Category: Concerts

Kranky 25th Anniversary Concert at The First Congregational Church of Los Angeles — Less Bells, Brian McBride, and Grouper

I am sorry I even took photos at this concert with my crappy phone camera. I did so for posterity’s sake, but I do feel like these photos cheapen the profundity of this event.

Music, audio was just a part of the experience. I thought about birth. Death. Misplaced life priorities. Bleakness. Contentment. Lonely walks by cliffs overlooking some Northern European coast. Religion. Universe. But, I was able to hold myself from completely drifting off into reveries of my own lame thoughts. A couple years of scattered, undisciplined meditation practice was still able to help, and I was glad to be able to bring my attention back to present sensory experiences. I had a couple moments of heightened mindfulness during Liz Harris’ set that were enjoyably unsettling; feedback between the audio and the light show (even if more muted during Liz Harris’ set) made me uncertain about colors I was seeing, a gamma-radiating shade oscillating between red and blue.

I have been waiting to see Liz Harris live for years, so that is something I can now check off my bucket list. Expectations were certainly fulfilled there. However, the openers were also consummate. Less Bells, a three-person act — I will be sure to start following their work. At a surface level, they brought to mind a combination the works of Rachel’s, the late Johan Johansson, and Max Richter, along with a splash of Terrence Malick film soundtracks, but that superficial description alone obviously cannot do their performance justice, so I recommend checking out their work. It appears that Less Bells’ debut album released this year is available for streaming on Spotify. Brian McBride and crew’s middle set was similarly sublime, complemented by a haunting and celestial light show that used the stained glass of the church to evoke a narrative. My jaw dropped at the level of detail, attention, and precision evident in the lighting setup that allowed edges of specific stained glass pieces to be exactly traced by light.

This concert exceeded mere concert and has entered into my hall of core memories. Thanks to the performers, Ambient Church, and Kranky for making this happen. I needed this in my life.

Pharmakon at Bottom Lounge

A two word description that comes to mind to describe Pharmakon’s set at the Bottom Lounge: sonical warfare.

Folks, this is the kind of music to play for your grandmother — if you want to jolt her awake and give her a stroke.

The kind of music to play as entrance themes for the future gladiators of our post-apocalyptic societies.

Very utilitarian. I’m also quite sure Pharmakon’s music would serve well in a biological laboratory setting, where it could be used to lyse cell walls.

Anyhow, Ms. Chardiet rocked. Highlight was when she spent the last half of her set shredding with what was ostensibly an amplified piece of cardboard.


I have been very lucky this weekend to see a sampling of fine artistic expression in disparate forms, between Björk, Julia Holter, Joanna Newsom, Pharmakon, among others. Awaiting the carving out and staking of future personal niches of expression is one of the joys of life.


On the way back, another case of person-talking-to-invisible-companion in my train car.

The guy:

“Everybody in this country is now a fucking lesbian. If I ever turned into one, I’d rather die, I tell ya. Barack Obama and his wife can suck my dick. I think he’d like it, too. He’s a homosexual socialist. I’m not an asshole. Don’t you fucking call me an asshole. I didn’t go to college, but I didn’t have to.”

Is it just me, or do the seemingly schizophrenic swear a lot? Perhaps the higher incidence of swear words is a by-product of the clouding of executive function.


Bjork at Pitchfork

“Thank you,” she would proclaim to her fans in her gracious, Icelandic chirp. I will never hear that common phrase of appreciation in the same way ever again.


Her performance was surreal, complete with an army of perky Scandinavian back-up singers behind her evoking the Fish Speakers from God Emperor of Dune and a frankensteinian Tesla coil floating overhead (one of her instruments, I believe).

Surreal and visceral. She went hard. To my absurd delight, her rearrangements shifted her pieces in the direction of club bangers (though this club would be situated on Mount Olympus and feature guests from alien pantheons) Her pieces, Crystalline, Jóga‎, stuff you originally couldn’t shimmy to in album form, built towards these hypnotic, convulsing breaks in their particular live renditions. For sure, the woman knew how to stoke a festival crowd. Crystalline had this whole D&B coda that provoked me to thrash away my consciousness into the hive mind of the crowd.


I still can’t believe I saw her with my own eyes.

Is she human or Goddess?

Will I see her perform ever again?

Did I see her perform, at all?

Can I organize uncertainty, or is that too Scandinavian of me?

Julia Holter (at Constellation)

Was fucking hilarious.

I saw her Pitchfork aftershow performance at Constellation yesterday, and did not expect her to be so funny. Between songs, she delivered these devastating lines in deadpan monotone with a perceptible hint of a smirk. When she referenced her upcoming album being leaked online, a terrible terrible thing, I still could not help but giggle, because of the delightfully odd phrasing she used (which I am unable to reproduce because of how tired I was last night by the time of the aftershow). I hope she takes a stab a stand-up one day.

Also, one of the most wonderfully expressive performers that I have seen. She must have very strong face muscles. One minute, deadpan, the next minute, the heavens seemed to open up from her eyes.

Hilarious, and puts out a fantastic set. Her live rearrangements of her pieces were jaw-dropping, with the additions of rasping saxophone, plucky cello, whispery violin, and hissing snares via her accompanying band. I still have no idea how she was able to sing while triggering samples of her own harmonizing voice and playing her keyboard. Practice allows the accomplishment of astonishing things.

Free Willis Earl Beal show at Cole’s Bar 02/21/12

I stress that it is one of the top 5 concerts I’ve ever been to:
1) Jeff Mangum
2) Willis Earl Beal
3) Hockey
4) Jukebox the Ghost
5) Explosions in the Sky

Willis Earl Beal, is just one motherfuckin’ presence. Sitting on a chair, toothpick in mouth, sunglasses amplifying his soul — I gotta take a page from him. The man wasn’t tall (he was stocky though), but the way he carried himself made him the largest man I’d seen in ages, by far.

His show — one of those things where I was so emotionally satisfied, I can’t quite find the words to describe. Raw. The man called himself a preacher. I’d actually be tempted to call him that rather than a strict musician. Somehow, the label of “musician” seems to confining for him. Indeed, when he called out a chirpy fucker who wouldn’t stop making Gucci Mane-noises in the audience, he called himself a “performer.”

I met him after the show. Hella down-to-earth guy. Given what he does, draws pictures for you, sings will you call him even if he’s in a bathroom stall, I thought the dude was crazy. I’m sure he is in some way. But he wasn’t crazy crazy — which is surprising. Before leaving, I shook his hand and felt like I now had an insurance policy against Satan.