to crowd surf while playing his bass. It was going splendid until it came time to put him back. The crowd absolutely failed and ended up throwing him back on stage which consequently sent him crashing into a couple microphone stands. POSITIVELY HILARIOUS.

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While perhaps the least interesting to watch on stage, Wavves certainly managed to eclipse the other two prior bands in terms of experience and skill. Nathan Williams, with his voice that epitomizes the sound of teen angst, and the rest of the four-man band, came and conquered. They were really diplomatic in their song selections, playing a little bit of everything from all five of their albums, and the crowd loved every minute of it. The young fanatics were still up to their rowdy antics, however these seasoned musicians refrained from any crowd surfing. Besides, I wouldn’t have trusted that crowd when it came to keeping a float a 180lb dude. What I like about Wavves, especially older Wavves, is that dirty, grungy, and distorted sound. While their newer music has a lot more pop influence and stronger vocals than their older albums, they still manage to keep a bit of that gritty rock feel to them. Because I’m not an restless, lovesick, “angsty” teenager anymore,  I don’t really find myself listening to Wavves these day. However, I’m glad to have checked these guys off of my “live show” list because they were really good and it was pretty sweet hearing a lot of their hits live. If these guys happen to be playing near you, seriously go.

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Shibobi Inc/ The Gnars/ Hollow Fortyfives/ Fernweh/ The Randell Milan Band @ The World Famous Doll Hut in Anaheim, CA 9/3/15

About one week ago today I found myself at The “World Famous” Doll Hut in Anaheim, California September 3, 2015 and I managed to come across some very interesting groups, all of which are worth mentioning.

The first band up was a group that goes by Shikobi Inc. In hindsight I wish that I had asked them the inspiration behind that name, because the “Inc” part evades me. The two Hession brothers, who I’m positive started the band, came all the way from their home in Australia to pursue their careers in music. Props to them, it takes a lot of courage to do that. As for their sound, I can say I definitely liked it, even though I wasn’t crazy about it. They reminded me at times of Rage Against the Machine except with lesser vocals. I had a really tough time hearing Aaron Hession, who was their vocalist, and because of that I think I didn’t really click as much with the band as I could have. He sounds good recorded though, so there definitely is something there. One thing I also found interesting about their vocalist Aaron, is his stage presence. He acts, or I should say, dances on stage as if he is in a pop boy band rather than in a rock band. Pretty entertaining to watch. In fact you should do just that by clicking here.

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First thing that intrigued me about the next band, The Gnars, was that just before they came on, the Doll Hut was empty but then was suddenly filled with about 15 people that seemed to have just appeared out of nowhere. This certainly made me curious as to what this next group was all about. I have to admit, I think this group was probably my favorite in terms of liveliness (these guys were full of energy and it translated into their music) and how agreeable their songs were with me because all of them were good. In terms of style I can confidently call them a rock band but with quite a bit of pop, punk, and at times even surfer rock elements. They are a band I imagine myself listening to driving down PCH highway in a convertible with the top pulled down, the sun shining, and the wind tangling my hair. Oh yeah, one thing I’ll mention, these guys were probably the youngest of all the groups that played that evening, I think two of them weren’t even 21? Cheers for young talent.

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Following The Gnars is a band of three known as the Hollow Fortyfives. Their have more of a classic rock kind of sound but with some definitely garage rock and punk influences. Best thing about the band? How multi-functional their talent is. Both the guitarist and bassist act interchangeably. I was rather impressed when I saw Travis and Lucas switch up their roles about halfway through their set. Also fascinating is that ALL 3 of them can sing, even the drummer, Travis, who sang the lead vocals WHILE playing the drums for their song “Goldstrikes.” That shit is NOT easy. And when the three of them sing together, well it sounds fucking good. These guys were super confident in what they were doing, and I thought it showed.

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The fourth band, Fernweh, was by far the most mellow of the night. Very much indie rock. It was this group, though, that played my favorite song of the evening. I was enjoying their set somewhat until they played this instrumental song titled “The Knell.” I absolutely can’t get enough of it. This song in particular reminded me of this indie rock band known as White Lies. Maybe some of you know who they are. What I love about songs or even bands that implement some instrumental works, is how you can completely focus on the story of the song and where those melodies take you, without being distracted by lyrics. Silly as it sounds, I felt like I “went somewhere” listening to that song. I look forward to what other works are surely to come from these guys.

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Finally following suit was the last band of the evening, The Randell Milan Band, who also has the same bassist from Fernweh (Jose appears to be spreading his seed). There are two things I liked best about this band. First, the heavy blues influence to their rock n’ roll. Love it. I find that anything with a hint of blues has this irresistible “catchiness.” Second, Randell Milan’s voice is killer! Seriously he has so much depth and power to his voice that you can’t ignore it. His voice and their sound combined made for a fun “good feel” type of vibe, and I thought it was a great way to end the night.Shikubi inc - The Gnars - Hollow Fortyfive - Fernweh - Randell Milan 560~2

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The Melvins @ The Observatory in Santa Ana California 8/28/15

It feels rather daunting to write about a group as famous as the Melvins because there really isn’t a whole lot you can say about the band that hasn’t been said before. So, I’ll just go ahead and get my two cents in about my past experience seeing them live at The Observatory in Santa Ana, California on August 28, 2015.

Buzz Osborne is an interesting looking fellow, and like all great musicians I think the more famous they get the less flying fucks they give about their appearance. It reminds me of those senior citizens who are so comfortable with themselves that they dress and wear exactly what they want, not giving a second thought about what anyone thinks. Now it might be shallow to comment on what Osborne was wearing, but I mean, he wears a robe. A fucking ROBE, like a wizard or some shit! I saw him, and I couldn’t help but think, “Ok…Gandalf,” I mean he was rocking the white hair on top of it. What I found out later, which is even more fascinating, is that he ALWAYS wears a robe when he performs live, or well, at least in the past 5 years. That takes some dedication, man! After all, he was running around everywhere on stage singing and playing with sweat just pouring off of him, it seemed almost masochistic.

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Look at him, dude, he looks ready to exorcise some demons! This guy must really like his robes.

Regardless of Osborne’s appearance this guy is oozing with talent and it was fascinating to watch. He is so utterly confident and just so into what he is playing that you can’t help but be some what transfixed on, if not at least admire, his performance.

Perhaps as equally fascinating was the that they had two drummers performing as one. Boom. I know. Mind Blown. Coady Willis and Dale Crover play together with such synchronicity and tact that at one point I was staring at their faces just so I could try and pick up any mannerisms or cues that they might use to communicate to each other while they perform. They are extremely subtle.

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Pretty cool right? I thought so!

Now, getting back to talking about the actual show, I think everyone there was pretty pleased about the setlist. Melvins did a nice job of mixing together both their newer and older songs from an array of albums, including Bullhead, (A) Senile Animal, and Stoner Witch, to name a few. There really is no arguing as to whether or not their show was good because it was, hands-down. However, when it comes to the most memorable part of the show, I think most of my fellow audience members would agree that it came at the end of the show when The Melvins covered Bikini Kill’s iconic song “Rebel Girl.” Not only was the song choice unexpected, but so was the tiny and incredibly spunky Teresa Suárez (known as “Terri Gender Bender” from the rock-band Le Butcherettes) who literally popped up out of NOWHERE to sing the powerful vocals (she did Kathleen Hannah justice if I do say so myself). Sadly I did not get any photos, however, I did manage to record most of the performance which you can find here.

What I did find rather puzzling and regrettable was that the Melvins didn’t put on an encore performance. Maybe the crowd didn’t cheer loud enough (they really didn’t), or perhaps they never intended to, regardless it was still slightly disappointing. Perhaps audiences these days are just a little too spoiled in our expectations for encore performances.

What’s interesting about the Melvins is that they are metal group that is experimental enough to find itself categorized in a slew of different metal sub types. But, in simplistic terms, if you are looking for some heavy, dark, and slower paced metal then the Melvins might just be your fix. To some, the Melvins might seem too similar and redundant to really keep causal listeners interested, however, after seeing them live, I cannot agree with that statement. Now I have to admit, if I hadn’t gotten to see this show I don’t think I’d be as big as a fan as I am now, but knowing this, I adamantly encourage others to listen to these guys and if you get the chance, go and see them like I did. 😉

Aaaaaaaaaand, now for pictures!

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Seriously though, what is with the robe thing? It baffles me. If anyone has an inkling or any sort of information as to why he does this, comment below!!

Wallburds /Big Monsta /Blue Eyed Lucy /Them Evils @ The Wayfarer, Costa Mesa CA 7/23/15

Okay, first off I would like to start this post informing anyone who is reading that I had a lot of great footage of this show last night. However, like a complete n00b, I lost almost half of my footage and photos. Perhaps it was the beer, or my own stupidity…probably both. The point is, I lost some excellent memorabilia of two really good bands: The Wallburds and Big Monsta. So shout out to them because both of them were fantastic and I wish I could give them some visual justice. Next time I guess. Coming to the Wayfarer I was really curious about the bands playing because even though I knew one of the bands already (Blue Eyed Lucy), I had never heard any of their music. In situations like this I love when it turns out that all of the bands were good and complete gold because I enjoyed all of them. No really, I’m not kidding, I really did.

Although I’m kicking myself for not having any footage of the Wallburds, I will say this about the band: Their music is some SICK rock n’ roll that is catchy as hell, and I really like that they have a female bassist. I know, strange thing to say, but anytime a chick is in the band I always take note of that. It’s cool, okay? I’m sure most would agree.

Moving along, the trio known as Big Monsta was the next to perform and these guys blew me away. Again, some great rock n’ roll but with a killer “bluesy” vibe to it, which almost always sits well with me. Their frontman Jimmy Hua appeared to be this unassuming guy who did not strike me as a musician while he was hanging out around the bar, but when he got on stage it was obvious, I mean the talent is just in your face. Altogether the three of them were bitchin’ as hell, and I’m looking forward to seeing them again (AND KEEPING THE DAMN FOOTAGE).

Okay let me give you folks something to look at before I tell you my thoughts on Blue Eyed Lucy.

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They’re a pretty photogenic group, wouldn’t you agree?

Okay so as I mentioned earlier I knew of Blue Eyed Lucy because I actually went to high school with two of the band members, Armand Lance and Trevin Welty. I hadn’t seen them for almost 4 years, so it was nice seeing some familiar faces. Also, last time I saw Armand and his band (at the time) play, I was in high school when he was in a very Indie band, so I was curious to see what direction this current band had gone. Turned out to be right up my musical alley. These guys have an awesome rock n’ roll feel to them with some immense vocals ( I think literally all of them, even the drummer, have some input in vocals). Their stage presence is awesome and their interesting to watch because they are so obviously enjoying themselves. I don’t think I’ve seen someone have so much fun with the tambourine like Trevin did, and it was pretty rad seeing some serious multitasking going on. You had Trevin playing guitar, singing, and shaking the tambourine, as well as Vince Phung singing, playing guitar, and the keyboard. One last thing I’ll mention, Armand can fucking sing, and I totally forgot until last night.

Now for some pictures!

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And finally we come to Them Evils. I was curious to see Them Evils because it appeared that they were the ones to bring in the crowd. And they did, because by the time they played the Wayfarer was significantly more crowded than earlier. And once they started, I understood why: they’re fucking great. I liked them because they were a bit heavier, grittier, and more metal (ish) than all the other bands previous, and they were thoroughly entertaining to watch. The crowd really liked them as well, because it was only while they were playing that people started to get semi rowdy ( and I say semi, because it really wasn’t even rowdy). These guys are worth keeping on your radar, I know they are on mine.

And finally, some more photos.

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Until next time. 😉

The Contortionist/ Animals as Leaders/ and Between the Buried and Me @ The Observatory, Santa Ana CA 7/21/15

Back yet again at The Observatory (my third time this month) and this time I was looking forward to the very different vibe this concert was sure to have, at least compared to the past two I had been to (X and Built to Spill). The show was definitely the kind I like best: loud, rambunctious, and METAL.

Coming to the show, I had no idea who The Contortionist and Animals as Leaders were ( I don’t know how Animals as Leaders evaded my radar), and I had only been a rather recent Between the Buried and Me “fan” after one of my coworkers introduced the band to me, but I was still pretty curious to see how their music would resonate with me.

The Contortionist was the first band to open and they were definitely progressive. I kept being reminded of Dream Theater, except with the thought that they weren’t as good. But I suppose that’s an unfair assertion, I mean it is Dream Theater after all- not fair to compare.  What got my attention the most was their frontman Mike Lessard who had the most interesting stage presence. While performing he does this stomping/slow walk up and down the stage, almost like he’s creeping along looking for something. It was interesting and he definitely had my attention. Of all three bands I was able to capture the most quality images, so I hope you like these, because the photos I have of Animals as Leaders and Between the Buried and Me are nowhere near as good.

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I also really liked their backdrop they had behind them. Pretty cool.

Now like I mentioned, I had never heard of Animals as Leaders, and after hearing them live yesterday well I can certainly say I’m a fan. Best part about that band? No singer, ALL INSTRUMENTAL. I fucking love it when I come across all instrumental metal bands, because sometimes I feel like the singer just gets in the way. I didn’t hear a song by these guys that I didn’t like and I think that they were even better than Between the Buried and Me. YEAH THAT’S RIGHT I SAID IT. Yeah, these guys were by far my favorite. Now I cringe at this photo I’m about to post, because it really is just crap, but it was all I was able to get as far as photographs. I did, however, manage to get quite a few good videos which you can find on my youtube channel.

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By the time Between the Buried and Me came on the crowd was pretty antsy, and when they finally came on stage, the crowd erupted. While I may not have been rockin’ out as hard as everyone else, I still really enjoyed their show and I’m happy that I came away with a lot of good footage (except for photographs. ;-( ). After I couldn’t record anymore, I was feeling a bit bored, and so I decided that the best course of action was to hustle on through to the pit, which always makes a show more worthwhile. The crowd was very energetic, which is always good.  But, I noticed that there was an obscene amount of grown men trying to crowd surf, and consequently I got kicked in the head twice, but hey, it was fun. I have to say though, I thought the best part of the show was their encore because they played Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” This surprised the hell out of me and it was pretty cool having literally everyone in the room freaking out and singing along, plus I had never gotten to hear “Bohemian Rhapsody” live before, so props to you Between the Buried and Me. Alright so below I’ll go ahead and post the only two decent photos I got of these guys, and as far as footage I did get a few videos so you can also find those on my youtube page.

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Oh yeah, it was a fun Tuesday.

Built to Spill and Genders @ The Observatory, Santa Ana CA July 18, 2015

The first and last time I saw Built to Spill had been at the FYF Fest in LA about a year ago, so when I found out that Built to Spill was playing in Santa Ana, I was pretty damn ecstatic. The Observatory, even though its a shit hole, is a really small venue and so that negates pretty much everything else that’s bad about the place. Point being, I was very excited to see Built to Spill in such a small and intimate setting.

I couldn’t find any information about who would be opening the show for BTS, and so I was curious to see who would be awarded the privilege and it turned out to be a band from Portland Oregon known as Genders. My first thought about Genders was, “Oh cool, female drummer.” And as for their front lady, well, she was pretty damn likeable (her voice is awesome) and while their bassist looked like he was Mike Meyers double from Wayne’s World, he was definitely a presence on stage. All in all, Genders are a very soothing, almost ethereal feeling band that I’d definitely see again.

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It was nice to hear a mix of both older and newer songs from Built to Spill, and I could tell the crowd felt the same way. We got to hear quite a bit of the 90’s BTS with songs like “Revolution,” “In the Morning,” and “Velvet Waltz,” as well as some of their more recent songs like, “Liar,” “Mess with Time,” and “Living Zoo.” Built to Spill was glorious and I can happily admit that I loved seeing them just as much as my first time. Now…for the pictures!!

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If you’re looking for an all around mellow band with an ability to pull at your emotional heart-strings, then Built to Spill is for you.

Mike Watt and the Secondmen/ The Blasters/ X (American Band) @ The Observatory, Santa Ana, 7/10/15

My decision to go to this show was a very spontaneous one– so spur of the moment, in fact, that I chose to go literally six hours before the show started, and I’m glad I did. It wasn’t until I arrived at The Observatory in Santa Ana, that I began to realize that this show might be geared for an audience a decade or two older than my generation, because I found myself among seasoned adults and married couples with the occasional youth sprinkled here and there. Needless to say, I didn’t quite “blend in.” But it was no matter: music transcends age.

I quickly made my way to the main stage to find Mike Watt and the Secondmen about halfway through their set. While it might seem ignorant of me, I have to be honest and tell you that I had no idea who Mike Watt was, let alone the Secondmen ( I have now remedied that), and so when I walked in my curiosity was piqued and I quickly made my way to the front and center to get a better view. It didn’t take me long to figure out who was Mike Watt because although he was the bassist, I felt like he was the one truly commanding the stage. His eccentricity was strange, yet compelling. Looking back I wish that I had gotten to hear their whole set, because I ended up really enjoying Mike and the Secondmen, their vibe was fucking cool.

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Now, given that I’m practically a baby in the eyes of the world, you can’t give me too much shit for not knowing who The Blasters were (c’mon cut me some slack). My first thought when they started was, “Damn, that decrepit looking motherfucker can FUCKING SING.” Of course, I’m talking about frontman Phil Alvin, who is only 62 but looks like he is 75. I remember watching him strum on his guitar and thinking that his hand looked like it was the hand of Dracula, I swear, it was like it was going to just crumble into dust. Okay, okay…. no more old jokes. The Blasters set was fun and entertaining and I couldn’t help but move even though I was recording a majority of the time– their music was just too good to sit still.

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My thoughts about X that night: Exene is a bad bitch, John is rad, and Billy is an OG.

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Needless to say, X killed it, I mean really, they were fucking awesome– couldn’t stop smiling the whole time. However, during the show, I couldn’t shake this strange feeling. At first I couldn’t quite pinpoint it, but I realized later that it was jealousy. I looked around the room to find everyone euphoric. I mean yes of course, I was having a great time, but I didn’t know which song was being played as soon as the first few chords were struck, I wasn’t singing the words to every song, and I wasn’t jumping up and down with delight when my favorite song was played. I couldn’t help but feel slightly alienated from everyone else because I wasn’t the same kind of fan and I envied the others. It was evident from so many people– I could see it on their faces, that each song held some kind of emotion or memory that was alive long before I was; X was reminding everyone there of themselves at my age.

Music is a time machine.

I’m very pleased with my choice to come out and see some music history, and even though I may not have been a total fan when I came, I left as one.