The ambitious 50 stop Blossoming Media Tour made its way to the Los Angeles area, with five up and coming bands sharing the bill at the Knitting Factory on Hollywood Blvd. Sponsored by Orange Peal and Drive-Thru Records, those who came out to support the bands on a Wednesday night were in for a terrific show.
The doors were already open when Steel Train was finishing their sound check. After that, Ateriavia from Chicago kicked off the show. At first, it seemed like this was their sound check as well, but they kept on playing and the early arrivers were moving towards the stage to see what the band with the odd name was all about. Mixing in a driving emo sound with dynamic guitar riffs that sent the mind dreaming, Ateriavia definitely stand way above the standard faire being offered by most indie labels these days. This young act shows a good deal of potential – unfortunately they were only allowed to play four songs. A powerful way to start out the night, I hope to see Ateriavia back in Los Angeles again soon. Check out their split with Conceiting The Victory entitled Destroy This Thing from Orange Peal Records, and get ready to discover your next favorite new band.
Next up was Dexter Danger from the Bay Area. Playing a brand of power pop reminiscent of Finch and the Starting Line, Dexter Danger rocked the house with a magnetic set of tunes. Opening their set with the catchy Seven Days, the band impressed the crowd with songs such as Promises and Alta Mesa Drive. With driving guitar riffs and infectious melodies, Dexter Danger presented a solid show and easily won over a whole new set of fans. There is a definite buzz on this band going – it will be exciting to see what the future has in store for these talented guys. The band has an EP on Orange Peal Records entitled Written In Blood and is well worth checking out.
The first time I interviewed The Berlin Project was in 2000 when all of the members were still in high school. Back then they were a ska band with a full on horn section. The band has grown tremendously since their early days, dropping the horns and delivering a catchy brand of rock and roll that is appealing and memorable. This is the first time I’ve seen this Pittsburgh based band, and they did not disappoint! The Things We Say is their current Orange Peal release, and it’s easily one the best albums you may not have heard last year. Judging by their energetic live shows and dynamic tunes, the time to unleash The Berlin Project is now. Songs like Running In Circles and Pleasure To Burn are clear crowd favorites. And The Things We Say is the best song not being played on the radio and comes off great in a live setting. All this, plus their ingenious cover of Hey Jude by the Beatles had everyone in the audience singing along. Lead vocalist/guitarist Jon Belan has a terrific voice and can really deliver an effective tune. Also impressive is the energy and enthusiasm that guitarist/co-vocalist John Garrighan exudes, not to mention his fine talent on guitar. Aaron Mediate supplies the band with the nicely shaded keyboard work while bassist Chuck Rocka and drummer Nick Revak deliver up a rockin’ rhythm section. One of the most fun-loving bands you’re likely to see, there is guaranteed to be a party anywhere The Berlin Project performs. A truly talented bunch of guys whose day has finally arrived!
The headlining band Steel Train took over the stage next, starting off with a jam obviously influenced by bands such as Santana and other 70’s rock greats. Although they may be signed to Drive-Thru Records, Steel Train has very little in common with their label mates. Leading the band is vocalist/guitarist Jack M. Antonoff, who is influenced a lot more by The Beatles than by anything New Found Glory would ever put out. In addition to Antonoff’s poetic vocal delivery, this dude can deliver some pretty amazing guitar solos! Also in the band is multi-instrumentalist Scott Irby Ranniar who cites individuals such as Michael Jackson and Bjork as major influences. All this, and Ranniar has one of the most haunting voices you’ll ever hear – conveying a massive amount of emotion and eloquence. One of the covers performed was a rockin’ rendition of the Nick Cave song 15 Feet Of Pure White Snow. From their current EP 1969, Steel Train delivered an infectious version of the Jackson 5 classic I Want You Back. Their own songs are memorable as well, from the melancholic strains of Alley Cat to the persuasive and melodious Dig. The musicianship in this band is unbelievably tight and these guys really know how to put on a show. Towards the end of the set, Steel Train invited three random audience members on board to literally join the band – two guys were on bongos, one girl shook her groove thing on tambourine, and they all ended their set on a wildly celebratory note.
Although a good number of people left after the Steel Train set, those who remained were treated to a late night set from Throne. Based out of Hartford, Connecticut, Throne is a three piece who play moody, dynamic rock and roll. Their latest independent CD Balladry was produced by Billy Martin of Good Charlotte, but don’t expect bright and airy pop music from these guys. Songs such as Best Friend, Beg For Change, and Drama Queen show an intelligence and creativity that will instantly win over even the most finicky of concert attendee. Bassist Derek Trafton supplies the lead vocals, exuding a good deal of passion in his compelling delivery. Guitarist Justin Millar also doubles up on keyboards, coloring in the songs with a fiery grace. And then there’s drummer Casey Trafton, working away keeping those tremendous beats. There were sound problems throughout their set, yet Throne kept in professional, and what they delivered spoke volumes. These guys are unsigned at the moment, but don’t expect that status to suit them for long. And on that note, a thrilling night of truly independent bands had spun to an end.
It was a night of four pop/punk bands at the Whisky, all indie bands associated with major labels. If this is what the majors are signing these days, there is a definite hope for the music industry yet. Now on with the review…
Starting off the show was Jersey, a band who isn’t from any US state at all. Based out of Ontario, Canada, the band was touring in support of their Stay Gold/Universal release Generation Genocide. On the edgier side of the pop punk spectrum, the band won over the early crowd with their impassioned playing of songs such as This Town, Violation Detonation, and Generation Genocide. An older song called Why Choose It was played, and was truly an inspiration for anyone who wants to pursue a rock and roll dream. The happy medium between The Clash and New Found Glory, Jersey’s music is sure to appeal to many if given the chance.
Up next were the Riddlin’ Kids from Austin, Texas. Drawing in many of the girls in the crowd, the band performed a high-energy set of tunes that were extremely catchy and memorable. Many will remember their Hurry Up And Wait album on Aware/Columbia Records from 2002. Several songs from Hurry Up… were played, including Crazy, Follow Through, and the single I Feel Fine. A lot of new material was performed as well. Included was a fantastic new song called Promise You Anything, which had vocalist Clint Baker making eye contact and flirting with many of the young ladies in the crowd. The entire band looked like they were having a good time and those feelings certainly made their way into the crowd. A very charismatic bunch of guys, the Riddlin’ Kids should really gain a good deal of attention with shows this well received. Expect a new album from these guys by the end of the summer. For those who want to hear new stuff now, the Kids covered Jinx Removing on a Jawbreaker tribute CD Bad Scene, Everyone’s Fault from Dying Wish Records.
A good deal of the crowd had shown up to see Autopilot Off, and they all jammed around the stage to hear songs from their just released Island full length Make A Sound. The first time I saw this band, they were jammed in with a bunch of hardcore/screamo bands at the Glasshouse, and yet they made an impression on many in the audience. Since that mismatched show, Autopilot Off has become an unbelievable tight unit of musicians and has gained a following all over the country. Genuinely moved by the positive response they were receiving from the Troubadour audience, the band performed a spirited set of tunes that nearly blew the roof off the venerable club. Tunes performed in their slamming show included the Long Way To Fall, Nothing Frequency, and Blind Truth. One of the highlights was a poignant song entitled The 12th Day, which was written about the 9/11 tragedy and showed a true versatility in the Autopilot Off songwriting. This New York based band closed out the set with the rockin’ Wide Awake from their self-titled EP, causing the first slam pit of the night in the process. Autopilot Off put on a tremendous live set and is highly recommended!
Closing out the night was Authority Zero from Arizona. Their new Andiamo CD from Lava Records had yet to be released, the band was on the road anyway previewing songs, as well as playing older crowd favorites. While these guys may have that pop/punk tag, Authority Zero mix other musical aspects into their songs such as ska and metallic elements. The remainder of the audience gathered around the stage, and it was at the point that the real party of the night kicked off. Songs from their previous album A Passage In Time were well received, causing the slam pit to be revved up to the sounds of One More Minute and Superbitch. The new material was impressive, with the mighty Revolution and the thoughtful A Thousand Year War being well received. After a disaster with the drum kit that nearly killed off the show, vocalist Jason DeVore sat on the broken bass drum and performed an old acoustic number entitled Sister Song, with Jeremy Wood joining in towards the end on bass. The set came to a rowdy finale as the band launched into Some People and Over Seasons. Staying long after the show to greet their fans, Authority Zero really give their all and are beginning to get the recognition they deserve. They’ve been around for nearly eight years, yet still manage to perform with the spontaneous energy of an all-new band. Be sure to check out Andiamo when it arrives in your record store!
Always counted on to put together great shows, the Chain Reaction came through once again, even on a Wednesday night. Headlining was the local band Letter Kills, who are about to release their debut CD on Island Records. There were several other acts opening the night from indie labels, bands that clearly demonstrated a good deal of promise and were well worth checking out as well.
The first band that we saw was A Jealousy Issue from South Florida, who put on a mighty set of thoroughly intensive metalcore. I had heard a lot about these guys, and it was great to finally see them live. Performing tracks from their Indianola release If The Flames Don’t Kill Us We Will, A Jealousy Issue impressed everyone with their precision playing and dynamic song structures. Vocalist Duane Jealousy was all over the stage, screaming with a fevered energy. The musicianship in the band is top notch, from the wall of sound guitar works all the way to the fiery rhythm section. The lights at the Chain Reaction were put to good use, dark and strobing throughout the entire performance. Songs like Midnights With The Monster Squad and Dollface penetrated through the walls of the venue. Bret from A Fall Farewell came onstage and took over the drumming duties for In The Shape Of Stars. Those who like their metalcore tinged with thick atmospheric sound need to check into what A Jealousy Issue has to offer. An impressive set from a vastly underrated band.
On this 26th of May in Orange County, let it be said that The Program finally played through an entire set without disaster ensuing. When they last played in Corona, their drum kit went to hell after the first song and last time at the Chain Reaction, they went on so early that no one was there to see them. Now co-headlining the show with Letter Kills, the band was in top form, and delivered a performance just as compelling as their Artificial Unintelligence release. Kicking off the show with a new tune entitled Art Form: Dead, this San Francisco based band got a pit going as well as attracted a good number of girls to the front of the stage. Start Over from their Stillborn album had the audience singing along while a new track called Pedal To The Metal has to be one of the best compositions the band has ever written. Mixing in a hardcore exuberance with a metallic edge, The Program is a young band who continue to grow musically while out on the road. Whether it’s the hyperactivity of their charismatic lead singer Jesse Roebeck, the high octane performance of all musicians involved, or the catchy songs themselves, there are many reasons for fans of all types of music to enjoy the hardcore wave of The Program. Not to be missed, especially when all their gear is in working shape.
Rounding out the night was Letter Kills, who attracted a good deal of fans to the venue. I saw this local act impressing a small crowd at the Warped Tour in Pomona last year, and their music has come around a long way within that time. Now on Island Records with their debut release lying in wait, Letter Kills presented the audience a highly polished, commercial sound while still demonstrating a raw sense of urgency that made their early work so memorable. The crowd went wild during many of the more familiar songs and seemed to enjoy the newer material as well. Songs performed included Brand New Man, Whatever It Takes, and the future hit single Don’t Believe. A solid set from a band destined for the big time. Letter Kills is slated to be on the entire Warped Tour this year.
A night in the wilds of Hollywood, and this would be a terrific collection of five bands that would blow the top off The Roxy. Looking like it was nearly a sold out show, the entire show was a memorable event for both band and audience. Even co-headliners Alexisonfire and Silverstein seemed genuinely surprised by the euphoric reactions they were receiving from what is usually a notoriously reserved Hollywood crowd.
Opening the evening was Number One Gun, who seemed to have a good deal of fans by the stage at the early hour. Knowing the words to all the songs, the audience sang along to favorites such as Staring Line, The Last Time, and Celebrate Mistakes. Based out of Chico, CA, Number One Gun has a big commercial sound that is a real treat to the ears. Combining a strong sense of spirituality with their memorable compositions, the band’s positive message and sheer enthusiasm were purely infectious. A fine set from a band ready to break out onto the radio with any luck at all. Their current album is entitled Celebrate Mistakes, now available from Floodgate Records.
With an album on the verge of being released from Victory Records, not a lot of people had heard of Hawthorne Heights when they took to the stage. Presenting their entirely winning brand of emotional driven rock and roll for the first time in LA, the band easily won over the Roxy crowd. Opening their set with the wistful Ohio Is For Lovers, Hawthorne Heights proceeded to give the City of Angels a satisfying introduction to their music. The band had all of three guitarists on stage and presented a show filled with impressive tunes such as Silver Bullet and Niki FM. Guitarist JT Woodruff really knows how to deliver an effective vocal performance, his lyrics filled with poignancy and wonder. Once their debut album The Silence In Black And White is released, there is little doubt in my mind that the audience will be singing along to the many heartfelt songs of Hawthorne Heights. Be sure to check this band out the next time they show up in town.
The last time I saw Emery was on this year’s edition of the Tooth & Nail tour. I was not too impressed, but they were attracting pockets of fans even though their album had not come out yet. The Weak’s End has now been available for a few months, and massive touring has turned this South Carolina based band into a tight unit of musicians. Attracting a good deal of fans to the venue on their own, Emery rocked the house and had everyone by the stage singing along to songs such as Walls, Fractions, and The Ponytail Parade. Striking up the pit at The Roxy for the first time that evening, the band exuding a good deal of passion within their live performance. Lead vocalist Toby Morelle briefly shared with the audience his deeply felt spiritual beliefs and then said "No matter what you believe, let’s all be friends." Expect Emery to really go places and to start headlining shows real soon.
I think even Alexisonfire was unaware that they had so many fans in the Los Angeles area. Once they hit the stage and burst into their 44 Caliber Love Letter anthem, the pit went into overdrive, and the enthusiasm did not let up for the entire show. The Canadian musical assault was in full force, and Alexisonfire brought along an arsenal fully equipped with driving metallic-tinged tunes. Lead screamer George is a dynamic presence, all over the stage and in your face. Unpredictable as ever, the affable George even invited a random girl on stage and slow danced with her briefly throughout the beautiful chaos. The band is tighter than ever, and are highly talented, not to mention a good deal of fun to watch. Adding a vivid sense of atmospherics to their screamo/hardcore compositions, their compelling music surely has something for everyone. In addition to the tunes that everyone knew from their self-titled Equal Vision release, Alexisonfire previewed songs from their forthcoming album, which is prophetically titled Watch Out! Their set literally sent the Roxy spinning into sonic overdrive, as songs such as White Devil and Pulmonary Archery were spewed out with a fiery vengeance. It was a thrilling performance, and I for one would not have wanted to be the band to follow such a powerful (not to mention wildly rambunctious) set.
On their first headlining tour throughout the US, fellow Canadians Silverstein took to the stage next, and overpowered the room with their own brand of emo rock. These guys were impressive when I saw them last year at Furnacefest, and now they seem almost unstoppable. With super sincere lyrics delivered at a fevered pitch, the pit roared into action – those not into the mosh were singing along and enjoying the powerful yet melodic tunes. Performing songs from their current Victory Records release When Broken Is Easily Fixed, Silverstein are dynamic live and appear to be well on their way towards finding the fame and adulation that Thursday and Thrice are currently receiving. Vocalist Shane Told exudes a good deal of charisma, alternating between passionate vocals and frenzied screamo interludes. The songs are finally receiving the attention they deserve – it was exciting to hear the crowd singing along to Red Light Pledge, Giving Up, and many others. Now if only Silverstein would get a bit of radio play out here on our finicky airwaves. The temperature in the Roxy was brutal at this point, yet this did not stop either the band or their fans from enjoying a truly inspired set. The Canadians had truly conquered the Los Angeles area and were now on their way to deliver their musical assaults to the rest of the world. An exciting night of music on the Sunset Strip! The Roxy has been known as the place where stars are made, and this show was one that many will remember for some time to come.
For those of you who have never been there, the Mosaic Café takes place every Friday at the Masonic Lodge in Tujunga, and is one of the best places the underage crowd can go to enjoy good bands. The prices for food and beverage are very low and the admission cost is reasonable. It’s too bad that this club can’t happen more than once a week. The only other place that has an atmosphere this fun for younger music fans is the Chain Reaction all the way out in Orange County. The selection of live bands on this particular Friday night appeared to be promising, so we at Highwire Daze decided to venture up to the remote wilds of Tujunga and check the scene out. Even though it was Prom Night for a good many kids, the venue was packed with others who wanted to get away from school and work and just hear some good live music.
The first band that I saw was Over It, who have an album out entitled Timing Is Everything on Lobster Records. Recent Ventura transplants originally from Alexandria, VA, Over It perform a potent brand of power pop that is extremely infectious and memorable. Possessing a knack for writing songs that should be heard all over the radio, crowd favorites the band performed included Serial Kisser, Wrong Way, and Fall. A new song called Any Day Now was played as well – this one is from a three way split the guys recently participated on for Takeover Records with Stole Your Woman and Don’t Look Down. A hard working band who has a lot to offer, it won’t be long before Over It finally achieve the recognition they deserve.
The room quickly filled up when Normal Like You took to the stage. Formed in the Bay Area in the late 90’s, the band relocated to the SF Valley, and is really making a name for themselves. Playing a radio friendly version of pop/punk, it’s only a matter of time before the world takes note of what Normal Like You has to offer. The band delivered a terrific set of songs, with the highlights being Can I Live, Patience Is A Virtue and Help Wanted. Lead vocalist Jon Williams was all over the stage, placing a good deal of emotion and energy into the songs. All musicians in the band are first rate, with the guitars really shining through and the rhythm section keeping the frenetic beats. I’m surprised a label like Drive-Thru or Vagrant hasn’t approached these guys to sign on the dotted label. If you have not heard of Normal Like You and enjoy super infectious rock and roll, prepare to meet your next favorite band. Their new self-release is entitled The Worst Of Many Flaws and its well worth seeking out.
The auditorium was literally packed when it was time for Nural to play. Once they hit the stage and started performing, one could easily see why this band has been gaining in popularity. Instead of following current musical trends, Nural is doing their own brand of rock and roll, and the results are impressive. Good music is always timeless, and the quality songs Nural perform would appeal to both young fans and their parents. Songs like Crowded and Live And Learn had the crowd jumping and singing along while Spotlight showed just how powerful and effective the band could be with a ballad. One of the many winning factors Nural possess is talented vocalist Kyle Castellani, whose singing voice has a classic quality that is dynamic and precise – basically this guy can belt it out like a pro and is a powerful performer. The guitars have a tendency to wail away in hard rock fashion, adding a thrilling mood to the already infectious songs. Easily one of the best unsigned bands in Los Angeles right now, all major and indie labels need to check out these guys. Music fans who like well written songs should get their tails to a live Nural show before they explode into the big time. Be sure to pick up a copy of their EP The Struggle Continues and see what all the commotion on this band is about.
Closing out the night was Section 8 from La Crescenta. While a good deal of the crowd had left, those who remained seemed to really enjoy the dark rock and roll that the band performed. With influences ranging from pop punk to pure screamo, Section 8 managed to keep the late crowd interested and well entertained. Performing songs from their EP The Halo Effect, Section 8 is living proof that musicians with various influences can come together and deliver music that is truly unique. A fine ending for a night filled with compelling new bands.
The Rubber City Rebels blazed into town during a short tour, demonstrating for us jaded Angelinos the true art of clever and insightful songwriting. A cult favorite for years and hailing from the wilds of Akron, Ohio, the band made a name for themselves in the late 70’s with some of the rowdiest shows you would ever see. I remember sneaking into Madame Wong’s as a kid and seeing RCR smash up the place with their dynamic tunes. Folks who think the best of RCR has already happened surely have not heard the band’s fantastic comeback album Pierce My Brain nor witnessed their live show as of late.
Following immediately after a Stan Ridgeway (Wall Of Voodoo) set, RCR took to the stage and had the crowd rocking out to their satirical tunes. The new songs are simply terrific, including the political Grip Of Fear, the bitterly funny I Don’t Wanna Be A Punk No More, and the anthem-like (I Wanna) Pierce My Brain. Those wanting to hear the older favorites were not disappointed, especially when RCR burst into their underground 70’s hit Paper Dolls. (For you rock trivia buffs, the author of Paper Dolls is Jack Lee, who also wrote Hanging On The Telephone for Blondie. Both these songs appear on the hard to find Jack Lee’s Greatest Hits).
Even after all this time, RCR remain on fire, ready to deliver a dynamic show with humor and style. Be sure to check out their new album on Smog Veil Records as well as witness Mr. Firestone, the Click Bros, and Mike Hammer the next time they burn rubber through your town. A concert from Rubber City Rebels is required for all who like a catchy tune served up with a warped since of irony. Current pop punk bands should also take note of what these guys have to offer.
The announcement of Yellowcard and Something Corporate doing a co-headlining tour was an exciting to hear – two excellent pop bands who would compliment each other and are well known for their lively energetic shows. Their gig at the Bren Events Center in Irvine was no exception. Judging by the sold out crowd and very long line outside to enter, one can sense an anticipation in the air, as all attending knew they were in for a dynamic concert!
Opening the show was Steriogram from New Zealand, who were definitely the odd man out on the bill. Fans of Zebrahead would really be into what these guys have to offer. Featuring a potent mixture of rap and punk, the music pulsated through the sound system, and had many in the crowd swaying to the beats. Thanks to early airplay of Walkie Talkie Man, some in the crowd were already familiar with the band. Songs such as White Trash and Fat And Proud really won the crowd over. And when Steriogram launched into their killer rendition of Back In Black by AC/DC, the house went crazy. These guys are tight, and especially animated is new drummer Jared Wrennall, a total maniac on his kit, fitting right in with the rest of the crazy crew. Steriogram’s new album is entitled Schmack! and is produced by David Kahne, whose credits include everyone from Paul McCartney to Sugar Ray. Expect a bright party-on future for these guys!
Rufio took to the stage next. Based out of Rancho Cucamonga, this was a hometown show for the band, and many in the crowd seemed genuinely excited as Rufio proceeded to play songs, mostly from their new 1985 album. Although I found their music to be a bit anemic, the audience still went crazy every time a familiar song was performed. Now on the Nitro label, many are predicting great things for this up and coming band. Judging by the crowd reaction, you would have sworn Rufio was headlining. Not really what I’m into, but the band did have a few catchy songs such as White Lights, Save The World, and Set It Off.
Back in the Southland a few months after their triumphant headlining show at the Henry Fonda Theater in LA, Yellowcard entered the stage to the cheering crowd and proceeded to play a set of energetic pop/punk. Opening the show with the uplifting Believe, Yellowcard slammed through a set of tunes from their latest album and played some old favorites as well. Half way during the set, vocalist Ryan Key announced to the audience that their album Ocean Avenue on Capitol Records had just went gold, and gave a sincere thanks to everyone for supporting the band. One of the highlights of the set has to be the performance of violin player Sean Macklin, playing the proper instrument like a fiddle and bounding all over the stage – even doing a few of his trademark back flips in the process. Yellowcard have a strong collection of songs and played their hearts out to the very appreciative crowd. One of the best in the endless breed of punk/pop bands currently on the scene, the band is truly destined for greatness. After their set was over, one felt happy and exhausted, knowing full well they had received their money’s worth of show. And Something Corporate hadn’t even made it to the stage yet…
And then the Drive Thru band who re-invented the term “piano rock” arrived onstage, opening with Hurricane from their first album Leaving Through The Window. Vocalist Andrew McMahon was back to his old looks, cutting off all the excess locks that he had been sporting over the last couple of months. Celebrating the success of their second, much darker effort North, Something Corporate played a full set and had everyone in the house standing and shouting out the lyrics. Favorites such as Woke Up In A Car, Fall, and Space were played to much applause. An older song, Constantine was played – a lengthy, moving ballad that was nonetheless very effective in the huge Bren Auditorium. Covers were also performed, including Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve and The Outkast’s massive hit Hey Ya, which was played during the encore. And yes, they played If U See Jordan and the crowd still loves that song, even after all of this time. Not since the days of Elton John and Billy Joel has piano rock threatened to break out in such a big and glorious way. Always up to putting on a great show, Something Corporate remains a phenomenal live band, whether you see them in an intimate venue or one as huge at the Bren. Just watch MacMahon jump on the piano and bang on it with his feet and you’ll see just what I mean.
What a treat it was the see legendary guitarist Cheetah Chrome performing at the intimate Spaceland! The man can still rock after all these years and can play a mean ass guitar. For those of you who don’t know, Chrome was a member of the infamous Dead Boys with Stiv Bators back in the 70’s. He is also a participant in the Rocket From The Tombs revival, a near legendary band that features Dave Thomas of Pere Ubu on vocals and Richard Lloyd of Television on guitar. It was now Mr. Chrome’s change to shine in the spotlight, and the place was near capacity by the time he took to the stage.
Opening group Sweet Justice performed an impressive set, and were also the back-up band for Cheetah Chrome. Obviously honored to play with such a revered guitarist, Frank Meyer and the boys in Sweet Justice delivered tight support to Chrome’s fine axe work and bluesy singing voice. Many of the Rocket songs were performed as well as Dead Boy favorites. The real highlight of the night came at the end, when Chrome brought on local legend Texas Terri to perform a balls-out rendition of Sonic Reducer. A pit was formed with many of the older guys in the crowd joining in. Forget the good old days, the time for Cheetah Chrome is now! He and Sweet Justice made the perfect match and should go on tour together and even write some all-new material. An excellent night of music that many will remember for months to come. Easily the best underground show of the year!
Another night at the ultra trendy Spaceland, and this time it would be for a night of pop rock music. First up was Mike Viola of the Candy Butchers, doing a solo set with the help from a few of The Figgs. Playing tunes from the Candy Butchers fantastic new album Hang On Mike, Viola proved to be a likeable front man. Easily winning the crowd over with his infectious songs and ironic wit, Viola performed autobiographical songs such as Nice To Know You and What To Do With Michael. And the title track of the new CD sent even the most jaded and drunken of listener rocking away, singing along to the choruses of "Hang on Mike…" A talented singer/songwriter best known as the unbilled lead vocalist of The Wonders in the Tom Hanks movie That Thing You Do, Viola is just beginning to get the attention he deserves. Be sure to see Mike or the Candy Butchers when they show up to win over your neck of the woods.
Headlining the night were The Figgs, a three-piece power pop band who were once signed to both the Capitol and Imago/BMG labels. Now celebrating their 17th year, The Figgs are going it alone and doing quite nicely. Spaceland was packed by the time The Figgs took to the stage, and many of the fans were shouting out song favorites for the band to play. Playing songs spanning from their entire career, standout songs included We’ll Be Doing Time from their new album Palais, Something’s Wrong, The Trench, Kill Me Now, and an extended version of One Hit Wonder. Nearly blowing the roof off Spaceland with their infectious grooves and driving songs, the crowd invited The Figgs back for a well-deserved encore. Together since their early high school days, The Figgs are now ready to take on the music world – but on their own terms. And judging by what was seen at Spaceland and the adoration of their fans, they just may
One thing the Chain Reaction may always be counted upon is putting interesting bills of bands together in one night. While the three bands slated to open for Moneen had little in common, they were all talented and able to connect well with the youthful crowd who usually visit the club.
First up was Chronic Future from Scottsdale, Arizona, who made a name for themselves a few years ago with their Beyond Music release 4 Elements. It’s been three long years since their last tour, and the band sounds better than ever. All that, and CF find themselves signed to Interscope Records for their next release. Starting the band at a relatively young age, CF retains their rap rock roots, now adding a bit of Outkast style hip-hop and all out rock into the mix. CF is a tight unit of musicians and the new material definitely made the early arrivers at the Chain take notice. Rap rock may be well on the way out the door, but CF manage to give the genre a whole new take, and come off as being highly original in the process. With their new album coming out this summer and a string of upcoming Warped tour dates, the third time just may be the charm for these hard working guys.
Next up was The Fight, a young punk band from the UK. An EP entitled Home Is Where The Hate Is was released last year on the Fat Wreck label, and many in the crowd were already familiar with a few of their songs. The Fight is fronted by the amazing K8, who has tons of charisma and can really play a mean guitar. On one side of the stage was guitarist Scott, sarcastic wit, cracking jokes and jamming away in true punk fashion. The other end of the stage was bassist Matthew, looking dark and intense yet appearing to have a good time. And on the drum kit was Jak, driving the frenetic beats home. And making a special guest appearance during their set was Never Heard Of It’s singer DJ, contributing backing vocals to a song. These kids know how to rock, and inspired a fevered slam pit during several of their more manic tunes. With a band this talented and spirited, it will be very exciting to see what the future brings on for The Fight.
In direct support of the headlining Moneen was Northstar from Huntsville, Alabama, on tour in support of their just released Triple Crown CD Pollyanna. In a world filled with emo and hardcore bands, Northstar play old-fashioned rock and roll and dare to be different. Their catchy tunes have certainly found an audience, as it appeared that everyone in the venue was there to see them. Refreshing and ready to rock out, Northstar presented the audience with a set filled with excellent songs, including American Living, Broken Parachute, and The Pornographer’s Daughter. Towards the end of the set, the band played an impressive acoustic number entitled Two Zero Two. A fine set from a bunch of Southern boys ready to take on the world. I will definitely see this band the next time they show up in town. Triple Crown easily has another winner on their hands with Northstar!
What a combination – the party band of the year playing with a pop band whose latest album is a journey through relationship hell. It was another night at the Troubadour featuring Boys Night Out and Park!
Park from Springfield, Illinois opened the show, delivering a set of dark pop. Their sophomore Lobster release is entitled It Won’t Snow Where You’re Going, and that pretty much sums up the bitter lyrics and somber melodies the band performs. Kenny from the Starting Line cites this band as one of his all time favorites, and it’s easy to see why. The musicianship in this band is tremendous, especially the well thought out guitar work that is added throughout some of the songs. This is power pop with maximum depth, not only within the lyrical content, but with the compositions as well. Displaying a sense of humor with their in between songs banter (including a few Canadian jokes which I’m sure Boys Night Out enjoyed), Park impressed many in the crowd with their sheer versatility. These guys are proof positive that music can be a truly cathartic and inspiring.
Headlining the night were Boys Night Out from Ontario, Canada. Judging by their Ferret Music release Make Yourself Sick, I had high expectations for these guys in a live setting. Bringing the songs to hyperactive life, these Canadians plowed through a set of crowd favorites, including The Subtleties That Make Mass Murderers Out Of Otherwise Decent Human Beings and Sketch Artist Composite. Mixing hardcore sounds with decidedly pop/punk influences, Boys Night Out has a mass appeal. The band is incredibly tight and could find themselves on a major label with shows and songs this good. Closing out with their should-be hit I Got Punched in The Nose For Sticking My Face In Other People’s Business, the crowd was singing and clapping along during the catchier than hell chorus. Once again, Ferret Records has demonstrated a knack for finding good bands – first A Static Lullaby, then Funeral For A Friend and now Boys Night Out. Expect great things for these guys and be sure to see Boys Night Out in the smaller venues while you still can. All this, and these guys told a few Canadian jokes of their own…
On the verge of releasing their Hopeless Records debut, Seattle rockers Amber Pacific was in town to preview tunes from their soon to be released Fading Days EP. Definitely on the pop/emo side of things, the band features a charismatic vocalist and a fine collection of young musicians who really make the music come to life. The type of band Drive-Thru would normally sign, Amber Pacific will surely find their songs becoming favorites of those who enjoy catchy tunes that have something to say. Included in their set was Promise Me, the first song that Amber Pacific wrote as a band as well as some material not slated for the EP. Look for these guys on the Warped Tour and expect their full length to drop sometime in September.
Performing just before Amber Pacific was a promising local band called Saving Daylight. On the verge of recording their debut album, the band presented a solid set of tunes that were above and beyond what is expected from the pop/emo genre. Attention is given to the guitar atmospherics and the vocalist can really deliver a heartfelt song. Most amazing was the one guitarist at stage left who was playing a right handed guitar with his left hand – turning the instrument upside down and delivering a unique sound. The band was giving away free EP’s and seemed to really care what the crowd thought of their music. Even Highwire Daze Bret liked them, and he hates everything. Showing a good deal of promise, Saving Daylight is well worth checking into.
It was another bad-ass night on the Sunset Strip, and although the year is 2004, it looked like the late 80’s were returning again to haunt us all. Even the venue, which is on the hallowed ground of what was once the legendary Gazzarris, was buzzing with glamorous guys and girls, all awaiting the arrival of the headlining band. It was still early at the Key Club, but many were there just in time to see opening act Fifi LaRue. And whether you were there to gawk at the Murder Dolls or any number of bands on the bill, for now it was Fifi LaRue’s dominion – and he and his motley crew were there to entertain!
After an ominous musical introduction, LaRue and his band took to the stage and burst into the song Welcome To My Flyin’ Circus. The stage was decorated with skulls and lights and all things haunting. Everyone in the band was wearing corpse paint and they were all ready to rock and roll their way into the darkened hearts of the Key Club crowd.
Fifi LaRue is an imposing presence, like Alice Cooper and King Diamond all rolled into one. The in-between song banter that LaRue presented to the audience was just as memorable as the eight songs he and his band presented. There were obviously a few closed-minded souls in the audience that weren’t buying into the routine, but many others seemed mesmerized by the “Gothic Killer Clown” and the darkly inventive songs that were spewed forth. Tunes like Kiss To Kill and Rock Doll could be classics for the underground. One disturbing bit was LaRue trying to explain the song Baby Killers by associating it with the Amber Alert and an obvious disdain for those who kidnap and assault children. While the other songs are based in rock and roll fantasy, Baby Killers is a reality that may or may not appeal to those looking for a good time on the Sunset Strip.
In addition to the charismatic Fifi LaRue, the band he has assembled is first rate, including Marcus Sin on guitar, Andy Monic on bass and keyboards, B.C. Bones on drums and the luscious Heather Poison on keyboards. At the end, Ms. Poison was bit on the neck and dispatched in grand Fifi LaRue like fashion. A very entertaining show that has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek along with its teeth firmly planted in your jugular.
Slitheryn were in the Southland once again, this time playing a string of high profile dates to drum up record label interest. The last of the dates would be at The Showcase in Corona, were Slitheryn were added on to a bill featuring grindcore acts such as Origin and Uphill Battle. And while the response wasn’t over-enthusiastic, many in the audience watched on in silent wonder as Slitheryn proceeded to pulverize the venue with their over-the-top brand of intensive metal. Fronted by the hyperactive Frankie who is all of 14 years old, Slitheryn were a lot heavier than any of their demos would suggest. While Frankie’s voice has yet to change, his growling range is formidable and he’s all over the stage like a lion stalking it’s prey. Unleashing the ferocious beats is Frankie’s older brother T-Bone, playing like a total pro in a way that would even impress Dave Lombardo. Mike and Ant duel it in on axe slinging while Andrew C supplies a mighty low-end. Bands twice their age wish they could be as tight and inventive as the mighty Slitheryn. Based out of Chicago, the band has opened for the likes of Slayer, Hatebreed, and Evanscence and even headline in their hometown. It is easy to see why Corey Taylor of Slipknot thought enough of these guys to produce their second demo. I’m sure their shows at The Whisky and The Chain Reaction were even more intense, and the cautious reaction they received in Corona was somewhat of a letdown. But Slitheryn is on the road living the rock and roll dream, one that is normally reserved for older musicians who have maybe a third of the talent that these young guys from the Windy City possess. Be sure to catch Slitheryn the next time they arrive to blow away your town and bang that head into oblivion! Now on tour with Forty Below Summer.
Before this tour even hit the road, news was being made by former headliners Further Seems Forever. Very public band divisions had caused the much-revered FSF to drop off the show, leaving the entire event without a headliner. Thrust into the spotlight was Anberlin, a lesser-known band whose superb album and live shows had been winning them an underground following. All the bands were able to play longer, and for the local Southern California shows, the true camaraderie was shining through. All this, and both the local shows were easily sold out ventures. Not bad at all for a tour who had just lost its main act.
Emery opened the show on a wildly emotional note. Based out of Seattle via the Carolinas, Emery had just released a new album entitled The Weak’s End. Barely out in the stores for two weeks at the time, many in the audience knew the songs already. Both nights, the band gave a short speech about their spiritual faith, which was greatly appreciated by the crowd. Songs such as Walls and The Ponytail Parades spoke volumes, combining an emo approach with highly effective hardcore interludes. While not entirely an original band in a field that is well on it’s way to becoming an overcrowded affair, Emery’s passion and conviction sets them well ahead of the pack.
Up next on the bill was local band Watashi Wa, whose album The Love Of Life is pure pop perfection of the highest order. In a live setting, the songs come across more lively than ever. Watching these guys and their anthems of love and happiness is guaranteed to place a smile on the face of even the most jaded of critics. Hell, even Highwire Daze Bret likes them, and he hates everything. Vocalist/guitarist Seth Alan Roberts exudes a star quality and is a talented, vastly underrated songwriter. With a sheepish smile and wistful vocalizations, Roberts has likeable presence. Lead guitarist Luke Page is usually deep in concentration, supplying the music with a soaring wall of sound – but even he finds time to look up and smile into the crowd. The rhythm sections supplies a highly contagious beat, courtesy of bassist Roger Tompkins and drummer Lane Biermann. Live Watashi Wa is an enlightening experience that must be witnessed by all fans of well-written pop music. Expect these guys to be headlining the Tooth & Nail tour next year.
What a difference a band makes! Once Mewithoutyou took the stage, the crowd went wild with enthusiasm. At first I just didn’t get it. Fronted with manic-depressive glee by Aaron Weiss, the lyrics are dark and introspective while the music is a sonic assault to the senses. The songs found on A to B Life would be the perfect companion piece on suicide night, and in a live setting it all comes to life in an ultra vivid fashion. At The Troubadour, Weiss passed out flowers to the crowd during the set. Weiss exuded a quirky sense of humor, and comes across as being both vulnerable and highly demented. Cross Joy Division with Thursday, and you’re only beginning to imagine the Mewithoutyou sound. At first I thought, "Just what we need. A depressed Christian band!" But at The Chain Reaction, I was watching many in the crowd singing along and realized that the somber experiences the singer was conveying to the crowd were highly cathartic. There is great passion and a sense of spiritual liberation found in sharing your pain with an audience. Taking this into account, Mewithoutyou is a truly exhilarating concert experience that is not to be missed.
The reluctant headliners Anberlin were up next, rocking SoCal with songs from their fantastic Blueprints For The Black Market CD. One of the best albums of 2003, it’s great to see Anberlin on the road sharing their infectious tunes with the world. Based out of Orlando, Florida, Anberlin is the best rock band that the major labels haven’t gotten their cruddy paws on – yet. With incessant touring, these guys have become a tight, unstoppable unit of musicians. Songs such as Ready Fuels, Change The World and The Undeveloped Story were clear crowd favorites – if only they would play tunes this good on the radio. Front man Stephen Christian has a good deal of energy and charisma, encouraging the audience to have a good time and "dance all night." Especially promising were When Time & Confusion Collide and Never Take Friendship Personal, two new compositions that were truly dynamic and possessed an even harder edge. New guitarist Jimmy Aceino contributes greatly to the band’s full on rock and roll sound. They may be playing intimate venues like Chain Reaction and The Troubadour now, but fully expect Anberlin to hit the big time. For now, catch a rising star, as Anberlin will be touring with The Juliana Theory and Bayside through April. An unforgettable, inspirational show!
In spite of the threat of a heavy downpour I took the MTA bus down Sunset and hoped for the best. I’m glad I did because the skies had cleared up and it was time to rock!
Entering the Whisky just in time to see Calico System, the band is even more intense live than on CD. With their Slayer meets Thursday combination of sound, Calico System could easily appeal to all sorts of music fans. Based out of St Louis, Missouri, the band opened with the fiery Love Will Kill All and proceeded into a set of highly impassioned tunes. Not the heaviest band on the bill, Calico System nevertheless played an impressive set of tunes and had the Whisky crowd clearly enthralled. Songs from their set included Girl Named Vegas and Soft Lips And Headstones from their fantastic debut CD The Duplicated Memory. Melodic yet filled with hardcore passages of pure intensity, Calico System is a band destined to break out from the pack and have the majors take notice – much like Poison The Well and Thrice. With a charismatic vocalist and musicians that can shred away at their respective instruments, it’s only a matter of time before the band takes off into the stratosphere.
The pit really heated up when On Broken Wings took to the stage. Here is a band that mixes in the very best extreme metal has to offer – death and grindcore – and these guys do it very well! Based out of the still fledging Boston, Mass. music scene, On Broken Wings breezed through their set with their ferocious musical visions, nearly blowing the roof off of the much-revered Whisky. Performing songs from their Some Of Us May Never See The World CD, On Broken Wings was a violent assault to the senses. Perhaps the most brutal band on the bill, they possessed a highly talented lead screamer and a mighty set of resourceful musicians. Massive headbanging and pit dancing ensued – and much to everyone’s surprise, vocalist Jonathan Blake even rapped during one of the songs. An amazing set from a band ready to conquer the planet! Both Calico System and On Broken Wings are signed to Eulogy Recordings and well worth checking out live. Also playing the show were Remembering Never and Shattered Realm – two bands I missed and hope to see in the near future as well.
Reviews on Warped Tour 2004, Gathering Of The Bestial Legion 2004, L.A.'s Gates Of Metal Fest 2, Blackheart Eulogy, Blindside, Ever We Fall, Farewell My Enemy, Figure Four, Hazen Street, KISS, Lacuna Coil, Love Is Red, P.O.D., Poison, Rebel Fever, Scars Of Tomorrow, Simply Lost, Small Towns Burn A Little Slower, and more...
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