DJ 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 beatheads 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.
Robert 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.
The 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.
The line wrapped around the block to see Local Natives play one of the biggest Amoeba in-stores in recent memory.
The L.A.-based band appeared Jan. 29 in support of their sophomore album, the epic Hummingbird, released the same day. Despite having released only one previous album, Gorilla Manor, in 2009, it was clear by the shouts of screaming girls and dudes alike that the band’s cult has grown sizably over the years.
The band opened with “You & I,” the majestic opening track of Hummingbird, with singer Kelcey Ayer booming his throaty voice through the store in the song’s opening lines and the band engaging in solid harmonies. “Breakers” sounded intense live, inspiring a clap-along.
From the get-go, it didn’t sound as though the band needed time to find their footing or were still trying to work out kinks in new songs; they sounded well-rehearsed and ready to go. They paused to sweetly give a shoutout to their hometown, offering gratitude and reflecting on the times they were on the other side of the stage.
In an offering to their fans, they launched into “Wide Eyes” from Gorilla Manor, a song they’re probably sick-to-death of playing, to huge response — a kind move in a show meant to promote their new album. They moved back to Hummingbird for standout “Heavy Feet,” which features some of the liveliest drumming and singing on the album, doubling that strength live in the show’s best moment.
Southern California’s Local Natives are playing Amoeba Hollywood Jan. 29 at 6 p.m. Prior to that, and the release of their much-anticipated second album, Hummingbird, that same day, I caught up with lead singer Kelcey Ayer about the band’s development, the nearly four-year break between their albums and what went into creating the band’s new album.
PST: Some bands force a second record out quickly, while you guys have seemed to take your time, refining and changing your sound over the past couple of years. Did you aim to take your time with this record, or was that a byproduct of touring or other priorities and obligations?
Ayer: It’s kind of both actually. People think we took all this time off, but we practically didn’t take any. We toured all of 2009 and 2010, and planned to start writing at the beginning of 2011, but then these offers came in that we just couldn’t say no to (opening for Arcade Fire, playing the Walt Disney Concert Hall with an orchestra, traveling and playing throughout Mexico, etc.). We finally locked down our own rehearsal/recording space together that summer, but diving into writing got postponed yet again because of a death in my family. From there we spent a year writing and making the record, and by the time it was finished last September, we decided it would be better to release it the beginning of this year. But none of that bothered us since we’d always told ourselves that we wouldn’t rush things. We thought if there was any way to avoid the sophomore slump, it would be by taking our time and not giving ourselves that unneeded pressure. We figured that it doesn’t matter when a record comes out if it’s not your best effort.
From the outset, when they broke into the four-chord, “I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone”-style stomp of “Stoked and Broke,” things were loud, loud, loud. That continued through the next couple of songs on their album, the breakneck-speed “White on White” and quirky surf riffery of “No Waves.” It was a shame that you could hear barely a word of vocals from the band and its two singers, Zac Caper and Elvis Kuehn, whose true-to-life detailing of being in your mid-20s, in a band, without a proper job and getting drunk every night is a big part of FIDLAR’s appeal. Musically, though, the band never faltered, inducing trance with the looped opening notes of “Whore” before smashing through the song’s nasty, Sabbathy punk rock. Things came through loud-and-clear enough for the band’s shout along chorus to closer “Cheap Beer,” echoed by the sizable audience: “I! Drink! Cheap! Beer! So! What! Fuck! You!”
The show was a perfect example of FIDLAR’s ethos (“Fuck it Dawg, Life’s a Risk,” is what their name stands for). They don’t play the volume they should. They don’t wait to make sure their vocals are loud enough or fuss with the sound guy. They just play. And the kids went wild.