Alive with the Glory of Rock N’ Roll

Ahhhh the good ol’ Fonda Theater, where so many fond memories have been made. A place where thousands of bands have played, from Radiohead to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. However tonight’s stage belongs to both Deap Valley andWolfmother who tore the fucking roof right off!  There isn’t anything like catching a fiery hard rock concert with your father in the City of Angels.  Both Deap Valley and Wolfmother gave Los Angeles  the treat they deserved on the night of March 26,2015.

It was a bit nippy outside as we all stood in line eagerly awaiting for the doors to open. Before you knew it we were all being patted down and allowed to file into the venue at 8:00 PM. Getting into the venue and getting the spot I wanted took little to no effort as we were one of the early birds. I stood there eagerly awaiting to hear Wolfmother’s’ guitars ripple through the air. Soon the lights dimmed and while Wolfmother did not take the stage, we did get out first taste of some distorted, heavy rock n’ roll.

Rock duo Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards both took the stage as Deap Valley and let me say they were the perfect band to warm up the stage for Wolfmother. They started playing as soon as they took the stage and you could immediately feel the energy in the air. Everything about them was hard, raw, and heavy. They opened with “Bad for My Body” which set the tone for the rest of their set. The fast and solid drum beat was accompanied with heavy guitar riffs and both worked together to  bring the house the down. Although the giant Wolfmother banner was up behind them you could still tell the focus was still very much on Deap Valley themselves as they ripped through song after song to make sure that they were not overshadowed by Wolfmother. While this might seem difficult to do,they nearly accomplished this due to their distorted White Stripes noise they produced and their energy given off as they played. While their theatrics weren’t anything special, they were definitely alive and kicking. Everything from their outfits to the fact that leader singer Lindsey Troy was barefoot, slithering across the stage in her leopard skin tight one piece ensemble gave off the Rock N’ Roll vibe. As with most opening acts the crowd was not as responsive as one could’ve hoped for, at least until lead singer whispered ” You’ve got bodies, move em baby” which seemed to awaken the crowd from their slumber. As the crowd starting to move more in tune with the rock duo you couldn’t help but notice the chemistry these two performers had with each other. As the lead singer played off the drummer and even went so far as to stand on the bass drum as both vivaciously played their new single “Royal Jelly”. While they definitely did not steal the show from Wolfmother, Deap Valley did make sure that we did not forget them and they surely accomplished this.

After about 20-30 minutes of waiting the Fonda Theater went completely dark.  With no warning Link Ray’s track “Rumble” from cult classic Pulp Fiction filled the air and set a sort of ominous tone. Roaring consumed the entire venue as the crowd knew what was about to happen. The lights flipped back on slowly to reveal Andrew Stockdale, Ian Peres, and Alex Carapetis also known as Wolfmother. Quickly the haunting tone was wiped away as they opened up with their fast new track “Victorious”.

Wolfmother makes their presence known immediately by giving out the vitality of a 16-year-old punk rock degenerate. Every song simply got harder and stronger as they went through their setlist. Much to my surprise they played an even amount of songs off of each album. In addition they not only recreated how they sounded off the album but they made themselves sound much rawer and complex than they do in the studio. With their ferocious energy and simple addition of reverbs and a little more distortion, they brought the crowd to an intense moment of excitement and ecstasy. We were even treated with a bass and drum solo. The energy of all three band members was striking but the one band member that definitely stood out was bassist/ keyboardist Ian Peres who bounced around the stage and riled up the crowd to its maximum vivacity. What was even more impressive was Stockdale’s power to command the crowd as a veteran performer, using brief moments to gaze at the crowd in a demonic fashion,

Regardless of the fact that more than half of the crowd was populated by older people, everyone was as alive as the band members themselves. I often found my eyes observing the audience for long periods simply because they were so active. With both the band members and the mob of people’s energy all in one little area, one might’ve thought they could bring the house down as everyone was having a good time and jamming out. There was a older gentleman who looked like Weird Al  with white hair who was easily caught up in matching the energy of the crowd and the performance as he unabashedly did the freak out dance. Wolfmother ended their performance with crowd favorite “Joker and the Thief” which  amped everyone to their maximum capacity sending the crowd into a frenzy. As not only a massive mosh pit formed but Andrew Stockdale even cracked the neck off his Gibson SG with 3 humbucker pickups. Eventually when Wolfmother’s performance came to end, they had left me and the LA crowd wanting more.

Overall both Wolfmother and Deap Valley brought the house down and showed Los Angeles that Rock N’ Roll is still very much alive and thriving.

 

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One with the Music

On March 11, 2015, Fresno received a grand treat when four notable bands entered the Save Mart Center where so many beloved artists have graced the city. Bear Hands, Foals, Silversun Pickups and Cage the Elephant all coexisted and shared the stage very graciously for the eager concert goers. Although I was very uniformed on both Bear Hands’ and Foals’ discography and their entire band presence, I believe they put on sufficient shows. However, Silversun Pickups and Cage the Elephant truly stole the venue that night.

While Bear Hands was well known with the audience, their stage presence was quite disappointing. They opened up with “Peacekeeper,” which was nice introduction to their set. Their best song was arguably Bone Digger,”  with its catchy chorus “the lies, the lies, the bullshit and the lies.” The only lackluster element in Bear Hands performance was their low energy. This can be blamed both on the audience and Bear Hands themselves. While the viewers weren’t the most lively characters, the performers could’ve tried to put out more effort into hyping up the crowd. Regardless of their energy, their sound was very immersive as they executed their songs with great integrity. Lights only added to the immersion that their music produced. While their sound was very experimental, their theatrics were, unfortunately, not up to par.

Foals energy was much more prominent than Bear Hands’, and while I was not at all familiar with their work, I did find it very easy to not only listen but also become engrossed in their performance. They opened up with the  fast and aggressive track “Snake Oil,” which set the tone for the rest of their set. With only one slow and calming song, Foals continued a great show with raunchy alternative rock tracks. As with Bear Hands, the lighting of the show added to Foals more noticeable theatrics. The lead singer, Yannis Phillippakis, spread his energy with the crowd through stage antics such as group clapping and stage diving. These acts added to Foals performance and ended up livening up the audience overall. Despite my unfamiliarity with the group, I believe they put on a engaging and enjoyable show.

One of the bigger headliners and stronger performers, in my opinion, was Silversun Pickups, who came on shortly after Foals. Silversun Pickups, formed in the early 2000s, had a lot more track options to choose from than the former bands. They of course opened up with a track from their new album, Better Nature. Band members Brain Aubert and Nikki Monninger consumed and flourished in the spotlight together. While musically I found Silversun Pickups to be more dynamic in comparison to the previous bands, their onstage activities were mellow and spars. Their songs were definitely the calmest of the bands as they played their instruments to form a shoegaze sound that is so widely known.  They eventually concluded their ethereal performance, but not without leaving us with something to remember by playing fan favorite Lazy Eye” and closing their set with the last track of Better Nature, “The Wild Kind.” Complete a earthy sound and chill onstage vibe, the Silversun Pickups put on a memorable show and definitely earned their spot as second to Cage the Elephant.

Finally we had the creme de la creme, the main act, Cage the Elephant. The act was worthy of their title as the headliner for the Spring Fling Tour. As soon as Silversun Pickups left the stage, the anxiety truly began for Cage the Elephant as we all sat there eagerly waiting to see Matthew Shultz and the rest of his band embrace not only the stage but also the audience. The lights dimmed until blackness surrounded us, white light rose from above, and there they were, Cage the Elephant, soaking in the spotlight. Four albums had allowed them to play a wide variety of songs. You could easily tell with their opener, “Cry Baby,” from their newest album Tell Me I’m Pretty, that both Matthew and his counterpart, Brad Shultz, were not foreign to the fame. Matthew’s spirit resonated when the crowd was at its peak and latched onto his moxie. They played a plethora of fan favorites from “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” to some of the newer hits such as “Mess Around” and “Shake Me Down.” The guitars were perfectly in tune on most songs while on others such as “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” they sounded a bit imbalanced. Like a ball of pulsating energy, Matt bounced around the stage and gave the crowd exactly what they wanted with stage diving, crowd interaction, and just making his presence unforgettable. He moved with the music, and you could tell he had no jitters or anxiety due to his looseness that took over his body as he united with his sound. Not to be overshadowed by his brother, Brad Shultz was equally as impressive with his stage diving and both his aura and his musical being were astonishing. The existence of  two highly energized performers on the same stage almost made it seem like there was hardly enough vitality for the rest of the band members.  In addition, some songs, such as the classic “Sabertooth Tiger,” did not sound as impressive live as one would think. Yet they made up for this by playing hits such as “Spiderhead,” “Take it or Leave It,” and the encore song “Cigarette Daydreams.” These were some of the highlights off Cage the Elephant’s set list and phenomenal performance.

Spring Fling’s visit to Fresno, California was one for the books. The indie/alternative mashup was enthralling, entertaining, and splendidly accomplished its goal: to bring the music to the people with style and charisma.

 

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