California Rocker

Award-Winning Online Music Magazine

Best LA Concerts of 2016: Big Stars in Small Venues, Young Trailblazers, and California Rockers

Bob Weir, Desert Trip, Eagles of Death Metal, The Cure, Make Beautiful Music in 2016

Jesse Hughes and Eagles of Death Metal put on a high-voltage show - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Jesse Hughes and Eagles of Death Metal put on a high-voltage show – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Eagles of Death Metal at The Teragram Ballroom

The band members in The Eagles of Death Metal have coped with a lot and keep going. The most recent excellent performance was a benefit for Dave Rosser, held at Teragram Ballroom. Frontman Jesse Hughes AKA Boots Electric, is one of the most compelling performers — or poseurs — today and holds the audience spellbound with his wild maneuvers, great voice and excellent guitar work. We got an extra bonus on this night: Josh Homme debuted a new song.

See the CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Eagles of Death Metal

 

 

The Reluctant Apostles with Katey Sagal: An impressive crew - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Reluctant Apostles with Katey Sagal: An impressive crew – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Reluctant Apostles at Molly Malone’s

The Reluctant Apostles have come a long way in a short time.  The Katey Sagal and Bob Thiele-fronted band like to play at Molly Malone’s and was formed based on their teamwork during Sons of Anarchy.  The Reluctant Apostles are an offshoot of The Forest Rangers, which came to prominence during the uber successful run of SOA. But new things on the horizon from this star-studded cover band: A new Pledgemusic album and more shows to come.

See the CaliforniaRocker.com Review of the Reluctant Apostles

 

Dick Dale gives his fans all he's got - Photo © Donna Balancia

Dick Dale gives his fans all he’s got – Photo © Donna Balancia

Dick Dale and Se7en Reasons Why at Whisky A Go-Go

Where would modern rock and roll be without remarkable performers Mick Scott and Se7en Reasons Why and the ultimate surf guitar master Dick Dale?  Dale’s varied health issues seem to fade away when Dale is on stage, never far from the watchful eye of his wife, Lana.  New Year’s eve at the Whisky A Go-Go has never been better. Dale comes from an era when you performed no matter what ails you. He led the way in the development of the California sound and he’s a true California Rocker.

The CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Dick Dale at the Whisky A Go-Go

 

The mystical Robert Smith and The Cure are enduring - Photo by Craig Hammons for CaliforniaRocker.com

The mystical Robert Smith and The Cure are enduring – Photo by Craig Hammons for CaliforniaRocker.com

The Cure at The Hollywood Bowl

On one of three sold out nights at The Hollywood Bowl, The Cure would cover over 37 years of Cure songs including the hits, rarities and two unreleased tracks. Reviewer Craig Hammons noted that the set list changed each night with The Cure digging deep into their catalog of impressive material.  Robert Smith and the crew would cover 35 songs in just under 3 hours.

See the CaliforniaRocker.com Review of The Cure at The Hollywood Bowl

 

Nick Waterhouse fuses jazz blues and rock and roll, he's depicted here performing from his Never Twice album - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Nick Waterhouse fuses jazz blues and rock and roll, he’s depicted here performing from his Never Twice album – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Nick Waterhouse at The Regent Theater

We can’t say enough good things about Nick Waterhouse and His Tarots.  Every time we see Nick, the performance gets better if that’s possible, as was demonstrated at The Regent Theater a couple of weeks ago.  A multi-faceted musician, who writes, performs, and produces others, Nick is a California Rocker on the rise. Openers Sad Girl and Cutty Flam impressed.

See the CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Nick Waterhouse, Sad Girl and Cutty Flam

 

The Black Angels were among the bands at Desert Daze - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Black Angels were among the bands at Desert Daze – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Desert Daze

Desert Daze, the enduring fest where up-and-comers and veterans alike kick around in boots, bandanas and shorts still reigns supreme.  An eclectic mix of newbies and veterans, the fest offers a chance to hear new music and gives veterans a chance to show their stuff. Television, Primus and Thee Oh Sees mingled with Brian Jonestown Massacre, L.A. Witch, and Thee Commons.

The CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Desert Daze

 

Gavin Rossdale of Bush on a speaker at The Observatory - Photo © Donna Balancia

Gavin Rossdale of Bush on a speaker at The Observatory – Photo © Donna Balancia

Bush at The Observatory

Gavin Rossdale is a high-energy performer, leaping into the audience and jumping on speakers.  Bush performs all the favorites and this particular show at the Observatory was extremely interactive. After a few rounds of hugs and kisses among his fans, Rossdale jumps onto a speaker and finishes “Monkey” from high above.

See the CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Bush at The Observatory

 

Robert Plant - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Robert Plant – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Robert Plant at Theatre at the Ace

Robert Plant and his audience share a special bond and that was illustrated clearly at the Theatre at the Ace.  Bringing flowers, love letters and gifts, Robert still has the gals on the edge of their seats.  Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters put on a show that is Led Zeppelin inspired, but takes us to a new and earthy place.

See the CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters

 

Soul Asylum takes off at Whisky A Go-Go - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Soul Asylum takes off at Whisky A Go-Go – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Soul Asylum at The Whisky A Go-Go

Dave Pirner keeps going. Whirling around with his guitar and speaking honestly to the audience, with little regard for his sweaty appearance, Pirner is happy to be on stage.  If nothing else Pirner and Soul Asylum are truthful in their performance and the crowd appreciates it. Soul Asylum’s tour started with The English Beat and wrapped solo.

See the CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Soul Asylum at The Whisky A Go-Go

 

The English Beat draws the crowds with great performances - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The English Beat draws the crowds with great performances – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The English Beat at The Canyon Club

The English Beat hits a home run every time.  There is not one song from all their famous hits that goes unheard at an English Beat concert and the crowds are devoted.  Dave Wakeling drives the band that has undergone some changes over the years, but the musicians on board are top talents.  Fortunately, The English Beat plays a lot of dates and 2017 shows are all set.

See the CaliforniaRocker.com Review of The English Beat at The Canyon Club

 

Michael Franti and the Soulrocker tour - Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Michael Franti and the Soulrocker tour – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Michael Franti and Spearhead

Michael Franti and Spearhead at the Pacific Amphitheatre spreads the message of love and compassion for all. The show was such a warm experience that reviewer Craig Hammons said he felt like he left the stadium with 7,000 new friends.  The crowd interlocked arms, danced and sang songs of inclusion and love.  What’s better than an uplifting performance?

See the CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Michael Franti and Spearhead

 

Fartbarf puts all the electronic bands to shame - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Fartbarf puts all the electronic bands to shame – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

FartBarf, David and The Curse at El Cid

Who would think with name like Fartbarf this band would be amazing?  Something must have happened along the way for three guys in caveman masks to call themselves something so silly but play so good.  The electronic music we heard at El Cid blew us out of our shoes.  This is a talented group that does the creators of the Moog proud.  Opener David and The Curse shows how it’s done as this young veteran gives us a new sound that blends Americana with pure rock.

See the CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Fartbarf and David and The Curse

 

Kam Franklin and The Suffers triumph at The Echo LA - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Kam Franklin and The Suffers triumph at The Echo LA – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Suffers at The Echo

The Suffers bring you to your knees, they’re that good.  Whether you call it, “Gulf Coast Soul” or good ol’ rock and roll, Kam Franklin and the band bring a blues-influenced power sound to the masses. We caught The Suffers at the Echo, one of our favorite venues, and the place was busting at the seams trying to contain the adoring fans.

The CaliforniaRocker.com Review of The Suffers at The Echo

 

Sad Lovers and Giants - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Sad Lovers and Giants – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Sad Lovers and Giants at The Echoplex

Sad Lovers and Giants put on a show for a lifetime at our well-loved venue the Echoplex, bringing 80s new wave to a young, enthusiastic crowd. It’s sad for fans that this beloved British band may not return to the U.S. any time soon, but we are thrilled to have caught Garçe Allard, Tony McGuinness, Nigel Pollard, Ian Gibson and Will Hicks at least once.

CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Sad Lovers and Giants at the Echoplex

 

The Who - Photo courtesy of Desert Trip for CaliforniaRocker.com

The Who – Photo courtesy of Desert Trip

Desert Trip

Reviewer Bob Busby called Desert Trip one of the best experiences of his life.  That comes from someone who has been to thousands of shows and festivals. Aside from Roger Waters’ rantings, the moon appearing during Neil Young’s performance of “Harvest Moon,” was a highlight.  And how can you do much better than Sir Paul McCartney sharing the stage with the pop princess Rihanna? Stay tuned for next year.

See the CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Desert Trip

 

Mike Campbell and Jason Sinay - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Mike Campbell and Jason Sinay – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The Dirty Knobs at The Echoplex

Mike Campbell and The Dirty Knobs put on a fun, upbeat show, complete with cover songs you haven’t heard in a while. Jason Sinay and Campbell play off each other as “Gator” and “Ape” in a band where nicknames are abundant as dolphins in Florida.  The Dirty Knobs is a band to check out when they play their few gigs every year. They haven’t recorded anything so go live or go home.

See the CaliforniaRocker.com Review of The Dirty Knobs at The Echoplex

 

Bob Weir on tour with 'Blue Mountain' album - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Bob Weir on tour with ‘Blue Mountain’ album – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Bob Weir at The Wiltern

The well-worn co-founder of The Grateful Dead only gets better as the years go on. He introduced a new album and played to a crowd at The Wiltern that was comprised of not only Grateful Dead veterans but young, rainbow-clad and dread-sporting fans. Bob still has the verve and enthusiasm and the sounds ring true.

See the CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Bob Weir at The Wiltern

 

Cedric Bixler-Zavala of At The Drive-In leaps into the air during a performance at the Hollywood Palladium - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Cedric Bixler-Zavala of At The Drive-In leaps into the air during a performance at the Hollywood Palladium – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

At The Drive-In at Hollywood Palladium

It’s a rare treat to get to see At The Drive-In, but frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala is one of the most entertaining performers in the business. It’s clear from his leaping at The Hollywood Palladium last summer that he’s got a background in skateboarding and he’s a no-holds-barred, balls-to-the-wall musician, saving nothing for himself and giving the crowd his all.  See our award winning-shot of Cedric Bixler Zavala.

The CaliforniaRocker.com Review of At The Drive-In

 

Teri Le Butcherettes Photo by Donna Balancia

Teri of Le Butcherettes surfs the crowd – Photo by Donna Balancia

Le Butcherettes at Hollywood Palladium

Teri Gender Bender is the most physical female performer out there and her shows at The Regent Theater, The Echoplex and opening set for At The Drive-In prove it. There are few who can compare to this precious young rock and roll veteran whose demeanor after the show is remarkably calm compared to her rebellious and taunting onstage persona.  Despite personnel changes over the years, one thing remains a constant: Teri’s talent.

CaliforniaRocker.com Review for Le Butcherettes

 

Joe Bonamassa performs during celebration of B.B. King - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Joe Bonamassa performs during celebration of B.B. King – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

GRAMMY Foundation Honors BB King at Wallis Annenberg

BB King may be gone, but The GRAMMY Foundation hosted a bevy of blues slinging rock stars to honor him at The Annenberg: Slash, Tedeschi Trucks, Joe Bonamassa and a heavenly host of blues performers sang and played the blues in BB’s honor.

CaliforniaRocker.com Review for B.B. King at the Annenberg

 

Wayne Kramer and Marshall Crenshaw - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Wayne Kramer and Marshall Crenshaw – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Wayne Kramer’s Jail Guitar Doors at The Ford Theatres

Wayne Kramer, Don Was and pals put on an amazingly entertaining show at The Ford Theatres to raise money for their charity that serves those behind bars.  The show featured Marshall Crenshaw and a slew of talent to help Wayne raise money for the charity that is close to his heart.

CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Wayne Kramer and Jail Guitar Doors

 

Bad Boy Eddy - Photo by Donna Balancia

Bad Boy Eddy Rocks Cruefest – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Cruefest 2016 at Whiskey A Go-Go

Cruefest Hollywood 2016 brings the kindest hearted metal performers to the Whisky A Go-Go stage each year.  It was a Who’s Who of metal with  Heartbreak Heroes from Oklahoma and Los Angeles; Snake Bite Whisky from Brisbane, Australia; Bad Boy Eddy from Northern California; Stonebreed; Wreking Crue from Detroit, and Mick Scott and Se7en Reasons Why; Blacklist Union, Lunden Reign, Westfield Massacre, and L.A. Story; all of whom are from Los Angeles.

CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Cruefest 2016 at the Whisky A Go-Go

 

Brian Wilson and band at Hollywood Bowl - Photo by Craig Hammons

Brian Wilson and band at Hollywood Bowl – Photo by Craig Hammons

Brian Wilson at The Hollywood Bowl

Brian Wilson never disappoints and his performance at reviewer Craig Hammons said his performance at the Hollywood Bowl was one of his best.  Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Pet Sounds, considered a unique collection at the time of its release, Wilson held the Hollywood Bowl audience enraptured.

CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Brian Wilson at The Hollywood Bowl

 

Iggy Pop destroys the mic stand during his show at The Hollywood Bowl - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Iggy Pop destroys the mic stand during his show at The Hollywood Bowl – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Iggy Pop at The Greek Theatre

At a time when most people are slowing down, Iggy Pop is going strong, having his best year yet. The “world’s forgotten boy” has a GRAMMY nomination for Post Pop Depression, there’s a Jim Jarmusch movie out about him, and also a new book released about his life.  He’s a 69-year-old anomaly in the world of rock, proudly resplendent in his hard-earned success. Via his partnerships with the young and hip, Iggy continually adds new admirers to his list of longtime fans. It doesn’t hurt to have the “Ginger Elvis,” Josh Homme and the rest of the crew on stage with you.

CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Iggy Pop at The Greek

 

Burning Spear, the legendary reggae rocker - Photo by Craig Hammons

Burning Spear, the legendary reggae rocker – Photo by Craig Hammons

Burning Spear at The Hollywood Bowl

Reviewer Craig Hammons says Burning Spear is one of the best shows of the year simply because Burning Spear is a solid reggae performer.  The legendary musician among a sea of young upstarts bid adieu to his fans as “I Man” takes a step down from the stage. Over the many years, with grace and dignity Burning Spear has brought new fans to the reggae flock.

CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Burning Spear 

Jackson Browne at Lucky Strike Live - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Jackson Browne at Lucky Strike Live – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Jackson Browne at Lucky Strike Live

It was a pleasant shock to find Jackson Browne appearing at Lucky Strike, which hosts mostly metal-style rockers every Wednesday night during its weekly Lucky Strike Live events.  Browne is a good-hearted type who shows up for a good cause and for the fun of the performance.  At Lucky Strike Live, he gave the regulars — plus about 600 others — a thrill, jamming with some regular players and he had fun to spare.

CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Jackson Browne

 

Glam Skanks release new album, "Glitter City" - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Glam Skanks release new album, “Glitter City” – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Glam Skanks at MIME

Where are the young women in rock and roll? Answer: The Glam Skanks are right in Los Angeles and they put on a terrific show each and every time. Climbing on speakers, throwing glitter, taunting the audience. Their show at MIME in Echo Park put on by Echo Box heated up the room and had fans screaming for more. There’s a new album and they’re going on tour with Adam Ant.  Stay tuned!

CaliforniaRocker.com Review of The Glam Skanks 

 

Smash Mouth duo Steve Harwell and Paul DeLisle hang together - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Smash Mouth duo Steve Harwell and Paul DeLisle hang together – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Smash Mouth at The Canyon Club

Say what you will about the in-your-face frontman, but Smash Mouth has made it in a tough rock and roll world. When Paul DeLisle teamed with Steve Harwell, as odd a combination as that may have appeared it worked.  With a little help from a hit animated movie, Smash Mouth reinvigorated “I’m a Believer” from The Monkees and a whole new generation was jumping at The Canyon Club. Openers Paper and Strange Case lit a fire.

CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Smash Mouth, Paper and Strange Case

Editor’s Note: The “Best Concerts of the Year” coverage only includes the performances CaliforniaRocker.com staff attended during 2016.

California Rocker Wins Best Photo Essay, Best Action Photo at Prestigious LA Press Club Awards Gala

California Rocker Wins Three Awards at 2016 NAEJ

By DOTTIE PARIS

California Rocker, the online music magazine, won Best Photo Essay and Best Action Photo categories Sunday night at the National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards by the Los Angeles Press Club.

The awards were presented to California Rocker producer Donna Balancia at the annual awards gala that honors the best of entertainment journalism.  The event was held at the Millennium Biltmore in downtown Los Angeles.

California Rocker Wins Best Action Photo

Donna Balancia Cedric Bixler-Zavala of At The Drive-In - California Rocker Wins

Donna Balancia won Best Action Photo for this image of Cedric Bixler-Zavala of At The Drive-In – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Best Action Photo was awarded to Donna Balancia for her image of Cedric Bixler-Zavala, the high-energy frontman for At The Drive-In, leaping into the air at the Hollywood Palladium.  California Rocker wins included third place in the same action photo category for a beautiful image of the legendary surf guitar master Dick Dale performing to an adoring crowd at The Whisky A Go-Go.

Best Photo Essay for Suzanne Allison Witkin

Suzanne Allison Witkin - Vampires California Rocker Wins

Suzanne Allison Witkin took first place for her photo essay “On Tour With The Hollywood Vampires – Photo © 2016 Suzanne Allison Witkin

Renowned rock photographer Suzanne Allison Witkin won Best Photo Essay for “On Tour With The Hollywood Vampires,” a photographic documentation of behind-the-scenes with the supergroup featuring Johnny Depp, Alice Cooper and Joe Perry.

The gala was attended by hundreds of writers, editors, producers and photographers and honored renowned songwriter Diane Warren, actress Angela Lansbury, and late-night talk show star Chelsea Handler.

‘Voices of Independent Artists Heard Tonight’

Dick Dale at the Whisky A Go-Go California Rocker Wins

The photo of Dick Dale taken at the Whisky A Go-Go was honored with a win in the action photo category – Photo © Donna Balancia

“I started California Rocker three years ago to give independent artists a voice,” Donna said. “Their voices were clearly heard tonight as our work was selected over that of the corporate media.  We will continue to work with up-and-coming and established musicians, writers and photographers so talent and truth can shine through.”

Previous wins include the work of Heather Harris in the LA Press Club’s first-ever Photo Essay category, for her images of musician James Williamson’s all-star concert at the Bootleg, and Donna’s image of Flyin’ Jay Armant, of the band Fishbone, launching into the crowd at the Roxy Theatre.

California Rocker has had several finalist designations and this year was no exception. California Rocker took three finalist designations among five in the action photo category and Suzanne’s Photo Essay was among three finalists.

The Kills + Chris Isaak Appear at Ron Robinson for Fundraiser Benefitting Rational Animal

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The Kills with Rational Animal founder Susan Brandt, getting photobombed by Chris Isaak and Rodney – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA

The Kills and Chris Isaak were on hand Tuesday night at Ron Robinson in Santa Monica for a fundraiser called Artists With Animals, to benefit the charity Rational Animal.

Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince recently returned from their tour for their latest album Ash and Ice, and spent time chatting with guests and shopping at the Ron Robinson Santa Monica flagship store.

For a limited time, a portion of all sales at the store goes towards the charity.

The ladies and their pups at Rational Animal benefit - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The ladies and their pups at Rational Animal benefit – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Ron Robinson carries a lot of branded T-shirts, Rock N Roll jackets emblazoned with Rolling Stones and Guns N Roses patches and logos, as well as other stylish duds and cool fragrances and accessories. The event at Ron Robinson was also sponsored by Soundwall and Morrison Hotel Gallery.

Rational Animal was founded by Susan Brandt and is supported by The Morrison Hotel Gallery among others.

Helping Shelters

Rational Animal works in cooperation with no-kill shelters to give animals a second chance at life.

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Susan Brandt, founder of Rational Animal, Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Rational Animal, operating out of New York and LA, works on various projects to encourage animal welfare and teach guardianship. Through the Mother’s Comfort project, the group sews and delivers beds to animal shelters, bringing relief to animals.

Rational Animal produced the Tails to Trails map to make it easy for New Yorkers to find local shelters and rescue groups when they’re ready to adopt. Rational Animal also teaches good animal guardianship through the community events, the Orange Ribbon for Animals Campaign and the humane education program.

Rational Animal Mother’s Comfort Project has sewn more than 7,000 blankets for shelters.

Rodney with his master, Chris Isaak - photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Rodney with his master, Chris Isaak – photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

“We work in LA and New York to provide beds in shelters and to educate kids and adults on how to be a good animal guardian, spay and neuter and foster,” said Susan Brandt. “We do promotional pieces, videos and we put on events. And today being Giving Tuesday, we wanted to have an opportunity to put on an event so people could give for the animals.”

Artists With Animals photography exhibit continues to run through Jan. 14. During that time, a portion of the purchases in the store will go towards Rational Animal.

Buy Rational Animal Photo-Notecards

But even if you didn’t attend the event, there is an opportunity to participate and help give to the animals.

The dog as companion - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The dog as companion – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Rational Animal developed gift packages of boxed notecards called Artists With Animals, two collections of famous photographs on notecards depicting well known musicians, actors and artists with their animal pals.

Henry Diltz and Jamie Hince are among the photographers whose work is included. Among the favorite known and newly discovered works is a great photograph by Hince of Mosshart lying on her bed with pet Archie the dog. The Artists With Animals notecards are available here.

“This is a really good cause and Rodney and I are happy to support Rational Animal,” said Chris Isaak, the singer known for his mega-hit “Wicked Game.” Isaak brought his pet along for the evening, as did several guests.

Friends of Rational Animal celebrate with pooch - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Friends of Rational Animal celebrate with pooch – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Also on hand were representatives from No Kill LA, an initiative led by Best Friends Animal Society to turn LA into a no-kill city by 2017. The mobile pet adoption mobile was also on hand.

“It’s a really nice opportunity to get together with other animal lovers and enjoy ourselves,” said party-goer Marianne Palermo. “Rational Animal does great work, the animals are grateful and so are we.”

EXCLUSIVE: Reluctant Apostles With Katey Sagal Play Molly Malone’s

New Band By Bob Thiele and Pals Gets Attention

The Reluctant Apostles - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Reluctant Apostles – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA – Living in Los Angeles the quality of cover bands is out of this world. A great example of that is the latest high-profile cover band in town, The Reluctant Apostles.

This band is comprised of Sons of Anarchy family and friends – series composer Bob Thiele, Katey Sagal, Davey Faragher, Billy Harvey, John Philip Shenale and drummer Michael Urbano.

These musicians are well-known aroud town as well as around the world.

**Support The Reluctant Apostles PLEDGEMUSIC campaign!**

The Reluctant Apostles are on the mark.  Katey is a compelling and fun front woman, playing bongos, guitar and even the ol’ drumstick on a music stand  — yes — but of course, it’s the way she smacks it.   And it’s clear with her Gibson guitar and nice ride that Sons of Anarchy and probably her extensive experience on the small screen has contributed greatly to her large life.

For the complete scoop on The Reluctant Apostles, go to their Facebook Page.

Leader of the Band

Bob is the leader of the band as the group continually pointed out good naturedly throughout their 11-song set — this band likes working together and feels very comfortable together.  The leader of the music department of Sons of Anarchy as well — he sports his iconic hat atop his mass of grey curls, cracking jokes and bringing out the best in his people.  He is really something special in music circles and has the lineage and genetics, as his dad was prolific jazz producer Bob Thiele of New York.

Keyboardist John is a true showman no matter what the tune; he gave us some insights into the possibility of more gigs, more original songs and some recordings up the Apostles’ collective sleeve. He is certainly one to know about talented music; as one of the most prolific producers and composers of our era he has contributed to at least 40 award winning records.

Bass player Davey brings his own style to the stage, singing and providing the support while Billy jams on lead guitar like Eric Clapton.  Of course, drummer Michael has played with some of the best musicians the world over as well, including a stellar gig with James Williamson at the Bootleg last year called “Re-Licked.”

Check out more Reluctant Apostles on CaliforniaRocker.com

An impressive crew - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

An impressive crew – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Reluctant Apostles’ style is Americana with an edge.  Particularly outstanding songs were Crystal Blue Persuasion; Jealous Kind, Candyman and Temptation Took Control of Me (Video)

On April 9 The Reluctant Apostles will return to Molly Malone’s – Highly recommended.

Setlist: When I Paint My Masterpiece; Crystal Blue Persuasion; Where Was You At; Holy Cow; W.S. Walcott Medicine Show; Jealous Kind; Candyman; My Love is Getting Stronger; Magnolia Wind; Temptation Took Control of Me; Blow Your Mind.

Punk Weekend Rocks With Cheetah Chrome, James Williamson in SF Show

Cheetah Chrome James Williamson and Streetwalkin' Cheetahs

Cheetah Chrome James Williamson and Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs – photo by Kuuguy1

By DONNA BALANCIA – It was a great weekend in California for the punks.

Cheetah Chrome and The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs hit San Francisco; Richie Ramone, The Sonics and The Dead Kennedys rocked The Queen Mary in Long Beach, Calif.; and Bad Religion and Guttermouth played the Picnic in Pozo.

On a day that brought out punk rock’s best across California, the choice was difficult as inevitably, fans opted to go regional.

Cheetah Chrome

Cheetah Chrome gave a great one-off show in San Francisco – Photo © 2015 Russell Allen

Cheetah Chrome of Dead Boys fame took the stage of San Francisco’s Verdi Club stage with his West Coast Band, The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs, and gave the crowd its money’s worth.

“The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs got the call to back Cheetah Chrome at this awesome punk festival and he mentioned that James Williamson would be sitting in, but to keep it secret for a while,” said Frank Meyer of The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs. “Eventually the word got out, so there were  definitely a lot of Stooges fans in the audience.

“The place was packed and Cheetah’s set was well-received throughout. Then the place went absolutely berserk when James came on stage,” Meyer said.  “People are fascinated by him.”

Chrome and the Cheetahs opened with the classic “Big Cat,” and played some favorites including the RFTT tune “Amphetamine,” “Ain’t It Fun,” with Ralph Carney from Tom Waits’ band on sax, and Williamson came on for “Raw Power” and “Search And Destroy.”

Williamson, who last January hosted the Re-Licked concert featuring Chrome and The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs, had one question about the gig: “‘Ain’t It Fun’ to catch up with Cheetah Chrome?” he asked.

SEE PAUL BOUTIN’S VIDEO HERE

 

See video of James Williamson, Cheetah Chrome and The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs here courtesy of Kuuguy1:

Judd Steele and his Daughters Turn Up the Volume as Stereo Love

Judd Steele, Jewel Steele and Lula Steele together form the band Stereo Love.  California Rocker’s Donna Balancia sat down for a Q and A with one very musical family.

How did you decide to put together a band?

Judd:  It just kind of happened.  I am a Dad and a drummer.  My little girls always loved seeing their Dad up on stage performing.  Then, one day, when the girls were 9 and 10, we happened to be in Guitar Center.  I was upstairs in the drum department and the girls headed off in their own direction.  When I was done and headed back downstairs, there was Lula and Jewel, rocking it out like true rockstars even though they had never played before, just born to rock.  So, I decided, let’s rock it out together!  And eight years later, Voila! Three-piece made in heaven!

Jewel Steele - © 2015 Donna Balancia

Jewel Steele – © 2015 Donna Balancia

Was there anyone who told you you should put a band together?

Judd:  Nope, just Daddy’s idea!

Did any of you take formal music lessons?

Jewel:  Both Lula and I played in our Junior High Orchestra.  Lula was the only female Upright Bass Player.  And I played Violin.  I still love picking up the fiddle.

How did you come to select the instruments you each play?

Lula:  Well, I started playing Upright Bass because my Grandfather played and toured professionally in the 1940s and 50s.  He shared with us grandkids some of the most amazing and almost unbelievable stories of his16 years of being on the road with big band music.  He was so cool and I just wanted to be like him, so I started playing Upright.  So, it just made sense for me to be the bass player.

Do you miss going to school?

Lula:  I am in my first semester of college now, but I go to school locally so I can still rock in the band.  Jewel is home-schooled.

Lula Steele, bass player - © 2015 Donna Balancia

Lula Steele, bass player – © 2015 Donna Balancia

Do you inspire people your own age?   What do people say to you after they see you play on stage?

Judd:  I have been told by numerous fathers that they want to start a band with their little ones now.  People also tell me that I am doing good parenting.  I don’t know, I just do what I do and I feel really lucky that my teenage daughters still let me hang with them.

How many years have you been performing in Stereo Love?

Judd:  We have been performing as a band for almost five years and have played over 200 shows since then.  The girls learned their instruments for three years before we even started as a group.  Things take time to grow and come together. We have been working hard.

Dad, do other adults ever tell you the kids should get a “regular” education?

Judd:  No, because they are.

What are the benefits of being professional musicians as a teenager?

Jewel:  I guess it keeps me out of trouble?  I just really enjoy what I do and it makes me happy to entertain people.  It’s like an itch and I don’t want to stop.

Judd Steele - © 2015 Donna Balancia

Judd Steele – © 2015 Donna Balancia

What was the most fun gig you ever played?

Lula:  There are so many, really.  Santa Barbara on the beach. Gene Woods Racing Experience in Las Vegas. Vamp’d, the vampire rock club in Vegas.  LeStat’s, the vampire rock club in Normal Heights, San Diego.  Of course, The Whisky A Go-Go in Hollywood.  The Coral at Topanga Days.  I probably left something out, but those are a few of my favorites.

What was the funniest thing that ever happened on stage?

Lula:  One of our fans hand delivered Jewel and I Panda Express on stage… my favorite is Orange Chicken everybody!

What is most embarrassing thing that ever happened during a performance?

Lula:  I broke a bass string… when does that ever happen?  Now I always bring a back-up bass just in case because you just never know.

Do you think playing music is good to build confidence?

Judd:  If my girls had any more confidence they would kick me out of the band.  Yes, music builds confidence and character.  I am so proud of them.

Jewel Steele - © 2015 Donna Balancia

Jewel Steele – © 2015 Donna Balancia

Do you think playing rock music helps build leadership qualities?

Judd:  Definitely.  Jewel being the lead singer has really helped her learn how to talk to people.  She is now booking her own solo gigs, she is unstoppable.

Do you think it’s rare that girls can rock?

Jewel:  I don’t think so.  There are so many girl musicians that I am influenced by.  Joan Jett, Blondie, Lita Ford, Janis Joplin, Karen Carpenter, Elle King, Amy Winehouse, Lady Gaga, Orianthe, Grace Potter… did I mention Joan Jett?

What genre of rock and roll do you consider yourselves?

Judd:  Rock and roll radio airplay worthy.

Will any of you ever get a “real job?”

Jewel:  Music is a real job and I work hard at it.

Judd Steele - © 2015 Donna Balancia

Judd Steele – © 2015 Donna Balancia

Any new CD or projects coming out?

Jewel:  New cd coming out soon!  Howard T-Man is doing our artwork.  Google the name and you will see what he is all about.

Where can I hear some of the music? 

Jewel:  You can hear STERO LOVE many ways… Reverbnation, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you name it!  We are all over the world wide web!

“Crazy Town” (original) > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMRwndgiXcc

“What Do You Want” (original) live> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOzOOJJ8hBA

“EverMore” (original) >  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AzO0CbWE0k

 

Jewel Steele - © 2015 Donna Balancia

Jewel Steele – © 2015 Donna Balancia

Website: www.StereoLove.us

Facebook: www.facebook.com/StereoLoveBand

Reverbnation: www.reverbnation.com/stereolovemusic

Youtube: www.youtube.com/user/MilitaryBratz2010

Instagram: instagram.com/stereoloveofficial

Twitter: twitter.com/StereoLove_Band

Grace Potter: The Beautiful Rock N Roll Chameleon ‘Alive Tonight’ Across U.S.

Grace Potter - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Grace Potter – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA – Grace Potter wants to rescue Rock N Roll.  That’s why she wears her Silver Cape.

Touring to promote her new album, Midnight, the veteran rocker Potter played killer sets at Hollywood’s Fonda Theatre Thursday and Friday night in cool glam rock fashion.

Sporting a glittery cape, then stripping down to a sexy, strappy black ensemble, Potter has no shortage of cool wardrobe surprises. She’s a Rock N Roll chameleon in several respects.

And if it takes sexy wardrobe changes to keep her audience engaged and her career cranking, she’ll gladly do it.

Grace Potter Rocks The Fonda Theatre - Photo © Donna Balancia

Grace Potter Rocks The Fonda Theatre – Photo © Donna Balancia

From all appearances, her strategy seems to be working. At The Fonda Theatre, her hundreds of fans on hand screamed as she peeled away the layers.

The audience might also be screaming in appreciation of Potter’s tenacity. The 32-year-old with the strong voice and appearance continues to evolve with the times.  Her latest solo iteration is a far cry from the Vermont native’s brown-haired, blue jean days with The Nocturnals.

But keeping current is vital for all rockers these days, and veterans are no exception.

Grace Potter - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Grace Potter – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Grace Potter has a devoted fan base of mostly women and some cool guys

It’s clear that Potter, whose hair whips into her face as she rips the guitar and piano in rock n roll glam fashion, is happiest on that stage before her longtime fan base, comprised of mostly 30-to-40 year-old women and cool guys.

“I saw her open for the Stones in Dallas,” said Alan, a musician originally from New York.  “She has really earned it.  She’s been around. She’s true Rock N Roll.”

Potter opened for the Rolling Stones in Dallas and joined Mick Jagger and the guys on stage in Minneapolis for an energetic version of “Gimme Shelter.”

Grace Potter - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Grace Potter – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Grace Potter tour covers 26 venues, starting tonight in Oakland at the Fox

Potter has a big tour on tap, hitting the stage in 26 venues over the next few months, headlining everywhere from Del Mar, Calif., to Kalamazoo, Mich., and wrapping in Boston on Halloween.

Grace Potter - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Grace Potter rips it at Fonda Theatre – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The touring and the merch sales are the vital components for Potter and all musicians today, as revenue from record sales, which used to be the core of the music business, has all but disappeared.

And her album, Midnight, is a great burst of pop, featuring the acclaimed singles “Alive Tonight” and “Empty Heart,” which have been getting a lot of attention and air play.

The hits have been years in the making. Potter knows well that the success is a product of hard work and keeping up with the times.  Even if it means wearing a silver cape.

## #GracePotter

Video courtesy of Lov2Rok2PJ

L.A. Guns — And Rock’s Young Guns — Play for Fair Pay at Whisky a Go Go

L.A. Guns Among Bands That Rally for Radio Royalties

L.A. Guns bassist Kenny Kweens, left, Michael Grant, right. - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

L.A. Guns bassist Kenny Kweens, left, Michael Grant, right. – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA — L.A. Guns and a range of bands performed at the Whisky a Go Go Friday night to support the Fair Play Fair Pay Act of 2015.

With a lineup mixed with veteran and young performers, musicians got out the word that radio needs to pay if they play. As things stand now, musicians don’t receive any money from AM-FM radio play.

Sponsored by MusicFirst and artists rep SAG-AFTRA, L.A. Guns headlined the awareness event, supported by bands Vudu Fly; Mr. White; Takin’ Nam3z; The Wyldz; Ithaca; and Ashes Of Eagles.

MusicFirst, with the support of SAG-AFTRA, is promoting and looking for support for a congressional bill that enables musicians and artists to be paid when their music plays on the radio. It also is looking for parity across music platforms via Internet and satellite.

Vudu Fly Featuring Aaron Quick on Washboard Slide Guitar - Photo © Donna Balancia

Vudu Fly Featuring Aaron Quick on home-made Washboard Slide Electric Guitar – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

“We have a music economy, if you love music you want people to take a chance and develop,” said Dan Navarro, SAG-AFTRA vice president, recording artists. “They can’t do that if they’re not getting paid.”

The Fair Play Fair Pay bill closes the AM/FM performance rights loophole, makes all radio services pay a fair market rate for all music (including pre-1972 music), and streamlines payments to music producers. Please support the act by signing HERE

Navarro said with so few ways for musicians to earn a living today in view of new technologies, and illegal downloading and file-sharing, radio plays an important component.

“To earn a living from making music is their dream, it’s every artist’s dream to be successful in the art that they love,” Navarro said. “Radio isn’t paying royalties, it’s not promoting the artists any more, this must change.”

Ted Kalo, executive director of MusicFirst said, “We’re asking people to write their congressmen and support this bill that enables artists to earn their fair share when their music is played on the radio.”

Nick Brodeur of the Mr. White band - Photo © Donna Balancia

Nick Brodeur of the Mr. White band – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

For more information go to the MusicFirst website.

As for the rockin’ music on Friday night, the youngsters arguably outshined the veteran musicians at the Whisky.

“We love playing here, we’ve played here a lot,” said middle-schooler Maxx Henry, the drummer for the band Mr. White, a three-piece group from Irvine.

Supported by their parents and friends, the guys really have some talent with lead guitarist Nick Brodeur electrifying the audience, supported by his amazingly composed bassist brother, Will Brodeur and wildly talented drummer, Henry. If you added these guys’ ages together it wouldn’t be more than 45.

Mr. White the band clearly has a story to tell. Stay tuned.

Another young band, Takin’ Names, supported the evening with some rockin’ tunes, some familiar, and some originals, that the audience enjoyed.

Alex Dhee of The Wyldz is among the most compelling international rockers - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Alex Dhee of The Wyldz is among the most compelling international rockers – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The rest of the lineup brought originality, as Ithaca showed off their chops as well as their long hair and toned physiques; Wyldz came all the way from France to show how it’s done, and Ashes of Eagles kept the audience engaged and did it with a smile.

San Diego County-based Vudu Fly has an interesting sound, complete with a lead vocal guy who doubles as a slide guitarist — only this slide is made from a cigar box.

“My dad and I make electric guitars out of cigar boxes,” said Aaron Quick of Vista, Calif. He played one of his prized instruments to close out the Vudu Fly set.

For more information on Vudu Fly, check out their Facebook page.

The Wyldz probably were the most visually compelling of the bands during the night.  That’s not because of creative costuming, but solely because of guitarist Alex Dhee, whose guitar play and wild athletics steal the show. It doesn’t hurt their appeal to the girls that The Wyldz have French accents.

L.A. Guns - Flexibility, Not Mystery is Key to Success - Photo © Donna Balancia

L.A. Guns – Flexibility, Not Mystery is Key to Success – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Headliner L.A. Guns certainly bring the stage presence of a veteran group. With two of the early  members remaining from the 1980s band, guitarist Michael Grant and bassist Kenny Kweens bring a new flavor to a fun act from the past. The band has seen its share of members come and go, and for them, flexibility has been the key to financial longevity.

“As artists, it’s important to have as much control over our music as possible and to be compensated for our work at all times,” L.A. Guns said in a release. “The current AM/FM loophole takes advantage of not only bands like ourselves with deep music catalogs, but also up-and-coming artists who are just entering the industry. By forcing radio stations to step up, this bill levels the playing field. So let’s get it passed in Washington and support the next generation of rockers.”

See more at on the Fair Play Fair Pay Act here.

The current lineup of L.A. Guns consists of Phil Lewis on vocals and Steve Riley on drums as well as Michael Grant on guitar and Kenny Kweens on bass.

## #FairPlayFairPayAct

CrueFest Hollywood 2015: Metal Shows its Golden Heart at Charity Event

Graham Bonnet Band rockin' at CrueFest - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Graham Bonnet Band rockin’ at CrueFest – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

CrueFest Hollywood Raises Cash to Help People With Cancer

By MALIA BALANCIA – Rock and Roll may never forgive, but it knows how to give back.

The stage at the Whisky A Go-Go was rockin’ at Cruefest Hollywood 2015, featuring bands including Downtown Attraction, L.A. Story, and the Graham Bonnet Band.

Steve Talbott of Gutterboys at CrueFest - Photo © 2015 Donna Balanci

Steve Talbott of Gutterboys at CrueFest – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The event is a charity fundraiser to benefit Letty’s Angels of Hope Foundation. See CrueFest Hollywood for more information.

Steve Talbott of the Gutterboys was emcee and became everyone’s favorite guy, as he threw T-shirts and guitar picks into the all-age audience that came to rock and raise money.  His band is fun and he’s got a hard-charging attitude.

There was too much talent to mention with highlights of the night including Downtown Attraction’s Jack Cash and Matti Jade teaming up with Buckcherry’s Stevie D. in an amazing set that blew out the Whisky.

Cash is remarkably agile and he is practiced at his performance.  Downtown Attraction moves forward in its success in a low-key manner but these guys are bound to break out in a big way.

Frontman Erik Hatchett and L.A. Story at CrueFest - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Frontman Erik Hatchett and L.A. Story at CrueFest – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

L.A. Story is one of the new bands on the scene with a fabulous theatrical appeal.  Frontman Erik Hatchett and his partner in crime, Jason Barajas, are a team for the ages with onstage antics that compel the audience to join in.

L.A. Story puts on an interactive performance, simultaneously taunting and charming the crowd.  The band is headed out on tour throughout the midwest to wrap up the summer.

A highlight of the night was the Graham Bonnet Band.  The guy still cooks along after all these years and brings the audience to a howling pitch and concert-goers cheer on the performance.

CrueFest Daisy DelaHoya and Black Star Electra - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

CrueFest Daisy DelaHoya and Black Star Electra – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

An unlikely if not mezmerising hit was Daisy DelaHoya, the sexy frontgal of Black Star Electra.  She’s best known for her reality TV stints, but this woman can belt it out.  Her moves are amazing and she had more photographers snapping her than bees around honey.  She’s one to watch — on several levels.

CrueFest 2015 was a hit and well worth the $20 admission for an all-day-long affair with plenty of chances for giveaways and live auction.  Appreciation to the Whisky A Go Go and the many who gave donations and product giveaways.

The Sun Sets on HOB Hollywood: Steel Panther Gives Sendoff to Club

Steel Panther Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia for California Rocker

Steel Panther plays the final night of HOB Sunset on Aug. 3 – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia for California Rocker

House of Blues Sunset to Shut Its Doors for Good, Steel Panther is Club’s Last  Act

Photos and Story By DONNA BALANCIA — Better get in your last licks before famous House of Blues Sunset closes its doors for good on August 3.

Steel Panther, the band that built a residency at the Sunset Strip club, plays the last night of HOB Sunset, for information see HOB website.

Steel Panther will continue its well-loved metal sendup act with its next announced gig at Rock Allegiance in Pennsylvania in October.

Recently, workers in all departments employed at HOB Sunset expressed dismay about the pending closure of the Sunset Strip concert venue.

“It’s terrible,” said Sandy who works as a ticket taker. “Everyone is depressed about what’s going on and people aren’t happy about finding another job.”

The collective mood of bartenders, security guards and waitresses was flat at best, as employees said they were either looking for work within parent company Live Nation or hit the unemployment line.

“I’m sad about this, it’s a landmark,” said John who works in security. “They said they’ve ‘lost their lease,’ but who really knows the truth.  All I know is that mentally, nobody is showing up.”

The Outre - Photo © Donna Balancia

The Foundation Room is where many aspiring musicians got their start – Pictured: The Outre – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

“The last thing Sunset Strip needs is another condo development,” said Bobby who said he would be talking to his higher ups at the company for a job. “It’s terrible that they’re closing down, but I hear they’re looking for another location and they could be open before we know it.”

For people who have called the House of Blues Sunset home since the 1990s, the closure represents another piece of the Sunset Strip slipping away.

But the Los Angeles music scene is changing in many aspects and after reigning as the supreme place to make a name, the Sunset Strip may relinquish its title to downtown LA and Silverlake.

Stiff Little Fingers plays HOB Sunset on July 31, and one last Gospel Brunch is set for Sunday, Aug. 2

Big Ups, Small Wigs, The Herms Bring Controlled Chaos to The Echo Club

Small Wigs at The Echo - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Mikki Itzigsohn of Small Wigs at The Echo – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA — It was a mixed bag of cool performances at The Echo, with Small Wigs, The Herms and Big Ups in a triple-header designed to knock your head off.

Small Wigs have a good singer in Elvis Kuehn and an experienced bassist in Mikki Itzigsohn.  With Matt Zuk on guitar and Max Kuehn on drums, together they’re an interesting group with an unassuming surfer-rock style.  Itzigsohn has been around the block once or twice in the musical arena and has played with some bands in the Southern California area.

The band is just getting off the ground, and has been together for a bit now with a lead single “New Wig,” which is super catchy.  Good things to come.

The Herms at The Echo - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The Herms at The Echo – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The Herms, originally from Northern California, have taken up residence in Los Angeles and it was a good move because their music is welcome in L.A.

“I love Northern California, but they take everything too seriously,” said frontman Matt Lutz. “Here, people like to play music and have fun with it.”

Clearly that was the idea behind the performance at The Echo the other day.  The guys enjoy themselves while playing music that is pretty intense, going back and forth between a standard beat to blasting wild, free form, fast avant-garde compositions.  And the audience loved it.

The Herms are fun and worth checking out, some of their songs include Record Machine, Volleyball, Now Everyone, $ Shot.  The guys drift between surfy and mellow to rapid-fire and frenetic.  It’s an enjoyable show.

Big Ups at The Echo - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Big Ups at The Echo – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Big Ups is big fun.  These guys have a cool disdain towards almost everything, but the self-deprecating humor really underscores some serious poetic talent.  Frontman Joe Galarraga of Big Ups gets you laughing and then takes you to some really deep places.  While we’re not exactly sure where we’re going with the performances — which is part of the fun — we know there are a couple of topics from Galarraga that relate to his life … and his mother’s life too.

What we like the best about Big Ups is the way Galarraga moves around the stage and how he communicates with his band mates.  The guys are comfortable with each other. And Galarraga is comfortable wrapping the microphone cord around his hand, his head and then uncoiling like a snake and sneering and yelling at the crowd assembled.  The crowd takes it in stride, smiling, with  some people reciting the words to the well-written and thougtful lyrics.

Big Ups at The Echo - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Big Ups at The Echo – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Wizardry of Todd Rundgren Takes Spotlight of Innovative ‘Global’ Tour; Will It Satisfy His Debt?

By DONNA BALANCIA – The saying “The Show Must Go On,” has never had truer meaning than it does today for Todd Rundgren.

With the Global tour, Rundgren has returned to his roots.  He’s energetic, his voice is clear and he’s lean. Very lean.

For a lot of reasons, he has to be.  Because beneath his smiling exterior, the excellent solos on his see-through guitar, and his strong vision, what comes with this tour is a certain urgency.

Todd Rundgren performs during Global tour at Roxy Theatre

Todd Rundgren performs during Global tour at Roxy Theatre – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

“The Wizard” revisits a post-futuristic style, similar to his Utopia days.  But instead of Kasim Sulton, Roger Powell and Willie Wilcox, he’s accompanied by cool D.J., Dam-Funk, and his backup singer-dancers.

Once inside the Roxy and while chatting with some Rundgren fans from the mainland as well as from Hawaii we were told we obviously had not been reading the business pages closely enough.

Rundgren is scrambling to keep the money coming in, following a foreclosure judgment on his Hawaii home and his subsequent lawsuit against the bank that granted he and his wife, Michele, a refinance on their home.

Did they use the cash to fund Michele’s Hawaiian restaurant, Tiki Iniki?

It’s mind-boggling to believe that Rundgren is in debt to the tune of millions of dollars, and that his home — where they’ve filmed concerts and gigs, where fans have gone for various birthday and Toddstock celebrations, and where friends and family live — is in foreclosure.

In court papers, Rundgren claims Washington Mutual induced him to sign refinance documents that were misleading.

Todd Rundgren performs at Roxy during Global tour - Photos © 2015 Donna Balancia

Todd Rundgren performs at Roxy during Global tour – Photos © 2015 Donna Balancia

But those inside the Roxy last week, and those who have visited the Hawaiian restaurant Michele was determined to open a few years ago, say Tiki Iniki in Kauai is a financial burden. The food and service are inconsistent according to reviews, it isn’t branded a “Todd Rundgren” venue, and the rent is high.  Everything in Princeville on Kauai is expensive.

So it’s no surprise Rundgren is touring like crazy and doesn’t take time to do much except sell records, sign CDs, sell merchandise and play music.  

It’s really a shame. Rundgren is one artist who has helped more aspiring and established musicians than many we can name.  When Rick Derringer had his guitars stolen back in 1980, Rundgren organized a charity concert at South Street Seaport in New York City that raised thousands for the guitarist.  READ MORE ABOUT TODD RUNDGREN AT EAST COAST ROCKER.

Rundgren’s efforts to produce Hall and Oates, transformed the band from a mellow and melodic twosome that barely reached an ill-defined demographic, into a hip, rockin’ group with upbeat songs and hit records.

Rundgren stepped in to support The Cars on their tour, he has been a great side man to Ringo on the Ringo All-Star Tour, and his record producing is outstanding.  In case you forgot, note these four words: Bat Out Of Hell.

Todd Rundgren at Roxy - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Todd Rundgren at Roxy – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

We did some quick math.  At $45 or so per ticket, with about 250 people at the Roxy the first night, it works out to about $11,250.  Multiply that by 25 more shows and a few CD signings, and accounting for the possibly larger number of fans in bigger venues, the rest of Rundgren’s tour could bring in more than $650,000 in ticket sales. Minus expenses and overhead.  Prior to the Roxy performances, Rundgren played 39 shows on the tour.

If someone wanted to have a benefit concert for Rundgren, there would be no shortage of fans or participants.  While pride often gets in the way of artists accepting charity, if ever there were a case for helping out one of the best musicians of our time, this is it.

All the financial news aside, Rundgren continues to be a light in the world of music.

He has slimmed down to what appears to be pre-1980s slimness; his moves are equally energetic and up to the standards of those days.  Had the stage at the Roxy been a little larger, it’s a sure bet he would have done his trademark run across the stage while blaring his amazing guitar licks.

The intimate show was great in many regards, especially in that it enables long-time fans to get a new perspective and it appeals to new fans because of the electronic element.  The latest of Rundgren’s projects combines an EDM-DJ style with his own, in a possible appeal to gain the important younger and more free-flowing dollars.

The light and video work on the Global tour is impressive, as is his see-through guitar.  HIs songs were predominantly off the new album, but Rundgren did re-imagine some legendary favorites like “One World,” which he pulled out about three-quarters through the show, and finale “Just One Victory.”

Todd Rundgren at Roxy - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Todd Rundgren at Roxy – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

There are many things to be admired about Rundgren.  He is a technology genius.  He has always been ahead of his time in various aspects of music video and music distribution.  He received relatively few honors for his fantastic technology work, but one award that received press was the Les Paul Award at NAMM two years ago.

It’s a shame that as he has developed into a musician who is finally comfortable with his own accomplishments, Rundgren can’t rest.  But perhaps that is to the benefit of the concert-goer.  It is welcome news that Rundgren will continue to produce music and performances for the world.

All in all, Rundgren’s show is always a soulful experience that satisfies non-fans and fans.  And hopefully, it will satisfy the banks and lenders as well.

Bonnie Raitt and Musician Friends Celebrate Marty Grebb at Canyon Club

Bonnie Raitt - photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Bonnie Raitt – photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Musicians, Fans, Raise Money for Marty Grebb to Continue His Battle Against Cancer

Story and Photos © DONNA BALANCIA

Who says Rock ‘n Roll doesn’t have a heart?

Bonnie Raitt, Leon Russell, Ivan Neville and a select group of famous band musicians raised spirits — and cash — for their pal Marty Grebb, who is battling cancer.

Some of the finest ’70s and ’80s players — many, appropriately enough, from the heartland — jammed to raise money for Grebb at the Canyon Club, before about 450 concert-goers who paid upwards of $100 a ticket to attend the benefit.

Marty Grebb - photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Marty Grebb – photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Grebb, Raitt’s longtime band member — who has played with everyone from Eric Clapton to J.J. Cale — said he was overwhelmed by the joy and generosity in the room.

There were people there he hadn’t seen in years, and who came from the East Coast and heartland cities like Detroit and Chicago to see him.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Grebb said. “And I want to thank every one of you. Let’s play some music!”

Performances

The performances during the night were top rate and the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills proved it’s great venue to see a show.  Its acoustics are enhanced by the cozy wood-and-plush couches and chairs and the carpeted floors and velvet curtains.

Grebb kicked off the night with several tunes including a beautiful version of  “Come Rain or Come Shine.”  His pep and vigor was in full swing, though he admitted he does have to rest between his performances.

Leon Russell

Russell, in his all-white garb, including white hair, suit and cowboy hat, dispelled his apparition-like appearance with a very real performance that included a duet with 15-year-old blues guitar phenom Ray Goren, who blew the house away.  Goren is mentored by Russell and we can expect some great things from this amazing young talent.

Leon Russell - photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Leon Russell – photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Russell’s voice was clear and strong and his eyes are lively.  Included in his setlist were “Delta Lady,” “Back To The Islands,” and “Hummingbird.”

The Buckinghams

The handsome Dennis Tufano, who was in the band The Buckinghams with Grebb, crooned the throwback “Don’t You Care,” made famous by the band.  The Buckinghams influenced a lot of bands including Chicago, which adopted the horn-influenced big band style sound that brought them fame.

Ivan Neville

Grebb and Neville, who came to support his friend, contributed more great performances that incorporated all the band members. Grebb’s daughter, Malibu resident Anna Grebb, and her mom Lolly were also on hand, with Anna singing a few select tunes with her dad and giving a great hug at the end of her performance.

Anna Grebb - photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Anna Grebb – photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Raitt’s Good Friend

Raitt has been playing with Grebb since the 1970s and showed her affection for her longtime pal with a rousing performance of some of her most noteworthy tunes.

She opened with “Thing Called Love,” segued into “Nick of Time” and jammed with the band on “Three-Time Loser,” and “Think.”

“Marty has been a dear friend and musical collaborator since my second album back in ’72,” Raitt said.  “He is one of the most soulful and talented musicians I know…equally gifted and at home on sax, keyboards, a killer singer and songwriter. That kind of versatility is very rare indeed.”

The Benefit Concert

The gal who ran the event, Jennifer Waterhouse Pietro, accomplished a monumental task in arranging accommodations, meals and donations.

She credited her volunteer team, led by Annie Ellis and Leslie Bixler, and expressed her thanks to the donors, benefactors and the musicians.

Bonnie Raitt and band members play for Marty Grebb - photo © Donna Balancia

Bonnie Raitt and band members play for Marty Grebb – photo © Donna Balancia

“The Canyon Club is a great venue and it was fabulous that they donated the venue for Marty,” Pietro said. “We have really received an unbelievable amount of support and of course the musicians are phenomenal. They each have a really big heart.”

Among some of the auction items were a piano, an acoustic guitar donated by McCabe’s that was signed by the musicians, The Wrecking Crew movie gift basket, posters, several paintings and collector items.  Star Wagons and Casa Escobar provided the trailers and food.

While there were donations from many of those present, there is also the opportunity to contribute online. GO HERE for more information on Sweet Relief and its efforts to support Grebb and other artists.

Bonnie Raitt and Group - photo by Matthias von Bank

Bonnie Raitt and Group – photo by Matthias von Bank

No Doubt, Metallica, Help Save The Day for Rock In Rio USA

Gwen Stefani No Doubt Rock In Rio © 2015 Donna Balancia

Gwen Stefani cheerleads at Rock In Rio USA © 2015 Donna Balancia

Weak Attendance, High Prices Mark Inaugural Rock In Rio Fest

Photos and story © Donna Balancia – LAS VEGAS – Gwen Stefani and No Doubt overcame a chilly reception from 30,000 attendees to open the inaugural Rock In Rio USA on a cold Las Vegas Friday night.

By the end of the first weekend performances Saturday night, Metallica warmed up a slightly larger crowd of about 50,000 and — like it or not — a new music festival was born.

Rock In Rio is 30 years old, but it’s new to the U.S.  And despite top headliners — Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars will perform next weekend — it looks like profitability may be further away than originally anticipated.

It was the luck of the draw for No Doubt to be Rock In Rio’s opener in the U.S., but Stefani was perfect in the role as punk cheerleader for the new festival, keeping the crowd energized. No Doubt came on at midnight.

The 45-year-old beauty and mother of three has developed more stage charisma over the years and she has boundless energy, running from one side of the audience to the other.  Her fans are devoted, wearing Stefani’s Harijuku Lovers brand clothing and perfume, and imitating her chic, mismatched clothing style.

Gwen Stefani of No Doubt - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Gwen Stefani of No Doubt – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The first day of Rock In Rio USA was not easy. Stefani’s style and energy helped offset some organizational problems related to ticketing, transportation and weak opening-day attendance.

“I got my tickets for free,” said Sandra Halper of San Francisco who owns a condo by the specially constructed, $75 million “City of Rock” festival grounds, near the new SLS Hotel.  “They gave out a lot of free tickets to my condo association.”

Another festival-goer who was among the thin crowd on Friday at 4:30 p.m., said that she too, got her tickets for free.  “I work in the hotel business and they gave us bunch of tickets at work.”

It’s a smart strategy to give away tickets to the opening day of a new event, but it was not welcome news to those young concert-goers who spent their hard-earned salary for a $169 single-day pass, or a two-day entry for upwards of $250.

Another issue had to do with putting money on the wristbands. Rock In Rio is a “cashless” event and food, beverage and souvenir items are paid with the scan of a wristband that the wearer “tops off” at City of Rock or on the web.

“It’s easy to overspend when you take money from your credit card and put it on the wristband,” said Ed Pruitt, a local Las Vegas resident. “The beer costs $12 for one can. So you’re bound to put more money on your wristband at the festival. You can get carried away.”

Fehr Olvera of Mana - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Fehr Olvera of Mana – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Food and beverage items were not cheap and it was better to have more money on the wristband than less. But there was concern among concert-goers about getting back the money they didn’t spend.  Extra money left on the wristband after the event is finished is refunded for a small fee.

Then there was the will-call ticket debacle, as tickets were to be picked up at a will call window 1.7 miles from the festival grounds behind the Arco gas station near the Tropicana Hotel.  Called the MGM Village, it’s a parking lot and it was not marked, there was no signage.  A common theme was heard over and over again: “How come nobody at the hotels, or the taxi drivers or anyone knows where we’re supposed to pick up our tickets?”

For a festival that’s supposedly been more than a year in the planning stages, it seemed the local visitor board, hoteliers and transportation ambassadors were ill-informed on how to direct their concert-going guests. 

Commercials aired for VIP tickets on local radio, and will-call people said that ticket buyers were encouraged to have the tickets mailed directly to them for an extra $18.  Those who apparently didn’t pay the fee wound up lost and looking endlessly for the MGM Village parking lot, and then, its one entrance in the back. The VIP area is roughly 100 yards from the main stage.

But on a positive note, Stefani and No Doubt put on a great show, the cool 50-degree temperatures were a blessing in disguise as the crowd was packed in tight, and latin favorite Mana had the crowd pumped and singing along loudly.  Pretty Reckless and Smallpools gave the fans at the main stage strong performances, and Foster The People kept the other side of the field cranking.

Metallica

Metallica’s James Hetfield

“With Coachella, you really have to run around to see the bands you like,” said Cindy of Westchester, in Los Angeles, who bought Rock In Rio USA tickets as a birthday present for her son.  “But with this, I really liked that the bands don’t start until the other is finished.”

By alternating stages and staggering start times, festival-goers, in theory, can see all the bands playing during the day.  But if you go from stage to stage you probably won’t get anywhere near the first 200 rows of fans.

Exiting after the event, after 1 a.m., was orderly.  There was one entrance and that turned into the only exit.  As for transportation, the Las Vegas Monorail increased its frequency and was smooth.

Gwen Stefani of No Doubt - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Gwen Stefani of No Doubt – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Crowds were expected to increase to more than 50,000 for Saturday night, as Metallica headlined, according to Las Vegas Police and that was confirmed.  Metallica’s set was a typical high-energy show, and some fans were allowed to stand onstage during the performance.

So much for the rock weekend. Next weekend features the pop musicians with Swift and Mars.

Last March, SFX, the owner of Rock In Rio, showed disappointing fourth quarter and year-end earnings. In the fourth quarter, pro forma revenues declined to $95.9 million from $103.9 million. For the year, the Robert Sillerman majority-owned SFX lost $131 million on revenue of $354 million.

On April 30, The Street downgraded SFX to a “sell,” based on “deteriorating net income, poor profit margins, poor stock performance and high debt.”

 

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