The Kava Lounge Part 2 – Mittens – May 6, 2016

The next band up, after Retra, was Mittens.  I had heard quite a bit about Mittens and now I know what all the fuss was about.  Mittens’ blend of ’60s girl group sounds, ’90s alt-rock (think Cardigans not Smashing Pumpkins – though I have no doubt that Paul Mitten could unleash some great Billy Corgan riffs!), and modern indie pop really was just as good as I was warned it would be.  Continue reading

Kava Lounge Part 1 – Retra – May 6, 2016

On a recent Friday night I was in the mood for new music and this show at The Kava Lounge looked interesting. I had heard of Mittens and The Fresh Brunettes but didn’t really know anything about them and I had no idea who Retra was. But I love checking out new bands so I headed on down to Kettner.

First up was Retra, who I soon found out is a relatively new band featuring Haven Blue on vocals, James Howard (Imagery Machine) on guitar , Chris Gorrie (Boychick, Giant Surprise) on bass, Carmen Martinez (Boychick) on drums, and Martin Sohikish (who didn’t play this night) on keys and guitar.   Continue reading

Art Around Adams Part 5 – Mittens – June 4, 2016

The last stop on my Art Around Adams tour was to see Mittens back at the library stage.  I had seen the band play about a month ago at The Kava Lounge so I already knew how much fun they were.  Mittens play a style of indie-pop that looks back but still has a modern feel to it.  Their band bio mentions being inspired by groups like Rilo Kiley, The Cranberries and The Cardigans – and I can certainly hear the influence of those bands in their sound – but there’s also no mistaking their love of early ’60s girl groups like The Ronettes, The Shirelles and Martha & the Vandellas.  Throw in some surf-rock licks and well-timed blistering guitar solos, to go along with their 3-part harmonies and big hooks, and you have Mittens!  Continue reading

Art Around Adams Part 3 – The Schizophonics – June 4, 2016

I made it through the first 55 years of my life without ever seeing The Schizophonics and now I’ve seen them four times this year already. I was doing it wrong!  The first time I saw The Schizophonics I had no idea what to expect.  It was a crowded night at The Casbah and I was near the back craning my neck looking for the second guitarist. I turned around to say something to my friend and he was doing the same damn thing! Continue reading

Art Around Adams Part 2 – Cardinal Moon – June 4, 2016

Next up on this perfect day for local music was Cardinal Moon.  The last time I saw this band was at their debut performance at the Redwoods Revue at the Music Box in early May.  The creative duo behind this new San Diego band is singer/guitarist/songwriter Dawn Mitschele and Al “another band? sure, why not” Howard. Continue reading

Art Around Adams Part 1 – Imagery Machine – June 4, 2016

There were so many great bands to see at last weekend’s Art Around Adams festival but fortunately whoever scheduled this event managed to have all my favorites playing at different times.

First up was Imagery Machine. I imagine the beginning of this group to have gone something like this: “Hey, we should start a band!” “Good idea, what kind of music should we play?””Let’s play all kinds.” “I’m in!”

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La Luz – Weirdo Shrine

 

La Luz – Weirdo Shrine.  La Luz (Spanish for “the light”), are an all-female quartet based out of Seattle, WA.  After forming in 2012 they quickly released their debut, It’s Alive, in 2013.  Over the course of two albums now, the band, led by singer/guitarist Shana Cleveland has created a sound that deftly mixes girl-group sounds, indie rock, doo wop and of course the predominant element of their sound: surf rock.  This is indie music for surfers that don’t care about indie rock; just as it is surf-rock for indie scenesters that don’t care about surf music.  This turns out to not be a problem for me at all since I love both Surf and Indie rock.  The music goes from languid to upbeat between and within many of the songs, but always there are reverb drenched guitars and girl-group vocals.  If you’re feeling a little down in the dumps one day – grab a cup of coffee, or maybe a beer, and pop this record on.  Problem solved!

Caveman – Belly Up Tavern, San Diego – May 21, 2016

Opening for Frightened Rabbit at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach, was Caveman, an indie rock band from Brooklyn. Like a lot of Brooklyn bands that have emerged recently, their song-craft is superb, with interesting vocal and instrumental melodies, vocal harmonies and creative drum patterns.  I was reminded of a couple of “chill-wave” bands, also from Brooklyn, that I saw at The Casbah a couple of years ago: Small Black and Snowmine and thought that they would fit well on a bill together.  Really though, I would go further back to describe Caveman’s sound.  With their strong melodies and infectious hooks, the band reminded me of an updated Hall & Oates – but only if Daryl and John could also stretch out and really rock a la My Morning Jacket.

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Frightened Rabbit – The Belly Up – May 21,2016

Frightened Rabbit, the ten-year-old indie rock band from Glasgow, writes big, melodic songs tackling complex and often uncomfortable topics. They’re touring in support of their outstanding new LP, Painting of a Panic Attack, whose songs explore dark territory, yet are delivered with energy, passion and hooks layered upon hooks.

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Okkervil River – “Down Down the Deep River”

On the surface, this song off of Okkervil River’s 2013 album, The Silver Gymnasium, sounds like a buoyant, pop song.  But listen closer and you’ll discover a harrowing and devastating story about a young boy and his best friend at the hands of some “very bad men”.  When the father enters the story about half way through I am reminded of the novel,  The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, where the dad will do whatever it takes to protect his son.

This live-in-the-studio version shows just how powerful, melodic and literate this underrated rock group is.  As usual, turn your volume knob to the right before playing…