Category: Todd Martens

Review: Grimes, Grouplove and more at Make Music Pasadena

Grimes at Make Music Pasadena

“Put your guns up,” singer Ashleigh Allard hollered at unsuspecting pedestrians making their way to the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf just off Pasadena's Colorado Boulevard on Saturday.

Her rock band, HOTT MT, is relatively young on the L.A. scene, so to grab attention at the Make Music Pasadena festival Saturday, she lured curious onlookers to stop and watch with the promise of free water pistols.

For bands such as Allard's, the day-long music event, which took place largely around Old Town's Colorado Boulevard and the Playhouse District's Madison Avenue, was a rare opportunity to reach potential fans at a festival that has become one of the region's more unique ways to showcase local music.

After passing out the water guns, she invited those who'd gathered around her tiny stage in a shopping alleyway to take their best shot as she skipped, hollered and sang to rough, groove-based rock 'n' roll. Finally, revelers at nearby Lucky Baldwins put down their pints to come have a look at the musical goofiness going down just beyond the pub's patio. Allard's ploy had worked.

Now in its fifth year, the Pasadena festival celebrates music at its most quirky, casual and community-focused. It's grown from an event that largely featured intimate, acoustic appearances in storefronts to one that can now draw artists with national appeal. This year, it ran from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and its main stages, of which there were five, were generally about a 15-minute walk apart.

Boasting 149 performances on pop-up stages, Make Music Pasadena is a large-scale event done on a budget. Ninety-nine percent of the artists appearing do not get paid, say organizers; headliners such as electronic artist Grimes and peppy local rockers Grouplove were expected Saturday to bring at least 20,000 people to downtown Pasadena.

With a budget of less than $200,000, according to co-organizers Josefina Mora, 31, and Kershona Mayo, 30 (both employed by Pasadena business improvement districts), Make Music Pasadena is a break-even proposition that relies on sponsors and the goodwill of local artists.

Grimes, whose real name is Claire Boucher, drew a large enough crowd around her stage on the corner of Colorado and Madison to make local law enforcement nervous. The fast-rising artist sold out the Echo earlier this year and will be back at the El Rey in October.

A temporary fence that had been erected as a photo pit separated Grimes from the audience, though the crowd kept pushing it closer to the stage throughout her set. One overly energetic fan did jump onstage, and Grimes laughed as the male fan danced nearby, even breaking song to tell security, “He can stay,” as he was pulled back into the crowd.

Just one year ago, when Grimes was still struggling for recognition, her soft vocals would disappear into one of the numerous moody layers in her music. On Saturday, her voice fluttered to the front of the mix, like an incandescent light beaming out of the shadows. She turned drum line marches into dance moves and sang, “I close my eyes until I see,” on “Be a Body,” as the music ricocheted around the parking garage next door.

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Green Day teases L.A. show, releases Clash-influenced snippet

Billie Joe Armstrong
Once a punk band goes Broadway, there are a couple of easy options. One, just embrace it and go bigger, with choirs on every song, an album full of mini-suites and strings, strings everywhere. The other option is dial it back, strip it down and return to punk rock basics. Long before Green Day took "American Idiot" to Broadway, London's the Clash had a Broadway stint itself, ultimately performing 17 gigs at Bond's International Casino in the spring of 1981.

Green Day today released what appears to be a sly little nod to punk rock history, posting about 30 seconds of a new song, of which the video is below, that brings in bits of "This Is Radio Clash" as well as the Clash's "Magnificent Seven." The former is heard in the staccato rhythm that opens the song, and the latter is heard in the way the Green Day song re-appropriates the Clash's bass-driven "Magnificent Seven" melody. 

Or maybe it's all just a coincidence. After all, drawing any conclusions based on 30 seconds of a song is a little ridiculous anyway, but that's what we bloggers do. 

Yet Green Day fans in L.A. may be lucky enough to get a full reveal of the band's upcoming three albums -- "¡Uno!," "¡Dos!" and "¡Tre!" -- at what will be a not-entirely-secret local gig. Just as the band unfurled "21st Century Breakdown" with a small Hollywood gig in 2009, Green Day vocalist Billie Joe Armstrong  unveiled on Twitter that the band would be hosting a "rock 'n' roll sex party show" soon in our fair city. Few other hints were dropped, other than Armstrong's declaration that you could bring your own booze.

And for anyone who blanched at the three-figure prices to see "American Idiot" on Broadway, you'll be pleased to know that Armstrong said this show will be free. The first of Green Day's three new albums, ¡Uno!," isn't due until Sept. 25. Watch the teaser below, which also appears to offer a preview of new song titles:

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St. Vincent and David Byrne book Greek date, unveil single 'Who'

Annie Clark at Coachella
Last year, amid a lazy summer day in New York's Washington Square Park, Annie Clark teased her next musical direction as St. Vincent. It would be loud and abrasive, and as a point of reference she noted the recent addition of Big Black's “Kerosene” to her live sets. "I didn't know I could scream like that," she said of her sudden excitement toward noise rock.

There's no screaming and no knifing guitars in the song she unveiled today, the first of her long-in-the-works, much-awaited collaboration with former Talking Heads leader David Bryne. The single, available in a free download, is entitled "Who," and it serves as a mash-up of styles that each artist has recently explored. The horn section has a polite, border-less feel -- it's world music preserved for a museum -- and Clark's splashes of manipulated guitar tones and twisted fairy-tale vocals make it less polite. 

The song is the first to surface from the pair's upcoming "Love This Giant," to be released Sept. 11 by 4AD and Byrne’s label Todo Mundo. Perhaps even more exciting is the news that the two will be pairing up for a fall tour, which will bring Byrne and Clark to the Greek Theatre on Oct. 13. Tickets go on sale June 23. A ticket price hasn't been revealed yet, but for reference, a San Diego date is priced at $65, not including service charges.

"We'll be doing these songs and a bunch of songs that we suspect people will know, with a group that includes eight brass players, a keyboardist and a drummer," Byrne said in a statement. "Love This Giant" contains 12 tracks and features a collaboration with rhythm and  soul aces the Dap-Kings and Afrobeat-centric Antibalas. 

Ten of the 12 tracks are described as full-on collaborations, and each artist also contributed one original. A brass band is said to figure heavily on the album, which is evident on the single unveiled today. Yet the star of the song is arguably John Congleton, the drummer-producer whose programmed beats slither and huff, crafting a rhythm that has the feel of pressurized air and gives the song added space. 

Listen here:

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Marilyn Manson, Offspring, Bad Religion to play Sunset Strip Fest

Marilyn Manson
Goth rocker Marilyn Manson and rock acts the Offspring and Bad Religion are set to play the final day of the fifth edition of West Hollywood's Sunset Strip Music Festival, on Aug. 18. Local dance-pop act the Far East Movement, veteran hip-hop act De La Soul and electro-rap cut-ups Das Racist are also on the bill for the street fest. 

Tickets are on sale now for the all-day event. Sunset Strip Festival activities officially launch on Aug. 16, but the name acts and ticketed outdoor concert is on Aug. 18.

Other artists that will appear include the Black Label Society, Dead Sara and Steve Aoki. All told, the three-day Sunset Strip Festival will feature more than 50 acts at West Hollywood venues such as the Roxy Theatre, the Whisky A Go-Go and the Key Club.

This year's Sunset Strip festival will pay tribute to the Doors, with many artists on the bill expected to cover a Doors song or two. Sunset Boulevard will be closed on Aug. 16 between Doheny Drive and San Vicente Boulevard and the fest will feature two outdoor stages. Also planned is a silent disco and a VIP rooftop lounge.

Tickets for the concert start at $75 and are on sale now via TicketWeb. A VIP pass costs $135. A three-day pass that will get concertgoers into every Sunset Strip event is $250 and includes all VIP perks. A portion of the ticket proceeds will benefit the Impact Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center in Pasadena.


Ice-T gets back to hip-hop roots in ‘The Art of Rap’

America, don't hate us for the Offspring's 'Cruising California'

Nicki Minaj, Glen Campbell, Wilco among L.A.'s top summer concerts

-- Todd Martens

Image: Marilyn Manson. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

Ice-T gets back to hip-hop roots in ‘The Art of Rap’

In the new film ‘Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap,’ Ice-T reels in artists like Dr. Dre, Kanye West and Eminem to tell the story of hip-hop’s gritty beginnings.
Ice-T“Look around you,” says Ice-T. “Where are the Bentleys?”

Even amid the pleasantly neutral setting of a Hollywood press day, there’s still one topic that gets the 54-year-old rapper-actor riled up, and it’s not his 12 seasons on NBC’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”

“In rap, everyone is driving a Bentley and drinking Cristal,” says Ice-T, born Tracy Marrow. “That’s not reality. We have a war, we have a black president, we have people unemployed, we have people losing their homes, we have some pretty serious stuff and music is not reflecting it. It’s like everything is Lady Gaga and life is perfect.”

To remind the public of a time when hip-hop more regularly addressed societal concerns comes Ice-T’s directorial debut, “Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap.”

The documentary -- out this week -- offers candid interviews with Dr. Dre, Eminem, Grandmaster Caz, Kanye West, Mos Def, Nas, Rakim and many others, probing the masters of the genre on their inspiration. The film stops short, however, of presenting a thesis. Still, Ice-T had a mission: To capture secrets of the craft from as many artists as possible, and remind artists, fans and moguls that rap is more than “money, cars, girls, jewelry or beefs.”

The film is arriving at a time when other hip-hop pioneers are taking a preservationist view toward the genre. In L.A., acclaimed indie artist Murs is staging a six-month-long hip-hop performance series, “Through the Mic,” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Superstar Jay-Z has also become a curator of sorts, and is programming a multi-genre, two-day festival in Philadelphia over Labor Day weekend.

As one of L.A’s groundbreaking rap pioneers, Ice-T specialized in bringing a moralistic bent to inner-city tales. His 1988 single “Colors,” from the film of the same name, captured the toll L.A. gang life has on a family, and 1992’s “Cop Killer” was a ferocious reaction against the LAPD following the beating of Rodney King.

The latter, recorded with his rock band Body Count, galvanized those who fought for explicit content stickers on albums, and the violence-in-lyrics controversy ultimately led to his split from Warner Bros. Records. His 1993 “Race War” addressed whether any lessons had been learned from the L.A. riots (they had), and now “The Art of Rap” culls stories from many who had a hand in hip-hop’s countercultural beginnings.

Today, Ice-T’s acting and celebrity persona have arguably eclipsed his rap roots. His résumé ranges from the tough 1991 film “New Jack City” to the blithe, unscripted E! series “Ice Loves Coco.” But despite venturing out of the studio and in front of the camera, Ice-T’s plea to return substance to the pop charts isn’t just talk.

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Album review: Metric's 'Synthetica'

Album review: Metric's 'Synthetica'
Emily Haines calmly declares at the end of “Synthetica” that she once “wanted to be part of something,” but it isn’t a regret so much as a revelation. Now on album No. 5, “Synthetica” closer “Nothing but Time” is sweetly opulent electro-rock, the grown-up realization that there’s no rush, and a sign the band has moved well beyond its once ice-cold restlessness.

Metric’s lyrical concerns are increasingly philosophical, and the band grapples with big questions with earnestness — and, in the case of “Breathing Underwater,” sometimes overly simple “I’m the wave, you’re the kite” metaphors. Yet Metric has become a consistent source for bang-up melodies, and the title track is all sugary guitars and darting digital effects, having fun with the song’s themes of pop-technology overload.

“Clone,” in which Haines shrugs off her mistakes, presents cheery, Top-40 synths and then tempers them with a languid rhythm. The album’s glittery sheen isn’t always so pretty however. “The Wanderlust,” the album’s collaboration with Lou Reed, is a schmaltzy dud, as Haines amps up the cuteness for her role in this rom-com mismatch.

Focus instead on the frisky, ping-pong groove of “Lost Kitten” and the whirring, melodic, crystallizing atmospheres of “Dreams So Real.” It’s here where the sense of idealism that hovers beneath the album’s surface is brought to the fore, as Haines wonders if she has the ability to persuade listeners to “believe in the power of songs, to believe in the power of girls.” For the most part, that appears within her grasp.

Metric Music International / Mom & Pop
Three stars (Out of four)


Metric learns how to stop fighting, explore its 'Fantasies'

America, don't hate us for the Offspring's 'Cruising California'

Nicki Minaj, Glen Campbell, Wilco among L.A.'s top summer concerts

-- Todd Martens


America, don't hate us for the Offspring's 'Cruising California'

Dear 49 other states,

Forgive us, as we forgot about the Offspring. We weren't paying attention to the band, and left unchecked, this, apparently, is what happens.

While we can't speak for all of California, please know that many of us, as much as we may love the Golden State, are tired of rock songs about California. Even we understand that it's time to be inspired by something other than beaches and skinny people, and just in case Anthony Kiedis is reading, it still counts as a "California song" even if it's about a girl whose last name is California.

That all being said, we knew that this year, what with the Beach Boys reuniting and Best Coast issuing a new album, we were pushing our luck on the California-song overkill. But we didn't even see this one coming. Honestly, we didn't think we'd encounter the words "the Offspring" printed anywhere outside of a KROQ-FM festival.

And then -- BAM -- late last week this thing called "Cruising California (Bumpin' In My Trunk)" suddenly appears, arriving with an attitude that was seemingly time-capsuled in pre-women's suffrage America. Look, we expect nonsense from Katy Perry, an artist who regularly shoots substances -- fire, frosting, dignity -- out of her bra. On the other side of the spectrum, we expect grown men in their mid-40s to not use the word "caboose" in reference to anything other than working on the railroad. 

Now, we are well aware that the Offspring long ago swapped the all-inclusive, anything-goes ethos of punk rock for the world of radio-hit novelties, so ixnay on the "can't you take a joke" comments. But having a song called "Original Prankster" in your catalog doesn't mean you can deliver a punchline, and if "Cruising California" is meant to be absurd, then the band should have done more than deliver pandering, Carly Rae Jespen synths and a video in which a gaggle of senior citizens and tweens ogle barely-clothed strippers. Yes, the video, like the song, is not age-appropriate. Hilarious.

We don't want to call any more attention to this song and video than is necessary, especially because it quotes a classic from the Ramones and we don't want think of this nightmare when we hear "Blitzkrieg Bop." We simply wanted the rest of the country to know that some of us here in California are sorry that our pop-culture personalities continue to brag about wasting their lives away in beach towns.

Most of us here work hard, and many of us are jealous of things like seasons and baseball parks that aren't full of beach balls. Should you come to California, there are not, as the Offspring would lead you to believe, travelling buses full of women in G-strings -- unless, maybe, you're still collecting royalties on "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)" and can afford to act like a boob. 


Pop & Hiss


The video is below:

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Lila Downs, Punch Brothers, Yann Tiersen coming to Luckman

Lila Downs
Folksy Mexican American singer Lila Downs, bluegrass-focused string quintet the Punch Brothers and French composer Yann Tiersen are among the artists slated to appear at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex during the 2012-13 season. Downs will open the season, one that takes a global approach to music and art, on Sept. 22. The Luckman is located just east of downtown on the campus of Cal State Los Angeles.

Spain's Concha Buika, whose mix of flamenco, soul, jazz and African rhythms earned her an album of the year nomination at the 2008 Latin Grammys, will perform on Nov. 17. Just days earlier on Nov. 10, celebrated Cuban jazz pianist Chucho Valdés will appear with his quintet. Valdés' 1970s group Irakere is credited as one of the defining Afro-Cuban jazz acts. 

Tiersen's performance on Jan. 26 will be a celebration of his cinematic work, as selections from his famed scores to "Amélie" and "Goodbye Lenin!" will be highlighted. Also of note is the first Los Angeles performance from Yoann Lemoine, who, in his musical persona as Woodkid, crafts intimate, avant pop. The Paris-based Lemoine is perhaps best-known in America for his music video direction (Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" and Lana Del Rey's "Born to Die"), and he'll perform at the Luckman on Nov. 3. 

This upcoming season the Luckman Jazz Orchestra (LJO) will pay tribute to genre greats over a four concert series. The music of Kenny Dorham, Sonny Rollins, Slide Hampton and Jimmy Heath will be honored, and contemporaries such as Barbara Morrison, Carmen Lundy, Ernie Andrews and Dwight Trible will appear throughout. 

Other highlights include a concert from Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili (Feb. 23), the worldly electronics of Israel's Idan Raichel Project (Jan. 19) and Canada's hip-hop ballet group RUBBERBANDance (March 9). Tickets for all Luckman events will go on sale June 15 via Ticketmaster. Tickets can also be purchased over the phone by calling the Luckman box office at (323) 343-6600.

Below is the full 2012-13 schedule: 

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Bonnaroo, Outside Lands to celebrate the art of craft beer

Bonnaroo, the Southeast's answer to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, launches Thursday in Manchester, Tenn., and it boasts a lineup that includes Radiohead, the Beach Boys, Skrillex and a seminar on the various hop varieties used to brew beer. As destination festivals around the U.S. have gradually ramped up their VIP offerings, Bonnaroo and its sister festival Outside Lands in San Francisco have evolved into music-focused events for the gourmand. 

The four-day Bonnaroo will boast its own house beer, a light blond ale brewed by Chico's Sierra Nevada, and showcase additional offerings from 21 breweries at its Broo’ers Festival, a tent Bonnaroo co-organizers Superfly Productions have erected for 10 years now. At the Broo’ers Festival, guests can buy pints as well as smaller tasting-sized portions. Additionally, Superfly's Outside Lands, slated for Aug. 10-12 at San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, will add a mini-craft beer festival of its own for the first time this year.

"Beermakers and winemakers are just like musicians," said Bonnaroo co-founder Jonathan Mayers. "People seek them out. There’s so much crossover between the worlds. You go to Bonnaroo and discover a new band, but you can also discover a new kind of beer."

Among the breweries slated to appear at Bonnaroo in 2012 are Brooklyn Brewery, Magic Hat, Schlafly Beer and Streetwater Brewing Co. Bonnaroo is also expanding its Broo’ers University program, in which those from the craft beer industry will host discussions and seminars about the beermaking process. The aforementioned Sierra Nevada will stage a "Hops 101" session, while representatives from Schlafly will discuss beer and comfort food pairings. 

"We experimented with it last year, and it was a hit," Mayers said. "The thing is, you’re in Bonnaroo for four days. You can get tons of music in, but people want other experiences, whether it’s going to the cinema tent or checking out some comedy. There’s enough time for all of it. You’re basically living there for four days."

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Nicki Minaj, Glen Campbell, Wilco among L.A.'s top summer concerts

Southern California’s summer pop music calendar includes Hard Summer, Make Music Pasadena and Rock the Bells festivals.

Images: Fiona Apple (Jack Plunkett / Associated Press) Nicki Minaj (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times); Maxwell (Sean Gardner / Getty Images)
Nicki Minaj. Skrillex. Glen Campbell’s goodbye tour. Wilco. Some big names in pop are coming to Southern California this summer, promising a decent warm-weather season and the extension of a concert year that already has promoters singing.

Last month, promotion giant Live Nation, which also operates Ticketmaster, reported a 6% increase in ticket sales for the first quarter of 2012 compared with the same period last year -- no doubt due to a spring that has seen Bruce Springsteen, Van Halen, the Beach Boys and Roger Waters touring; the Beverly Hills-based company also just promoted three sold-out Coldplay shows at the Hollywood Bowl. With artists such as Justin Bieber and Madonna not making it out West until the fall, the year’s blockbuster tours would seem to conveniently miss L.A.’s summer months.

But music fans still have a lot to celebrate this summer.

The annual downtown dance event known as Hard Summer has expanded from one day to two, and the yet-to-be-announced rock-centric festival known as FYF, also downtown and produced by the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival promoter Goldenvoice, has also stretched from one to two days over Labor Day. A festival spokeswoman says to expect the lineup to be revealed by the end of this month. What’s more, the Dave Matthews Band, one of the concert industry’s biggest stars, will swing through Southern California in September.

Gary Bongiovani, editor of concert-tracking publication Pollstar, also notes that tours are maximizing value: “We’re seeing good solid three-act shows these days. One way to stand out of the fog is to combine and offer fans real value. We see Enrique Iglesias, Jennifer Lopez, Wisin Y Yandel. That’s a great tri-bill. In previous years, we may not have seen that combination of talent.”

Here’s a look at just a few of the big-name acts and can’t-miss shows coming to the L.A. this summer.

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