Music Friday Blog

  • Back from Cuba with music and stories

    cuba_blog_photo.jpgMusic Friday Live team is back from its music trek through Cuba and we will be rolling out our goodies starting next week.  We met with bands and producers and dancers and promoters and had a great time.  Cuba is buzzing - both economically and musically.  The USA may be embargoing it, but the rest of the world is there with bells on.  And music is everywhere - good music!  We brought some back and may be able to bring an artist or two to the US.  stay tuned.

  • Review of Ready for the Sun by Athena

    300sq.jpgListening to Athena’s new album, Ready for the Sun is a mind and heart meld.  The beauty of her voice, of her lyrics – of her very soul - submerge you in the deepest of emotion.  She sings to you. From the stage or from the studio, Athena connects to those who hear her so closely, so tightly, that every song on Ready for the Sun  is an intensely intimate experience.  You know this woman when you hear her sing. She is authentic, sincere, close -- and you want to listen to her over and over again.

    Athena, an Greek-English singer (and environmental and children’s champion) combines, honesty, vulnerability and confidence in every note, singing about experiences and emotions that are simultaneously personal and universal. Her voice whispers, soothes, and flies with a malleability rare even in the most talented singers. But through every song – whether it is about her breaking heart in “Don’t Know How To Say Goodbye” or about the sparking magic of love at first sight in “You Bring Me Luck”,  the intimacy is always there.  Every song is a song for you from a magical musical angel who releases emotion like endorphins and delivers them with a crystalline voice. There is simply no one like Athena,  nor as good. Which is why she collaborated with Leonard Cohen on his album You Want it Darker, recording her haunting song “Traveling Light” for what was to be his final work.

    Produced by Ethan Allen (Sheryl Crow, Gram Rabbit, The Cult) at Santa Monica’s legendary Village Studios,  Ready for the Sun introduces this English and Greek star to American audiences with 13 carefully chosen and crafted songs that are the result of over 2 years of writing, recording, critical listening sessions, and road testing in live venues. The work paid off.

    Athena opens Ready with the lilting and hooky “You Bring Me Luck”, proclaiming that you are so natural/so magical, a good description for her uncanny ability to expand her voice from a beaming smile to a soaring shout of joy. She flows on to “Everything to me”, her voice sailing high as if driven by a solar wind. You are pulled along with her through it and then into “Where the Wildflowers Grow”, slowing down, letting the notes stretch and glide as she asks How to make it easy/to start again, a question we have all asked at some point.

    The title song, “Ready for the Sun”  announces that Athena is now in the present, in Los Angeles, in the American sun (as opposed to London gloom).  With a banjo-driven fast tempo she becomes a California girl – which, given her lithe body, welcoming bright smile and cascade of long blonde hair – seems as natural as the lyrics in “You Bring Me Luck”.  This is the point:  a music that is transformative and transportable.  The emotions she releases in her music are universal. The musical and lyrical messages of  love and life  in songs like “All of You”, “Good to be Alive” and “Autopilot” – complete with her whistling – create the heart meld, regardless of language or culture.

    But another message permeates the album: “Stronger”, where Athena can shoot for the stars as a lover lit up the night. Not only is it a poignant chapter of Athena’s story of strength and determination, deftly shaped  by Allen’s production, but it lays down her philosophy – we complete each other. You feel this through the entire album:  not only are we stronger in love, but in everything from saving relationships to saving the planet.  It chronicles Athena’s fundamental emotional generosity – the magic that enables her to connect so deeply, even though earbuds.

    Ready for the Sun turns to heartbreak in the intensely powerful “I don’t Know How to Say Goodbye”, to happy anticipation of “Don’t Forget to Sing”,  and even to a bit of whimsy in “Asleep at the Wheel” and “Everybody Knows My Name”.  But this is only after Athena transfixes you with her cover of the Beatles “Imagine”.  Breathy, honest, nostalgic and new at the same time, Athena brings back the hope of the original as she lays before us the vision of a world without hate or borders or war – her own vision. Of all the covers I have heard of this song, this is the most powerful and the most full of possibility.

    Athena’s past albums, both in English and Greek, have  showcased  her voice and her sharp songwriting, but in Ready for the Sun she took time to do it right, including assembling a stellar band: Deron Johnson (Miles Davis), Jimmy Paxson (Stevie Nicks), Michael Ward (Ben Harper) and Jonathan Flaugher (Ryan Adams) which takes it to another level. Her experience in sold out European tours, performances at Royal Festival Hall, Glastonbury, TEDx and SXSW and composing for film and TV have all also been concentrated into her debut American release.

    Ready for the Sun will captivate American audiences, as I have been captivated, with her ability to create not just music, but an intimate relationship with those who hear her. She is indeed, ready for the sun, and America is ready to be there with her.

     Athena www.athenaandreadis.com

    Ready for the Sun will be released Feb. 3, 2017

    Pre orders, memorabilia and passes at  http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/athenaandreadis

    Album launch parties in California at Hotel Café 1/31/2017 www.hotelcafe.com/tickets 

    and in New York 2/3/17 at Rockwood Music Hall   http://ticketf.ly/2iRnYMw

     

  • Athena to release first US album


    300sq.jpgAthena will release her first US-produced album, "Ready for the Sun" on 2/3/17. She was collaborating with Leonard Cohen before his death and is on his last album. You can pre-order "Ready for the Sun" on Pledge Music at  http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/athenaandreadis. I got an early look at the pre-release EP. You can see my review of the EP at http://bit.ly/1Tkj9YU. I'll review the full album next week.

     

  • The unstoppable Shelby Lanterman this Friday

    shely_lanterman_300sq.jpgShelby Lanterman  is unstoppable – self-taught guitar, learned Garage Band, a degree in audio engineering, writes, sings, produces. And plays in venues like the Roxy and the BottleRock Festival. We are so proud to have you on the air today.

     

  • Natalie Gelman: a traveling musical powerhouse

    Natalie_Gelman_300sq.jpgNatalie Gelman joins us this week, the second time she has been on Music Friday Live!. I have never been able to see her live - schedules never quite crossed - but I intend to even if I have to drive to the next country to do it, which in LA is a very big deal.  Her music has always been addictive, boosted by her stunning natural beauty and right to the point powerful lyrics.  As a solo songwriter, she has picked a tough life, but she does it superbly, singing in major concert halls and subway platforms, where she started. And she has an intelect to match, as she demonstrated in a Ted Talk in Portland.  Her newest release, "The Lion"  and the video that goes with in pulls no punches. Take a look at it at The Lion.  You will see that the lion - or actually the lioness - has been awakened and watch out America.

     

     

     

     

     

  • Top 10+1 for 2016


    halo_circus_allison_with_mic__eyes_closed_300sq.jpgWe are off for the holidays until 1/6/17, but I want to share my favorite Music Friday Live programs and my top 10+1 songs for 2016.  Why +1?  Because there were more than 10!  

    The top 10+1 are ( not in order of preference - depends on my mood):

     

    Blue by Polaris Rose

    Katarina by Mitre

    La Bamba Rebelde by Las Cafeteras

    My Sweetest Sin by Irene Diaz

    Nothing at All by Halo Circus

    Pergunto by Sin Color

    Smile by Maggie Szabo

    Spin the World by Eric Zayne

    The Overload by King Washington

    You Bring Me Luck, by Athena

    Vamos a Gozar by Buyepongo

     

    My favorite shows of the year were:

    3/18/16  Brandon Stansel toured with Taylor Swift, debut album. Polaris Rose new songs.

    4/08/16  Salme and Nick Valentini. two great talents debuting new songs only here

    11/18/16  Taylor Jahn previews his new EP. El Dusty home from the Latin Grammys

    8/26/16    Blake and Janita stop by on their tour. Drummer Kevin Bowers returns with music!

    12/09/16   Hot San Jorcho Rock and Russian cool pop: Las Cafeteras and Ksenia

     

    Check them out and happy new year

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Cinco Santaos on MusicaFusionLA. Wed. 1 pm

    cinco_stanso_on_stage305.jpgMusic  FridayLive! is on vacation until next year, but you can still hear Patrick on our bilingual program MusicaFusionLA this Wednesday.  Tune in at www.blogtalkradio.com at 1 pm, or download the podcast at Blogtralkradio.com or on iTunes.

  • Las Cafeteras at VPAC: a national treasure

    pilar._arms_out_300.jpgDon’t call Las Cafeteras a band.  Call them a constructive political movement disguised as a musical theater with a history lesson attached. That was very much evident in their spectacular performance Friday night at the beautiful Valley Performing Arts Center at California State University Northridge. The eight band members, guest singer Maria del Pilar, two dance groups, a choreographer, several costume changes a multi-media projector and a rapper/comedian, together put on a bilingual tour de force of music, dancing, history, film, photography, poetry, spoken word and advocacy centered around the concept of “Beyond La Bamba”.  Regardless of what language you speak or where you were born, Las Cafeteras spoke to you Friday night with words of love, ancestry and community.

     Beyond la Bamba started with “La Bamba”.   Standing alone, center stage in a spotlight with a muted beat emanating from the shadowed musicians behind him, Ritchie Valens spoke to us in the form of an actor dressed liked the Latin-American pop star who died with Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper at the age of 17 in 1959.   Valens – whose real name was Valenzuela – took us through his history of growing up in Lynwood, CA, working in the fields until his hands hurt, living with discrimination against Latinos who were in California generations before it was California, changing his name because he couldn’t get a record contract with a Latino name. He left us with Valens’ own words: “I wasn’t trying to change the world, I just wanted to be me….but to know who you are, you need to know who you were.”

    The giant screen behind him, which has been showing black and white pictures of 1920’s farm workers, run down housing and “No Mexicans or Negros” signs exploded into color with film of Mexican dancers in the plaza while the full band strode on stage and let loose with “El Siquisiri”, the traditional fandango from Veracruz. The traveling musical theater-cum- history-lesson was off and running – or more to the point, dancing.  Within seconds, Las Cafeteras’s tag-team front persons Hector Flores and Denise Carlos had the near- capacity crowd up on their feet and clapping to the ribald “El Chuchumbre” as the giant screen images gave way to the Las Cafeteras’ humming bird logo. The clapping continued as Hector mounted the Tarima and danced the zapateado – a tap-like dance on a  wooden platform used to amplify the percussion  in the Veracruz-based son jarocho music that is central to Las Cafeteras.

    The personal connection with the audience thick and authentic.  From Hector’s Flores’ introducing a song by telling us about his past and how it reminded him of his deceased father, to the Ballet Folklorico dancing in the aisles with the audience, there was seldom a fourth wall.  The performance was truly community.  This is the essence of Las Cafeteras, an extended community, playing the indigenous son jarocho music – with rock and rap and pop thrown in – using the traditional instruments like jarana’s, requinto, a donkey jawbone, a West African bass instrument called the Marimbol, the seated box drum  the cajón, and the Tarima combined with  guitars and drum kits and even a cello for a unique East LA sound.  Like their message, Yo No Creo Fronteras, their music knows no borders.

    Las Cafeteras rapidly moved on to “Café Con Pan”  and “Colas” and were joined onstage by the Ballet Folklorico of Los Angeles and the multi-lingual LA-based Contra-Tiempo Dance group, all choreographed by Marina Magalhães, winner of La Weekly’s Theater Award for Best Choreography. The dancing, accompanied by slides on the movie screen to establish the location – a plaza, downtown Los Angeles, East LA – was expertly woven into the music and the flowing narrative behind the music, as was the migration story/poetry/rap of Indian-born poet/rapper SETI X who joined the group and finished the first set with activist artist Damon Turner and the band performing “Trabajadora”.

    For two hours Las Cafeteras played, danced, talked, told stories, clapped and sang with the audience, danced the zapateado – including to the song “El Zapateado”,  and turned the magnificent Valley Performing Center alternately into old Mexico, Los Angeles of the past and future, a classroom and a theater-scale art gallery. This was their home turf;  stories, music, dance and history. Las Cafeteras are the children of immigrants who came together on the streets of Los Angles to remix roots music and modern day stories in a mashup of son jarocho, hip hop, punk, rock and cumbia.  They met while taking classes at the Eastside Café, a Zapatista-inspired community space in East LA where they learned the music and culture of son jarcho.  (Many band members went on to obtain Bachelors, Masters and PhD  degrees).  Their debut album, It’s Time, has garnered rave reviews and netted them features on the BBC, NPR, and in the LA Times.

    This eclectic combination of music forms and narratives was especially evident in their performance of Woody Guthrie’s iconic “This Land is Your Land” in the second set, started in American style by Maria Del Pilar and then transformed into Mexican dance with the arrival of Ballet Folklorico in western garb – checked skirts, boots, jeans, cowboy hats – framed by an image of the native Americas who lived here before the Spanish arrived.  As the dancers spun and do-si-doed in a American barn dance, Denise Carlos – glowing in bright red hair and red white and blue shorts and top, danced and sang with cowboys and proclaimed “This Land was meant for you and me”.  

    Las Cafeteras performed 20 songs in two acts and an encore, with multiple costume changes, films, slides and dance numbers, each with a message and a story.  Some were in Spanish, some in English; most of the narrative and poetry was in English, which worked well with the mostly Latino bilingual audience that filled the theater.  Highlights are too many to list, but a few include a call-answer duet by Maria del Pilar and Denise Carlos supporting a sensuous traditional dance by Contra-Tiempo group, duel zapateado dancing by Hector and Denise, Johnny Cash’s famous “Ring of Fire” by Maria del Pilar, an apropos Presidente”, the playful and hooky “Luna Lovers”, the moving spoken word “Brown”  by Hector Flores, and 1700 people on their feet singing “La Bamba Rebelde” during the finale with everyone on stage.

    In a time when some are trying to use walls, hate and stereotypes to destroy the “E Pluribus Unum” that built this nation, Las Cafeteras are using music and dancing and joy and history to make the “Unum” stronger. America’s strength has always been the constant flow of new people, new ideas, new energy that comes from immigration.  Las Cafeteras are both an example of that new energy and its best proponent. Once you see them, you will understand  that Las Cafeteras  are not only an LA icon, they are  a national treasure. 

  • Gaby Moreno at the Roxy: love and joy with a guitar.

    gaby_estare300.jpgAny concert with Grammy nominee and Latin Grammy winner Gaby Moreno is an inspiring experience, but to see her in an intimate setting with 400 of her closest friends makes it clear why people lover her so much.  She is stunning, inspiring and completely authentic.  With a voice that transcends octaves, a songwriting talent in English and Spanish that opens minds and hearts, and a sense of humor that is as engaging as it is humble, her music says “star” while her presence says “love”.

    Her concert at the Roxy – her first time there ever - was both intimate and expansive;  her voice filled the room while her smile and her words - and yes, her tears - pulled each person close. Gaby Moreno gave us an unheard of 19-song set, interlaced with self-deprecating humor and stories, laughs a mention of her theme song and character in the Disney series Elana of Avalor , and then came back for an encore that blew the roof off of the newly remodeled Hollywood music palace.

    “This is really my album release show” Gabby joked to her fans, referring to the just released album, Ilusion,  nominated this year for a Grammy for Best Latin Pop Album. The Grammy nomination was a surprise, she told us.  She was on a plane when the nominations were announced and when she got off, her phone exploded with so many texts, calls, and emails that it took several minutes for her mother to get through and tell her the news.  She wiped her tears away as the audience cheered and shouted congratulations;  then she stood up straight, flashed her million-watt smile and started to sing.

    And sing she did, for the next hour and a half, delivering songs from Ilusion, Posada, Postales, Illustrated Songs and even her Christmas album.  Talking and singing fluidly in both Spanish and English, Moreno, who admitted to only 2 hours sleep,  led the audience through her musical life, and judging from the majority of the crowd who seemed to know every song, theirs too.

    The fans were more than ready.  The Roxy filled up early; it was three quarters full at 8 pm when Bjorn and the Sun came on stage and energized the room with their country pop songs and world class guitar riffs.  By the time Ilza Rosario, also beloved by the audience, stood onstage with her arms outstretched and her movie star smile lighting up the room, it was packed and happy. Rosario was the perfect introduction to Moreno.  Her heartfelt songs delivered with an intensity, clarity and an innocence that belied her skin-tight leotard and plunging neckline, set the tone for the kind of personal, authentic musical encounter that illuminated the night.

    Moreno was joined onstage by her full band: Arthur Braitsch on guitar and mandolin, the superbly talented Elizabeth Lea on trombone, Jennifer Condos on bass, Jordan Katz on trumpet and banjo and mandolin, Matt DeMerrit on sax, Patrick Warren on keys and accordion, and  Sebastian Aymanns on drums. The horn section not only added a new depth and variety, it was obvious that Katz, Lea, and DeMerrit were really, really enjoying themselves – and we enjoyed watching them.

    After opening with her new single, “Se Apago”, in Spanish, she moved to “Pale Bright Lights” in English, both from the new album.  Before turning to “Ave Que Emigra” she laughingly said that, like the bird in the song, the song itself had migrated from one album to another.  “O Me”, was followed by her Spanish revision of Sam Philip’s song “Herman Rosetta”  which paved the way for the song the audience had been waiting for, “Fronteras”.  The largely Latin audience, wondering about their future lives in a Trump America, sang along with Moreno.  But she leavened the intensity of “Fronteras” with the fun of “Solemncholy”,  and then moved to her beloved blues with ‘Mess a Good Thing” from her Illustrated Song album, and the deep and dirty blues “Down in Reverie” and “Nobody to Love”.  She traded her guitar for a tambourine and, with just a drum backing her, quieted the room with the powerful “Salvese Quien Pueda”.

    But the most powerful moments of the night were her solo of “Illusion”.  Standing alone with her guitar, her voice showing no signs of the travel and lack of sleep, she held notes longer and higher and clearer than seemed humanely possible. If you closed your eyes, you could imagine the stars and galaxies singing directly to you, life’s a despairing illusion, until he comes back to me.

    As the last notes of “Illusion” hung in the air, Gaby held onto the mood with “Estare”, stretching notes impossibly long.  But then she moved into the stretch, keeping up the pace and moving effortlessly between albums while bringing back the horns in “El Sombreron” and “Blues de Mar” from Postales, “Maldicion/Bendicion” from Ilusion and “Peces En El Rio” from Posada.  She had fun with “Hacia Belen Va Una Burra Rin In”, laughing with the Latinos in the audience about singing it every Christmas as children.

    Gaby reached back to her 2011 Illustrated Songs album for the climax of the evening, “Sing Me Life” delivered as anthem that could have filled the Hollywood Bowl, before she wound down with cheers, thank yous and  Elizabeth Lea’s final trombone notes.  And of course, the cries of “otra” from the fans brought her back on stage for an encore, “La Maleguena”,  ending with what is likely the longest, highest, clearest note ever hear in the Roxy.

    Guatemalan born, American raised, world traveled, Gaby Moreno is the leading edge of the second wave of the American Latino Music revolution boiling in Los Angeles. Following the trail blazed by Ozomatli, Los Lobos and hundreds of mariachi and ranchero bands that have entertained in and adapted to what is now the second largest Spanish-speaking city in the world, Moreno brings a level of talent, an inner radiance, an ease with bi-cultures and an authenticity that makes her both unique and a leader in the love and joy that music can bring to the world. She certainly brought it to the Roxy.

  • Hot and cool this week.

    Ksenia._300_sq_mbw.jpgThis week will the last show of the year, as we will be off from 1`2/16/16 to 1/6/17. We are doing a special hot and cold show with Las Cafeteras from Mexico (now in LA) and Ksenia from Siberia (now in LA). Las Caf, as they are known just got back from a sell-out national tour and have been on the show before.  I follow them and will be at their show Friday night at Cal State University Northridge.  Ksenia is new to me.  Ii have been introduced through her agent and my friend Sera Roadnight. Where Las Caf is chili pepper hot, Ksenia is powerful, cool pop.

     

     LC_Group_Shot_1.__Rafa_Cardenas300sq_.jpgTogether, they are a great way to wrap up a tremendous year. And it has been a tremendous year, musically and politically, which have a tendency to go together in election years.  I think we may hear about that from Las Cafeteras, as they are very community-oriented and politically outspoken. On another note, I have submitted my nominations to the LA Music Critics (of which I am one) and will let you know as soon as I do which of my favs got the nod. (photo: Raf Cardenas).