Monday, May 25, 2009

The Women Rock Show, Whiskey A Go-Go, 5/16/09

Written by Pirata Hermoso

I have to admit, that I wasn’t too excited when one of my best friends said he wanted to go see Tiffany in concert. Yes, the Tiffany from the ‘80s who was more famous for doing cover songs, “I Saw Him Standing There” and “I Think We’re Alone Now,” than she was for any kind of original music that I could remember. But I figured, what the hell, why not? I had never been to the Whiskey A Go-Go in Hollywood before, and this was a good friend who had been to many shows with me that he probably didn’t really want see. And it didn’t hurt that the tickets were only $18. That’s pretty cheap even for an ’80s pop star. But what we didn’t know until the night before is that we would actually get to see seven other artists performing that same night. And that’s an even better long as they didn’t suck.

The tickets said that the show started at 8:00, so we showed up a few hours early. I don’t really like showing up that early, but I’ve been burned enough times going up into L.A. for a show and ending up late to an event because of the nightmarish gridlock that the city is famous for. I also hate looking for parking. We rolled up to the Whiskey at around 5:30. It’s in a pretty rundown-looking area, but across the street is The Viper Room, and you can see the Hustler store down the street. Now if that doesn’t say class, I don’t know what does.

I turned my car up the street just before the club and actually found the little parking lot for the Whiskey. Of course, there’s nobody parked there and there’s a large scruffy man in his late 50s wearing an old leather vest just standing in the center of the lot talking on his cell phone. There’s a younger guy nearby sitting on a crate, but he wasn’t really paying attention to us. The older guy, while still talking on the phone, walked up to us and said, “It’s $10 to park.” So I give the man the money and started to roll up the window when he said, “You have to let me park the car, and then I give you back your keys.”

For a split-second I froze as my mind began to race. Why in the hell did he need to park my car? We’re the only people in the lot, and it’s not that big. I glanced at my friend, and through my teeth muttered, “What the hell. Do we even know if this guy is a valet or is he just waiting for some dumbass to drive up and hand him keys to a car?” My friend shrugged, and slowly I got out of the car.

I intensely watched the man as he got into my car and started to move it. I was ready to chase after him, rip the door off the hinges and throw him out of my car if he gave even the slightest hint he might be trying to steal it. Okay, I’m not really sure how I would have stopped him, or why he would even steal my car, it’s not expensive, but dammit, it’s my F-ing car! So when he slowly moved the car about 10 feet away and got out, I was quite relieved. I still wasn’t sure why I couldn’t park it myself, but it didn’t matter as the ordeal was over.

At 7:00, after an hour or so of wandering around and walking over to Peet’s Coffee & Tea for a drink, where some strange guy sitting by the restrooms warned me of the mysterious smells in there, we headed over to the front door of the Whiskey. A small line had formed…well, not really. It was actually just some of the friends and family of the night’s first performer waiting to get in the club.

When we finally got in, I got to look around the infamous Whiskey where legendary performers like The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Guns N’ Roses had performed. I was a bit disappointed. I was expecting something better, more grandiose. I’ve been inside several McDonald’s that could hold more people than the Whiskey.

Amber-LakeOpening the show was host, Amber Lake. I didn’t recognize her at first, probably because she actually looked hotter and younger than she did on TV, which isn’t the way it usually works. She was the winner of the second season of Rock Of Love with Brett Michaels, the lead singer of Poison. I guess introducing bands at the Whiskey is just a natural progression after dating a rock star.

Laura Gossett was the first artist to take the stage at around 7:15. I’ve always got to give props to the first artist of the night. It takes more guts than you might realize to go first. Not only are people still walking around and talking during your set, but other bands are bringing in their equipment and it’s very distracting.

Laura sat alone with her keyboard in front of her. Some instruments littered the background waiting for other bands to show up later in the evening, but the presence of those instruments just seemed to emphasize the fact of how truly by herself she was. It probably didn’t help that her entourage of family and friends stood way in the back near the bar, leaving the dance floor in front of the stage barren as well. She was from Oklahoma, so that may have explained her lack of followers and band members at the show.

Too bad more people didn’t get to see her, because she had a really nice, powerful voice. Her piano playing was good, but the mixing job by the house P.A. system would have problems all night long and made the music a little distorted.

Shanta Loecker was the next artist to take the stage around 8:15. She also sat in the center of the stage with nothing but a keyboard in front of her. But she wasn’t by herself up there. She had a backup singer, a bass player, and a guitarist. The only one out of the three additional members you could even hear was the backup singer. The guitar and bass were so quiet that they probably couldn’t even hear themselves playing. I’m not sure if that was the poor house mixing or if by design.

Shanta’s voice was quiet and timid. She didn’t have any real stage presence and ended up muttering strange comments between songs like the comment after introducing the song “Childhood Mistake,” “No, it’s not about the last black guy I dated,” she said as she managed to embarrass herself. The audience probably had forgotten about her slip of the tongue, but before the next song she decided to apologize for the comment and mutter more incoherencies while doing so.

Personally, I wasn’t too impressed with her lackluster performance, but a group of about 20 girls showed up and sang along with most of the songs. They all really got excited at the final song, “Teacher,” and sang along with her almost word for word.

Rocket-Ship-Heroes Finally, an actual band, Rocketship Heroes, took the stage: a singer, lead guitar, bass, and *gasp* a drummer. The music started off just fine, but as soon as lead singer, Dani Slajer, started to sing you could tell something was wrong. Once again, the bad mixing job came into play; her microphone had no power. She ended up singing the entire first verse before they managed to fix the problem. But the Heroes were professional and kept right on going through all the technical problems. Their first song, which they never named, had a bit of a Good Charlotte feel to it and made me think of “Another loser anthem.”

Their originals were good and all solid rock songs. For some reason, I kept picturing them as a really young Blondie but with more edge. No, they weren’t that good, but I could see them metamorphize into a truly awesome rock band several years down the line.

The only negative thing I could say was that they didn’t do enough originals. They covered 3 Doors Down’s “Kryptonite,” a Jonas Brothers song, and Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker. With such a limited amount of time they had to perform, they needed to showcase their own talents more. The first two cover songs were fine, but Dani couldn’t even come close to reaching the power and intensity that Pat Benatar can bring with her voice.

Gabrielle WortmanAs the night went on, the audience slowly increased in size and the performers really started to bring it on. Gabrielle may not have been the best performer of the night, but she certainly tried the hardest. She brought it all. She had energy, sex appeal, and marketing. Earlier where there had been no band posters on the wall, suddenly there were tons of pictures of Gabrielle everywhere. They were even above the urinals in the men’s room. She also brought 20 young men with her who crowded the stage and cheered her on. Even her band was bigger than the others. Not only did she have the standard four members, but she had a saxophone and violin player as well.

Gabrielle also had a keyboard that she played, but she had a difficult time keeping her seat. From the opening notes of the first song she was hopping up and struggling to keep herself chained to her instrument. She didn’t play for long until she broke free and writhed around the stage. She really got into the songs as she enticed the audience with her body, until once again there were technical problems. Her monitor wasn’t loud enough and she couldn’t hear what she was singing. She became flustered and hit several off-key notes. After a few seconds the equipment issues were fixed, but it would take Gabrielle a couple more songs before she could get back into the groove of the music. By the time she was comfortable again, her time was up.

After a strange introduction as “The Actress in The Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” by a man with a bass guitar, who resembled Flavor Flav and didn’t seem to actually be in any of the bands playing that night, Marva King took the stage.

From the first note they struck you knew they were professionals. Of course, this band was about 20 years older than anyone else who had played that night, but they were good. Their music was soulful and jazzy. They played a cover of Seal’s “Crazy,” which Marva sang impressively and the band played as good as the original. The entire performance was very tight, and even the movements between Marva and her lead guitarist were smooth and synchronized as they played off one another. They were most definitely the best band at that point in the show.

Out of all the younger artists we saw at the show, I would have to say that Madadian had the best songs. The music is always what’s important, but it’s still going to be a couple years before they are polished enough to really have a chance of making it, but they were good.

Madadian-2 Lead singer Tiffany Madadian came out in what looked like a giant scarf made into a dress and a masquerade ball mask. A little strange, but all the young ladies who showed up to see this band approved of her outfit. Unfortunately, the P.A. system was once again having issues. Madadian’s vocals were too quiet, and her lead guitarist was having issues with his amplifier and making loud crackling noises every few minutes.

Playing right before the headliner was a good position for this band since the audience had finally settled in and it helped them get exposed to a few more people than might have seen them earlier in the evening. Even so, they had the biggest number of fans as a good portion knew the lyrics.

The first thing I have to say is who knew that Tiffany could sing? Of course, she’s always been a singer, but I mean really sing. There are a lot of people who can sing, but she actually has some serious vocal skills. Her set was as follows:

I Will not Breakdown
Be Alright
All the Talking
Sweet Child O’ Mine
I Saw Him Standing There
I Think We’re Alone Now
He’s All Man and He’s All Mine
Bobby McGee

Tiffany-1I was truly impressed with the songs she performed, and was happy because most of the songs rocked. There were no sweet sappy ballads and no cheesy pop, although I would have preferred a little of the cheese on “I Think We’re Alone Now” just because they tried to funk the song up and the music just didn’t work for me. I had not heard any of her originals, but they were all fun enjoyable songs. I may even consider looking up some of her albums and giving them a listen when I have the chance

Tiffany’s vocals blew up the house when she sang “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” I’ve seen Guns N' Roses perform and I’ve heard many crappy versions of their songs, but Tiffany sang it well. And while one of her guitarists was new to her band, he played the song better than anyone I’ve heard play it other than Slash himself. Somehow I ended up in the front of the stage and about a foot away from him playing those solos. He was damned good.

When she sang “Heartbreaker,” she put Rocketship Heroes to shame since it was obvious how weak their rendition a few hours earlier was. I think Pat Benatar would have approved of Tiffany’s version.

The band was very professional and tight. You could certainly see the differences with the two more experienced bands that performed on Saturday night. When Tiffany performed, the club was finally packed with people.

There were a lot of fans that came to see her, so many that she even had her own creepy stalker fan in the front row. No, not me!! But there was a guy in his late 40s with white hair who stood dead center and just stared directly at her with a psycho-killer look on his face. The only time he would move was to raise his arms up in the air after every song like he was saying a prayer to the Lord. He came with his own giant, white pillow and unique odor. My friend had the pleasure of standing next to him during the show and thought he might be homeless, or at least he smelled that way. Later on the stalker went up to Tiffany, pillow under his arm, and talked to her in the upstairs balcony area where all the bands went to hang out and sell CDs and mingle with the fans. I kept waiting for a security guy to leap out and tackle him, but thankfully nothing bad happened.

Strange-Kind-1I’d have to say that I felt really bad for Strange Kind. Not only did three members get stuck in Seattle and miss the performance, but they had to play after the headliner. I think they need a new manager.

As soon as Tiffany’s set was over the crowd dispersed instantly. It went from a crowded 200 or so people to about 40 in less than a minute. As the crowd left, one guy was yelling, “Stay, everybody, please, stay. My best friend’s in the next band.”

Without half of their band members, two guys and a girl took the stage and did an acoustic set. The drummer beat on a wooden box while the other two played guitar. Surprisingly, they were pretty good. I would like to have heard them with a full band, but the unplugged set was a nice ending to the night.

Strange-Kind-2The lead singer was a woman named Xolie. Her voice had a folksy Irish sound to it, and she was dressed in a black and white striped shirt with a red bandanna and made her look like she had stepped out of an old French film. After their official set, they performed a song that Xolie had written about Seattle with a French sound to it and a trumpet solo that she performed without the use of a trumpet.

I didn’t think I was going to like them when they first started, but they were fun and entertaining and didn’t take the whole situation too seriously.

The show ended at 1:30 and I left the Whiskey feeling glad that I had gone to something I really wasn’t looking forward to when the night began and it had turned out to be a good night after all.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Barbra Streisand - Live in Concert 2006 (Blu-ray)

Written by Senora Bicho

Barbra Streisand is someone that I have always wanted to see in concert; however, the ticket prices have always kept me at bay. Streisand: Live in Concert 2006 provided an opportunity to learn what I have been missing.

The concert begins with a “Funny Girl Overture” featuring the 58 musicians who accompany Barbra. Interwoven with the music are interviews of the extremely diverse fans that are in attendance. It provides a great sense of the feeling at the show and creates great anticipation for her to appear. I got the chills and must admit that tears came to my eyes when she took the stage. From there, all of my expectations were exceeded.

The range of songs performed during the show is expansive. She sings well-known favorites such as “Evergreen” and “People,” but also belts out obscure numbers like “Unusual Way” and “Cockeyed Optimist.” My favorite song of the show is one I had never heard before called “Ma Première Chanson” and hearing her sing in French is absolutely fantastic. Barbra performs 22 songs but there are so many more she could have included I wish it would have gone on for many more hours.

Aside from the amazing music and vocals, the stage set-up is extremely impressive. The stage is 360? and allows Barbra to reach more of the audience. There are tables, chairs, and flowers set up in multiple places providing a very homey feeling. She is very comfortable on stage and you can tell that she is really having a good time. She talks between each song, providing historical information about the music along with personal tidbits. For example, when talking about selections from Funny Girl, she explains what is happening at the moment that the song takes place in the story and its significance. In addition to educating the crowd about the music, she also wants the chance to share a piece of herself. She even takes some time to answer questions from the audience. While it is obvious that the questions are pre-selected and she likely has some pre-written adlibs, it still provides a chance for her to make a connection and establish herself as a down-to-earth person. Her politics are part of who she is and while she does make several political comments, she never does anything that would alienate “non-liberal leaning” viewers.

The bonus features include two additional songs from Barbra and two songs from her special guest of the evening Il Divo. There are also behind-the-scenes interviews and information on The Streisand Foundation.

The 1080p high definition presented 16x9 displays a really great picture. The different levels of black can be delineated and combined with the great texture detail makes clear the folds of the fabric in her gown. The gold sparkles and pops off the screen in contrast. The sparkling backdrop and lighting are vivid.

The audio defaults to PCM 2.0 and is also available in PCM 5.1 Surround. The audio experience is immersive as the orchestra, the echo of her voice, and the audience ambiance puts the viewer in the center of the action.

If you have never seen Barbra Streisand before, here is you chance to experience one of the greatest artists of all-time perform. She looks great, sounds great, and proves that she still knows how to thrill a crowd. This is one special night of music to relive over and over, up close and personal, possibly even taking the place of seeing her from a bad seat faraway. I can’t recommend this enough.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Black Crowes: Warpaint Live

Written by Fumo Verde

If you like deep blues mixed in with your rock ‘n’ roll, then the Black Crowes should be on your list of who to see next. Warpaint was the first album cut after the band took a five-year hiatus and though a critic from Maxim gave it a bad review, we have to remember that that kat didn’t even listen to it. I did and I like it.

So why a live CD? Live CDs have a feel to them studio cuts can’t reflect, such as the sound of the crowd roaring when a favorite song comes along or how the band members interact with that crowd and how they interact with each other. Details like these bring a different spirit to a live disc and this double-CD set contains those little details, making up a great show. The Black Crowes put on a great show and I know this from personal experience. “Warpaint” was great and Warpaint Live brings the spirit of the music to your speakers and makes you want save up for tickets.

Like the studio disc, the live show opens with “Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution” and mirrors the studio album track list. CD number one is the whole Warpaint album, while disc number two contains six other tracks the band recorded just for this album. Now that’s a killer deal, to have some unrecorded tunes come in during the second set is like extra icing on your cake. The Los Angeles audience who was privy to catch this show, I envy you.

Some of my favorites are “Evergreen” with its deep bass intro that dances into some waltzing guitar riffs, and “We Who See The Deep” which rips open with a riff reminiscent of Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4” but slower, like a sweet southern drawl. “Locust Street” has to be the song I like the most off this album with its wandering melody and gentle lyrics. “Dry bread on the table, burn the milk, salt the paper/ And its easy pickings on Locus Street/ There’s no place to hide/ And you can’t find love on Locust Street/ But you can hear the sunrise crying…”

If you’re like me and you liked the studio disc, the live one will be a favorite too, especially when you pop in the disc number two. “Poor Elijah - Tribute to Johnson (Medley),” “Darling of the Underground Press,” and “Torn and Frayed” have more of a blues touch than a rock one. “Don’t Know Why” starts out with a rock riff, but softly glides into a blues melody then explodes into a rock jam as the instruments come alive then quietly step back as the lyrics fall in to the fray. This tune has more of a gospel sound with its tempo and its feel. I enjoyed all six tracks but “Hey Grandma” has to be the one I like the most. If Bugs Bunny were to say, “A little traveling music, Doc,” this song would start up and off that rascally rabbit would go. This jam opens up the guitar strings and lets them rip it up.

I complain about having albums with most of the same tunes on them, but with five new tracks, the record company finally gave us a deal. While I sit typing away and playing the music, I must remind myself to pick up some tickets the next time they come around, but for now, Warpaint Live will have to do.

Thank you, Black Crowes. Wherever you are.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Malfaktor - The Delay Of The Inevitable

Written by Fantasma el Rey

Huntington Beach’s experimental industrial-metal band Malfaktor hits hard on their debut album The Delay Of The Inevitable, which saw the break of moonlight in late 2008. Providing eleven tracks that pound, slam, and quietly seduce you at various times throughout the disc. Holding fast to their influences while forging a sound of their own, Malfaktor pulls you into their dark world of heavy industrial beats and rhythms, filled out by synth chords and scratchy, heavily distorted guitar and bass, all woven together by the whisper-to-scream vocals.

The mad scientists behind the album’s sound are Larry Orban III (bass, synths, programming), Alex Beal (guitar), Max Ortega (synths, programming, production), and Doug Cheek (vocals, programming, production). The band has gone through some line-up changes as members come and go; check their Myspace page for band history and current line-up. From the get-go the heavy industrial beats grab you and force you to move, pulsing along with the hammering steel heartbeat, distorted bass lines, and equally distorted guitar scratch. Metallic pings, wire plucks, and all sorts of other hard industrial sounds keep you wondering “what the hell is that?” while making it hard to pry away from the disc. Doug’s vocals are low and menacing at times and can soar to macabre, blood-stirring screams as he desires and the songs command.

Song titles and lyrics continue down the dark, macabre path that the album title implies. With track names like “Memoirs Of A Dead Man,” “One By One,” “Sub-Human Machine,” “Sarcophagus,” and “Body Bag” along with horror-film titles such as “The Resistance,” “The Dethroner,” “The Seed,” “The Octopus,” and “Dirty Faith.” From what I can make of the lyrics they are very reflective of the titles. At times the lyrics and vocals are muddy and blend in with the music, which isn’t a bad thing as it adds to the overall appeal of Malfaktor and gives you one more twisted puzzle to piece together, claiming each lyric decoded as a small victory and further look into chief songwriter Doug’s mind.

“Memoirs,” “One By One,” and “Sarcophagus” are the tunes to watch as they showcase what the band can do and what they are capable of. “Memoirs” has an infectious typewriter beat throughout as the guitar shreds in and out around the bloody, murder scene vocals. “One By One” has crowd favorite and hit record oozing out of every sound and into your ears. Catchy chorus, synth, and guitar drive this dark delight while its less than four-minute runtime keep you hitting the repeat button.

“Sarcophagus” opens with a synth run that brings to mind Depeche Mode’s darker pieces but quickly turns midnight black as metal axes fall and machinegun-burst beats change the mood from light torment to the panic of darkness, no air black out, claustrophobia of having a coffin lid closed on you. Music swells, vocals come to a thrilling high before all simmers down for Doug to put forth the closing stament of “a battered soul that was never meant to have the eyes to see.”

Influences are easy to spot from Nine Inch Nails and Fear Factory to Rob Zombie and a score of other bands but Malfaktor puts their stamp down hard on the music they strive to create and deliver to those willing to venture forth into the darkness to find. So far this year Malfaktor’s “The Delay Of The Inevitable” is one of my favorites and I can’t stop spinning it; it’s as if my stereo won’t let go of it and my iPod refuses to skip past it.

For more info on Malfaktor, how to get a copy of The Delay Of The Inevitable or where you can catch them live head to their Myspace page. Also on the page are selections from the CD along with some well done remixes.