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Austin Shaw Touches Hearts with Release of ‘Felt,’ An Album That Mixes Rock, Soul, Folk and Ballads

Austin Shaw: FELT – Release Date: September 15, 2017


Santa Cruz is one of those kinds of cities that allows an individual to fully express himself. As a city, it thrives in forward thinking and creativity.

Austin Shaw left music behind after he finished college and he started his climb up the corporate later, after a few years he felt like something was missing so he left his job in corporate America and moved to Santa Cruz to reclaimed the artist and songwriter that always lived inside of him.

Shaw released a 4-song EP, Selections from Felt, earlier this year. His follow-up and full-length debut album FELT is coming out on September 15 and it’s got that same honest emotion and feel good vibe. FELT is a solid mixture of rock, soul, folk and Americana-influenced songs. The songs float between confessional numbers, soulful rockers and emotional ballads.

Austin Shaw has a winner with ‘FELT’ – Photo courtesy Austin Shaw

Felt kicks in with a sharply infectious and very personal opener, “Citrine.”

“Essentially it’s a story about a daughter losing her father at a far too early age,” Shaw said. “Something I endured and watched my family struggle through. The song ‘I’ve Been Leaning’ is a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to the person that has your back.”


The title track “Felt,” is honest and uplifting with chiming guitar lines and impressive vocal delivery.

“It’s about meeting your soul-mate and knowing it just by the feel of it,” Shaw said. “Even before you get to know them, you just know.”

‘Long Live Romance’

“Love on Both Sides” is very emotional, in a “long live romance” kind of way. And “Without You” tells the story of getting over the one that got away. You can be assured there is a warm, relaxed melody running through the album and a hook or two to chew on.

The ambitious album is filled with melodic navigations through the darkness of heartbreak and the light of love. Showcasing a modern, yet timeworn songwriting approach and rustic yet soothing voice. Folky and soulful, FELT is a solid effort from a memorable songwriter.

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Dan MacIntosh Film Review: ‘American Valhalla’ Captures Respect, Friendship Between Iggy Pop and Josh Homme


American Valhalla documents Josh Homme’s dream collaboration with Iggy Pop, an artist he’s admired since he was a Coachella Valley teen skateboarding to the Repo Man soundtrack bumping on his boombox. The album’s title, Post Pop Depression, succinctly summarizes Homme’s emotional letdown upon completing this critically acclaimed project. This entertaining and informative film takes viewers from the recording’s inception, which included written and texted correspondence between Homme and Pop, to its touring band’s triumphant next-to-last concert at England’s Royal Albert Hall.

Don’t ‘Out-Rock’ Iggy Pop

Homme admits, during one of the film’s many interview segments, he didn’t want to try and ‘out rock’ Iggy Pop. That would be pointless. Pop’s pre-punk efforts set the gold standard for hard rock, so why even attempt to reach or surpass such daunting heights? And Pop, for his part, was ready to create an album markedly different from his relatively recent recordings with his pioneering Detroit band, The Stooges. Homme assembled a sparse band, which also included Queens of the Stone Age/The Dead Weather guitarist Dean Fertita and Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders. Tracked at Homme’s far-away-from-civilization Joshua Tree studio, Post Pop Depression matches inventively moody instrumental textures with some of Pop’s best-ever lyrics.

Andreas Neumann, Josh Homme and Steve Jones at ‘American Valhalla’ LA screening – Photo by Donna Balancia

Iggy Pop: ‘I Take A Lot of Work’

Pop is the star of nearly every film he’s in. He may dance like a drug-crazed shaman while performing live, but when he’s kicking back on his Miami hammock answering interview questions, he’s one wittily articulate beast. He can also be disarmingly candid, though. During one of these moments, he admits that – even at the advanced age of 68 – he still needs to hustle for a living. “I take a lot of work,” he tells the camera.

Homme can’t help but play fanboy to Pop’s relaxed star power. He’s not alone, though, as all his project bandmates confess to this same nervousness in Pop’s iconic presence. Nevertheless, the film documents how all these professionals don’t let hero worship ever get the best of them.

Pivotal Moments

There are two emotionally pivotal moments in the film. One sad, the other happy. The somber scene finds Homme and Pop discussing their mutual decision to tour behind Post Pop Depression. The night before their first rehearsal, though, Pop’s dear friend and celebrated collaborator, David Bowie, passed away. Pop can be seen on screen starting to breakdown while talking about Bowie’s death. Pop somehow summoned the strength to man-up and go through with this rehearsal, which – according to all concerned — turned out to be some powerfully successful tour preparation.

Royal Albert Hall

On a happier note, Pop’s performance at the Royal Albert Hall found Pop on the receiving end of long overdue love and respect. During a post-screening Q&A featuring director Andreas Neumann and Homme, and moderated by Steve Jones, Josh recalled how even the “cool people” at that show told him it was one of the best concerts they’d ever seen.

As an Iggy Pop documentary, American Valhalla gives only an overview of Pop’s career. If you’re looking for an in-depth study of Pop’s eventful life, Jim Jarmusch’s Gimme Danger is your best source. Homme repeatedly reminds us about the importance of treasuring life’s greatest moments, though, and this film does a fine job capturing one musical collaboration Homme will never forget.


Sacramento Band, American High, Drops Upbeat Rock Album, ‘Bones in the Attic, Flowers in the Basement’


American High has released Bones in the Attic, Flowers in the Basement, and it’s a fun, upbeat collection that would warm the coldest of hearts.

Influence of 1960s and 1970s

American High, from Sacramento has a cool indie-alternative sound with some upbeat songs and clearly they’ve been influenced by the 1960s-1970s sound.  Some of the songs are pretty irreverent, others are straightforward and these guys pull it off.

But who are they?

D.T. is on rhythm guitar, E.S. is on lead guitar, F.M. is on bass, T.M. keeps the beat on the drums. American High produced the record.  The only name that is available is that of Joe Johnson of Pus Cavern Studios in Sacramento, who mixed and mastered.  Check them out on Bandcamp.

American High has a knack for putting chilling topics into an upbeat mode. Bones in the Attic, Flowers in the Basement, was released marks the band’s debut album. We’re not sure if their name refers to getting buzzed or appreciating the high school years.

American High wanted to put out an anti-war record with this one. The guys said they wanted to put a human face on oppression: “We think everyone should concentrate on minding our own business rather than point guns at each other and demand obedience.”

Favorite cuts on the record are “Moon,” “Sensei,” “Bunny,” “September,” and “Warm Worlds Flow.”  The song “Sister Don’t Believe It,” may be a reference to the president everyone loves to hate, but the song is a bit redundant.  However the workmanship is on the record and the recording quality is excellent.

The band is unconventional and said they think songs are more interesting when they’re different than the standard chorus-verse-chorus.


With ‘Trouble Maker,’ Rancid Tells Us Where They’re Going With Hot Album: To The Top of the Charts

Rancid Tackles Important Issues with New Record


Rancid’s new record, Trouble Maker, was inspired by freedom of speech and people using music as a message, and they’re making their point. There aren’t too many who escape the band’s smartly crafted barbs on the new record.

America’s most undervalued punk rock and roll band tackles some tough subjects on their latest release, Trouble Maker. There’s no doubt Rancid is a national treasure, and has risen in importance, bringing the political messages as did our beloved The Clash. Trouble Maker proves Rancid’s hot date with The Big Time has finally arrived.

Rancid has a history of controversy and Trouble Maker is no different. The guys tackle some tough subjects in an upbeat way and continually create an aura of protest. The album starts with the truly fast and ripping “Track Fast.”

Tim Armstrong photo courtesy of Rancid

‘Ghost of a Chance’

It’s followed by the excellent and somewhat familiar sounding “Ghost of a Chance.”  Did Tim Armstrong and The Interrupters play it at Coachella when the Rancid frontman joined them onstage? Memory fails. That’s not the only breakdown as Rancid sings of failed love, society, and also dead great people throughout the new record.

Even the love songs on the record are under the gun, like the song “Buddy,” where even the loving nostalgia is tainted with a dose of pouring rain.

Trouble Maker addresses society’s issues – Photo courtesy Rancid

California Rocker Favorite: ‘Where I’m Going’

“Farewell Lola Blue,” is a great power anthem, a poignant — even for Rancid — tribute to a mystery WW2 dive bomber pilot.  But of course it has the Rancid beat and the guys rip out a powerful tune, one of the most fun songs on the record.

“All American Neighborhood” is about the demise of our country, doctors and pharmacists on the take, and how the shit has really hit the fan here in the U.S.  It’s not the first time Big Pharma has taken a beating, but nobody delivers it quite as quickly and efficiently as Rancid on this great song.

Rancid takes aim at Big Pharma, drug-dealing fake doctors and jerks in general with Trouble Maker

“Bovver Rock and Roll” truly is a great rock and roll song that brings a bit of 1970s power sound to the record. If they did it like that back then, like Rancid does it now, the 70s wouldn’t have died off.

Our favorite is the soon-to-be-megahit “Where I’m Going,” which blends an upbeat ska beat with a pledge that “You don’t understand where I am, or where I been or where I’m goin.'” But the guys are wrong.  With Trouble Maker, Rancid’s goin’ right to the top. Trouble Maker is a winner.

Check it out Trouble Maker for yourself — or better yet, BUY IT — and check out Rancid’s website for tour dates.

Alena Lim Review: Hideouts Blend Some Well-Liked Alternative Ingredients to Create Tasty Punk Treats

Sink In Opens Can of Cool at Slidebar RNR Kitchen


Hideouts is a 5-piece alternative rock/pop punk band from Huntington Beach, formed in 2012 Hideouts released their debut EP titled Stuck Between Stories on November 20, 2012. The 6-song EP show various influences ranging from pop-punk stylings of bands such as Hit the Lights or Cartel, to the modern rock appeal of Jimmy Eat World, Anberlin, and Paramore, with a hint of aggression that may remind you of acts like Four Year Strong or Sleeping With Sirens.

Hideouts – Photo by Alena Lim

Fateful Meeting

The band came together several years later when five members kept crossing each other’s paths. Their interaction with each other made them realize that they all have unsatisfied taste and passion for writing high-energy music. This led the group to demo under the radar in their own metaphorical “hideout” to develop what would be their sound, and in turn led to them settling on the name: Hideouts.

Hideouts opened an introductory performance at the Slidebar Rock N Roll Kitchen with their song, “Photograph,” bringing the room their delicious and inspirational delight!

Hideouts Deliver The Goods

Their own sound wave delivers thunder to current fans, new fans, as well as long-term friends. I enjoyed their songs, “Alleybyes” and “Halos.” Their music is filled with energetic love and positive vibes which is great for inspiring the young generation for a drama-free world. Hideouts finished the performance with their song, “Pulling Me Down,” expressing their appreciation for the support of everybody as well as the fellow bands being there.

The Hideouts are currently touring with “Sink In,” “Summerfell,” “The New Varsity,” and “Crash Overcast.” This was also their close-out tour location which in fact happens to be their hometown. The release of their Stuck Between Stories, Hideouts are eager and ready to head out tour the world.

Hideouts – Photo by Alena Lim

Vital Statistics:

You can find their facebook @wearehideouts or Instagram @hideouts. They have a lot of followers! Their next event will be on June 1, Thursday at 8 p.m. at the MTL, located in Riverside.

Band members: Vocals/guitar: Dan Chavez; guitar/vocals: Tim Markel; guitar: Robby Friend; drums: Luis “Chocs” Campos; bass: Tomas Garcia

Where they’re from: Huntington Beach and Los Angeles

Genre: Alternative Rock/Pop Punk

Location of performance: The Slidebar Rock-N-Roll Kitchen in Fullerton, CA

Inspirations of the band: Yellowcard, Bayside, Saosin, Thrice, Paramore, Relient K, Jimmy Eat World, Coheed and Cambria, Anberlin, Acceptance, Cartel, Sleeping With Sirens

Set list of songs:

Who I Could Be
So Not Like You
Chasing Satellites
Pulling Me Down

Sink In

Sink In was formed in early 2015. This group defines the sound of modern pop-rock to a whole different level. Their music style has a refreshed ambient and technical twist to the genre. You can hear it in their first song that they performed called “Higher,” along with a series of flashing bright lights coming out from their giant amplifers in the back of the stage as well as their black-box crates they they used for standing on top of during their performance throughout their show. I was extremely taken by their unique style of sound that made me want more.

Sink In – Photo by Alena Lim

Minnesota Train

One of the pieces I enjoyed from Sink In is “Minnesota Train.” This is a very emotional song because it was dedicated to a well-loved friend who passed away from cancer. The song they closed with, called “Wither,” was the perfect finale to their performance.

Sink In took the opportunity to start touring and booking dates spanning nation-wide. Thanks to the incredible reception while on the road, the band hit the studio to record their debut release. The “Wide Eyes” EP showcases the group’s powerfully written lyrics, precision guitar riffs, and high-energy attitude.

Sink In – Photo by Alena Lim

Wide Eyes EP

Their Wide Eyes EP is currently available. They will be playing on May 25 in Houston, July 16 in Seattle, Aug. 9 in Kansas, and Aug. 11 in Franklin, Ind. More details of their work can be found on their facebook @sinkinpa and their instagram @sinkinband.

Band members: Tighe Eshleman (@tighesinkin): vocals; Cobrette Bardole (@cobrettesinkin): guitar; Brett Latorre (@brettsinkin): bass/vocals; Stefano Pigliapoco (@stefsinkin): drums/vocals

Where they’re from: Hershey, Penn., and Los Angeles
Genre: Pop/Rock
Location of performance: The Slidebar Rock-N-Roll Kitchen, Fullerton, Ca
Set list of songs:
Get Out!
Up There
Minnesota Train

Allison Iraheta and Halo Circus Show Quality Has a Bold Shape with New Album, ‘East Lansing’

With Iraheta It’s All About the Voice


I thought a long time before I nominated Allison Iraheta for the LA Music Critics Award for Best Rock Singer of 2016.

Allison and her band Halo Circus are like no other band in rock music today, so there is no precedent I could point to for my fellow writers.  Her superbly controlled voice moves effortlessly from an anthemic howl of anguish to throaty introspective gentleness, but never quite registers in the tones and colors of familiar female rock or pop singers.  It has a curl — a shape that is beyond the geometry of what we expect from women fronting bands.   On stage she goes into an interior world that does not engage the audience like we expect bands to do, but rather converts them into rapt observers in her inner dimension.

Allison and Matt – Photo courtesy of Allison Iraheta

There were no precedents, no one to compare her to. But, despite all of this, my fellow writers agreed with me and voted for her.

It was this preconception of Allison and Halo Circus as unprecedented and incomparable that was in my mind when I put on my earphones and launched a preview copy Halo Circus’s new album, East Lansing, due out May 5.

When I put the headphones down, I asked myself “what just happened?”  Many of the songs were familiar to me from the Bunny album – “Nothing at All,”  “All I have” and “Band-Aid,” the band’s  #1 Popdust song last year.  But this was a different side of Allison and Halo Circus, one I had never heard before despite the many times I have seen them live. This album has the pain, the power, the presence you expect from Halo Circus, but it holds you close like nothing you have ever experienced before in music.

East Lansing is all about Allison’s voice. The music is stripped down, the arrangements are stepped back, the environment is Brian Stead’s acoustic guitar.  The horns are subtle, almost secretive unless you listen close for them. And the drumming is restrained, relying on soft mallets and brushes rather than the nuclear-powered (and often broken) sticks that Veronica Bellino and Matteo Eyia brought to the band in many of its recordings and live shows.  But most striking is the intimacy – Allison is no longer in her 4th dimension, she is present, vulnerable, there in front of you, singing to you in ways that are even more thrilling than the anthems.

Perhaps the intimacy comes from the fact that the album was not recorded in their usual SoCal studios, but while they were on the road in the 30-city crowd-sourced tour they recently completed.  Produced by Allison’s husband, band bassist and platinum producer Matt Hager, East Lansing was recorded live at the Troubadour Recording Studios in Lansing Michigan (the album cover photo  is not the recording studio).

Allison doesn’t give anyone the cold shoulder – Photo courtesy of Allison Iraheta

Perhaps it comes from the other evolution that has been surfacing in Allison and the band, her recognition of her inner Latina.  Born of Salvadoran immigrants, she cut her singing teeth at the local Latino electronics store and later on in a Telemundo singing contest.  All of that seemed to go away as she rose to the finals on American Idol, but returned last year with “Yo Me Voy” on the Bunny Album and in her stage and video appearances with an “Immigrant” banner across her chest.

Where ever it comes from, Allison’s vulnerability and intimacy in East Lansing adds to, rather than mutes, the power of the songs.  The hooks, flourishes, emotional hypodermic-shots the band is known for are now delivered with equal potency by her voice. “Nothing at All”  cuts as deep as ever, but with her voice wielding a scalpel, not a knife, carving “I want what I want” from your flesh. The soft, almost Spanish guitar in “Band-Aid” pulls you so close that when she belts “We want a revolution,” it engulfs you like a thunderstorm, instead of a pile-driver The throbbing drums of the live performances and earlier recordings are replaced by the authority of her voice while the snare drum brushes create a soft texture that she sails over.

Allison Iraheta has beautiy inside and out – Photo by Patrick O’Heffernan

The band’s cover of Neil Young’s  “The Needle and the Damage Done” works in a way that I have not heard other bands accomplish.  Again the acoustic guitar creates a spare environment that carefully cups Allison’s vocal curl. It is her voice, as much as Neil Young’s compelling lyrics, that covey the anguish, the loss, the melancholy and the horrors observed.

Allison’s front and center vocals makes East Lansing an understated nuclear reactor of music. Her fire on the album burns as hot as the anthems that she ignites on stage, but they simmer with the white heat of a slow burning star and the poignancy of a dangerous embrace.  East Lansing will accelerate the band’s momentum:  they have completed the first crowd-sourced tour in the US with RoadNation, released the  debut album Bunny,  posted numerous videos including “Band-Aid”,  seen a remix of “Band-Aid” by John Taylor of Duran Duran,  and announced a new 2017 tour,  and are releasing East Lansing May 5. .If you can see them live on the new tour, don’t miss what is always an unforgettable experience;  in any case, get the album – it will hold you close.

Patrick O’Heffernan.  Host, Music FridayLive!, Co-Host MúsicaFusionLA

Halo Circus,

East Lansing,  available NOW on the band’s website

Kiefer Sutherland, Singer-Songwriter, Makes Success Out of Heartbreak on his ‘Not Enough Whiskey’ Tour

Songs Tell The Story of This Second-Generation Actor


Kiefer Sutherland took guitar in hand and hit the Southern California stages last week, moving from Stagecoach to the Roxy Theatre in West Hollywood to the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.  And it’s clear he’s a hit.

It’s the “Not Enough Whiskey Tour,” but it should be called the “Not Enough Kiefer Tour” instead.  The fans love this guy, whether the multi-talented actor-turned-musician is a bully, a vampire, or a country singer-songwriter. The tour continues throughout the U.S. and Europe.

Kiefer Sutherland at The Roxy - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Kiefer Sutherland at The Roxy – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

‘Down In a Hole’

Kiefer is out promoting his new album, Down In a Hole, a solid collection of tunes that all ages can relate to as they take some new turns on well-traveled country roads.

Kiefer’s music is smooth and rough at the same time, just like the song “Not Enough Whiskey” after which he named the tour he’s taking around North America and abroad. And maybe it’s reflective of his life as an actor, always summoning emotions for the character you portray and not having a chance to delve into your own. Well he’s delving now.

Kiefer’s songwriting is the strongest part of this act. In cases like this, we generally hold actors to a different standard than musicians, but if a performance draws the crowd and makes the ticket-holders happy, we’re in favor of it.  He’s vulnerable and real and the crowd loves it.

Kiefer and his band are on a worldwide tour – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Warm Stage Presence

Kiefer is no Johnny Cash or Elton John, two of his admitted favorites musicians, mainly because his voice needs a little work, but he’s on to something here with his songwriting and warm stage presence.  The fans seem overwhelmed by him and his music, and they sing along with every word as he plays.  Not only that, it appears the people come from near and far to see him, as at The Roxy there were Kiefer fans who came from as far away as inland California.

“My mom came with us tonight because she loves him too,” said Jared Scoville from Temecula. “My mom doesn’t go out too much because she’s older and she can’t walk that well, but we got in the truck and came here because she loves Kiefer’s music.”

From Vampires to Bad Boys and Beyond

Kiefer, who’s played everything from bad boy vampire to Jack Bauer on 24, has had the luxury of growing up in a creative household — his mother is actress Shirley Douglas and his father is actor Donald Sutherland.  The elder Sutherland has a prolific body of work and is known for his quirky roles. He’s perhaps best loved for his portrayal of World War II tank officer “Oddball” in the 5-star Clint Eastwood film Kelly’s Heroes.

And normally we would assume, like everyone else, that this actors’ kid has had an easy time of it, inheriting all the connections and good fortune from his famous parents. Instead, it’s been a different path for Kiefer, who’s had limited guidance from his family and has really gone out on his own.  He’s even been a rodeo competitor and started a record label.

Kiefer Sutherland tours to promote 'Down In a Hole' - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Kiefer Sutherland tours to promote ‘Down In a Hole’ – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

No Cryin’ Cowboys Here

The new album, Down In a Hole, is a real departure from what we might expect from the rough and tumble millionaire actor.  The music is reflective and somber. As they say, if you’ve just broken up with someone, don’t listen to country music because it could only make you feel more sad.  Nobody likes a crying cowboy.  Kiefer doesn’t exactly cry, but it’s apparent he’s had his share of heartbreak.

The writing of these songs and Kiefer’s expression of these long-suppressed feelings is “cathartic” as he said in a recent interview with

Rick Brantley opened the evening with some down-home songs – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Kiefer and The Crowd

Well the songs may be “cathartic” for Kiefer, but the performances of those songs to packed Southern California crowds is nothing short of remarkable. His shows at the crowded Stagecoach, and packed houses at the Roxy and Great American Music Hall show Kiefer really connect. I don’t care how good an actor you may be, but hitting the stage with a guitar and putting your vulnerability out there for the world to see at a live performance venue takes guts.  Particularly for a TV and film actor, who is used to having a director of photography shoot his best side, having a director do another take just so the actor can look good or having an editor use a more flattering scene.

Kiefer at The Roxy – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

New Chapter for Kiefer

Kiefer is having fun and the emotional songs like “I’ll Do Anything,” and “Not Enough Whiskey”  do reflect on some of the mistakes he’s made in life. Regardless, we could all take a page from  Kiefer’s book.  He’s taken his heartbreak and long-buried emotions and turned them into performances that please the masses.

And he says he’s still working out his issues, which is good for the fans: He’s got some new songs on the way.

Video courtesy of Christopher Pack

The Buttertones: Dreamy Surf Guys Bring Their Cool California Style — And All the Girls — to The Hi Hat

New Album ‘Gravedigging’ is a Fun Retro Record


When you see The Buttertones, get ready for a new style of surfy beach music, cute guys and screaming women.

It’s part of The Buttertones’ scene and it’s a well-established routine. They’re not exactly The Beatles, but it’s the frenzy these guys cause among the females of Southern California that’s really something to see and appreciate. If they could put this kind of sex appeal in a bottle we’d all be better off.

The Buttertones, the women are falling for them - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

The Buttertones, the women are falling for them – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

We missed a few opportunities to see The Buttertones in the last six months, once at their Aquarium of the Pacific gig on New Year’s Eve and the other recently at The Bootleg. We hear The Bootleg gig was complete with not only the screaming, swooning females, but plenty of stage divers, leaping into the audience like lemmings over the cliff.

Buttertones at The Hi Hat – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

But we managed to catch them at The Hi Hat, one of our favorite venues in Los Angeles — after all, the staff is awesome and the place is big enough to hold all the fans The Buttertones bring in tow.

Check out The Buttertones’ new album, Gravedigging on Bandcamp.

The Buttertones put on an entertaining show. They light themselves up and then have their routine. The songs are fast-paced and fun and the guys dress respectfully, something that seems to be increasingly more common, buttoned shirt, ties and even socks!

Richard Araiza of The Buttertones – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Their recent album, Gravedigging, is a gas, with some killer tunes with catchy, simple titles including “Geisha’s Gaze,” “Ghost Safari,” “Sadie’s a Sadist,” and “Morroccan Monsoon.” All upbeat and rowdy in a surfy and snappy manner. This show is so worthwhile and moves fast.

Silent X wrapped up the night at The Hi Hat – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

The Buttertones are: Bassist Sean Redman, guitarist/singer Richard Araiza, drummer/polyinstrumentalist Modesto ‘Cobi’ Cobiån, saxophonist London Guzmån and guitarist Dakota Boettcher. All accomplished and impressive musicians, and cute to boot.

Matter Room was a fun opener, Espresso really cranked on the drums, Violet Mindfield held the audience spellbound and Silent X was a great topper on the evening.

Energetic and innovative: The Buttertones – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Velazquez Review: Rise Against Rocks Troubadour With Insane Show, Album ‘Wolves,’ To Drop In June

Mosh Pit, John Fogerty, All Part of the Show


In anticipation of the June 9 release of their new album Wolves, Rise Against played a packed house at The Troubadour last night, as part of a U.S. and European tour.

Not surprisingly, the show was sold out, and housed many eager fans who were fortunate enough to get tickets within the minuscule time frame they were available. Rise Against hasn’t played at the venue since 2006, so I couldn’t imagine anyone passing on the opportunity to see them there again.

Fan jumps on stage and sings with Tim McIlraph – Photo © 2017 Jonathan Velazquez


The night started off with British-American trio, Sharp/Shock. They played an energetic 30-minute set for an enthusiastic audience. They threw in a special cover of The Clash’s “Police On My Back” towards the end of their performance, before finishing with “Troublemaker,” from their 2016 release, Unlearn Everything, via Heart and Skull Records.

Sharp/Shock - Photo © 2017 Jonathan Velazquez

Davey Warsop of Sharp/Shock – Photo © 2017 Jonathan Velazquez

Packed House

Rise took the stage promptly at 10 p.m. to find a packed house waiting for them. They began their run of cuts with “Give It All,” a fan favorite that certainly got the room moving. before moving on to tracks spanning all of their releases. About halfway through the set, the band took time to play several songs from the new record, including “Wolves,” “Welcome To The Breakdown,” and lastly, “The Violence,” which is available listen to online. Tim (lead vocals, guitar) was so excited to play them, he “performed the splits” during Wolves.

Joe Principle the bass player for Rise Against has a laugh – Photo © 2017 Jonathan Velazquez

‘State Of The Union’

The band returned to familiar material by bringing out “State Of The Union” to a frantic crowd, that stormed the front to scream with Tim and the rest of the band (I looked a bit funny on the balcony, screaming along behind my camera).

Creedence and John Fogerty’s Influence

They then took a moment to converse with the crowd about the bands that influenced them as musicians, which included Creedence Clearwater Revival. The just so happened to have “Fortunate Son” on their set, and everyone caught on and stormed the front again to sing with the band. They would play a couple more tracks before launching into a staple in their live performance, “Prayer Of The Refugee,” as a set closer. Such an enormous mosh pit for such a small room! So much energy in the room! There was very little oxygen left for anyone!

Rise Against – Photo © 2017 Jonathan Velazquez

‘Hero of War’

Tim came back on stage to perform the acoustic track, “Hero of War,” from 2008’s Appeal To Reason, before Zach (lead guitar), Joe (bass), and Brandon (drums) joined him and played “Blood-Red, White, and Blue”, before ending the night with one of their best songs, “Savior.” I’m certain many people lost their voice by the end of the night, but gained a very special memory in exchange. Check out the Rise Against website for more information.

Rise Against at The Troubadour – Photo © 2017 Jonathan Velazquez

Rise Against in San Diego, LA in July

Rise Against will be back on the road in the U.S. this summer with Deftones in support of Wolves. Though the nearest date on that tour will take place in Chula Vista at the Mattress Firm Amphitheatre on July 7, they will be back in Los Angeles shortly after, and will headline the Shrine Expo Hall on July 13.

Sharp/Shock 9 p.m., Rise Against 10 p.m.

Venue: The Troubadour. Los Angeles, Calif.
Rise Against

Give It All
Black Masks and Gasoline
Re-Education (Through Labor)
Welcome To The Breakdown
The Violence
State Of The Union
Fortunate Son (Creedence Clearwater Revival Cover)
Prayer Of The Refugee
Hero Of War (Acoustic)
Blood-Red, White, and Blue

Rise Against Members:
Tim McIlrath (lead Vocals, guitar)
Zach Blair (lead guitar)
Joe Principle (bass)
Brandon Barnes (drums

British Punk’s Prolific Colin Newman: The Band Wire is Not Just Some Heritage Group from The 1970s

The Drill Fest by Wire Packs the Echo


Wire held its Drill Fest at The Echo and Echoplex, and it was a rare opportunity to see some of punk’s originators tell it like it is.

Judging by the attendance at the fest, which ran over three days and included performers like Mikal Cronin, Bob Mould and of course headliner Wire, it’s easy to see punk is very much alive today. Or it’s making a “curated” comeback at the very least.

The Pink Flag Guitar Ensemble – a roaring finale – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Drill Fest is not just Wire playing on tour, founder Colin Newman told

“Drill is curated by the bands,” Colin said. “It’s just another aspect of what the band do.

Colin Newman: 'Being influential is a double-edged sword' - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Colin Newman: ‘Being influential is a double-edged sword’ – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Wire: Not Re-Living The Past

“The importance is it’s partly to us,” Colin said. “One of the things about Wire is we’re not doing the heritage circuit. We’re not trying to relive our past. It’s about us making connections to other artists, not necessarily younger artists, but artists of different genres, with different ways of working and in a way it’s putting ourselves in a situation and saying this is what we are, we’re not just some band from the ’70s living off our past.”

Great musicians curated at Drill - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Great musicians curated at Drill – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Newman On Being ‘Influential’

Wire has been so influential to so many bands, but that’s an interesting conundrum, Colin said in typical fashion.

“It’s a double-edged sword, really,” Colin said.


“Because you don’t like everything that you’ve influenced,” he said. “But everything influences everything else in music. Music is a dialog.”

Musicians and friends - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Musicians and friends – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

That dialog connected this weekend as the crowds at the Echo and Echoplex appreciated the music of many favorites.

Among those who hit the stages were:  Malka Spigel (Minimal Compact), Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips (Luna), Jason Falkner (The Grays, Three O’Clock, Jellyfish), Jessica Lipstate (Noveller), and Jess Labrador, and Shannon Sky Madden (Chasms).

Not just 'Part-Time Punks' The Drill is the real deal - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Not just ‘Part-Time Punks’ The Drill is the real deal – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Other friends and players on hand included Rafe Mandel, Caroline Borolla, Geoffrey Halliday, James Hamblin, Stefan Nelson and Sandy Yang. Wire is Robert Grey, Matthew Simms, Graham Lewis and Colin Newman.



Hammons Review: Sir Rod Stewart Makes A Knight To Remember in Knockout Caesars Palace Performance


The curtain was drawn and anticipation was running high.  At 7:30 P.M. sharp the theme to The Magnificent Seven came roaring out of the public address system.  The curtains then opened to Rod Stewart’s band kicking into the Bar-Kays instrumental “Soul Finger.”

Rod then came prancing out on stage in his new leopard skin jacket to a thunderous round of applause and went right into “Having a Party.”  Now the mood was set for this evening of fun and foolish behavior. Rod didn’t miss a beat and went right into “Some Guys Have All the Luck” and “Young Turks” to make for a very energetic start.

Sir Rod Stewart lit up the crowd at Caesars - Photo by Craig Hammons for California Rocker

Sir Rod Stewart lit up the crowd at Caesars – Photo by Craig Hammons

Rod is doing residency here at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas before heading out on a world tour with Cindy Lauper that starts in the United Kingdom in May.  Rod welcomed the audience and said “We’re going to be here for the next 90 minutes so enjoy yourselves, ladies and gentlemen, it’s later than you think.”

A beautiful blonde sat down behind a very large gold harp and played the opening of “Tonight’s the Night.”  The audience knew this one by heart and sang along to every word.

Rod didn’t slow things down for long as he then paid honor to Chuck Berry who he had just learned had passed away earlier in the day.

Rod Stewart performed the classics at Caesars - Photo by Craig Hammons for California Rocker

Rod Stewart performed the classics at Caesars – Photo by Craig Hammons for California Rocker

“The first album I ever bought was Chuck’s Live at the Tivoli and I was never the same,” Rod said. “He was the founding father and you can hear his influence in every rock n roll band from my generation on.”

A picture of Chuck Berry flashed on the big screen and they went right into a rocking version of “Sweet Little Rock & Roller” with Rod working the stage like the true showman he is.

There was then a nod to Sir Rod’s recent knighthood before going into “Rhythm of My Heart” followed by “Forever Young” in which the crowd was signing so loud Rod gave it to us to sing all alone.   There was a percussion solo in the middle of the song which allowed Rod to slip off stage to make a costume change.

Rod and the band - Photo by Craig Hammons

Rod and the band – Photo by Craig Hammons

In true Rod Stewart fashion, in his band are beautiful and talented female violinists, harpist, mandolin players and three backup singers that keep the party going.  The impressive work from his male guitarist, drummers, bassist and sax player brought an age of freshness to these timeless classics.

Next up was a powerful and uplifting version of Tom Waits “Downtown Train” which, like many other covers he does, Rod made entirely his own.

Rod then decided to have a sit-down and brought the band to the front of the stage for an acoustic set starting with “The First Cut is the Deepest.”  He then asked “How many of you remember the Faces?” and the cheers rang out as they went into the Faces “Oh La La” off the Faces final album in 1973.   While they were are still seated it was time for Rod’s solo classic “You’re in My Heart” and the Van Morrison song “Have I Told You Lately” which Rod covered perfectly on his Unplugged and Seated album.

The three backup singers came back out center stage to shake it up to a rip roaring version of Ike and Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High.”   The band was tight and rolling down the river at full speed while the girls were dancing so hard Tina Turner would be proud.  Rod is a generous frontman who does put the spotlight on the band allowing them solos and the attention they deserve.

The one and only Rod Stewart plays Vegas before world tour - Photo by Craig Hammons

The one and only Rod Stewart plays Vegas before world tour – Photo by Craig Hammons

Rod now back out center stage with a new jacket and fresh pair of trousers played the song everyone grew up with the ever irresistible “Maggie May.”  Everyone was on their feet singing along when Rod decided to take a trip out into the audience.   He worked his way around the back of the orchestra section shaking hands, giving hugs and singing his heart out.   Once he got back on stage the band launched into “Stay With Me” and balloons fell from the ceiling and out came the soccer balls.  Rod at 72 still plays with a local soccer team and showed off his talent kicking some all the way up to the second level.

Sir Rodrick David Stewart played us the hits but saved one of his biggest for last “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy.”

The crowd loves Rod Stewart and he's still got the moves - Photo by Craig Hammons for California Rocker

The crowd loves Rod Stewart and he’s still got the moves – Photo by Craig Hammons for California Rocker


This two time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honoree showed us after over 100 million records sold he still is very relevant and “forever young.”  Tonight was the night and everything was better than alright.  The curtain was closing but the energy still filled the room with the crowd screaming for more.

The curtain came back up and the band wished everyone a good night and went into the Guy Lombardo’s “Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think).”   Rod Stewart gave us a selection of his hits, no American Songbook or new material just the songs we know in our heart by heart.

Pop-Up Art Exhibit by Rocker Billy Morrison and Controversial Plastic Jesus Draws Art, Rock Stars

Music, Hollywood, Fete ‘Anesthesia: The Art of Oblivion’

Photos and Story By MARCY KRAFT

“Anesthesia: The Art of Oblivion,” a pop-up gallery collaboration between rocker Billy Morrison and street artist Plastic Jesus brought rockers to Gibson Brands Sunset on Friday night for an opening reception.

The two artists have been fans of each other’s work for some time and “Anesthesia: The Art of Oblivion” is their first public collaboration.

Billy Morrison with Billy Idol and Plastic Jesus - Photo © 2017 Marcy Kraft

Billy Morrison with Billy Idol and Plastic Jesus – Photo © 2017 Marcy Kraft

Exhibit is ‘Everything we Hang Onto’

“Anesthesia: The Art of Oblivion” is described as “everything we hang onto in society to make us oblivious of our own plight and our own situation in life, such as idols, drugs … anything we pick up in culture.”

The artists were on hand to greet guests Friday night and Saturday.

"EXTINCTION" - 48" x 36" Acrylic on Canvas by Billy Morrison

“EXTINCTION” – 48″ x 36″ Acrylic on Canvas by Billy Morrison – Courtesy Billy Morrison

Billy Morrison: Rocker-Turned-Artist

Billy, who is best known as the guitarist for Billy Idol, is a long-time art collector and began creating his own artwork a few years back. His work was also shown last year at the Mouche Gallery in Beverly Hills, and I enjoyed that work immensely, so I was eager to see his new pieces.

“Creating the art was the easy part,” Billy said.

Billy’s solo pieces for this exhibit were months in the making and there’s a joy in finally seeing them on display. The challenge, Billy shared, comes from watching 500 of your closest friends come to critique the work as a part of the process.

Guitar installation on display - Photo © 2017 Marcy Kraft

Guitar installation on display – Photo © 2017 Marcy Kraft

Star-Studded Reception Included Ozzy Osbourne

Judging by the pieces displayed, I doubt Billy will receive any negative input on his work. His art is a fun and provocative collection that the crowd at the opening appeared to enjoy. In attendance were celebrity friends Billy Idol, Ozzy Ozbourne, Carmine Rojas (from David Bowie), Fred Durst (from Limp Bizkit), Steve Jones (from the Sex Pistols), Brandon Boyd (from Incubus), Rob Zombie, Shepard Fairey, and new recording artist Steve Costello.

"EQUALITY" - 48" x 36" - Acrylic on Canvas.

“EQUALITY” – 48″ x 36″ – Acrylic on Canvas by Billy Morrison – Courtesy Billy Morrison

The Art-Crowd ‘Look?’

Billy told a newspaper recently: “Ultimately, I want people to walk away feeling like they were entitled to be there. My personal art collection is pretty substantial, and I’ve spent a lot of money on a lot of iconic pieces, and yet when I walk into some galleries I’m treated like a homeless guy because of the way I look, because I don’t fall into the art-crowd look.”

Most people I spoke said he looked like the rocker-artist that he’s known to be.

Billy Morrison in Camp Freddie with Dave Navarro, Chris Chaney and Matt Sorum - Photo by Cyril Rickelton-Abdi

File photo of Billy Morrison in Camp Freddie with Dave Navarro, Chris Chaney and Matt Sorum – Photo by Cyril Rickelton-Abdi

Plastic Jesus in Attendance

Plastic Jesus showcased a 12-piece mixture of his new and known works while Morrison created 12 new mixed-media paintings specifically for this showing.

Plastic Jesus is know around LA for having erected the 6-inch wall around Donald Trump’s star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame and erecting the life-size gold statue of Kanye West entitled “False Idol” that stood near the site of the Oscar Awards on Hollywood Blvd. This statue was also on display at the showing.

A full collection of Morrison’s work can be found at Billy Morrison’s website. 

To purchase a piece from this collection, email for more information.

Ryan Adams Waxes Romantic on ‘Prisoner,’ Announces Tour Dates, and Performs LA Shows

In-Store Appearance at Amoeba Records Packs Aisles


Ryan Adams has created a great new record with Prisoner and it’s appropriate that he hit the stage at Amoeba Records, the iconic bastion of vinyl and discs on Hollywood Boulevard.

Ryan Adams emerged all cloaked up at one of his recent appearances, at Amoeba Records - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Ryan Adams emerged all cloaked up at one of his recent appearances, at Amoeba Records – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

The new album is a beautiful work from a local guy who people clearly adore, judging by the hundreds of fans who bought up the new recording and came to get a glimpse on Wednesday evening. He hit the local and national circuit, performing at KCRW, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Amoeba Records, and The Late Late Show with James Corden.

Ryan Adams’ Pop Influences

‘Prisoner’ is an appealing collection from the musician-producer-performer, whose work has come to be known as nearly flawless, if not unusual, throughout his career.  While Taylor Swift writes great, catchy music, Adams’ take on Taylor was too much. So it’s with a great amount of relief that Prisoner was all original and his favorite musical influences — like Bruce Springsteen — are emulated and not covered.

The new Ryan Adams album, 'Prisoner,' honors some of the great songwriters - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

The new Ryan Adams album, ‘Prisoner,’ honors some of the great songwriters – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

“To Be Without You” has the feel of a country road, riding in a pickup with Neil Young. It’s reminiscent of the days gone by and better times with the one you love.

'Prisoner' is Ryan Adams' latest, good listen - Photo courtesy of PAX AM

‘Prisoner’ is Ryan Adams’ latest, good listen – Photo courtesy of PAX AM

Springsteen’s influence can clearly be heard on “Shiver and Shake,” down to not only the tone but the song’s structure. It’s loneliness pure and raw.

The album’s title single, “Prisoner,” is our personal favorite, but from a pop culture point of view “Do You Still Love Me?” has resilience and an upbeat tone even though it probably concerns his recent divorce from Mandy Moore.

This collection is a little different.  The songs come from a more “mature” Adams, who has been around the horn, so to speak, when it comes to relationships, family and friends.



Amoeba Records filled with Ryan Adams fans - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Amoeba Records filled with Ryan Adams fans – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia


Ryan Adams at Amoeba - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Ryan Adams at Amoeba – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia


Ryan Adams Tour Dates

March 5, 6 – Richmond, VA @ The National
March 8 – Columbia, SC @ Township Auditorium
March 9 – Charleston, SC @ North Charleston Performing Arts Center
March 10 – Fort Lauderdale, FL @ The Parker Playhouse
March 12 – Tampa, FL @ Gasparilla Music Festival
March 14 – New Orleans, LA @ Orpheum Theater
May 3 – New York, NY @ Beacon Theatre
May 7 – Portland, ME @ State Theatre
May 9 – Toronto, ON @ Massey Hall
May 10 – Boston, MA @ Blue Hills Bank Pavilion
May 12 – Columbia, MD @ Merriweather Post Pavilion
May 14 – Atlanta, GA @ Shaky Knees Music Festival
June 1 – Santa Barbara, CA @ The Granada Theatre
June 2 – Berkeley, CA @ Greek Theatre
June 3 – Los Angeles, CA @ Greek Theatre
June 18 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Eccles Theater
June 20 – Morrison, CO @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre
June 22 – Calgary, AB @ Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium
June 23 – Edmonton, AB @ Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium
June 25 – Victoria, BC @ Alix Goolden Hall
June 27 – Vancouver, BC @ Orpheum
June 28 – Seattle, WA @ Paramount Theatre
June 29 – Troutdale, OR @ Edgefield
July 29 – St. Paul, MN @ Palace Theatre
July 30 – Milwaukee, WI @ Riverside Theatre
August 1 – St. Louis, MO @ The Pageant
August 4 – St. Charles, IA @ Hinterland Festival

Ryan Adams at Amoeba - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Ryan Adams at Amoeba – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Cheetah Chrome Snarls His Way Through SoCal Swing at Whisky A Go-Go and Alex’s Bar in Long Beach

Cheetah Band Brings Life to Dead Boys Songs, New Tunes


Cheetah Chrome and his band got the crowd going at the Whisky A Go-Go and they’ll probably light up Alex’s Bar in Long Beach in much the same manner.

Cheetah, known as one of the original Dead Boys is single-handedly keeping punk alive with his cool demeanor and enthusiastic interaction with the fans.

Frontman Jake gets air during Whisky show - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Frontman Jake gets air during Whisky show – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Let’s face it, Cheetah’s no stranger to change, as he has played in a few extremely well-known punk groups and has introduced a cast of characters to his audiences time and again.

This time, enter via flying leap, Jake from the Undead Boys who took over fronting duties on Cheetah’s current tour.   The frontman really knows how to grab and hold the attention of the crowd who ate up his every move.

Cheetah and his undead band swing through SoCal - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Cheetah and his undead band swing through SoCal – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

It was hard to hold on to your spot on the floor as moshers took over the Whisky, colliding with everything and everyone in sight.

But Cheetah takes it all in stride and played a range of favorites and a couple of new tunes as well.  After all, this is a guy who was one of the original punks, and still today snarls his way through sets to the delight of the fans.

The band - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

The band – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

On hand for this gig were some great friends of Cheetah, including Evita, Heather and Bruce Duff and his wife.  And we can’t forget to mention James Ames, his trusty roadie, who has a talent when it comes to creating cool punk clothes, all with the theme of each tour.





Review: Billy Harvey Blends Legacy and Modern Sounds With His Latest Album, ‘Elephants In The Room’


Billy Harvey is learning how to grow up.  And that’s reflected in his new album, Elephants In The Room, in which he blends the sounds of his youth with the sounds that are popular today.  The result is a collection that appeals to a broad range of music lovers.

“With this record it’s hard for me to not have a lot of myself in each song and I think most people write that way,” Harvey said. “Even if you’re writing about someone else it’s filtered through you.”

And it’s clear there are a lot of people and adventures from his past included in Elephants In The Room. Harvey is a veteran songwriter and his guitar work is sought out by a range of musicians. At the moment, he’s working with the band The Reluctant Apostles, which is on the verge of releasing their self-titled debut album.

Billy Harvey mixing vintage with modern in Elephants In The Room - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Billy Harvey mixing vintage with modern in Elephants In The Room – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Elephants In The Room is an upbeat and personal album. It shows an emotional and musical diversity that goes from slow and steady to danceable and up-tempo.  Our personal favorite is the No. 1 track on the album, called “Night Light,” which has a revolutionary march-style beat that starts off simply and evolves into a building crescendo and credo.  It’s a song of revelation and joy. Hey, not everything we learn can be good news but sometimes it’s better we find out sooner rather than later.

And that’s something Billy knows.  He’s traveled around a lot and he’s made a lot of long-term — and short-term — pals along the way.

“This album is personal but from a view from across the dance floor,” he said. “I want the songs to be more about the listener than me. Consequently the record is more upbeat and danceable, groovier than records in the past.”

Elephants In The Room will be released Feb. 24.

Harvey has paid his dues. He’s lived in New York and L.A. and recently relocated to Nashville, the home of many music industry heavyweights.

“Nashville makes total sense,” Harvey said. “When we mention Nashville it seems like it’s a gold rush. For my skill set, I know how to write songs and I can do co-writes and I plan on doing co-writes with people and playing around town.”

Harvey said he writes music like he lives his life.

“I have to listen to my inner guide,” he said. “Like when the guide told me to move back to LA from Austin.  If I didn’t move to LA, I wouldn’t have my daughter. When I moved to LA, I met my friends.”

Harvey says musicians today have to think beyond record albums and performing to make money.

“The only way to earn money is to have a song in a movie or on TV or commercial,” he said. “Having a great recording with a great vocal recording is a plus.”

Overall, Elephants In The Room, is an interesting blend of new and vintage. Harvey’s voice is similar in style to Rufus Wainwright but also reining in the soulfulness of the late Rick Danko.  And the music, complete with fuzzy guitar and electric effects, sounds like what it would be like to mix today’s Car Seat Headrest and their modern storytelling approach with that of legacy artist James Taylor.

Harvey’s “Emptiness is Everything” is almost a joyous celebration of more carefree days, in Harvey’s case, those days seem to be the 1980s. “Haunted Heart” slows the pace down to almost a blues style, and tells of survival and growing up.  But the song is not as haunting as “HWY 9,” a beautiful memory of a journey far away.  The upbeat pace returns with “When I Say Go,” which uses some pretty cool midi-type sounds set against a backdrop of traditional rock and Harvey’s earnest vocals. Harvey’s youthful voice sounds like a perpetual teenager; hopeful and reflective, and leaves us, like the singer, yearning for those days he so clearly enjoyed.

The record stacks up against Dear Danger, Harvey’s most autobiographical album.

Billy Harvey (R) with his band The Reluctant Apostles - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Billy Harvey (R) with his band The Reluctant Apostles – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Harvey’s production technique also echoes the themes of Elephants In The Room, mainly interweaving the old with the new and adapting to the resulting changes.  Harvey’s reluctant to part with some old school recording tools — he’s been putting his music on tape. It captures a certain sound he’s looking for.

“Mixing to tape is an inexpensive way to get what they like about the sound of tape onto the record,” Harvey said. “Tape mashes everything together and it gives that mysterious thing that records have.”

Harvey keeps moving. He keeps playing music, but those seem to be the only things about this talented musician that remain a constant.  And while it can be difficult to transition, maybe in some way, Harvey is coming to terms with introducing new lessons to the old routine.

“There are so many levels of chaos that make music interesting,” he said.  “And I’m always looking for a little bit of that.”

Elephants In The Room

Night Light
Be Kind Rewind
Dirty World
El Centro
Emptiness is Everything
Well Wishes Back
Haunted Heart
When I Say Go
Grown Ups

‘Sons Of Anarchy’ Music Spins Off New Album: The Reluctant Apostles Record Nears its PledgeMusic Goal

Katey Sagal Band Holds Successful PledgeMusic Campaign


The tough Sons of Anarchy spinoff band, The Reluctant Apostles, has put together a heartwarming debut record that has reached 75 percent of its PledgeMusic goal.


The Reluctant Apostles: Phil Shenale, Bob Thiele, Katey Sagal, Dave Faragher and Billy Harvey – Photo 2017 Donna Balancia

The Reluctant Apostles are Bob Thiele and with Davey Faragher on bass, Phil Shenale on keyboards, Billy Harvey on guitar, Michael Urbano on drums and Katey Sagal up front. The band is bringing audiences together all over Southern California.

The music can be described as Americana with an edge, as the band rips through some great classics and adds a modern twist. The guitar work, drums, keyboards and bass all work together, the harmonies are amazing and Katey’s voice is out of this world.

The Reluctant Apostles recently played sold out gigs at Don The Beachcomber and at their regular spot Molly Malone’s. See our continuous exclusive coverage of one of the best bands in LA here.

“We came all the way from Indiana to see them,” said Barbara Renfro who brought her whole family to a recent gig. “We love Katey and the band.”

Check out The Reluctant Apostles PLEDGEMUSIC campaign here.


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The Reluctant Apostles play a mix of famous as well as infamous covers and it’s done with style – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

The talented musicians have a history of dozens of collaborations, hundreds of albums and thousands of concerts together.

The musicians trace their roots back to Sons of Anarchy band The Forest Rangers. They began recording covers and original songs for the hit series not fully realizing it was the start of something special.

Katey Sagal: Beautiful, talented and makes a fun frontwoman - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Katey Sagal: Beautiful, talented and makes a fun frontwoman – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

The Reluctant Apostles Perform

The Reluctant Apostles have a good time performing. Their music is upbeat and fun and the covers they perform include “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” “The Candyman,” by The Grateful Dead, “My Love Is Getting Stronger,” and their new one, “Never Ending Love for You.”

With The Reluctant Apostles show you not only get great music, but a lot of conversation that runs the gamut with a lot of joking around thrown in. It’s a good time with talented musicians having fun.

See the YouTube Channel for more of The Reluctant Apostles.

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The Reluctant Apostles play a gig at Molly Malone’s on Fairfax – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Talent Times Ten

It’s an impressive group. Faragher plays with Elvis Costello and Richard Thompson; Shenale works with Tori Amos and Jane’s Addiction; Harvey works with Patty Griffin and Charlie Mars, Michael Urbano has graced the stages abroad and in the U.S. with Cracker and Smash Mouth, and Thiele has worked with Bonnie Raitt and Mavis and Pop Staples. Katey has been singing all her life, with a range of musicians ranging from family members to superstars and she has built an incredible acting career.

Dave Way is the producer of The Reluctant Apostles debut album.

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 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 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 Review of Dick Dale at the Whisky A Go-Go


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

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

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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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. Review of Sad Lovers and Giants at the Echoplex


The Who - Photo courtesy of Desert Trip for

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 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 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 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 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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! 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. Review of Smash Mouth, Paper and Strange Case

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

Review: Holidays Heat Up As Nick Waterhouse, Sad Girl and Cutty Flam Band Rock The Regent Theater

Nick Waterhouse and his Tarots: "The cards don't lie" - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Nick Waterhouse and his Tarots: “The cards don’t lie” – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia


Nick Waterhouse is a terrific showman and always puts together a night of interesting acts.  This time in Los Angeles at The Regent Theater during his tour for the new album Never Twice, was no different. Nick headlined and the stylish bands Cutty Flam and Sad Girl opened.

Happy not sad: Misha puts a maniacal twist on some very cool music - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Happy not sad: Misha puts a maniacal twist on some very cool music – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Sad Girl

Despite the name, Sad Girl was not a bunch of girls crying but instead a trio of surf-style musicians who have a lot of fun on stage.  Comprised of facial-contortionist frontman Misha, Dakota on bass and Paul on drums, these guys hold the promise of a warm SoCal day even in the dead of winter.

Misha of Sad Girl has the crowd at The Regent Theater enthralled - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Misha of Sad Girl has the crowd at The Regent Theater enthralled – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Not Sad, Happy

Sad Girl makes us happy. We’re fans of the tunes “Little Queenie,” “The Hand That Did the Deed,” and “Love Storm” in particular. Sad Girl’s music makes us feel like we’re enjoying a double feature of a 1950s western, followed with a romantic but nonsensical surf movie.  Misha’s chiseled features initially lead one to believe there’s a movie star quality about him, but any thoughts of that disappear when you see his puppet-like, maniacal expressions as he plays his fuzzy guitar riffs.

Bang Bangs of Cutty Flam Band is the hottest drummer around, prom dress and all - Photo © Donna Balancia

Bang Bangs of Cutty Flam Band is the hottest drummer around, prom dress and all – Photo © Donna Balancia

Cutty Flam

Cutty Flam a rock and roll-inspired band, impressed on several levels. They’ve got a gal on the skins named Bang Bangs who is extremely accomplished despite the foofy bad prom-date dress. Bang Bangs is worth the price of admission on this night. Cutty Flam bassist Chewy Lewy is stylin’ with his rockin bass lines, cool suit and slicked back hair. Frontman Cutty is a big guy who’s got the moves like Elvis. He really interacts with the audience and the crowd enjoyed the band’s ’50s-style sound.

Cutty Flam rocks the house at The Regent Theater - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Cutty Flam rocks the house at The Regent Theater – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Nick Waterhouse and His Tarots

Nick Waterhouse and his Tarots present their big band sound in a similar vein. “The Cards Don’t Lie” proclaims the banner hung behind the band during the night. This is absolutely true.  Nick Waterhouse and his Tarots are true blue rock and roll. The music is upbeat but some of it, like “The Old Place,” is tinged with remorse over the changes for the worse that modern society brings.

Nick Waterhouse and his Tarots pack The Regent Theater in Downtown LA - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Nick Waterhouse and his Tarots pack The Regent Theater in Downtown LA – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Thinking Man’s Musician

As we have written before, Nick Waterhouse is the thinking man’s musician.  He produces, he writes and he performs his blues-influenced music to an audience that goes absolutely nuts for him. In the Regent Theater‘s bar — which boasts some of the best whiskey in all of Los Angeles — we were treated to some vinyl-spinning that included Waterhouse-prouduced records by The Allah-Las.

Nick Waterhouse and his Tarots: Fine musicians - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Nick Waterhouse and his Tarots: Fine musicians – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Never Twice

The new Nick Waterhouse album, Never Twice, was on the front burner on this particular night, but everyone in the crowded house knows the words to mostly every song Nick plays anyway.  Favorites of the night were the haunting “Stanyan Street,” “It’s Time,” and the kooky “Katchi,” which always gets a smile out of the various bandmembers and audience alike.

nick waterhouse donna balancia california rocker

Nick Waterhouse and his Tarots: SoCal’s finest musicians play the big band blues sound – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia


1. It’s Time, 2. I Had Some, 3. Dead Room, 4. Holly, 5. I Can Only Give, 6. Straight Love, 7. High Tiding, 8. Stanyan Street, 9. Sleeping Pills, 10. Voodoo, 11. Tracy 12. Old Place, 13. L.A. Turnaround, 14. Katchi, 15. Is That Clear? 16. Indian Love Call, 17. Trouble, 18. Say I Wanna Know, 19. Some Place, 20. Game, 21. Time’s All Gone, 22. Pushin Too Hard, 23. Don’t You Forget

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

Good Musical Blends

Nick, who produces all sorts of bands, has good taste. Last time in LA his openers were Pearl Charles and Paul Bergmann, who each brought their own cool style.  Charles has been getting some air time on Los Angeles stations. Nick is going on tour in Japan and returns next year.  Nick Waterhouse and his Tarots are worth checking out “live and in person,” where he and his big band shine.

Nick Waterhouse: Performer, producer and writer - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Nick Waterhouse: Performer, producer and writer – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia


Eagles of Death Metal Rock, Josh Homme Goes Solo, at Teragram Ballroom Fundraiser for Dave Rosser

Josh Homme premiered a song or two and covered others in acoustic set - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Josh Homme premiered a song or two and covered others in acoustic set – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Gutter Twins and Pals Play for a Cause


Eagles of Death Metal, The Gutter Twins, Josh Homme and more top musicians donated their time for Afghan Whigs guitarist Dave Rosser.  Rosser has stage 4 colon cancer.

The Gutter Twins opened with Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan and were joined by musicians including Duff McKagan and Petra Haden.

Greg expressed his concern over Rosser’s condition and thanked the audience for participating in the evening. Many of the audience members paid for VIP tickets and the money goes to the care Rosser and expenses he’s incurring from what doctors say is inoperable cancer.

The Gutter Twins and friends took the stage - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Gutter Twins and friends took the stage – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Gutter Twins

To call The Gutter Twins alternative is like calling Beethoven a piano player. The band had its faithful in the audience who sang along to most of the tunes in the set, including “Belles,” “God’s Children,” “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory,” and Twilight Singers cover “Number Nine.”

The voices and guitar work by the remarkable musicians were intertwined to present a collaborative effort that appeared long-rehearsed.  The end result was obviously made with love and respect for Rosser.

Eagles of Death Metal – “Save A Prayer” LIVE from Teragram Ballroom LA here:

Jesse Hughes of Eagles of Death Metal - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Jesse Hughes of Eagles of Death Metal – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Headliner Eagles of Death Metal put on an excellent and appropriately raucous show that covered the bases. The set didn’t kick off until 11 p.m. and two set lists later.  Jesse wore a white suit with trademark suspenders and was his usual friendly self, greeting audience members with handshakes and blowing kisses.

Josh Homme and Matt Sweeney - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Josh Homme and Matt Sweeney – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Josh Homme

The star of the night was Josh Homme who did a acoustic set and was later joined by Matt Sweeney.  He was relentless with the kid in the pit right in front of him, named Diego.  And try as he may have he could not censor his language and that was a source of many jokes. He played “Villains of Circumstance,” and with Matt performed Cab Calloway’s “Minnie The Moocher,” and Johnny Cash mining song “Dark as a Dungeon.” One of the highlights of the set was “Spinning in the Daffodils.”

The Eagles of Death Metal came on a 11 p.m. and put on a crowd pleaser - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Eagles of Death Metal came on a 11 p.m. and put on a crowd pleaser – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

And Josh swigged from a bottle and joked during the night but said Rosser’s affliction was a sad matter and he appreciated the audience coming to celebrate his friend.

To contribute to the Dave Rosser GoFundMe page go here.

The GoFundMe page reads:

“Every once in a while a human being comes along that transcends everything: life, art, friendship, wit, music and love. They are among the true ‘one of a kinds.’ Dave Rosser belongs to that category.  A New Orleanian for nearly 25 years, he is widely considered to be a true virtuoso guitar player by some of the most influential artists in the industry.

Jesse Hughes, AKA Boots Electric of Eagles of Death Metal - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Jesse Hughes, AKA Boots Electric of Eagles of Death Metal – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

“He has toured the globe extensively with The Afghan Whigs, Twilight Singers, Mark Lanegan and Marc Broussard.  He’s worked on projects with Ani Difranco, Joseph Arthur and a list of who’s who in music.  He’s played with local bands too numerous to mention.  A working man’s musician.  If that wasn’t impressive on its own, he is also one of sweetest human beings on the planet.  His sense of humor and generosity rival his musical prowess.”



“Save A Prayer” VIDEO

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”62″ gal_title=”Eagles of Death Metal at Teragram Ballroom”]

John Lennon Tribute, Featuring ‘The Lennon Report’ Film and Beatles Music, Draws Rock Royalty

Night at Roosevelt ER Detailed in ‘The Lennon Report’

Karen Tsen Lee, who portrayed Yoko Ono in 'The Lennon Report' with Brooke Halpin and director Jeremy Profe - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Karen Tsen Lee, who portrayed Yoko Ono in ‘The Lennon Report’ with Brooke Halpin and director Jeremy Profe – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Albert Lee with wife, Karen - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Albert Lee with wife, Karen – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia


For John Lennon fans —  and for the rest of the world as well — Dec. 8 will always be a day of mourning.  That’s the day the Beatles founder was murdered, back in 1980.

The film, The Lennon Report, tells a story from the point of view of those who were closest to him on that day.

The Lennon Report was presented by Beatles expert Brooke Halpin at the Crest Westwood at a screening that was attended by celebs and rock royalty, all of whom had fond recollections of Lennon.

If you were around on that December day in 1980, you can probably remember where you were when the news of Lennon’s death hit the airwaves. It happened in New York City when the musician known for peace and love met a violent end to what could only be considered a dream life.

John Lennon and The Hospital Staff

John Lennon’s music and life impacted just about everyone. But few were impacted more than those in the emergency room at Roosevelt Hospital where the medical team tried with all their might to keep the legend alive.  And director Jeremy Prufe puts us right into the room with the nurses and doctors, blood and all.

That night is documented in gritty detail by writers Prufe and Walter Vincent in the period film The Lennon Report.

Walter Vincent as Alan Weiss and David Zayas as officer Joseph Medina - Photo courtesy of 'The Lennon Report'

Walter Vincent as Alan Weiss and David Zayas as officer Joseph Medina – Photo courtesy of ‘The Lennon Report’

The movie is an eye-opener, revealing facts that we may have let slip through the cracks as time has passed and the shock of the crime has settled.

For instance, the movie points out that the ambulance took so long to get to Lennon as he lay dying on the ground at The Dakota that officers called to the scene had to take him to the hospital in their squad car.

The story centers on an Eyewitness News producer, Alan Weiss, (Vincent) who happened to end up in the ER at the same time Lennon was there.

Weiss knew he had the biggest story of his life and he had to brave a busted hip — the result of a motorcycle accident that very same night — to get the story in to his news desk and make it to broadcast first.

He also had to get past the nurses Barbara Kammerer (Stef Dawson) and Deartra Sato (Ashlie Atkinson) and officer Joseph Medina (David Zayas) to call in his devastating information to the ABC Eyewitness News desk.

It didn’t seem to be an ethical dilemma to tell the world it was John Lennon in the room adjacent to the hallway where Weiss was lying on a gurney — after all these were the days before HIPA laws. Weiss overhears John Lennon’s name being mentioned and thus discovers he’s in the same ER as the famous Beatle.

True Reporting With ‘The Lennon Report’

Karen Lee as Yoko Ono - Photo courtesy of 'The Lennon Report'

Karen Lee as Yoko Ono – Photo courtesy of ‘The Lennon Report’

The film moves at a fast pace through basically two rooms in the hospital.  And it is painstakingly reassembled almost 40 years since his death.  There are some facts that are revealed that we never knew and some liberties taken with other facts, but mainly The Lennon Report is a solid first attempt by an independent filmmaker who’s passionate about a subject.  Vincent does a nice job in his portrayal of the tenacious Eyewitness News producer, and he co-wrote the strong script.

The Lennon Report is a narrative but it could have easily been a documentary, although that would not have done the amount of information justice. And if you’re expecting any backstory in the picture, forget it.  We don’t know too much about any of the characters except that the nurses are friends. We know nothing about the shooter and the audience doesn’t get a good look at the victim.  All actors evoked the emotion each was supposed to bring and the ensemble works well. Particularly great was Karen Tsen Lee as Yoko Ono.

Howard Cosell Told It Like It Was

'The Lennon Report' one sheet - Photo courtesy of 'The Lennon Report'

‘The Lennon Report’ one sheet – Photo courtesy of ‘The Lennon Report’

Actor Rick Crom showed the conflict in sports broadcaster Howard Cosell, who was given the duty of announcing the tragedy during a tie-score Miami Dolphins-New England Patriots Monday Night Football game. We have a soft spot for Cosell, mainly because after a disagreement we had over running back Alvin Garrett, he included this upstart United Press International reporter in his book, I Never Played The Game. The guy had a lot of heart regardless of what you thought of his style.

During the Q and A, director Profe said he didn’t want the famous figures to steal the spotlight.

He wanted the focus on the hospital personnel, and how with the journalist there as well, they endured a night of unforgettable emotional and physical trauma.

It’s not easy to let go of your icons and this film points that out with pinpoint accuracy.  It’s never been told until recently about the true story of the ER that night and it probably will never be. Profe said his interviewing and the research gets the result to about as close as it will ever come given it’s 37 years later and his work is based on human memory. It’s clear these people who were so close to John Lennon at his death would be haunted by this one night forever.

Revelations: John Lennon’s True Surgeon

The Reel Players with Brooke Halpin - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Reel Players with Brooke Halpin – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

It only came out recently and likely as a result of the research by the filmmakers, that Dr. David Hallaren (Evan Jonigkeit) is the surgeon who actually worked on Lennon.  Dr. Stephan Lynn said for years publicly that he was the surgeon responsible.  It was a no-win situation for the hospital and those operating on Lennon, as he was classified dead on arrival, try as they did to keep him alive.

Following the screening a question-and-answer period with the director Profe and the actress who portrayed Yoko Ono, Karen Lee, followed.

The topic of not allowing guns to get into the hands of people who have a proven mental problem arose, and it sparked a major discussion among audience members including attendee Spencer Davis, founder of The Spencer Davis Group.

“I have a one-word question to ask,” said the impassioned Davis. “That question is, ‘Why?’ Simply ‘Why?‘”

The great Albert Lee also made an appearance, accompanied by his beautiful wife, Karen.

Playing a few Beatles songs after the show were Lenn Johnston, a Lennon impersonator and the evening was hosted by Brooke Halpin, the Beatles expert, who also graced the audience with a performance of Beatles songs as well.

Mike Campbell and The Dirty Knobs Get The Canyon Club Crowd to Their Dancing Feet

Originals and Covers by ‘Under The Radar’ Band Delight Fans

Mike Campbell - Photo © 2016 Heather Harris

Mike Campbell – Photo © 2016 Heather Harris


Mike Campbell and his band The Dirty Knobs have vast riches: Their fans are more precious than gold.

“We love Mike, we have been following him for years,” said Cheryl Marino and her husband Bill Drews. “We see him when he plays in Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, we’ve seen Mudcrutch and we love The Dirty Knobs. We’re true ‘Knob Heads.'”

The Dirty Knobs band may be a “side” project for Campbell with his band mates Jason Sinay, Matt Laug on drums and Lance Morrison on bass, but it’s front and center to the audience.

“This band is under the radar but we have a very solid group of fans,” Campbell told

“It’s a small group but they’re extremely devoted.”

Campbell and Sinay


Jason Sinay – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Campbell is a prolific songwriter whose work has been performed and recorded by everyone from The Eagles to Stevie Nicks not to mention his own Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. In addition, he’s performed with or produced more artists than most people can name. Check out his work at

Sinay, known as Ape, is no slouch as he has been establishing himself as a working musician over the years.

We recently came across his solo LP on which he has an assortment of impressive originals and covers.

Dirty Knobs Keep it Fresh

Cheryl Marino and Bill Drews are self-confessed 'Knob Heads' - Photo by Donna Balancia

Cheryl Marino and Bill Drews are self-confessed ‘Knob Heads’ – Photo by Donna Balancia

The Dirty Knobs like to change it up. When we saw them at The Echo a year ago it was a different crowd than it was at the Canyon Club and the set list showed that. The Canyon show wrapped with Jimi Hendrix, which was “off the set list,” as Mike said. But other tunes included “Easy Wind,” by the Grateful Dead,” and even “Hippy Hippy Shake.”

The Dirty Knobs haven’t recorded an EP and it doesn’t look likely in the near future, but if they did it would likely be in their casual style.

Opener Marc Ford, taking a page out of Campbell’s book, sported a felt fedora and had the audience on its feet with a strong performance.

The Dirty Knobs play on Dec. 11 at The Rose in Pasadena.

Mike Campbell with the fans - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Mike Campbell with the fans – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Smart Pills ‘Lost Studio Recordings’ Are Appropriate Discovery for Today, EP on Sale Dec. 2

Smart Pills Founder Vince Conrad Says Re-Release of Punk Recordings a Labor of Love


The Smart Pills in 1979 – Photo courtesy of Vince Conrad


If you never got a chance to get a copy of any of The Smart Pills songs back in the 1970s, you’re getting a reprieve.

On Dec. 2, Vince Conrad Productions will release The Smart Pills – Lost Studio Recordings EP 1979, a four-song collection of the only studio recordings ever made by the Smart Pills, back in 1979.

The Smart Pills band, comprised of Git Smart, Vince Conrad and drummer Billy Ray, takes on government corruption, relationship screw-ups and life in the punk world they enjoyed back in New York and LA in the day.  It holds up well today.

“By 1979 punk rock and disco were competing forces in music and lifestyle,” Conrad said. “Mainstream radio and big record labels supported and promoted disco, as opposed to punk rock which was still very much the counter culture and not widely accepted. Both were by this time well established as music genres, but disco was far more lucrative for record companies and palatable by mainstream America.”

The Smart Pills: Brash Style Punk Rock


No subject too tough for The Smart Pills – Photo courtesy Vince Conrad

The music is tight, in-your-face, brash punk. The Smart Pills challenge politicians, corporate jerks and even their own girlfriends on The Smart Pills Lost Studio Recordings EP 1979. With titles like “Brainwashed,” “Person To Avoid,” and “Yankee Doodle Boy,” the ideology still rings through.

“Jimmy Carter was president and oddly enough, there was a general political feeling much like today prior to the election,” Conrad said.

“The hostages were still being held in Iran, with one failed rescue attempt by the US,” he said.  “There were high gas prices and high interest rates, with a declining middle class.  Factories had already started moving to Japan and Ronald Regan would be elected President in 1980.”

Formed in New York in 1978, The Smart Pills were one of the early first generation punk bands.  The Smart Pills relocated to Hollywood in 1979 and performed in LA’s punk rock scene.  While gaining the interest of two record companies, the Smart Pills were never signed to a record label.  But The Smart Pills wrote more than 16 original songs, which they played live in New York, Los Angeles and even the Midwest throughout 1978 and 1979.

The Break-Up of The Smart Pills

The Smart Pills in the old days - Photo courtesy of Vince Conrad for

The Smart Pills in the old days – Photo courtesy of Vince Conrad

Git Smart broke up The Smart Pills after he accepted an offer from staff writers at Warner Bros. to embark on a solo career. Conrad started American Bad Taste in Los Angeles after the breakup. The Smart Pills continued to work on projects over the years.

But the original half-inch 8-track master Smart Pills reel-to-reel had been long forgotten, buried deep in Git Smart’s storage unit.  The Smart Pills were pursued by a record label for a deal that eventually fell through and Conrad cleaned up the tracks himself, preparing for the Dec. 2 release.

“It’s been a great experience revisiting this music and the work to get the tracks out there has been a labor of love,” Conrad said.

Conrad has been making up for lost time. The Smart Pills Lost Studio Recordings is the fifth CD release from Vince Conrad Productions  The Smart Pills Lost Studio Recordings is not the only collection that has been retrieved from the depths.

Earlier this year Vince Conrad Productions released a double live CD of rare performances in the midwest by the Smart Pills. The Smart Pills Lost Studio Recordings EP has never been previously released and was not discovered until earlier this year.

“I went on with my life, had a family and then one day when I was moving, I found this box with all the masters that I completely forgot about,” Conrad said. “I played the music and I thought it held up pretty well and was probably more appropriate today than ever.”

Are You ‘Brainwashed’ Today?


Tough looking guys putting out killer music – Photo courtesy Vince Conrad

“Brainwash,” is one of the tunes on the album. It deals with how the media controls the beliefs of the country.

Does Conrad think the people are still brainwashed by the media today?

“People are brainwashed today more than ever,” Conrad said. “No one reads books, journals or other publications any more for information.  Most of the general public seem to get the majority of their information from TV.

“That’s why the first thing governments have done for a long time now is grab control of the media,” Conrad said.  “We saw a lot of that recently in the current election.  You tell me, where did people get their information and why did they vote as they did?”

Vince Conrad formed Vince Conrad Productions in late 2015. The label has released The Aliens NYC, by The Aliens, an early punk rock band performing exclusively in New York’s Max’s Kansas City, CBGBs, Club 82 and other venues during 1976.

The fantastic find was just the tip of the iceberg as the basement discovery yielded more recordings. Conrad started a label and released some of the live recordings, including The Smart Pills double live CD, recorded in early 1979 and songs by another punk band, American Bad Taste, which recorded and performed in Los Angeles and the Midwest until 1981.

More Songs, More Bands on VCP Label


Git Smart and Vince Conrad: Faces have changed, music’s the same – Photo courtesy Git Smart

Conrad also released The Vince Conrad EP, a collection of six songs written from 1980 to 1984, which were performed live in various punk bands, but never recorded until 2015.  The CDs are available for purchase as downloads or CDs exclusively through the VCP website,

Conrad said the music business is different than it was in the old days but if you have enough drive you can not only succeed, but can extend the reach of your music beyond local radio stations.

“True there are a lot fewer record deals being offered to people today,” Conrad said. “But the web has opened up a lot of opportunities for musicians. I have listeners here in the U.S., as well as in many European countries and South America. You have to put in the time and you have to switch your thought process from being a musician to being a business person to get your music heard. It can be done.”

Conrad distributes his own music through his website and he says self-distribution is a new model for younger artists.

“In the Pre-Internet days, major record companies in conjunction with major radio stations controlled the promotion and distribution of music in America,” he said. “These conglomerates controlled the music industry and dictated what bands and what music America heard.  The majority of original music was never selected to make that immortal leap to vinyl.

“Today, with the Internet, artists can take control of the promotion, distribution and finances relating to their music or art,” Conrad said.  “It’s a business model similar to outlet malls, where the manufacturer markets and sells directly to the consumer.”

Smart music lovers will keep watch for The Smart Pills Lost Studio Recordings EP 1979 on the VCP website, which will be released on Dec. 2. Check out the downloads here:


The Suffers Rock The Echo in LA With a Scorching Sound That Heralds An Era of New Soul Music

The Suffers Hit Like A 5-Alarm Plate of Shrimp and Grits

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 put on a short show that packed a powerful punch the other night at The Echo.

The lively set by the 8-piece band led by dynamic front woman Kam Franklin grabbed the audience and never let go as The Suffers ripped through tunes some new and some known.

The band impressed the crowded house of fans who ranged in age from about 20 to 60 years old.

Kam’s presence is a commanding experience as she dominates the stage with kid gloves, showing the love and talking about how music can be a healing therapy and agent for change. She’s like an open book, inspiring others with her tales of woe and success.

From Banker to Rock Star

The Suffers

The Suffers say they’re grateful to be playing music in LA – or anywhere for that matter – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Kam started as an investment banker and decided to follow her dream.  There were tough times, she said, recalling that she and her bandmates weren’t sure that when they played LA a while back that they would ever actually be able to return.  The Suffers high energy show is a celebration of accomplishments and Kam said the band is a living example that when you set your sites and harness determination, you can achieve your dreams.

Her theme is simple: Music Heals.

Kam encouraged the audience to keep listening to music, keep creating remarkable works and appreciate those closest to you.  The Suffers show was limited to one hour, but the band slayed in that short time, leaving the audience calling for more.

“No matter what goes on in the world outside, we’re all in here for one hour and we’re going to enjoy ourselves,” she told the audience. A tribute to Sharon Jones was to take place shortly after The Suffers set.  Kam paid homage to the musical foundation set down by Jones, the renowned soul singer who passed away last week from pancreatic cancer at the age of 60.

Kam Franklin of The Suffers was once an investment banker. Her talents are now put to better use - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Kam Franklin was once an investment banker. Her talents are now put to better use – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Kam said she has been compared to Jones on many occasions and we all owe a debt of gratitude to Jones who led a soul revival that started in New York City and continues today.

The musicians who comprise The Suffers are the dedicated and talented Pat Kelly, Adam Castaneda, Michael Razo, Kevin Bernier, Jon Durbin, Cory Wilson, Nick Zamora, Jose “Chapy” Luna, Alex Zamora.  The horn section brings a retro pizzazz that highlights the hard work of the bassist, drums, guitar and keyboards.

The Suffers Teach a New Lesson

It’s a cohesive group of Houston-based musicians who came together to teach us a new lesson. This is not your mom’s soul music.

The Suffers are a tight band of talented Houston musicians - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Suffers are a tight band of talented Houston musicians – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Suffers call their style of music “Gulf Coast Soul,” a fitting genre for this band. The Suffers make  you feel as if you’ve just been handed a plate of buttery shrimp and grits with an extra helping of five-alarm hot sauce on the side.  They’re cozy and spicy at the same time, unleashing the tunes of heartbreak and love with a unified sound that heralds an era of new soul music.

Kam bonds with the audience, talking to the crowd as comfortably as she would be talking to a well-loved friend.  Healing, helping and feeding were central to the performance as she continually reminded the crowd of the name of the band and had them repeat it back, along with the town the band is from, Houston.

But after all that, what probably will be long remembered was this special show by a lady with a devoted troupe of talented musicians and her heartfelt request for people to love each other.

The Suffers recently released the video “Midtown,” and you can check them out on Soundcloud.


John Mayall at The Rose in Pasadena: A Divine Experience For Those Who Worship The Blues

Special to

PASADENA – Going to a John Mayall concert is like going to church – not to a religious ceremony, unless blues is your religion, but being inside a cathedral experiencing something divine. With 61 albums and more than a half-century of music behind him, British bluesman John Mayall’s current USA tour is cool, reflective, gentle on the mind and the ears, and absolutely divine.

John Mayall’s new album is Find A Way To Care and you can listen to it on Soundcloud here.

Mayall has released a new album: Find A Way to Care - Photo by Patrick O'Heffernan

Mayall has released a new album: Find A Way to Care – Photo by Patrick O’Heffernan

At 83 years young, it is no surprise that Mayall’s energy level is far more relaxed that it was in the days when Eric Clapton and John McVie blasted out hot blues on English stages with him. But, as anyone who has followed Mayall for the past 50 years knows, hot or cool, he loves the blues and that love was on full display Friday night at Pasadena’s The Rose music venue.

Standing in the spotlight on the stage, Mayall and drummer Jay Davenport and bassist Greg Rzab pulled the audience in close with a warm smile and old familiars.  Mayall started the concert easy, conserving his energy for the 12-song set.  Playing on his revered Hammond, Mayall opened with his 1993 release “I’m A Sucker for Love,” introduced by Rzab and Davenport with a relaxed percussion riff that set the contented tempo.

Mayall’s voice, still strong but flattened with years, moved us along to the breakdown and a hot drum solo.  We knew we were in for a night of classic blues by one of the best.


Mayall moved to the Roland keyboard for the  Arthur Crudup song “That’s Alright” made famous by Elvis in 1954 but reimagined very blue by Mayall in his 2013 European concert.  Switching to the electric guitar, Mayall moved to the end of the stage and electrified the crowd with his guitar chops in a coolly delivered “Do I Please You” from his 1977 album A Hardcore Package.

Mayall's tour continues - Photo by Patrick O'Heffernan for

Mayall’s tour continues – Photo by Patrick O’Heffernan for

Always a natural with audiences, he introduced “The Bear”  from the 1968 album Blues from Laurel Canyon with the story of his stay at the  home of the band Canned Heat in Laurel Canyon and the band’s  lead singer Bob “the Bear” Hite.  He rolled the song out on the Roland with a toe-tapping tempo and his flat voice, edged with a smile. He stayed with the Roland for Sonny Landreth’s song about Louis Armstrong park,  “Congo Square,” delivering the lyrics in a muted monotone but them picking up the pace and adding heat with harmonica. A drum solo further upped the energy and the band finished the song with a flourish.

Davenport and Rzab introduced  “Moving Out and Moving On” with a strong  percussion lead in to Mayall’s guitar, which rode nicely on the kick drum beat. The lyrics were muted, almost flat, but the music moved right along. The feeling shifted to jazz with the “Sum of Something,” originally recorded as electric blues on Mayall’s 2009 Tough album.  Mayall kept things cool until the breakdown and a hot piano and drum solo that got the audience up and clapping.

Both Mayall and the room were fully warmed up as the band came down the stretch.  Even the slow blues number, “Blues for the Lost  Days” had a thrum of electricity through it that  got ramped up in “Moma Talk to Your Daughter” and broke out in a high energy “Chicago Line” with Mayall belting the lyrics and blowing the harmonica for all it was worth.

The band got brought back for an encore which was full tilt blues harmonica, exactly what the room was looking for.  Couples danced, diners clapped and you could tell that as much as Mayall blues are now cool and relaxed,  he loves blowing the harp for all its’s worth and so do his fans.  Mayall’s US  tour has seven more dates in California, Hawaii and Florida before he moves on to Europe, doing what he loves to do… playing divine blues.

Patrick O’Heffernan.  Host, Music FridayLive!, Co-Host MúsicaFusionLA

For more information on John Mayall check out his great fan site:

— Video courtesy of Rob Orme —

Fartbarf, David and The Curse, and Tres, Synthesize Music Down to Its Purest Form at El Cid Friday Night

Mmmm microphone good - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Mmmm microphone good – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia


We never considered seeing Fartbarf for the last few years, mainly because of the name of the band. Too sophomoric. After all, could a band named Fartbarf actually have any redeeming value in the music world?

The answer is an astounding and resounding affirmative.

There are lessons here. Never judge a band by its name, no matter how ridiculous it might be.

First-time Fartbarf show-goers are in for a wild surprise of excellent proportions. Instead of a bunch of goofy neophytes, what we discovered instead was a sophisticated synthesizer-utilizing trio of top notch guys  — we think — who clearly have found a niche in the world of recycled synth.  It is extremely satisfying that this young band appreciates the value of the Moog and the vintage analog sythesizers that played an important role in so many influential bands, including Emerson Lake and Palmer, Yes, and DEVO and the slew of 1980s bands that would follow.

But Fartbarf puts its own modern spin on what would normally be pretty cool songs, and takes their work to a galaxy far far away.

The El Cid crowd digs Fartbarf - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The El Cid crowd digs Fartbarf – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

It’s apparent that Fartbarf has taken a page out of the Residents’ book.  But Fartbarf not only does not sound anything like The Residents, but does them one better in the “mystery” department — in addition to covering their identities with masks, their voices are rendered unidentifiable courtesy of cool Moog enhancements.

The Fartbarf songs get the crowd jumping, as at El Cid there were only two people we could see who were standing without tapping their feet or nodding their heads. The bulk of the crowd was semi-moshing, jumping around, and doing some very unusual and retroactively disposed of dance moves, including The Robot.

The Neanderthal masks and imitation NASA jumpsuits  — heaven forbid NASA’s famous “Meatball” logo should be used in such a facetious manner — give pause for thought. What is Fartbarf’s statement and are they trying to give us a warning?  Has man advanced despite his earthly and regressive ignorance? Are we as a culture doomed unless we explore other worlds? Are the guys under the masks cute?

Only the excellent, dentally challenged post-Neanderthal musicians known as Josh, Dave and Brian know those answers.

Apparently it's always a good time for Fartbarf - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Apparently, life’s a perpetual smile for Fartbarf – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

In the meantime, the fans — many of whom have been with the band since before the band’s debut 2014 album, Dirty Power, were having a blast.  Of course some of the favorites off Dirty Power were played including our new favorite “All Systems Go.”

“I’ve seen them at least five times and El Cid is the best place to see them,” said one concert-goer with his girlfriend. “I don’t know if there are any philosophical statements or questions for us to think about. I think they’re just fun.”

It’s so great to see the Moog being used so well. You’re not hammered over the head with the classic analog instrument.  But it’s clear Fartbarf deserves a page on the Moog website for most innovative use of the company’s prized invention.

The best part about Fartbarf — costumes and marketing ploys aside — is the music.  The band takes some cool sounds from the 1970s and catapults them forward to capture the love of both the millennial and pre-millennial demographics.


David Stucken of David and The Curse is a grateful sort – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The connecting link between the three bands at El Cid Friday night was that they each gave a nod to synthesizer and keyboard sound.

David and The Curse preceded Fartbarf. Kyle Hamood, known for his keyboard and synth sound with several bands, most notably Them Guns, sits in with David and brings his talent across the tracks to true rock and roll.

While seemingly a disparate matching, David and The Curse, a rock and roll band with a punk edge, certainly stood out, as lead singer David Stucken brought his best show to date to El Cid.

“I’ve been watching David’s career and he’s been in a few bands, but this band is excellent,” said one concert-goer. “He’s a great performer and he’s a really nice guy.  You should talk to him.” did talk to David, last week.  Read the interview here

David and The Curse - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

David and The Curse – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

And he truly is a nice guy with big aspirations.  There’s the sense with David that there’s nothing this rocker can’t play.  David’s enthusiastic and it’s obvious he loves what he does.

As for the opener, Tres, it’s an interesting band with a great sense of humor comprised of three fun people who admit their music may not be to everyone’s taste.  But the point is, they’re trying, they’re up there,  and the sound may be unusual but it’s fun.  And that’s the only answer we need.

Val Kilmer Gives Mark Twain New Audience in ‘Cinema Twain,’ The Great Film Based on his One-Man Play

★★★★★ Kilmer Scores With ‘Cinema Twain’


Val Kilmer takes on the role of humorist Mark Twain and gives an extremely heartfelt — and funny — performance in Cinema Twain.

Kilmer, known for his portrayal of troubled characters like Jim Morrison in The Doors, and Doc Holliday in Tombstone, brings a new sensibility to the role of American humorist Mark Twain in Cinema Twain.

Cinema Twain was produced, written and directed by Kilmer and is basically the film of the award-winning, one-man play he wrote called Citizen Twain.  Kilmer slays the audience and holds the viewer spellbound for 90 minutes bringing to life an American figure who has been relatively unknown to modern audiences.

Kilmer appeared in person at the first of two Westwood screenings last Thursday.  The film will screen again on Nov. 17.  Tickets are available, for more info go to Val Kilmer’s website.

It is not known if Cinema Twain will get a theatrical release.

Val Kilmer told an audience in Westwood that he loves Twain’s humor and that Twain was really one of the first American stand-up comedians. He said he has spent 10 years immersed in the research, writing and rehearsal of the remarkable work.

This effort is a tour de force for Kilmer, who has been battling illness. It is apparent the Mark Twain projects have been a labor of love and a guiding inspiration for him.

Kilmer said the film about his one-man play called Citizen Twain actually came together after he wrote a screenplay about Mark Twain.  He said he is working on finding financing for the film.

Kilmer is a revered actor who has portrayed a variety of roles in his career including the character “Ice Man” in Top Gun opposite Tom Cruise.

But his talents as an actor merely compliment a host of other abilities that we the audience never get to see. Anyone who has seen The Doors knows that Kilmer can sing. And if you go to his website, you can see his prolific collection of modern art paintings.

We do catch a bit of the singing talent in Cinema Twain as Kilmer gives his best rendition of Mark Twain singing a tender rendition of “Old Man River.”

The raw emotion is there, Kilmer is clearly at home in front of an audience, live or otherwise.

It’s clear from the project — Kilmer spent a lot of time in the Berkeley library in particular researching — that Kilmer has grown to love Mark Twain and if Twain were alive today he would be humbled by the outstanding treatment of the subject.

Do not miss the opportunity to see this great performance.  For tickets check out the Val Kilmer site.

California Rocker Rating: ★★★★★


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