I’ve been to a lot of shows at the Hollywood Bowl and it’s not my favorite venue (I prefer The Greek). But if you ask non-concertgoers in Los Angeles, they will overwhelmingly endorse the Bowl. It’s legendary. Plus, it certainly helps that the Bougie wine-and-cheese crowd can pay a little extra to sit inside a glorified box. It was not until seeing Florence + The Machine that I finally realized the true value of that venue. At approximately 9:15 p.m., Florence Welch entered the stage in unison with her very talented musicians, and it was as if the heavens opened up and released a gift from G-d amidst the stars and the mountains. The aesthetics of a show are often overlooked, and she optimized every inch of available space. Her staging was impeccable, with perfect lighting and a background that made the large area feel incredibly intimate.
Nestled in the stunning town of Steamboat, Colorado is the Strings Music Pavilion, which showcases over 60 genre-spanning performances during the summer months. The venue houses just 569 people, which provides for a beautiful, personal experience between the audience and the artist. As a devoted Steamboat-goer since a very early age, I can safely say that the venue and concerts have only improved over the years. And given its uncompromising quality at the outset, that’s a mighty task.
Let me begin this post by assuring my readers that at one point in my life, I was a massive fan of Maroon 5. In fact, I’d say I was one of their first, and my love began when Adam Levine stood front and center on ‘Last Call with Carson Daly’ to debut ‘Songs About Jane,’ their first record. That album was almost entirely written by Adam Levine and Jesse Carmichael, the latter of which is the band’s pianist and rhythm guitarist. The two also almost exclusively wrote the band’s second album, ‘It Won’t Be Soon Before Long,’ which was also a success. But in 2010, everything changed. They released ‘Hands All Over,’ which debuted far below expectations. This was especially surprising given that it was produced by legendary veteran Mutt Lange. In an interview with Howard Stern, Levine referenced a rift with Lange while making the album, implying that once they worked out their differences, it was smooth sailing. Did Levine tie Mutt’s hands, thereby hindering the creative process, or did the two simply not get along — and the resulting album reflected their rancor? It’s hard to say and sometimes things just don’t land, but the experience seemed to have hit Levine hard given that for their next three albums, ‘Overexposed,’ ‘V,’ and ‘Red Pill Blues,’ Maroon 5 opened their doors to a daunting amount of songwriters outside their band. Was that the right decision? Perhaps. I certainly enjoyed those records. But I cannot help but think when you employ the industry’s heaviest hitters to keep you relevant, you move from a bunch of friends in their garage doing what they love to a group of guys trying to be famous no matter what the creative cost.
When I arrived at The Forum to see Maroon 5 live, I had an open mind. I promise. As soon as Adam began singing, I noticed his live vocals seemed far too low for the venue, which I first blamed on the front of house engineer. Then my friend asked if he was lip-syncing, and it was as if my mother just confessed Santa isn’t real (I’m Jewish — but you get the point). “It’s far too perfect,” she said. Later, when it felt as if he was in fact singing live, the vocals sounded astoundingly different. Though I have no direct confirmation that Levine lip-synced, I’ll say that I pay a hefty ticket price for a reason, and if Sheryl Crow can give an incredible performance at The Greek with a cold and cracked voice, Levine can sing that entire concert live. But let’s assume he sang live, for argument’s sake.
It’s no secret that Adam Levine is often the target of “haters.” Though celebrities will always deal with negative press, these types of attacks start from somewhere. Even Jonah Hill (a longtime friend of Levine) told Howard Stern that though Levine gets a bad reputation, he’s an extremely kind, genuine guy. So why the misconception? For starters, Levine seems arrogant. Why? Because he took the stage in sweatpants (literally), a wife-beater, and sneakers. This is a far cry from the suits the band was known for wearing during their rise, and it’s not acceptable for a grocery store run let alone the stage at The Forum. It’s as if Levine is so hot he’d look good in anything, and so famous he can’t be bothered to forgo his pajamas while performing. At one point he even took a swipe at James Valentine’s (lead guitarist) jumpsuit, which was actually damn cool. In fact, Valentine was the best part of the show, given that the man seemed to purely want to play his instrument, rather than artificially hamming it up for the audience. Speaking of hamming it up, Levine did this in all the wrong places. For starters, he almost exclusively played downstage right, despite having an underutilized stage (in the shape of a “V”) in the center of the audience. When he sang “She Will Be Loved” beside Valentine for the encore while standing on the unique stage mid-audience, it provided a rare authentic moment that could have been duplicated throughout the show to provide a more dynamic experience, rather than a light-assault akin to a South Beach club. Sit on a stool and sing a ballad, or do anything other than burn through your material while barely addressing the audience. I’m not there to see you hit the play button on your record and call it a concert. Speaking of which, I’d have loved to see more of the Maroon 5 band, but because of the on-stage setup, they were basically hidden like Hollywood Squares. Okay — I’ll stop now. I seem angry.
On the heels of his upcoming headline tour, Gallant has released his new video for “Doesn’t Matter,” and the result is spectacular. You might remember Gallant from his duet with Seal, where the two vocal titans sang “Weight in Gold” in one of the most stunning performances I’ve seen in some time. The song first dropped on Beats 1’s first “World Exclusive,” via tastemaker Zane Lowe.
Christopher Gallant is a Columbia native who graduated from NYU, and his debut studio album, ‘Ology,’ was released worldwide in 2016. That followed his self-released 2014 EP, ‘Zebra.’ His popular ‘In The Room‘ series is also not to be missed.
See his new video below and scroll down for tour dates.
10/18 – Atlanta – Variety Playhouse
10/19 – Nashville – The Cowan
10/22 – Washington – 9:30 Club
10/23 – New York – Terminal 5
10/27 – Philadelphia – Union Transfer
10/28 – Boston – Royale
10/30 – Toronto – Danforth Music Hall
10/31 – Montreal – Corona Theatre
11/2 – Detroit – El Club
11/3 – Chicago – Concord Music Hall
11/4 – Minneapolis – First Avenue
11/7 – Seattle – Neptune
11/8 – Vancouver – Vogue Theatre
11/9 – Portland – Roseland Theater
11/12 – Oakland – Fox Theater
11/13 – Santa Ana – Observatory OC
11/15 – Los Angeles – Wiltern
11/17 – San Diego – Observatory North Park–
It’s been seven years since Snow Patrol released a new album, and on May 25, the Gary Lightbody led Northern Irish rock band will release ‘Wildness,’ and since one song is better than the next, I predict it will resonate with their loyal fan base. Lightbody took the stage of The Fonda alongside Nathan Connolly (guitar, backing vocals), Paul Wilson (bass guitar, backing vocals), Jonny Quinn (drums), and Johnny McDaid (piano, guitar, backing vocals) to play to a packed house. You might know Johnny McDaid as one of the powerful co-writing forces behind Ed Sheeran, P!nk, Robbie Williams, and more. McDaid is also the man who hilariously gave Lightbody an assist on stage that night, when Lightbody struggled to remember some lyrics, making for an enjoyable human connection with his fans.
I was personally introduced to Snow Patrol via ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ when the second single from their fourth studio album, “Chasing Cars,” became a massive success. The band would either be incredibly happy or incredibly annoyed to hear that, but I predict the latter. “Chasing Cars” spent 85 weeks on the UK charts, and though Lightbody feared that “the song could become bigger than the band” it’s clear from the devoted crowd that that is far from the truth.
For a band that “spent ten years making records that 6,000 people bought,” according to Lightbody, it’s no secret why they take nothing for granted, and even when Lightbody boasted their new album being “f***ing great,” it was more a funny acknowledgment of a factual truth then a rock star’s masturbatory boast.
It might seem odd to say that a singer’s voice is his best asset, but in the case of David Gray, it’s worth noting. His voice perfectly punctuated the power of his beautiful music, yet the rougher, more masculine tone gives it a mesmerizing juxtaposition. I’m guessing he’s aware of this because he stepped right onto that Los Angeles stage at The Greek Theater for an Acapella rendition of “One Fine Morning”, which roused the audience the moment he arrived (see video below). He then effortlessly moved to the piano, where he delivered a stadium worthy performance with the feel of a small dive bar. And just when you thought it couldn’t get better, the multi-instrumentalist grabbed his guitar.
It feels as if you’ve just discovered David Gray. As if you’re about to run home, CD in hand, hijacking your friends stereo to introduce them to this great underground artist they just have to hear. Nowadays, that process comes in the form of a link, but it’s all the same love for music with an immediate desire to share that love with the world.
David Gray is a live artist. Artists come in many forms, and some of my personal favorite albums aren’t quite up to snuff with what happens on stage. There’s many reasons for that, but when a musician exceeds the album, it’s magic. My favorite song of the night was “The One I Love,” given that Gray slightly changed the arrangement to give the tune a more upbeat, live-band feel. He saved “Babylon” for the end, along with “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye” and “Nightblindness.” Though one might think “Babylon” served as the evening’s highlight, I must reiterate that because each and every performance was better than the next, this was not a wait-for-the-hits concert. Every second was used wisely, and I’ll now be attending every Gray concert possible from now on.
Gray’s 10 album, 25-year career has positioned him as one of the UK’s leading artists. The Grammy-nominated musician’s latest studio album, Mutineers, set itself apart from previous albums, while simultaneously satiating his oh-so-loyal fan base. Gray also released a greatest hits collection entitled The Best of that included a re-recorded 25th Anniversary version of “Shine” and new tracks “Smoke Without Fire” and “Enter Lightly.” He is currently in the studio recording a new album which is set for release in 2018.
As for Alison Krauss, she certainly does not need my accolades. She’s a polished live performer with a stellar backup band and a very loyal audience who appeared to be hyper-focused on her every move. It takes a top-notch artist to command such respect, and Krauss proves she’s worthy, time and time again. In fact, as the Gray/Krauss show neared its end, my inner monologue was on overdrive as I thought, “Wow, here’s two people who proved what a show looks like when it’s just about the music. Here I am, under the stars at one of the best venues in Los Angeles, watching the purest of people share their gift with the world. The audience’s attention span reflected that. Just pure, unaffected joy.
Looking for your next underground artist on the rise? Meet RIVVRS, also known as Brandon Zahursky, who is an interesting mix between Mike Posner and Hozier. I don’t know Mr. Zahursky personally, but I’d imagine he’d take issue with the Posner comparison, but that’s a compliment on the vocals front. He adds an interesting layer of depth to this lane, which happens to be a sweet spot on my playlist, thus making me the perfect person to review his new lead single, “Don’t Give Up On Me.” The song can be found on his full-length album, ‘Cosmic Dream’, which will be released in 2018.
I can’t take full credit for finding RIVVRS, though. He’s has over 30 song placements on network television shows, and over eight million Spotify streams. In fact, his debut single “I Will Follow You,” was written into the script of an episode of ‘About A Boy’ in 2014. Prior to his full-time career as an artist, he worked in the wine industry. When he left, he couch surfed, played house concerts, and performed at a coffeehouse in San Luis Obispo, which is where another artist told him to attend the Durango Songwriters Expo near Santa Barbara. It was there that he got the attention of the Hollywood music supervision community. Sometimes it pays to take a risk, and judging by his new single, he made the right decision.
Listen below to his latest release, which you can also find here.
If Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule applies to anyone, it’s the Goo Goo Dolls. The Buffalo bred band began their music career nearly a decade before their breakout success with “Name” in 1995 on A Boy Named Goo, which was their fifth studio album. But that was just the beginning. They’d follow it up three years later with Dizzy Up the Girl, which featured “Slide,” Black Balloon,” “Dizzy,” and “Broadway.” And who can forget the heart-tugging “Iris,” off the City of Angels soundtrack, which was ranked #1 on Billboard’s “Top 100 Pop Songs 1992–2012” chart. The multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated band includes founders John Rzeznik (lead singer, guitarist) and Robby Takac (vocalist, bassist), who have garnered an impressive 14 top ten radio hits and 12 million album sales. I had the pleasure of catching them on tour at The Greek for their latest EP release, You Should Be Happy, and it’s my first time seeing the band live. Those in my inner circle are aware that nearly all my free time is spent attending the concerts of earnest up-and-comers, but every so often a girl wants to go to The Greek to celebrate a seasoned act. And the Goo Goo Dolls delivered. In fact, they far exceeded my expectations. Rzeznik’s interaction with the audience creates an intimate, small-venue vibe, which is hard to do at the illustrious Greek. As for Robby Takac, he has a rare raw energy which could fool you into thinking this is the first time they’ve played these songs live. They’re grateful to their devoted fans, and it shows. I was fortunate enough to pick the brain of Robby Takac, whose colorful career extends beyond the Goo Goo Dolls with his own label, festival, and more. Read below to learn the secrets of The Goo Goo Dolls’ success and longevity.
In researching your band, I discovered that you were hustling for a decade before your breakout success.
Yeah, making punk rock all over America.
Do you know the exact turning point? Was there some sort of creative shift?
I think we got to live out a decade in public that most bands get to live in their basement. In that time, we learned how to play, we learned how to sing better, and we learned a little bit more about album making and the music industry. The stars lined up, and we had a hit record.
I also read that you had a less than stellar experience with your label at the time.
We were signed to a label that I won’t give the press to right now. It was two labels, actually, before we signed to Warner Bros. Records. I’m the sort of person, personally, who looks at every experience as leading you to where you are today, and we’re in a really great place today. I don’t think I would’ve changed any of that history, honestly.
When you look back at that 10 years before you broke out, was there a period where you thought this just isn’t going to happen and maybe I should shift my career?
I don’t think I ever really thought that. I think it crossed John [Rzeznik]’s mind a bunch of times, but I’m always the guy that’s trying to pull everybody back in the van again for 10 years. It was just persistence. We got lucky and things happened for us right at a time where most bands don’t make it 10 years.
[In that time], we felt marginally successful because our first record sold 6,500 copies, our second record sold 30,000 copies, and our fourth record sold 100,000 copies. We were making progress. But right around our third record is when bands like us all of a sudden started getting real record deals. Our heroes were selling 30,000 copies.
Do you think it was also a sign of the times?
Absolutely. Every hit record is a sign of the times. It’s a reflection of what is allowed to happen in popular culture at that particular moment.
You’re making really good new music. Do you ever get sick of playing the hits?
John jokes about that sometimes during the shows. He’ll say, “Please don’t run for a beer right now. We’re about to do a new song.” What I’ve found is we used to put out a new record and there was a long process for people to get to those songs. They had to get to the store, buy it, unwrap it, get to their house, put it into their stereo, listen to it a few times, maybe make a tape, put it in their car, etc . . . Now, they just have to say, “Hey, phone. Play the new Goo Goo Dolls record.” New music is literally at the end of their arm. When people come [to the show], they know [the new songs] because of that ease of access. There’s all this talk about death of the music industry, all that kind of stuff. People have more of a connection to music than they ever had. It’s modernization and rebirth.
The same great talent still rises to the top. Music might be more accessible, but the standouts are a very small number. You might get YouTube hits, but very few people can fill The Greek. Do you agree?
I absolutely do. Cream always rises to the top. It doesn’t always become huge, but it always rises to the top. But when you remove the physicality from music, it becomes less of a part of your life. It becomes data. When I was a kid, I went through my record collection in my room. Those records — Deep Purple’s Made in Japan — are part of my life, man. When you remove that physicality, it removed a bit of the mysticism. This weird physical connection to the music is gone. We just released our first five albums on vinyl, for the first time. The plan is to release the next six on vinyl.
Speaking of record sales, everyone says musicians need to tour longer because people are buying less records. Do you find that?
We’ve always toured a lot, but we never have those entire years off anymore. We used to take a whole year off and rehire a crew after a year, and we’d spend that year making a record. We don’t do that anymore. I think our crew has been on staff now for the past six years. [Bands] play more now, but I think that’s how you get great.
Do you like the business element behind the music? Do you ever think, “I just want to play music, and I don’t want to do all the other stuff that goes along with it?”
It’s probably different for us. I’ve had the same manager for almost 27 years now, the same record label for 22, and the same booking agent for 20 years. They’re all like family so things are a lot different for us than they are for a lot of bands.
Many bands argue and break up and get back together constantly. Does it say something about your specific personality that you have been able to sustain those connections for decades?
It’s not about any one person’s particular temperament. Everybody in this organization has been a complete a-hole at one point or another, but it’s about knowing who ultimately has your back. Most of [our team] have proven themselves and those who haven’t have weeded themselves out along the way. Sometimes it’s sad when that happens, and sometimes it’s a joy.
A lot of our successful peers went away for a while to be actors or do solo projects. Nostalgia has come around and it’s valuable to put their band back together and make money. That’s not what we did. We have the distinct advantage of having worked at this that entire time and, hopefully, gotten better.
Can you take me quickly through how you and John met?
I played in a band with our first drummer, George [Tutuska], and I also played in a band with my cousin who played with Johnny. Johnny was in that band, too. John and I just got to be friends and got an apartment together and decided that we were going to take over the world with our amps, guitars and a lot of hairspray. We started playing around the country. We’ve been friends ever since.
How did you decide to swap the lead vocals? I know you started as the lead singer.
We’d audition lead singers constantly and never found anybody. We had a studio so I just started singing. John sang one or two songs and then it became the opposite. John started finding his own voice. It’s pretty amazing what happens when you actually let something find its own course.
How do you determine which of your songs land on the record?
I usually bring in five or six songs. When we listen to those, it becomes pretty obvious which ones we’re going to start working on for the record. John will then have a few ideas that he’s been putting together with a producer on that song. We work on them one by one.
Are you precious about your material?
It’s an uncomfortable mixture of being precious and knowing what we want. I understand the value of someone else’s expertise and ideas. That comes with growing up. When we were kids, it was a fight with every single producer. We would argue as if they were the camp counselor or the teacher. That can happen now in the course of being creative, but I don’t think [it’s the same].
I started by signing a few bands in Buffalo that I really liked. I quickly found out that if you want to make enemies in your hometown you start a record label and sign bands. It’s just hard. There’s so many bands [that say], “Why not me?” Because my band was successful, the expectations were high. I was ready to shut my label down after about five years.
One of my bands, The Juliet Dagger, went to Japan and worked with a band called Shonen Knife who I had been a fan of for my whole life. They’d been together longer than my band. As I was about to close the label, Shonen Knife called me up and said, “Hey, what do you think about doing a record for us?” I couldn’t say no. I then signed a couple other bands from Japan. It’s been fun. There’s a band over here right now, actually, called Pinky Doodle Poodle that’s on tour. I’ve worked with Pinky Doodle Poodle and Shonen Knife directly in the studio. I’ve also produced records for The Molice.
We started it 15 years ago with just one stage and 10 artists. Now it’s 125 displaying artists and 15 stages.
Are you very hands on with the creative process?
I do it all, and I have a great staff of people that work for the organization in Buffalo. We do camps for kids and we do Battle of the Bands for adults. This festival has become sort of the flagship. It’s pretty great.
For more information on Goo Goo Dolls and their current release, click HERE. Listen to “Use Me” below, which can be found on You Should Be Happy.
Buoyed by his boisterous fan base and the electricity of Los Angeles’ best music venue, Steve Earle graced the stage of The Troubadour for a tireless show that proved he lives up to all that live-performance hype. Steve Earle is a bit of a legend. His country music outlaw status is backed up by some seriously good interview quotes, including one recent gem that went viral. When asked about modern country music in an interview with The Guardian, Earle said:
The best stuff coming out of Nashville is all by women except for Chris Stapleton. He’s great. The guys just wanna sing about getting fucked up. They’re just doing hip-hop for people who are afraid of black people. I like the new Kendrick Lamar record, so I’ll just listen to that.”
His unapologetic attitude also goes for his personal life. Recently divorced from his sixth wife, he said, “She traded me in for a younger, skinnier, less talented singer-songwriter,” but that’s okay because now if he goes to a baseball game he can now stay for the whole thing.”
Earle’s new album, ‘So You Wannabe an Outlaw,’ is inspired by Waylon Jennings’s ‘Honky Tonk Heroes,’ which is best evidenced by his remake of Jennings’ “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way.” Earle is backed on the new album by his long time band The Dukes (guitarist Chris Masterson, fiddle player Eleanor Whitmore, bassist Kelly Looney, and new members drummer Brad Pemberton and pedal steel player Ricky Ray Jackson). The record began when T. Bone Burnett asked Earle to write a song for the television show, Nashville.’ A year later, he wrote another, and the experience moved him toward his country record. Since Earle integrates important social themes into his music, you’ll find his stance woven into the record, most notably with “Fixin’ to Die,” which is about death row. According to Earle, it was inspired by witnessing an execution in Texas. Though Earle has somewhat moved away from his 1986 ‘Guitar Town’ country debut, adding Willie Nelson to your title track certainly allows for a raucous return to form.
I spend a lot of time at concerts watching crowds, because the audience’s behavior says a lot about who’s on stage. In fact, there’s an LA movement to eliminate all talking during shows, out of respect for the performer (see SoFar Sounds). Though an interesting idea in theory, there’ s a deeper issue at play, and it’s important. If the audience is talking during your set, something is awry on the stage. Sure there’s always some drunk schmuck making unnecessary noise, but if no one’s looking, that’s very important data that can help the singer. What if the audience at The Comedy Store was told to laugh, for example, even if the jokes weren’t funny, out of “respect” for the comedian? How would that comedian then know that their set needs tweaking? Or what if the audio is sub-par, thereby impacting the audience’s attention? These things are KEY, and they are all factors as to why I watch those crowds. Having said that, Steve Earle’s crowd is worth mentioning, and not just because it was a sold out show. The crowd listened intently, enjoyed every moment, rarely disrupted their experience with cell phones, and often got excited during his set. Steve Earle commands attention, and that attention is well deserved.
My history with Matchbox Twenty dates back to their inception. They’re an Orlando-based band that sent tongues wagging in their hometown prior to their massive success. If you’re from Florida like me and ran in certain circles, you’d likely now brag about finding them first. To be fair, my brother found them first and I went along for the ride, but that’s neither here nor there.
The group currently consists of Rob Thomas (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards), Kyle Cook (lead guitar, backing vocals), Brian Yale (bass), and Paul Doucette (rhythm guitar, drums, backing vocals). They began as Tabitha’s secret, which included Matchbox Twenty members Rob Thomas, Brian Yale, and Paul Doucette (who replaced Chris Smith) in addition to Jay Stanley and bassist John Goff. Creative and personal conflicts caused the end of Tabitha’s Secret and the subsequent ousting of Stanley and Goff, who later filed suit. They were replaced with Kyle Cook and Adam Gaynor, and Matchbox Twenty emerged. It’s been said that Goff and Stanley did not want to sign a deal with the production company of Atlantic Records rep Matt Serletic. But shortly after Matchbox Twenty and Serletic joined forces, the band had a seven-year deal with Atlantic Records. Their debut studio album, ‘Yourself or Someone Like You’ put them on the map.
Kyle Cook had previously exited Matchbox Twenty last year, saying there was a “deterioration of communication, disagreements on when, where and how we tour and a general break down of democracy within the group.” Cook reunited with his band-mates for the 2017 “A Brief History of Everything Tour”, and though it’s unclear why he finally came around, his other band, Rivers and Rust, served as the opening act. As for rhythm guitarist Adam Gaynor, he left the band in 2005, saying “I will no longer be a member of the band. I know most of you were confused if not slightly angered by this news. I wish there was some bright rainbow of an answer here … but there is not.” At the time, a “source” told Billboard “The band has decided not to renew his services.”
Rob Thomas previously teamed with Counting Crows for a very successful 2016 summer co-headline tour. It’s no secret that Thomas can fly solo, and I was fortunate enough to see his tour at The Greek with Counting Crows. He was excellent. In fact, I attended that show to cover Counting Crows, and I was delightfully pleased with the bonus of Thomas. That being said, now that I’ve seen him with his band-mates at The Forum, the magic is greatly multiplied. There’s something about performing with the guys he grew up with that takes Thomas up a notch. He’s got this earnest energy that makes you feel as if you’re seeing a band about to make it big, yet they’re so polished and professional, they can carry an arena with ease. I’ve seen a lot of our greatest artists perform without the band with which they got their break, and it’s simply never the same. I’ve seen Crosby without Stills, Nash and Young, Jennifer Nettles without Kristian Bush (Sugarland), and Jon Bon Jovi without Richie Sambora. It can be done, but should it? In fact, I’m a firm believer that discontent can fuel creativity, and though I know nothing of Thomas’ band dynamics, what I know is this — seeing Matchbox Twenty live is a true privilege.