Music Friday Blog

  • The boys of Americana this week

    grant_malloy_smith_high_contrast300sq.jpgLast week we interviewed the ladies in punk and rock; this week it is the gentlemen of Americana at our microphones, Chuck McDermott and Grant Maloy Smith.  Sit back, relax, put on your Stetson, and just enjoy the roots music of America.


  • Paradise Kings this Friday. Just great blues.

    paradise-kings-stage300sq.jpgJust great blues. And rock. And swing.  it is what your local blues band delivers year in and year out.  While the next-great-bands come and go, this band and the many like them around the country keep us dancing and entertained.  I love 'em and you will too. We talk with them and remind ourselves that you don't have to go to Hollywood or New York to get up and dance.

  • No Small Children rock us Friday

    NSC_Promo_Lockers300sq.jpgI saw these three once and they blew me away.  I had to have them on the show.  Tand that was before I know their story. Sweet mannered elementary teachers by day and tear-your-face-off punk rockers by night. No wonder their Ghostbusters song was used in the new movie.  I envy the kids in their school;  not only do they have rock stars for teachers, b ut they can wear band t-shirts with their teachers' names on them.  I wonder if they can attend the concerts...maybe not.

  • Much Baile at Grand Performances with Buyepongo and Sidestepper

    sidestepper_600.jpgIt was dance, dance, dance with  LA-based polyrhythmic cumbia-rock-funk-merengue band Buyepongo and electroacústica Columbian music group Sidestepper. 

    Both dance pavilions at the California Plaza were elbow to elbow with writhing crowds that spilled over into the VIP seats and the picnic areas, rocking out to music that just wouldn’t let you stay seated.  The hugely popular and resolutely community oriented Buyepongo was  exactly in their element at the free Grand Performances concert series,  which has been called “a grand gift to the public.” by the Los Angeles Times. Those were their people dancing – Latinos, Asians, blacks, gringos -- the spicy rainbow mashup that exults in the dynamic culture jumble of Los Angeles.   

    Buyepongo has played major venues and motivated crowds on both coasts and around the world, sharing stages with bands like Quantic in the UK, Ondatropica in Colombia, Ozomatli, Booker T and Cut Chemist and Sharon Jones in the US, Celso Piña in Mexico,  and many others.  But all the world tours were forgotten Friday night; Buyepongo was home.  And they were at full strength – 8 guys, 4 drums, an accordion, guitars, and horns. Band leader Edgar Modesto was front and center with  his signature drumsticks on a single conga, bantering and singing in Spanish and English.   And they let loose like I have never seen them before, mixing up beats, stretching songs until dancers were ready to drop, and laughing along with the audience.

    The band started off while the late summer evening sun was still up and really ramped up the energy as the sun drifted down and the stars came out.  By halfway through the set, the sky was black, the building surrounding the Plaza were alight with projections, the stage blazed across the water with lights. Grand Performances had become a huge outdoor dance floor presided over by Modesto and his magical assistants.BUYO_ON_STAGE_600.jpg

    Buyepongo is part of the leading edge of fusion music barreling out of LA, fed by indigenous rock that goes back to Richie Valens (aka Richie Valenzuela) and the Doors in the 60’s to the constant stream of artists flowing daily through LA from Latin America, Asia, Europe, and music centers in the US like New York and Nashville. The band’s latest album title says it all- Todo  Mundo “Everyone”.  Not only is their music fun for everyone, they play for everyone, from free public events like Grand Performances and concerts at the Levitt Pavilion in DTLA, to salsa clubs and neighborhood dance clubs like La Cita and the Del Monte Speakeasy to highbrow centers like the LA Museum of Natural History and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Bilingual fusion music –ALM (American Latino Music) --  appeals to everyone regardless of language, race, country or location.  It brings people together and that is what Buyepongo does best.

    crowd_600.jpgAnd that is what Grand Performances does best – creates magic that enables artists from all genres to bring people together. The gift GP gives to the people of Los Angeles and the State, free of charge, is a safe, exciting place where magicians like Modesto and Buyepongo can transport crowds to an experiential somewhere else. To do this they have been presenting the best in music, dance, and theater at the California Plaza in the heart of Downtown for 30 years. Grand Performances is one of the positive forces that inspires community among the diverse peoples of Los Angeles and reflects the many cultural interests across the region. This why Buyepongo was at home.

    And it why Sidestepper was also at home at Grand Performances.  Having transformed the Colombian music scene and inspired a new generation of young electrobeat geniuses to marry Latino music with cutting edge beats, Sidestepper is now bringing its unique brand of rhythmic joy to the US before heading back to Bogotá.  Eka and her band of musical pioneers are the latest evolution of a project organized three decades ago by producer Richard Blair to mix the hard and heavy emerging London drum and bass sound with Latin sounds and breaks. Today, Blair’s project has become a new genre, melding traditional Caribbean beats to modern sounds and music forms.  All that was on display as  Eka danced and skipped across the GP stage, whirling, rocking and clapping, moving the already energized crowd in California Plaza in a non-stop bailando that brought the characteristically diverse LA crowd of singles, couples, and children together into a single living, dancing creature.  Points to the organizers at GP for combining two bands to create a singular experience.

    That singular experience will continue to October with programs ranging from classical and funky jazz performances of Peter and the Wolf, to a beer tasting party, to modern dance without boundaries featuring Milka Djordjevich, d. Sabela grimes, Amy O'Neal and Micaela Taylor to films and theater. (photo credit: Farah Sosa) 

  • I took a tour of music history - and future today

    sandy._recordsC.jpgSandy Skeeter owner of Sound City Studios, founded n 1967 by her father and home to virtually every legendary rocker you can name. took me on a tour today.  The studio closed 17 years ago, despite walls full of gold and platinum recordings and even a movie b y David Grohl.  It just could not keep up with the changes in the music industry and the move toward DYI recording by young bands.  B ut Sandy has reopened it with new equipment and a new plan to integrate it into DIY, bringing the big studio sound to new bands who are now realizing that 60% of their music is not being recorded in their home studios. As I walked past gold record and accolades from Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac - which was formed at Sound City - Metallica, Elton John and many many more, Sandy explained her plan to upend the studio industry and chart a new future with better sound to match the quality now coming out of Spotify and SkullKandy .


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  • Militia Vox this Friday with NYCTOPHILIA

    Militia_NYCTOPHILIA_CoverArtFinalD300sq.jpgMilitia Vox is a powerful, addictive obsession. Her music can take you to the dark side of the moon and then hurl you screaming into the sun.  She scares me, intrigues me, excites me - she does all the things a woman can do and all the things a demon can do and an angel can do. Whether she is the badest-ass woman you ever saw on a motorcycle in her band Judith Priestess, or a stunningly beautiful seductive demon exhaling smoke from the fires of hell from her EP Bait, or a star on stage in the Rocky Horror Show, or a flittering presence in a video that you don't understand but can't stop watching,there is nothing like her. Now she appears on the dark streets of New York and...well tune in Friday and find out because the mystery must be contained until then.


    We will be on vacation through June and at the Latin Alternative Music Conference in NYC until mid July so the next show is July 21 with Binx and Militia Vox.

  • Kris Angelis is melodic, hypnotic and addictive in the new Heartbreak is Contagious EP

     Heartbreak_EP_cover.jpgI have been listening to Kris Anglis’ new EP, Heartbreak is Contagious over and over since I recently had her on my radio show, partly because I can’t stop and partly because every time I listen I hear something musically and emotionally new.  As with all things Angelis, Heartbreak is Contagious is melodic, hypnotic, and dense with addictive emotion.

    Three of songs on the EP explore the pain of the love’s demise; the fourth is fun, funny, and foot-tapping, but actually a cathartic part of the EP’s soulful narrative. Only Angelis could pull that off --  perfectly blending pain and heartbreak with laughter and catharsis in the same EP.

    Heartbreak is Contagious was written with and produced by Morgan Taylor Reid and Alexander Cardinale, except for my favorite song, “Life Support” which was written entirely by Angelis and produced by  Bill Lefler. The album follows her earlier The Left Atrium and, like The Left Atrium, allows you to understand what an emotionally defective heart feels like with stunning poetic lines like I swear there was a time /when you belonged to me/But I'm a two-way heart/ On a one-way street.  Even deeper than the writing are the concepts: taking a heart off life support in one song and a love as a home built by love but then turned into a solitary confinement prison when love dies in another.

    The title concept is also deep, but, for an emotional EP, very logical.  When a heart breaks, two hearts are damaged and they can’t love others, or as she sings, Heartbreak is contagious, contagious/It's not like we can talk it out/we've run out of words somehow.    Simply put, when you can’t really love anyone, including yourself,  you often end up breaking someone else’s heart…your pain becomes contagious.

    For me, the most powerful song on the EP is “Life Support”. The song’s concept of a heart on life support is true to the broken corazón narrative, and the writing is as poignant and personal as anything Angelis has done, but the arrangement grips your heart and your ears. It begins with her gentle vocal fingers that slowly increase the pressure on your heart until she shocks it with electric paddles in full orchestration and an overdubbed voice drenched with urgency.  And then she takes you off life support and lets you drift free, the pain ebbing back.

    The last song, “Kevin Bacon” is almost from another world, a pop world.  It is bright and snappy and loaded with hooks.  As the drum machine taps out a dance beat she sings,

    There's something, there's something in the air, in the air 
    Running your fingers, your fingers through my hair, through my hair
    and then we're kissing lipstick is everywhere, everywhere.

    Wow; I am dancing everywhere, everywhere.

    This EP was a stretch for Angelis, not only in the addition of a hooky pop song but in the collaborative writing process – not her usual m.o.  She also wrote one of the songs in one day, also not her usual m.o.  The result of this stretch is that Heartbreak is Contagious has won the Best Female EP Award of 2016 by the LA Music Critics and the Best Female Artist in the International Acoustic Music Awards.  The song "Built This House”  won in the Adult Contemporary category of the International Songwriting Competition I suspect it will rack up more awards and add many, many new fans.

    Kris Angelis. 

    Heartbreak is Contagious available on iTunes, Bandcamp, Spotify

  • Alan Babbit and Flora Cash this Friday. Old and new...sort'a

    Flora_Cash_-_300_sq.jpgShould be a fascinating set of stories.  From music to TV music to art to music - that is Alan Babbit.  From Sweden to London to the midwest to LA to Sweden -That is Flora Cash.  Great music in both cases. This Friday.













  • Derek Davis releases first solo alum and it is a work of genius

    dd_rev_soul_cd_cover_300.pngIt is not often that I encounter an artist that I can’t quite categorize, or even want to. Derek Davis is such an artist.  With 28 years of recording and touring, 12 albums, and three bands,  he is a legend in rock.   Who can forget the machine-gun tempo of  Bad Man Cometh, the howling metal message of American Jihad or the addictive head banging of Love Star? But at the same time, where do you put the sweet melody of Troubadour and or the acoustic pop sensibilities of  The Promise – all songs on the same album.  Davis is a remarkable musician and his first solo album, Revolutionary Soul continues his tradition of remarkable, not-quite-categorizable music.

    In Revolutionary Soul, Davis writes the music, plays all the instruments and produces most of the songs, further breaking the category boundaries.  It’s blues, it’s rock, it’s funk -  is it something that incorporates and transcends all of the above.  And it is addictive.

    Davis is famous for his sharp writing and signature guitar licks and both are shot through Revolutionary Soul.  But the innovative, up-to-the-minute ways in which he uses them feels like the songs are coming from a new band fresh on the scene and skyrocketing to the top of Billboard, not one of rock’s most enduring players.  There is a word for a musician who can do all those things and do them at the highest level of skill and fan satisfaction:  genius.  Revolutionary Soul is indeed a work of genius.

    The album sports an even dozen songs, ranging from the fire-breathing title song, led by Davis’ fiercest voice denouncing the hate in our society. The vocals are carried along with a driving bass riff punctuated by Davis’ guitar solos backed by stripped down, high-tuned drums, all colored with a B3’s angst. It is heavy, but not metal;  it is fierce but not ferocious; it is razor sharp, but not bleeding. It is a revolution.

    Davis continues the revolution with “Rapture”,  led by a funk beat with a Latin flavor grabbing you by the ears as the B3 organ adds urgency and Davies’ stern voice tells you to “make your plans” for the “sweet surrender in this tale of the sexes. The funk continues with his cover of the Amy Winehouse song, “Valerie” and his own “Think About It” but with a higher energy in the guitar and the drum kit – all in service to Davis’s voice. The environment suddenly changes with “Love and Abuse”, opening with a long guitar special effect and then shifting to a driving bassline scaffolding Davis electric guitar chops in the breakdowns and bridges.

    The funk R&B energy carries through the Jimmy Cox blues song, “Nobody Knows You When You Are Down” and then moves to another genre with the heartbreak ballads “Vicious eatHeart.Heart”- an R&B masterpiece that bleeds into gospel –“King of Fools”, Picture of Love”,  and the penultimate song,  “Stop! Wait a Minute”.

    We are off to psychedelic funk with  Davis’ version of Bobby Womack’s “Woman’s Gotta Have It”,  built ground up from a high-octane, volume-muted bassline supporting Davis at his most melodic, weaving vocals in and out among guitar riffs.  The album wraps up, fittingly, with the self-confessional “All Roads”,  tricked out with a funky guitar beat and some of the best solo licks in rock.

    Revolutionary Soul condenses Davis’ 28 years of experience, recordings, touring, writing and playing and then adds new flavors.  Whether you are rock fan, pop fan, a metal fan or you love funk and blues, Revolutionary Souls will go to the top of your playlist.  Pretty damn impressive for a first solo album.  But of course, you expect no less from Derek Davis.