Birdy Bardot – The Casbah, San Diego – 2/24/16

Birdy Bardot10I won’t pretend to understand how all the members of local super-group, Birdy Bardot, are interrelated.  It seems that every San Diego musician of note is in at least 3 bands and this group has collected many of them together. I do know that the creative duo in the group are Birdy Bardot, who also sings for of my favorite San Diego bands, The New Kinetics; and the indefatigable Al Howard, who must be in at least 27 bands including: The Heavy Guilt, Midnight Pine, Dani Bell & the Tarantist, Rebecca Jade & the Cold Fact, Cardinal Moon and Black Sands.

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I have wanted to catch Birdy Bardot ever since I read a great feature on them late last year in CityBeat magazine (check it out here).  It was only after reading that article that I went to my first New Kinetics shows and I was curious to how the same singer would front both the frenetic garage rock of NK and the retro/psychedelic influence promised in the CityBeat piece.

It turns out that Ms. Bardot handles both styles with ease and though there is not a lot of overlap in sound, she does seem to lose herself in the songs in both configurations.  Where the New Kinetics are all about raw, relentless energy, Birdy Bardot is a much more restrained affair.  Though the group does let go and rock out, like on the track “Hearts and Smoke”, it’s really just enough to provide a contrast to the soulful, torchy atmosphere created throughout the rest of the set.

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The 7 pc band (which is a lot of players on a pretty small stage) creates a sound and mood on stage that mixes a lot of influences without ever camping out in any one style.  There’s touches of the blues, hazy psychedelia, retro-60′s pop and even some alt-country.  Mixed together, Birdy Bardot – both the band and the singer – put on a fantastic show and will clearly be a mainstay of the resurgent San Diego music scene, and hopefully can find a way to break out and receive more national, and even international, attention.

Check out Birdy Bardot and her label-mates at Redwoods Music/Birdy Bardot

Here’s my video of “Candlelight Vigils” from that night.

Metric – House of Blues, San Diego – Feb. 25, 2016

Sometimes I feel like I live in a bit of a musical bubble.  Since I don’t listen to the radio and none of my friends listen to the music that I do, I often don’t have a sense of how popular a band is. I remember going to a Portugal. The Man show a few years back at the House of Blues here in San Diego, expecting the place to be about half-full, and instead it was completely sold out.

Metric did one better and not only sold out the 1,100 capacity venue but added another show the previous night.  And this crowd really showed their appreciation for this 18 year old band as they sang and danced and responded rapturously throughout the set.  And Metric showed the love back, playing a 2 hour set of hits and deep cuts from throughout their history.

And then there’s Emily Haines, proving that age really is just a number (she’s 42!), as she danced and bounced and bounded across the stage from start to finish.  She really acknowledged the fans and how far they had all come – both the band and the audience – noting that many in the audience may have become fans back in high school and that by now they all had jobs and many had kids of their own.  She talked about what a journey it had been from the old days of arriving in a van and playing the Casbah to playing to a packed house at a great venue like the House of Blues.

Personally, I love the Casbah and I sure wish I had discovered Metric back in those days, but I am also really glad to see talented, ambitious artists achieve this kind of success.

Here’s my video of “Artificial Nocturne” from early in the show.

And here’s the closing number, “Breathing Underwater” (there was a coda where they launched back into the chorus but I didn’t get that).

Sharkmuffin: The Soda Bar 2/17/16

I still enjoy seeing the big rock shows where bands play long sets with astonishing lights and staging in front of 20,000 fans.  I’ve recently seen groups like Rush, Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters clock in at 3+ hours, all with mesmerizing stage shows.

Yet I have to say that I enjoy a night like this, with 4 bands in just 3 hours, just as much. After local acts Lucky Keith, Big Bloom and Soft Lions warmed us up (with an assist from a bar just steps away!)  we got to see New York indie/punk/garage rockers Sharkmuffin.  The three-piece features founding members Tarra Thiessen on guitar/vocals and Natalie Kirch on bass, along with new drummer Kim Deuss.  Together the band, which released their first EP’s back in 2013,  played a propulsive, dynamic set of songs off of their debut long player, Chartreuse.

If you’re a fan of Sleater Kinney, Veruca Salt, HoleYeah Yeah Yeahs et al  – then you better check out Sharkmuffin.

Here’s my clip of “Tampons Are for Sluts” from this show.

Find Sharkmuffin here:  www.sharkmuffin.com / facebook / bandcamp

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Soft Lions: The Soda Bar 2/17/16

Next up were local favorites, Soft Lions, playing their engaging blend of indie, surf, garage, and girl-group sounds.  I’ve seen Soft Lions a half-dozen times now, including their debut performance on the same stage back in 2014, and they always put on a great show.  This night was a surprise as I only discovered the day before that they would be opening for Sharkmuffin, who are on a national tour.

If I had a complaint about this band it’s that their sets are too short!!  Hopefully that will be solved soon as I spoke with the keyboardist, Ana Ramundo, who told me that the band will be heading up to the Bay Area soon to record more songs.

Soft Lions plays all over town, as headliners and in support of other local and touring bands.  Check them out soon!!

 

Here’s “Earth Energy” from this show.

More Soft Lions from MaxSounds:

 

Big Bloom: The Soda Bar 2/17/16

This was another night that I was glad that I like to get to shows early to catch the opening acts.  You never know what you’ll find and the range is especially wide at small venues like the Soda Bar in San Diego.  On this night the strategy paid off as I discovered local band, Big Bloom, who were the second to hit the stage (out of four total) in support of the touring Sharkmuffin.

I spoke with the singer, Katie Howard, who said the band had been together about 2 years – but their sound, and especially Howard’s command of the stage, would belie this relative inexperience.  The group switches between genres (and really, do bands pay much attention to genres anymore?) easily as they start off playing a souped-up alt-folk before settling into a spirited psych-surf-garage-rock stomp.

I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for more shows of this up-and-coming band.  And speaking of eyes, I’ll try to get the story on the pink warpaint worn by Ms. Howard, which looked pretty cool under the blue lights of the Soda Bar stage!

Here’s a video of “Punk Song” that gives a good idea of what this band is all about.

Update: here’s a nice interview with Ms. Howard on CinemaSpartan

Check out Big Bloom on Facebook and at Bandcamp

 

 

 

Built to Spill: The Casbah 2/15/16

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Indie rock stalwarts Built to Spill played back-to-back sold out shows last week at San Diego’s venerable rock club, the Casbah. This quickly became a tough ticket to get as the band typically plays much larger venues when they hit town.  The Casbah can fit only 200, and even with two shows, demand easily exceeded supply.  The Casbah has a reputation though for punching above its weight and the band apparently likes the venue as they have played there several other times throughout the years.

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And really it was great to see a band of such stature in such an intimate setting. The crowd was responsive and enthusiastic throughout the performance and the band responded with a 1:50 set (which is long by Casbah standards) that included at least half of the new album, last year’s excellent Untethered Moon.  One of the highlights from that record was “So” which included a typical Doug Martsch guitar freak-out to start the song before settling into a riffy, melodic groove.  For an encore – and by encore I mean the band leaves the stage and walks out to the sidewalk until they are called back in – they performed an epic, slow building, version of “Time Trap” off of 1999′s Keep It Like a Secret.

If I were to find fault in the show it is that they performed as a 3-piece with only Martsch on guitar.  As good a guitar player as he is, and he is really good, he can’t play two guitars at once.  One of the strengths of BTS is the interplay between multiple guitars, both with a lead over the top of a rhythm guitar or with intertwining leads as on the aforementioned “Time Trap”. Hopefully next time around the band will be back to full strength, but either way I’ll be there wherever they decide to play.

Arkona: The Merrow 9/26/16

I cannot remember how I came across this pagan/folk metal band from Russia.  I only know that as soon as I heard the song, “Лица бессмертных богов” (Faces of Immortal Gods) off the 2009 album Goi, Rode, Goi!, I was completely hooked. Fronted by Masha Scream, a force of nature who somehow does both the singing and growling, Arkona mixes medieval folk melodies and instrumentation along with crushing heavy metal.  The band has found the perfect combination of melodic clean vocals with just the right amount of black metal growling.  And while many European bands in related genres choose to sing in English to broaden their appeal, all of Arkona’s lyrics, which are based around Russian folklore and Slavic mythology, are in their native language . The band itself is named after the last pagan Slavic city-state.

Though they were touring in support of their excellent 2014 LP, Yav, the band played songs from throughout their catalog.  Highlights included the set opener of “Yav”, as well as “Goi-Rode-Goi!”, “Slovo” and the encore track, which was an epic version of “Yarilo”.    And let me tell you – this was one really loud fucking show! Even after the three opening acts – Helsott, The Dread Crew of Oddwood, and Heidevolk (Netherlands)softened us up- Arkona still managed to pummel us for another 70 minutes!

Here’s a video I took of “Yarilo” that night.

The opening bands that night worked us over pretty good.  First up was Helsott , a pagan/black-metal band from here in Southern California.  Following them, after a short break to let our ears heal a bit, was The Dread Crew of Oddwood – an acoustic pirate-metal band (they call it “Hard Mahogany”!) from right here in San Diego.  The third act, Heidevolk from the Netherlands, was another pagan/folk-metal group that featured two lead guitars AND two singers!