Category Archives: Show Reviews

The Soundtrack of Summer Tour

styxsountrackThe Soundtrack of Summer Tour with Foreigner, Styx, Don Felder, The Greek Theatre, July 26, 2014

It was one of those perfect nights in Southern California under the stars at The Greek Theatre. The Soundtrack of Summer Tour had made its way into the Southland, featuring the  legendary duo of Foreigner and Styx co-headlining with rock solid support from Don Felder, formerly of the Eagles. The event was packed to the rafters – a sold out performance with fans of all ages ready to rock it out to the classic tunes from the 70’s and 80’s. Once again proving that a truly great song is indeed timeless, it was a joyful sing-along throughout the entire night as hit-after-hit emitted enthusiastically from the stage.

Don Felder

donfelderjl1First up on the bill was Don Felder and band, kicking off the proceedings on a wildly vibrant note with the Eagles ‘classic selection Already Gone. Instantly winning the audience over with his appealing demeanor and the suburb musicianship of all involved, daylight slowly merged to dusk as Felder and company thrilled the crowd. Felder co-wrote many of the Eagles’ greatest hits, and delivered a healthy dose of the supreme cuts, including One Of These Nights, Victim Of Love, and Heartache Tonight. Felder’s recent solo endeavor Road To Forever was highlighted with the striking sounds of the bluesy You Don’t Have Me reverberating throughout the Greek. The five part harmony of Seven Bridges Road was absolutely breathtaking – certainly a high point in the Don Felder set. Another wonderful treat was when Felder and company performed Heavy Metal (Takin’ A Ride) from the cult classic motion picture of the same name. And if you thought the auditory adventure was about the end, Tommy Shaw of Styx would join Felder onstage for a stunning rendition of Hotel California – breathing new life into one of the most haunting songs ever recorded by the Eagles.  Be sure to check into Road To Forever to find out what Don Felder is up to today – it’s been reissued with bonus tracks so it’s well worth seeking out!

Don Felder Set List:
Already Gone
One Of These Nights
You Don’t Have Me
Victim Of Love
Seven Bridges Road
Heavy Metal (Takin’ A Ride)
Witchy Woman
Heartache Tonight
Life In The Fast Lane
Hotel California

Styx

styxjl1With the progressive opening notes of the mighty Grand Illusion, you knew Styx was going to take over in a vast and glorious way. On the stage were Tommy Shaw, James “JY” Young, Lawrence Gowan, Todd Sucherman and Ricky Phillips – absolutely consummate performers ready to transport you back in time with their gigantic repertoire of hits! Early on in the set during a rousing rendition of Fooling Yourself (Angry Young Man), original bassist Chuck Panozzo joined Styx onstage, and the atmosphere was magical! One of the amazing new additions to the lineup of Styx is keyboardist Lawrence Gowan, a magnificent talent who can thrill the audience with his expressive voice and charismatic stage presence.  Just take a  listen to his solo turn on Lady, and you’ll be hooked! One of their more obscure songs Superstars from The Grand Illusion was performed with so much conviction; it was easy to be swept away by its majestic artistry.  Don Felder would then make his way back on stage, lending his talents to the lively Blue Collar Man. The ever resourceful Gowan then was left on stage to go solo, greatly entertaining the crowd with an imaginative medley of You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Live And Let Die, and Bohemian Rhapsody. This was the perfect segue way to an epic rendition of Come Sail Way, where Gowan was rejoined by the rest of the band unleashing a mesmerizing version of Styx’s most celebrated song.  For a much deserved encore. Panozzo joined his bandmates for spiraling rendition of Renegade.  Styx in 2014 remains a vital rock and roll force that can still rock the Paradise with a magnetic force!

Styx Set List:
The Grand Illusion
Too Much Time On My Hands
Fooling Yourself (Angry Young Man)
Lady
Light Up
Crystal Ball
Superstars
Blue Collar Man
You Can’t Always Get What You Want / Live And Let Die / Bohemian Rhapsody’
Come Sail Away

Encore
Rockin’ The Paradise
Renegade

FOREIGNER

foreignerjl1Even as Foreigner emerged on the stage with no original members in tow for the first part of the set; the current lineup was hot and heavy and ready for action. Unleashing a rocking trio of hits right off the bat, Double Vision, Head Games, and Cold As Ice instantly had the audience on their feet and ready to party.  One notices right away the powerful lead vocals of former Hurricane member Kelly Hansen, belting out the great Foreigner classics with a fiery sense of passion. Also among the current Foreigner lineup is Jeff Pilson, the former Dokken bassist, leaving a lasting impression from the pulsating low end of the sonic spectrum. After a remarkably moving performance of Waiting For A Girl Like You, Hansen introduced founding Foreigner lead guitarist Mick Jones, and the Greek responded with a rapturous applause. Jones would join Foreigner for the rollicking Feels Like The First Time, and stay for the duration of the set. One powerful highlight was when Jones took the time to introduce one of his favorite deep cuts Strarrider from their Self-Titled debut album, and then proceeded to sing lead vocals – perhaps the most poignant single moment of the entire evening. For the encore, Foreigner was joined onstage by The Imagination Choir from John Muir Middle School located in Burbank, and proceeded to play the heartfelt I Want To Know What Love Is. And then Tommy Shaw, JY, and Don Felder would join in for a hell raising performance of Hot Blooded, sending the music temperature into the stratosphere. An unforgettable Saturday night with truly great bands and musicians performing songs that will be revered for a lifetime!

Foreigner Set List:
Double Vision
Head Games
Cold As Ice
Waiting For A Girl Like You
Feels Like The First Time
Urgent
Starrider
Juke Box Hero

Encore:
I Want To Know What Love Is
Hot Blooded

(Review by Ken Morton – Photos by Jack Lue)

Don Felder Official Home Page
Styx Official Home Page
Foreigner Official Home Page

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Tigrilla at White Oak Music and Arts

tigrilla3_875x1200Tigrilla. White Oak Music and Arts, June 28, 2014

White Oak Music and Arts is a new venue in the heart of the San Fernando Valley, that is well worth seeking out. They’ve recently hosted bands such as The Dead Rabbitts (featuring Craig Mabbitt of Escape The Fate), Sworn Enemy, Kurt Travis of A Lot Like Birds – and many others. All ages and extremely comfortable, with a rock solid sound system, White Oak is sure to become a favorite to many a band collective and music aficionado.

On this particular Saturday night, Tigrilla was headlining, a young Los Angeles-based band performing their own wildly rambunctious brand of rock and roll. They drew an impressive crowd and it’s no wonder why – Tigrilla definitely knows a thing or three about showmanship and will keep you well entertained. Plus they can pull off a wickedly sensational rendition of the KISS classic Love Gun.

tigrilla2_1200x900Tigrilla opened their set with the rollicking refrains of Open The Door followed by Goodbye Piper, instantly enrapturing the audience with their infectious tunes. One noticed right away the charismatic Timmy Chainshaw, making a connection with the audience both onstage and off, delivering his vocals with a stunning sense of fiendish glee. Evangelos Lindley unleashed some tremendously tasty licks on lead guitar, while bassist Jonathan Derek and drummer Devin Knell made the tight rhythm section look smooth and effortless.

The aforementioned Love Gun was a blast to watch, and original cuts such as Six-Shot and Lay Me Down really won over the White Oak crowd with their sheer exuberance. The band even came back onstage for a well-deserved encore, presenting a final song entitled Vile Eyes to a thoroughly appreciative audience. Tigrilla definitely oozes with promise, caring not for the current music trends of the day.  Expressing their own individualism through genres such as classic rock, grunge, and even glam and beyond, Tigrilla is sure to captivate even the most jaded of music critic.  It will be interesting to see what the future has in store for the rip-roaring rocking animal known as Tigrilla.

(Review and Photos by Ken Morton)

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Falling In Reverse at Vans Warped Tour in Ventura

Jacky Vincent of Falling In Reverse

Jacky Vincent of Falling In Reverse

Falling In Reverse, Vans Warped Tour, Ventura, CA., 06/22/14

Falling In Reverse at Vans Warped Tour Ventura was shred-tastic. Lead guitarist, Jacky Vincent, was shredding so hard live. He’s a tasteful, clean, fast, and precise guitarist who has come a long way due to Falling in Reverse. The whole time he was playing he was looking down at his guitar, making sure he didn’t make any mistakes, and was very serious about his performance.

FIR came onstage with “I’m Not A Vampire”, an oldie, but goodie. The crowd INSTANTLY was hyped and singing along to this catchy song. Frontman, Ronnie Radke was very interactive with his crowd for this fun song! During the part where he says, “Hi, my name is Ronnie and I’m an addict”, the crowd responded with a big “Hi Ronnie!” This song although is meant to have crowd interaction, was fun to see everyone take part in. Next song they played was “Fashionably Late”, the crowd was LOUD during the whole song, and it was pretty humorous to watch because of Ronnie’s witty lyrics.

Ronnie Radke of Falling In Reverse

Ronnie Radke of Falling In Reverse

One thing that was nostalgic to see during their set was Max Green playing bass for Ronnie again, just like in the good old days of Escape the Fate! People were stoked to see Max and Ronnie back at it again. It was a huge surprise when Ronnie put their bad, drug filled past behind them and had Max join the band. Everyone could tell Max was extremely happy to be in a band with Ronnie again and just be best friends again, even though time has changed.  FIR has been through 3 bassists so far, but we all expect that Max is going to stay in Falling In Reverse because of his and Ronnie’s bond.

The last time I had seen FIR was in 2012, and honestly, they weren’t a very solid performance. Ronnie was singing like it was a joke, and it was just terrible. FIR has perfected their live performance, everything at Ventura was solid and spot on. Jacky’s solos even improved, and that’s a lot to say since he’s already an INCREDIBLE guitarist! I would definitely see FIR again, even though I don’t listen to them. They were very fun to watch and they had a great performance and great stage energy!

Setlist:
I’m Not A Vampire
Fashionably Late
Rolling Stone
Raised By Wolves
Bad Girls Club
Born to Lead
Alone
The Drug In Me Is You

(Review and Photos by Talia Farber)

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Crown The Empire at Vans Warped Tour in Ventura

crowntheempiretl1Crown The Empire, Vans Warped Tour, Ventura, CA., 06/22/14

Crown the Empire at Vans Warped Tour Ventura was awesome. They even upgraded, from the Ernie Ball Stage to the Monster Stage. Crown the Empire’s performance was completely on point, and were even better than last year. They had much more room for stage presence too. These guys played with such charisma and enthusiasm, it just got everyone in a good mood, especially crowntheempiretl2when both vocalists got engaged in the crowd. One of the vocalists even went in the crowd and got everyone to sing along. It was amazing to see everyone know the two new songs they played. They were singing along and just jumping all around. The two tracks were called “Initiation” & “Mnstr” off their new album called The Resistance: Rise If The Runaways coming out July 22nd. Their track “Initiation” has the perfect balance of screams and singing. The crowd seemed to love that one. They got everyone pumped for the new album before playing their last song. Crown The Empire had a short, but sweet set.

Setlist:
Makeshift Chemistry
Initiation
Johnny’s Revenge
Voices
Mnstr
The Fallout

(Review and Photos by Talia Farber)

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VANS WARPED TOUR 2014 – VENTURA

LINKIN PARK at VANS WARPED TOUR in Ventura

LINKIN PARK at VANS WARPED TOUR in Ventura

VANS WARPED TOUR 2014, Pomona Fairplex, Pomona, CA, June 20th, 2013

After a commencement of nothing but soaring temperatures in places such as Texas, Arizona, and Nevada, relief was certainly within the sights of this year’s edition of the Vans Warped Tour. Welcome to Seaside Park in Ventura, California – overlooking the Pacific Ocean with the sun and cool breezes always associated with a beach community. The site has always been one of the best places to see Warped Tour, and this Sunday in late June would be no exception. Not only was the weather absolutely perfect, but a special guest band had been announced. Yes ladies and gentlemen, the mighty Linkin Park would be making an appearance at the Ventura date as part of the Warped Tour’s 20th Anniversary. There was a genuine excitement and anticipation within the concert goers that permeated the atmosphere. While Warped shows are always memorable occasions, this particular day in Ventura would be an event to be remembered for the ages! But now, it was on to the Ernie Ball Stage to check out some of the Battle Of The Bands’ winners.

The New Varsity

IMG_6883The New Varsity from Claremont is one of the most underrated pop punk bands on the planet today. One could clearly see that playing Warped Tour was certainly a “bucket list” event for each and every member, and  at the Ernie Ball Stage, they hit it out of the ball park as the first band on the day at the Ernie Ball Stage. Opening with the dynamic refrains of A Place To Call Home followed by the memorably titled I Puked At The Fonda, The New Varsity clearly won over the early arrivals with their infectious anthems and vibrant musicianship. In addition to songs from their Running Out Of Time release, a standout new song entitled The Last Day In November was performed. The New Varsity definitely proves that pop punk is far from a dead genre, and left a lasting impression with their short but exhilarating set. The talented members of The New Varsity are Kyle Feyk-Miney on guitar and lead vocals, Eric Putnam on lead guitar and backing vocals, Diante’ Thomas on bass and backing vocals, and Taz Reeves on drums. A well-deserved win for band who very well could help bring pop punk spiraling back to the Warped Tour and beyond!

False Puppet

IMG_6940The Ernie Ball stage continued to be the place to discover new talent, as False Puppet from Santa Barbara were ready to rock the living daylights out of the Warped crowd. This tremendously charismatic power trio attracted quite an audience, and delivered a wonderfully energetic performance. With remarkably solid songs such as What You Do To Me and Hall Of Shame, one could clearly see why they were selected as a Battle Of The Bands winner. False Puppet is a true winning combination, featuring the participation of Tyler Benko on vocals on guitar, Channing Peake on bass and backing vocals, and Brennan Benko on drums. A standout set from a band we are destined to hear a lot more of in the months ahead. Upcoming dates include August 10th at The Avalon and August 29th at The Troubadour. They may be called False Puppets, but their music is anything but bogus – one listen and this trio will launch you straight into the rock and roll stratosphere!

Galvanized Souls

IMG_6957Based out of the Camarillo area, Galvanized Souls was another Battle Of The Bands winner who took over the Ernie Ball Stage in a big and glorious way! This young band has been receiving a good deal of acclaim above and beyond Ventura County, and they definitely showed the Warped Tour crowd the impact of timeless, heartfelt rock and roll. Opening with Fall Of Icarus, Galvanized Souls instantly attracted a good amount of people ready to check out the rocking goodness emitting from the stage. The short but solid set included standout selections such as Make A Sound, Carry On, and the very much in your face Shut You Down. Galvanized Souls consists of Matt DeMartini on bass and vocals, Zakk Silveira on guitar and lead vocals, Chris Traylor on guitar and vocals, and Kevin Cogen on drums and vocals. Be sure to catch Galvanized Souls on June 26h at The Whisky and July 5th at The Troubadour, both in the wilds of Hollywood!

Shiragirl

IMG_7968When attending Warped Tour, one must be prepared for any kind of sonic extravaganza – this festival has become wondrously diverse over the years – and no one displays a penchant for pushing boundaries more than the world renowned sensation known as Shiragirl. Founder of the notorious pink colored Warped Tour stage which bears her moniker, Shiragirl’s set is lively, sassy, and ready to bring on the dance party! Channeling classic acts such as Madonna and Joan Jett, the seductive Shira and her two gorgeous dancers (and a hard working DJ too!) thoroughly enraptured the crowd with their wildly infectious songs. It’s a change from the punk rock anthems Shiragirl has been known for in the past, but it shows a true artist at the height of her creativity. The stage is being sponsored all summer by Conquer Entertainment. If you are looking to get away from the hardcore and metal overdrive on the various stages, be sure to check out the pulsating dance-tastic sounds of Shiragirl.

Linkin Park

LINKIN PARK and David Schmitt of BREATHE CAROLINA

LINKIN PARK and David Schmitt of BREATHE CAROLINA

And now for the main event of the day – a surprise set by Linkin Park that absolutely stunned and surprised the Warped Tour Ventura throngs – complete with many famous special guests. There were people as far as the eye could in front of a giant center stage that was constructed especially for the Linkin Park appearance. At 5:30 in the afternoon, the legendary Los Angeles based band took the stage, exploding into a rousing rendition of One Step Closer. Nate Barcalow of Finch was the first of the many guests to appear, singing his heart out with Linkin Park during One Step Closer. David Schmitt of Breathe Carolina delivered a rapturous vocal for New Divide, followed by Mike and Jeremy of The Devil Wears Prada, absolutely killing it with Guilty All The Same. The all-star rocker cast kept on arriving for special appearances – featuring key members of Issues, Yellowcard, A Day To Remember – even Machine Gun Kelly unleashed vo-kills for Bleed It Out. Social media would overload before, during and after this powerful set – with many in the audience stating this was the best performance they have EVER witnessed at the Vans Warped Tour. It was indeed a set of epic proportions – and an absolute stroke of genius from Warped Tour promoter Kevin Lyman. Kids will be talking about the Linkin Park show at Warped Tour 2014 in Ventura for many years to come…

Cursed Sails

IMG_8425There were still plenty of bands left to experience after Linkin Park exited the stage. For us, it was back to the Ernie Ball Stage to catch a set from Cursed Sails, a newer signing from Velocity / Rise Records. Featuring Ben and Cory Ferris formerly of Issues and Woe, Is MeCursed Sails is a whole new beast entirely. Imagine hardcore combined with the sickest of grunge, and you are only beginning to envision the dark sonic meanderings of Cursed Sails. Opening their set with the pummeling Dead Daze from their debut Rotten Society release, the ferocious attitude heaving out from the stage reminded me of the great hardcore bands that used to devastate Hellfest on the East Coast. The most memorable song in the set was definitely Thunderbird, whose chorus “live fast, die young” reverberated with a vast amount of fiendish glee. Also credited to the controlled chaos known as Cursed Sails are Omar Magana and Brent Guistwite. Together, these four musicians will annihilate your senses and leave you wanting a whole lot more! It’s always exciting to discover incredible new bands such as Cursed Sails at Warped Tour!

The Ready Set

IMG_8743The last band we would see at Warped Tour in Ventura would be The Ready Set, kicking off the pop rock dance party on the Warheads Stage. Now finding themselves on a brand new label with their third album in tow, The Ready Set certainly had the screaming girls going strong when performing selections such as Love Like Woe and Best Song Ever. Of the newer material from their Artery Records debut The Bad & The Better, Freakin Me Out and Fangz possessed a ton of hit single potential, with many in the audience already singing along even though the albums only been out a few weeks. Jordan Witzigreuter is the mastermind of The Ready Set, a charismatic performer who continues to shine and deliver absolutely amazing songs. On the way out, this reviewer was humming the infectious chorus of Best Song Ever – and it continued to jangle relentlessly in my head on the ride back to the SFV!

Ventura was surely that stuff that Warped Tour legends are made of – from Linkin Park all the way to new band discoveries that more adventurous types tend to make throughout the afternoon! And a few days later, it would be off to San Diego for the final 2014 Southern California date…

(Review by Ken Morton – Photos by Edward Brandon)

The New Varsity on Facebook
False Puppet on Facebook
Galvanized Souls on Facebook
Shiragirl on Facebook
Linkin Park on Facebook
Cursed Sails on Facebook
The Ready Set on Facebook
Edward Brandon Photography Home Page
The Official Vans Warped Tour Home Page

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VANS WARPED TOUR 2014 – POMONA

Telle Smith of The Word Alive

Telle Smith of The Word Alive

VANS WARPED TOUR 2014, Pomona Fairplex, Pomona, CA, June 20th, 2013

With the weather forecast being 93 degrees and a long lines circling all around the venue to get in, one could easily see that the Vans Warped Tour at the Pomona Fairplex was the hottest ticket in town. Dozens of varied bands on wide ranging stages were to be witnessed – there was certainly something for just about any kind of music tastes. This year, even the Reverse Daycare tent overflowed with parents, although many of them seemed to be as adventurous as the kids, checking out some of the dynamic bands Warped Tour had to offer this year. 20 years in, and Warped Tour remains as vital as ever, and for many a music fan, this will always be the concert event of the summer. Here are some of the bands we caught up with at this year’s edition of Warped Pomona style. Read on…

Heart To Heart

hearttoheartjl1For the early arrivals who made it over to the Hard Rock Kevin Says Stage, Heart To Heart presented a spirited selection of punk and hardcore tunes. Touring this summer promoting their just released Dulce effort on Pure Noise Records, Heart To Heart clearly captivated the audience with their powerful tunes and vibrant performance. During Daytime, the wonderfully unpredictable front man Nick Zoppo lit a cigarette, and then swallowed it down with a chug of Monster Energy Drink. In an interview later, he told me it was the first time he had done that, and it would probably not happen again. Consuming cigs aside, Zoppo and the band put on an impassioned show, with set highlights being In Case You Haven’t Noticed and Firefly. An explosive commencement to a heated day in the sun! You can bet we’ll be hearing a lot more from this Pismo Beach, CA band in the months ahead!

For All Those Sleeping

forallthosesleepingjl1The Monster Energy Stage was situated towards the front of the venue, which was perfect since they seemed to have all of the heaviest bands of the day there. We missed Stray From The Path, but right after, For All Those Sleeping took over the stage with a commanding force to be reckoned with. Opening at hurricane force with Nothing Matters from the recently issued Incomplete Me on Fearless Records, For All Those Sleeping had the crowd wide awake and moshing along within an instant.  Another standout cut from the new album was the anthem-like Poison Party, which the band unleashed with a fiendish glee as the vocals relayed “Welcome to the world gone crazy!” Fan favorites such as Mark My Words and Follow My Voice were also played, causing a frenzy of reaction with the crowd. For All Those Sleeping may have been flying under the radar with So Cal fans over the past few years, but performances like these are the type that leave lasting impressions and help to gain an army of new fans.

Dangerkids

dangerkidsjl1With the perfect mixture of pop hardcore and hip-hop, Dangerkids has hit the winning combination. Their summer on the Warped Tour is certain to gain the band a wide amount of attention, especially since the band brings the party to the stage with a glorious amount of energy. The vocal team of Andy Bane and Tyler Smyth is absolutely captivating, the two styles mixing together superbly. Their time on the Take Action Tour has rendered Dangerkids an incredibly tight unit. Opening with the vibrant inflections of Downtown, Dangerkids presented a set of incredibly infectious tunes culled from their debut release Collapse on Rise Records.  Paper Thin could be played all over the radio (if the airwaves were actually that adventurous), and this and the many other tunes sounded tremendous in a live setting. And I must say, Katie Cole kept the driving beats like a total pro on drums! Dangerkids is definitely one of the most exciting new bands on Warped Tour this year and are well worth seeking out!

Crown The Empire

crowntheempirejl1One band who understands and appreciates the importance of showmanship in a live performance in certainly Crown The Empire. This highly charismatic band has amassed quite a fan following since unleashing The Fallout two years ago. Those thinking that Crown The Empire may hit a sophomore slump when their upcoming album were in for a nice surprised when the band debuted two songs from their forthcoming The Resistance: Rise of the Runaways magnum opus. Initiation and MNSTR showed a band at the very height of creativity, combining the heavy music aspects with the grand sense of theatricality. And of course the Monster Energy Stage went into the supreme chaos an anarchy when crowd favorites such as Makeshift Chemistry, Voices, and The Fallout were delivered. Crown The Empire remains one of the most compelling bands on the Rise Records roster of talent, and their live shows are not to be missed! Top-notch performances all around from Andy Leo on vocals, David Escamilla on vocals, Brandon Hoover on guitar, Benn Suede on lead guitar, Hayden Tree on bass, and Brent Taddie on drums.

Brian Marquis

brianmarquisjl1Brian Marquis has come a long way as an artist since his time spent with the post hardcore collective Therefore I Am. His debut full length solo venture Blood & Spirits was recently unveiled through Equal Vision Records. And now in the third year running the Acoustic Basement Stage at the Vans Warped Tour, many are beginning to really discover Marquis and his wondrously heartfelt music. Brian headlined his stage tonight, and drew a nice crowd. Not typical Warped Tour fair, but then again what is the norm these days with a festival that has become so musically diverse? Opening with the country ballad style tones of the introspective I’m Still Chasing You, Marquis displayed a warmth and compassion within his songs that was positively endearing. Burn The Bridge, Swim The River showed yet again how an acoustic song could have so much emotion and impact. Brian dedicated Drink You Up to his girlfriend with everyone in the crowd going “Aww!” Bringing In Ghosts closed out the set on a gorgeously haunting note – such a terrific song to end with from a massively talented singer / songwriter. Be sure to check out Brian Marquis and the Acoustic Basement stage when you visit Warped Tour this year!

Watsky

watskyjl1Warped Tour has been known to bring hip-hop artists along for the wild ride across North America, featuring performers as different as Grieves, MC Lars, and TMills. San Francisco based George Watsky is a phenomenal performer – his flow is absolutely epic, conveying lyrics that will really make you stand up and take notice. Watsky attracted quite a crowd over at the Beatport Stage, and they were clearly enraptured by what the artist and his band had to offer. Opening the set with the infectious Moral Of The Story from Cardboard Castles, Watsky definitely captivated by the skilled precision of his vocals. A new song Whoa Whoa Whoa from the forthcoming All You Can Do album was presented, and very well received. The definite highlight of the set was Tiny Glowing Screens, where Watsky and the female co-vocalist Camilla sent the song into the stratosphere, complete with improvisational lyrics based on audience members Watsky saw out in the in crowd (as well as one hilarious Attila reference, who was playing across the way at the Monster Energy stage). A stunning set from an exceptional hip-hop artist ready to rock your world!

The Word Alive

LukeHollandjl1Speaking of the Monster Energy Stage, it was time to head back over that direction to see The Word Alive. Presenting one of the most intensive sets on the Warped Tour, The Word Alive unleashed an inspiring collection of songs. Opening with Playing The Victim from their brand spankin’ new Real. release on Fearless Records, the crowd surfing and moshing instantly commenced. 2012 really sent the entire ground shaking, as this one remains a clear fan favorite. Newer songs such as Lighthouse and Glass Castle clearly showed a band at the very height of their creativity. The Word Alive possesses an amazing gift for reaching out and genuinely moving the fans with their powerful, thought provoking songs – the best example being the set closer Life Cycles – where the call of “I’d rather die than live a life without meaning” reverberates throughout in the most triumphant way. Telle Smith is quickly becoming a voice for a generation of music fans – and is surely one of the most charismatic front men out there today. – Vocals Tony Pizzuti and Zack Hansen present amazing guitar assaults live while the bass work of Daniel Shapiro could probably have been felt all the way across the fairgrounds. Luke Holland is an impressive drum extraordinaire, and he really shines in a live setting. What a terrific way to end a sweltering hot day in the wilds of Pomona, CA!

There are still plenty of Warped Tour dates all across the county left to experience. Do not miss this chance to connect with new bands as well as the profound sense of community this event inspires.

(Review by Ken Morton – Photos by Jack Lue)

Heart To Heart on Facebook
For All Those Sleeping on Facebook
Dangerkids on Facebook
Crown The Empire on Facebook
Brian Marquis on Facebook
Watsky on Facebook
The Word Alive on Facebook
Vans Warped Tour Official Home Page

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Meshuggah 25th Anniversary Tour

SONY DSCMeshuggah at The Wiltern Theater, June 6, 2014

To celebrate 25 years of busting eardrums, the mighty Meshuggah took to the road, stopping off at the Wiltern Theater in June to start the summer heat wave early.  With Geiger-esque artwork displayed behind them and a light show that blinded the eyes, putting the band in perpetual silhouette, Meshuggah ran through their catalog of mind-melting metal for a brutal 100 minute set.

Meshuggah kicked off the show with Tomas Haake pummelling his drums while lead guitarist Fredrik Thordendal, rhythm guitarist Mårten Hagström and bassist Dick Lövgren pounded on their guitar strings for Future Breed Machine. The fury and power they displayed from the get-go got the mosh pit moving and necks snapping.  Jens Kidman, the only one on stage to move around, bellowed and yelled at the top of his lungs, and while the lyrics were undecipherable, his passion was certainly evident.  Meshuggah are known for their  constantly evolving style, focusing on grooving rhythms flowing into hard riffed passages leading into more abstract sections featuring Thordendal’s stunning displays of guitar abuse and beautiful virtuosity.  The title track from Obzen followed, keeping the energy going, with stunning guitar interplay towards the end.

SONY DSCTheir latest album Koloss was most heavily featured in the set, the first of four songs was the hardcore hurricane of The Hurt that Finds You First, with a breakneck beat and ear-numbing growls from Kidman, bass guitar bends from Lovgren and an epic yet subtle guitar solo from Thordendal.  Do Not Look Down, also from  Koloss, was one of the most accessible songs of the night with a razor sharp focus on groove and finger-shredding guitar solos.  Cadaverous Mastication from their first album Contradictions Collapse in 1991 showed the band’s beginnings in the Thrash Metal vein, with more traditional arrangements, yet with an air of larger things to come in their varied tempos and dichotomy of ugly noise and beautiful guitar soloing.

Gods of Rapture brought the show to an even higher level of tension with Thordendal and Hagstrom in lock-step with the rhythm section from the start, Kidman belting out his lyrics in hardcore fashion, threatening to be understandable, but Meshuggah can’t seem to stick with a tempo or rhythm, soon shifting into a jazz-fusion mode, Thordendal ‘s melodic soloing would make Joe Satriani proud and he put some warmth into the otherwise mechanical playing of the rest of the song.

After much more eardrum damage occurred, Meshuggah sped up our hearts even more with the speed metal pace of Bleed from Obzen, causing heads to bang harder and feet to move, the band kept the tempo for the majority of the song, with a few additions of subtle lead guitar parts to break up the tension the slightest bit. Then the band drops out, leaving just a creepy quiet guitar line before the rest of the band jumps back in, this time with a more powerful melodic guitar lead accompanied by chugging guitars and well-paced percussion.

Meshuggah finished the main set with Straws Pulled at Random, from 2001′s Nothing, full of cymbal crashes and right-angled tempo and rhythm changes that while chaotic was still stunning to behold.

While the audience chanted “Meh-Shuh-GAH!” I took a moment to gather my wits, take a few deep breathes and ready myself for the sure-to-be insane encore.  While we waited, Catch 33‘s spoken word and noise poem Mind’s Mirror played over the speakers.  The band returned to kick our asses all over the Wiltern with In Death – is Life and In Death  – is Death, two connected tracks of barely controlled chaos, guitar pyrotechnics, buzzing bass and quieter, spooky atonal passages.

As the bright lights blazed our corneas and we pounded our strife and hatred into the floor, Meshuggah left us with energy spent, sweat soaked and brain rattled, not sure of what tomorrow might bring but strong enough to meet it head on.  If you can survive the metal massacre that is Meshuggah you can take on the world.

(Photos and review by Bret Miller)

LINKS:
Official Website
Nuclear Blast USA
Facebook
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Alexz Johnson at The Troubadour

alexzjohnson1Alexz Johnson, The Troubadour. June 5, 2014

Alexz Johnson may be best known for her role in the movie Final Destination 3 and on television in the shows Instant Star and So Weird – but judging by her outstanding live performance at The Troubadour, it will be music where Ms. Johnson will leave the most lasting impression. Don’t think for a second this will be a teen star casually pursuing a second career – Alexz Johnson has the voice and talent of someone in it for the long run.

On tour in support of Max Schneider – another young talent well on his way into the big leagues – many in the crowd were already familiar with Alexz Johnson and her absorbing tunes. There was little doubt Alexz was also making new fans, as the audience gave their undivided attention from beginning to end.

The set commenced with just Alexz and her guitar, performing a captivating rendition of American Dreamer from the recently unveiled Heart EP. A keyboardist and percussionist were then brought on, and a magical spell was woven upon the early arrivals. One highlight was the torchy Voodoo, wondrously infectious and instantly memorable. Thank You For Breaking My Heart was another splendid standout, with Alexz presenting a thoroughly poignant vocal performance reminiscent of Adele. Other notable selections included Mary, A Heart Like That, and Nothing On Me.

At the conclusion of the set, Alexz once again commanded the stage with just an acoustic guitar in tow, and absolutely stunned the crowd with the devastating strains of Ruthless Love. Possessing her own sense of vocal style that really shines through, Alexz is a true original whose soulful pop/folk songs should appeal to music fans of all ages. Expect to see Alexz Johnson headlining her very own shows the next time she ambles on through Tinseltown.

(Review by Ken Morton – Photo by Jack Lue)

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The North American Plagues Tour

icedearthtour1The North American Plagues Tour with Iced Earth, Sabaton, ReVamp, House of Blues – Sunset Strip, May 2, 2014

The North American Plagues Tour made its way into the decadence known as the Sunset Strip to unleash a lethal dose of heavy metal to a capacity crowd. The House of Blues was packed to the rafters and beyond, where metal fans of all ages were to enjoy solid sets from the likes of ReVamp, Sabaton, and the headlining Iced Earth. The first time I saw Iced Earth, they had a small yet wildly enthusiastic crowd at The Whisky – they have come a LONG way since that fateful concert in May of 1999 – and Iced Earth 2014 was now ready to enrapture the metal masses in a big and glorious way.

REVAMP

Revamp2First up on the stage was a rare and magical North American appearance from ReVamp, based out of the Netherlands and rockingTinseltown for the first time. One noticed right away the statuesque Floor Jansen, charismatic front woman for ReVamp, taking over the stage with her mesmerizing vocal delivery. Whether it be operatic or the screams of pure death, Floor Jansen certainly sweeps the listener into the passionate world of ReVamp. Opening with the magnificent strains of Wildcard, Jansen and band captivated the audience throughout their way too short, six song set. Each and every member of the ReVamp collective displayed an expert artistry, making for a thoroughly adventurous performance. Songs from both ReVamp albums were presented, and even Ms. Jansen appeared genuinely amazing by the ardent response of the early arrivals at the House of Blues. Floor promised to bring ReVamp back again soon, but before that, we’ll be seeing her fronting the legendary Nightwish when they show up Stateside later on in the year. In addition to Wildcard, the ReVamp set included inspiring renditions of Limbic System, Head Up High, Neurasthenia, Disdain, and Wolf And Dog. Immensely talented and ready to rock your world, Floor Jansen and the wondrous ReVamp infuse imagination and intrigue into the music, and their live presentation is not to be missed!

SABATON

Sabaton1A live Sabaton extravaganza is a sonic journey of epic proportions that you must experience at least once in your life! The band’s main lyrical themes are based on war and historical battles – and Sabaton unleashes these exhilarating anthems with a fervent sense of conviction. Raging into the battlefield full speed ahead, Sabaton opened with the mighty Ghost Division. Massive circle and slam pits would ensue, showing their appreciation to this world renowned Swedish outfit. In addition to the many crowd favorites such as Carolus Rex, Swedish Pagans, and Art Of War, Sabaton introduced a brand new song from their upcoming Heroes magnum opus. The cut was entitled To Hell And Back, the true story of Audie Murphy, one of the most decorated veterans of World War II. There were a lot of kids on the audience – the youngest of metal heads, singing along to every song and waving their fists triumphantly in the air. One young fan received the sunglasses and armband from lead vocalist Joakim Brodén. Another attendee was 7-year-old Seth, who was invited onstage to rage on to the mighty refrains of the closing song Metal Crüe. I must say, these young kids head bang just as heavy and proud as the older fans. An extraordinary live set from a classic band who presents heavy metal for the ages.   Sabaton clearly has the power to bring together the metal masses and truly present an inspiring, unforgettable show!

ICED EARTH

IcedEarth1Iced Earth then took over the stage, opening with the powerhouse title track from their recently issued Plagues Of Babylon on Century Media Records. Proving why they are one of the greatest heavy metal bands to hail from the United States of America, Iced Earth launched into a solid set of heavy duty anthems. Highlights from the set included The Hunter, If I Could See You, My Own Savior, Dystopia, Watching Over Me, and many others. Iced Earth is an unstoppable force to be reckoned with, and their present day live performance is nothing short of legendary. A truly exciting event that many in the over packed room will remember for the glorious metal ages ahead!

(Review by Ken Morton – Photos by Jack Lue)

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Motörhead and Graveyard at Club Nokia

motorheadnokia3Motörhead, Graveyard, Club Nokia, April 11, 2014

I’m back from the dead! Anyway, let’s get started before I drop dead!” the venerable Lemmy Kilmister exclaimed at the start of Motörhead’s lively performance at the Club Nokia in Downtown L.A. It was a Friday night, and the place was packed to the rafters by an interesting cross section of music fans. There were the metal heads, the punk rockers, and the Coachella hipsters, all waiting for the legendary three piece collective from England to tear down the house with their down and dirty music. And Motörhead did so with an all-out vengeance, clearly demonstrating to all why they remain one of the greatest rock and roll bands on the planet.

graveyardnokia1Opening for Motörhead was an dynamic entity of musicians known as Graveyard – and the only thing these two bands really seemed to have in common was they were both playing Coachella for the next two weekends. Nevertheless, many in the crowd appeared to be familiar with Graveyard, and showered a good deal of respect and admiration throughout their entire show. From the opening strains of Randy through Ain’t Fit To Live Here and beyond, Graveyard presented a performance that was absolutely captivating. Hailing from the music mecca known as Gothenburg on Sweden, Graveyard channeled bands such as Deep Purple and The Sword, creating an energy that sent the room spinning. Delivering tracks culled from their Nuclear Blast release Lights Out as well as other crowd favorites, the mastery and imagination found within Graveyard’s music reached out to many in the overflow Club Nokia room. Glorious remnants of heavy rock, blues and psychedelia weaved its magic throughout, courtesy of Joakim Nilsson on guitar and vocals, Jonathan Ramm on guitar, Rikard Edlund on bass, Axel Sjöberg on drums. Many were understandable\y excited to see the main act hit the stage, but there is little doubt that Graveyard made a good deal of new fans at the Club Nokia with their absorbing live presentation.

motorheadnokia4And then it was time for the almighty Motörhead – with Lemmy and company opening the set with the ironically titled I Know How To Die from their The World Is Yours magnum opus. Circle pits ensued through the entire venue, as well as fans jumping up and down frenetically, all enraptured by the massive sounds of Motörhead. Damage Case and Stay Clean continued the raging assault to the senses, showing a rejuvenated Motörhead at the very height of their musical prowess. Although Aftershock is their latest release on UDR – a true masterpiece possessing many future Motörhead classics, it was interesting that the only track they played from it was the magnificently smoky Lost Woman Blues. The Chase Is Better Than The Catch and Rock It maintained our trip into the sweeping Motörhead catalog of classics, with the audience singing along with fiendish glee. Killed By Death was a definitive highlight- the track Motörhead would close with right before a well-deserved encore. And speaking of an encore for the ages, Motörhead was joined onstage by none other than Slash of Guns N Roses fame – unleashing rousing renditions of Ace Of Spades and Overkill.

motorheadnokia5Although Lemmy has been dealing with health issues, the legendary front man was in tip-top form, exuding his classic stage presence and acerbic wit throughout the entire show – not to mention his trademark vocals and pulsating bass work that has rendered him a rock and roll icon for the ages. At 68, Lemmy still tears up the stage like no other rocker on this earth. Phil Campbell on guitar and Mikkey Dee on drums unleashed magnificent performances, and manifested some thunderous solos throughout the set. Motörhead has been in your face with their sonic reveries since 1975, and judging by what was on display at the Club Nokia, there shall be no stopping this truly great collective. As the affable Lemmy stated at the conclusion of their set, “Don’t forget us. We are Motörhead and we play and roll!” And may they do so for the many years ahead!

(Review by Ken Morton – Photos by Jack Lue)

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