Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I first saw Ratatat live in December 2006, at the intimate but now closed Art Bar downtown. I stood only a few feet away from the band on their little stage, completely drenched in color from their projectors, and I still vividly remember their immense music traveling through my body. I have only seen a few bands that can produce a true feeling of euphoria with their music alone. After that show, I instantly became a huge fan and supporter of Ratatat. I have literally been bursting with excitement counting down the days to this show.

Opening tonight’s show at the House of Blues was Bobby Birdman and Dom. Although we missed Bobby Birdman due to the biggest box office line I have ever seen, I was happy to know so many people made a last minute decision to see Ratatat. We walked in with enough time to get a drink and get close to the stage when Dom came out.

As I was expecting similar instrumental groups to open the show, I was happily surprised with Dom’s grungy garage rock sound. The lead vocals were echoed with rough edges and produced ample sound as they completed most of their set as three guitarists and one drummer. Although I’m not quite sure how to describe their sound, it was old but new, think Sonic Youth. Dom had a good vibe, fresh sound, and put on an enjoyable show.

As the audience and anticipation grew, many of us up front started sharing Ratatat stories, only heightening our excitement. Looking across the stage, I noticed the quality and quantity of their music instruments had grown, and so had their visual equipment. As lights darkened, a roar of cheers filled the room, while Ratatat slowly brought up the lights and their synthesizers. Within minutes the stage was an eruption of light and sound. Both members hopped between several instruments, in front of a large projection screen of images from their videos, with two incredible holographic glass panes on either side of the stage. Just as I remembered, their music was overwhelming but also greatly enhanced by the visual elements.
Ratatat kept the crowd dancing and clapping throughout.their amazing set that included songs from every album: Bob Gandhi, Grape Juice City, Mandy, Mirando, Loud Pipes, Falcon Jab, Mahalo, Shempi, Neckbrace, Gettysberg (introduced as, “This song is about surfing.”), Party With Children, Wildcat, Drugs, Lex. After the chanting had diminished and it was unclear if they were going to play an encore, the crowd went wild when we heard, “I’ve been rappin’ for about seventeen years...” For the last two songs, Seventeen Years and Bare Feast, Ratatat and the fans gave all they had left.
As the House of Blues cleared, we were left bubbling with pure fascination of the incredible show we had just experienced. Many of us met up afterward and continued our Ratatat stories and the rush we felt after the show. Just as it was four years ago, Ratatat made a deep impression on their audience, spreading the bond of music through people, comparable to nothing else. True to my tweet after the show, “Ratatat is still one of the top 10 live bands I've ever seen.”

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mike Posner

The September House of Blues Artist of the Month, Mike Posner, stopped in Las Vegas on Saturday night. I read the article and was impressed to learn he recorded his own album from his dorm room and got the word out online. A grass-root artist that worked his way up to major pop star and has the time for a meet and greet with his fans, truly deserves the adoration. I was anxious to hear his music and find out what a top 40 pop singer is like in concert.
Although we were tardy due to another full parking garage, we arrived just as the energy in the room was about to burst. Mike Posner was active across the stage, his vocals were crisp, and he was backed by a full band rather than just a DJ. Most of the audience appeared to be female superfans who cheered louder and louder after each song. He also kept the crowd moving, saying “Don’t be shy, this is not the time... Put your hands up!” The condensed crowd followed his every move, put their hands up and waved along with him.
Mike Posner mostly played songs from his debut album 31 Minutes To Takeoff, just released in August. Posner’s performance included a solo moment while he played piano, was joined by featured artist, Big Sean for his song Speed of Sound, and even included a costume change. I found myself really get into it during Dynamite (Taio Cruz cover) and his lively cover of Electric Light Orchestra’s Evil Woman. Singing for just over an hour, he treated his fans to a great show and also gave one encore. The setlist included (no particular order): Please Don't Go, Bow Chicka Wow Wow, Deja Vu, Please Don't Go, Gone In September, Save Your Goodbye, and Cooler Than Me.
As the venue cleared, I left with the impression that although he is a talented up and coming artist, but I think he still has some growing to do. Even though his vocals and presence were both great, his beats were generic and seemed rather similar. It is rough to say, but until he progresses toward the dance vibe his remixes have, I feel his music falls short. However, if a smooth male R&B vocalist is what you’re into, check out Mike Posner, he’s got what the ladies like. ;)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Apocalyptica with Dir En Grey

Quite honestly, I had never heard of Apocalyptica or Dir En Grey prior to the show announcement, but their names alone intrigued me. After doing a little research, I was so impressed, I could not wait to see this show. Dir En Grey is an extremely popular Japanese metal band and "Apocalyptica is a Finnish cello metal band from Helsinki" made famous doing Metallica covers. Both have over 10 years making music in a specifically unique metal niche. Not knowing what to expect I walked into The House of Blues anxious and looking forward to a one of a kind show.
Dir En Grey had a massive fan base, many of which were Japanese girls. As the curtains opened to a dim foggy stage, a shriek of screaming girls filled the room, as the lead singer (Kyo) taunted them with his moves. While amazed by the loud audience, Dir En Grey played their music even louder. During a few songs, I was surprised by how heavy and loud they were, reminding me of Norma Jean, largely bass and drum driven hardcore. Each member was very talented, the bassist played nearly upright and Kyo did a few a’capella screamo bits, truly a first for me. Image is a high priority to their performance, the singer was showcased on his own raised stage and the guitarist had a fan blowing his long hair. Although I didn't know what to think for a minute, their "look" and attitude made their set fun to watch and kept the girls screaming.
After an hour had passed and Dir En Grey was still going strong. Since I had never seen an opening act complete a full set, I became concerned that Apocalyptica may have cancelled. After their ninth song, Kyo sat Buddha-style, alone on his raised stage covered in blue light, and performed a several minute echoing scream that he pulled from within, entitled Inward Scream. Since I had never seen an opening act complete a full set, I became concerned that Apocalyptica may have canceled. As that was not the case, fans were treated to an immense setlist and with a few experimental transitions: Sa Bir, Red Soil, Agitated Screams of Maggots, Gaika, Chinmoku ga Nemuru Koro, Hageshisa To, Kono Mune No Naka De Karamitsuita Shekunetsu No Yami, Rotting Root, Vinushka, Shokubeni, Obscure, Inward Scream, Dozing Green, Reiketsu Nariseba, The Final, and Rasetsukoku. Encore: Inconvenient Ideal. (setlist courtesy of @trentskers)
After a prolonged break, I was surprised to find that much of the audience had left prior to Apocalyptica taking the stage. Apocalyptica wasted no time showing off their talent by opening with an intricate cello version of Metallica’s Wherever I May Roam, immediately followed by Sepultura’s Refuse/Resist. My guest and I were floored by how much sound their three acoustic cellos produced and how amazing the “guitar solos” sounded. Not only was their instrumental metal totally on point, but it was also as beautiful as a symphony.
Apocalyptica burned through an energetic performance of their music and numerous covers. Whether they were playing sweet melodies or jamming through a metal solo, they captured the audience’s adoration. Although most of the songs were completely cello and drums (no vocals), guest vocalist Tipe Johnson from Leningrad Cowboys, joined in on a few songs. The band interacted with the crowd between songs, and once mistakenly exclaiming, “Thank you Los Angeles!” The setlist included: Grace, At the Gates of Manala, End Of Me (w/ vocals), I'm Not Jesus (w/ vocals), Master of Puppets (Metallica cover), Beautiful, Sacra, Last Hope, Bring Them to Light, Seek & Destroy (Metallica cover), Inquisition Symphony (Sepultura cover), Life Burns! (w/ vocals) Encore: I Don't Care (w/ vocals) and an epic performance of the classic symphony The Hall of the Mountain King.
I came to this show with a blank slate and left with two exceptional masterpieces. After all the live music I have seen, both Dir En Grey and Apocalyptica put on incredible performances and showed me music/style like nothing I have previously experienced. If you have not yet experienced either of these bands and you love metal, it is a must.

Check out an acoustic performance Apocalyptica did on local radio station KOMP earlier that day.