On the heels of his excellent new album, The Unseen In Between, his 8th overall, singer-songwriter, master guitarist Steve Gunn brought his bag of thoughtful tunes that defy easy categorization–they lie somewhere in a Venn diagram between pop, folk, psych–the percentages vary on a given track–to the Teragram Ballroom this past Saturday in a winning full-band performance.
Steve Gunn | steve-gunn.com
It’s hardly a secret that the indie singer-songwriter space is being dominated by talented females these days. Right there among the front of the pack is Lindsey Jordan, who records under the name Snail Mail. Her live band is currently a study four-piece rock unit–rhythm section of Alex Bass & Ray Brown alongside a new gal on guitar whose name I didn’t catch. Looking smart in all black in her first return to L.A. proper (not counting Coachella ’18) since a pair of sold out shows at the Bootleg Theater last summer, she held the stage with confidence and real presence, effortlessly crushing her well-oiled set.
On the bill alongside Brooklyn art punk lads Parquet Courts at The Novo (separate review forthcoming), the show felt like a co-headline, with an eager crowd packed in on the floor for her early opening set—no mean feat getting to downtown for an 8:00 pm start on a weeknight, compounded further by extra traffic for the Elton John show next door at Staples Center. Her fans responded with approval at the start of each new song in the set, comprised from her acclaimed debut LP, Lush.
Snail Mail | snailmailband.com
In a nice bit of symmetry, Thom Yorke’s live show returned to Los Angeles for a pair of dates at the Orpheum Theatre December 19 and 20, almost one year to the date where his new solo incarnation debuted at the Fonda Theatre in 2017.
The production, billed as “Thom Yorke Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes,” is performed as a three-piece on a minimalist stage holding three podiums: Yorke, on various, er, modern (analog, musical) boxes, bass, guitar and piano, accompanied by constant collaborator/producer Nigel Godrich, on assortment of tabletop gear and a bit of bass guitar, along with artist Tarik Barri, who is a fully integrated member, creating a backdrop of gorgeous real-time computer-generated visuals set the the music.
The core of the set is divided into a tidy 1/3-1/3-1/3 between Yorke’s two solo LP releases and newer as of yet unreleased material. The show is a fulfilling hour and a half mix of Yorke’s propulsive and punchy beat-driven electronica, with the two musicians play off each other comfortably and the show has the feel more of a jam session than the common pre-programmed electronic set. The sounds alternate from sparser riff-based tunes (“Black Swan”) to more layered miasmic pieces (the brilliant unreleased “Not the News”). Yorke’s voice is the steadying constant, navigating atop and within the noise. It’s an engaging mix, keeping most attendees in the theater standing out of their seats for the majority of the show, awkwardly swaying and head bobbing to the rhythms.
Thom Yorke | tomorrowsmodernboxes.com
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It’s hard to think of another contemporary act that could have pulled off what Gorillaz did with Demon Dayz LA this past Saturday at the Pico Rivera Sports Arena grounds. Held at the unique rambling, aging (and dusty) venue–decorated throughout with iconic Gorillaz character imagery–miles outside of Los Angeles proper, the one-day festival had a special feeling from the entry gate to the main stage, with local flourishes and messages of community and positivity echoed throughout the musical sets.
Appropriately, Mexican culture figured prominently across the festival–from the venue itself primarily used for banda concerts and rodeo events, Demon Dayz branded papel picado banners overhead, mariachis serenading at the entrance, a Dia de los Muertos skeleton procession announcing Gorillaz set (not to mention a strong contingent Latino Gorillaz fans among the well varied crowd).
It was particularly heartening to see multi-generational groups of Gorillaz fans—parents and kids, older and younger siblings, many dressed in matching themed outfits for the occasion. This is a band, now 20 years old, that uniquely cuts across demographics and allows fans of many ages to enjoy it on different levels.
There’s no denying that merchandising featuring the iconic band’s characters is a big part of appeal of the Gorillaz experience for a lot of the fans. The on-site “G Store” featuring exclusive items for sale had a long line for admittance for throughout the day, as did the regular merch booths.
Highlights from the lineup were plenty and varied…
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This year’s two-day Music Tastes Good festival, now in its third year, held again on long, narrow, comfortably laid out, slice of the Marina Green park alongside Shoreline Village in Downtown Long Beach, would appeared to have to been a success by most visible measures. While the Saturday and Sunday lineups were ostensibly headlined by closing sets by New Order and James Blake respectively, it was the daytime undercards of both days that made the a big impression–an eclectic, incredibly well curated mix of wide range of the possibilities of guitar-based songwriting.
Saturday’s 4-piece indie outfits Neighbor Lady, out of Atlanta, and Brooklyn’s Big Thief, brought uptempo folk-adjacent rock with honeyed female vocals and bright, occasionally loud scratchy guitar work. Big Thief in particular impressed; frontwoman Adrianne Lenker (who just released her first solo LP under her own name, abysskiss) must be included in mentions of today’s best singer-songwriters, with her uncanny knack for hooks. Her “Masterpiece” and “Shark Smile” might be the most memorable tunes of the weekend.
L.A. was represented with strong showings from gals FEELS channeling some vintage Doors jamming and X’s melodic punk, and all-around indie pop from Cherry Glazerr. Both are ready for the next level. Clementine Creevy of Cherry Glazerr in particular has honed her act–rock star shredding on guitar along with a very accessible pop sound in this year’s new tune “Juicy Socks.”