Category: No Age

Live review: Bob Mould's 'See a Little Light' at Disney Hall

Around 9:30 Monday night at Disney Hall, toward the end of a round-table concert celebrating the music of Bob Mould, Foo Fighters' frontman Dave Grohl did what he does better than just about anyone in rock music today. He got behind a drum set and absolutely murdered a song.

The tune was Hüsker Dü's "New Day Rising," a punishing one-two punk gallop from 1985 with the title as a repeated mantra that everything will someday get better.  It was probably the loudest thing ever played at Disney Hall, and Grohl's muppety ferociousness got the room to its feet.

Out in front, the man who wrote it stood graying and grinning,  howling the lyric with the conviction of a prophet proved right. Mould, after 25 years in the trenches performing his melodic, bloodletting  punk, finally got the retrospective he deserved at Disney Hall with "See a Little Light: A Celebration of the Music and Legacy of Bob Mould." The night was lovingly curated, totally contemporary in its choice of guests (despite last-minute cancelations by Ben Gibbard and Best Coast) and asserted the power of a songwriter with feelings so intense they required the urgency of punk.

2011 will go down as a pivotal year for Mould, who began his career in the early '80s fronting the Minneapolis-based trio Hüsker Dü and who continues today as a solo artist. He released a memoir,  "See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody," that revealed the raw nerves that made his songs so ferocious but sensitive. It revealed his demons of substance abuse, his lifelong reckoning with his homosexuality, his insatiable mission to make albums as musical and as popular as the classic rock he and his fellow punks rebelled against.

Monday's show was a definitive statement that he succeeded. The range of guests showed three generations of artists (and to judge by the salt-and-pepper hair in the audience, of fans too) that borrowed his template to make music furious and reflective at once.

Spoon's Britt Daniel, in his takes on "The Act We Act" and "JC Auto" from Mould's successful second band,  Sugar, highlighted the chemistry and musicianship that went into Mould's craft. Daniel's day job in Spoon is about watertight guitar licks and stylish open space,  and while Mould's songs were noisy and volatile,  they were also perfectionist performances, and its was easy to see where a teenage punk had things to learn from Mould even after exploring more minimal sounds.

Craig Finn and Tad Kubler of the Hold Steady and Lifter Puller were obvious descendants of Hüsker Dü's Twin Cities legacy,  and not just geographically. Finn's verbose sing-speak style and Kubler's overdriven open chords each owed big debts to Mould, and their adoring takes on "Real World" and Sugar's "A Good Idea" illustrated how durable Mould's go-to sounds have proved over decades. Comedian Margaret  Cho,  a confessed punk nerd, joined songwriter Grant-Lee Phillips for an endearingly rough-and-tumble version of  Sugar's "Your Favorite Thing," making clear that the band's legacy of devotion to craft and sharp edges extended to other fields.

The Smell lies a few blocks away from Disney Hall, and its flagship artist No Age gave the most up-to-date read of Mould's music (and featured the man himself on "I Apologize" and "In a Free Land"). No Age's trebly thrash put Hüsker Dü's roots on the famed South Bay-based SST label in focus. Mould revealed himself as an expert pop writer (and even as a very capable electronica artist in his Blowoff alias) in his later career, but Hüsker Dü were contemporaries of Black Flag and Circle Jerks, and No Age's barre-chord pummel asserted that  kinship.

Alt-country singer-songwriter Ryan Adams stole the show, however, with the quietest set of the night. His devastating solo acoustic reads of Mould's "Heartbreak a Stranger" and "Black Sheets of Rain" stripped the arrangements bare and revealed the first-rate melodicist  behind them. Adams' own recent, ruminative "Ashes & Fire" wouldn't initially seem to take much from Mould. But Adams is an outspoken punk historian, and it's easy to see his attraction to Mould the writer -- his versions cut to the quick of the deep wells of pain that made these records resonate.

Then Grohl and Mould took over (with Mould's great backing band, featuring  Jon Wurster of Superchunk and Jason Narducy of Telekinesis). For a rowdy and gang-shouting trip through the decades. Hüsker Dü's swaggering "Something I Learned Today" and the plaintive "Hardly Getting Over It" were highlights, but even when Grohl left, Mould's genial gravitas carried "If I Can't Change Your Mind" and "Makes No Sense at All."

Just before parting, Mould mentioned future plans, including a tour of Sugar's "Copper Blue" and a vague hint that he'd like to reunite Hüsker Dü. But after the bring-em-all-back-out closer of "See a Little Light" (where No Age looked absolutely ecstatic to be harmonizing with Mould while Grohl gave them bro hugs), Mould stood onstage, alone in white light, clearly overcome by the standing ovation.  For all the rage and melody that came before, the night ended with nothing but applause.


Bob Mould comes of age

Mould gets a retrospective at Disney Hall

Book review: Bob Mould's 'See A Little Light'

-- August Brown

Photo: Bob Mould. Credit: Noah Kalina.

Post Present Medium turns 10 at the Smell this weekend

No Age

In terms of sheer numbers, Dean Spunt’s most fertile creative outlet might not be his day job fronting No Age, or his Rodarte film scores, or his ambient soundtrack work for experimental nature documentaries. It’s his Post Present Medium record label, which celebrates a kind-of-astonishing 10-year anniversary over three nights at the Smell this weekend.

A lot has changed in the larger music industry since PPM’s debut in 2000. Namely, the industry as we knew it has been destroyed.  But in sticking to a pretty basic formula -– ambitious, punkish bands releasing limited runs focused on vinyl -– what seemed like an '80s hardcore or '90s indie throwback philosophy has developed into something positively futuristic.

“It’s starting to settle, and we’re figuring out where we fit in. When we started, it was before Myspace even, and bands didn’t really have webpages yet. Around 2007, everyone was saying, ‘Everything’s dead,' ” Spunt said. “But people want to buy vinyl, and we’re still selling records, our artists are touring, and people still want to feel that thing they felt with Kill Rock Stars or Dischord, like they’re a part of label identity.”

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Dave Grohl, Ben Gibbard and others to honor Bob Mould at Disney Hall


Hüsker Dü and Sugar frontman Bob Mould has a new memoir, "See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody," out. It's a reflective and deeply felt tale from the frontlines of America's second wave of punk and Mould's own late-in-life struggles in coming to terms with his homosexuality.

On Nov. 21, some of America's most well-regarded, punk-inspired artists will take to Disney Hall to show how influential Mould's work has been in their own lives. Dave Grohl, Ben Gibbard, Ryan Adams, No Age, Best Coast, members of the Hold Steady, comedian Margaret Cho and Grant-Lee Phillips will join Mould to perform from his catalog and talk about how his blistering, noisy yet melodic and hopeful songs have informed generations of younger artists.

Tickets go  on sale Sunday and range from $29 to $49. To prep, Mould's memoir (co-written with Michael Azerrad, author of the seminal "Our Band Could Be Your Life") would be a fine refresher course.


Book Review: 'See a Little Light' by Bob Mould with Michael Azerrad

Bob Mould comes of age at live show in L.A.

No Age turns up the noise

-- August Brown

Photo: Bob Mould. Credit: Noah Kalina


Stream 'Beat LA' featuring No Age, Crystal Antlers and more

Cover of charity compilation "BEAT LA"

"BEAT LA" is a no-brainer with a lot of heart. Almost two dozen local bands banding together to cover one vintage Los Angeles song of their choosing -- with all proceeds going to Doctors Without Borders and the groups efforts in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

Guests include No Age, Crystal Antlers and Bobb Bruno of Best Coast. Avant-rockers Lucky Dragons show up in the mix. So do local underground linchpins Imaad Wasif and Boom Bip (assisted by Buck 65). There are also those who you may not have heard of before (Slang Chickens, Modern Memory), who you will probably remember after.

The original songs include tracks from Gun Club, X, the Doors, Minutemen, the Germs and the Go-Gos. Plus, Angelenos had the good sense to pay tribute to Paisley Underground icon Dream Syndicate. Released digitally on Narnack/Great Minds and curated by Toddrick Spalding, Angel Mendoza and Shahin Ewalt, the compilation features good bands with a better cause. 

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L.A.'s Levitt Pavilions booker Eddie Cota brings edgy sets to outdoor stages



Friday's Nightlife page in The Times' Calendar section features a profile of Eddie Cota, the 28-year-old booker given the task of revamping the Levitt Pavilions in Pasadena and MacArthur Park into essential summertime music destinations. With lineups including No Age, Ximena Sarinana, Ana Tijoux, Belle Brigade and a Brainfeeder showcase with Daedelus, it seems he's done his job this summer. Read the full profile here.


No Age Turns up the noise

Belle Brigade: A pop duo that's kin tight

Latina rappers make their voices heard

-- August Brown

Photo: Mike Chavez / Los Angeles Times

The Levitt Pavilions have an unexpectedly great 2011 summer concert series [UPDATED]

Ana In the hierarchy of L.A.'s  outdoor amphitheaters, the humble Levitt Pavilions in MacArthur Park and Pasadena are often overlooked in favor of glitzier cousins in Hollywood and Los Feliz. But maybe they shouldn't be.

The two theaters have announced their 2011 summer concert series, and they're a marked and welcome step up into contemporary Latin and experimental music. MacArthur Park's series kicks off Sunday with a cumbia festival headlined by locals Very Be Careful and Azucar L.A., followed up with notable sets by South L.A. rappers Akwid, avant-punks No Age, saucy L.A.-via-Tijuana singer Ceci Bastida, Chilean firebrand rapper Ana Tijoux, and two Dublab-hosted nights showcasing artists from Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder label and a tribute to Lotus' relative, the harpist Alice Coltrane.   

Pasadena's season isn't quite as adventurous but does have solid turns from country-rock troubadour Maxim Ludwig, rising Mexican singer-songwriter Ximenia Sarinana, barn-burning soul survivor Bettye LaVette, Belle Brigade's winsome indie pop, and the close folk harmonies of Secret Sisters. All the shows are free, and hopefully will introduce the venues to a young and wide-ranging audience.

-- August Brown

UPDATE: This post orginally misspelled MacArthur Park in one instance.


Latina rappers make their voices heard

No Age Turns up the noise

Flying Lotus could get our of the underground with 'Cosmogramma'

Photo: Ana Tijoux. Credit: Nacional Records

Guided By Voices, the Descendents lead a Goldenvoice-bolstered FYF Fest


Less than 24 hours after the conclusion of 2010's FYF Fest, promoter Sean Carlson issued an apology. The Labor Day weekend event, a celebration of underground and adventurous music, was soured by a lack of water, interminable lines and an overall dearth of organization. Yet Carlson promises a more grown-up fest for 2011, having turned to local promotion powerhouse Goldenvoice to anchor Sept. 3's FYF Fest, to be headlined by punk vets the Descendants, alt-rock forebears Guided By Voices and gloomy instrumentalists Explosions in the Sky

"We wanted their expertise," Carlson said Tuesday afternoon of Goldenvoice, the AEG-owned promoter behind the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival. With Goldenvoice at the helm, the fest has shifted from its location the past two years, moving out of Chinatown's Los Angeles State Historic Park and onto the streets surrounding City Hall. The area around First Street and Main Street had been previously used by Goldenvoice to stage the LA Weekly-sponsored Detour Fest.

Tickets, $35, go on sale at 3 p.m. Friday via TicketWeb. Other artists booked for FYF include the militant dance rock of Death From Above 1979, Canadian indie-pop act Broken Social Scene, Philadelphia's beloved late-'90s hardcore act Kid Dynamite, local noise rockers No Age and the playful retro pop of Mister Heavenly, among many others.  

Yet the very fact that FYF is returning for Year No. 8 is something of a local rock miracle. After last year, in which the purchase of a $4 bottle of water on one of the hotter weekends of the summer could take more than an hour, The Times wrote that it was "time to stage an intervention," adding that "a great lineup means nothing if you spend half your time beneath punishing, shadeless sun unable to meet any basic human needs."

Carlson said he heard the criticisms loud and clear. "Running the festival and dealing with all of the logistics burnt me out," Carlson admitted. "I didn’t want to do that anymore.

"I just wanted to focus on the booking, marketing, promotion and layout of the event. I don’t want to deal with all the small details. That’s what hurt FYF last year. We were spread too thin. People think this is a massive festival. It draws 20,000 people, but about six people worked on it. Things fell through the cracks."

A few of those "small details" came up in a short conversation with Carlson. While casually talking about some acts on the bill, a pair of oversights popped up. Like that Sub Pop's Mister Heavenly was not on the initial promo poster that FYF would be using in advertisements this week. 

Carlson was suddenly heard furiously typing and apologized numerous times. "It's very common that this happens to us," he said. Yet when the conversation resumed, Carlson caught another error on the poster, noticing that Off!, the latest punk project from Keith Morris (an FYF Fest founder, no less), was also absent. 

"Amazing," Carlson shouted when he saw the error. "I just caught another one that was not on the flier. Off! This is incredible. I’m sorry. Wow. God. This is amazing. I think a person forgot a whole line. "

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No Age releases 'Fever Dreaming' video, and fever is the least of their problems in it

Last year, I spent a bit of time on a fairly treacherous-looking video set with the local noise-punks No Age. On Thursday, they released that video, for the single "Fever Dreaming" off their recent album "Everything In between." The clip, directed by Patrick Daughters, is one long tracking shot that uses the edge of the camera frame to torment Dean Spunt and Randy Randall with the encroaching threat of --  well, you'll see. But a fever dream is pretty far down the list of maladies they're suffering from by the end.

-- August Brown     

Watch No Age's blistering performance of 'Fever Dreaming' on David Letterman

L.A. duo No Age made its first appearance on "The Late Show With David Letterman" on Friday night, and it'd be a shame for any of the band's fans -- or future backers -- to miss such a blistering performance. Dave seemed to like it, and Paul Shaffer had a one-word response to his boss' query, "What do you think, Paul?" Shaffer's reply: "Phenomenal ... phenomenal."

-- Randall Roberts

Live review: Pavement, Sonic Youth and No Age at the Hollywood Bowl


Early in Sonic Youth’s set, Kim Gordon, dressed in bronze lamé that looked like it had been dragged through a dirty New York alley, pushed her bass guitar around on the ground and then stood in front of a pile of black amps on stage. She appeared to be listening to them, those black boxes that regulate the noise, for the kind of mystic instructions that would make the writers of “Lost” proud.

For romantics of the rock 'n' roll squall, the Hollywood Bowl served up an evening of pummel and grace Thursday night. Each performance – No Age’s smart brutality, Sonic Youth’s artful bashing, Pavement’s elegant shambles – danced around noise. For No Age, who opened the show, that mission was explicit; for Pavement, the recently reunited headliner, less so. Sonic Youth, helmed by Gordon and Thurston Moore, the art-world godparents of feedback-laden wreckage, made a fine connective tissue.

No Age, the local duo of Randy Randall and Dean Spunt (and joined on stage by William Kai Stangeland-Menchaca on samples), wins distinction for perhaps being the loudest band to ever perform at the Bowl. At times, it was thrilling: For their closing number, drummer/vocalist Spunt did little more than issue a series of club-fisted lashes while the shell around the Bowl’s stage pulsed with light. At other times, some of No Age’s nuances were lost in the rubble. Spunt’s vocals, in particular, couldn’t find much expression or dynamic interplay.

Sonic Youth, on the other hand, has been at the post-punk game much longer and is more adept at countering the harder elements with guttural beauty. The lineage between No Age and Sonic Youth is clear, if only in stage presence; anyone could believe Randall is Moore, just some 25 years younger: same style of slouchy flannel, same curtain of hair that only sometimes parted for an expression of stupefied wonder on Randall or a Cheshire Cat’s grin on Moore.

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