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[ATTENDED: November 2, 2022] Let’s Eat Grandma

I first heard about Let’s Eat Grandma back in 2016 from NPR music.  They had put out an album, I, Gemini that was weird and quirky, the creation of two weird and quirky girls–Rosa Walton (r, on the poster) and Jenny Hollingworth.  The album was really bizarre–strange music and spoken/shouted lyrics in thick Norwich accents.

I really wanted to see this concoction live, but they were quite young at the time and didn’t come over to the States until 2018.  Their 2018 album, I’m All Ears had a very different sound (more synthy and dancey, but still quirky).  The song “Hot Pink” from that album is about as weird as a catchy pop song can be.

Then in 2022 they put out Two Ribbons.  They had a series of personal crises in this time and it feels like a lot of the quirkiness was bashed out of them.  This makes the new album poppier and a lot mre accessible but to me a bit less interesting.

I read a review of their live show to make sure I still want to go, and it did make me want to go.  But I couldn’t help feel that there was something a little flat about the whole thing. Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: November 2, 2022] Julien Chang

I hadn’t heard of Julien Chang (pronounced “Chong” according to him) before this show.  He has an album out and a new one out on November 4.

I had listened to a couple of songs beforehand and found them to be nice enough.  I was in no way prepared for the band that he brought with him.

His lead guitarist Utah Miller was really fantastic.  They looked really young, but there was some serious shredding going on.  Julien’s bassist (whose name I didn’t catch played some great riffs and a few sliding bass-like sounds.  He also played guitar on a couple of songs (for a three guitar attack!).  But his most impressive bandmate was drummer Maya Stepansky.  She was all over the kit but in a very controlled manner.  With a small drum kit, she played some really impressive and timely fills.  She had a lot of subtle moments of the cymbals and was just a stellar accompanist.

Then there was Chang himself.  He wrote and played all of the songs on the record (with a couple of exceptions) and his songwriting skills is really quite accomplished.  I found some of his arrangements to be really complex and wonderful.  He has a jazz composer’s technique, with time changes and major rhythmic shifts in the songs.  And obviously allowing Miller to shred and Stepansky to riff shows a complex song structure.

I’m not even sure how to best describe his music.  It felt jazzy and poppy.  There were some prog rock elements (in the time shifts) and musically I really enjoyed what I heard.

I haven’t heard any of the studio recording of these songs, but I feel like they will simply be a lot better live.

  1. Heart Holiday
  2. Snakebit
  3. Butterflies in Morocco
  4. Marmalade

[ATTENDED: October 29, 2022] Chris Forsyth

I saw Chris Forsyth a few years ago and have been wanting to see him again.  It didn’t really matter what he was playing, I knew I’d enjoy his improv-filled jamming rock songs.

I was pretty excited to see him at Johnny Brenda’s as I knew I could get up close to watch him play.  It turned out that this particular show lined up with the Philadelphia Phillies’ first home game of the World Series.  Which meant that a) it was impossible to find parking and b) hardly anyone was in the concert hall.  Which was fine for me.  And probably for him, as I’m sure he sold a bunch of tickets ahead of time.

After raving about Meg Baird, Chris came up on stage with some of the band that Meg had used.  Douglas McCombs (from Tortoise!) and my favorite new (to me) drummer, Ryan Jewell.

The show started with Chris on a guitar that he didn’t play for the rest of the night.  The song was quiet and a little trippy.  A simple guitar chord structure with very loud simple bass line from McCombs.  I thought I knew the new album pretty well, but I didn’t recognize this song.  Nevertheless is was clearly a Chris Forsyth song with an interesting riffs and a tasteful solo or two.   I enjoyed how after about three or four minutes of this quieter introduction, the band totally rocked out. Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: October 29, 2022] Meg Baird

I saw Chris Forsyth a few years ago and have been wanting to see him again.  Having Meg Baird co-headline was a bonus.  As Chris said:

On this tour, Meg & I will each be doing a set with a great band (Douglas McCombs, Ryan Jewell, and Charlie Saufley, and if they don’t appear throughout your music library, how did you even get this email?). Although it’s very much a co-bill / co-headline thing, we’ve decided that Meg will play first and I will play second, mainly for volume/dynamic considerations.

Meg’s name sounded familiar to me and I realized that I have an album that she made with harpist Mary Lattimore.  But it also turns out that she is the drummer for the band Heron Oblivion whom I saw back in 2018.  Turns out that Charlie Saufley is also in Heron Oblivion.

For this set, Meg sat at a keyboard, although mostly she played acoustic guitar.  Saufley played lead and Douglas McCombs played bass.  I was also pretty excited to find out that Ryan Jewell was on the drum kit.  He is one of my favorite drummers to watch.

Meg sat right in front of me and I was enthralled by her voice (which can soar to incredible heights).  For Ashes she “oohed” rather than singing words and it was angelic.  She sounds like she could be singing with a Fairport Convention or another sixties British folk rock band.  Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: October 28, 2022] “Weird Al” Yankovic

This was my ninth time seeing Weird Al.  I’m shooting for ten.  We’ll see if he can muster up one more tour (why did I skip the Strings Attached tour)?

I was pretty thrilled by the first Ill-Advised Vanity Tour.  It was great seeing so many songs that rarely got played (amusingly, I had seen some of those songs on their original tours back in the early 2000s, which is pretty crazy.

I was hoping that this tour would be a whole new set of obscure old songs.  I thought he might pull out “Buckingham Blues” for the Queen’s death or something really odd like “Slime Creatures from Outer Space” or holy cow, “Genius in France” would have blown my mind.

I see that he actually played a largely different set in NYC (which I considered going to, but decided against).   Including “I’ll Sue Ya” (not a favorite, but I haven’t heard it before) and “Velvet Elvis (talk about an obscurity!).  But he also did the two songs that I would LOVE to hear live….and it might have been worth the hassle of Carnegie Hall just to hear “Nature Trail to Hell” and “Albuquerque.”

Having laid out that complaint, we did get four songs I hadn’t heard live before including a wonderful “Don’t Download This Song” and the sheer surprise of “Buy Me a Condo.”  And this new, improved, extended version of “Craigslist” was outstanding.

I will never complain about hearing “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota”–and the crowd was really into it.

Of course, any “Weird Al” show is a good time.  Al gave amusing introductions to all of the songs and even did an amusing “encore” bt where he stood at the side of the stage checking his phone and then arguing with the band about whether they were going to do an encore or not.

The encore was worth the price of admission.  He did a (straight and fantastic) cover of Elton John’s “Saturday’s Alright for Fighting.”  And the closing medley of songs in very different styles was outstanding.  I especially enjoyed that someone in the audience was able to do the Yoda chant dance. Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: October 28, 2022] Emo Philips

I saw Emo Philips open for Al four years ago.  I rather enjoyed his set.  As I said:

Emo’s comedy is really dark but–delivered in his bizarre manner that goes somehow beyond deadpan–it makes his jokes really hilarious

I wasn’t sure if I needed to see his set again–I wasn’t sure how different it would be.  And so, coupled with a Phillies game, it being a Friday night and it taking place in the center of Philadelphia, I rather assumed I’d be late and miss some or all of his set.

I arrived at the show at a little after 8 and by the time I got to my seat I guess I missed about half of his set.

Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: October 27, 2022] The Joy Formidable [rescheduled from December 16, 2021]

I was vaguely familiar with The Joy Formidable when they sold out Boot and Saddle in 2019.  I’d actually gotten a ticket to the non-sold-out show the next night, but stayed home because it was Thanksgiving vacation and we were staying in for the weekend.

Then I missed them when they opened for The Front Bottoms recently.  We had tickets but it didn’t pan out.  But I knew I had tickets to them headlining which I’d much rather see anyway.

And WOW, what a fantastic show.  I am now very bummed that I haven’t seen them fifty times.  But Ritzy Bryan said they’d be back in 2023, so I’m lining up to get tickets already (not really).

The Joy Formidable are a trio: Rhiannon “Ritzy” Bryan (guitar and vocals), Rhydian Dafydd (bass keys and vocals) and Matt James Thomas (drums).  They play alternative rock, but with an especially weird feel to it.  And sometimes, like when playing live, they rock like nobody’s business.

I have a couple of their records, but I haven’t listened to their whole catalog.  Nevertheless, each song instantly felt familiar and fantastic.

I was standing in front of Dafydd and I marveled at how he used the entire neck of the bass–sometimes playing melodies on the highest notes–and effects to really modify his sound.  I loved the way “Y Bluen Eira” started with crazy sounds and drums and was mumbled/sung in Welsh and then jumped into a ripping bass line while Ritzy played seemingly disconnected guitar lines.

The band blasted through a few songs from throughout their albums.  Ritzy looked really intense as she sang.  So much so that it came as a bit of a surprise when she  talked to us and was so genial and funny.

I was also really blown away by Matt James Thomas.  His drumming was intense.  Whether he was doing unusual beats or the intense snare pounding on “I Don’t Want to See You Like This” his volume control was outstanding.  Sometimes it sounded as if he was going to knock the stage down.  Of, and he had a giant gong, too.  Someone shouted “more gong please” and he promised to play it a few more times that night.  (This led to some very funny banter about gongs and how Ritzy wanted one to take out her frustrations on it.  Somehow this turned into a visual of Ritzy being strapped to the gong with Thomas suggesting throwing knives at her.  And thus their synth pop alter ego Gongs and Knives was born.

Ostensibly, they were touring their new album Into the Blue, although as they pointed out it came out and they couldn’t tour it.  So the first song they played from it was a bonus song that they added to the deluxe version of the record.  And for a tacked on bonus track, it was pretty awesome–it could easily have been a main track.

I have been listening to Into the Blue a lot since I got the vinyl and I really like it a lot.  It’s more mellow with a great quiet guitar lick and a delicate chorus.

But then they went back to rocking out with the older “Cradle” fitting perfectly alongside the new “Sevier”–with it howling guitars and pounding drums.

They slowed things down with a beautiful version of “Silent Treatment.”  Dafydd played an acoustic guitar while Ritzy sang and Thomas ended the song with a sprinkling of chimes.

Once the show had moved on a ways Ritzy started talking a lot.  She chided us for being too quiet between songs (it’s been three years since we’ve been playing, we need some good heckling).  She told a sweet story about her sausage dog who was with granny and getting spoiled. She told us a bit about the meaning of some of the songs, like “Chimes” which had special meaning to her as she imagined her grandfather talking to her when she was a little girl.  He sang a song about Chickadees and then noted that they don’t have them in Wales, so why was he singing about them?  Despite the sweetness, the song was a full-on rager.  I love the way the drums started and stopped in different styles.

I couldn’t believe that “The Leopard and the Lung” was the last song of the main set and yet when I looked at the time, they had been playing for 70 or so minutes.  Some of their songs are quite long and they often seemed to stretch them out with Ritzy standing in the middle of the stage while the guys followed her lead in terms of speed and duration.

They left for a pretty lengthy encore break, but when they returned they were decked out in Phillies gear.  Ritzy laughed saying she really doesn’t know anything about baseball.  But she was happy for Philadelphia since they hadn’t been in the finals since, what the 1800s?  She said that Wales had gotten into the World Cup for the first time in forever.  But she didn’t care about soccer either.  Ritzy had on a Phillies helmet which she had to take off because it was way too big.  Dafydd had on a giant foam fist which looked like it would hold a beer?  he gave it to Thomas and told him to smash the gong with it like the Hulk.  Which he proceeded to do–and fall off his drum stool.

Ritzy told us that “Gotta Feed My Dog” was essentially a kiss off–Sorry can’t talk to you I’ve gotta feed my dog.  The song has a slow opening with a whispered vocal but after the verse the song exploded–much bigger than the recorded version would have you expect.  It was awesome–as was Ritzy’s cool and weird guitar solo.

They ended with “Whirring,” a song that is on their original EP and was rerecorded for their first LP.  It’s super catchy.  On the record it’s got an extended outro that pushes the song to nearly 7 minutes and that’s how long they jammed the end for.  They had a blast rocking out the end–getting faster and faster.  When it seemed like they were playing as fast as they possible could, Thomas dropped one of his drumsticks and proceeded to play this remarkably fast drum pattern with one hand while pretending to yawn.

It ended in a colossal sound with Thomas once more smashing his gong.

What a great great show.  I certainly will try to see them again.  I only wish they had spoken in Welsh for me–I should have asked her to.

  1. The Greatest Light Is the Greatest Shade
  2. I Don’t Want to See You Like This
  3. Y Bluen Eira
  4. Ostrich
  5. CSTS (Come See the Show) (bonus on ⇔)
  6. Into the Blue
  7. Cradle
  8. Sevier
  9. Silent Treatment ϖ
  10. Chimes
  11. The Leopard and the Lung ϖ
    encore
  12. Gotta Feed My Dog
  13. Whirring

⇔ Into the Blue (2021)
∇ AARTH (2018)
ϖ Wolf’s Law (2013)
ℜ The Big Roar (2011)
♠ A Balloon Called Moaning (2008)

 

 

 

[ATTENDED: October 27, 2022] Cuffed Up [rescheduled from December 16, 2021]

I’d only heard of Cuffed Up because they were scheduled to open for The Joy Formidable last year.  I listened to some of their music and really liked it so I was glad they were still opening  year later.

Cuffed Up had a great dual vocal set up between Sapphire Jewell and Ralph Torrefranca.  Earlier this month, however, Sapphire left the band.  She was replaced by Christina Apostolopoulos (which I didn’t realize until after the show, having never seen what the band looked like before).  The rhythm section is Vic Ordonez on bass and and Joe Liptock on drums.  The band is from L.A. but Liptock is from Philly and he was proudly wearing his Phillies T-shirt since the team was entering the World Series the next day.

The band came out and I was immediately impressed.   The guitar interplay between Ralph and Christina was great (it’s hard to believe she’s new to the band).  She played some great lead parts and I really enjoyed watching some of the chords she was making.

On my favorite song, “Canaries,” she mostly scratched her pick along the low string (and occasionally played the high chime of the strings above the top of the fretboard) while the rest of the band rocked out. Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: October 26, 2022] Band-Maid

I’m not exactly sure how I heard about Band-Maid, but I’d only heard of them very recently.  It seemed like a joke: a Japanese metal band made up of women who dressed like Japanese maids.  Like Babymetal had gotten popular with a gimmick, so they’d try it too.

But evidently that’s not the case.  Turns out that in 2013 Guitarist/singer Miku Kobato, formerly an employee of a Japanese maid café, envisioned forming a band that juxtaposed the maid image with rock music.  She found lead guitarist Kanami Tōno after an Internet search. Tōno suggested her occasional backing drummer Akane Hirose for the new band. Hirose knew about bassist Misa from music school.  Originially Miku was going to sing, but they decided to get another singer and so they audtioned and hired Saiki Atsumi.

And while Babymetal existed in 2013, they didn’t really take off until late in that year.  So we can stop the comparisons now.

Band-Maid’s first album was kind of pop metal, but they soon added a much heavier tone on New Beginning.  And they have only gotten heavier since, with Unleash sounding especially heavy.

For this tour, in addition to playing at TLA, they were also playing at the Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park in East Rutherford, NJ.  This certainly sapped some of their cred, I felt.  And yet some other well established bands have also played there.  So I guess good for them.  I would have happily gone there is I could find anything about what the venue is like.  Is it in the mall?  How is the sound?  No idea.

So I bought a ticket to TLA which had not yet sold out.  It had sold out by the day of the show.  Like with Metric I coudln’t find out if there was an opening band.  It turned out that there was not.

So when I arrived at five to eight, the place was packed.  I had hoped to get kind of close, but i was about as far back as you can be (fortunately TLA is not a big place).  Interestingly, while I was standing there at least three men walked by in full maid costume.  And standing next to me was another man in full whit maid costume.  I really wanted to ask him if he made it or bought it or what, but then the lights dimmed.

And one by one each member of the band came out and the crowd went berserk.

Now I was there out of curiosity, but this show sold out because people really like them.  A lot.  People (mostly men, judging by the deep voices) sang along (mostly to the oh ohs, since the words are in Japanese, but they knew exactly when they went).

After an orchestral intro the band ripped into “Sense,” their new single.  And holy cow, it was intense.  There were screaming guitar solos (I was bummed that I couldn’t really see Tōno because she kind of hunches when she solos, but she sounded amazing.  Even more so, Miku was fantastic on bass–playing little solos and slapping.  This was even more evident on “Play” where there were little breaks and she played some intense little riffs.

I was also blown away by drummer Akane Hirose who pounded the drums and played some really impressive fills and complex patterns.  She also did a drum solo (!) during “FREEDOM.”  It wasn’t long or tedious–just really highlighted what she could do back there.  Tōno also had a few shredding moments during this song.

The two leaders of the band are clearly Miku and Saiki Atsumi who were both more brightly lit than the other three (this may have been a stage issue, rather than intentional).  Saiki was dressed in black (it was a little hard to see the maid part of her outfit, but then I’m no expert) and had a great voice.  Miku is striking in her white maid outfit (with black trim).  She played a wicked guitar (some serious riffage in 2020’s “Different” and sang a few songs as well–in fact she hits some really high notes a few times.

She was also the main communicator.  She talked about being happy t o finally be in Philadelphia.  I THINK this was their first time playing Philly.  She brought the house down by saying they all went for cheesesteaks.  Do you like cheesesteaks?

Saiki left the stage and the band launched into “Onset” a great instrumental that showcased how great all four musicians were.  With heavy chords, grooving bass and Tōno’s finger tapping solos I could have listened to this for the whole show.  They followed that with yet another instrumental, “from now on” which opens their new EP Unleash.  This one feels more operatic in scope–but is no less heavy–with soaring solos.

Things slowed down briefly for the ballad “Sayonakidori.”  It’s a lovely song sung by Miku.  And works as a transition to the stage craft to come.

Because the middle of the set is full of what I gather are improvised set pieces.  For instance, there is Misa’s “opening ceremony.”  She opens a can of beer and proceeds to chug most of it.  “Misa likes beer.  You like beer?” [indeed we do replies the crowd].  Miku has an “Omajinai” Magic Spell Time in which she has the crowd chant along with promised world domination. and even a chant of cheesesteak!

Later, Akane devoured an entire banana in the spirit of her “Gorilla” moniker.  And when the crowd started chanting “banana” Miku asked uncertainly, you want the banana?  So Akane signed the peel and threw it to the crowd.  Tōno and Saika also gave a Japanese lesson. She taught us 大丈夫でしょう[Daijōbudeshou] which means “It will be ok.”

“Choose me” is an older single.  You can certainly hear the way the band has evolved over the years.  It was followed by “Endless Story” yet another song with a catchy sing along.   “Daydreaming” starts off like another ballad, but it quickly rips away that quiet intro with a catchy riff (and a clap along).

That was it for the older songs for a bit as they played the newish song “Influencer.”   This song features lyrics in English, rapping and some wicked bass solo work.  “After Life” comes from their last LP and is one of the heaviest songs of the set.  “Unleash!!!” from the new EP also has some English lyrics and is heavy as anything.

After about half way through the set, people stopped videoing everything and I was able to get a few decent pictures–especially when they stood on the monitors.

The final two songs “NO GOD” (which features a wicked guitar solo, a slapping bass solo and a Woah oh oh oh sing along part and even a melodramatic quiet moment just before the end) and “DOMINATION” kept up the intensity as the show came to a satisfying end.

It was a super fun hour and forty-five minutes.  The mood in the place was one of a delightful party.  There was no moshing that I could see (even though Philly crowds will mosh to anything), but there was dancing and bouncing and clapping.  There were more people in cosplay and a group of people in the back who were waving bright orange lights around (no idea).

And while I am usually all about supporting the opening band, it was pretty nice that they didn’t have one.  And I was back on the road by 10PM.

I came to the show not really knowing what to expect.  And I’ll say that I would absolutely see them again in East Rutherford if I was free.  The show was that good.

  1. Sense Ω
  2. Play Ø
  3. Don’t you tell ME
  4. FREEDOM ß
  5. Different §
  6. alone ß
  7. onset [instrumental bonus from ©]
  8. from now on Ω
  9. Sayonakidori
  10. Choose me §§
  11. endless Story ©
  12. Daydreaming Ø
  13. influencer Ω
  14. After Life
  15. Unleash!!!!! Ω
  16. NO GOD
  17. DOMINATION Ø
Ω Unleash EP (2022)
∞ Unseen World (2021)
§ single (2020)
© CONQUEROR (2019)
Ø WORLD DOMINATION (2018)
√ Just Bring It (2017)
§§ single (2017)
ß Brand New MAID (2015)

[ATTENDED: October 23, 2022] Metric

Metric’s Fantasties was one of my favorite albums of 2009.  I liked it so much I went back and got their first two albums as well and really enjoyed their brand of gritty synth pop all based around Emily Haines’ astute and observantly dark lyrics.  Then I kind of lost track of them.  They put out a record in 2012 Synthetica which I don’t understand why I didn’t listen to.  They’ve continued to release albums every three years or so, and I’d been hearing how good their live shows were so I decided to check out The Doomscroller tour.

The stage setup was quite simple–a wall of lights behind them.  The four members stood close to the center.   Amazingly, the four members have been the same since more or less the beginning (they had a different bassist but he left before their first album).  Joules Scott-Key on drums in the back.  Joshua Winstead on bass more or less in front of us.  James Shaw on guitar on the far side and singer Emily Haines in the middle.  They were all standing at keyboards as the moody intro to “Doomscroller” started.  Emily moved to one of the keyboards to add her parts and when the song shifted, she walked over to another keyboard–do they have different purposes?  

When the sound shifted, the guys moved away from the synths and started rocking out.  The lights changed.  Emily moved into the middle and the whole room rocked out.  Until things settled down again.  The song is ten minutes with several parts and it showed exactly what the band was going to do and what the show was going  to be like.

It was exciting and cathartic all together.  Continue Reading »