October 13, 2011

FESTIVAL REVIEW: Culture Collide, October 6-9, 2011, Los Angeles


Last weekend (October 6-9), FILTER Magazine sponsored their second annual Culture Collide festival. Exposing international artists to the ears of Angelenos is the name of the game at Culture Collide, and this year’s Echo Park-based festival saw CSS (Brazil), Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (USA), Liam Finn (NZ), and Datarock (Norway) as well as artists from Australia, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Iran, Ireland, Israel, etc. Here’s a re-cap of what you missed.

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Nirvana: Live at the Paramount: Screening @ Los Feliz Vista Theater Wednesday October 5, 2011


Culture Collide kicked off in a big way on Wednesday evening with a showing of the recently released Nirvana: Live at the Paramount, a Seattle homecoming from Halloween night, 1991, just five weeks after the release of Nevermind. The film screened at the famous Vista Theater, located at the intersection of Sunset and Hillhurst in the Los Feliz neighborhood of LA. Live at the Paramount is the only Nirvana show ever shot in its entirety on 16mm film (how is this even possible!?), which makes the concert all the more special. We’ve been conditioned to digest Nirvana’s performance via 30 second midi video clips which have aired on VH1 continuously since 1995, so to see Nirvana without commercial breaks is quite exhausting – I can only imagine the electricity inside the Paramount 20 years ago. Flanking the sides of the stage are two dancers, an androgynous boy wearing a shirt that says ‘girl’ and an androgynous girl with a shirt that says ‘boy’, a gentle reminder of how Cobain and co. playfully tested the public’s perception of society as a whole.

Grohl does most of the between song banter, with a little help from Novoselic, but Cobain remains nearly mute. It’s important to appreciate that even on the eve of worldwide fame Cobain was uncomfortable with his status as an (albeit budding) “rock star”. Also, Nirvana was anything but a DIY project by October, 1991, as they’d already been given a healthy advance for a major label release. Societal implications aside, Nirvana is merely a band with one fantastic album and two very good albums. But Live at the Paramount reminds us that Nirvana can never be separated from the culture which catapulted them to fame. – Chris Gedos

Nirvana – Rape Me (Home Acoustic Demo)
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Liam Finn @ Echo Thursday October, 6 2011


To start his set, Liam Finn joked that his band ‘had traveled the longest way’. The New Zealand-bred Finn (son of Crowded House leader Neil Finn), who had likely traveled further distance than anyone else at The Echo on Thursday night, brought his serious songwriter and musical chops. The sort of chops that, like some of the best — Buckley comes to mind (father/son coincidence aside), where the music just seems to pour out of them. Like it’s just an extension of who they are, like having arms or legs or cool hair or whatever, it is their person. In describing Finn’s music and performance, we heard influences like whisperers Travis and Elliot Smith up to the straight folk rock of the 70’s and it’s modern disciples like Wilco. During the set, the band joked they didn’t have enough room on stage, and they kind of didn’t – as we counted up to 9 musicians on stage at any one point. Percussion played a big role (think WIND CHIMES), Liam even occasionally guest-dueled on drums, hitting the skins like a pro. “Gather to the Chapel” was a favorite take from the dynamic set. The band played through each tune, song for song, like seasoned folk pop professionals (maybe Decemberists-esque) and left a half full venue crowd (those that were there really into it) cheering, screaming, clamoring for more.

Liam Finn – Gather to the Chapel


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Lindstrom @ Echoplex Thursday October 6, 2011


Norwegian producer Lindstrøm closed the evening at Echoplex with a set of late night nu-disco macparty music. A chilled but focused Hans-Peter vibed his way through a mind-bending set of contemporary retro electronic music. On-lookers couldn’t help but move.


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The Postelles @ Taix Friday October 7, 2011


The Postelles took the stage Friday night at Taix. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a band this tight. They’re unconcerned with fads and styles while relating to the present and having something relevant to say for the year 2011. After being dropped by Capitol/EMI last year, the group didn’t skip a beat and eventually released the Albert Hammond Jr. produced, eponymous debut with +1 records this past June. As I write this, “Bad to Me” by Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas plays at the café, which is fitting because the Postelles truly sound like the lost songs of Lennon/McCartney (in a very good way). Is there anything left to say about the songs band vs. ideas band debate? Songs have always and will always win out.

A band of lesser value may not have survived as unscathed by a similar corporate runaround. But the Postelles sound even better than their videos online from eighteen months ago. “123 Stop” has to be one of the top rock songs of 2011. By channeling Eric Carmen and the spirit of (dare I say) Lee Mavers, the Postelles have created one of the most perfectly retro albums since Is This It. Properly rooted in the CKLW sound of 1960’s Detroit, these guys have been listening to their complete Motown Singles! The last, best thing I can say about them is that their new songs sound even more complex and intricate, with increased vocal duties on the part of the lead guitarist. The Postelles are touring America with The Wombats and then The Kooks at the end of October and through November. Drive the necessary distance and see these guys live, if only to know that old time Rock n’ Roll is alive and well. – Chris Gedos

The Postelles – Hold On


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Tennis System @ Taix Friday October 7, 2011


Tennis System, recent LA Transplants via Washington D.C., plays a hard but endearing mix of Psych-Pop and Shoegaze. I can’t say I’m a big fan of the name, but many of my favorite albums in recent memory have come from bands with immeasurably more preposterous names (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah to name one). They’re loud but not abrasively so, as they’re well aware that playing at a decibel level above 100 doesn’t make you automatically good. At the same time, they were shut down at SXSW for noise complaints. They’re like Weekend but more pop. “Hey, We Tried” (love the comma!) wouldn’t sound out of place on either Loveless or Carnival of Light. At the same time, Tennis System isn’t a genre band per se, succeeding with a sound which channels a wide spectrum of influences as far back as Pink Floyd and as recent as The Flaming Lips. Most importantly, they’re not just a live band, since their EP makes for a captivating and intimate listen. – Chris Gedos

Tennis System – Arcane

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Avi Buffalo @ Taix Friday October 7, 2011 and @ Toyota Antics Block Party Sunday October, 9 2011


Long Beach collective Avi Buffalo made use of their Friday and Sunday sets to deliver a fresh take on 2011 indie rock. Avi Buffalo are a band able to walk the line of producing popular songs like “What’s In It For?” while maintaining an off-the-beaten-path musical identity relative to other bands in their space. For example, how many other bands can actually play blistering guitar solos for minutes in the vain of Dave Gilmour or even Stevie Ray Vaughan? Or rather, how many other indie bands actually have the balls to rock out a 5-string bass on stage? Avi Buffalo march by the beat of their own drum (or 5-string bass slap). AB’s mostly moderately paced set was chock full of the most of dynamic crescendos and Neil Young-like shrieking by lead singer Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg. The band even delivered a moving version of ole Shakey’s “Cortez the Killer”. While Avi Buffalo is certainly rooted firmly with the pantheon of great 70’s classic rock groups, they aren’t shy about embracing more contemporary elements. Take for example, their bringing on stage of an MC, who joined the band at various points to spit rhymes over some of the set’s more funkified music beds. Also the shoes! The band had great contemporary-lookin’ shoes!

Avi Buffalo – What’s In It For?





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Yacht @ Echoplex Friday October 7, 2011


Yacht drew a packed house for their headlining slot at Echoplex Friday night. Yacht brought funk. The house got down. Phased-out and clean guitar effects, tight on-the-beat syncopations, cow bell, Eurythmics, you get the picture. Lead singer Claire L. Evans was in control taking charge of the party atmosphere and not letting go throughout the entire high energy set. The band’s spot-on cover of The B-52s “Mesopotamia” fit the pocket, a solid example of the best sort of minor keyed pop song. With a full and accomplished sound, Yacht are still that crossover hit away from landing on the commercial landscape. Do they care? Probably not.

YACHT – It’s All The Same Price (Featuring Eats Tapes)


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Asteroids Galaxy Tour @ Echoplex Friday October 7, 2011 and @ Toyota Antics Block Party Sunday October 9, 2011


Danish pop collective The Asteroids Galaxy Tour brought the full production for their Friday (Echoplex) and Sunday (Toyota Antics Block Party) sets. One of the more pop-orientated groups at Culture Collide this year, the band’s uptempo set fused high energy soul with an almost Brit-pop strut. The theatrics of lead singer Mette Lindberg were a highlight and the band definitely ramped up some well deserved anticipation for their forthcoming sophomore release Out of Frequency, due early 2012.

The Asteroids Galaxy Tour – Inner City Blues


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Clap Your Hands Say Yeah @ Toyota Antics Block Party Sunday October 9, 2011


Clap Your Hands played a very respectable 45 minute set in between Asteroid Galaxy and Datarock. They had been scheduled to play at F*** Yeah Fest on 3 September but were unable to travel west due to hurricane Irene. My main gripe is through no fault of their own: it seemed they wanted to play longer than they did, but were forced to stick to the strict time constraints mandated by the two stages’ proximity to one another. In fact, PA music came on before their encore! 45 minutes is ample time for a nice, thorough sound check, but for a band like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, who officially has a body of work now, the set seems way too short, especially since a majority of the set was from their now iconic, 2005 self-titled debut, a release which embodied the DIY movement at the time.

Regarding that debut, few albums come along with as cohesive or a singular of a purpose. I will forever compare Clap Your Hands Say Yeah to Ziggy Stardust if only because both albums run through 12 tracks in 38 minutes, and because Bowie championed Clap Your Hands when they first broke through. The Philadelphia five-piece opens with “Sunshine and Clouds and Everything Proud”, a little ditty which is track 4 on the aforementioned debut. This choice of opener suggested that the set wouldn’t be about Hysterical, the John Congleton-produced LP which was released on September 20th in The States, but rather their LP which was released 6 and a half years ago. I can’t say that the crowd minded the preponderance of older material. “In This Home on Ice”, my personal fav, was spot-on, and “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth”, their undisputed most popular song, sent the crowd rocking back and forth in place. As for the new album, “Hysterical” begins unassuming but builds throughout to something with a level of urgency. The single, “Maniac”, would make a nice B-side from their first album. Unfortunately for Mr. Ounsworth and co., however, the band has lost much of their relevancy and have therefore come to be defined by their past as opposed to their future. Whether Hysterical will set their career on a new trajectory remains to be seen.– Chris Gedos

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! – Maniac


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Datarock @ Toyota Antics Block Party Sunday October 9, 2011


What you see is what you get with Norwegian heavyweights Datarock, which is a lot. Tight, concise guitar licks, kraut-house melodies and vocals which serve as atmosphere during the verse and go big during the chorus. To say that Datarock brings a lot of energy to stage would be a vast understatement. They bubble over with energy, jumping up and down in their trademark red jumpsuits with a fair bit of running man thrown in for good measure. Frontman Fredrik Saroea is the group ambassador, drummer Tarjei Strøm donates several drum sticks to the audience and bassist Thomas Larssen never stops head banging. But Kjetil Møster, while not a founding member, is arguably their heart and soul. He mixes in layers of synths with a killer saxophone solo on several of their best known tracks. I saw Datarock at the Echoplex back in March and must say that their sound lends itself better to an indoor environment, as it seemed they weren’t quite as loud on Sunday night. Yet their performance was clear proof why they’ve been darlings of the electro rock scene for nearly a decade. – Chris Gedos

Datarock – The Pretender
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CSS @ Echoplex Saturday October 8, 2011 and @ Toyota Antics Block Party Sunday October 9, 2011


CSS brought some Brazilian soccer culture worthy-type “A” game to Culture Collide – headlining stages on both Saturday (Echoplex) and Sunday (Toyota Antics Block Party) nights. Perhaps the festival’s biggest draw, the band’s tight mix of multicultural nightlife soul won over the crowd of both new and longtime fans.

CSS – Red Alert (Feat. Ratatat)


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