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Hammons Reviews: Yo Yo Ma and Friends Show at Hollywood Bowl Brings Music Worlds Together

Global Ensemble Make Beautiful Noise at Hollywood Bowl

A night that brought worlds together - Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

A night that brought worlds together – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons


Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble bring the world together in music and song as they end their 17-date run of the USA at the Hollywood Bowl.

Yo Yo Ma is a man who understands once music hits the ear it makes order out of chaos.  It joins people together – there is no culture that doesn’t have music.  Ma brought together the evolution of his favorite 18-year project, The Silk Road Ensemble.

Transcending Borders

The music they create celebrates difference by exploring the unfamiliar and giving them the opportunity to build something new.

The opening fanfare showed what it is like to transcend borders and the joy of allowing it to happen thru music.  Cristina Pato from Spain playing Galician bagpipes and Wu Tong playing the Chinese horn in electrifying abandon meet center stage connecting two sides of the world and their cultural roots.  Next up was “Ichichila” a tune traditionally sung by the people of West Africa.  It had a cool relaxed vibe to it and a good way to set the tone for the evening.

© 2016 Craig Hammons

Bagpipes, horns and violins – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Silk Road violinist Colin Jacobsen — originally from Minnesota — brought us “O’Neil’s Calavary March,” a tune in the Irish tradition that dates back to the early 1800s.

It featured layers of instruments from a kamancheh, a pipa and some western strings.

On “Green (Vincent’s Tune)” they took a simple melody and turned it into an explosion of bass drumming and gong slamming gone mad.

My favorite song of the night was from Syrian clarinetist Kinan Azmeh called “Wedding.” He said that back home in Syria amist the bombs dropping and the daily fear, there is still the search for love.  This a song about coming together to beat the odds and celebrate.  He warned us that this song could get loud and next thing I knew it was like we were in a Syrian village party.  He dedicated it to all the Syrians who have managed to fall in love in the last five years.

Silk Road Ensemble

Ma did come forward to explain how the Silk Road Ensemble came together but mainly was just another member of the band.  He picked up his cello joined Christina Pato now on piano to do a piece together that was beautiful and full of emotion.

Myriad colors and music - Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Myriad colors and music – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

There were many other mergers of musicians and instruments some that seemed improvised while others were full grooves and rhythms.

Kayhan Kalhor, one of the band’s core members, plays a kamancheh otherwise known as an Iranian fiddle.  He was featured in many of the songs making his instrument sing while at time putting us into a trance.

Tribute to Prince

Some of the crowd wished there was more Ma but no one was disappointed.  They closed out the night with a colorful version of Prince’s “When Doves Cry” a song that fit well into their repertoire.   The Bowl was lit purple and the crowd was on their feet giving these musicians from around the world the standing ovation they deserve.

Many of the selections tonight were on the Silk Road’s new recording Sing Me Home. You can find out more about the Silk Road Ensemble at

Lemmy Statue Unveiled, Motorhead Rocker Honored with Celebrations at the Whisky and The Rainbow

Motorhead Rocker Honored at His Sunset Strip Hangouts

The crew celebrates the Lemmy Statue - Photo by Donna Balancia

The crew celebrates the Lemmy Statue – Photo by Donna Balancia


If Lemmy Kilmister were alive, he would probably would have been overwhelmed by the love of fans at events held in his honor on the Sunset Strip.

On Wednesday night hundreds gathered to see the unveiling of a statue created in Lemmy’s image. That statue now has a permanent residence at Lemmy’s favorite place, The Rainbow Bar and Grill.

The night before, Ultimate Jam Night had a Lemmy Tribute night, complete with the regular jam musicians and a few special guests including Tracii Guns and Dug Pinnick.

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Tracii Guns performs at Whisky A Go Go – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

“I’m here because I loved Lemmy’s music,” said Debby Cincianella who came from New York City for the unveiling. “Lemmy meant a lot to a lot of people and we want to honor him.”

John Hammer drove all the way from Bakersfield to get the event in time for the presentation.

“I drove like crazy to get here,” he said. “I had to see this.”

Most of the attendees came from the Los Angeles area and came dressed in their rock n roll finest, many wearing Lemmy-style hats, leather and some form of Motorhead T-shirts, jewelry or jackets.

When the time came to unveil the statue, people were poised to take pictures and get a selfie with the life-size bronze replica of one of the most beloved rockers of our time. There were plenty of photo opportunities with the bronze Lemmy.

The Lemmy statue is in the back of the Rainbow patio area and permanently rests in what many said resembles a black marble upright open tomb.  The likeness is appealing and rest assured there will be plenty of photos around with your favorite pal by the bronze Lemmy’s side.

“It’s been a wonderful way to celebrate the life of one of our favorite musicians,” said Sandy. “I love the Lemmy statue and I went to the show last night at the Whisky. I’m here tonight because this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance.”

Lemmy's widow, Cheryl, gives a kiss to author Sonny Donato - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Lemmy’s widow, Cheryl, gives a kiss to author Sonny Donato – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The jam night at the Whisky on Tuesday night drew one of its biggest crowds to date, proving the popularity of the “Ace of Spades” musician.

Even Lemmy’s widow, Cheryl, was on hand and she was touched that the musicians performed his songs throughout the night.

The concert event was live-streamed on Facebook so that people around the world could see the show. It’s been a tough year for rock lovers.  David Bowie and Glen Frye were among the other major rock stars to pass away this year.

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Kitty Cadillac and Ruby Carrera at The Rainbow – Photo by Donna Balancia

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Courtney Cox of Iron Maidens at The Whisky – Photo by Donna Balancia

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The cool guys turn out for Lemmy – Photo by Donna Balancia

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Kenny Kweens and a couple of dolls – Photo by Donna Balancia

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He didn’t drive from Bakersfield – Photo by Donna Balancia

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Pharoah Barrett of Kraterface – Photo by Donna Balancia

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Carla Harvey and Tracii Guns – Photo by Donna Balancia

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Walter Ino and Howie Simon – Photo by Donna Balancia

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Seann Nichols – Photo by Donna Balancia

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Carla Harvey gets the approval of Cheryl, Lemmy’s widow – Photo by Donna Balancia

‘Malibu Rocks Hollywood Monday Nights’ is the Latest Great Entertainment at Lucky Strike in Hollywood

Mike Hayes - Photo by Donna Balancia

Mike Hayes – Photo by Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA – Malibu Rocks Hollywood, a new Monday night music event at Lucky Strike Live, got off to a rockin’ good start.

Presented by the Malibu Guitar Festival, the new program is expected to bring a range of great guitar players to Lucky Strike each Monday.

In its first night of weekly performances, Malibu Rocks Hollywood launched with top-tier guitarists and musicians.

Guitarist extraordinaire Mike Hayes opening for featured performers The Kenneth Brian Band with special guest Robert Randolph.

The Malibu Guitar Festival is a popular event held annually in Malibu, created by Doug DeLuca and John Watkin. Last year, Richie Sambora and Orianthi were among the headliners. Hayes, The Kenneth Brian Band and Randolph played as well.

Robert Randolph - Photo by Donna Balancia

Robert Randolph – Photo by Donna Balancia

In introducing the Mike Hayes band, Kiefer Sutherland once referred to Hayes and his group as “one of the most beautifully melodic and fun bands of our time … one of the tightest bands that I’ve seen … one of the greatest guitar players I’ve seen since Stevie Ray Vaughn.”  And that’s no lie.

Hayes is a thinking person’s blues player. He knows the history of the genre, and he is clearly an expert in his passion.

Hayes’ outward appearance is deceiving as he appears soft spoken and quiet. When he gets on stage it’s a different guy. Hayes is excellent, with guitar skills that go far beyond most of the blues or any other guitarists out there. He plays the music any which way, including over his head and behind his back. He is truly a master, with a strong voice to boot.

Robert Randolph and Scott Thurston sit in with Kenneth Brian Band - Photo by Donna BalanciaThe Kenneth Brian Band is an innovative group, combining a few different styles of rock. The Kenneth Brian Band has a new EP out called Blackbird and it’s worth more than a listen. The band has some rythm driven upbeat songs and one of the things that was impressive is Kenneth’s taste in covers. On Monday night, the band played a cover of “Freeborn Man,” that rivalled the Outlaws’ very own performance of the classic tune.

Randolph needs no introduction and instead, his humble presentation takes over. The funky musician known back East for his work with Robert Randolph and the Family Band, joined the Kenneth Brian Band on Monday night and fit his pedal steel guitar right on in.

36-malibu-guitar-kenneth-brian-wtmks (1 of 1)As the frontman for Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Randolph is considered one of the most prolific players of the “sacred steel” around. His training is from church where he grew up back in New Jersey. He is fortunate to have had some hits, he’s had some deals with the NBA, and has opened for Eric Clapton.

The performances at Lucky Strike were riveting, and The Kenneth Brian Band had another special guest sit in.

Scott Thurston of Tom Petty and Iggy and the Stooges fame, manned the keys.

The music community welcomes an additional night of good music as Tuesday and Wednesday nights have brought jam nights back, much to the delight of music lovers. Now Monday nights also will hit the right notes.

Parquet Courts Have Seen Shinier Days as Band Disses LA on Heels of Cancelled Orange County Show

Parquet Courts bassist Sean Yeaton - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Parquet Courts bassist Sean Yeaton – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia


Parquet Courts gave a Human Performance to hundreds of eager fans in downtown LA the other night.

They played songs off their new album, called Human Performance, and a full set, opening with “What Color is Blood,” “Dear Ramona,” and the upbeat “Master of My Craft.” There was no encore, as most of the room was expecting “Stoned and Starving,” but who needs to do what the fans want, after all?

Maybe that’s part of the New York schtick, but it seemed the passive aggression was met with a lukewarm reception.

The second half of the show featured tracks off the new album, including “Steady on my Mind, “Berlin Got Blurry,” and “Outside.”

Last blast - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Last blast – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The New York-based band took a couple of random jabs at Los Angeles, comparing the two cities on opposite coasts with Austin Brown saying “Hell is a lot like LA, and heaven is like New York,” which was met with catcalls.

Then they doubled down: “Anyone good is in New York, I heard Jesus got a place in Pelham.” The band even wise-cracked: “At least we have water,” a bizarre dig at a population that has no choice in the California water shortage situation.

Like the humor of Donald Trump, Parquet Courts may have taken it a little too far, especially coming on the heels of a listless LA performance and a cancelled Orange County concert that fans there are still smarting from.

The audience members were a group of good sports, moshing and having fun despite the uneven and the oddly slightly passive aggressive performance. There were some points where the band’s energy was compelling but it seemed as if that came a little late in the evening, for the Dead Milkmen-like “Content Nausea,” and “Human Performance,” “Light Up Gold,” and “Sunbathing Animal.”

parquet courts setlist set listAfter his final strum, it sounded like curly headed guitarist-vocalist Andrew Savage removed his guitar and uttered the word “Perfect” under his breath, as he stomped offstage, but we can’t be sure.

But it was clear he was done, for whatever reason.

And while there were a few good photos to be had, nothing would have adequately captured the look on the faces of the audience when after 14 quickie songs, the house lights came up and the recorded music came on.

By the way, are encores actually required?

There was no “You Got Me Wonderin’ Now,” no “Pretty Machines,” or “Black and White,” or “Stoned and Starving,” examples of Parquet Courts songs that — for good or bad — get the band compared to Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers. But whether the band wants to change its style to more serious or not, these are the Parquet Courts’ trademark songs that are loved, and they’re fun. On Saturday night, it all seemed so serious.

“What happened to the encore?” asked one concert-goer. “It’s so weird. There were a few songs I wanted to hear that they didn’t play.”

Marbled Eye opened strong at The Regent - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Marbled Eye opened strong at The Regent – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

What’s a band to do? If you change your style they complain. If you play the same songs over and over they complain. Will the cancelled Orange County tickets be refunded to the fans? Stay tuned.

A high note of the evening was the opener, Marbled Eye, a band from Northern California. With a unique sound and cool indie feel these guys could quickly become a headliner. After all, they have the enthusiasm and they were … fun.


Setting the Standard: James Williamson Engineers Unique Sounds with New Collaborations

‘Blues Jumped The Rabbit’ is Williamson’s Latest Single


James Williamson believes that change is energizing.

“I like to collaborate with different people and this was a great opportunity,” said Williamson of his newest work with multi-talented musician Petra Haden, on their single called “Blues Jumped The Rabbit.”

“Blues Jumped The Rabbit,” taken literally on Williamson and Haden’s cover art, is believed to be originally recorded in 1926 as “Rabbit Foot Blues.” It received a new turn in 1970 by Bob Dylan collaborator Karen Dalton. The B-side of Williamson’s new vinyl is another interesting find, “Last Kind Words.” The single is out on iTunes and will be available on seven inch vinyl on August 19th.

Collaboration is the key for Williamson, a prominent player with Iggy and the Stooges, who says working with new people has been a great experience for him over the last few years.

Blues Jumped The Rabbit - Album Cover by Heather Harris

Blues Jumped The Rabbit – Album Cover by Heather Harris


Talent Scout

Williamson’s become somewhat of a talent scout in the few years since the release of the last Iggy and the Stooges album, Ready to Die, in 2013.  He seeks out collaborators, traveling around to find musicians that are suited for certain projects. Williamson is exacting about the talent he uses on his projects.

In most music lovers’ books, Williamson had already accomplished more than the average superhuman: He’s the co-creator of arguably the most revered American rock anthem of all time, “Search and Destroy.” As a member of Iggy and the Stooges, he basically introduced an entirely new guitar sound to music and lived a parallel life as an accomplished computer engineer and family man.

As for his music, there is more to Williamson than his vast work in the world of punk. With “Blues Jumped The Rabbit,” he puts out an interesting collaboration with violinist and vocalist Haden that has a unique bluesy feel and has a purpose.

James Williamson and Petra Haden - Photo by Heather Harris

James Williamson and Petra Haden – Photo by Heather Harris


The Charity Factor

“The fact of the matter is nobody buys records anyway,” Williamson said. “If we can get people to be aware of these charities, it’s great, it brings awareness of great causes.”

The money raised from the sale of the vinyl single goes towards the Tazzy Animal Rescue Fund in Burbank.

Williamson was impressed with Petra’s work on The Who Sell Out and he asked a Stooges pal for an introduction.

“I was so impressed with her, and then I found out Mike Watt knows her,” Williamson said. “I started using her on different things. I had her to something on Ready to Die. I liked her work on Ready to Die so much, she would do backing vocals and violin, I thought, she’s so good and so versatile I always though she should have a lead vocal.”

Historically, “Blues Jumped The Rabbit,” is an important song, recorded several times over the course of the 1900s.

As for the literal adaptation of the blues on the album cover, it came from an idea James had a while back.

“I saw this picture of a model with a rabbit on her head,” he laughed. “So I floated the idea by my artistic director, photographer Heather Harris, and she came up with the blue rabbit. It’s different.”

Lisa Kekaula and James Williamson work

Lisa Kekaula and James Williamson work


Re-Licked and Lisa Kekaula

Williamson’s made some other impressive moves into the collaborative world of independent musicianship.

He and Lisa Kekaula of the Bellrays released a single called “I Love My Tutu,” a release that benefits Project, Hawai’i, for homeless children in Hawaii, where Williamson lives part of the year.  Kekaula was a prominent player in Williamson’s Re-Licked project.

Last year, Williamson released the album Re-Licked, bringing together alternative A-Listers in an award-winning one-off concert at The Bootleg in Los Angeles. He met with many musicians before finalizing the lineup for his Re-Licked recording.

Williamson relies on another Re-Licked musician, Joe Cardamone of Valley Recording for his projects. And Williamson’s son, Jamie, is also getting into music more and more — he was also involved in the collaboration with Kekaula. Williamson hinted that another single would be coming soon, this one an up-tempo original tune that he wrote with a young musician.

Petra Haden - Photo by Heather Harris

Petra Haden – Photo by Heather Harris


Getting Recognition

The award-winning computer engineer, who was honored in Washington, D.C., last year by the American National Standards Institute, Williamson has been realistic about his music career. There were times when it was not easy. And he balanced the unpredictable music business by starting a successful engineering career.

Though he thinks it’s even harder to make it in music today, relationships and persistence matter, Williamson says.

“The only game these days is playing live,” he said. “And of course live requires you to have enough recognition to get a gig … or at least get a break. In that sense it’s always been that way, however, no promotor wants to risk their money on an unknown because they’re in it to make money.

“But that said, the best avenue is to somehow get into an opening slot for free or whatever and kick some serious butt, such that the audience wants you back and the promoter takes notice. That’s the old school way, and it works, if you can survive long enough.”

DOWNLOAD “Blues Jumped the Rabbit” at ITUNES

Mike Comfort Offers Compilation Album, ‘Pretty Sweet Stuff’ to Fans Beyond Northern California

By JOHN DALY – It’s no surprise Mike Comfort and his band were voted “Best Band in Sacramento,” by the Sacramento Bee and “Best Band in Northern California” by 107FM The Point Chico.

Comfort’s voice is pure Rock N Roll and his style is upbeat — even when it comes to singing about some tough topics.

The alt rock artist has a new compilation album of the work from his other albums, called Pretty Sweet Stuff.  It’s an appropriate name and maybe his marketing manager suggested the title.  Few would disagree.

While all of the cuts on the record are great, our favorite is “Disarray.” It’s a song about lost love, but executed in such an almost upbeat manner that the words hit home.  Comfort gives a good change of pace with a song that has such a great beat, but sad message.  The song leaves us hanging, wondering if the guy will get the girl back mainly because he doesn’t know and he’s trying to go on with his life.

Photo courtesy of Mike Comfort

Photo courtesy of Mike Comfort

The star of the show here is Comfort’s voice. It has an emotive and raw quality that captures the essence of heartbreak and happiness. In the case of “Disarray,” the voice projects the topic of proceeding alone while still in love.

“I sit around and I wonder why all that I did I did for you … It’s just no telling now how much more this heart can take.”

The song’s rockin beat gives the listener the impression the singer feels he may have a shot at getting the gal back.  Hope is good, especially in this crazy world.  What we don’t need is another depressing breakup song and obviously Comfort agrees.

Pretty Sweet Stuff!

Pretty Sweet Stuff!

Tunes that are the sweetest of the sweet also include “Story of Your Smile,” “Upside Down” and “Anywhere With You.”

This is no amateur act. Comfort and his band have been selling out shows in and around Chico for years. Comfort was a session musician and met Chris Holmes and recording engineer and guitarist at a session for another artist. Before the collaboration, Comfort was writing songs and working with or for a host of top-charted artists.

The band is tight and top notch.  Other than Comfort on vocals, the band is comprised of Holmes on guitars and backing vocals, D.J. Farrell on drums, Jonathan Stoyanoff on bass and Brandon Mains on guitar and backing vocals.

The songs were produced at Heirloom Studios in Chico; Red Dot Studios in Tracy and B. Mains Bedroom Studios in Chico.  It was produced by Comfort, was co-produced and engineered by Holmes and was mastered by Rob Beaton with RKS Mastering in Los Angeles.

Listen to Mike’s album, Pretty Sweet Stuff! 

Lance Lopez and All-Star Friends Rock Monday Night Blues at the Valley’s Hot Spot, Maui Sugar Mill

By DONNA BALANCIA – Lance Lopez has more in common with late friend Johnny Winter than a love for the blues.

Like the great Johnny Winter, Lance gives it his all while jamming with pals.

“I really had a great time tonight,” Lance said after a night of All-Star blues presented by Cadillac Zack at Maui Sugar Mill. “This is a great place to play and the fans are super.”

Dug Pinnick fronts for Lance Lopez; Kenny Aronoff on the kit - Photo by Donna Balancia

Dug Pinnick fronts for Lance Lopez; Kenny Aronoff on the kit, Fabrizio Grossi on bass – Photo by Donna Balancia

Lance Lopez Influenced by Johnny Winter

It doesn’t take much to be a super fan when the guitarist who’s performing is one of the hottest blues musicians around.  Lance, who recently released the hot album Lance Lopez Live in NYC, was mentored by Johnny Winter and it shows.

“It touches me to mention Johnny,” Lance said during a conversation about the legendary Johnny, who passed away two years ago at age 70.

Read the California Rocker interview with JOHNNY WINTER

One performance, and it’s easy to tell that Lance is one of the most talented young blues guitarists around. Period.  At the Maui Sugar Mill he brought on some of the most prolific musician pals, including Kenny Aronoff and Guitar Shorty. Dug Pinnick of King’s X also made a special appearance, fronting for Lance.

Lance Lopez and his all-stars - Photo by Donna Balancia

Lance Lopez and his all-stars – Photo by Donna Balancia

Supersonic Band

Lance has a band called Supersonic Blues Machine and Maui Sugar Mill patrons got a taste of what the band’s all about as Aronoff took his spot behind the kit and Fabrizio Grossi played bass. The band debuts album West Of Flushing, South Of Frisco featuring Billy F. Gibbons (ZZ Top), Warren Haynes (Allman Bros./Gov’t Mule), Robben Ford, Walter Trout, Chris Duarte and  Eric Gales

Lance’ latest work is the hot album called Lance Lopez Live in NYC that rips. Check out his website and the photo gallery below.


Michael Franti and Spearhead’s ‘Soulrocker’ Tour Brings Love to the Pacific Amphitheatre


– SOULROCKER (Sol-rahk-er) – One who lives from the heart, with compassion for all, and possesses a tenacious enthusiasm for music, life and the planet.

Once Michael Franti and his band Spearhead stepped on stage, this evening became a celebration of life.

He’s a soul saver, life changer and spiritual and lyrical activist whose music gives fans renewed energy and a stronger sense of purpose.  We were here to hear the music that would take our minds off the madness that’s going on in this crazy world and unite us all as one.

The crowd was already on their collective feet ready to dance, sing and rejoice in the music that would bring good vibes to us all night long.  Once you attend a Franti concert you understand the power of this man, his band, his message of love and the pleasure it brings.  By his second song “Sound of Sunshine,” he had already invited a couple of kids on stage to join him.  These are family shows that span generations.  Franti works the stage with his arms wide open.  When he asks “How ya feelin’?” we all respond with cheers of happiness.

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

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

The songs on the current tour are heavily focused on his newest CD, Soulrocker.  When he performed the latest single “Good to Be Alive Today,” he engaged the audience to listen and understand deep inside what he’s singing about.  He then entered the audience and made his way back to the mid-section armed only with his guitar and a song.

Along the way he hugged, took photos and let people sing with him.  The crowd becomes one and we listen to his quiet observations on things that are personal but yet universal.  When he told the audience about growing up as an adopted child he said “We were told to receive everyone as we would want to be received, regardless of their background, race or what school they came from.”

It brought tears to my eyes to see a mother lift her son out of his wheelchair and hold him up to dance together for a few minutes.  Franti on his way back to the stage saw this and stopped and gave them both a big hug while still singing.  I later spoke to the mom who said her son was paralyzed on his right side and had not smiled from ear to ear for years, but tonight he was wearing a full smile.

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

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

The live show is a musical miracle we all share together.  I walked in to the Pacific Amphitheatre tonight knowing about three people.  When I left I felt like I had 7,000 new friends.  When he sang “Once a Day,” he asked us to interlock our arms together with our neighbors and create a universal bond.  The old man and his wife next to me put their arms around me as we sang “Everybody ought to hug somebody, at least once a day and we all will rise up.”  The live show is also a dance party when Franti says “I want to see everyone jump!” every single person had their hands in the air jumping and reaching for the moon.

I looked around and saw the energy, fun and smiles on the faces of everyone there.  Franti says “I make music because I believe it can change people’s lives and make a difference in the world.”  Tonight we all believed in his message.

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

G. Love and Special Sauce on Soulrocker tour – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Towards the end of the set he said “We got to get some kids up here!”  Next thing, he had about two dozen kids on stage singing “Say Hey (I Love You)” with him.  He gave the mic to the little kid next to him who knew every word.   He then did “My Lord” which turned the place into a giant party with people dancing in the aisles, holding each other, making new friends, crying tears of joy and for a few hours, feeling — as Bob Marley once sang — that “Every little thing is going to be all right.”  He then thanked the whole crew from each band member to the bus driver.  As they whole crew came out John Lennon’s imagine was playing over the sound system.

Michael Franti and Spearhead touched each and every one of us tonight with his love and honesty.  So let’s all be Soulrockers and be full of compassion and one day maybe the world will live as one.

Opening the evening was G. Love and Special Sauce who brought his brand of blues, funk and soul that was well received.

Soulrocker Tour – Pacific Amphitheatre with G. Love and Special Sauce

Dave Pirner and Soul Asylum Celebrate Their ‘Change of Fortune’ at The Whisky A Go Go

Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum - Photo by Donna Balancia for California Rocker

Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum – Photo by Donna Balancia for California Rocker

Soul Asylum Opener Wild Roses Also Impresses


Dave Pirner and Soul Asylum gave an electrifying performance at the Whisky A Go Go promoting the album Change of Fortune.

The show proved that Pirner and his band that rose to fame in the late 1980, embrace the twists and turns in their own careers.

Change of Fortune

Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum at Whisky A Go Go - Photo by Donna Balancia for California Rocker

Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum at Whisky A Go Go – Photo by Donna Balancia for California Rocker

Promoting Soul Asylum’s 11th studio album, Change of Fortune, Pirner is happy to be on tour, telling the audience “Thank you, you’re too kind,” after the applause with each song.  It’s a different Soul Asylum than back in the day when Soul Asylum came to prominence, but lots of things are different today.

With the new album, Pirner takes his familiar sound, made famous from “Black Gold,” and “Runaway Train,” and has ratched it up a few notches.

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.

Dave Pirner and Soul Asylum

Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum at the Whisky A Go Go - Photo by Donna Balancia for California Rocker

Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum at the Whisky A Go Go – Photo by Donna Balancia for California Rocker

Change of Fortune was a Pledgemusic project and more than a few contributors were in the audience during the U.S. tour, which started off on a bill with The English Beat and wrapped as a solo act.

The lead single off Change of Fortune, called “Supersonic,” is a fast-paced rockin tune, and when performed live brings out the best of a more mature, but very physically active Soul Asylum. Mixing other cool cuts off the new work and blending in some of the famous Soul Asylum songs, frontman Pirner and his group put on a terrific show.

Pirner’s pretty down to earth and his personality rings true no matter what. The audience is faithful, with a diverse age range of attending his shows, or at least that was the case at the recent show at the Whisky.

Enduring the Changes

I can't hear you Dave Pirner says during Soul Asylum show at Whisky A Go Go - Photo by Donna Balancia

‘I can’t hear you,’ Dave Pirner says during Soul Asylum show at Whisky A Go Go – Photo by Donna Balancia

As for Change of Fortune, the name of the album is appropriate.  Pirner has endured a lot of changes since the band started, and one notable change was the loss of his bandmate and pal, Karl Mueller, who died of cancer in 2004.  He dedicated a song to Karl during the show.

But Change of Fortune has its dynamic driven songs and mellow tunes — it covers a range of emotions one can only expect from Pirner, one of the most prolific songwriters of the last 35 years.

Change of Fortune, which is co-produced by John Fields and the band, is a classic and is testament to Pirner’s persistence. Other than “Supersonic,” other standout cuts on the new album are rock anthem “Can’t Help It,” “Make It Real,” and electro-ballad, “When I See You.”

If you missed them in the day, it’s not too late to add Soul Asylum to the bucket list of great performances.

Wild Roses to Open for The Living End

Marc Orrell of Wild Roses - Photo by Donna Balancia

Marc Orrell of Wild Roses – Photo by Donna Balancia

Another high point of the evening was opener Wild Roses, a band led by frontman Marc Orrell and bassist pal, Jeff Roffredo; these guys crank out some great music.

Orrell who’s got a great rock n roll voice, was guitarist with Dropkick Murphys and still has a good relationship with the band.

They’ll be opening for Australian punkers The Living End at the Roxy on Aug. 19; and the Glass House in Pomona on Aug. 20.

Get Tickets to The Living End.

‘The Freshman,’ A Bizarre, Martian-Themed Album by the 12-Member Band Revolushn, Worth A Probe

By DONNA BALANCIA – Revolushn doesn’t need to have permanent band members — because like on Mars, everything is transient.  And that includes the music.

Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 12.58.45 AMLed by a couple of guys with some weirdo nicknames like NO and EMS or something, these guys have taken a page out of the Residents’ anonymity book, but they’ve added their own space-like twist. Their new album is called The Freshman.

Revolushn is like David Bowie meets REM with some Sonic Youth thrown in.  Eclectic, yes.  But there’s apparently some top name talent here. Check out the song that started it all, “KC

The band members are spread out from the East Coast to the West Coast with the troupe’s elders located in California. OK, so what’s with the space theme and the all the mystery?

Upon closer “probing” we find there to be way too much talent — however discombobulated it may be — for this to be some relatively new group just starting out. And thus the ol’ switcheroo with the band’s second record, The Freshman, which is a collection of space-themed oddities.  Some songs are excellent.  There are a couple of strange ones.  But, what do you want from space people?

While they don’t sound anything alike, there is a similarity between the Revolushn and the great Jonathan Richman.  Both Revolushn and Richman have a bizarre sense of humor that has great impact. The review rap with Richman —  considered one of the leaders of the punk genre —  is he could have achieved greater commercial success if he cut out the cutesy act and kooky songs like “Abominal Snowman in the Market,” “Ice Cream Man,” and “I’m a Little Dinosaur.”  But who wants commercial success anyway?

Let’s be honest. When it comes to kooky, Revolushn may be taking that title and trying it on for size. If this album were to have come across our desks and we didn’t find out that some heavy hitters were involved, we would still think there were.  And that’s despite the crazy album cover and bizarre musical style.  We particularly like the cuts “Fly Me To The Moon,” “Been Thinkin,” “Dark Matter,” and “Martian Shantytown.”  Of course “Alien Polka” is another classic – check out the video above.

Assuming Revolushn doesn’t want to be taken seriously and would rather continue to share an “inside joke” with its growing fan base, there still is plenty to like, particularly on The Freshman.  The outerworldly Martian theme probably came to prominence because of the band’s heavy use of synth and reverb, distortion … and general weirdness.

Oh, and the videos are equally strange, by the way. Very much like Todd Rundgren’s excellent experimental videos from The Desktop Collection.  You want Martians? Against a backdrop of break-dancing, two-legged pinkish figures dipping and bending, bongo playing musicians do their thing in one of the videos. There’s definitely an alien threat here of some kind, if we could only interpret what’s going on.  But we had a hard time trying to figure out The Flaming Lips “She Don’t Use Jelly” video also, and it looks kind of similar.

The Twitter account for Revolushn, @therub9  is another strange case.  The Tweets are quotes from famous humans, scattered in with some news about the band from time to time.  No quotes from Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, or from his astronaut pal, John Herrington.  Maybe they’ll just stay out there on their little space journey, where there’s no WiFi, but there are plenty of stars.

But in the meantime, the music on The Freshman is fun and the talent is about as real as it gets.  But apparently, everything else on our planet is questionable.

Band members: DAVID KENDRICK, Drums-lyrics; SCHUBERT, Keyboards-vocals; EMC, Drums-percussion; WAYNE COYNE, Guitar-vocals; Production: AARON CONNOR (Bone Thugs and Harmony) Engineering-mastering; NO, Engineering-production-mastering.


Empire of the Sun Heat up Pacific Amphitheatre, Frontman Steele Smashes His Guitar to Bits

By CRAIG HAMMONS – To truly enjoy Empire of the Sun you have to see the live show and that is what 7,000 of us colorful fans did this perfect summer evening.

Empire of the Sun – Photo courtesy Goatling

At 9:15 the lights dimmed and a fine mist took over the stage, the entrance music for Empire of the Sun began and some darkened silhouettes of four dancers and three musicians appeared.

After a burst of color and light, front man Luke Steele took center stage to open with “Old Flavours.”

Before they finished the first song the entire audience was on their feet and under their spell.  By the second song “DNA” with the lyrics “Just take me away, be my DNA” is exactly what they did.

Luke Steele’s vocals were spot on and he seemed happy to hear the audience singing the words right along with him.  Each song carried a different array of colors and lights with a huge screen that showed different themes and pictures.  During “Half Mast,” the screen showed a field of flowers and pictures of a planet they landed on.  The band and dancers blend well together as they dance and play through a sea of smoke wrapped in velvet and gold.

It is not hard for this band to keep the audience engaged.  It is almost impossible to turn your eyes away from the stage.  Frontman Luke Steele has his own stage out front and center that has a small keyboard that he plays at the same time as playing his guitar.  But he wanders the stage with his elaborate costumes and headdresses, working the audience into a frenzy.  He even went out into the crowd a few times creating drama and showing what a powerhouse bandleader he is.  This is more than a concert; it is a theatrical performance that could fit well on a Broadway stage.

Empire of the Sun - Photo courtesy Goatling

Empire of the Sun – Photo courtesy Goatling

The show was perfectly choreographed with the dancers changing costumes that ranged from alien rock stars with guitars that lit up, to astronauts and butterflies.  The dancers were always in synch and brought an element of fantasy to each song.  Part of this may be because Steele’s partner, Nick Littlemore, worked as composer and musical director for the Cirque Du Soliel’s touring arena shows.

Empire of the Sun’s musical performance makes you feel like you’re in a movie filled with special effects and a cool soundtrack.   By the time they got to “Walking in Dream,” the audience enthusiasm was out of control.

When Luke Steele sang the lyrics “Thought I’d never see the love you found in me” you could see he was happy as he wandered back into the audience to feel the love of the fans.  They ended their set with “Tiger By My Side” and Steele went ’80’s rock star on our ass playing and smashing his guitar to pieces.  The stage went dark and we all couldn’t believe what just happened.  But before we could catch our breath they were all back on stage with “Standing On the Shore.”

They ended with “Alive” and every one of us sang along to the chorus, “Loving every minute, cause you make me feel alive, alive.”  That’s exactly how we felt tonight after experiencing Empire of the Sun.

Ted Nugent Feels the California Love During His Nationwide ‘Sonic Baptizm’ Tour 2016

Like His Politics or Not, Nugent’s Music Hits the Mark


Ted Nugent had audiences applauding wildly and jumping for joy during the Southern California swing of his Sonic Baptizm Tour.  Now it’s on to the East Coast.

Since the 1970s, the 67-year-old “Motor City Madman” from Detroit has been rocking harder than most of his peers. His wild antics and promotional stunts have enabled him to cash in handsomely on his musical talent.  But this guy isn’t blowing smoke or hiding behind his politics. Nugent’s guitar playing is amazing and his voice is strong and clear.

Those who don’t know his music, know him for his outspoken political viewpoints.  But there were a lot of people at the Saban Theatre performance last week who didn’t seem to mind his politics. Nugent’s Sonic Baptizm 2016 Tour, which started out with a modest number of dates has grown into a massive cross-country campaign and his fans couldn’t be happier.

Ted Nugent with drummer Jason Hartless - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Ted Nugent with drummer Jason Hartless – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Nugent Outrocking Those Half His Age

Nugent holds his own against young rockers and would put any veteran rockers to shame.  If you insert some patriotism, a few American flags onstage and a little political rhetoric, it’s a great show, directed mainly at his certain audience.

All the favorite Nugent songs including “Cat Scratch Fever” are on the set list and so is a persona that’s bigger than life.  Nugent called the people who come to see him the “real Californians” and appreciates them because they appreciate the “shitkickin'” music he plays.

“I love him,” said fan Debby Kraigen of Sherman Oaks, Calif., during the show in Beverly Hills. “Some of my friends really don’t care for him, and my daughter and her friends aren’t really fans, but I’ll always love him.”

Kraigen attended the show with several pals, all of whom have been to more Nugent shows since 1980 than all shows combined that the average concert-goer sees in a lifetime. Kraigen’s pal Ralph Martinez said:  “Ted’s almost 70 or something and he’s amazing.  I hope I have that kind of energy when I’m his age. We’re going to three of his other shows too.”

Kraigen echoed the sentiment of several people during the show: “I don’t like his politics but I love his music.”

ted-nugent-24-set-list (1 of 1) donna balancia

The set list from Ted Nugent’s show at the Saban Theatre

‘Ted Nugent: Political Activist’

Even though he calls himself a political activist, Nugent is a musical performer first and foremost.  Not only has he been been drawing lots of “regular” fans to  good-sized venues, but people are shelling out big bucks for “Dangerzone” VIP Meet-and-Greet packages.

Many think “Uncle Ted” is a turn-off.  His words are too strong, he’s a super-conservative, he hunts animals, and he’s aggressive. But criticism has also been directed at “raging” groups who profit from rhetoric related to shooting people and members of law enforcement.

From what our friends at some of the other shows in SoCal have told us, Nugent was out in full force at other venues including Canyon Club in Agoura Hills and The Coach House in Capistrano. Whatever the people in the audience think of his politics it was clear they were there for the music.

With his rockin’ ensemble of bassist Greg Smith and drummer Jason Hartless, seeing Nugent live is a step back into when rock concerts were true events, when the performer got to speak his peace … regardless if it’s accepted by all, none or some.



Hollywood Bowl Fans Feel Irie as The Great Burning Spear Makes His Final California Appearance

Burning Spear - Photo by Craig Hammons

Burning Spear – Photo by Craig Hammons


Jah cool wind blew peace and harmony over the Hollywood Bowl a beautiful summer evening last week as the sounds of reggae music would soon be soothing our souls.  Everyone was feeling Irie and ready to groove.

We all knew this would be a special evening as Burning Spear announced this would be his final concert in California.  Fans, family and friends came from all over the world to be part of the Burning Spear Experience.

KCRW’s Jeremy Sole opened the night by bringing out the Etana the Jamaican princess of reggae.  She and her roots reggae band covered some of her well known tracks like “Roots” and “Blessing,” before getting into her album “The Strong One” and some tracks from her newest album “I Rise.”   Some of the stand out tracks she performed were “Don’t Forget” and “Jah Chariot.”  She kept the positive energy flowing by covering Bob Marley’s classic One Drop” and even covered the Beatles “Don’t Let Me Down.”  At the end of her set she asked the audience if we were afraid and ended her set with “I Am Not Afraid.”   She told us all to “Do not walk with fear, with all that is going on in the world, find the strength to say no, I am not afraid.”

Ky-Mani Marley - Photo by Craig Hammons

Ky-Mani Marley – Photo by Craig Hammons

Next up was Bob’s son Ky-Mani Marley who kicked things off with his dad’s song “Concrete Jungle”.  The crowd was now up and feeling inspired by this music that magically moves them.  Ky-Mani asked “Are you feeling Irie” (the state of feeling great)?  Everyone was feeling the positive vibes.

He then played a couple new tracks called “Love Over All” and “Hey” which showed what a good song writer he is.

Ky-Mani brought out his friend Sammy Wilk to sing “Light Up” which didn’t take long for a smoky haze to form over the Bowl.   He kept the set fast and lively as he said he wanted to get in a few songs we all loved and ended his set with “Is This Love” and “Redemption Song”.  Every little thing was alright.   He thanked the crowd for this beautiful evening in one of his favorite places.  Rastafari!

As darkness fell over the Hollywood Bowl the stage was lit up bright waiting for the Jamaican roots reggae singer, conga player, Rastafarian and cultural icon Burning Spear.  The We Are One Band came on and played some instrumentals before Burning Spear strolled on stage to thunderous applause and much respect and appreciation.  Tonight was the last chance to see Spear and he would not disappoint his reggae brothers and sisters.

Spear said: “It’s going to be my last show in California and it’s time for “I MAN” to stand down from the stage as I want to say goodbye to my fans.”

Burning Spear - Photo courtesy Marco Swk

Burning Spear – Photo courtesy Marco Swk

Spear is now 71 years old but has got the energy of a young lion.  Spear is just one cool cat.  He was wearing ripped jeans and a Rasta vest and urging the people to sing along.  “Talk to me people,” he would say and we all would respond with cheers of happiness.   The crowd was loving his positive and uplifting songs of love, peace and unity.  Spear told us that we are free and we are going to rock the Hollywood Bowl tonight and that is what we did.

Spear tore thru his set dancing and playing his congas like he was a young Jamaican lad all over again.

He played “Jah No Dead” reassuring the crowd that all is not lost, stay strong and stand tall.  Spear then reminded the crowd that the Spear has been burning since 1969 until now.  He then ran thru some upbeat versions of “Red, Green and Gold” and “Tumble Down” before slowly walking off stage left.  The entire Hollywood Bowl was on their feet screaming for more.  Then Spear and his band came back out and said “Shout it if you want to hear more original reggae music.”    He then went into a slow emotional version of “Purple Rain.”  We all sang along with Burning Spear as he saluted Prince because he always stood up for what he believed in.

The evening ended with a song of truth called “Slavery Days” and then “Holy Foundation.”  Spear stretched arms out to the audience as if he was try hug each of us.  He said “It’s my last performance in California, I know you will always remember Burning Spear and keep his music alive.”  Many happy memories were made tonight as we all were spell bound by the love and unity we all experienced tonight.  Keep the Spear burning.  One love.


The California Rocker Interview: Soul Asylum Founder Dave Pirner Talks ‘Change of Fortune’

New Orleans Resident Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum Rolls to Whisky A-Go-Go July 21

Dave Pirner sits down with Donna Balancia of California Rocker

Dave Pirner sits down with Donna Balancia of California Rocker – Photo courtesy Dave Pirner

By DONNA BALANCIA – Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum has put a lot of time into the new album, Change of Fortune.  He’s had some major changes in his life and the album reflects that.

“It’s got loose architecture to it; it strives to be filthy and accurate at the same time,” he told in an exclusive interview. “The rythms are tight, and I got some stink in there.”


Dave, 52, has been living in New Orleans, raising a son, and playing music.  He looks basically the same, he’s still strictly anti-commercial and won’t sell his songs for TV ads.  His band is ON TOUR this summer with groups like The English Beat and The Fixx.  Soul Asylum plays Whisky A-Go-Go on July 21.

‘Runaway Train’

Change of Fortune album cover Soul Asylum

Change of Fortune album cover Soul Asylum

Yes, it’s a different Soul Asylum than in the days of the band’s 1994 superhit “Runaway Train.”  Soul Asylum 2016 consists of Dave, Michael Bland on drums, Winston Roye on bass, and Ryan Smith on guitar.

“We enjoy playing together and we’re having fun,” Pirner said.

“Runaway Train” reached number 2 on the U.S. Top 40 mainstream and sold 600,000 copies in the United State en route to being certified gold.

Soul Asylum had previously been called Loud Fast Rules with guitarist Dan Murphy, bassist Karl Mueller, and Pirner who had been on the drums – Murphy and Pirner were taking turns on vocals.

Dave moved from drums to lead vocals and rhythm guitar in 1983 and the band became Soul Asylum.

A lot has happened in the years since “Runaway Train” hit the charts and won a GRAMMY Award for Best Rock Song in 1994. Dave’s had a family, he survived the death of his best pal and bandmate Karl Mueller, and he evacuated for Hurricane Katrina to Minneapolis only to return to a devastated New Orleans.

“New Orleans is resilient,” Dave said. “They’re true believers here. There’s a real pride and you could see it when the Saints won the Super Bowl.”

And yes there’s been a lot of change all around. But he said he’s undergone one change that is truly unfortunate for someone living in New Orleans: “I lost the ability to eat spicy foods,” Dave said.

Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum

Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum photo courtesy Dave Pirner for

Dave speaks like a guy with a swagger looks. He pauses when he speaks, he’s thinking, and he’s uncensored.

The album and title track off  “Change of Fortune” were influenced by living in the Big Easy, Dave said.

“The drum rythms are inspired by the parades or the syncopations that are so fundamental and intimate to New Orleans,” Dave said.

Did a lot of people leave New Orleans?

“Whenever I’m in Houston, musicians ask ‘How’s the scene back in New Orleans,” Dave said. “So I think people relocated.

As far as playing the old haunts of New Orleans, Dave initially was taken with the appearance of history on the walls of the joints there. The changing face of New Orleans brought some initial trepidation.

“Tipitina’s has always been the place to play,” Dave said. “So when House of Blues came in I was resistant, but for the musicians that live here, they were like, ‘Wow a good lighting system,’ ‘A good sound system,’ Wow a clean bathroom,’ so in that respect it’s good. But I’m here in New Orleans where the legends are.

Dave Pirner’s Film work

Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum

Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum

Dave’s been longtime friends with filmmaker Kevin Smith, since Smith directed the video for Soul Asylum song “Can’t Even Tell” which appeared in Smith’s comedy, Clerks.  Pirner then scored his next movie Chasing Amy.

“Kevin’s been lecturing at Kent State,” Dave said. “Kevin asked for a song he liked and ended up making a video on the roof where Clerks was shot. I did the Chasing Amy score and now I’m working on a documentary about a magic shop that I know from my childhood. That’ll be directed by Dave Roth who directed Artificial Heart our Black Gold video.”

And he may be working in films, but he won’t do ads, Dave said.

“I’m not putting my music in commercials,” Dave said. “It’s almost problematic that I’m not interested. I won’t even play on a stage that has a beer sign on it. I’m not interested, but If Greenpeace wanted to use my music I might reconsider. Or if a bullet train from California to New York, I would consider letting them use ‘Runaway Train.'”

The industry today is a little different than when “Runaway Train” went off the charts.

“Today, it’s impossible for me to support my own band,” he said. ” They would love for us to license a song for an Advil ad to feed their children.

“But as George Michael said, “You got to have faith.”

Dave paused for a few seconds.

“I can’t believe I’m quoting George Michael,” he laughed. “But Soul Asylum would not be around if we didn’t have faith.”

The Soul Asylum Tour

Dave Pirner - Photo courtesy Woohoo120

Dave Pirner – Photo courtesy WH120

Last summer the band toured with the Meat Puppets. This year they’ll be touring with English Beat and it’s a different crowd. They’ll be playing Whisky A-Go-Go July 21.

Dave said he likes playing the smaller venues.

“You know, it’s a fact that the bigger the venue the more impersonal it is,” he said. “I remember some of the festivals in Europe, before Lollapalooza, you could look out and see the crowd goes on forever, you couldn’t see the end of the crowd.”

Dave said he’s been fortunate enough to have a wide range of performance experiences and a few come to mind as standouts.

“We opened for Guns N Roses in England,” he said. “Then there was the time we played the White House. One time we were playing ‘Runaway Train’ on a baseball diamond and a train went by right at that moment. We’ve been really fortunate.  And we’ve done a lot but there’s a lot more ahead.”

Magic Lightnin’ Boys Revive American Swamp Music With Scorching New Album ‘Stealin’ Thunder’

Magic Lightnin’ Boys Add Zap to Southern Rock Genre

The Magic Lightnin' Boy blow doors - Photo courtesy of Magic Lightnin' Boys

The Magic Lightnin’ Boy bust open the Southern Rock genre – Photo courtesy of Magic Lightnin’ Boys


The Magic Lightnin’ Boys are helping the South to Rise Again.  South Ohio, that is.

With ripping guitar, cool songs and a charismatic frontman, the Magic Lightnin’ Boys take Southern Rock, add their own funky style and make it their own.

They’ve got a new album called Stealin Thunder, and it sure is appropriately named.

It’s like these Cincinnati guys took every Southern rock song from the heavens, blended in their own harmonica-laced upbeat funk, and thrust the genre down upon the people like a bolt of lightning.  Maybe that’s how the band got its name, because these Magic Lightnin’ Boys really give a charge.

Good Ol’ Southern Rock, With a New Twist

Magic Lightnin’ Boys are powered by lead vocalist Casey Gomez, whose deep and rowdy yet melodic voice sounds like a combination of Robin Trower and Darius Rucker, except this guy is more like Hottie and the Blowfish.  Stage presence he’s got.

Magic Lightnin' Boys' new album is 'Stealin' Thunder' - Photo courtesy Magic Lightnin Boys

Magic Lightnin’ Boys’ new album is ‘Stealin Thunder’ – Photo courtesy Magic Lightnin Boys

Gomez’ voice has a quality that gives the group a retro bluesy sound, underscoring a truly American and quasi “swampy” tone.  The guitar work and bass is aces and it’s apparent that the Lightnin’ Boys are influenced by Marshall Tucker and the Allman Brothers.

One of the reasons we say this is because we heard the cut “April Rain.”  The song has some resonant sounds and cool lyrics:

“Good love is hard to find, but one thing they never tell you is it’s always better with a cheap-ass bottle of wine.  When she cries it’s like April Rain, washing away the pain…”

Not to march out some of the fun old bands of the 1970s, but someone in the Magic Lightnin’ Boys is a Pure Prairie League fan, judging by some of the other hot tunes.  It’s nice that a modern band can take the old Southern Rock classics and put a new upbeat spin on them.

magic-artA lot can be said about Brian Tarter’s ripping guitar and backing vocals, Richie Lee’s out of control bass and Kurt Lipphardt’s complicated and combustible work on the kit.

Other standout numbers on Stealin Thunder are “Roll,” “The Ride,” and “Rubber Side Down,” the latter of which is reminicent of Jim Stafford’s hit “Spiders and Snakes,” only with a faster, fun pace.

It’s amazing how a little application of talent, enthusiasm for a 30-year-old genre, and a little updating can create a whole new sound. Bravo to the Magic Lightnin’ Boys, a true gem of a band!  Your talent is welcome in the big city.

The Magic Lightnin’ Boys will be touring with club gigs and will also hit the festival circuit through summer and into the fall in support of the album.

Check out the Magic Lightnin’ Boys website 


At The Drive In and Le Butcherettes Bring Their Physical Performances to Hollywood Palladium

Cedric Bixler-Zavala of At The Drive In always delivers a physical performance - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Cedric Bixler-Zavala of At The Drive In always delivers a physical performance – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA – At The Drive In and Le Butcherettes made it two nights of wild entertainment, putting on their physical music at sold out shows at the Hollywood Palladium.

ATDI frontman Cedric couldn’t help but do his routine stage diving, and the audience was more than happy to oblige and also join in.

The Hollywood Palladium was packed wall-to-wall with people and it goes to show the popularity of the bands.

Pent-Up Demand

Most people who attended said they’ve wanted to see both ATDI and Le Butcherettes “for a long time.”

That’s because in the case of ATDI, the band has been on-again, off-again but showed it was fully on for this two-night affair.

set list ATDI

set list ATDI

ATDI played most of the crowd favorites, too many to mention (see attached set list photos) and the group was in top shape.

As for Le Butcherettes, if you have missed them, that’s your own fault.

Teri Suarez, known as Teri Gender Bender, the front woman of The Butcherettes, joined her pals as the supporting act, and this is clearly a match made in Heaven — or Texas or somewhere. They’re two phenomenal bands that share players and obviously share a lot of attitude in common. They are both a pleasant relief to today’s tame Rock N Roll.

As we can’t say enough good things about Teri’s performance — she knows how to electrify the crowd and throw in a stage dive or two herself — we are going to leave it all up to the photos to tell the story of the performance.

Abe Reviews: The Lumineers Light Up Santa Barbara Bowl With Their Elegant Style

Lumineers Photo © 2016 Abe Noorzay

Lumineers play the Santa Barbara Bowl (May 28, 2016) – Photo © 2016 Abe Noorzay


On a cool Saturday night, during a much-needed three-day weekend, The Lumineers lit up the entire city of Santa Barbara.

The band that had been at No. 1 on the Billboard charts for 18 non-consecutive weeks with their hit single “Ho Hey,” was able to showcase their newest album, Cleopatra. The openers put on a stellar show for everyone and the sold out crowd was ready.

The night started early with a 6:30 p.m. performance from the first opener, Sleepwalkers.  The group hails from Richmond, Va., and had their own brand of California beach goth that I’m sure most of the crowd wasn’t expecting. Between the countless animated faces of guitarist/bassist Austin York and just the overall local-sounding tunes they had, the band was incredibly enjoyable to watch.

Lumineers by Abe Noorzay

Lumineers – Jeremiah Fraites (bass, drum, tambourine), Wesley Schultz (guitar) – Photo © 2016 Abe Noorzay

SOAK: Amazing Treat

The skies started to change colors and up next was SOAK. She got on stage with her band and she just looked like this awkward kid on stage with her guitar and bright, buttoned shirt, then she started playing. The entire crowd stopped what they were doing and they just listened. Her music sounded like what the ocean feels like and her voice had a dark undertone that led perfectly into the new sound The Lumineers went for in Cleopatra. 

After that riveting performance, the crowd was beyond ready to see the main event. Couples were swing dancing in the pit to The Plank by The Devil Makes Three and everyone was just having fun.

As the night faded to black, the curtains fell and the stage lit up.

The Lumineers

First to come on stage was drummer Jeremiah Fraites with his signature white T-shirt and suspenders along with the fedora.

As the crowd roars, he walked to his kit, set his drink down, and hit the bass drum rhythmically as the others walked on the stage as well. The crowd got even louder. Frontman Wesley Schultz picked up his guitar and they opened with the intro to their new album, Sleep on the Floor.

Halfway through the show, the Lumineers picked up their instruments and made their way to the middle of the crowd and played a couple of songs with all their fans surrounding them.

Opener SOAK - Photo © 2016 Abe Noorzay

Opener SOAK – Photo © 2016 Abe Noorzay

While there, they also covered the famous Bob Dylan track, “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” and did it in a way where they turned it into a Lumineers song. They absolutely owned it.

They finished off the night with “Stubborn Love” and the crowd sang along so beautifully. You could look around and see people crying their eyes out, singing along and just staring at the sky.

The Lumineers put on a different kind of show. They take the simplicity of their original folk sound and add a certain elegance with their making of Cleopatra that just can’t be obtained by their contemporaries.

John Mayall, Known as ‘Godfather of British Blues,’ to play Del Mar Fair

John Mayall - Photo by Federico Giammusso

John Mayall – Photo by Federico Giammusso

By CRAIG HAMMONS – John Mayall may be 83 years old, but count on “The Godfather of British Blues”  to play as if he were 20 when he performs at the Del Mar Fair on June 15.

Mayall will be touring throughout the U.S. this summer and fall.

At a recent performance at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts’ Jazz, Blues and R and B Weekend, Mayall kept the crowd going with the promise of much more music yet to come.

Mayall, long regarded as a master of blues, was joined by Charlie Musselwhite and three-time Grammy-nominated vocalist Bettye La Vette.

–> See JOHN MAYALL TOUR dates <–

Musselwhite opened with the barn burner “Good Blues Tonight.” Fifty years of nonstop touring has not stopped this bluesman from slowing down. Musselwhite is proof that great music only gets better with age. He reminisced about being born in Mississippi, then later moving to Florida but like all good blues cats he said his heart is in Chicago. He later did a song called “Strange Land” about when he arrived in Chicago and how big and strange it was, with so many tall building and people everywhere.

Charlie’s band may be the best he’s ever had with drummer June Core, bassist Steve Froberg and guitarist Matt Stubbs. For Charlie, the blues is his best friend, as it’s been with him through the good times and comforts him in the bad. This blues cat is still at the top of his game and tonight it showed.

Bettye Lavette - Photo by Bryan Ledgard

Bettye Lavette – Photo by Bryan Ledgard

After a short intermission, next up was mighty and majestic soul singer LaVette. I’ve only heard a few of her of songs before tonight. But after a few songs in, I realized she does not only sing a song, she lives inside each song. LaVette set a high standard and never fell below it.

She can re-sculpt a song, bring it to life and make it her own. She did a very personal song called “A Woman like Me” where she sings: “It’s hard loving a woman like me, you need to think about it before you get hooked on the venom and can’t live without it.”

She’s a tall, slim and sultry woman that slides across the stage with grace.  Her career spans over 50 years. When it was time for her to close out her set she just kept singing as she exited stage left.

Next up was the legendary Mayall. A pioneer of blues music who has had nothing but the best players in has band over the last 50 years including Eric Clapton, Peter Greene, Walter Trout, Mick Taylor and Coco Montoya. But the blues brothers he had with him tonight were tight and on fire. His touring band consists of: Rocky Athas (guitar), Greg Rzab (bass) and Jay Davenport (drums).

At 83 years old, Mayall played like he was a teenager again. He had two keyboards set up in front of the stage with one a piano and the other a Hammond B3. He switched between them effortlessly while at the same time playing harmonica. By the time they were into their second song “Congo Square,” the joint was jumping. One of my favorite songs of the night was the old Sonny Boy Williamson song “Help Me” also done by Ten Years After. Besides playing keyboards and harmonica, Mayall also played guitar on a couple songs even taking some pretty impressive solos.

They whole band all played with excitement and emotion that touched the audience. Mayall says “The blues take takes you, claims you and never lets you go.”

Make no mistake Mayall is a true bluesman still out on the road.

Video courtesy of DoctorNoe

The Cure: The ‘Band of Enduring Honesty’ Plays The Hollywood Bowl

Robert Smith, The Cure, Captivate at Hollywood Bowl

The Cure - All photos © 2016 Craig Hammons for

The Cure – All photos © 2016 Craig Hammons


The sun was setting over the Hollywood Hills and the blood red moon was beginning to rise.

On this night it was very appropropriate that on National Goth Day The Cure would open their 3 night sold-out engagement at the Hollywood Bowl.

The Cure started their North American Tour on May 10, 2106 in New Orleans and they will play 26 shows in the USA before doing over 75 shows in 20 + countries.

Ever-Changing Set List

This evening’s show would cover over 37 years of Cure songs including the hits, rarities and two unreleased tracks.

So far the set list has changed each night digging deep into their catalog of impressive material.  Tonight’s show would cover 35 songs in just under 3 hours.

After a brief instrumental tape of some wild Dixieland jazz The Cure wandered out on the stage to open with the first three tracks from their 1989 release Disintegration.  The opening power chords of “Plainsong” had the crowd in bliss as their favorite band in the world was back.  They went right into “Pictures of You” and “Closedown” before moving stepping back further to 1985’s Head on the Door.

A powerful “A Night Like This,” “Push” and “In Between Days” sounded fresh as ever and fit nicely into the set as darkness arrived.

Photo by Craig Hammons for

Photo by Craig Hammons for

Robert Smith’s voice sounded stronger than ever, Simon Gallup’s bass playing was on fire while drummer Jason Cooper never seemed to stop playing and Reeves Gabrels kept up the pace shredding on tracks like “Wrong Number” and “Never Enough.”

The Cure pulled tracks from almost every one of their albums even playing two new tracks.   The set was well paced with “Fascination Street” and “The End of the World” fitting nicely together and “Love Song” and “Just Like Heaven” bringing cheers and tears from the audience.

Rarely Played Songs

Then they slipped in “2 Late” a B side from Disintegration which was only played live once before at a benefit in 2014.  The night really was coming to peak when they went into “One Hundred Years” with the lights going off in every direction.  They ended with “Disintegration” but only 90 minutes in we knew we were in much more.

The first song of the first encore was “It Can Never Be the Same” a song that could have fit easily into their early catalog.  A very definitive Cure song with an edgy guitar riff.  The title of this new song is written across Smith’s main guitar.  I hope this is a sign that a new album is on the way as the last new Cure album was “4:13” back in 2008.   Ending the first encore was “A Forest” a bona-fide early hit with with its blistering bass riff and a manic rhythm.  I could listen to this song again and again and again.

The Cure - Photo by Craig Hammons

The Cure – Photo by Craig Hammons

The second encore Robert Smith finally addressed the audience saying “this song is our only rock and roll song” before launching into a ferocious “Shake Dog Shake.”

Although Robert is not one to talk much to the audience it was odd that the video cameras that feed the video screens stayed stationary all night never once showing Smith on the video screens?  This must have let some fans down in the back of the Bowl.

Before ending the second encore they made it all the way back to 1984 with two tracks from The Top” playing “Piggy in the Mirror” and “Give Me It”.   Even though some of these songs are over 30 years old they sounded new and fresh by a band that is seems timeless.

By the time they got to the third encore the fans were still on their feet wanting more.  Opening with another new song “Step Into the Light”  a melodic song that builds to a big drum finish as Robert Smith sings “we need to step out of the shadows and step into the light”.  Just when you thought you had enough they went into “Never Enough”.  This seemed to be the Cure’s theme song as they weren’t even close to being done yet.   Next up was an odd choice a song called “Burn” from The Crow soundtrack.  This is really a lost gem that fit right into this epic night.  They ended this encore with a “Wrong Number” a track from Wild Mood Swings that rocked the house once again.

The Cure - Photo by Craig Hammons

The Cure – Photo by Craig Hammons

Encore four brought out fan favorites.   No one was going away disappointed.  This band of enduring power and honesty to their craft then played “The Lovecats” which made us all feel like we were young again, “Hot Hot Hot” had us dancing in the aisles and singing along to every word and “Why Can’t I Be You” kept us in awe of such a wonderful evening with such a mighty and majestic band.  Ending the night was “Boys Don’t Cry” going all the way back to 1979 from their first US release Three Imaginary Boys.

To think that this all started in 1979 as the Easy Cure formed by Robert Smith and a few of his mates from school who were listening to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd.  But when they heard the Stranglers they thought this is it.  From then till now The Cure have did it their way connecting to their legion of fans thru their music and lyrics.  We all felt connected as we exited the Bowl happy as we had just experienced more than a concert but a gift that will last in our memories forever.

Video courtesy of VinylPiper

EXCLUSIVE: BORNS Performance Electrifies GRAMMY Showcase Crowd at The Fonda Theatre

BORNS - Photo by Donna Balancia

BORNS – Photo by Donna Balancia

Alexander Jeans, Blondfire, BORNS and Kirby Maurier Impress

By DONNA BALANCIA – BORNS was the surprise headliner at the third annual Grammy Showcase at the Fonda Theatre Tuesday night.

Alexander Jean, Blondfire and Kirby Maurier were also on the GRAMMY short list.

The showcase was packed to the brim with fans and industry members who came to see some of the young GRAMMY up and coming musicians.

Borns is one of the hotest performers around with a hit song “Electric Love” that has been gracing the airwaves and the advertising world.  The video for “Electric Love” has been watched more than 7 million times.

Blondfire - Photo by Donna Balancia

Blondfire – Photo by Donna Balancia

Diverse Music, Different Influences, Similar M.O.

BORNS has been a presence at SXSW, Coachella and other top festivals, where he gained notoriety.

He makes no bones about licensing his music for commercials, as “Electric Love” is featured on Southwest ads as well as the Hulu “You Know You Want To” spot.

In addition to “Electric Love,” the band performed other works off its latest LP, Dopamine.

BORNS is on tour and in addition to West Coast and East Coast dates, Borns will play the Santa Monica Pier on July 14.

Alexander Jean is Mark Ballas and BC Jean who are an item in real life. Mark gained notoriety from his regular gig on Dancing With The Stars, for which he received an Emmy Nomination for Outstanding Choreography. He and singer-songwriter BC were engaged last January.

Kirby Maurier - Photo by Donna Balancia

Kirby Maurier – Photo by Donna Balancia

Kirby Maurier wowed the crowd with her modern interpretative hip-hop, her style is fresh.

The Miami gal told California Rocker that Miami is hotter than L.A.

And if the singers in Miami are all like her, then that could be true. Her latest album is Doing The Most.

Blondfire centers around brother and sister Bruce and Erica Driscoll, who are Brazilian-Americans. Their style is alternative and their look is the 1980s, but their sound is current. Their most recent single is “True Confessions.”

The Grammy showcase is held to give young performers an opportunity to be seen by industry heavyweights.

Modern English: All These Years Later, Legendary New Wave Band Does More Than ‘Melt With You’

Robbie Grey of Modern English - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Robbie Grey of Modern English – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Robbie Grey: ‘I’ll Melt With You’ is ‘The Song That Pays The Bills’

By DONNA BALANCIA – Modern English may look a little different than back in 1981, but the music is better than ever.

The British band known for superhit “I’ll Melt With You” is tight and gave a stellar performance at The Echoplex Sunday night.

The iconic band performed its 1981 LP Mesh and Lace in its entirety to celebrate the 11th-Year Anniversary of the excellent Part Time Punks program. Underpass, Soft Kill and Sextile brought diversity of alt rock sounds prior to the headliner.

Mick Conroy on bass, Gary McDowell on guitar and Robbie Grey on vocals set the pace as Colchester, UK’s first punk band, The Lepers, back in 1979.  When keyboardist Stephen Walker and drummer came on board, they became Modern English and took on a more new wave-style sound.

Gary McDowell of Modern English - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Gary McDowell of Modern English – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Still Together

It’s fantastic the band is together again after some ups and downs, unlike many of their colleagues from the era like Joy Division, Depeche Mode and Gang of Four.  Hugh Jones, who also produced Echo and the Bunnymen produced Mesh and Lace and had a good deal to do with the band’s post-punk sound. The UK produced most of the well-known punk/new wave bands in the late 1970s-early 1980s.

And while they may look a little older, a little more heavily tattooed, Modern English band members have a young appearance and a lot of stories to tell.

The members of the band who have broken up, gotten back together, tried to go separate ways and tried different music projects realized they’re cherished by not only the generation they’re from, but also by today’s younger fans.

Bassist Mick Conroy gets the handoff from Robbie Grey during Modern English performance at the Echoplex - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Bassist Mick Conroy gets the handoff from Robbie Grey during Modern English performance at the Echoplex – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Advertising Income

That could in part be because of the popularity of the group’s 1982 superhit “I’ll Melt With You,” which has had enormous commercial success and has been played in everything from U.S. TV commercials pitching cheeseburgers, chocolate and tacos, to feature films.

But the band says the new wave song is really about a couple making love as a nuclear bomb is dropped. No matter, the song closed out for the evening as Robbie called it “The Song That Pays The Bills.”

Favorites of the night taken directly from the Mesh and Lace album are the classic upbeat songs “Smiles and Laughter,” “Gathering Dust” and “Swans on Glass.”  The songs were badass in the day and still hold up today.

With Modern English you get what you expect. It’s refreshing in that they call themselves what they are.  With the exception of drummer Roy Martin, who handled the kit with amazing agility and blend, the band is comprised of all the original members.

Gary McDowell of Modern English - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Gary McDowell of Modern English – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Long Run

In the never-ending quest for to make a living, there are many bands out there with only one remaining member who call themselves the name they used to go by when they were four.

But it should be determined at what point would it be considered false advertising to call a band with departed anchor members by its original name.

Joy Division evolved into New Order, then split into two bands, New Order, and Peter Hook and the Light. Let’s hope Modern English will never have to endure a similar fate.

But it’s clear that Modern English has their colleagues on the brain — with Robbie sporting a Joy Division T-shirt and changing into a David Bowie T-shirt to honor the departed musician.  And he performed happily — even when a gal came on stage and started hugging him. But Robbie is a good reflection of the band — seems Modern English will withstand the test of time and simply shrug and carry on.


Angelo Moore and His Band Project N-Fidelikah Get Wiggy With It at Release Party in Hollywood

A new image for Angelo Moore of Project NFidelikah - Photo by Donna Balancia

A new look for Angelo Moore of Project NFidelikah – Photo by Donna Balancia

‘Supergroup’ of Talents From Fishbone and Lynch Mob Takes its Act on the Road


HOLLYWOOD – Angelo Moore is not known for having a head of hair but he ‘got wiggy with it’ last night during a Project N-Fidelikah show in Hollywood.

Project NFidelikah had a blowout release party for their self-titled debut album on the Rat Pack Records label.  The funky band has been playing around town a lot lately, including an appearance at the Whisky’s Ultimate Jam Night last week to show off their stuff.

"Thou shalt not covet thy friend's wig," Angelo Moore and super stylist Leisa Balfour agreed. They're holding a Project NFidelikah poster - Photo by Donna Balancia

“Thou shalt not covet thy friend’s wig,” Angelo Moore and super stylist Leisa Balfour agreed  – Photo by Donna Balancia

Musicians Cover Metal, Punk and Funk

It’s a pretty interesting group of guys who possess a range of diverse musical talents: George Lynch of Lynch Mob on guitar, renowned drummer Chris Moore on the kit, Pancho Tomaselli of War and Philm on bass, and Angelo, known as the theramin-playing Fishbone “commander,” out front.

The new Project NFidelikah release is funky and fun, but also political. The band tackles topics that cover a range of topics that burden our society including racism, pregnancy and wronged love.

But it’s done with a sense of humor, a dash of cussing and a big helping of stylish wit, mainly provided by stylist and promotional lovely, the beautiful Leisa Balfour.  The band travels light, with friends and fans in tow, and have high hopes for the next year, touring and bringing the music to the masses.

Chris Moore, Pancho Tomaselli, Angelo Moore and George Lynch - Photo by Donna Balancia

Chris Moore, Pancho Tomaselli, Angelo Moore and George Lynch – Photo by Donna Balancia

Project NFidelikah’s Freshman Bow

The new album is a departure from anything the members have done in their “other” bands. George comes from metal, Angelo is a punker, Pancho is funk and Chris is the drum “wizard” with a big, fast style. The Project NFidelikah record is a collection of upbeat, cool tunes including “Anchor Baby,” “Wanna Be White”  and “Landslide Salvation.” Stay tuned.





Kim And The Created, Le Butcherettes, Bring Woman Power to Echoplex for Record Release Party

Kim, Butcherettes, Hit ‘Ceiling’ in Wild Show

A triumphant evening for Kim and The Created - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

A triumphant evening for Kim and The Created – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia


Rock ‘N’ Roll may have been a man’s game, but women are taking over, showing they can do anything a man can do and do it wearing high heels.

Kim And The Created and surprise guests Le Butcherettes, climbed to the ceiling, crowd-surfed, and even wound up laying face-down on the floor.  It’s not what they did, but how they did it that showed feminine flair, raw truth and new-era style punk.

With passion and physical strength, the ladies of the night: Wuwu, The Butcherettes and Kim And The Created, captivated the crowd at the Echoplex with great music, in-your-face acts, and flirty but overwhelming power.

Wuwu kicked the night off with her cool, tonal synth, little girl voice, and spirited dancing; her petite and darling  appearance grabbed the audience attention.  She and her ponytail spun between working the keyboards and pirouetting for the people in a little Eskimo outfit reminiscent of a blue Santa’s elf.  But that was about as tender as the night would be, because after that, a couple of storms moved in.

Le Butcherettes

Teri Le Butcherettes Photo by Donna Balancia

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

If there were a thing as seat belts for a concert audience, this would be the time to use them.  Teri Gender Bender, the lead vocalist of Le Butcherettes is an unexpected shock of compressed energy who blows the doors off the hinges.  She stomped out onto a dark stage babbling some wacky chant like “La La La Sha Sha Sha,” all dolled up and waving her arms around, as if being forcibly dragged to some 50s zombie prom in hell.

She went from chanting and stomping to pleading and crying in her native Spanish as well as in English, lying flat out on top of the crowd to jumping in among those standing on the floor.  Teri’s a beautiful, swirling virago of power, music, femininity, athleticism – and theatre drama – all tied up in a messy red-high-heeled, fluffy package.

Teri Gender Bender and Le Butcherettes - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Teri Gender Bender and Le Butcherettes – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

“I don’t know if it comes from my parents my mother and father or in the spirit or what,” she said after the show, referring to the appearance that she is possessed while on stage. “Something takes over and I don’t know how to explain it.”

The Guadalajara-born beauty and her Butcherettes sweep you up in the madness, spin you around and rock you backwards.  Then she coos and calms only to blow up at any moment.

Seeing Le Butcherettes is a compelling experience, in two languages no less.  The songs, including Solo Soy Pueblo, Sin Sin Sin, and Kiss and Kill are hypnotic and rebellious, much like the group itself.

Le Butcherettes - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Le Butcherettes – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Teri’s very warm to the audience, as after the show she bent down to reach out, hug and shake hands with a devoted crossover fan base that’s been following her since 2010.

She also had to climb back up to pull one of her red high heels out of the top of the scaffolding where she hung upside-down earlier singing. Just another inherent risk that goes with the punk territory.

To her credit Teri has kept Le Butcherettes going despite changes to the lineup, which now is comprised of Chris Common on drums and Riko Rodruiguez-Lopez on bass.

Kim and The Created Homecoming

A triumphant evening for Kim and The Created - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

A triumphant evening for Kim and The Created – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

They have a great sound, but Kim And The Created is a remarkable band to watch.

Fresh off their tour supporting The Kills back east, Kim and The Created seemed happy to be welcomed home warmly by an audience that clearly knows her act and loves it.  Their release party was to promote a new 7-inch flexi-disk record, “Get What I Want,” which is catchy and has the look of something you’d have peeled off a cereal box back in the day.

That’s in keeping with the retro style of Kim House, whose performance reinforces solid music that comes from some deep feelings that are universally experienced.

Kim and The Created get a warm homecoming - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Kim and The Created get a warm homecoming – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

On stage Kim is clearly in her element and she uses every square inch of space in her wild act.  Nothing gets by her — or the audience — as she leaps off the stage, climbs the scaffolding, runs around, and whips her head and lanky torso  around. It’s clearly a love fest with her fans, and any second thoughts she has obviously melt away when she mans the microphone. She simply takes your breath away.

If you published an instruction manual on how to capture the audience, Kim and The Created would be the authors.  They’re clearly studied professionals on how to do their jobs because this seemingly simple show is actually quite rich in complexity.

Golden Girl, Kim House - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Golden Girl, Kim House – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Theirs is one of the most balls to the wall performances we’ve ever seen.  Kim’s evening was comprised of floating between her riveting guitar work, to laying flat-out, face-down on the floor, dousing the audience with alternating warm words and cold water. Oh, then she considerately throws a pile of napkins around – not something a guy would do.

Kim And The Created’s work is the kind of performance you wish everyone would give on some level, and the performance is so riveting you can’t look away. Kim makes this extremely physical style performance look easy when it’s extremely challenging and best left to those in their 20s.

There must be some type of workouts at the gym to get in shape for this kind of show.  But all that aside, Kim and The Created brings a remarkable rainbow of complexity, beauty and the honest music that everyone — men and women both — can truly cherish.

A triumphant evening for Kim and The Created - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

A triumphant evening for Kim and The Created – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia










Abe Reviews: Silversun Pickups, Joywave Make The Majestic Ventura an Early Stop on U.S. Tour

Silversun Pickups - Photo © 2016 Abe Noorzay

Silversun Pickups – Photo © 2016 Abe Noorzay


VENTURA – The Majestic Ventura had a double­header that any alternative fan would go nuts for. Joywave and Silversun Pickups played their second show of a six­-week tour together across the U.S.

Joywave played first and these New Yorkers really know how to put on a show. Between Sean Donnelly’s (bassist) dynamic dancing around the stage, Joey Morinelli’s (guitarist) epic hair flips, and Danny Armbruster’s slightly nerdy, but still amusing stage presence, I didn’t know what I was supposed to be watching.

After an exceptional performance by Joywave, the tour devils that are the Silversun Pickups came on stage and the crowd erupted.

This was the first time the Los Angeles natives had played the Majestic Ventura, as frontman Brian Aubert mentioned. They opened with “Cradle,” which is also the intro to their latest release, Better Nature, which came out in 2015 and played music from most of their albums in their 16-­song set. They closed with the band’s biggest hit “Lazy Eye” and when they unexpectedly came back for an encore, they played “Kissing Families,” “Dots and Dashes,” and “The Wild Kind.”

Joywave - Photo © 2016 Abe Noorzay

Joywave – Photo © 2016 Abe Noorzay

Aubert’s stage presence was natural and fun. Smiling big and dancing the entire night as he played his guitar and sang beautifully with his iconic soprano voice. Nikki Monninger, SSPU’s bassist and backup vocalist, stayed quietly in the back with poise and her shy smile. Brian even pointed out how shy she was and teased her a bit by putting the spotlight on the bassist and telling the entire crowd to stare at her­ it gave everyone a nice laugh.

And while we’re still talking about the band members, Chris Guanlao may be one of the greatest drummers I have ever seen play. He knew what he was doing with every song and his long hair flowing everywhere as he headbanged made it all the more fun to watch. And Joe Lester also did an exceptional job on the keyboard; he played all of the background strings and also had great stage presence with his headbanging and sweat dripping. Technically, this band is a good as you’re going to get.

Iggy Pop at The Greek: While Not a Tragedy, He Took The Long and Uncompromising Road

Iggy Pop and the Stooges - Photo © Heather Harris

Iggy Pop and the Stooges: All The Right Moves – Photo © Heather Harris


LOS ANGELES – Iggy Pop wrapped the U.S. segment of his Post Pop Depression tour at The Greek Theatre with a few more fans than he had — and maybe that was the simple idea.

Iggy is a master of appearance and that 69-year-old appearance is holding up well.  He has the stance of a confident but undervalued pugilist who has paid the price for his uncompromising artistry.

But these days, his signature has been teaming with younger rockers to keep current, keep himself in the press and to stay sharp.

He’s learned a thing or two after being knocked around on the ground. And maybe his time has finally come.

“I love Iggy, he really won me over,” said a 20-something fan who was among the thousands at The Greek Theatre Thursday night. It was a sold-out last night of the Post Pop Depression tour he’s shared with prominent band mates Josh Homme, Matt Helders and Dean Fertita, Troy Van Leeuwen and Matt Sweeney. Now it’s on to Europe.

Iggy’s Revolution

These days Iggy’s goals are not as lofty as they were when he started a music revolution in the early 1970s.  The excesses of success are for those younger than him, he’s accumulated a great deal of wealth and he has a beautiful wife and home life in Miami.  He doesn’t party and he sticks to a regimen to make it through at least this one last big push on touring. And he could always use a few more fans.





The David Bowie Songs

It’s no coincidence Iggy’s band mates are at least 30 years younger than he is. The prolific punk rock progenitor was looking for a shot in the arm and just maybe a new raison d’etre.  Yes he’s been doing an amazing job as D.J. on BBC6 with insightful thoughts about a range of music. And he’s been going through the catalogues of others.

But since the death of former collaborator David Bowie, Iggy has dusted off the classics from The Idiot and Lust For Life, which Bowie produced for him.  While most Pop fans know “The Passenger,” his beautiful tunes “Everything Will Be Alright Tonight,” “Here Comes Success,” and his own, less well-known rendition of “China Girl” have long been overlooked by the masses.  These are songs that have gotten a lot of us through the tough times for a long time. So hearing them live is a treat; it’s remarkable that Iggy is singing those songs in concert only now that Bowie is gone, and there is probably a reason.

Overbooked Star

During the days leading up to his outstanding show at The Greek, Iggy must have been overbooked as he made a harried appearance at Mr. Musichead art gallery in Hollywood, across the street from Guitar Center and the Sunset Grill.  Many people arrived before the 6 p.m. start date for the showing of American Valhalla, the photos of Post Pop Depression.

Iggy Pop and Don Was - Photo © Heather Harris for California Rocker

Iggy Pop and Don Was – Photo © Heather Harris for California Rocker

Around 70 percent of the people who bought the $30-something ticket were disappointed to find out that by the time they walked through the gallery doors, Iggy, his wife, Nina, and Josh and his family had vamoosed out the back. After all, how much mugging for the cell phone camera can a guy do.  He had to have had 22 different two- or three-word conversations with those in line, after all.

We didn’t have the heart to stand there and stare and bother him with questions, seeing how Iggy looked a little drained from the experience.  When we offered him some water, he responded with a decidedly polite “No thank you.”

Then came the  “How much longer?” to his manager.

And with that, the group was gone from the makeshift tent that held a range of black and white photos of Iggy in his Post Pop desert days with Homme boy and pals. The photos are lovely but clearly Iggy was the attraction here.


Connie, a friend of Iggy from the old days, said she wanted to see Iggy and didn’t get the emailed update that came to ticketholders warning them if they wanted to catch a glimpse of King Pop, they had better arrive at 5:45 p.m. The email said Iggy and his team would be leaving for The GRAMMY Museum precisely at 7 “for a nomination.”

And yes, while deserving of a nomination, we’re not so sure that was entirely accurate.  We’re not aware The GRAMMY Museum gives out nominations for anything.  Nonetheless, those who bought tickets to the gallery showing were bummed when Iggy and crew were not there.  It’s free admission to Mr. Musichead on any normal day.

Wayne Kramer talks Super Group - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Wayne Kramer talks Super Group – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

A major positive: At Mr. Musichead, we got to have a good heart-to-heart with Wayne Kramer, founder of MC5 and that made the event well worthwhile.  MC5 was the “big brother” band to The Stooges back in the 1960s Detroit.  Wayne is a gem, who spoke to us at length about his charity work.

He’s truly got a big heart and he’s a remarkably humble guy, especially since Wayne and MC5 are arguably the true creators of that Detroit punk sound, as “Kick Out The Jams,” is still the battlecry of every garage rock punk rocker wannabe, or never was, and even a dead music superstar or two.

Iggy and his crew piled into their black SUVs and jammed on out of the gallery. It’s probably not Iggy’s fault he was over boooked and that he and his crew tried to grab as much gusto from the Post Pop Depression tour push and the merch and monetizing opportunities. After all, Iggy came right out and said this would most likely be his last tour ever and possibly last album as well.

Iggy’s not an easy one to get along with, say his pals.  He’s a perfectionist and a little hard-headed — possibly even a – gasp – Republican.  Except for the Republican part, his idiosyncracies all probably come as a result of many years of leaping off the stage and sometimes not getting caught.  He innovated an entire niche of rock music in the 1970s that those hippies and others just didn’t understand. And it took a gargantuan effort to get where he is today.

We’re talking about a guy whose first claim to fame was walking on the audience like Jesus walked on the water, and smearing himself with peanut butter.  Even his bandmates, Ron and Scott Asheton and Dave Alexander, didn’t see the peanut butter coming.

Iggy Pop - walking on the crowds, use of peanut butter among memorable practices

Iggy Pop walking on the crowds and innovative use of peanut butter among memorable practices – Photo courtesy Midsummer Rock TV

Iggy Pop, Gadget User

Iggy has come a long way from recording vacuum cleaners and blenders for that authentic sound of Detroit, from whence he hails.  And The Greek Theatre is just about as far away as any performer could get from Detroit, on many levels.

You hear stories of rock stars and celebs donating money secretly to charities in their home towns, only to find out their benevolence upon their death.

Something tells us this will likely not be the case for Iggy, but he has definitely left an undeniable legacy of music.

“Iggy Pop feels underappreciated,” said one longtime acquaintance. “People are coming to his shows now and that’s wonderful. But even when ‘The Passenger’ had a modicum of success on the radio, Iggy couldn’t grow the fan base.  Maybe it was the marketing or something.  I never thought the Halloween-style drip-letter posters at The Ritz that said ‘Come see the Bizarre Iggy Pop’ were going to draw them in.  Especially when The Clash were playing up the street. It’s like even though Iggy’s one of the best performers in the world — and he was back then too of course — he couldn’t reach the audience that today has come to appreciate him the most — and that’s those people who are in their 50s now.”

Iggy Pop at last Stooges gig - Photo © Heather Harris

Iggy Pop at last Stooges gig – Photo © Heather Harris

Commercial Appeal

But Iggy Pop is certainly making up for lost time.

In the last 10 years, Iggy has done more to promote himself to the mainstream than he did collectively over the course of his life.

He’s headlined a record number of music festivals. He’s a perfume model.

He was a pitch guy for a British insurance company teaming with a puppet that bears his name — a gig that brought him a hefty dose of ridicule but lots of money. Iggy’s done voiceovers on kids cartoons and he even made then-judge Jennifer Lopez gaze admiringly when he performed on “American Idol.”

Then there’s the music. The classic “Search and Destroy,” the anthem of every punker that ever lived, written by Iggy with longtime collaborator James Williamson has been featured in several movies including “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” several TV shows including “Lost,” and “Dexter,” video games like “Guitar Hero,” and “Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland,” as well as the the new ad campaign for the Audi A4.

Iggy has some hi-falootin’ famous friends, and hangs around with Henry, Johnny and Jim. Kings and queens. He even sat down for a meal with Tony Bourdain, who now uses “The Passenger” as the theme to his CNN show “Parts Unknown.”

Iggy and Tony - Courtesy Tony Bourdain

Iggy and Tony – Courtesy Anthony Bourdain


Iggy Pop and His People

Iggy said one of the reasons he likes to team with young people is because it keeps him fresh but he also said that when he partners with people like Kesha or Best Coast, he also gets a bit of free recording time also.  But the Post Pop Depression album is by all accounts a self-funded project produced by the likeable desert rat Homme, who cuts a striking if not gigantic appearance, particularly when holding hands with the 5-foot-something-inch Iggy.

Mr. Humble, Mike Watt - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Mr. Humble, Mike Watt – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Iggy apparently doesn’t discard his friends for no good reason, as at The Greek we ran into several old pals of his whom he’d invited to attend.

Mike Watt said he was honored to appear at The Greek, “Iggy asked me to come,” Watt said.

One of the guys who have been there the whole time, Watt is a humble sort who simply loves the music. And he misses The Stooges. “I loved that band,” Watt said emotionally.

Meanwhile, Iggy’s new band is sharp, young and extremely cool, looking dapper in lounge jackets and dancing around him on stage. Successful musicians in their own right, the guys clearly enjoy reciprocal benefit of touring with the veteran Iggy.

Tossing the Mic

On stage at The Greek, Iggy still showed with great bravado the shades of the anger issues that got him here in the first place. With his advanced age, they come across as funny and cute today compared to the days when he really was an angry young man with issues and wild performance antics.

Iggy mic stand pulverizer - Donna Balancia California Rocker

Anger issues; Iggy beats up on the mic stand at the Greek – Photo 2016 Donna Balancia

During the triumphant performance at The Greek last Thursday — a show that was completely entertaining and gave hints of what it must have been like to see him at The Ritz in the old days — he dropped F-bombs, shoved his hand down his pants, jumped into the crowd and beat up a microphone stand.  Then a song or two later, he went and brought it back and cursed at it.  When he stood it upright, it was bent in the middle and that got a laugh from the adoring crowds.

And maybe through his fits of celebrity, Iggy feels vindicated for all those years of starving, sleeping on other peoples floors and living a hard life — the most difficult life: That of an artist who won’t compromise his work.  On to Europe and a hearty Bravo to our own truly and uniquely American musician, and nevermore to be known as “The World’s Forgotten Boy.”


Broke LA is Rich in The Arts: Great Bands, Innovations – On a Budget or Not

Featured image of Tennis System, photos and story By MARIEL CALLOWAY

DOWNTOWN LA — Broke LA 2016 was an all-around 9-hour binge of music and mayhem for those too busy (or too broke) to attend Coachella.  But this was a misnomer because even if you had a few bucks in your pocket, we would have picked this as a top entertainment value.  The musicians, the art, and the entire event is growing every year and we look forward to next year.

With over 50 artists spread across four stages, we review some of the memorable acts:

Broke-LA-California-Rocker-Mariel-Calloway-314CAM AND CHINA (RAP)

As promised, twin duo Cam and China rocked the house with a vicious all out rap battle blast.

After a non step set of fierce beats and fast rhymes, the Inglewood natives closed out with their hit single, “NADA,” a merciless ballad disparaging the attractions of useless men with nothing to offer.


One of the most poignant and thoughtful art collections was the “Office of Missed Connections” display. The display invited users to tell stories of heartbreak and missed opportunities in the hopes of reuniting those missed with those who missed them. The most heartbreaking of all postings was a letter signed by a musician, seeking connection with his recently departed idol, Prince.

Broke-LA-California-Rocker-Mariel-Calloway-305DWNTWN (ROCK)

Dwntwn welcomed the oncoming darkness with hazy pulsing dream pop under a the swirl of a purple tinted sky. Their silky smooth blend of light beats and soft rhythms brought the blaring heat of day to a cool chill.  Their self-titled EP is now available. Members include singer Jamie Leffler, guitarist Robert Cepeda, Chris Sanchez on bass and keyboard, and Dan Vanchieri on drums.


Local boys King Shelter cranked up the heat and brought the mellow swirl of day pumping into a high energy rock swoon by late afternoon. Lead singer Taylor Hecocks riled up the crowd with a heady, grinding mix of heavy rock sprinkled with a dash of punk. The self-proclaimed “Salad Rock” musicians are playing a series of shows in the Los Angeles area throughout the rest of the month. Members: Taylor Hecocks – Vocals/Guitar; David Noble – Guitar; Adam Nienow – Drums; John Harzan – Bass

Broke-LA-California-Rocker-Mariel-Calloway-222KOSHA DILLZ (RAP)

Rapper Kosha Dillz pumped the first shots of adrenaline into an already amped and ready crowd as day turned to night over the Brownies & Lemonade rap stage. After a series of dizzy rap beats, Kosha Dillz ended his set with a free flowing freestyle rap battle on stage. Proudly Jewish, Kosha Dillz is also known for his unofficial “Matzachella” and Shabbat Tent at this year’s Coachella.


For anyone needing a break from the sights and sounds of BROKE LA, the animal friendly event “Bark LA” (sponsored by No Kill Los Angeles) welcomed visitors to play and cuddle with an array of homeless puppies and kittens. There were games, treats, and plenty of kisses as these furry friends sought new homes with loving humans.

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