October 11, 2013
When I wrote about Sigur Rós coming to Miami I made an off-the-cuff reference to fans who let the tears loose at the sound of frontman Jon “Jónsi” Thor Birgisson’s voice (An interview with Sigur Ros’ drummer ahead of the band’s first Miami show [go through to the Miami New Times interview, too]). It was something I had heard in passing, and I could not remember a specific reference. I could have even just made it up, as I believe the Icelandic group’s music is some of the most stirring I have ever heard. It’s the way they know how to build up music. It’s assembled with such care and patience that albums such as 2002′s ( ) earns the ecstasy of untitled track 3 (AKA “Samskeyti”) because of the two untitled tracks before it (“Vaka” and ”Fyrsta”). It takes a full 15 minutes before a pretty, looping, driving piano melody appears, but it’s only as good as it is because of the investment in the rather ambient, amorphous, restrained bits of music before it.
The other night, at the Klipsch Amphitheater at Bayfront Park, I noticed the band work that subtle magic that ultimately affected me. It was during the fourth number of the night when it felt like I stepped across a line in my consciousness.
“Glósóli” from 2005′s Takk… was coming toward its finale. After building up from sporadic, light bass string plucking by Georg Hólm, a light twinkling bell melody and the surreal muddy crunch from either a sampler or one of the band’s many percussive elements, the song soared to heights of layered ecstasy. Jónsi bowed at his electric guitar, creating a wall of sound like a ghostly wind rolling over a distant mountain. The song went double time, with more elements of percussion piling up and pounding along. Guitars joined in the din until it all became a sort of white noise that still had musical scale, growing higher and more ecstatic. As Jónsi repeated a phrase, “Og hér ert þú, Glósóli,” extending the “þú” with each refrain, I realized I could cry. I did not need to know what he’s saying. It was all about the sensation. The decision to allow the tear ducts to open was as easy as opening a door and relaxing into what greeted me on the other side.
Here’s the video for “Glósóli”:
You can read my full review of that night by clicking on the image below shot by Miami New Times’s photographer Monica McGivern:
Sigur Rós’ tour continues with a stop in Mexico City and London in a few days and then a European leg in November:
Oct. 13 - Corona Capital – Mexico City
Oct. 18 – Maida Vale – London
EUROPEAN AUTUMN TOUR
Nov. 16 – O2 Arena – Dublin, Ireland
Nov. 18 – Usher Hall – Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Nov. 19 – Capital FM Arena – Nottingham, United Kingdom
Nov. 20 – Brighton Centre – Brighton, United Kingdom
Nov. 21 – Wembley Arena – London, United Kingdom
Nov. 23 – Rockhal – Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Nov. 24 – Jahrhunderthalle – Frankfurt, Germany
Nov. 25 – Mitsubishi Electric Halle – Dusseldorf, Germany
Nov. 27 – Baltiska Hallen – Malmo, Sweden
Nov. 28 – Spektrum – Oslo, Norway
Nov. 30 – Hartwall Areena – Helsinki, Finland
You can find tickets to any of these shows by visiting the band’s touring page here.
Film Review [in 'Miami New Times']: ‘Cubamerican’ documentary walks a nice line between nostalgia and identity
June 14, 2013
My latest film review was taken by the “Miami New Times” art and culture blog “Cultist.” It’s fitting, considering its subject: a group of people key to the culture of Miami: Cuban-Americans. In my many years living in Miami (most of my life), Cuban-American art and culture has come across as rather in-your-face and self-conscious.
I was therefore a bit cautious approaching the documentary Cubamerican when asked for my opinion by my editor at “Cultist” on this film. I was afraid the documentary would come across as preachy and self-righteous and disproportionately rounded. Instead, it ended up hitting all the right notes and substituted the usual angry bitterness I come to expect from Cuban art with a sense of melancholy and hope. It downright moved me.
I was amazed this marked José Enrique Pardo‘s debut as a director. Though it’s rather straight-forward as a documentary, his pacing and thoroughness show this is a man who knows how to put in the work to compose an engaging work. As a plus, the film also provided a clear history that informs the Cuban-American identity. It does not sentimentalize pre-Castro, mobster-influenced Batista Cuba. But the kicker are the men and women who have done so much for society, art and even sports by tapping into a unique drive they call viveza. Everyone can learn to be a better person from this documentary, no matter if you are Cuban-American or not.
The film’s U.S. commercial premiere is tonight in Miami. You can read the full review and see details of the screening today by clicking through the “Cultist” logo below:
Up-date: I just heard Cubamerican expands into Broward County, at Fort Lauderdale’s Cinema Paradiso, for two nights, Saturday, June 22 and Sunday, June 30. The director will be present for a Q&A on June 22. Click here for more information (that’s a hot link).
So, a few weeks ago, I was hanging on the telephone waiting for Temper Trap’s frontman Dougy Mandagi (pictured above, center) to get on the phone. I was told he was in the shower, he was coming down the elevator and I got … bassist Jonathon Aherne (pictured above, far right). One would think, dang! But, no. Aherne was generous and insightful. The resulting profile was published in this week’s “Miami New Times.” Read it by jumping through the logo of the “Miami New Times” music blog:
Yes, the story focuses a lot on “Sweet Disposition,” that song from my favorite film of 2009, (500) Days of Summer. But I was curious about the effect of such a popular hit on an indie band now releasing records on one of the largest of major labels in the world: Columbia Records, which is owned by Sony Entertainment. It doesn’t get bigger than that. The label’s rep listened in on our conversation and told us when to get off the phone, but that’s how it goes. It did not stop me from asking polite questions about the psychological effects of— to put it simply— selling out, and Aherne seemed to have a healthy attitude about it. The band loves having a song as recognizable as “Sweet Disposition,” and you can expect to hear it live on their current tour for their new self-titled album. “There’s nothing wrong with that because we want our music to connect with people, for people to enjoy it,” he said. So here’s that song, once again:
Finally, the contest…
Now you’ve heard the song again, visit Independent Ethos’ Facebook page (yep, that’s the live link) and share where you first heard the song.
The band continues its tour beyond Miami at these following dates:
10/19/2012 Atlanta GA Center Stage
10/20/2012 Orlando FL House of Blues
10/21/2012 Miami FL Grand Central
10/23/2012 St. Petersburg FL State Theater
10/25/2012 Fort Worth TX Ridglea Theater
10/26/2012 Houston TX House of Blues
10/28/2012 Austin TX Stubb’s
February 28, 2012
Radiohead kicked off its US tour in support of its latest album, the King of Limbs, Monday night with a sold out show at the AmericanAirlines Arena. It marked the first time the alt-rock legends performed a show in Miami since they opened for REM in support of the Bends in the mid-nineties. Much has changed in those 20 years since Radiohead’s sophomore release. Fans of REM have faded, as that band has broken up while Radiohead has now (as of this post, at least) eclipsed REM as far as relevance in the independent rock world.
Radiohead are probably a rarity among independent music scene, in order to sell out an arena all by itself without the help of endorsements, heavy commercial radio play and a major label. Add to that the notion that the band has re-invented its sound so many times since its last Miami arena show as an opening act (kids, I’ve been there from the beginning, as this post documents: Radiohead tribute show in Miami, allow me a few words on said band), while still maintaining its line-up all these years (though this show saw the addition of a sixth member), they rendered any music from the Bends, not to mention, its predecessor Pablo Honey, the album that spawned “Creep,” irrelevant. In fact, Monday night saw no selections of those albums in Radiohead’s set list. A couple of dips into OK Computer sounded like nostalgia, in fact, and set a new tone to the show during the first encore. Really, like its new album, Radiohead felt mellowed out. But below burbled a surface of subtle complexity: a moody but mellow show, punctuated by lyrics of grumbling ambivalence to man’s place in existence. It’s almost a fluke miracle that this band has achieved a popular following so strong that it can sell out an arena on the strength of its name alone.
From my view, way far off in the lower level stands, people mostly sat or stood. Some ate nachos and pretzels and drank beer. The King of Limbs could indeed be the group’s most low-key album to date, and I think it’s a grand, if short work. The quieter and slower the record sounded, the better. A highlight moment has to be the coupling of “Codex” and “Giving Up the Ghost.” The latter being the stronger of the two. Its pastoral gorgeousness threw me back to Pink Floyd, in the use of acoustic guitar and tweeting birds. It’s probably the album’s slowest song, at that, but, man, when Radiohead ratchets down the mood, they know how to do it.
Though I posted about what was then the surprise announcement of the new album (Radiohead’s new full-length out this Saturday), I never offered later opinions on it. For the record, my views on the King of Limbs has wavered over these months. I have spun the biodegradablely packaged “newspaper” 10–inch vinyl edition only once. I was quite annoyed by the interruption of the track flow between “Codex” and “Giving Up the Ghost,” and feel so strong about it, I might just get the 12-inch version for home listening. In the end, King lacks the dynamism of In Rainbows, but it still has the intelligent and distinctive songcraft one might expect from Radiohead, and they play mellow so well, even if the beats get hyper.
So how did the album translate live? Radiohead even performed every song from the album except “Little By Little,” probably the weakest and most annoying track on the album, anyhow. I will jump ahead to their keen live version of the album’s closer, “Separator,” which closed the band’s first set:
By now you will have noticed the visual side of this show. Like the In Rainbows Tour (the only Radiohead show I have caught since I saw them open up for Belly in support of Pablo Honey in Miami Beach) video screens were a key element. That show happened two counties to the north, in West Palm Beach, at the Cruzan Amphitheater. But the drive was certainly worth it. That show featured a light show that trumped the venue’s jumbotrons, which were shut off for the duration of the performance. The set came alive with varying close-up images of the band members, as they performed, which pulsed in an array of colors. I made my own videos, way off from the front of the lawn, and it still looked cool. Here’s one of those, which though cut, highlights their use of screens during that tour, four years earlier:
This one is a particular favorite due to the fact that even a plane flying overhead did not do anything to break the mood:
More videos I recorded that night can be found on YouTube that show it was one of the few performances that still paid off from a distance. The show last night also worked thanks to the screen use. During last night’s show, as many as 12 different angles of the band members shifted and floated into an array of positions on the square screens, flashing in various color templates for each song. It made for a dynamic experience and helped highlight the subtleties between the songs. The only time all the screens folded away came during the presentation of one of two new songs, “Cut a Hole,” hinting at its work-in-progress state. Radiohead fans in the presence of its debut in a live setting may have wet themselves, but I found the track rather uneventful. I would have to hear it a few more times to pass solid judgement, and, who knows the band might change it up. Luckily, someone standing up front recorded it for yourselves to judge:
I did happen to record the other new song of the night, “Identikit,” which had a nice building, dynamic quality:
The screens on stage did not always focus on the band. Besides abstract images, frontman Thom Yorke’s face filled them up during “You and Whose Army?”
But the highlight is indeed the music, which proves to be something beyond pop music and trendy hipster rock. Radiohead is among a very few group of bands that still holds my attention, since I first heard them in the early nineties. There is a classic quality to its music that harkens to British rock’s early forays in redefining pop music with experimentation popularized by the likes of the Beatles and carried on by King Crimson and David Bowie. The seriousness of the musicians’ awareness of this was on full display in Miami last night, and it only left me looking forward to more. Here are the other videos I captured that night:
I was surprised to see a sell out show at the AAA in Miami because of the largely low-key experience that is King of Limbs, which did not receive close to as much critical praise and hype as In Rainbows. If the focus on the new album, minus “Little By Little,” did not establish a tone for this show, I do not know what did.
This was a show for diehard Radiohead fans. There was even the inclusion of OK Computer B-side “Meeting in the Aisle,” a mellow, mood-setting instrumental that fit cozily among the King of Limbs tracks. Though I was surrounded by what indeed seemed locals, I had noticed many commenting on Radiohead boards before the show that they were coming from out of town for this show, seeing as it was the kick-off to the band’s US tour in support of the King of Limbs. The coverage was swift and even saw YouTube videos and set list recordings as the show unfolded at the fansite At Ease. Though my wife (she’s the photographer here) and I kept track of the songs during the show, here is the set list courtesy of At Ease, which I verified based on my notes for accuracy. This is correct:
02. The Daily Mail
03. Morning Mr. Magpie
05. The National Anthem
06. Meeting In The Aisle
07. Kid A
08. The Gloaming
10. You And Whose Army?
13. Lotus Flower
14. There There
20. Cut A Hole (new song debut)
21. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
22. Give Up The Ghost (with a false start)
24. Karma Police
My only complaint would be the cavernous sound of the arena, adding an echo that felt annoying. Play any video I captured in 2008 at the open-air Cruzan and compare it to these to hear for yourself.
The show went on for nearly two hours, following the enchanting support act Other Lives, from Oklahoma. Be sure to arrive on time in order to not miss this chamber rock ensemble, who employ effective use of glockenspiel, cello and violin as well as more traditional rock instruments like guitars and piano. It all swells and rides along nicely and seems to fit in well with today’s folk/psyche/dream-pop indie rock scene. Here are two videos I recorded from their brief, shamefully ignored set (apologies for the chatter around these recordings):
Other Lives found another good fit as the warm up act to Bon Iver prior to taking on the task as opener for Radiohead. They were excellent and the complexity of the band set up did justice to the recordings. The band has offered both of the songs I captured above as free live streams on the band’s website.
You can see the remaining Radiohead tour dates here.
September 10, 2011
More than 10 years after setting the pop world on fire with his solo debut, Proxima Estación: Esperanza, Manu Chao has finally given Miami a long overdue live performance, thanks to the Rhythm Foundation. The wait did not matter. At 50 years old, this man still gives the same energy to the crowd as his early days. As noted on Independent Ethos earlier this year (Manu Chao to make Miami debut in Sept.) this show arrived with high expectations. They were met.
The Bayside Amphitheater (currently known as the Klipsch Amphitheater) was filled from the seats, over the lawn and on back to the food stands. It was an amazing feat to fill up such a space when your last original full-length album (La Radiolina) came out four years prior. Despite receiving mixed reviews (mostly in comparison only to his earlier albums, as his music offers a unique blend of punk, island and Latin music). I found, at least found it fine and uncompromising. He has maintained that kinetic, high-speed world-music spirit since his solo debut, 1998′s Clandestino, after leaving his successful and pioneering Paris-based Latin pop-punk band Mano Negra behind.
With only a trio of musicians behind him (guitarist Madjid Fahem, bassist Jean Michel Gambit and drummer Phillipe Tebou [also former Mano Negra]), Chao was still able to do his music justice, last night at the open-air theater in downtown Miami. Often known for having as many as 15 musicians on stage, Chao’s new quartet, named La Ventura (after a song by Mano Negra), powered through the singer/guitarist’s career of well-regarded tunes. Gambit, a bruiser of a Frenchman with tattoos running the course of his arms, but with a large, soft belly, triggered samples with one hand and offered a range of his weird popping sounds with his voice that even a signature “meow” during “L’Hiver Est Là” (Check my video out below), as he kept a steady rhythm and often lead the crowd in clapping along to the music.
Fahem brought the dexterous bounce in the song’s signature guitar lines, bolstered by Tebou’s athletic drumming, whose style reminded me of the Police’s Steward Copeland. One can’t help but thing of the police in their heyday, bouncing on stage in their pop-punk manner, as La Ventura did the same at many points throughout their show. They also both share the unmistakable influence of reggae. Compounding the British ska/punk influence in Manu Chao’s music, is his voice and delivery, which sounds like good old nasally Joe Strummer in the Clash.
All are fine, fun influences that certainly can pull in a vast crowd, and they did, but Manu Chao is far from derivative and more a lover of music that blends in a mix of cultures, offering the perfect soundtrack for a the city of Miami. But also the crowd wanted to dance, and their songs never offered a shortage of energy. Just as soon as you thought they were exploring their slower side, Tebou would lead the track into double-time, beating out the rhythm like a machine gunner. Here are three tracks, which occurred early in the show, that I recorded back-to-back-to-back and captures the unrelenting energy of the group:
In fact, I believe this band were on a quest to wear everyone out. However, Miami proved long pressed for a Manu Chao appearance and they three back as much energy as he gave. Beyond the pit never running out of water to spray into the air, and even the appearance of a giant inflatable killer whale to join in the fray, one audience member executed the most perfect invasion of a performance I had ever seen in my 20+ years of attending rock shows. This young woman stormed the stage to first plant a kiss on Chao’s mouth as he sang, then startled the bassist by popping up on his right side for a hug. Finally, security woke up and began chasing her, as she scurried to the guitarist to practically jump on his back. Dodging the grabbing hands of another security guard, who only snatched air, she was able to partially remove the headphones from the drummer and kiss him on the right cheek. Security finally pulled her away to take her out via the back stage, but she slithered out of their grasp to sprint and leap right off the stage, landing back in the pit from whence she emerged. The stunned and humiliated bouncer stared into the sea of raving fans for a couple of minutes and soon left… probably to go back to sleep. Of course, throughout the stunt, the band powered through without seeming to miss a note (if anyone finds a video of it, let me know, and I’ll share it here!).
“L’Hiver Est Là” was the encore song and audience members were singing along as they filed out of the amphitheater after something like four or five encores, which included the finale of that song at least twice. At the end, Chao told the unmoving crowd: “Y ahora que, Miami? Que vas a hacer, Miami?” (translation: What now, Miami? What you gonna do?). The crowd never budged after every “ending”– even those standing at the far end of the field. Chao even came out when the house lights came up to meet those lingering at the front of the stage.
The night was always electric with energy. At the start of the show, rain meekly drizzled down, but Mother Nature failed to dampen the proceedings. Mr. Pauer stirred up the crowd for Chao. He’s a local guy from Venezuela, but has received global attention for his pioneering work in the world of Latin electronica. His warm-up mash-up mix featuring Latin pop songs mixed with classic rock and ethnic dance beats flowed from his mixer and laptop with infectious ease. People wanted to jump around and dance, and they were geared up by the time Chao appeared with his trio of backing musicians. At that point, the rain gave up, and it was on with an unrelenting live show that carried on for nearly two hours.
Manu Chao offered a great start for what will be a packed month of live shows in South Florida featuring stellar acts (September offering some good concerts in SoFla). In the meantime, La Ventura’s tour continues with a few more dates to go:
09/11 – Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade Music Park
09/13 – Chicago, IL @ Congress Theater
09/16 – Austin, TX @ Stubbs
09/18 – Austin, TX @ Austin City Limits
August 28, 2011
I have been real busy as of late working other blogs with film and music pieces, plus I am brewing up some interesting exclusives for Independent Ethos. But today, I must pause to note that this day marks one year since one of South Florida’s greatest guitarists died and came back to life.
A few days ago, I wrote a brief profile piece on Carl Ferrari and his work for his band Gypsy Cat on Beached Miami, ahead of this “re”birth day, Aug. 28. Click the Beached Miami tile below to read it (and get a free download of “Zambra,” a mesmerizing, 11-minute-plus slow burn of a piece that highlights Ferrari’s plucking acrobatics):
It’s a short profile piece mostly focused on this man who should have been dead after suffering an electric shock on stage that stopped his heart. His savior, Alex Logan, a friend/musician/paramedic, describes that terrifying day last year in the piece. “I remember I dropped down to my knees and prayed to God to keep him good and safe,” he told me over the phone. He said he had spent close to 10 minutes giving Ferrari CPR until paramedics arrived.
The profile was also in promotion of the release of the debut album by Gypsy Cat, which came out this past June. The eponymous debut sure is something different from the music I first heard him performing in the mid-nineties. He was the lead guitarist in what I described in the piece above as the “gloom-rock outfit Swivel Stick.”
This new CD opens with distinctive polyrhythmic beats of hand drums and hand claps, establishing it as Flamenco-influenced. “Nuestra Rumba” then continues on a rolling guitar rhythm featuring two intertwining melodies on one acoustic, sealing the Flamenco quality. But then a soprano sax offers a jazzy accompaniment, which the guitar joins. The instrumental pulls and melts into this shifty, yet cozy amalgam of very distinct styles, setting up the record’s unique sound. It also features more meditative pieces, like “Preludio” and a daring reinterpretation of the horn master Miles Davis’ “So What” with electric guitar at the center, not to mention the mp3 noted above. You can stream tracks from the full album here:
I did not have space to share all the Ferrari-related news in the piece on “Beached Miami.” He also told me he is not necessarily done with Swivel Stick. During a recent phone conversation, he was fast to tell me that he maintains an affection for the dark, hardcore rock of Swivel Stick, which actually evolved to a more jazz-influenced group, often featuring several John Coltrane pieces in its repertoire. In fact, Ferrari assured me he’s not done with Swivel Stick, as he plans to have their unreleased 1998 album available to the public soon. “It’s pretty much finished except [producer] Frank [Albergaria] is pretty obsessed with it. He’s been mastering it for a while. That will be just an Internet release. I’ll set up a Bandcamp where people can download it for free.”
Anyway, that’s some extra news about this talent from Miami, and it’s a good thing for music to still have him around. Happy Re-Birthday, Carl!