Tag Archives: concert reviews

Morcheeba – Smooth Sailing: Recap

Hailing from the UK, Morcheeba, along with multi-instrumentalist and VERY talented opening act Conner Youngblood, made its latest stop on their international tour at the TLA Thursday night May 15th, and did not disappoint those in attendance – ranging from fans that have followed along since the mid-90’s to a new wave that only recently learned about this well-polished outfit.

Promoting their new album ‘Head Up High’ released last October, Morcheeba welcome anyone to experience their smooth, stylish showcase, and offer their appreciation for the active participants. Flashing high-fashion semblance while avoiding dripping in bourgeois attitude is a commendable trait. Rather they let the audience in with a warm invitation.

Gimme Your Love Video

Morcheeba consists of a bassist, drummer, guitarist, and keys/organ player, while layering in a DJ on the decks to mix in scratches, samples, and effects. Upon that foundation stands the prominent and seemingly ageless wonder lead vocalist Skye Edwards and her self-made high-fashion wardrobe and stunning smile. Refreshingly embracing the current state of omni-present technology, Skye stepped down into the first row for a mid-show selfie and took another camera on stage to film from her perspective before handing it back to the gleeful audience members. Her fans even offered up gift baskets of flowers and fruit, which she warmly accepted.

The band seamlessly weaved from one song into another, serving on-time varietals of neo-soul, trip-hop, reggae, rock and roll, and eclectic grooves (this Youtube mix displays their varying styles). Studio recordings conjure up some comparisons to Thievery Corporation.

The crisp and serenading vocals sat right on top of the mix, finding the pocket and filling the room with a comfortable reverb – hats off to the sound man for his work. The rest of the scene was lovers and friends, dancers and swayers, soaking in the sights and sounds coming from the stage, and giving back their appreciation. No need to pay for VIP to be treated that way on this occasion.

Words by Aran Hart – Photo Credits Daniel Wooden

Concert Review: The Japandroids’ End of Days Dance Party

Canadian Duo Japandroids Played Johnny Brenda’s and we have photos and a review of the show. Photos by Kimberly Stavac

It was hot out, close to 300 degrees and the air was oppressive- like student loans or credit card debt. Everything in Philadelphia smelled like sweat and thunderstorms. People walked slowly, trudging through the humidity and the cab had the air on, but shit, not nearly enough. The night would end with a cold shower. It was a guarantee. How hot would Johnny Brenda’s be? Sweltering probably- one of those nights where every beer you order is accompanied by water, your very own Batman & Robin of inebriation and hydration.

Japandroids, the raging rock duo from the wilds of Canada, were in town. It was sold out. The opener was the Canadian rapper Cadence. Canadians are so polite, but how are they at rocking and rapping? How would they handle the heat? No jokes about hockey and no jokes about the heat and the night should go along just fine.

Start with the music bumping in the downstairs bar of Johnny Brenda’s because it’s more than worth mentioning. It was amazing. I don’t know who the DJ was, but his penchant for 90’s R & B jams was absolutely delightful and I haven’t seen Future Wife smile that much in a while. Everyone downstairs was smiling. Montel Jordan will do that I guess. Follow it up with Bone Thugs ‘n Harmony, Janet Jackson and 112 and we have a river dance mash up of hipster euphoria. It was hard to leave, but there was work to be done. They wouldn’t let you upstairs unless you already had a ticket or were on the list. It’s cool, we’re certified. With each step, the temperature rose.

Cadence was in the middle of his set- easy to spot not only because he was the one on stage rapping, but because he was the one black dude in the middle of a white dude convention. But man, homeboy was aggressive and his rapping had personality. He seemed lost in his music, deep within his own little world as he spat out rhymes with ferocity and swagger. His DJ, who Future Wife felt looked like Napoleon Dynamite, barely moved but he didn’t have too- his beats and music provided more than enough movement. The heat was creeping in, but Cadence wouldn’t be stopped. He’s from Montreal, far away from the sopping humidity of a summer night in the mid-Atlantic and as the sweat poured off of him, he kept on going- song after song of brutally melodic and wildly stomping hip hop. The crowd was receptive and in the corner, both members of the Japandroids stood, taking in and enjoying the rapper’s set. We will have learned at least one thing, Canadians stick together.

After Cadence, it was the Japandroids. Looking at their stage set up and assuming their set is going to be loud is like looking at dark, heavy clouds and assuming it’s going to rain. Guitarist Brian King’s rig consists of two Fender amps, two Marshall amps and a large Ampeg. A lesser man would be scared, I was curious. The amps loomed in the corner of the stage like a gang of thugs in a dark alley- they looked like trouble. But then King seemed like such a nice guy and he spent what seemed like five minutes introducing himself and drummer David Prowse, thanking the crowd for being there and proclaiming the evening to be not just any evening, but a battle between Friday night and the heat.

“Let’s let Friday night win,” he said to loud cheers.

Then the music started and stating the obvious right off the bat, it was loud. We probably could have heard the entire show from our South Philly apartment. King’s guitar sounded like three guitars stacked on top of each other having a pillow fight. From the get go the balcony shook and the Japandroids unleashed their unyielding and maniacal organized chaos. The first song was a warm up song according to King and on most nights, it’s followed by him cranking up all five thousand of his various volume knobs. Not tonight, though. He said it was the first show of their tour where he was forcing himself to listen to the sound guy and not immediately throw away everything they had run through at sound check. Smart move, a veteran move. It’s the musician’s equivalent of a trust fall.

“Adrenaline Nightshift,” from the new album Celebration Rock was next and Johnny Brenda’s seemed to explode as the crowd leapt up and down, sang along, threw their fists in the air and Instagrammed the shit out of what was happening. It like we were in the middle of a food fight, just without the food and the energy level of King and Prowse was Goddamn admirable. Prowse’s motor was magnificent and King used every inch of his half of the stage. Any poor son of a bitch playing bass would have had to do so from the bathroom. There just wasn’t any room for him, both in terms of physical and musical space. Whereas in recent years, the Black Keys have started filling out their sound with touring musicians, I can’t see the Japandroids ever doing that. They seem to fill the space better than the Keys, but that could largely be due to the volume. It was fucking loud, man; like questioning whether or not I was too old to be there loud. Loud is awesome, but isn’t necessarily better- especially when definition gets lost in the process. Even with a gun to my head, I couldn’t tell you a word King was singing and while a guitar player might have been able to decipher exactly what he was playing, there was no way an average person could. It was a brilliant wash of sound- for better or worse.

But the crowd didn’t seem to mind and in fact, they seemed to flat out not give a stone cold flying fuck. This was a religious experience for them and an exercise all of your demons and truly let each and every one of your ya-ya’s out kind of rock show. Downstairs a mosh pit started to break out and I started wondering about the structural integrity of the balcony. I loved the interplay between King and Prowse, showing a kin ship on stage that most band’s dream of having. They poured every ounce of energy that they had into each song. What the hell do these guys do after a show? They either pass out from exhaustion or go run a marathon fueled by pure adrenaline. It’s one of the other. I definitely can’t see them kicking back with a beer.

“The House That Heaven Built,” the lead single from Celebration Rock, seemed like the evening’s high water mark and the walls of Johnny Brenda’s shook with the call and response back and forth between the band and the crowd, both of whom were completely drenched in sweat. The heat was overtaking us all, as was the smoke machine and combined, a near-apocalyptic vibe embraced the room. It became hard to see as red and blue smoke engulfed the crowd- must have made it hard for the Instagrammers and Tweeters and Facebookers. As the visibility decreased, it seemed like volume increased- along with hysterical chaos creating a cathartic, end of days dance party- foreshadowing of the massive thunderstorm that welcomed everyone back into the real world once the show was over.

As lightning illuminated Girard Avenue and thunder claps rumbled above us, rock show beads of sweat glistened on everyone’s foreheads. Japandroids are either destined for bigger rock stages or years of intimate shows like the one we all just witnessed. Either way, they will not fade away like the stage did amidst the smoke of the over-worked smoke machine.

What they are doing is purity and purity doesn’t run, man. Purity just keeps on keeping on. Purity won’t be denied. And as long as purity is allowed to cross the border, purity will continue to keep fueling the Japandroids and their bombastic live shows.

Concert Review: Yamantaka // Sonic Titan

Canadian prog rockers, Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, bring their unique sound to Philadelphia at the Kung Fu Necktie, June 12th, 2012. Photos by Julia Aguilar.

Echoes of noisy, operatic chants and soaring cries tumbling together with the occasional stoner guitar riff poured out of the Kung Fu Neckties’ doors onto the rainy Tuesday night. Canadian self-proclaimed Noh-wavers Yamantaka // Sonic Titan made their stop in Phillly on June 12th, during the tail end of their U.S./Canada tour.  Founded by visionaries Alaska B (drums, vocals and electronics) and Ruby Kato Attwood (vocals, keys and percussion), the YT//ST collective wasted no time captivating the small but enthralled audience.  From first otherworldly note to last, not a single patron could be found in a seat.

Noh-wave, a phrase coined by the band, couldn’t be a more applicable label for Yamantaka // Sonic Titan to have found for themselves.  Even during setup it was clear that the band was bringing all of their influences to the table; the painted faces of the band recalled the traditional Noh Japanese classical theater, and at times even harkened to the Norwegian black metal scene’s corpse paint.  Donning studded vests, the band began to erect knee-high cloud cardboard cutouts, a more restrained representation of the street art style installations they have done in their hometown of Montreal.  The expectancy from the crowd could be felt as everyone spoke in hushed tones, pointing excitedly at the guitarist’s Misfits tee and Alaska B’s stark red-on-white face paint.  And this was before the music even started.

As the lights dimmed and the crowd fell silent, I thought for a moment that the storm outside had picked up with newfound vigor, until I realized that the thunder and rainfall was emitting from the stage.  Drums, guitar, keys and effects slowly rose amongst the storm spilling from the speakers, with vocal chants steadily rising above the clamor.  Just as I noticed two empty microphone stands on stage, an enormous paper dragon sprang forth from beside the stage and headed into the crowd.  Piloted by Attwood and Ange Loft (vocals), the dragon plowed through the audience, bobbing and weaving to the psychedelic tribal rhythms radiating from the stage.  After a few rounds through the stunned crowd, the helmswomen took to the stage, Attwood dressed in regal Noh style robes and headdress, Loft in what was barely recognizable as a garbage bag styled to mimic a shadowy spirit.  The setlist seemed to more or less follow the track listing of Yamantaka // Sonic Titan’s debut, YT//ST, released on Psychic Handshake Recordings.  An amalgamation of psychedelic noise rock, operatic chants, with hints of space-age jazz and East Asian folk, the set was perfectly balanced between the band’s influences; driving, noisy, post-punk anthems topped with catchy vocals reflected flawlessly off of the tribal, drum-driven chantings.  Slight inklings of drone and stoner metal filled the cracks of their sound as well, living up to the “Sonic Titan” portion of their name.

Before the last song of the set, Alaska B briefly addressed the crowd, thanking everyone for coming out, proclaiming that this was their favorite city yet and that there would be no encore.  Despite the disappointing news, it seemed fitting; after all, operas don’t have encores. Before trekking back out into the rain, I stopped to pick up a copy of YT//ST and thank Alaska and Loft at the merch table, who told me that they would be playing one more show in New York before returning to Canada to finish off their tour with a couple dates.  If you’re lucky enough to be reading this from the homeland of our Northern brothers, don’t miss Yamantaka // Sonic Titan.  I can guarantee it’ll be the best $10 opera you ever see.  Get dates here.

Concert Review: Kaiser Chiefs at Union Transfer

Riotous energy as the UK band comes to Philadelphia

wasn’t sure what to expect going into the Kaiser Chiefs show last Thursday at Union Transfer. The popularity of indie dance music isn’t what it was a few years ago and, the opening band was completely unknown to me. But there were quite a few hardcore fans in attendance, so apparently it’s popularity hasn’t faded completely.

The fact that opening act Spacecamp was unknown to me isn’t shocking, since, as they admitted during their set, this was only the “second show [they’ve] played outside of New York City.”  They were good, definitely employing a sound much like the Police or similar 80s bands, as has been noted elsewhere. After they played three songs in a row, flowing song to song, I had a thought similar to someone to my left in the crowd, who vocally asked the band, “Was that one song or three?” It was hard to tell, honestly.

Kaiser Chiefs came to the stage after Spacecamp’s shortish appearance, with all the expected energy of their performances. Remember the hardcore fans I mentioned before? I haven’t seen so many fans sporting the t-shirts of the act they’re seeing since a Morrissey concert – and they sang along with gusto. Lead singer Ricky Wilson didn’t crowd surf during “I Predict a Riot”, as he often is wont to do, but he was still quite active onstage, tossing the mic in the air and dashing around the stage. In between songs, he took care of personal business, twice – and i’m sure, only half-jokingly, confirming that his laundry was being handled. And drummer Nick Hodgson confirmed he was, in fact, playing David Letterman’s drum set; the TV host had purchased them from him on the spot after the band appeared on The Late Show the evening before. As regards the price paid, Hodgson would only confirm the amount “started with a one”, and, apparently, would deliver it after the tour, since he was playing with that kit at Union Transfer.

Even though it wasn’t the largest of audiences I’ve seen at Union Transfer, the band kept the audience’s attention during their set and brought a lot of energy to their performance. Perhaps indie dance isn’t as popular as it once was, but it’s clear that it still has its loyal followers, and Kaiser Chiefs are doing well at keeping the fire burning.