Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Gris Gris - Live at the Creamery. Yeah!!

For three years or so, the Gris Gris was a relatively unknown hero of a musical act, as well as what seemed the focal point of bay area label Birdman Records (were the group lacking in humility and publicized well enough to be any sort of “star,” anyway). By 2008, though, the band was done, and its brain, Greg Ashley, was to move onto a quieter place – apparently he’s now looking mostly to production for work.

The band’s recorded albums – all two of them – showed influence in both Spanish classical guitar and ‘60s psychedelia. Live, however, the latter was much more apparent, and Ashley would spend a bit of time sitting with his head down until it came time to make a mess and throw his guitar into the face of an amp and create all sorts of noise. He'd save the classy stuff, the "Me Queda Um Bejou"s of his records, for his solo acoustic sets.

Live at the Creamery, then, the Gris Gris’ swan song, carries much of the energy of that rowdy live show, having been recorded during a final set at Ashley’s warehouse in Oakland in April ’08. Vocal distortion is maxed out, as are Ashley’s guitar embellishments - refer here to the wonderfully indulgent solos on songs like “Year Zero” and “Everytime.” You can't make out much more than Lars Kullberg's organ, otherwise, and certainly, Oscar Michel's clarinet is lost among the fuzz. And though the album doesn’t allow you to watch an audience dance along to “Necessary Separation,” you know they were there, because (as with the album version), you, too, will get the compelling urge. Live at the Creamery nearly does justice to the live show that the Gris Gris will never again put on.

The Gris Gris - Everytime (live)
The Gris Gris - Necessary Separation (live)
Purchase Live at the Creamery (Birdman's got a big Greg Ashley fest going on at present, where for twenty bucks you can buy this record and any other Gris Gris/solo record, no additional shipping.)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Things to watch.

So there are these Danish fellows, Mimas, and their brilliant video for "Cats on Fire" is rather like a brief episode of Sifl and Olly, had the show been directed by SJ Esau. Also, there is some lovely rolling of the drum and a bit of a post-rock temper tantrum (seeing as, yes, this is a music video). I like it quite a lot, and hopefully you do as well. You can e-stalk Mimas by reading their blog, wondering how to get to Europe while streaming their music on MySpace, and checking the Distile Records website until their record The Worries is released.

Order The Worries in Euros here after February 23.

Mimas - Cats on Fire (mp3)

...sweet Jesus, there's more! posted an entire hour's worth of a live Constantines concert from December at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, and you can watch it, track by track! Gaaa!! They remain one of the most perfect rock bands around, simply a dream. Watch Bryan Webb start to lose some of the gravel in his voice a mere song in.

Watch the full concert at

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A new reason to hate the human heart.

Today is, for me, one of the saddest imaginable days in music news - Lux Interior, front man of absolutely brilliant psychobilly band the Cramps, passed away yesterday of a heart condition not yet named in print.

Ron Asheton's death might have been bigger news due to status, and certainly was as premature, but Lux's death (erm - Erick Lee Purkhiser's, rather) is a shame for me on a personal level because the Cramps have been one of my very favorite bands since early childhood. Having been raised primarily by a mother with a great collection of punk records, my first music memory is actually of the Cramps; I recall being five years old, sitting in the car with my mom and her best friend on the way home from the Hollywood Bowl sometime in 1990. It had been a classical concert of some sort, and surely I wouldn't remember it now any more than I cared for it then, but what I do remember is listening to "Everything Goes" off of a used cassette copy of Stay Sick (which said awesome mother still owns) on the car ride home from that dreadfully crowded parking lot and giggling along.

My taste has changed in the last 20 years, but my appreciation for the Cramps hasn't in that time, and they were, really, my gateway to punk rock. Not only that, but to me they offered exactly what's missing from most forms of punk right now - a sense of humor. Who else can throw out all sorts of animal calls, or sing a line like, "Life is short/filled with stuff," and still sound badass? They're just a little bit intimidating, a little bit corny, but forever cool. A real shame that they'll never get to perform again, even in their 60s. I'm devastated.

The Cramps - What's Behind the Mask
The Cramps - Tear it Up
The Cramps - Mystery Plane (original mix)
The Cramps - I'm Cramped (original mix)

And my very favorite of all:
The Cramps - Love Me

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Nightmares on Wax at the Echoplex. February 2, 2009. Los Angeles, CA.

An unannounced DJ set meant plenty of sitting until the 10 o' clock hour, and it was, at first, disappointing to see an iBook and turntable setup resting on a table, rather than equipment for a live band. But Nightmares on Wax, led by Leeds DJ George Evelyn and joined on vocals by Sara Garvey and Ricky Ranking, made up with a solid hour and a half of dance fodder.

The set translated with a greater hardness and heavier impact than much of the downtempo Evelyn's placed in his recordings, assisted by fair audience participation – on “Da Feelin” (Thought So...), with its hey/ho rhythm, and the energy of those live vocals, like Garvey's on “The Sweetest,” “Damn” (In a Space Outta Sound), and the ultra-sexy “Moretime.” Ranking's voice started to give out toward set's end, but he was wildly smooth up to and during that point. Luckily, Garvey started to supplement some of the pair's lead vocals by holding the mic up to the crowd, giving a small shot even to the...ah...older gentleman in a baseball cap. Life's cool when you bleed positivity.

Evelyn came out of hiding and showed off a bit of his great grimy Brit accent here and there, though he was perfectly entertaining to watch from behind his table. Great fluidity and gorgeous circular movement – if only he'd not spent the night chewing gum with an open mouth.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Nickel Eye at the Troubadour. 1.29.09. Los Angeles, CA.

When the Strokes aren’t busy being the famous sons of famous men or inventing a likeness to Devendra Banhart, they spend their time on hiatus being Nikolai Fraiture, moonlighting as Nickel Eye while backed by members of British band South.

Much like the Strokes themselves, Strokes fans are gorgeous and wear leather jackets. But Nickel Eye is not the Strokes, and though he is, surely, the Underrated Stroke, there is a reason for Fraiture’s usual positioning as bass player and not front man (though, interestingly, it was Lucas Field of supporting act Low Vs. Diamond who more closely recalls the likeable cool of Julian Casablancas).

Fraiture’s efforts didn’t see an audience cheering for an encore, and in truth, about 20% of the Troubadour’s floor space had emptied between the ends of supporting and headlining sets. Save for closing song “Dying Star,” which would have fit well on First Impressions of Earth, Fraiture’s acoustic guitar and Peter Perrett-meets-Beck voice led folky semi-adventures halfway between (appropriately) French-sounding stomps and a mid-‘70s sound. He hasn’t got much charisma or energy, but he’s got versatility and charm (not to mention the ability to show a bottle of Jack Daniel's who's boss), and Nickel Eye finally gave the silent Stroke a chance to smile and speak aloud. We still love you, Nikolai.

...and a shout out to Howie Diamond's 'fro.