Oct 092009

Flogging Molly – The Knitting Factory – Spokane, WA – 2009.9.16

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Unknown openers for a major act are, almost by definition, a hit-or-miss prospect.  Which is one of the reasons why it can be such an exhilarating experience to encounter a band you’ve never heard before that totally rocks your socks off.  The Flogging Molly last week at the Knitting Factory had in store two such bands.

The first, a Motown band from LA called Fitz and the Tantrums (MySpace), takes everything I like about Motown (the energy, the vocal dynamism, the groovy bass lines) and replaces everything else with polished, energetic pop sensibilities. They are highly recommended for anyone who likes funk, fusion, Motown, etc. Hit the link to their MySpace above to sample some of the awesome.

Next up were an groovy ska combo called Hepcat.  (MySpace – Be sure to check out their version of “Dance Wit’ Me”).  Apparently they’re fairly well known in LA and in the ska scene, but this was my first exposure to them.  They were well-coordinated, talented, and charming.  They were also very high energy, managing to get a fair portion of the crowd jumping around and dancing.  They certainly weren’t doing anything revolutionary with the genre, but when the genre is one that’s as effortlessly enjoyable as ska, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  They’re truly masters of form.  They know what they do, and they do it amazingly well.

So after a couple topnotch openers, Flogging Molly took the stage.  And, continuing the momentum of the evening, they certainly did not disappoint.  They played a good mix of newer and older material, focusing mostly on their punkier, more high-energy stuff.

Highlights of their set included “What’s Left of the Flag”, “Drunken Lullabies” and “Lightning Storm” which they dedicated to Johnny Cash, Joe Strummer, and Ronnie Drew.  I was also a big fan of their live rendition of “If I Ever Leave This World Alive”, which lead to a giant round of cheesy swaying-and-shoulder-hugging camaraderie in the audience.

Definitely an awesome show.  Easily one of the best I’ve been too in ages, and probably a strong candidate for my top 10 of all time.  The combination of two brilliant and unexpected openers and a headliner who know their audience and are professional and talented to boot made for a truly epic show.  Aside from a few audience members being complete twats*a good time was had by all.

*Seriously guys, shoving people who don’t want to be in the pit into it isn’t funny, clever, cool, badass, etc.  It just flat makes you an immature jackass.

Jun 152009

Bien Sabroso!

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So I’m not the only one in my family that’s musically inclined. In fact far from it. My older siblings are all talented musicians in their own rights. My older brother Bruce just recently started up a new salsa band called El Puerto and their starting to have some reasonably good success around the area. Here they are playing “Bien Sabroso” at the Sixth Street Cafe in Prosser, WA:

There was also an article on them recently in the Tricycle Herald Tri-City Herald, but it’s apparently not been put up online.

May 072009

First, let me say that, while it’s sad that the old Blvd building has been torn down (they tore it down to put up a parking lot, cue the “oooooh bop bop bop bop”s), I’m quite pleased with the new Blvd.  First of all, it’s in the old B-Side.  Which, while not as awesome as having the old B-Side back, means that a great venue building is now back in the hands of people who know how to run and manage rock shows.

It’s got great acoustics, and a nice stage set up, with a surprisingly sizeable pit/dance floor area.  The stage is a little on the low side and doesn’t provide very easy access for the band.  (The only ways to access are from the back alley or climbing up over the monitors from the floor.)  All in all, though, a surprisingly awesome bar venue.

I got there about a half hour after the show was supposed to start, so of course I had time to wade through the crowd and grab a beer before the first act even took the stage.  The opener was a fairly talented local blues artist whose name I didn’t catch.  He had a pretty good slide guitar touch and passible picking skills.  His music sometimes wrote checks his voice couldn’t cash, however, and so tunes that were meant to be soulful sometimes wound up as off key and warbly.

Unfortunately he also brought a couple of truefans who spent his whole set being loud, foul-mouthed, obnoxious dickheads.

After his set, there was about a half hour lapse before the Red Elvises took the stage.  During soundcheck they seemed a bit perturbed by the size of the venue and seemed to have a few communication issues with the sound guy.  They must have gotten them sorted out, however, since the mixing and acoustics were fantastic right from the off.

Which is a good thing, because it actually managed to do justice to some really impressive musicianship from the band.  It’s been a LONG time since I’ve seen that many truly gifted musicians on one stage.  The two-man horn section wailed.  The keyboardist played her synth like it was a lover.  Both guitarists/vocalists were impressive in both their roles.  (The second guitarist was an especially nice surprise.  I knew what to expect from frontman Igor Yuzov, but the tour guitarist not only shredded, but sang lead on a few tunes with a dusky, agile blues voice that totally blew me away.)

And then there was the drummer and the bassist.  Those two dudes seriously must have been created in a lab somewhere.  They were technically flawless and musically brilliant.  Their solos were easily among the best I’ve ever seen at a live show.

The band played two full sets and an encore, covering a sizeable swath of their discography.  Especially awesome were their renditions of “Juliet”, “Boogie on the Beech” (both of which had the whole crowd screaming along with the chorus), and “Me and My Baby”.

The band’s stage presence and demeanor throughout were awesome.  They were energetic and dynamic and obviously enjoyed playing for the audience.  They danced, clapped, bantered, and solicited audience interaction for the entire 2-ish hours they were on the stage.

Simply put, the show was amazing.  If you ever get a chance to see the Red Elvises, definitely do so.  They’re about as energetic, talented, and charming a band as I’ve seen in ages.  They have plenty of dates scheduled for through the end of this year, so if they’ll be in your area, they’re well worth seeing.