Luna – The Casbah, San Diego – Dec. 29, 2015

Luna 2

The reunited Luna played to a sold out and enthusiastic crowd on this night at the Casbah.  The lineup consisted of hubby/wife duo of Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips, longtime guitarist Sean Eden, and drummer Lee Wall.

The 16 song set was comprised mostly of songs from two earlier albums:Penthouse and Bewitched; as well as several from their last record.Rendezvous.  I had never seen Luna before but I’m glad I caught them this time around.  The band was really tight as they seemed to play their melodic pop/rock effortlessly.  The band’s appreciation of the Velvet Underground was apparent in many songs, especially on the closer to the main set, “Friendly Advice”.

After a short break Luna returned to play “23 Minutes in Brussels” off of the 1995 album Penthouse and then launched into a ragged indie rock version of the George McCrae disco classic, “Rock Your Body”.  [You can catch a clip of this HERE – I did not take this video but whoever did must have been standing only a few feet from me].

Modern English – The Hideout, San Diego – May 17, 2016

Modern English is often included on lists of one hit wonder bands.  In fact, there’s a new station on Sirius/XM called Onederland that is dedicated to playing these songs and the promo goes something like this (with “I Melt With You” playing): “remember this big hit from 1982?  Now remember their big follow up hit? You can’t because there wasn’t one!” To be fair, the band actually did have a modest follow-up hit with the song “Hands Across the Sea” from the 1984 album Ricochet Days.  But it was nowhere near as big or omnipresent as “I Melt With You”, which is still played frequently to this day.

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Muse – San Diego Sports Arena – Jan. 7, 2016

I believe that I usually have a pretty good feel for how big a band is, but I have to admit to completely underestimating Muse.  I figured the group was huge in Europe but had a somewhat lesser appeal and following here in the states.  Apparently I was wrong.  Very wrong!  The English trio (along with a touring keyboardist/guitarist) played to a sold out, rapturous audience at one of San Diego’s biggest venues and absolutely killed it!  The crowd was on their feet, jumping, screaming, and singing along to nearly every song.  This was the first time I have seen a show “in the round,” with the band placed in the center of the arena, and it makes me wonder why more artists don’t do this. The setup really engaged the fans on the floor and made it so that there wasn’t a bad seat in the house.

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BØRNS + Midnight Pine at Birch Aquarium 5-18-16

It’s been a few years since I’ve been to one of the Green Flash concerts at the Birch Aquarium, but when I saw that San Diego’s own Midnight Pine was playing, I snapped up a couple of tickets for myself and my wife.  As the evening went on I was reminded of what I loved, and didn’t love, about the venue.  It is a gorgeous setting at the aquarium’s outdoor patio/tide pool area with a broad view of La Jolla and the pacific ocean.  The atmosphere and location seems to put everyone in a really relaxed, chill mood.

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Andrew Bird + John Grant – The Music Box, San Diego 5/13/16

The typical way I decide what show to go to is to notice that a band is coming to town, and then as long as it isn’t a horrible venue, just buy the tickets.  This time I went the other way around – after having such a great experience at The Music Box during the recent Redwoods Revue, I started actively looking for good shows at this downtown location.  It wasn’t as easy as it sounds since they seem to book more mainstream acts or at least bands that didn’t interest me at all.  Then I noticed this show.  I had never heard of Andrew Bird before this but I was very familiar with the opener, John Grant, as his last three albums, Queen of Denmark, Pale Green Ghosts and Grey Tickles, Black Pressure (see my 2015 Top 20) have all received extensive play on my turntable.

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The Big Pink + Sundrop Electric – Soda Bar, San Diego 4/20/16

[click on pics for larger versions – photos above by @happyplacemedia]

I’ve got to admit, I had this Big Pink show on my calendar for some time, but as it approached I wasn’t sure if I would make it. I really only knew the band from their first album,  A Brief History of Love, from 2009, and remembered two of the stronger tracks from it: “Velvet” and “Dominos”.  After that, though, I lost track of the band and they didn’t come back on my radar until I saw this show coming up at the Soda Bar.  As the day of the show arrived I decided not to go after all – I had a really busy week and it wasn’t the best night to head out.  Then about an hour before the show I figured I’d better listen to that CD just to be sure.  By the mid-point of the first track, “Velvet”, with its pulsing synth line and massive, droning  guitar chords, I knew I was going and within the hour I was walking up the sidewalk toward the venue.

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