Category Archives: Concert Reviews

Concert Review: "The Ragged Jubilee"

“So what’s this band all about dude?” I ask. I had never heard of The Ragged Jubilee, not until my friend invited me to go see them.

“I don’t know man. They’re rockin’. They totally rock, dude. The singer’s like all charisma man, like Jim Morrison” says my friend, the reggae and hippie folk nut.

That description, coming from him, scared me a bit. But hey, I’m a chance-taker, I suppose. So I go to the show, throwing my apprehension for what awaits me to the wind. I meander to Downtown Brew this last Thursday night (2/4/10), and I was caught completely off guard. You see, usually when I go downtown to the local music venue, pejoratively nicknamed DTB in my opinion, it’s to hang out with friends, and on rare occasion to catch a metal show that oh-so-infrequently blows through town. Turns out every word my friend used to describe The Ragged Jubilee, comprised of members Ethan Burns on guitar and vocals, Chandler Jacob on bass, Phillip Wahl on banjo, and assorted tamborinists, percussionists and dancers, are dead on. They do rock. They do totally rock, a statement proven by the crowd’s shake-the-floor foot-stomping, yet I think what they exude eclipses their ability to rock.

The Ragged Jubilee @ DTB 2/4/10

So why were they cool? Swagger. Authenticity. Musically conservative at the right times, and excessive at others. Their first song (sadly I can’t remember the name) exploded with a foot-pounding rhythm and a blues guitar riff that reminded me of Back Door Man era Howlin’ Wolf playing some serious jam sessions with R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough, only faster and meaner, and without losing any of the bluesy feeling they all smear around so well. And what I was really blown away by during that first song was Ethan’s voice, mean and sultry, deep and billowing, genuine and unforced, all at the same time. He sold me on the sound he was sellin’, whether it was a slow sad song, like Johanna, or a faster one like Misery.

I was put in a state of awe mostly because I didn’t know that a bunch of young white dudes could play banjo blues at such a genuine and rockin’ level, with just the slightest whiffs of bluegrass to make it all interesting. I had a smile on my face the entire time.

Their covers were great too. If I remember correctly they played some Cash (Ring of Fire), Black Keys (I Got Mine), and most effectively, Stones. From the opening riffs and slow bass rhythm of Miss You I saw a different persona fall across Ethan, and with each verse he was overtaken by it more and more. To me the persona initially reminded me of a tongue-in-cheek parody of late 60’s arena-rock-style Jagger, but then it became clear to me that Ethan was for real, that the hip sways, hand shaking, stare-at-the-ceiling-freak-outs, and incarnate blues rock feel were Ethan under the spell of the music the Rolling Stones created 30 years ago, and his Stones reverie completely suspended any disbelief I might have had. Bravo guys.

I can’t wait to see them play again.
The Ragged Jubilee- “Mississippi Water” from Asthmatic Giant on Vimeo.

Also posted in Blues, Indie

Concert Review: SUNN O))) @Eagle Rock Center for the Arts

We were in a neighborhood in the Pasadena area on Tuesday night, August 11, walking down a mellow residential street, living room lights bleeding out onto the parked cars and the sounds of sit-coms adding a weird prelude to our night. We were about to see SUNN O))) for the first time, and the setting provided a weird prelude to the evening. As we walked, the quaint neighborhood gave way to the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts where SUNN O))) was to play. Once inside the venue we got beers (for an at-your-discretion-donation price, which I thought was pretty cool), and got in the LONG line to use the bathroom, then were delighted to hear the first rumbling riffs coming from the stage. As the first riffs spilled out I marveled at how the venue was reminiscent of a Spanish style church, with high ceilings and huge, round chandeliers hanging down from the middle of the room. We were in a converted church to watch the slowest, heaviest, most intense band in the world play music.

And what we saw on stage was quite interesting. The figures, bathed in red light, clad in robes, reminded me of Dionysian frieze or some weird sacrificial moment in a Dario Argento film; but this is what I expected. As the monolithic rumblings slowly dripped out of the stacks, which lasted for what seemed like 5 hours, hipsters and metal-heads alike began putting their foam earplugs in. I thought to myself, well why are they doing this? The music’s not that loud. The music was loud, but it felt good as I put my head back and stared at the ceiling, which turned out not to be as cathartic as I had thought. The music’s resonant vibrations were causing particles from the ceiling to drift down, depositing them directly into my eyes, hair, clothing, everything.

Still without earplugs, I went outside to have a smoke, and I marveled at how loud the music was there, but also that it seemed to be growing even louder. Finishing the smoke, I went inside and discovered that I most definitely needed earplugs. The sounds emanating from the front of the stage gave me a bit of vertigo and caused me to lose my balance as I pushed through the crowd to get closer to the stage. When I looked up at the chandeliers I thought for sure that they would come down because they were vibrating, or was I vibrating, or was it just my brain that was vibrating? In any case, the music had a corporeal effect on me, and it was pretty cool.

When I try to explain SUNN O))) to the uninitiated I often get blank looks, raised eyebrows, and the like, and even after going to see the band live, I wonder why I enjoy their “music” myself. I think it’s because their wall-of-sound noise takes me away from this world entirely, puts me into a state of meditation, but also a state of limbo-esque turmoil, so as I leave the experience and reenter the real world I feel both cleansed and battered at the same time–yes, it’s hard to explain and reconcile such deferring results, I know. But if you go to a SUNN O))) show and feel nothing, good or bad, you might be dead.

Here’s the art work associated with their upcoming European tour:

Also posted in Doom Metal

RE: PENTAGRAM Rocks NYC’s Webster Hall; Photos Available – Mar. 9, 2009

In a previous post I stated that I wanted to go see Pentagram play. Well, I missed the NY show. Here’s info and pics as pilfered from

For the first time in 25 years, the “Godfather of U.S. doom,” Brooklyn-born Bobby Liebling returned to New York City this past Friday (March 6) for a headlining performance at Webster’s Hall. The show was filmed for the 9.14 Pictures (“Rock School”“Two Days In April”) documentary, “Last Rites: The Fall & Rise of Bobby Liebling”.

Check out photos of the concert below (courtesy of BLABBERMOUTH.NET user “liarsheaven1”).

On stage with Liebling was ex-‘RAM family member, Gary Isom (SPIRIT CARAVAN) on drums, who joined Liebling live again for the first time in nearly 15 years. This show introduced the shredding talents of D.C.’s Russ Strahan on guitar and the heavier-than-Hades rumble of Mark Ammen(UNORTHODOX) on bass.

The band’s setlist was as follows:

01. Wheel of Fortune
02. Forever My Queen
03. Review Your Choices
04. Walk in the Blue Light
05. Take No More (new song written with Gary)
06. Petrified
07. Lazy Lady
08. All Your Sins
09. Earth Flight
10. South of the Swamp (new song written with Russ)
11. 20 Buck Spin
12. Sign of the Wolf
13. When the Screams Come

All photos below by “liarsheaven1”.

Also posted in Doom Metal

Concert Review: Gates of Slumber/Demiricous at Jerry’s Pizza, Bakersfield 11/15/08

I saw The Gates of Slumber and Demiricous at Jerry’s Pizza in the beautiful burg of Bakersfield California on Saturday, November 15, and it was quite a show.

To start, I would like to describe the venue a bit. It was a fairly normal pizza parlor on street level. Its supposed cleanliness and culinary standards apparently rate highly as the health inspector had posted a 12 inch tall paper “A” in the front window. We ordered the meat lover’s pizza and it was fairly decent. They had nice local beers on tap, along with a few of the big name beers, but downstairs, the purgatorial cauldron of cockroaches as I’d like to call it, was a different story altogether. Taking the basement steps down, of which there were two separate staircases to ingress into the cauldron, was an initiation into metal goodness/badness. The one staircase emanated a distinct and pungent smell of urine, giving you an immediate baptism and subsequent preparation for the music playing within. The other staircase was located next to the noxious bathrooms, so again, the smell of enuresis along with feces mixed together, forming a wall of miasma to walk through as you descended down the stairs.

The first two or three local bands were laughably cliched examples of metal (although they all had good heart and teeny-bopper groupie friends). The only band I can remember favorably was Exithead, who played well; I think their guitarist, who played a Testament brand of thrashy, technical lead, made the band.

Next up was The Gates of Slumber, who started their set with zero fanfare. The only reason we knew to go downstairs to start listening was because I recognized that opening riff off of Conqueror. They played perfectly and with way more visceral substance than I get from their discs. I loved the slow build-ups to Karl’s blistering and neck stretching, fret exploring solos but also the long and meandering segues between. This band has the Sabbath sound in spades.

Following The Gates of Slumber, Demiricous came on without much ceremony, looking like Midwest Slayer spawns, complete with shiny new goat and skeleton tattoos and long shaggy hair, and worn blue jeans. I say that ironically, but they were all pretty legit, so enough with the sarcasm. Their set was quite awesome. I am mostly amazed at musicians who play this type of raw and energetic thrash. The drummer was working (seriously working) through the entire set without much of a break besides when he dislodged his snare riser and subsequently had to put it back together, taking all of 60 seconds. I can’t provide much of an adequate description of the set, besides that they played some great songs, mostly off their “Two (Poverty)” album. The only song I remember them playing off of “One (Hellbound)” was “Repentagram.” Anyway, their set sounded just like playing the CD, only twice as good.

I joked with the guys I cruised to the show with that I’d rather just listen to both these bands play their CD’s live instead of listening to their actual CD. Duh. Great show!

Also posted in Doom Metal, Metal, Thrash Metal

Concert Review: Sigur Rós at the Greek Theater, Griffith Park, 10/02/08

I’ve been listening to Sigur Rós for about five years now and never thought to go see them in concert till a friend of mine told me they were playing in LA and said that he had a ticket for me, so I went for it. I could never fully characterize Sigur Rós on my musical mental map, often placing them within their own genre. If I were to feel the urge for something twinkly yet subdued, I wouldn’t normally think, give me some ambient; or if I wanted to hear something soaring and emotional, normal folkey-rock or vocal techno wouldn’t enter my mind–I think of Sigur Rós. And within this same vein of thinking I could never place them within the genre of post-rock. They just play ridiculously amazing music, music that gives me the hope that there is something better and more real than what is played and passed off as the “thing.” So that’s my short homage to the band. Now for the concert.

I have seen close to, if not more than, 100 live concerts, anything from Jazz, jam-band party music, three-day-long festivals, stadium extravaganzas, extreme heavy metal in small rooms, to free shows at Amoeba, and in spite of my live music experience, I still knew that Sigur Rós would put on a show I had yet to experience, a show that would astound me, and it did. The Greek Theater in Griffith Park was an excellent venue for the occasion, with big screen TVs above, and to the left and right of the stage. If I recall correctly the band opened with svefn-g-englar and that distinct submarine-like sonar sound. Over and over it chimed, sending prickles down my neck as I anticipated what was in store. I knew that lead vocalist and guitar player Jón Þór Birgisson used a cello bow to elicit the sonic explosions from his guitar, but both seeing and hearing him do it live gave the music recieving part of my mind long moments of pause as I soaked in the awe.

Even the tracks the band played from Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust hit me hard, harder even than they do when I listen to them on the album. The delicate piano parts of “Inní mér syngur vitleysingur,” Birgisson’s fay crooning on “Við spilum endalaust” were amazing, and I even enjoyed the exuberance of “Gobbledigook” as clouds of confetti drifted with the breeze and blanketed everyone on the downwind side of the venue. In my review of Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust I mention my hope that they would have opened with “Gobbledigook” for the sake of easing into a hypothetical show, but at the Greek Theater show they played this song at the penultimate part of their set, yet the song worked great to wake me up, as the whole audience clapped their hands to its innocent, and uplifting beat. With my blood flowing I was better prepared for the more serious and emotional music they played for their encore.

Some of the highlights I enjoyed were the hypnotizing percussion of “Ný batterí,” the grand and intense playing of the xylophone intro of “Sæglópur” and the mezmerizing piano of “Hoppípolla.” It seemed to me that they sounded better than on their CDs, with some sections of songs being louder and more intense than how I recall their recorded versions. I guess that’s one pleasure of seeing the group live. To add to this intensity was the show’s nuances, like the creaking of Birgisson’s pump organ (which kinda sounded like something was about to break onstage).

My favorite part of the show was when they played their very last song, the crescendo-bending final song from ( ) called “Untitled 8” or “Popplagið.” As soon as I heard the mellow, building piano sounds and the tingling guitar I knew what song was coming, and the hair stood up on the back of my neck in anticipation. Birgisson’s subtle arpeggios weaved around the slow but steady beat that transmogrified into a rumbling syncopation, bringing us to that inevitable, oracular crescendo. The crescendo was deafening as the band exploded into guitar solos and reverb, while Birgisson let loose his screams and moans.

Finally seeing Sigur Rós play gave me a new taste in music. I found a new importance in ecstatic, searching, ruminating, and explosive sonic explorations. The guys weren’t your normal puffed up rock stars, but they had their own style, with feathers in their hair and glitter around their eyes; I think these aesthetic elements were the perfect addition to the music. But regardless of the band’s aesthetic or supposed self-importance, the reverberating drones coming from Birgisson’s bow-scraped guitar took me to another place; the music spoke to human emotion more than any show I have been to before. I felt joy as I left. Beautiful.

In case you’re curious, here’s the set list they played:
Ný Batterí
Við Spilum Endalaust
Hoppípolla/Með Blóðnasir
Inní Mér Syngur Vitleysingur

Here’s the final song, Popplagið…awesome.

Also posted in Post Rock