Eskmo at the Independent

Originally published on January 28, 2013 on Popdose


Glitched out beats producer Eskmo headlined a night of experimental electronic music at the Independent last Thursday. A happy crowd broke out their festival outfits and gathered at the San Francisco venue, excited to get an early start to the weekend with some mind-bending and thoughtful beats.

Berkeley based producer Yalls (AKA Dan Casey) warmed up the crowd with a chilled out set of blended synths and strings. Cryptic samples of singing voices and distant whispers complemented his own soulful vocals in tracks such as “Outerbanks,” giving his set a deep and textured feel. I couldn’t help but think that this music would be a great soundtrack for a Planet Earth episode. Different tracks bled into one another with deep bass slurs and scattered xylophone taps, the perfect accompaniment for footage documenting coral reef synthesis or howler monkey social structures. The many layered beats and quick clapping patterns spawned jittery moves from the audience that gradually softened as heavy piano chords and organ synths came back in to mellow things out. Yalls delivered a solid set and built up a great level of pulsing energy at the Independent before handing it over to Eskmo.

If you see an Eskmo performance once, you’ll be magnetically pulled back for more. Not only is the music dynamic and captivating, but also getting to watch producer Brendan Angelides in his element is truly something to behold. His hands are always full of auxiliary instruments and household items that he uses to record additional percussion that is fed into the constantly churning beats. In between turning knobs and banging out rhythms on a full sized garden shovel, he also takes the time to add some twanging vocal echoes to the already fierce whirlpool of sounds. I had been waiting the last few years to see him headline his own show with an extended set time, and this night did not disappoint. Getting to experience a solid performance of both classic and new Eskmo material (including a variety of tracks from his EP Terra that was just now released on January 22nd) was just a soul lifting experience.

Angelides wasted no time in getting started after he popped up from behind his equipment on the stage and jumped right into a performance of “Moving Glowstream.” He recorded the sounds of his finger tapping on a plastic party cup, a ripped a piece of paper, the opening of a soda can, and his own hissing voice manipulations. He then assembled all of these elements together in a loop to supplement the deep sweeping beats that formed the foundation of the song. On top of this, Angelides was manipulating the earth and human themed visuals that were projected over his body and onto the wall behind him. It’s safe to say that this guy is a very advanced multi-tasker. The audience responded wholeheartedly from the very beginning as Eskmo had already seized the opportunity to take everyone along on a wild ride through sound and space.

One of my favorite songs of the night was “Buffalo,” the first of the new tracks from Terra. The track has a big sound already when you listen to it on headphones, but the live experience bumped it up a notch. Arpeggiating and distorted synths quickly darted up and down to form a solid foundation of sound. The grumbling bass could be felt all over your body and physically attacked the audience as it blasted from the speakers. The background visuals up until this point had been peaceful scenes of flowing water or the human brain, but for this track, the view changed to an active image of crunching static. The mood shifted in a more intense direction and the fans danced all the more wildly as they synced up with the escalating rhythms.

Another peak moment was during “Cloudlight.” This is arguably Eskmo’s most well known creation, and he went all out with an extended performance of the track. The song starts off slow as a crawling heartbeat and as the pulse escalated, Angelides would start aggressively bouncing back and forth to the beat. It was as if he was a boxer warming up and priming himself to deliver the next blow of bass to the audience. He looped and manipulated the lyric “pieces of sky” until it morphed into high pitched indecipherable gremlin chatter that made you think he had moved on to an entirely different song, but then the bass and sweeping synths came back as the recognizable hook of the track, and things were equalized again.

The show ended with hugs and handshakes from Eskmo to the crowd up front while the people shouted for an encore. He actually pulled out an entire milk crate of more noisemaking objects to experiment with as he closed out the night, and the crowd danced as hard as they could for this last song. There was a lot of love in this room, and the mutual gratitude from both the audience and Angelides could be felt in the air. If you get the chance to see an Eskmo show, I can’t recommend it enough. He always brings something special to the performance and you’ll be left dazed, amazed, and just all around uplifted, so keep an eye out for dates that could be scheduled in your area.


Happy Body Slow Brain at the Bottom of the Hill

Originally published on January 9, 2013 on Popdose

Photo Credit: Happy Body Slow Brain

If you’re still looking for a New Year’s resolution that will both enhance your life and not be so easily discarded, might I suggest that a great choice would be to see more live music? If you go to see some bands that you don’t know too much about at one of your local venues, you could be very positively surprised with what you find. I decided that this would be a good goal last Friday night when I went to see Happy Body Slow Brain at San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill, as I ended up discovering a couple other exciting groups that weren’t previously on my radar.

San Jose’s Case in Theory was the first band I caught this night, and their spacey jams brought the crowd into a communal mind warp. Lead singer Jonathan Posadas’ smooth vocals were expertly paired with strings of clear toned harmonizing guitar and bass notes that moved in step with one another before breaking apart into heavier distorted chord progressions. Drummer Jamin Bracken tapped out complex rhythms that held both the rough and soft interludes together as the songs progressed through many different stages before usually wrapping up as an extended jam that allowed for additional instrumental experimentation from all band members.

The next act up was Gavin Castleton, and the mood of the music shifted in a more funky direction. Castleton stood at front and center in between two sharply dressed guitarists, clutching a keytar close to his body as one might latch on to a beloved teddy bear. The band collectively jumped into life as if they had been shocked, and their animated playing didn’t stop until the show was over. High pitched harmonized vocals danced over minimalist rhythm guitar parts before landing solidly in the web of sticky bass lines as the band progressed through many different genres.

The muted organ ballad “The Song You Didn’t Write” got a great reaction from the audience as it slowly built up into a fully-fledged emotive pop song. During one of the band’s rock tunes, the two guitarists that flanked Castleton suddenly stopped playing and broke out into a chorus of clapping patterns. Just as soon as they had switched, they jumped back right into the jam, grinning all the while. The band was obviously having a great time on stage, and this energy translated to the audience who rocked from side to side as they were pulled by Castleton’s magnetic melodies throughout the whole set.

After a short break, Happy Body Slow Brain took the stage to close out the night. The crowd filled in on every side around the stage to soak up the prog rock jams that were somehow both mellow and intense at the same time. Drummer Javier Torres started off with slow and delicate rhythms, but always seemed to be attacking the drum kit from ten different directions by the end of each song. Guitarists Matt Fazzi and Isaac Bolivar also doubled on vocals and keys, and the wall of sound that they spawned along with Jason Holthouser’s fluid bass lines was truly something to behold. Lucid guitar solo notes crossed in and out of one another as spooky chord progressions drifted through the mix.

I had listened to Happy Body Slow Brain’s debut album Dreams of Water quite a few times, but seeing this band live really brought everything together for me in a whole new adrenaline inducing light. You couldn’t help but just get lost in the epic jams that were unfolding on stage. During “Never Loved,” each band member looked to be in a violent zen state as they switched from heartfelt quiet stretches of piano-dominated verses to gritty raw choruses of pent up combustive emotion. The sensitive intro morphed into a heavy groove, and I couldn’t help but smile widely after spotting a few girls across the room that were similarly lost in the music and belting out every lyric back at the band.

The musicians’ last song was distorted assault on the audience with erratic yet cohesive riffs. They were quickly called back out onto the stage for an encore, and then finished the night with a last burst of energy for their performance of “Move at Different Speeds (On The Road).” It left everyone dazed and in high spirits at Bottom of the Hill, and judging from the band’s name, this show can of course be considered a success. So! If you do still need a New Year’s resolution, I can’t recommend seeing more live music enough. If you can catch any of these bands on a future tour, you’ll be in for a great night and your 2013 will be fulfilled (in terms of your successful resolution!). And really, how’s that for a great deal?

The Presets at the Independent

Originally published on October 24, 2012 on Popdose


Bay Area music fans rejoiced as the Treasure Island Music Festival came back into town for its sixth year this past weekend. In addition to hosting world-class musicians out on the San Francisco Bay, people always get excited for the great array of shows that are booked at local venues on the side. The particular Treasure Island artist showcase that caught my eye was headed up by Australian electro heavyweights the Presets and backed up by Bay Area grown rapper K.Flay. The Presets recently released a new album and were co-headlining the entire music festival as well, so it was definitely a solid bet that this would be a great show to check out.

Stanford University alum and rapper K.Flay warmed up the crowd with her enthusiastic stage presence and dynamic music. She rapped over some really great beats, many of which she constructed with various samples right then and there on the stage. A live drummer accompanied her to add more volume and intensity to the synthesized beats, and the musical chemistry between them was almost palpable. It was obvious that they were both having a great time on stage.

My favorite moment of her performance was when she grabbed a pair of drumsticks and hit out a beat in sync with the drummer on a giant floor tom drum. The rhythm started out as intricately tapped out rim shots on the side of the drum with lightly spoken lines of verse that progressed to heavy booming thuds that of course came along with a boost in her vocal intensity. The energy of the song was continuously built up and K.Flay didn’t miss even a single happily rapped out line along the way. She was a great artist to open the night, and I’m sure that it was an equally great experience to see her perform to an even bigger outdoor audience at Treasure Island the next day.

During the break, roadies set up an insane amount of gear that could keep a five-piece band or more occupied for an entire show. Various synthesizers and percussive instruments were carted onto the stage, as well as four square video screens that corralled the whole setup from each corner of the stage. I wondered if the band had acquired some additional touring musicians since the last time I had seen them in 2009, but it quickly became apparent that this was not the case, and that the band just wanted more toys to play with during their live shows. As the lights dimmed, Julian Hamilton and Kim Moyes took the stage and jumped right into their set. Both band members moved around to different instrument stations throughout the night, illuminated by lightning strobes and mesmerizing video loops from their four screens.

This set at the Independent was a true showcase of the Presets’ entire discography, as they played a sampling of tracks from all of their albums. There has been a lot of buzz over their recent album Pacificathat is packed full of layered synth tracks, and the crowd was most excited to hear new singles like “Youth in Trouble” and the electro sea shanty “Ghosts.” However, it made a lot of fans very, very happy that the Presets also played the majority of tracks from their more distorted electro-punk 2008 album Apocolypso. The album is packed full of hit singles and club favorites, and the crowd responded with rabid enthusiasm to performances of “My People” and “This Boy’s in Love.” A couple of choice tracks from their debut albumBeams were also thrown in the mix to round out the band’s set list for the night.

It’s always interesting to see how different artists that play primarily electronic based music translate their performance to a live setting, and this show was no exception. Hamilton drew out intros of songs and recited lyrics multiple times over to slowly lead into the heavier parts of the songs that people knew well. Moyes added additional elements of percussion to the songs from both a drum kit and digital xylophone. Some tracks even had the tone completely switched up, with hard hitting beats being temporarily replaced by more melodic synth melodies. It was definitely interesting to get a new perspective on tunes that I’ve heard many times over.

The band ended with a very high-energy encore, as they had saved some of their hardest songs for last. It was great to look out over the crowd and see everyone jumping in unison along to the chanting lines of “Talk Like That.” As the show came to a close, there was a supercharged energy around the room as friends gathered around one another to soak in the good vibes. Hopefully the band will make the trip over from Australia again soon to party with us Americans, as it is definitely apparent that their fan base is growing in this part of the world.

Shpongle at the Warfield

Originally published October 8, 2012 on Popdose

An electrically charged group of people gathered at the Warfield Friday night to check out what promised to be a sensory overload of a show from UK psytrance heavyweights Shpongle. Simon Posford is one half of the duo that makes up Shpongle, and he is flying solo for this specific tour that has been dubbed “The Masquerade,” which combines advanced stage production technology with his unique blend of psychedelic electronic beats and sampled sounds from all over the world.

Portland based producer Phutureprimitive warmed up the crowd earlier in the night, and people eagerly got into the groove to his constantly pulsing mix and vibrant video projections. Phutureprimitive’s dubstep tinged downtempo beats were the perfect accompaniment to constantly streaming footage from nature documentaries and outer space visuals. He was constantly in motion, and his kinetic connection to his own music easily translated to the rest of the crowd, who collectively ebbed and flowed along to the clear toned melodies that led into sporadic deep bass wobbles.

In the middle of his set, Phutureprimitive took a break from the steady mix of glitchy beats to play a dark and bass-heavy remix of Gary Jules’ “Mad World” (originally written by Tears for Fears). This new spooky derivative version of the song was definitely a neat interlude in the middle of the set. At the apex of his performance, Phutureprimitive built up layers and layers of different beats and harmonies on top of each other until they reached a tipping point, and then the beat dropped in unison with a video projected burst of millions of monarch butterflies that swarmed across the stage and the producer’s body in motion. This intense burst of energy swept across the room and primed the crowd for the headlining act.

There was a short break in between sets that was abruptly interrupted when the white sheet that had been tacked up across the front of the stage dramatically fell to the floor, revealing the elaborate arcing stage that was built specifically for The Masquerade tour. Posford took up residence in the middle of the stage and jumped into his set with a huge grin on his face and a fancy feathered hat on his head. If you caught a glance into his eager eyes, you could tell that everyone in the audience was in for a ride.

The music started off on an eerie note with a xylophone accented dark and stormy clockwork beat. As the tempo picked up and more sounds were added to the mix, the stage burst alive with melting and oozing colors that warped in and out of each other in dazzling fractal-like patterns. It was impressive to see how the set designers of this show effectively used this cutting edge technology to create such a captivating audiovisual experience that truly fit with the music on such an intimate level.

Shpongle is known for taking music and sounds from all over the world and mixing them together to give everything new context and meaning. It was really great to experience this in a live setting, as flamenco guitar scales were combined with what sounded to be religious ceremonial chanting, hip hop breaks, tribal drumming, and even what appeared to be narration excerpts of an old documentary. Emotional vocals were also threaded in and out of the mix, which added a very specific human element to the music. All of these sounds were united together by a living pulse of infectious low-end bass beats and high-end melodic vibrations. As the mix got deeper and heavier, the crowd got sucked further into the whole experience and shifted their dancing into an even higher gear.

The whole vibe of this show was very inclusive and carefree, and at times you would look around and feel like you had arrived at a spontaneous hippie gathering in the woods. Many fans took the masquerade theme to heart, and showed up in elaborate makeup and colorful feather studded outfits. The trippy and rhythmic music fueled new interactions between strangers as people free form danced up and down the aisles of the different floor levels of the Warfield. It was definitely a great example of what an electronic music experience should be, as it was original, experimental, and engaging in so many different ways. Raja Ram, the other half of Shpongle, was once quoted as saying that Shpongle “is an umbrella term for feeling positive and euphoric emotions,” and this show definitely lived up to that definition, as everyone walked out into the San Francisco streets in a communally uplifted state after they had been officially Shpongled.

Cash Pony and 3 Ring Simian at Café du Nord

Cash Pony and 3 Ring Simian:: 06.22.12 :: Café du Nord :: San Francisco, CA

 Originally published on July 13, 2012 on JamBase

3 Ring Simian

Historic San Francisco venue Cafe du Nord hosted a Friday night show of mind melting psychedelic funk and progressive math rock from bands Cash Pony and 3 Ring Simian. These colorful bands jolted the crowd into a kinetic, hypnotic state that quickly had everyone ready to shake out their stresses of the week on the dance floor. Dazed fans were left to pick up the pieces of their exploded minds in the aftermath of the million note cluster bombs that blasted from shaking amps into the underground speakeasy.

Opening band 3 Ring Simian started the off night on a great note with a trippy set of bass dominated jams. Illuminated by a dim red light, Kevin Ames slapped out Primus-esque grimy bass lines that locked perfectly into the jazzy beats from percussionist Vince Shore. These two musicians commanded a solid yet dynamic rhythm section that drove the band’s compositions purposefully forward. As a counterpart to these deeper and darker rhythmic elements, elaborate piano scales straight from the fingertips of Lauren Urroz darted in and out of songs to add a more melodic kind of chaos to the mix. Vocals were not necessary for these pieces to convey emotion, and the lack of lyrics made these psychedelic grooves all the easier to get lost in. 3 Ring Simian took the early audience on a trip with their warping bass lines and tempo changes, and their uncommon instrumentation made this a very exciting set to experience.

Cash Pony 

After a short break, Cash Pony took the stage, shifted straight into fifth gear, and zoomed off on a sonic adventure of fine-tuned, progressive math rock. With each band member sporting a unique beard style, they collectively seemed to sink into a meditative state that enabled them to perfectly link up the clouds of notes that darted around the stage. It seemed that they were of one hive mind as they rapidly yet precisely wove together cyclic tornadoes of scales and breaks. The bass, guitar, drums, and saxophone notes would all move as one through complicated musical passageways at breakneck speed, suddenly split apart from each other for bouts of free jazz inspired musical anarchy, and then suddenly reconnect again as if nothing had interrupted their meticulous precision.

As set progressed, vocalist and guitar player Charles Lloydtraded his axe for an electric sitar, and the band’s songs gained an East Indian flavoring. This elaborate instrument was not just for show as Lloyd adjusted the frets and frenziedly plucked out notes with the skill of a seasoned sitar player. It was a perfect addition to the madness unfolding on the stage, and the twangy sitar chords served as a guiding force that took the lead in the mix. Jeremy Greene switched from playing his tenor saxophone to a baritone, and the soulful cranking tones went above and beyond to facilitate some deep, funky grooves. Drummer Ian Saxtoncontinuously explored every inch of his drum kit, hitting ten things at once while holding everything together with a face of Zen-like composure.

Cash Pony Tarot Card

My favorite songs of the night were “Embracing Equation,” which was played earlier in the night and had a spazzy Hawaiian feel to it, and “I Am You,” one of the tunes where Lloyd played the sitar while singing full, longing lyrics. This song made me realize that the vocals in Cash Pony are different than in most other bands. They add to the song as a whole, and they don’t stand out as more important than the instrumental parts. It seems as if they were added as an afterthought in most of the songs, albeit a very nice and fitting one. During the last song of the night, Stephen Wright toggled a sweeping space filter effect on his bass that gave the music a more serene feel, serving as an audio comedown from the rest of the fast paced, intense prog rock jams of the night. It was a great way to end the show, and the crowd full of friends and fans cheered as the band left the stage.

This show was also a vinyl release show for Cash Pony, and they were offering a bundle of their record Carpal Tunnel Vision Quest combined with a special limited edition tarot card deck with specific illustrations based on the album itself as well as the musicians in the band (collect all five beards!). In this age of digital downloads, it’s great to see bands that go out of their way to incorporate visual art to go along with their music. I thought this tarot card idea was a very neat way to expand upon the record, and it’s a collectible that fans can also use interactively. Check out one of Cash Pony’s future shows to see more of this auxiliary artwork and of course to also hear some impressively crazy tunes that are sure to make for an entertaining night.

Live Show Review: Delta Spirit at the Fillmore

Delta Spirit :: 05.10.12 :: The Fillmore :: San Francisco, CA

Originally published on May 18, 2012


Delta Spirit by Annelise Poda

A sold out crowd was drawn to The Fillmore on Thursday last week for a night of stomping and clapping along to the blues-rock sounds of Delta Spirit. This up and coming band is based in San Diego with connective roots running from the South, and you can hear a wide variety of regional influences in their soulful indie-Americana sound. Delta Spirit played a solid set of heartfelt songs of all varieties, including jubilant dancing numbers as well as expressive ruminations on sorrow and love, and the crowd was swept away in the emotive music that pulsed out from the stage.

The show started off slowly, like a train pulling out of a first station on a long journey, but the night quickly picked up steam as the quiet finger picking guitar melodies of “White Table” revved up into heavy chord strums. There were two drummers on stage with full kits plus auxiliary percussive instruments, and it was readily apparent that percussion plays a big part in the feel and progression of Delta Spirit’s music. Deep floor tom beats built up foundations, and snare rim shots paired with intricate hi hat taps to cradle the other instruments as energy fell back down.

Watching these guys play together one can’t help but notice how deeply immersed they are in their music, completely interconnected to create a thick wall of sound. Frontman Matthew Vasquez stands out from the rest of the band as liaison to the audience, and his familiar stage presence and carefree dancing makes you feel like you’ve known him for years. Vasquez kept up a lively dialogue with the crowd throughout the entire set and acted as spiritual guide for the evening of captivating music.


Delta Spirit by Annelise Poda

The set progressed with a variety of songs, which kept things interesting. The relatively calm opening songs were followed by a rousing performance of “Tear it Up,” which featured muted guitar riff accents and a thick beat that got the audience moving. Right before the next song, the entire room darkened except for a bright spotlight on Vasquez and his guitar. He snapped into action and started to rhythmically convulse and vigorously shake his head as he let out an elongated howl. Distorted, jerky guitar notes echoed through the room and he moved as if he were possessed by an evil spirit of a past rocker, perhaps a warped version of Jimi Hendrix playing the “Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock.

The action was kicked up a notch during “Bushwick Blues,” and dancing and stomping from fans shook the floor with the strength of a not so minor earthquake. Throughout the night, Vasquez made a variety of song dedications to local friends, the opening band, and even simply couples in love. His warm comments had a great effect on the diverse audience, and one couldn’t miss their expressions of pure happiness all around the room. It was truly a great crowd to be surrounded by.

The set concluded with their newest single, “California,” which had everyone singing along with the extended “oooooh” parts that gradually transitioned into a chorus of “Ole, Ole, Ole” as the band left the stage. This chant continued until Delta Spirit came back out to join in on the singing themselves and kick it up a further notch. The encore started with a very quiet, powerful “Devil Knows You’re Dead.” Vasquez sang the lyrics with his eyes tearing up, showing how really connected these musicians are to the music they create.


Delta Spirit by Annelise Poda

The band made use of a diverse array of instruments throughout the set, which gave new feeling to each song with an array including harmonicas, synthesizers and even a drum machine. But, the greatest of all of the featured sounds was a trashcan lid used as a drum for the aptly named “Trashcan.” This was a great choice for a climactic number as it left everyone in an uplifted, joyous mood. Vasquez switched places with keyboard player and fellow songwriter Kelly Winrichand proceeded to play the piano with his feet, jump off of it, and then acquire a big furry wolf tail and dance a happy wolf jig around the stage. If you are not familiar with such a dance, just know that you’ll recognize one when you see it.

The crowd could have undoubtedly kept going, but Delta Spirit let everyone know that the night was over when Vasquez dramatically crashed to the floor, legs kicking in the air and the rest of his body writhing about on the floor. He rose up to fall over again and took out guitarist Will McLaren with him on the way down. It was an amazing ending to a really solid all-around concert, and the cherry on the top of the night was that everyone went home with free commemorative posters from The Fillmore. Delta Spirit will be on tour for the next few months, check their schedule to see if they come to your city. Their live show is a guaranteed good night out on the town.

Live Show Review: Justice and the Rapture at the Fox Theater

Justice with The Rapture :: 04.17.12 :: Fox Theater :: Oakland, CA

Originally published on April 25, 2012

Justice by Annelise Poda

Amps were cranked to 11 and minds were blown at the Fox Theater early last week as French electro house heroes Justice hit Oakland for a much-anticipated performance. Each year around mid-April, the Bay Area plays host to a high concentration of top tier artists because of the infamous Coachella festival in Southern California. The festival always boasts an impressive lineup and many of them end up booking dates in San Francisco before or after the festival. Since Coachella was expanded to two separate weekends this year, there were even more opportunities for great talent like Justice to come up north and play during this “Fauxchella” week. It’s a winning situation for Northern California, and Justice definitely lived up to the hype to deliver an adrenaline-infused set that people and their ringing ears will be high from for days to come.

The Rapture, another band on the Coachella bill, opened up this show with some grooving synth jams that were a perfect warm up for a night of energized dancing. The Rapture takes the funk band formula and applies rock overtones to it, giving them a unique sound that shook the audience into party mode. Lively bass lines are prominent in the mix, and they provide a backbone for wah-wah funk guitar accents, vibrant vocals, and even the occasional sexy saxophone solo. The band played classic fan favorites as well as new tracks off their recently released album In the Grace of Your Love. Highlights of the set included the sax-infused “Get Myself Into It” and “Whoo! Alright Yeah…Uh Huh”, where muliti-instrumentalist Gabriel Andruzzi went off on the best cowbell jam I have ever witnessed. He rocked out all around his keyboard stand with big swooping dance moves, giving off waves of ecstatic energy and really exploring all of the space around the stage left area. The cowbell is always a huge crowd pleaser, and people really got into the song and yelled along the exclamatory “Whoo!, Alright!” lyrics with the countertenor vocals of lead singer Luke Jenner. They wrapped up their set by playing their new piano-saturated single “How Deep is Your Love?”, where they traded their instruments for synthesizers and took the audience on a journey of looping bass lines and emotional singing. Many of The Rapture’s newer tracks are more synth-focused when compared to their previous rock centric album Pieces of the People We Love, and these contrasting styles made for a great blend of diverse music for their set. The song ended with a very enthusiastic audience singing and clapping along in unison to the fading lyrics, and spirits were high on the way into the headlining act.

Justice by Annelise Poda

Justice is one of the most notable artists in the electronic dance music scene, having cut their teeth creating head-turning remixes early on, and then subsequently signed to the notable tastemaker label Ed Banger Records. They quickly gained a rabid fan base and accelerated to world recognition with the release of their debut album (Pronounced Cross). Justice is the work of Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay, two guys in leather jackets that give off a rock star vibe but also back it up by employing heavy use of punk rock and gnashing guitar parts in their mixes. Their usage of rock samples and electro house elements blends together to produce uniquely deep-hitting tracks and mosh-heavy live shows.

The minute that Augé and Rosnay took the stage at the Fox it was obvious that something big was about to go down. Their stage setup was composed of two massive amp walls of Marshall stacks that they positioned themselves in between and dramatically started off the show with the booming orchestral first track off their debut “Genesis”. People were pressed up against the gate at the front of the stage and responded appropriately as the tempo picked up and the first massive bass drop was executed. The energy levels among the audience were even palpable. You could feel the floor boards shaking as the crowd jumped up for a blasting metal riff, and when looking out over the crazed fans, everyone’s bodies vigorously moved together to create an undulating sea of grinding electro bliss.

Justice by Annelise Poda

Justice continued on and delivered a genre bending mash up set that spanned their entire catalog, including tracks from their more recent 2011 release Audio, Video, Disco. Their albums are engaging and it seems natural to listen to them the whole way though and really get to know each build-up and drop, so it was an exciting experience to hear the artists grab bits and pieces from different songs to twist their music in a different way. They took some of their tracks in the opposite direction and stretched them into new territory, speeding up certain parts, or stripping away different instrument tracks to play them in their most minimalist form.

During “D.A.N.C.E.” – arguably their most successful single – their blinking turntable stage setup split open to reveal an illuminated alcove with a single keyboard where Rosnay had a seat and played out the most elemental melody of the song. This was gradually built back up into a rougher mix with a digitalized bass line, and then finally to a full on pounding dance track. By the end of this musical journey, Justice had elevated the energy so much that the entire venue was going crazy. They did a very good job of expanding their recorded tracks into new places, which is a very admirable thing to see in a live DJ style performance.

Justice by Annelise Poda

In addition to Justice’s dynamic mixing skills, the visual aspect of this show was innovative and dazzlingly produced. The Marshall stacks turned out to be vessels for eye-popping animated LED light configurations, and the stage was hung with curtains of evenly spaced ping-pong ball sized lights that hosted endless patterns of snaking light formations. Occasionally, the normal stage lights would go on behind this curtain, and surprising new depth would be given to the room. It looked like whoever designed this light setup had an absolute blast figuring out how to morph the atmosphere in the room during different songs, and it’s always great to see a show where it’s apparent that very creative people were involved in its production.

Justice ended the night with an encore that started out with their new single “On’n’On”, another number that started out slowly and built up to a massive finish. They mixed in the lyrics from “We Are Your Friends”, one of their very early, catchy creations, and left the audience with the echoing mantra: “We are your friends, you’ll never be alone again, well c’mon.” The line rang out over the audience, a very true sentiment for a crowd crushed in on every side by old comrades and newly acquired dance partners, everyone sweaty and happy from the supercharged Justice performance.

Coachella was smart to have booked this group, and Oakland was more than happy to host them for this special show. Justice will be back for San Francisco’s Outside Lands Festival in August, so if this sounds like a set you’d want to check out be sure to snag tickets to see them in Golden Gate Park.

Live Show Review: Miike Snow at the Fox Theater

Miike Snow :: 04.12.12 :: Fox Theater :: Oakland, CA

Originally published on April 19th, 2012

^ Additional photo gallery images at the above JamBase link.

Miike Snow by Julie Logan

A sold out crowd braved the elements to see Swedish synth rockers Miike Snow last week, crowding into Oakland’s Fox Theaterto escape a very active lightning storm that lit up the Bay Area night. Once inside, people were lulled into a false sense of security after escaping the torrential rainy weather, but this sense of calm was quickly shattered as Miike Snow appeared and started up an indoor electrical storm of their own. People’s excited conversations were immediately cut short as pulsing strobe lights kicked in to illuminate fronts of thick, vision-clouding fog. A thunderous, ground shaking bass note echoed through the venue, and the crowd was swept away by the flowing music that began to cascade down from the front of the room.

For initial clarification, Miike Snow is the collective name of the band and not one of the actual musicians on stage. The group started as an side project collaboration between two established Swedish producers and an American songwriter when they met between jobs. Their colorful, synth-laden songs on their eponymous 2010 debut album became a surprise hit and propelled the band to a lengthy, successful world tour right from the start of their existence. They just released their second album, Happy to You, last month, and Miike Snow is back on the road performing their highly danceable, rhythm heavy tunes, complemented by a remarkably visually engaging stage show.


Miike Snow by Julie Logan

When the band first appeared, they were clad in the attention-grabbing getup of matching golden masks and black jackets. Lead singer Andrew Wyatt presided over his table of effects pedals, which he manipulated to ring in the booming elongated bass line of “Enter the Jokers Lair”. It started off slow, but then bandmates Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg jumped in the mix to add their own bobbing and floating notes that fleshed out the song into a melodic, dynamic piece, complete with floating xylophone solos. Everyone on stage was constantly in motion, toggling new settings on their illuminated center console of knobs, tapping out piano notes, or even strumming thumb piano chords to create beautifully layered songs. A skillful drummer hit out intricate rhythms to keep everything in line, and Karlsson and Winnberg would periodically bang out some beats on the floor tom drums that were scattered about the stage. All of these elements melded together to create the signature Miike Snow sound of catchy rhythm-centric synthesized and layered progressions that kept the audience dancing through the entire set.

So many of Miike Snow’s songs are instant hits, and almost every one they played got a great response from the audience. Wyatt is a very charismatic frontman, and my favorite part of the night was when he skipped to the side of the stage during the grooving instrumental bridge of their new single “Paddling Out” to bust out some fluid and carefree dance moves. Nobody could avoid the happy vibes he was emanating, and the crowd joined in to cast their inhibitions to the wind and surrender to the music. Another great moment was during “Burial”, which had the entire crowd singing along. Bright white spotlights lit up Wyatt as he soulfully sang into the mic, illuminating his long hair and beard and giving him an uncanny Jesus-like appearance.


Miike Snow by Julie Logan

I was surprised at how well all of these songs translated to a live performance, as the uber-smooth melodies and velvety vocals on Miike Snow’s albums give the impression that a lot of studio magic was involved in their creation. Instead of their music falling flat, the band kicked it up a notch and turned many of their basic riffs and hooks into rocking instrumental jams with a larger than life sound. Seeing everyone on stage lock into the collective groove to craft this myriad of sounds was great, and it was obvious that someone who knew what they were doing had planned out the accompanying lighting design. The visuals really fit with the music, and the rotating spotlights that cut through the thick layer of fog sometimes made me feel like I was in the middle of a deep-sea submarine game of flashlight tag. A projector added an additional visual spectacle, as complex geometric shapes unfolded on the back wall behind the band.

The band finished up their set with the piano heavy “Devil’s Work”, but promptly came back out for an encore and ended the night with a bass-centric rendition of their biggest hit “Animal”. The song’s bouncing hook was given a gritty new bass feel, and people let out their last bursts of dancing energy while jumping up and singing along to an expanded version of the popular song. It was a perfect way to end the night.

Miike Snow definitely lived up to the hype surrounding them, and their live show demonstrated why they’ve gained such immediate popularity. The band is headed down to Coachella after this performance, and then continues on another ambitious tour with many dates across the world. Check their upcoming schedule and try to grab tickets early if they come to your town!

Live Show Review: Ozomatli at the New Parish

Originally published on April 4th, 2012

Ozomatli :: 03.28.12 :: The New Parish Music Hall :: Oakland, CA


Ozomatli by Annelise Poda

The New Parish Music Hall in Oakland was packed to the rafters with jubilant fans for a special Wednesday night Ozomatlishow last week. Anyone familiar with the band knows that when embarking on a musical trip with Ozomatli they are in for a night of hip-shaking rhythmic jams and nonstop joking with the charismatic musicians. The New Parish is a very small venue for the band to be booked at, so excitement levels were bumped up even higher for the sold out crowd. This group is made up of some highly talented musicians that also really know how to work an audience, and their show made for a great night of laughter and dancing.

Ozomatli is known for being a multicultural musical project, and band members draw from a wealth of different influences to create their unique hybrid sound. Ozomatli grinds up and reassembles tons of different genres to create a louder-than-life end product of mashed up, jazzy horn trills, funky bass lines, Latin rhythms, hip-hop flows, reggae riffs, and straight-up rock music that all comes blaring out through their amps as vibrant and exciting songs. The jamming compositions ooze out as a sonic portrayal of the diverse atmosphere of Los Angeles, and it is no surprise that this sound attracts a wide range of fans. Live shows are the best way to experience the music of Ozomatli, as the band makes it easy to shed inhibitions and just get happily caught up in the wild celebration with everyone else in the room.

This specific show at the New Parish was surprisingly the band’s first time ever playing in Oakland. They received an exceedingly warm welcome, and the party went full tilt ahead all the way to the end of their three-hour set. Almost right from the start, the band went off on a percussive tangent with a drum circle type jam, which gradually slowed into a quiet beat when rapper Justin Porée took the opportunity to hype up the crowd and flow into the beginning lyrics to “City of Angels,” one of the band’s singles. He spat words into his mic and the horn section added their animated range of melodies over the heavy duty rhythms. Another fan favorite was the expressive “Can’t Stop,” a song with more drawn out vocals sung in harmony, and the audience lent their own singing to the chorus as well.


Ozomatli by Annelise Poda

As mentioned before, Ozomatli does a great job of engaging the audience with humorous dialogue and creative pre-song games. Dexterous trumpeter Asdrubal Sierraset up a call and response interchange between he and the crowd where fans sang back notes that came blasting out of his horn. This also gave him the chance to show off his instrumental chops, impressively blowing out chopped up trills and elongated notes. At a later point, Sierra also instigated a horse race during the song “Caballito” (little horse) and told the crowd to act like they were galloping around the room. Fans playfully obliged and took off on their hypothetical steeds to the fast paced song, and the venue was temporarily changed into an old Western movie set that with a soundtrack scored by a fast-paced mariachi band. It was great to see people cut loose and get into funny situations with each other, which really fostered a jovial atmosphere and encouraged everyone to have fun.

After listening to a few songs, it’s easy to conclude that bassist Wil-Dog Abers is the soulful glue of this band, as he brings all the different instruments together and holds it down with his spot-on bass parts. His playing often seems to blend into the background because more boisterous instruments claw their way up to the top of the mix and demand attention, but there comes a point when one realizes his solidly twisting notes are the roots of this sonic organism. He is the foundation the endless notes of the others rest upon, and without him all the guitars, horns, and everything else would ring out as dissonant sounds. At one point, his bandmates singled him out to play some funky lines he had apparently learned while watching reruns of Soul Train, and it was great to hear a really well put together bass solo. Abers subsequently shared the spotlight around, giving everyone else on stage a shot at showing off some sounds that wouldn’t normally fit within conventional song structures, and it was a great way to switch up the flow of the set.

All in all, this is a really great band to go see if you want to be immersed in an audience of really happy people grooving to the sounds of a tight, energetic band. There’s a great ambiance at Ozomatli shows as everyone comes together to celebrate music and life. The band is currently on tour, and it probably wouldn’t surprise anyone if they were snaking their way through the country in a giant conga line formation.

Show Review: Andrew W.K. at the Regency

Originally published on March 13, 2012

Andrew W.K. :: 03.06.12 :: The Regency Ballroom :: San Francisco, CA

Andrew W.K. by Alex Becker

Party master Andrew W.K. is currently on tour, bringing his super-sized arena rock to local venues across the country. If you were to watch a performance without knowing where the show was happening, it would not be a big stretch of the imagination to picture Andrew and his hard rocking bandmates on an elaborately crafted stage with extended catwalks and pulsing laser light shows at Madison Square Garden. The energy that explodes off the stage during his live shows is really just that high, and he never stops to rest from roaring out vocals, beating piano keys into submission, and headbanging along with the audience at any spare moment. This current tour is highlighting Andrew’s 2001 debut album, I Get Wet, and they played through all of the tracks that many fans had memorized long ago. An excited crowd came out to The Regency Ballroomlast week where Andrew W.K effectively demonstrated why he has been labeled as one of the only true rock stars of the past decade, as he definitely orchestrated an all-inclusive, adrenaline-infused, and just pure fun night of rocking out in San Francisco.

The show started off with a generic voice recording addressing the audience with this message: “Hello everybody. It’s time to party.” The crowd kept up the latter part of this chant until the lights went out and Andrew W.K. sauntered out to blast into the first song of the set, fittingly titled “It’s Time to Party”. People took this initial message to heart, and the whole front half of the room roughhoused their way into a churning pit that stripped people of their inhibitions as well as their shoes, and there was even a sighting of one crowd surfer that temporarily got separated from his pants. All of these things can be used as a gauge to determine how rocking a show actually is, and if a concert is so crazy that it separates fans from their pants, the readings from the rock meter have almost certainly gone WAY into the red.

Andrew W.K. by Lindsay Merrill

Andrew W.K really has a giant following of some of the most supportive and overly enthusiastic superfans. People copied his style and dressed in all white with his trademark fake blood splatter flowing from their noses down the front of their shirts. All these people that could have been extras on the set of Dextercame out to rage in a no holds barred night of moshing, and Andrew W.K. did not disappoint. He showed off his skills on the piano, an instrument he started to learn at age four, and the fast paced and clear toned notes provided a neat, unconventional contrast to the distorted guitar chords and metal style vocals of his music.

The rest of the musicians on stage added to the chaos, which was inevitable with an overwhelming five guitar players who looked like they had been pulled straight from a 80s Whitesnake poster. Their seriously long hair obscured contorted expressions while they ground out distorted metal guitar hooks and sang along with Andrew during the repeating lyrics of many songs. Further musicians on stage included a bassist, a drummer, and a hardcore female vocalist sporting a leather leotard outfit that made it look like she was in the midst of leading a metal head aerobic workout video. Whenever there was a break in the lyrics, she and Andrew would bust out some wildly animated dance moves, most of which involved punching in different directions while headbanging and whipping their bountiful hair in circles. People in the audience took their cues and adopted these moves, many of which were put into practice on stage when crowd surfers swam hard enough over the hands of friends to make it up to the front.

Andrew W.K. by Lindsay Merrill

The best part of the night was close to the end of the show when the band played “Don’t Stop Living in the Red”, at which point half of the audience propelled themselves up on stage to go crazy with the band. Everyone was wholly absorbed in the present and vivaciously animated, singing along and playing air guitar. Andrew W.K. stopped and addressed his newly formed entourage, “We’re not putting on a concert right now; we’re having a party!” When looking out over the crowd and seeing how everybody was so completely filled with pure excited energy, his sentiment was completely true.

The show ended after an encore where the band played a few new songs, one simply being named “Head Bang”. The bridge of this number contains full minutes of extended guitar shredding, and the audience was immediately back up on stage to demonstrate the full experience of the song. Everyone appreciatively cheered as the night came to a close, and then happily went off on a mission to look for stray shoes that had gotten away during the course of the night. Andrew W.K. constantly references partying and living life to its full positive potential in all of his songs, and he definitely brought a night packed with crazed fun to San Francisco. If you want to get in on this mayhem, check to see if this tour is coming to your city and go get wet with Andrew W.K.