Monday, July 27, 2009

I saw Grace Jones last night

Grace Jones at the Hollywood Bowl was everything I wanted it to be and less. I say "less" because my only quibble with the show were the songs she didn't play—"Nightclubbing," "Private Life" and "Warm Leatherette" are just a few of the classics she omitted from her set.

Still, it was a tremendous show that proved exactly why she's so revered as one of the ultimate divas of all time. Costume changes were numerous, including one amazing red flower geometric-shaped dress during "La Vie En Rose" that when she turned around was completely backless, revealing her naked 61 year old ass to the crowd. Priceless.

I realize that it's 'cool' to name-check Grace Jones. But I can honestly say I've loved her music since I was around 13, which is when my older brother left his copy of the "Nightclubbing" album in my room. And I ain't been right since.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Missed the Noisettes at Spaceland? You're going to Long Beach on Friday night

There was no shortage of notable concerts in L.A. last night. From O.C. pop-punk legends No Doubt’s triumphant return to the stage with the Sounds and Paramore at Universal City to British alt-rockers Elbow at the Wiltern, concertgoers had myriad of options to choose from.

But it may have been a surprisingly buzz-free show by emerging London indie upstarts Noisettes at Spaceland that delivered the night's most striking performance.

Fronted by captivating fashion plate Shingai Shoniwa (pictured) on lead vocals and bass, the trio -- augmented at Spaceland by a female backing singer and an auxiliary bass player to allow Shoniwa to roam the stage more freely -- commanded the packed room with a presence and sense of musicianship sorely lacking in far too many bands found under the tag “indie.”

Opening with the bouncy title track from their more refined sophomore album “Wild Young Hearts,” they stormed through tracks from both of their full-length releases with a decided air of confidence. Hard-charging numbers like “Scratch Your Name” segued easily into the dramatic girl-group histrionics of “Never Forget You.”

Though the firebrand personality and muscular vocals of Shoniwa grab a lion’s share of the attention, the boys in the band more than hold their own. Guitarist Dan Smith is a subtle and creative axe-slinger, and drummer Jamie Morrison is their secret weapon, a blur of bushy hair and drumsticks as he bashes out the big beats.

Veering through danceable pop hooks, aggressive rock riffing and hazy atmospherics, the biggest question of the night hung in the air like a cartoon bubble: Why isn’t this band way more popular than they already are?

Granted, their records have yet to fully capture the primal energy and abilities of this underrated outfit. But given the rapturous response to their take-no-prisoners performance at Spaceland last night, the only thing standing between Noisettes and “next big thing” status is time.

But perhaps the best news in all of this? If you happened to miss the Wednesday night gig at Spaceland (no judging, we like No Doubt too), you can see the Noisettes on Friday night at 7 p.m. in Long Beach -- free. The band will perform an in-store at terrific indie record shop Fingerprints, 4612 E. 2nd St.

The store is asking those who want to attend to RSVP, so call now at (562) 433-4996.

-Scott T. Sterling

(Originally published in L.A. Times)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

In 1980, the Talking Heads were damn near the greatest band in the world

And will someone please help me find that SICK Talking Heads t-shirt the bass player is sporting with the airplanes on the front? I wish I had a time machine just to go back to one of these shows and shut down the merch booth. We're talking one of each and two of a few. Holla!

PS: There's an even hotter version on Youtube from Rome where Adrian Belew goes bananas on the guitar. The crowd is feeling it big time.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Adam 'MCA' Yauch of Beastie Boys diagnosed with cancer; album, tour postponed

One of the year’s most anticipated album/tour campaigns has been pushed back indefinitely due to the shocking announcement from the Beastie Boys camp this morning that the one of their members has been diagnosed with a cancerous tumor.

“Adam 'MCA' Yauch of Beastie Boys was diagnosed last week as having a cancerous tumor in his left parotid [salivary] gland,” reads the official press release from EMI Music. “Luckily it was caught early and is localized in one area, and as such is considered very treatable. It will however require surgery and several weeks of additional treatment. Fortunately the cancer is not in a location that will affect Yauch's vocal chords. Beastie Boys have canceled all upcoming concert appearances to allow time for Yauch's surgery and recovery. The release of the band's forthcoming album 'Hot Sauce Committee Part 1' will also be pushed back.”

This scraps dates slated for summer festivals such as Chicago’s Lollapalooza and San Francisco’s Outside Lands. Locally, this means that the band’s debut at the Hollywood Bowl scheduled for Sept. 24 will have to wait for another summer.

Yauch originally made the announcement via YouTube, where he did his best to maintain a sense of humor about the diagnosis: “It's a pain in the neck (sorry had to say it) because I was really looking forward to playing these shows, but the doctors have made it clear that this is not the kind of thing that can be put aside to deal with later."

Here’s to a fast and full recovery.

Photo: Adam “MCA” Yauch onstage at this year's Bonnaroo Festival in Manchester, Tenn. Credit: Jason Merritt/Getty Images

*Originally published by L.A. Times*

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fast food gets a frighteningly real R&B parody


When superstar rapper Jay-Z came across the use of the suddenly controversial music program Auto-Tune in the now-infamous “Frosty Posse” TV commercial for fast-food chain Wendy’s, he was supposedly moved to pen “D.O.A.” ("Death of Auto-Tune"), declaring Auto-Tune officially over.

“They're joking on it. It's like, OK, enough of that,” he mused to MTV News last month. “It was a trend. It was cool in the beginning. Some people made great music with it. Now it's time to move on.”

While pundits debate both sides of the issue, one can only imagine the inevitable fallout that’s probably starting right about now in the wake of the latest Taco Bell campaign, wryly titled “It’s All About the Roosevelts” (in reference to the former president’s mug on dimes) to promote their new value menu.

For one, producers Dr. Dre and Scott Storch could make a solid case that one of the cut's main hooks — what sounds to be a sample of a Japanese koto — is strikingly similar to the one that anchors the cut “Still D.R.E.” from Dre’s second solo album, “Chronic 2001.”

But from the whispered delivery of the verses, annoyingly catchy chorus and the ridiculously over-the-top video, “It’s All About the Roosevelts” sounds like Andy Samberg’s the Lonely Island playing an amazing practical joke on some unwitting ad agency. Shown before film screenings and throughout the 2009 MLB All-Star Game, the song wouldn’t sound out of place between Lady Gaga and the Black Eyed Peas on pop radio.

In short, it’s kind of the jam. Which also means it’s sure to make someone — most likely a recording artist or a producer — really mad. At least that's our hope. Anyone?

(Originally published in the L.A. Times)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hungry like the wolf: Julie Ann Rhodes goes from rock 'n' roll wife to food fame

The next time you want to test the mettle of a hard-core Duran Duran fan, mention Julie Ann Rhodes.

True “Durannies” are well versed in the fairytale romance between DD keyboardist Nick Rhodes and the Iowa-born model Julie Ann Friedman, whom he met at a party in Los Angeles during the early ‘80s. After a whirlwind courtship, the pair married in a lavish Art Deco-inspired ceremony at London’s Savoy Hotel in 1984, and became a fixture on the global party circuit. The two had one daughter, Tatjana, before divorcing in the late ‘90s.

After developing an interest in healthful eating for her young daughter, Julie Ann Rhodes became a founding member of England’s Parents for Safe Foods before embarking on a short-lived stint in acting.

But her love for fine cuisine eventually pulled her back into the kitchen, resulting in the Roving Stove, an L.A.-based personal chef service she created in 2002. The successful venture has allowed Julie Ann Rhodes to indulge her inner foodie, which is on full display on her blog 'Jewels' From the Roving Stove, where she shares personal stories about her years traveling with Duran Duran, favorite recipes and reviews of fine restaurants 'round the world.

Her motto: “The glamour doesn’t have to stop when you put the apron on.”

Rhodes hardly shies away from her Duran-affiliated past, going so far as to coin her online recipe videos “Girl on Film”; she's also quick to recall personal anecdotes about celebrity friends ranging from the late artist Keith Haring to famed music producer/Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers.

The blog offers often fascinating insights of someone who very easily could have become yet another footnote in music history, but instead proved herself to be a savvy businesswoman who has made her own lucrative mark in the world of food -- not to mention lots of great behind-the-scenes photos from her years as an A-list rock and roll wife.

(Originally published on L.A. Times)

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

My journalism gold star of the week

As weird as it may sound to some, I have a serious passion for media. It goes back as far as I can remember.

It probably started as a wee lad, when my parents used a massive TV as my primary babysitter starting around the age of 10 or so. But there's something about being as close to the source of news as possible that is genuinely thrilling for me.

Being at the L.A. Times as news of Michael Jackson's death broke was huge. I have the distinction of writing the first post for the Times confirming that he was indeed dead (it paid to be the one music writer in the building at the time when everyone else was out on various assignments). It was a minor piece in the grand scheme of things, but it was the first official confirmation of the story (TMZ can suck it).

Yesterday, an old friend posted a link on Facebook regarding a band (Sons of Maxwell, pictured above) that was taking United Airlines to task for thrashing their very expensive Taylor guitar. Since I work right next to the Travel department (and very cool Travel writer Chris Reynolds), I forwarded the link to Chris in case he could use it.

Chris (a guitarist himself) ran with the lead, calling UA for details. When all was said and done, he came up with this story.

Since then, the piece has generated a ton of clicks, and was even picked up by the Huffington Post, where it's gathering even more steam.

So now the piece is a huge win for the Times, and page views are going through the roof.

I'm not the best at blowing my own horn, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I was particularly pleased with myself right now. I feel like a real journalist or something.

And that's how I earned my journalism gold star of the week.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Michael Jackson: You Rocked Our World

A memorial mural on La Brea Avenue just south of Olympic, Los Angeles CA. You'll notice that fans had left flowers and candles at the spot.

Gwen Stefani now comes with a free hot dog

Who says the monolithic ticket-lords aren’t paying attention?

With the current economic climate taking an increasingly larger bite out of the concert business bottom line, Live Nation has been offering No Service Fee Wednesdays, when concert-goers can buy tickets to select shows without incurring those painful service fees that often discourage potential buyers from pressing the “send” button on expensive ticket orders.

On July 8, Live Nation will add even more incentive with All-In-One pricing for lawn tickets on Wednesdays, which throws in parking, a hot dog and a soda (on top of no services charges) all for only $29.99. Finally, the recession is working for fans of live music. There’s no word on a vegetarian option for those free hot dogs, though.

Tickets for the first edition of All-in-One Wednesday” (which includes shows from Blink 182 and Coldplay) go on sale at 12:01 a.m. PST on July 8 at Other concerts affected in the L.A. area include No Doubt (Aug. 4), Rock the Bells (Aug. 8), Toby Keith (Aug. 15) and more, all at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine.

(Originally published in the L.A. Times).