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Show Recap: La Santa Cecilia at Amoeba Hollywood

Posted by Billy Gil, May 2, 2013 10:40am | Post a Comment

la santa cecilia amoebaLa Santa Cecilia isn't a person — or she isn't a live person, rather. It’s a band fusing all sorts of worldly influences — cumbia, bossa nova and blues, to name a few — named after the patron saint of musicians. But you could’ve been fooled into thinking frontwoman Marisol Hernandez was a saint herself, given the way she commanded the stage at Amoeba Hollywood April 30.

Her booming voice soared over a bluesy opener, generating rapturous applause from the show’s sizable audience. The band then went into an upbeat song driven by Jose “Pepe” Carlos’ riveting accordion playing, with Carlos and bassist Alex Bendana backing up Hernandez with trade-off vocals. santa cecilia treinta diasHernandez seemed to get choked up as she thanked people for coming, later saying it was an honor to play in the store. As though driven to please those she had just thanked, she danced, jumped and sang her heart out through the band's next bilingual jam. The band paused for a break while medical personnel attended to a concert-goer in medical need (who was shortly doing fine, it was announced).

They came back and introduced legendary drummer Pete Thompson, who carried them through a spirited romp as the band worked to restore stability to the show, while Hernandez rapped and roared through another song complete with blazing guitar solo. She gushed about receiving an email from Elvis Costello saying he wanted not only to perform but write on the album as well, sending lyrics for the song “Losing Game,” from their just-released Treinta Dias. Though Costello wasn’t present, Hernandez made up for it by doubling her already formidable stage presence and voice through the song’s swinging New Orleans feel.

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Show Recap: Fol Chen at Amoeba Hollywood

Posted by Billy Gil, April 26, 2013 03:15pm | Post a Comment

fol chen

In contrast with some of their arty antics off-stage, L.A. band Fol Chen began their set at Amoeba Hollywood merely declaring, “Hi, we’re Fol Chen,” before launching into the digital sitars and Janet Jackson-style coos of “A Tourist Town,” from the recently released The False Alarms.

With a four-person set-up, their detailed pop songs came through remarkably clearly and intact. Frontwoman Sinosa Loa wore a purple dress and white gloves like Madonna, though her more demure stage presence is more befitting of the band’s digitized, skewed brand of pop.

It was hard to hear Loa on “The Fifth Season,” one of the pitfalls of their complex sound being that they occasionally don’t clear enough space for the singer, who looked a little lost. It got better halfway through when digital manipulation of Loa’s voice seemed to give her more confidence and the band’s creepy digital space becomes quite effective. The band fared better altogether on single “I.O.U.,” an irresistible pop tune with a bubblegum chorus — albeit an intelligent one. Loa made those gloves work for her as she clutched the mic close and gesticulated with one hand.

Their keyboardist came out front to play trumpet to nice effect on “Winter, That’s All,” from their album Part I: John Shade, Your Fortune’s Made. It helped humanize and demystify some of the band's methods, nicely displaying their guitarist’s noise-making capabilities on an effected acoustic guitar as Loa eerily sang “Lately I don’t feel so hot/Could it be the winter, that’s all.” While the newer songs are better-written, they seemed to be still getting the hang of them, while on older songs, like “The Holograms” and “In Ruins,” from their last album, Part II: The New December, they seemed more confident and louder.

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Fol Chen Play Amoeba SF Tonight, Amoeba Hollywood Tomorrow

Posted by Billy Gil, April 24, 2013 02:19pm | Post a Comment

fol chenExperimental pop group Fol Chen are as known for their innovative music as they are for their artistic activities outside of merely performing onstage. The Los Angeles-based band has given interviews with their faces obscured a la The Knife, invited guest singers onstage via Craigslist, had a metal band perform its songs, performed reconstructed, long-form versions of their albums in Russia, held a workshop in which attendees could get their own song made, and partnered with an electronics manufacturer to produce a sound device, writing and recording two songs with it.

All of that is a mouthful for a band who’s still on the up-and-up. It certainly makes for a great backstory, but it only works if the music does as well. Thankfully, Fol Chen’s music is as bright and intriguing as what they do with it, a hyperactive, dynamic electro-pop sound informed by world music, new wave, dance-punk and other sources both cerebral and celebratory. Their latest album, The False Alarms, is their most pop-oriented statement yet, with group vocals and some of their more avant-garde instincts eschewed in favor of giving singer Sinosa Loa a platform on which to perform as an alt-pop diva. I spoke with Fol Chen’s Samuel Bing before their two performances at Amoeba, first in San Francisco April 24 at 6 p.m. and then in Hollywood April 25 at 7 p.m.

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Show Recap: DJ Nu-Mark at Amoeba Hollywood

Posted by Billy Gil, March 4, 2013 05:15pm | Post a Comment

DJ Nu-Mark AmoebaDJ Nu-Mark spun a set frontloaded with hits and gradually growing weirder Feb. 28 at Amoeba Hollywood. Through promoting his fine Broken Sunlight album, released last year, the DJ stuck with a more traditional set of blending well-known records into one another. He got the audience percolating with an “L.A., California” refrain, building a beat with booming bass and classic funk horns as a crowd of DJ Nu-Mark Broken Sunlightbeatheads nodded on. He worked in The Jackson 5's “ABC,” The O’Jays “For the Love of Money,” Men Without Hats’ “The Safety Dance,” Phil Collins’ “You Can’t Hurry Love,” the Beastie Boys’ “Intergalactic,” Justice’s “D.A.N.C.E.,” Kanye West and Jay-Z’s “Ni**as in Paris,” a remix of Violent Femmes’ “Blister in the Sun,” Jay-Z’s “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” Oasis’ “Wonderwall” and many other songs. The set started with big hits everyone knew and moved into more obscure sounds — an extended didgeridoo part, instrumental passages, “Kung Fu Fighting” with an underwater effect, a muzak version of “Satisfaction.” Nu-Mark worked with a minimal set-up of a laptop and two turntables, moving quickly between songs and grooving hard, keeping the energy alive even as the set grew more challenging. See more photos of the performance here.

Show Recap: Robert DeLong at Amoeba Hollywood

Posted by Billy Gil, February 7, 2013 09:53am | Post a Comment

Robert DeLongRobert DeLong taught a master class in how to construct electronic music live, on the fly, during his performance at Amoeba Hollywood Feb. 5.

He began by building layered vocal loops and electronic drum beats before singing along to a bass-heavy programmed backbeat. DeLong demonstrated his strongest points early on: his high energy and ability to combine densely layered EDM songs with the feel of a live rock band.

The songs hit hard — I felt like my skull was rattling from the bass. DeLong made up for his just so-so voice by manipulating it when necessary and singing earnestly as well, taking the Ben Gibbard heart-on-sleeve approach. “Global Concepts” best exemplified his Postal Service meets Skrillex approach to making music, combining visceral dance music with emotional delivery.

Robert DeLongThe busyness of DeLong’s music only occasionally got the best of him when his vocals would fail to rise to the occasion while he inexplicably played a maraca egg at the same time, for instance, or when the mic would drop out, perhaps overloaded with effect. The best part of the show by far was when he ditched the singing and electronic instruments to do their thing on their own while he played live drums along to the backing music. That was the moment when he did indeed make everyone “fucking dance,” as “Global Concepts” claims. Side note: Besides the novelty value of his playing drums in a one-man band setting, DeLong’s a pretty great drummer.

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