Friday, August 31, 2007

Gráda to play in San Juan Capistrano on Sept. 1

Acclaimed Celtic music group Gráda will perform two shows as part of the San Juan Capistrano Multicultural Arts Series on Saturday evening, Sept. 1, 2007.

The talented quintet is performing at San Juan Capistrano Regional Library on the heels of the release of "Cloudy Day Navigation," an impressive two-disc collection featuring a 12-song CD and a bonus six-song DVD featuring a wonderful live performance by the group filmed at the Temple Bar Music Centre in Dublin on Aug. 10, 2006.

The CD features outstanding songs ("Red Civic," "Cooler at the Edge," "River"), as well as breathtaking instrumental selections ("Carousel of Life," "Fifty-ninth Street," "Maria Letizia's").
Gráda includes Alan Doherty (flutes, whistles, vocals, percussion), Andrew Laking (double bass, vocals, guitar), Colin Farrell (fiddle, whistle), Gerry Paul (guitars, vocals) and Nicola Joyce (vocals, bodhran).

The group's wide-ranging talent displayed across "Cloudy Day Navigation" should come as no surprise considering the strong skills of the individual members who make up the troupe. New Zealand native Laking has a wide-ranging background playing Irish and jazz music, while flautist Doherty first gained worldwide fame as a lead soloist on Howard Shore's "Lord of the Rings" soundtrack. Ireland natives Joyce and Paul and Manchester, England's Farrell all participated in thriving regional Irish music scenes before forming Gráda six years ago.

An eclectic mix of performers including Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin, Damien Dempsey, Damien Rice and Bill Whelan have all utilized members from Gráda's ranks. The group's discography includes 2007's "Cloudy Day Navigation," as well as the group's 2004 debut "The Landing Step" and 2005's "Endeavour."

Fans of seminal Irish music artists such as Solas will be thrilled by Gráda's musicianship and performance skills in concert.
Gráda will perform at the San Juan Capistrano Regional Library, 31495 El Camino Real, San Juan Capistrano, at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 1, 2007.
Tickets are $10 ($5 for children under 12).
Information: 949-248-7469

Thursday, August 23, 2007

‘Ally McBeal’ songstress Vonda Shepard

Vonda Shepard is back.

After taking more than a year off to have a baby, the acclaimed singer-songwriter is completing work on a new album and will kick off a handful of intimate shows this summer when she plays at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano Saturday.

“I started playing (Los Angeles area) clubs, playing original music when I was 14,” Shepard said in a recent phone interview. “I played for 10 years before I got signed.”

By the time Shepard was signed to her first major label contract with Reprise Records in 1987, she had already paid her dues as a backup singer and keyboardist for both Rickie Lee Jones and Al Jarreau.

Shepard released a self-titled debut in 1989, as well a 1992 follow-up, “The Radical Light,” before being dropped from the label. But her story clearly didn’t end there.

She continued to perform in the Los Angeles area and in 1996 released an independent album “It’s Good, Eve” that also helped connect her with an ever-growing fan base, including famed TV producer David E. Kelley. Shepard’s music was introduced to a global audience once she became a fixture on Kelley’s “Ally McBeal” series (which ran 1997-2002).

“It gave me a career all over the world,” said Shepard, noting she has been able to perform across the U.S. and overseas while selling more than 12 million records worldwide.

“The other side is a lot of people want to hear ‘Tell Him’ (Shepard’s version of the Exciters’ 1960s hit was featured on 1998’s “Songs from Ally McBeal” album).” There are songs from early in Shepard’s career, including material she sang on the show, that still find a regular place on her set list. Her remakes of “You Belong to Me” and “Walk Away Renee” are selections she still enjoys performing, but it is her own “Maryland” that remains a personal favorite.

“I feel that song every time I play it,” Shepard admitted. Her most recent albums include 1999’s “By 7:30,” 2002’s “Chinatown,” as well as the aptly-titled “Live – A Retrospective” released in 2005.

“I only have three songs left to go,” said Shepard, adding she hopes her forthcoming album is available by Christmas. “I do really look forward to the new album being finished.”

Those attending her show in San Juan Capistrano will get to hear at least three new songs that have been recorded and are set be included on her forthcoming project.

“I have to play them,” she said.

Shepard and Brooke Ramel will perform at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, at 8 p.m. Saturday, August 25. (For those who can’t make that show, she is also scheduled to finish her five-date tour at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts on Sept. 29).

Tickets, available at the Coach House box office, are $25.

Information: 949-496-8930.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Rusty Anderson to perform at O.C. Pavilion on Aug. 24

Originally printed Aug. 17, 2007 in the Orange County Register
Special to the Register

Rusty Anderson is coming home.
Although the celebrated singer-guitarist has performed at a handful of intimate shows in Orange County since his acclaimed debut "Undressing Underwater" was released by Surfdog Records in 2005, his performance at OC Pavilion on Aug. 24 marks his first time headlining a major venue in Orange County as a solo artist.
The La Habra High School graduate admitted there is still a special feeling whenever he performs in Orange County.
"First of all, it's a beautiful theater and it has great lighting and sound," said Anderson, who has played in Paul McCartney's band since 2001. "It's going to be a longer show and there will be special guests. I'm looking forward to taking advantage of that (theater-styled) setup. And because I grew up in Orange County, it's going to be extra exciting to play this one."
Anderson explained how much McCartney enjoyed playing the cozy confines of New York's Highline Ballroom and Amoeba Records in Hollywood earlier this summer compared to the arenas and stadiums they usually play together. And while Anderson has enjoyed performing at clubs such as the legendary Viper Room in Hollywood and a record release party at Pepperland Music in Orange with his band, he is thrilled to perform in a larger setting where he can deliver a bigger show for his area fans.
"I think it has rubbed off in some ways, hopefully," said Anderson, when asked about the experience of playing with McCartney for more than six years.
"Being in so many situations – from recording at Abbey Road Studios to playing in Red Square - and just getting out and seeing the world a bit, I have learned a lot of things that I'm probably not even aware of," he admitted. "But, yeah, I think it has certainly made me feel comfortable on stage if nothing else."
In addition to his continuing role as a member of McCartney's band, Anderson's guitar playing is featured across a wide range of recent releases including on Elton John's "Songs From The West Coast", Regina Spektor's "Begin to Hope," Joe Cocker's "Respect Yourself," Dido's "Life for Rent," Carole King's "Love Makes the World" and Gwen Stefani's "Love. Angel. Music. Baby", Cat Stevens' "An Other Cup" and Jewel's "0304."
When it comes to his solo career, Anderson is a talented guitar virtuoso and could easily chart a course in the sonic footsteps of Gary Hoey, Steve Vai and Joe Satriani. On "Undressing Underwater," Anderson's dazzling fretwork is almost-always used in the service of songs such as the tuneful "Hurt Myself" (McCartney plays bass and sings backup vocals on that track) psychedelia-tinged "Devil's Spaceship" and driving surf rocker "Catbox Beach" (featuring Police drummer Stewart Copeland and Ednaswap bassist Paul Bushnell).
In addition to singing lead vocals and playing guitar, "Undressing Underwater" found Anderson playing keyboards, pedal steel guitar, tambourine and even hammered dulcimer across the disc.
"Well, I'm always exploring; all I do is explore," Anderson said when asked about material he is writing and recording for his next project.
"I'm always sort of torn between trying to make things different because if something is unique you can't compare it to anything else. And then I think, 'Well all that matters is that it's good.' So I kind of vacillate back and forth between those two things."
Rusty Anderson and Fountain Valley-based singer-songwriter Michael Ubaldini will perform at the OC Pavilion, 801 N. Main St., Santa Ana, at 8 p.m. on Aug. 24.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Richie Furay, Chris Hillman & Herb Pedersen coming to Coach House

There is sure to be plenty of sonic magic when three legendary talents linked with the birth of country rock perform at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on Friday night, August 17.

Richie Furay (a founding member of both Buffalo Springfield and Poco), Chris Hillman (an original member of the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Desert Rose Band) and Herb Pedersen (the Desert Rose Band) are set to play on the same bill, bringing together their collective skills as songwriters, singers and musicians for a celebration of a style of music that paved the way for the Eagles, as well as modern day champions such as Carbon Leaf.

Hillman undertook his own musical trek in 1963 as a young mandolin player in the bluegrass band, the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers, but he was to find even greater fame as an original member of the Byrds and with his contributions on classics such as “Turn, Turn, Turn,” “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Eight Miles High.” After the release of the seminal album “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” in 1968, Hillman and fellow Byrds member Gram Parsons left to form the Flying Burrito Brothers (speaking of the Flying Burritos Brothers, Amoeba Records is releasing a 2-CD set titled "Gram Parsons Archive Vol 1: The Fying Burrito Brothers LIVE at the Avalon Ballroom 1969" in October 2007).

Hillman found further success with the Desert Rose Band in the 1980s. His contributions to the Byrds will be among the many highlights of a forthcoming 2-disc DVD titled “The Byrds Under Review” set for release next month.

Furay’s career is also one who emerged during the Southern California rock explosion of the 1960s, when he formed Buffalo Springfield with Stephen Stills and Neil Young in 1967. After that group disbanded, Furay and Jim Messina formed the countryrock group Poco. Furay and Hillman began working together when they teamed with J.D. Souther in the Souther Hillman Furay Band. That 1970s trio released several wonderful albums, including 1976’s “Slippin’ Away” and 1977’s “Clear Sailin’.” Furay returned to the spotlight earlier this year with the release of a new solo album, “The Heartbeat of Love.” Notable guests appearing on Furay’s latest disc include Timothy B. Schmit (Poco, the Eagles), Kenny Loggins and aforementioned Young and Stills.

Pedersen has been an active part of the Los Angeles and Nashville area recording scenes for 35 years, having utilized his tenor voice, as well as his equally-strong 5-string banjo and guitar playing talents on recordings for Emmylou Harris, Gordon Lightfoot, the late John Denver, Linda Ronstadt and Martina McBride. And as a member of the successful Desert Rose Band, he saw songs such as “Love Reunited,” “One Step Forward” and “Start All Over Again” score high on the country music charts.

Richie Furay, Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen will perform at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, at 8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 17. Tickets are $30.
Information: 949-496-8930.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Deep Pruple, Blue Öyster Cult deliver taste of nostalgia

Photo taken by Kelly A. Swift
Photo information: Bassist Roger Glover and singer Ian Gillan of the classic rock band Deep Purple performed at the Pacific Amphitheatre on Sunday, Aug. 12, 2007.
(Story below originally published on on Monday, Aug. 13, 2007)
Review: The final installment of Pacific Amphitheatre's summer concert series a heavy metal fan's dream.
Special to the Register
The first time I caught Deep Purple in the early 1980s, the British hard rockers definitely lived up to their ear-bleeding reputation (the outfit was once credited in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's loudest band).
On Sunday night, it was a decidedly more mature quintet that headlined at the final concert of the Pacific Amphitheatre's 2007 summer concert series.
Although the lineup of Deep Purple no longer features guitarist Ritchie Blackmore or keyboardist Jon Lord, the band gave the animated crowd a solid and strong performance that was a credit to the influential troupe's legacy.
Ian Gillan can't hit as many high notes as he did in the 1970s and early '80s, but his voice remains a melodic instrument up to the challenge and he has never looked happier on stage. The barefoot Gillan danced and moved with the music throughout the band's 90-minute set, and proved himself to be a personable frontman, able to keep things together on stage while involving the audience in sing-alongs and cheering on his band mates.
The set list was a heavy metal fan's dream, with the band playing well-known hits ("Space Truckin,' " "Smoke on the Water" and night-ending "Hush") and newer material such as "Rapture of the Deep." Longtime guitarist Steve Morse (who replaced Joe Satriani in 1994) is one of the world's best electric guitarists and his playing was exhilarating throughout the set, notably during an instrumental solo leading into "Knocking at Your Back Door." Both Morse and keyboardist Don Airey shined during the bluesy "Lazy," where they displayed their skills around Gillan's blues harmonica playing.
Bassist Roger Glover and drummer Ian Paige continue to bring fire to Deep Purple's sound, as evidenced by the heavy hypnotic power of "Perfect Strangers" and racing "Highway Star."

Blue Öyster Cult may not have Deep Purple's deep catalog of hits, but what the band does have is guitar virtuoso Buck Dharma. His playing was so inventive that it brought life to many of the lesser-known selections featured in the group's 45-minute set.
Highlights of the five-member band's stint were a driving "Burnin' for You" with both Dharma and Eric Bloom singing the song together to give it a layered sound, and a dynamic "(Don't Fear) The Reaper."
Although the kind of skillful guitar playing displayed by Dharma has fallen out of favor in modern rock circles, he truly delivered a clinic how to push the electric guitar to its limits that seemed to please not only longtime fans of the band, but a number of teens and twentysomethings sitting at the show.

While Edgar Winter's appearance at the end of the night (he played saxophone with Deep Purple during "Smoke on the Water") was welcome, his 30-minute opening set was a strictly by-the-numbers affair except during a funky and energetic "Free Ride."

Paul Rodgers, the Doors do justice to their pasts

Originally published on on Sunday, August 12, 2007

Review: Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger delivered moments of magic, but the Bad Company/Free vocalist lived up to top billing with a crowd-pleaser.
Special to the Register

One of the greatest bands of all time, the Doors left behind recordings that are a collective part of rock 'n' roll consciousness. Fans are not only deeply familiar with the melodies sung by the late Jim Morrison, they even know the extended keyboard solos crafted by Ray Manzarek and the flamenco-tinged fretwork immortalized by Robby Krieger.

Since Morrison's death in 1971, the Doors' music has had a lasting impact with audiences, rare and previously unavailable recordings still seeping into the marketplace (the latest from the band is Rhino Records' impressive two-disc "Live in Boston 1970," released just last month).
Further keeping the flame alive is Riders on the Storm, a tribute of sorts featuring Manzarek, Krieger and one-time Fuel singer Brett Scallions. (The Cult's frontman Ian Astbury was on board when this revivalist concept emerged as the Doors of the 21st Century earlier this decade.)

How carefully these Riders recreate the Doors experience in the '00s – as it attempted to do for nearly an hour Saturday night (Aug. 11, 2007) at Pacific Amphitheatre – likely may be a matter of debate, but Scallions is clearly a kindred spirit of the late Morrison. His thin frame, black attire and fluid stage movements helped bring plenty of energy to this performance.
His routine eventually faltered because his own voice failed as a substitute for Morrison's deep and resonant baritone. But the good news for Doors fans was that both Manzarek and Krieger were in excellent form, replicating and improvising around timeless riffs and melodies from "Break on Through," "Light My Fire" and "L.A. Woman" (the latter two both clocked in at around 10 minutes apiece).

But headliner Paul Rodgers was clearly the winner this night. Back to his solo ways after a well-received tour fronting Queen – and backed by a strong four-man band, with kudos to the dual guitar attack of Howard Leese and Kurtis Dengler – Rodgers performed his best-known hits from both Bad Company and Free during an 80-minute performance.
Long recognized as one of rock's greatest vocalists, Rodgers proved it again and again here with pitch-perfect renditions of "Rock and Roll Fantasy" and even more challenging fare, such as "Can't Get Enough," "Feel Like Makin' Love" and "Saving Grace." His set only gained momentum as the night wore on, and his vocal firepower was up to the challenge, leading the crowd through sing-alongs during "Shooting Star," "All Right Now" and "Bad Company."

But Rodgers really sealed the deal with an amazing vocal display during a cover of the Jimi Hendrix classic "Little Wing," bringing both heartfelt emotion and dynamics to the piece.
Canadian singer-guitarist Pat Travers opened the night with a pleasing set of hard-rocking blues. Though most known for his cover of Stan Lewis' "Boom Boom (Out Go the Lights)," that audience favorite was outdistanced by newer material such as "Crash and Burn" and "I Don't Care."

Sgt. Pepper's brought to life at the Hollywood Bowl

Originally posted online at on Saturday, August 11, 2007

Cheap Trick, Joan Osborne, Aimee Mann and others perform the Beatles' masterpiece and other Fab Four favorites with a symphony orchestra. 

By ROBERT KINSLER Special to the Register 

It's hard to imagine a musical landscape without the Beatles. Almost from the moment the Fab Four burst on the international scene in 1964, the group's songs, distinctive sound and style had an impact not only on modern music, but on the world. The Beatles scored a number of triumphs across the 1960s, but the release of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" on June 1, 1967 changed the pop universe in ways still felt four decades later. 

A loving and fully-realized tribute to that masterwork, "Sgt. Pepper's at 40…a Beatles Celebration" brought a capacity crowd to the Hollywood Bowl on Friday, Aug. 10 (to be staged again on Saturday night). Under the direction of conductor Edwin Outwater, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and house band Cheap Trick were joined by a group of other artists in a two-hour program that was divided into two sections, with various well-known songs from albums such as "Rubber Soul," "The White Album," "Magical Mystery Tour," "Let It Be" and "Abbey Road" performed early in the night, while "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" was played in its entirety after the intermission. 

Most of the selections played during the concert were never actually performed in concert by the Beatles when they were together, so the opportunity to see a talented line-up of players such as Aimee Mann, Joan Osborne, Ian Ball and Rob Laufer deliver performances of the classics with the accompaniment of a full orchestra allowed most of the performers to put their own stamp on the selections while honoring the original recordings. Since the late 1970s, Cheap Trick has been one of the hardest working bands in America, performing at clubs, arenas and festivals while recording terrific collections blending power pop, punk and modern rock. The band's performance on Friday allowed a chance to focus on its musical chops and interpretive skills. 

From the opening song of the night ("Magical Mystery Tour") to a medley from "Abbey Road" that closed the first half of the show, singer Robin Zander, guitarist Rick Nielsen, drummer Bun E. Carlos and bassist Tom Petersson provided powerful renditions of the songs. And while Cheap Trick and Gomez singer Ian Ball (whose orchestra-anchored "Strawberry Fields Forever" was among the highlights of the night) were mostly faithful to the originals in terms of arrangements, performances by Osborne (R&B styled takes on "Lady Madonna" and "The Long and Winding Road") and Mann (a beautifully fragile "Blackbird") displayed that even when reworked, the Beatles' songs continue to work their magic. 

The performance of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" remains a challenge and no doubt it took significant planning to get the classically trained orchestra in sync with a group of rock players and even a six-member group of musicians playing Indian instruments such as sitar, tabla and double violin during a memorable "Within You Without You" (ably sung by Rob Laufer). While the performance of the 13-song "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" was revisited with mostly strong results, there were wrinkles, such as during "Good Morning Good Morning" on which the mix of sound effects, orchestra and Cheap Trick didn't blend perfectly. 

Yet, the inclusive presentation worked, with Mann, Osborne and Ball also getting to take the lead on various tracks from the album. The tour de force of the night rightfully came during "A Day in the Life," with a marvelously chilling lead vocal from Zander delivered against a dramatic soundscape of his band and a full orchestra that left an undeniable impression and had many in the crowd immediately rise to their feet when the final chord of the work was struck. 

The entire ensemble of singers and musicians were called back for an encore, performing "All You Need Is Love," the perfect song to reinforce the spirit of a special night not soon forgotten.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Jennifer Warnes' masterpiece gets its due

Posted at on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2007

A 20th anniversary reissue of 'Famous Blue Raincoat,' her album of songs by Leonard Cohen, is treasure.
Special to the Register

There was a fateful series of events that led Jennifer Warnes to record her 1987 masterwork "Famous Blue Raincoat." The collection of songs by singer-poet Leonard Cohen was rightfully included in many critics' top 10 lists at the end of that year, but had long been out of print until it was reissued in an exceptional 20th anniversary edition by Shout! Factory on Aug. 7.
Warnes, a two-time Grammy winner who grew up in Anaheim and Fullerton, recently talked by phone from her home in Los Angeles about the long-awaited re-release of the tour de force, which has been beautifully remastered from the original analog tapes and also includes four previously unreleased tracks.

"This record, on one hand it's the recording of a friendship that has lasted until now (more than 35 years)," explained Warnes, 60, who began working with Cohen as a backup singer in the early 1970s.

"On the other hand, it's an interpreter's art … what does this say about the interpretive arts that a woman can get inside a man."
When asked about the challenge of selecting which Cohen songs to tackle, Warnes explained "some of the lyrics fit a woman better," while also noting that some of the songs just proved to be a better fit with her style of singing.
In addition to completely reworking Cohen-penned songs such as "First We Take Manhattan," "Bird on a Wire" and the exquisite title track, the album features the confessional ballad "Song of Bernadette" with lyrics co-written by Cohen and Warnes. Clocking in at eight minutes, "Joan of Arc" is a wonderful and introspective work on which Cohen's emotive baritone and Warnes' soprano are featured in a pairing that is pure magic.

The critical acclaim that greeted the release of "Famous Blue Raincoat" two decades ago also paved the way for a new appreciation of Cohen, whose 1988 album "I'm Your Man" revisited several of the selections on Warnes' tribute that was released a year before.
Audiophiles will quickly note the sound of the album is luxurious without being over-produced.
"One of the mistakes of (some recordings) is they leave in a lot of stuff that the listener has to work really hard to hear. And I got tired of having to work hard to hear things," she explained.
"Maybe the horns were covering up the vocals; especially in the '70s and '80s. The recording techniques were you just threw a bunch of stuff on there and hoped people liked it. And Roscoe (Roscoe Beck and Warnes co-produced the album) and I shared the same desire that we would personally do all the work of listening so our listeners could sit down in an easy chair and luxuriate."

In addition to members of the touring band that Cohen was using during that time, "Famous Blue Raincoat" also features guest appearances by legendary guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, whose distinctive style of blues guitar is heard on a scorching "First We Take Manhattan."
"Stevie was a friend of Roscoe," explained Warnes, recalling that Beck befriended Vaughan when the guitarist moved to Austin.

"So Roscoe wanted Stevie on it and when Stevie was playing at the Grammys; after the Grammy Awards were over he came over to the studio and did that without ever having heard the song before. He did it live."
With the re-release of "Famous Blue Raincoat," it's clear that there may be a welcome spotlight aimed at Warnes. Despite the commercial success of her 1982 duet with Joe Cocker on "Up Where We Belong" for the film "An Officer and a Gentleman" in 1982, as well as "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" recorded with Bill Medley for "Dirty Dancing" in 1987, wonderful albums such as 1992's "The Hunter" and 2001's "The Well" have been overlooked.

She continues to be a sought-after vocalist and is featured on a number of recent releases, including on Chris Hillman's latest disc "The Other Side," a duet with Jorge Calderon of "Keep Me In Your Heart" for a Warren Zevon tribute and guest vocals on Jackson Browne's "Going Home" album. Her most recent recording is a solo performance of "Blue Mountains of Mexico," a track that will appear on "The Gift: Tribute to Ian Tyson" this year.

Of "Famous Blue Raincoat," Warnes offers up the perfect single-sentence review: "We were in one of those vortex moments where everything was falling into place."

For more information on "Famous Blue Raincoat," visit For more details about all of Warnes' recordings, visit

Newvale to play in band's own backyard this weekend

If Newvale had no other distinction than being fronted by one-time Something Corporate guitarist Reuben Hernandez, that alone might well be enough to get the San Clemente-based quartet some notice.

But the fact that Newvale has released an EP of songs that equals his old band’s best efforts makes listening to the four tracks on “Summer’s Gone” an unexpected thrill. Add to that unlikely scenario that the music sounds little like Something Corporate and many discerning listeners will be amazed.
The band was formed in December 2005 and began playing high-profile shows in 2006 at venues such as the Galaxy Concert Theatre in Santa Ana and the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. Newvale will be performing a highly-anticipated hometown concert at the San Clemente Fiesta Street Festival on Sunday, Aug. 12.

Newvale’s debut debut CD was recorded at Lendroma Studio in September 2006 with producer Kelly Winrich (best known as the drummer of San Clemente-based rock group Bril) and it took a mere 2-1/2 days to track the memorable title track “Summer’s Gone,” as well as “Explosions in the Distance,” “Flowers and Parking Tickets” and “Our Thursday.”
Newvale clearly sounds modern, with “Summer’s Gone” recalling recent work from Snow Patrol and Coldplay, but there is a laid-back, melodic vibe that may have something to do with the beach lifestyle enjoyed by the band. Think of it as a cross between Jack’s Mannequin and Sugar Ray with a bit of Dashboard Confessional thrown into the sonic mix.

“Lyrically, I want to write songs that are honest and inspire people,” Hernandez said in an interview earlier this year.
Newvale will perform a free show at the San Clemente Fiesta Street Festival (to be held from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Avenida Del Mar in downtown San Clemente) on Aug. 12. Others groups scheduled to perform at the event include Cash’d Out (a tribute to Johnny Cash), Flock of 80’s, Crush, the Matt Kenney Band, Entice, Gratitude and Carry the Zero.
For more information on Newvale, visit

Monday, August 06, 2007

Summer Haze: A strong mix of styles is delivered by Slightly Stoopid, G. Love and Ozomatli

Originally published online at on Sunday, Aug. 5, 2007

On its commercial recordings – including the band's forthcoming "Chronichitis" – San Diego's Slightly Stoopid delivers a breezy and reggae-tinged catalog in tune with sonic forebearers such as Sublime and Sugar Ray.
Performing before a capacity crowd at Pacific Amphitheatre on Saturday (Aug. 4, 2007), songs such as "Officer," "Mr. Music" and "Wicked Rebel" retained the feel-good reggae grooves heard on disc although several of the songs played by the band were rendered unrecognizable by an overpowering mix in favor of the bass guitar and so many reverb- and echo-styled effects on the vocals.
But for the party-minded crowd on their feet moving to the beat much of the night, the band's 75-minute set was the perfect backdrop to drink, chat and celebrate a Saturday night. Slightly Stoopid's loosely-delivered set did feature some serious music making, as evidenced by an artful jam ("Nobody Knows"), a punk rock exhibit ("Operation") and a night-ending "Baby I Like It" featuring G. Love joining the band to infuse the tune with some blistering blues harmonica work.
While Slightly Stoopid's sound is built mostly around reggae, ska and punk, G. Love and Special Sauce similarly have found a way to fuse blues, R&B and rap together with winning results. During an hour-long set, G. Love showcased his skills as singer, guitarist and harmonica whiz; that he has such a fine supporting cast in Special Sauce (drummer Jeffrey Clemens, bassist Jimi Jazz and keyboardist Mark Boyce) was driven home across the hip-hop meets blues of "Cold Beverages" and a reggae-tinged "Back of the Bus." The ensemble also explored classic rock with a straightforward version of the Beatles "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" and folk territory when guest Tristan Prettyman joined G. Love on stage to deliver an acoustic version of "Beautiful" that was featured on 2006's "Lemonade."

Ozomatli opened the show with an energetic 40-minute set that clearly impressed those who arrived in time to catch the L.A. outfit's blend of Latin salsa, hip-hop, rock and jazz-funk.
The large ensemble has always been powerful in a concert setting, but this outing displayed Ozomatli's burgeoning skills as songwriters. Newer material – notably the Latin rock-styled "Can't Stop," breezy R&B gem "After Party" and rap-anchored "City of Angels" from the new CD "Don't Mess with the Dragon" – placed effective melodies and choruses alongside the plethora of percussion instruments, horns, guitars and sing-alongs that have been a key part of Ozomatli since the group was formed more than a decade ago.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Violent Femmes' rebound works for me!

The Violent Femmes are on the rebound.
Whereas the ensemble turned in a decidedly by-the-numbers set when they played on the main stage at OCNYE at the Orange County Fairgrounds on Dec. 31, 2006, it was a much stronger ensemble that performed before the faithful at the House of Blues in Anaheim on Wednesday night (Aug. 1, 2007).
This more intimate showcase found the group delivering a full-length concert clocking in at almost two hours that fully captured the simultaneously schizophrenic and cohesive approach that makes the Violent Femmes so appealing.
There has been renewed interest in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin export over the past few years. Indeed, Rhino Records has issued a wonderful retrospective of the band’s best-known hits (“Permanent Record: the Very Best of Violent Femmes”) and the first-ever official DVD release (“Live and Otherwise”) featuring both concept videos and performance footage.
For the thirty- and fortysomething fans that crowded into the venue to catch the show, they had plenty of company as they sang along to all their favorites (“American Music,” “Gone Daddy Gone” “Add It Up” and the timeless “Blister in the Sun”). And for the young fans – many of whom were toddlers when the cult band released its self-titled debut in 1983 – this was the kind of energetic and freewheeling show that likely turned many into permanent devotees.
Leading the charge on stage were singer-guitarist Gordon Gano, bassist Brian Ritchie and percussionist Victor DeLorenzo, all of whom are distinctive players skilled at playing the mix of indie rock, alt folk, country-western and post punk that makes up the group’s distinctive sound. The three original members were all positioned at the front of the stage and a rotating line-up of other players (at times there were as many as 10 musicians on the stage) would come and go depending on the arrangement of a specific song. Horns of Dilemma member Jeff Hamilton was especially impressive with his mandolin work on the bluegrass-flavored “Jesus Walking on the Water”; that selection also featured Gano playing fiddle and Ritchie performing one of many fiery bass solos that thrilled the adoring crowd throughout the night.
The recently-reunited True West opened the night with a 50-minute set of songs gleaned from the band’s 1983 album “Hollywood Holiday” and 1984’s “Drifters,” as well as a couple of new tracks (both discs were reissued in by Atavistic Records in June).
The group’s blend of early ‘80s rock of the Plimsouls meets R.E.M. variety and post-psychedelic pop was not what this crowd ordered (many in the audience rudely cheered when singer Gavin Blair introduced the quintet’s final song), but the reformation of the band was worth an early arrival. The driving “Shot You Down” and “Hold On” were both highlights.

Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake, Streetlight Manifesto & Against All Authority

Reel Big Fish knows how to throw a party.
The Orange County outfit played more than two dozen upbeat ska meets post-punk tunes designed to keep young fans dancing, jumping and racing around the Grove of Anaheim on Tuesday night (July 31, 2007).
So although it has been 10 years since RBF scored its biggest hit (1997’s “Sell Out”), singer-guitarist Aaron Barrett (the only original member of the Huntington Beach-spawned outfit; co-founder bassist Matt Wong left the band earlier this year) and his group continue to mine the the ska universe with a hyper mix of vocals, keyboards, riff guitar and horn blasts.
Whether performing material off the newly-released “Monkeys for Nothin’ and the Chimps for Free” or hits such as “Beer,” “I Want Your Girlfriend To Be My Girlfriend Too,” “She Has a Girlfriend Now” and night-ending “Sell Out,” there is a calculated folly to the band’s approach that provides the perfect soundtrack for teens and young twentysomethings who want to get crazy in the pit.
That fun-minded formula of catchy phrases, infectious rhythms and self-effacing humor worked well across the 90-minute set, with the new original song “Party Down” and cover of a-ha’s “Take on Me” joining the abovementioned hits as clear favorites with fans.
Of the three opening acts, only Against All Authority was awful. The quartet’s songs were totally lacking anything that could be mistaken for melody and there was nothing that stood out in the 25-minute set. The quartet could have just played “Sweet Televised Destruction” over and over again and it would have had the same affect.
Anchored by a solid 4-man horn section, Streetlight Manifesto displayed a winning mix of punk, ska and reggae across 35 minutes.
Gainesville, Florida-based Less Than Jake displayed the like-minded approach of RBF to put on an entertaining show. While it was clear that the raucous audience participation (a “Price is Right” theme was used with audience members pulled up like contestants) and third wave ska-punk sounds of the band were a hit with the majority of fans in the sold-out crowd, the group’s songs lacked the distinctive songcraft displayed by Barrett and his band.