For a Monday night, the Echoplex in Los Angeles was quite packed out. SWIMM, Florida-to-Los Angeles transplants as of 2015, followed Andy Clockwise, aptly thanking him for the blast-happy performance. It was SWIMM's last night of their residency at the Echoplex, and the two-piece, now expanded to five performers, wrapped it in pure rock and roll style. Even some of the family were in attendance, including the proud mom of lead singer and guitarist, Chris Hess.
The last day of Culture Collide is packed to the max with a full day of shows featuring both domestic and local acts along with a bevy of international bands. Time to get a hearty brunch, and a bit of hair of the dog with tons of hydration, since it's another hot one today. For all your vinyl freaks, the day kicks off with a free outdoor party where many of our favorite labels - Anti, Anticon, Last Gang Records, Burger Records, Ninja Tune, Epitaph, Saddle Creek, Eenie Meanie, Delicious Vinyl - have their wares for sale.
Visiting the CBS Mix 94.1 and X107.5 Downtown Soundhouse today at Life is Beautiful, Mike Kerr, bassist and singer for Royal Blood, and drummer Ben Thatcher chatted a bit with radio hosts MJ and Pauly. It was a lively ten minutes, touching on topics from their early wedding singer days to strip clubs and losing one’s concert-going virginity to Goldfrapp, along with numerous shots of sarcascim and dry wit to complement the free Dos Equis and Kettle One.
Pauly: So this is your first time in Vegas…
Mike: This is actually my third.
Ben: This is my first.
Pauly: Well, first time as Royal Blood in Las Vegas.
Mike: There’s a third time for everything, right?
MJ: Are you going to swing [Ben] around to strip clubs or something? I mean, he needs to be broken in.
Mike: I’ll want to do that. Haven’t had a formal band meeting about that yet, but yeah.
Pauly: We can have a meeting right now. All in favor of the strip club say aye…
MJ: So you guys started out as wedding singers?
Mike: Yes, that’s correct.
Pauly: No kidding!
Mike: We did do that once upon a time.
Pauly: Lots of crazy cover songs?
Mike: Not crazy, just the standard ones…
Pauly: “You Are So Beautiful”…
Mike: Thank you.
MJ: What is one you did…
Mike: “Easy Like Sunday Morning,” or things like, “Mama Mia.”
MJ: So the classics. You guys have gotten the attention of some huge names: Tom Morrello, Jimmy Page. The Arctic Monkeys. Everybody loves you when they see you. Like, ’These guys are going to be dominating soon.’
Pauly: My first job in radio was for X107.5 pushing buttons for the Howard Stern Show about a year ago. You were the first new band that he has spoken about in almost two decades. That had to have felt great inside.
Mike: If I’m going to be totally honest, I didn’t have that much awareness of Howard until he asked us. Then I started Googling him and realized how sheltered my life had been.
Pauly: I’d been listening to the guy for years upon years, so as soon as he mentioned you and gave his stamp of approval, to me, you guys blew up after that. Foo Fighters had you on tour for the east coast. What was that all about?
Mike: Yeah, it was amazing. I don’t really know what else to stay about it really. That was our dream support slot. If you look back, have some spare time with pretty much nothing else to do, look back and watch interviews with us in the early days, and all we talk about is going on tour with the Foo Fighters. If the dream was to come true, that would be a good one. And it did.
MJ: You guys are just incredible. Dropped your self-titled debut in March. (To the crowd.) Make sure you get it if you haven’t yet. What bands are you looking forward to seeing. I know you’re going to be here tomorrow too, just chilling, hanging out.
Mike: Duran Duran. That’s why I’m here, if I’m honest. We’re just here to see Duran Duran.
Ben: And Snoop Dog.
Pauly: There’s just two of you. And such a full rock sound. I mean, you’re keeping rock alive in a day that’s so digital and electric. How does it feel to pull the weight on your shoulders right now?
Pauly: Okay, great. (To the crowd) Have you seen Royal Blood live and on stage? (See our review of the Royal Blood’s Bonnaroo performance). It’s going to be one of the most rocking parts of the Life is Beautiful Festival. How did two guys do all of that?
Mike: Well, I can answer that question because we are those two guys. So it’s very convenient. The answer is very long and very boring, so, get comfy.
(Ben decides the theatre seats down below are actually more comfy than the barstool on the stage, and promptly drops down and settles himself into one, but still has the microphone to chime in when needed.)
Mike: We decided to start a band like every other band member would. When me and Ben met, which was around the age of 15, 16, we loved playing music together, and that’s what got us talking, isn’t it Ben.
Ben: Correct. He’s not lying.
Mike: Years passed. We’d done many weddings. We saw divorces. We even played at those parties. We played in restaurants. And this is all different bands, playing lots of different instruments. At one point Ben was even singing, and I was playing the keyboards. Eventually we found a combination, which is what we are now, which is the bass and the drum set. Does that answer your question?
Pauly: It’s a thick line of kick ass. Everybody has a first show, that live experience when you see a band for the first time. Unfortunately, my first ban was Whitney Houston. A great talent, but it wasn’t rock and roll. What was your first experience and what lit that spark for you?
Mike: It was a Goldfrapp concert. Not sure if anyone has heard of Goldfrapp. It’s brilliant. I went with a friend, and was possibly the only straight person in the room, because, she attracts a lot of gays, basically, which is great. But I wasn’t, so my first concert experience was, that I thought only gay people went to concerts. So I was very confused. There was lots of same sex people making out. And I thought, “Is this something that only gay people do?” A beautiful, naive position to have. But I did feel slightly awkward.
Ben: It’s ‘cause he likes vaginas.
MJ: What about you Ben, what was your first show?
Ben: Mine was, I think it was Linkin Park.
(Cheers from the crowd again.)
Mike: Similar story then?
Ben: Yeah. That was weird.
Royal Blood play the Downtown main stage at Life is Beautiful today at 4:45pm. Bring your lip balm so your smacker is fully ready for a making out session.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra has always personified the exotic, mysterious, and highly intense, even in those pop music moments, while at the same time being eagerly accessible. At the Auckland via Portland band’s 2013 SXSW performance at the Red Eyed Fly, frontman Ruban Nielson played to the crowd, already enamored with UMO’s self-titled debut, and at that time, the newly released second album, aptly name II, in an kimono-styled jacket. Between the light and flaky layers of multi-instrumentation coupled with Nielson honeydew vocal melodies, the experience seemed to release an imaginary fragrance of jasmine and frankincense in the warm Austin air.
It was the the second night of Bonnaroo, and as the sun dipped down the coolness rose, bringing a layer of happiness over the already gitty crowd awaiting Tears for Fears. As the legendary duo and backing band took the stage, shrieks rang through the men and women, young and old, all the way to the back crowd where we were.
For any music fan, a song, a melody, a lyrical line captures a personal moment in time. Generationally, music through the ages is also a time capsule of the human condition, our tragedies and triumphs, the bullshit and the heroism. Instant Empire has captured many woes and wiles, bursting out with 10 storyfied songs on Lamplight Lost; moments in melodies that relate to the state of today, some touching on timeless subjects, but all of which was celebrated at the new-and-improved Marquis Theatre on Thursday, July 2.
I went back and watched a video from Cyberfest 2000 yesterday before setting out to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, remembering how taken back I was of that Fresno festival’s eye candy in comparison to the raves I’d attended in San Francisco, from Toon Town and Community in the early 90s until that ‘welcome to the millennium’ party. What was considered a spectacle then seems like strung popcorn on a Christmas tree now in comparison to the sheer awe you experience as the visual landscape of Electric Daisy Carnival’s (EDC) Las Vegas unfolds before your eyes.
It's appropriate that one of Catfish and the Bottlemen's most popular songs is entitled "Homesick." The North Wales boys are rarely home, spending most of their time on the road making fast friends with a flurry of penetrating-to-the-bone rock music, willing to play anywhere and talk to anyone, and continuously showcasing their talent along with a deep appreciation for all their adoring fans.
Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher in the UK’s Royal Blood were making quite a stir in their home country, but it didn’t take long for their reputation for heavy riffs and larger-than-life live sets to penetrate the states, especially after their shows at SXSW 2014.
When I hear that a band has Britpop leanings, I can’t help but perk up my ears like my dog Sam does when he hears the crackling of a chip bag. It’s the instinctive sound known to deliver the most scrumptious of treats. The DMA’s have indeed lived up to the high bar previously set by Britpop greats before them, including Ride that I saw earlier in the week, and Noel Gallagher, whom I was immensely excited to see at Governors Ball.