Saturday, October 30, 2010

DJ Shadow - Live from the Shadowsphere

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Halloween in Las Vegas is one of the biggest party weekends all year, often overwhelming due to the number of venues booked with top notch talent. The House of Blues did not disappoint, booking one of the most talented artists in the industry, DJ Shadow. I was ecstatic, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend my Saturday night, dressed in a costume, dancing with DJ Shadow “Live from the Shadowsphere.”

Assuming this would be a popular event, I bought a extra tickets. To my surprise, most people I talked to did not know of him or were simply not interested. On the night of the show, I was stunned to find out only 200 tickets to had been sold to this show. Endtroducing... DJ Shadow’s studio record was named “All-TIME 100 Albums,” by TIME magazine. During the last twenty years, DJ Shadow is recognized as a true pioneer, master turntablist, and the creator of trip-hop. I suggest take a listen or read through his website or download his free app. There is also a podcast available of an interview with DJ Shadow prior to his performance here.

The venue was lightly crowded during Pigeon John, the opening act’s performance. A male hip hop vocalist accompanied by two females on either side, one rocking turntables and a laptop, the other singing backup. Pigeon John’s music was interesting, however he put out a lot of energy to a somewhat subdued audience. Upon finishing their set, a shout-out was given to DJ Shadow, causing the eager crowd to go ballistic. Not only anxious to find out what that large stage setup was for, but to also hear the turntables of a legend.

Right before DJ Shadow took the stage, technicians aligned several projectors around the white globe and backdrop, only heightening our interest and impatience. DJ Shadow dropped the house lights, relying only on his projector setup, filling the room with bass heavy beats and incredible psychedelic graphics. The Shadowsphere images were so well mapped, it often truly resembled a sphere, glass, or an optical illusion; I could not take my eyes off it. A few times, Shadow turned the globe to reveal himself or displayed real time video of himself playing from within the Shadowsphere.

DJ Shadow did not skip a beat, showing mad skills with the turntables, ranging from dancebeats to downtempo, Shadow kept it going for over two hours, including an encore. His incredible music, in a relatively small venue, with a small enough audience for a perfect dancefloor, all emphasized by his brilliant visuals, was mindblowing. Live from the Shadowsphere was an amazing display of a true artist and equally creative technology. Ranking as one of the top twenty best live performance’s, DJ Shadow’s performance was so unique, it’s nearly indescribable. I was lucky enough to capture permanent record of this experience, so without further adieu, I will let the video speak for itself.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Escape The Fate

Love or hate them, Escape the Fate is a homegrown band that was driven to success by their Las Vegas fan base. Fresh out of high school Ronnie Radke (vocals), Max Green (bass) and Robert Ortiz (drums) joined with Monte and Omar on guitars, completing the band, developing their sound out of a North Las Vegas garage. I have not seen Escape the Fate since before their battle of the bands performance (Sept 2005), responsible for launching the band into a record deal. Needless to say, I was quite excited to hear them in a true venue, with lead singer Craig Mabbitt, and see what I’ve been missing over the last five years.
As a diehard “soldier” (fan) during their early days, I went to every abandoned warehouse and crammed coffee shop show, supporting their uniquely metal-hardcore and presence. Once EtF began gaining recognition, I was disappointed to hear much cleaner, poppy versions of their songs. In late 2004 their shows were heavy, with great mosh pits and slam dancing. By the summer of 2005, everything was more image driven and their edge wore off. Although I continued to support the band, buying their EP, first album, and miscellaneous merch, nothing felt or sounded the same as it did in the beginning. Through hell and back with Ronnie Radke, it’s impressive they stuck it through, reformed, and continued to make music.

As the lights dimmed, the shriek of the fans was unmistakably pre-pubescent, I looked around to find few that were my age or older. Contradictory to age of the crowd and my expectations, Escape the Fate entered out one by one, igniting the audience, and wasted no time starting of heavy. Max and Monte were playing precise and fast, lit by flashing strobe lights, getting the audience to scream and dance just like the old days. Although I am familiar to Ronnie’s style, Craig was full of energy and did a great job, complete with stage theatrics that kept the girls up front screaming.
Escape the Fate kept the energy and volume cranked up through the entirety of the show. Max and Craig often paused to talk to the audience, reminisce on their Vegas beginnings and thanked their “soldiers” and family for supporting them to reach this point. Escape the Fate played a variety of their collection, both new and old with ferocity: Choose Your Fate, Massacre, 10 Miles Wide, The Flood, Something, City of Sin, Issues, Bad Blood, Situations,This War is Ours (The Guillotine II), The Aftermath (The Guillotine II)

Escape the Fate closed the evening with a prolonged goodbye, Robert threw his drum sticks, and invited everyone to their afterparty and record release on November 2nd. After their performance, I left the show reminded of why I was a dedicated fan years ago. I spent the next week listening to their albums and am looking forward to what they will release with their new label. Their distinct blend of metal and hardcore was what hooked me, and from the sound of things, Escape the Fate has their edge back.

Check a live video of this performance at Artist Direct

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Karl Denson's Tiny Universe

For the first time I have seen, tonight The House of Blues hosted a late night, 2am show featuring Karl Denson's Tiny Universe. The reason for this unusually late booking was Karl Denson played as guest at the Widespread Panic and Govt Mule show earlier Saturday evening, at The Joint. Even though I had never heard of Karl Denson, I appreciate live well composed jazz and it has been a while since I have seen a great jazz performance.

Due to the late start time, I did not expect a large audience turnout, but was even more surprised to find only thirty people inside when we arrived. After nearly and hour had passed, with no sign from the band or a crowd, I was just waiting for the word that the show had been cancelled. At about 3 am, people began arriving at a steady pace, and within fifteen minutes the band hit the stage.
With no formal announcement, the curtains were pulled back and Karl Denson's Tiny Universe began to play. The band was composed of himself on vocals/flute/sax/percussion, a guitar, a bassist, horns/harmonica, piano, and a drummer. They jammed out several lengthy songs back to back, with seemingly little effort. Their style was on the funky side, music was well layered and transitioned, highlighted by lyrics here and there. I loved the diversity in every song, each followed his trademarked groove, yet was completely different from the one before. It was amazing to see Karl’s true artistry while playing the flute or saxophone, and his ability to jump right in to soulful vocals following a winded solo.
As each song passed, more people filled the venue, the dancefloor became more crowded and the dancing was more intense. Karl Denson was still going strong, fueled by an audience that continued to grow. By 4am they had already completed nearly a full set, including: Everything, How Fine Is That, Bag of Funk, Groove On, Shake it Out, and Mighty Rebel. By now the early morning hours were staring to wear me thin. After leaving the venue, I was once again surprised to find there was a line outside the box office waiting for tickets.

For this concert, unfortunately I felt completely out of the loop. Many people wore feathered hats and at least 80% of his audience did not arrive until 4 am or later. If I had known, and arrived later, I am sure I would have stuck around to see his complete, two-set performance. In the days following the show, I explored his website and listened to his music, and was quite impressed with what I heard. Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe is highly talented and well composed. If you like jazz, classic funk, or even reggae, his music is right up your alley. Hopefully he will come back to Las Vegas, as I would like to give him another chance.

For a sample of his live performance, check out my video:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Suicidal Tendencies with (həd)p.e.

Once again I was fortunate enough to see a band that I never thought I would have the chance to see live. During their twenty year career, Suicidal Tendencies has defined west coast music with their raw thrash punk metal. At the age of ten, I fell in love with their “Still Cyco After All These Years” album, and remember my mom questioning my father over how I got this CD. Thankfully my love for punk/metal was not stifled, I continued to headbang in the kitchen after school, and expand my love of music. There is a special place in my heart for Suicidal Tendencies and I was ecstatic to see them live.

As a perfect compliment to Suicidal’s style, (həd)p.e. was the opening band. Each time I has seen them over the years, I was always impressed with their sound and heaviness. Not only were they more solid musically, but their sound had expanded further into reggae and hardcore. Tonight's performance was top notch for the band, full of energy with an equally responsive audience and mosh pit.
The only downside was Jared (vocals) halted their momentum with lengthy political opinions and theories, which grew weary on both the band and crowd. After wrapping it up, they were quick to regain the energy back and were supported by an impressive fan base, that knew all their lyrics. Hed PE would heavily tear it up with double bass, fast solos, and screaming vocals, then transition into a cover of Bob Marley’s One Love. They welcomed a guest vocalist, Las Vegas’ Big B and even spent time representing the posse by chanting “family.” Hed PE wasn’t quite what I remembered or expected, but they were heavy and overall I enjoyed their concert.

After a trip to get some merch, we talked several fans that were just as stoked to see Suicidal after all these years. There was a sense of camaraderie among the fans, especially since many hailed straight from the LBC (Long Beach-Compton). When Suicidal hit the stage, they wasted no time taking us back, opening with an extended version of You Can’t Bring Me Down. Instantly fans were shouting, throwing fists, and the big boys had started an intimidating mosh pit. Mike (vocals) ran up and down the stage, headbanging on either side then running back again, his energy and enthusiasm only fueled the crowd below.
Suicidal Tendencies never let up once, there was always a wicked solo going down on bass or lead guitar, all while pounding drums and rhythm guitar lead them along. This show was a real treat to many die-hard fans, as Mike mentioned "Alot of these songs we haven't played in 20 years." Tracks included: Institutionalized, Join The Army, Prisoner, War Inside My Head, Subliminal, Suicidal Maniac, (badass drum solo), Come Alive, Go Skate (Possessed to Skate), Widespread Bloodshed, I Saw Your Mommy, Waking The Dead, Cyco Vision, Pledge Alligence, and I Shot Reagan.
"There was punk rock there was metal and there was suicidal in the middle," another great quote from Mike. ST’s music was a pioneer in the 80s and even 90s, bringing home heavy punk rocked laced with anger that lit up the hearts of many fans. The band and each member showed no sign of wear for the years gone by, if nothing else they were amped to be playing again, and the audience was equally as grateful. I am still beaming from this show and it is not one I am soon to forget. If you love punk and metal, but you have not seen Suicidal Tendencies or even (həd)p.e., you don’t know what you’re missing!

You can watch Suicidal Tendencies' promotional video here

Sunday, October 10, 2010

TECH N9NE and E-40

Making his second stop this year at The House of Blues Las Vegas, Tech N9ne thrilled his fans by returning just four months later. Tech N9ne even offered super-fans the chance to purchase VIP Packages that came with merch and allowed you to hang with The Strange Family for three hours before showtime. (Totally worth it, as I am told) As he continues celebrating a decade as an independent rapper, now on his Independent Grind Tour, Tech N9ne is joined by his usual crew (Krizz Kaliko, Kutt Calhoun, Big Scoob) and the o.g. E-40. Las Vegas returned our love by selling out the venue. As I was already expecting a high energy performance, after looking upon the sea of fans and our drinks in hand, I knew this was going to get wild.

E-40 opened to an already packed venue, wasting no time getting fans hands up in the air. After only one song, the audience was already shaking and grooving up and down. Completing nearly an hour performance, E-40 sampled from several other rappers and performed many club favorites: U And That, Too Short, Snap Your Fingers, White Gurl, Two Step, and Tell Me When To Go. E-40 didn’t let up for a minute, keeping the floor a non-stop party while he was on stage. He certainly lived up to his long time rep.
As soon as the lights dropped, Tech N9ne stepped out front and center under one spotlight and proved to anyone that didn’t know, how he got his name. Unaccompanied he spit one of the longest, hard, fast, and sharp rhymes I had ever heard, perhaps quicker than a TEC-9 gun, throwing the crowd into a roaring applause. Similar to his June performance, Tech was often joined by his rap family, passing the flow from one to another with seamless accuracy. The momentum didn’t stop for a second as The Strange Family blasted through another two hour performance. Tracks included: Let’s Get Fucked Up, Come Gangsta, Bout Ta’ Bubble, Einetien, Sorry n Shit, O.G., Industry is Punks, Leave me Alone, Casribou Lou, KC Tea, Salue, and I’m a Playa. Once again, Tech N9ne, E-40, and their crew did not disappoint. 2,000 fans got loose to their unique brand of hip-hop, grinding, bouncing, and cheering from wall to wall. Las Vegas clearly loves Tech N9ne and always comes out to show their support. For those of you that don’t know, you need to get out there and “drop down, cuz here comes Tecca Nina!”

Check out my review of his June 1, 2010 performance here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Atmosphere: To All My Friends

A Las Vegas local favorite, Atmosphere returns to The House of Blues with Blueprint, Grieves & Budo and DJ Rare Groove on the To All My Friends Tour. Atmosphere stops in Vegas at least once a year, for more years than I can count, and often takes time to stop at Zia Records beforehand for a meet and greet. I was fortunate enough to meet him in 2008 while promoting When Life Gives You Lemons, however I may be the last fan I know that has not seen one of his shows.

Perhaps the gods have it out for me, as once again I was held up from getting to Atmosphere because my car was still in the shop. After a mad rush to get down there, I was disappointed I had missed all the opening artists, but relieved I arrived just as Slug took the stage. The venue was muggy and packed with a sold out crowd. Slug’s setup included a pianist, bass player, and DJ Ant, providing the crisp blend of natural and electronic beats he is known for. I was quite impressed with his clean live flow and sound, some songs were arguably better live then their recorded versions.
Slug paused between every few songs to recite some positive attitudes and often stopping “to thank all my friends, I love you.” There is a humbling and real attitude that is not only present in his lyrics, but also in his what he projects, taking listeners to another level. The sold out room sang along with every song, waving their hands in unison. Atmosphere was so impressed with the love from his fans, despite the rooms sweltering conditions, he blasted through over twenty songs and an encore: Trying to Find a Balance, Shoulda Known, Guns and Cigarettes, Between the Lines, Hope, To All My Friends, Sunshine, Modern Man's Hustle, Freefallin', Puppets, The Waitress, Godlovesugly, Shrapnel, Scapegoat, Guarantees, Don't Ever Fucking Question That, Pour Me Another, Lovelife, Angelface, Always Coming Back Home to You. Encore: Not Another Day, Like Today, You, and The Best Day.

As an Atmosphere fan, I am lucky for having the well rounded experience of listening first, meeting second, and seeing third. It only allowed time for his music to root deep and keeping my interest level high. Slug is talented on the mic, an artist with words and emotions, and truly puts on a great performance. Atmosphere is a must see for any true hip hop lover.