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Rachel Ledesma (RachelLedesma)

  • Email: ledesma@chapman.edu
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  • Registered On :2018-06-05 20:39:18
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Out of the darkness, Unknown Mortal Orchestra emerged as silhouettes, backlit by pillars of purple light, concealed rather than illuminated, hiding from the hundreds of eyes staring up at them. Yet loneliness found its way onto stage as frontman Ruban Nielson’s voice echoed throughout the crowded Santa Ana Observatory, making everyone feel alone if for just a second. But never longer, as Nielson stepped into the light and repeated for the last time, “if you need to, you can get away from the sun.” 

Nielson took that further. During an instrumental break in “Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark,)” Nielson hopped off stage into the pit, splitting the audience into halves as he made his way to the back of the venue, disappearing from sight as the crowd turned to each other in confusion, only to magically resurface moments later, guitar in hand, at the top of the balcony for all to see. 

Opening for UMO was Neil Frances, the singular title for the Los Angeles based duo comprised of Marc Gilfry and Jordan Feller. Dressed in all white, the band’s moody melodies enveloped the audience in a dreamy atmosphere, timeless and spaceless, easy to melt into and hard to escape. So much so, the audience found a difficult awakening when Neil Frances announced their final song. But the duo left with a promise to meet again, and like Nielson, ditched the stage for the crowd.

“We’re huge fans, so we’ll be out there watching Unknown Mortal Orchestra with you,” said Gilfry. 

And though the Portland/New Zealand band clung to darkness in the first few minutes of their set, after Nielson’s stunt, they were ready to seen, inside and out. Luckily for longtime fans, their multi-colored performance involved not only a journey through modern discontent and romantic hardships, but a catalog that has tackled these themes since Nielson started releasing music in 2010. From fuzzy “Ffunny Ffriends,” the track that first gained the band notice, to fan favorites “So Good at Being in Trouble” and “Multi-Love,” UMO showcased the scope of their complex lyricism and skilled musicianship that made the previously unknown band what it is today.

Still, the night wasn’t simply a rehashing of previous endeavors, of their “greatest hits,” but a reimagining of the songs that define UMO and continue to evolve along with the band as they make sense of an ever-changing social landscape. It’s this exploration of today’s current climate that UMO presents on their latest album, Sex & Food, maintaining if not furthering the level of vulnerability of its precursor, Multi-Love. 

That’s evident in the sad-but-true reality presented in “Not in Love We’re Just High,” which Nielson performed in the center of the pit, his face illuminated by cellphone flashes as hands reached out to touch him. He proceeded to lead those hands in clapping, turning to face the stage in need of a frontman as the audience cheered behind him. Climbing over the barrier, Nielson rejoined his band and ended the downbeat track with an intensity matching the song’s vulnerability, only stopped by a dramatic cutting of the lights. 

But it didn’t stop there, in the darkness. A rainbow of lights fell upon the deserted stage as UMO made their way back to their instruments. It only took one note, one head nod from Nielson, for audience members to scream out “Hunnybee.” A love song dedicated to Nielson’s daughter, it’s the other side of his troubled psych, the opposite of loneliness. To fans, it’s the entirety of UMO, equal parts love and paranoia, a bittersweet honesty presented through psychedelic rock, the inner workings of Nielson’s mind laid bare.  

We live in a world of endless comedy, one in which—all jokes aside—L.A. based musician, Drugdealer, is trading acid trips for real life. It’s been a longtime coming for Michael Collins, the man with many monikers, known as Run DMT, Salvia Plath and half of Silk Rhodes. But with Drugdealer, Collins is here to stay. With his 2016 release, The End of Comedy, Collins’s letting go of the illusions, no longer hiding behind humor or psychedelic drugs, but living in the real world.

But in order to begin again, Collins had to move on from the past. Saying goodbye to the ambient synth of Run DMT and the 60s pop of Salvia Plath, as Drugdealer, Collins has found something new. He’s ditched complicated arrangements and convoluted themes for a more laid-back approach, leaving vocal melodies as bare as possible, often backed by only piano or guitar, the words speaking for themselves. But Collins doesn’t lose his psychedelic approach, nor stray from his 70s singer-songwriter influences. Instead, he focuses his inspirations into a relaxed soundtrack full of sincerity.

Playing director, Collins casted a number of admirable musicians to appear throughout the 11-track album. From Ariel Pink’s creativity to Weyes Blood’s soulful voice, Collins enlisted collaborators he could make the most with, pushing himself to new realizations and vulnerabilities. He steps out of the spotlight, letting his collaborators shine while he creates complementary instrumentation. But he also knows when to speak for himself, to leave his friends out. Though not as charming as his work with his guests, it’s where we really hear Drugdealer’s sound and see Collin’s masterful control. The result is a lively flowing track of songs, uncomplicated and teeming with possibility.

That sense of possibility is The End of Comedy’s heart, and perhaps, humor’s antidote. Because to Collins, humor has become a defense mechanism, a means of sweeping away life’s hardships, and without it, the future’s unpredictable. But that’s not anything to run away from, and we hear Collins having to remind himself not to escape when the going gets tough throughout the thirty-one minute album. “Everywhere I look/There’s more reasons to be feeling free/But still I have to keep myself from leaving,” Collins admits on “The Real World.”

The realizations continue onto “Suddenly,” one of two tracks featuring Weyes Blood’s Natalie Mering. With Mering’s shimmering vocals and Collins’s moody piano progressions, the three-dimensional pop song doesn’t fail to embody its euphoric lyrics, irresistibly uplifting and setting the bar for all future Drugdealer’s endeavors.

But it’s not all smiles. We hear sadness creep in as Collins puts an end to humor in the album’s instrumental “theme” tracks, which touch on the melancholic nature of life with dreamy string arrangements and a bit of jazz. It isn’t until “Sea of Nothing,” that Collins finds the words to the truth he’s been searching for. “Try to sleep/But the thought of what you were missing meets you/Get so deep/On the shallowest of worry thinking,” Collins confesses, going deeper instead of running away, having found the answers within himself.

Some answers, though, Collins only found through a little help from his friends. Breezy in energy and acoustics, “Easy to Forget” is the meeting of the waters for his and Ariel Pink’s artistic flow, fostered by the pair’s friendship. “I traded all my doubt for you,” Pink cheerily delivers after a series of “la-las,” reflecting his and Collins’s creative process unhindered by insecurity or doubt, each musician bouncing off the other’s curiosity.

For an album about comedy’s end, it’s fitting that it ends ironically: with a drawn out, overly obnoxious laugh. But it’s not laughing it all off, everything Collins has fought so hard to face. The laugh is an acceptance of the real world, of the humor that cannot be escaped from, that must be accepted for the truth it hides and reveals. Because the laughter’s last few notes is slowed into a sigh which morphs into a scream ended only by silence; the epitome of human existence. It’s the end of comedy and the beginning of Drugdealer.

“Let’s dance,” said Lydia Night, frontwoman of The Regrettes, facing an audience eager to embrace everything the punk rock band represents: unapologetic teenage energy. The 17-year-old tipped her cowboy hat and joined the audience in singing the first few lyrics of the anthemic, “I Don’t Like You.”

The sold-out show at the Constellation Room in Santa Ana’s The Observatory marks the L.A. band’s return home after playing on the road for several weeks. Their absence left their close-knit audience missing the band they helped skyrocket to fame. With the amount of singalongs, mosh pits and song request chants, it was a fitting welcoming for the teenage punk rockers.

“You guys are honestly the best crowd,” said bassist Sage Chavis.

But the crowd needed some encouragement before the whole thing began.

The first opener of the night, Sacramento garage band, Destroy Boys, found their nervy energy at first unmatched, frontwoman, Alexia Roditis, jumping into the audience and starting it herself.

“Anyone wanna mix it up down there or just move you shoulders a little?” Roditis asked the crowd.

And they listened. So much so that several phones and purses were lost in the madness, returning to their rightful owners thanks to help from the band, willing to put the rock aside for just a few moments.

But not for long, as the Bay Area based punk band known as Mt. Eddy walked onto stage, Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” introducing a set comprised of multiple guitar solos and stage diving. They left the stage just as they entered, embracing the meme of the song, and clearing way for a band read to leave the crowd to perform.

Guitars in hand, The Regrettes bounced around the stage, each teenage anthem leading into the next, from “Hey Now” to “A Living Human Girl.” Pimples, patronizing adults and terrible exes were covered in full, anger turned into empowerment, frustration into means of creation.

Not absent from the night was teenage self awareness. But even The Regrettes can turn flaws into punk rock hits.

Before playing “Ladylike/Whatta Bitch” off their 2017 album, Feel Your Feelings Fool!, Night dedicated the song to herself.

“This one goes out to me, myself and I,” said Night.

She was met with applause and the request to do a backflip, one of the few things the teenager can’t do.

The Regrettes left the stage in silence, only to walk back on several minutes of cheering later, picking up their instruments and playing the first few notes of a song that had everyone moving. Covering Sweet’s iconic “Ballroom Blitz,” the band divided the audience in two, Night leading each respectively, ending the song with both sides reunited and moshing.

The covers didn’t end there. Destroy Boys and Mt. Eddy joined The Regrettes on stage to perform Billy Idol’s, “Dancing With Myself.” The different bands mixed around, picking up instruments and sharing verses as Night dove into the crowd.

It’s what friends in punk bands are for.

We’ve got the soundtrack to your Fourth of July plans covered. So sit back, relax and enjoy the fireworks. 

Whether you’re hitting the beach, barbecuing or partying it up, make sure to follow our Spotify playlist so you take the celebration with you wherever you go. 

Our playlist features All-American classics new and old, for every and all patriotic occasions. It’s red, white and blue generational alternative rock. Celebrate KX 93.5’s way!

Listen here.

It’s been sixteen years and eight albums, and Erik Berry of Trampled by Turtles is grateful for every moment.

Walking off the Arroyo Seco Weekend stage, Berry, like the rest of the band, was happy to be back after a year-long break of not seeing each other.

“That time off was kind of the first time we’ve had a big break. We’ve taken breaks when somebody had a kid, but that was the first time ever that we were all like, ‘what do we do now,’” said Berry.

But the break was much needed to Berry, who, when he isn’t playing in the band, is a husband and father.

“I got to slow down and be and home,” said Berry.

That’s why the decision to start making music again wasn’t as easy as it sounded.

“I’ll be frank, I wasn’t that positive going into it,” said Berry, “but then I remembered being twelve and reading an issue of Thrasher Magazine that advised one to take a week off of skateboarding every summer, so when you came back to it, it felt different.”

It’s a mindset Berry soon found himself in.

“When I got back with the guys, I came at these old musical relationships with fresh ideas,” said Berry.

The result is the band’s newest album, Life is Good on the Open Road.

Despite the title, when it comes to touring, life can be quite difficult.

“The touring life is not the open road. It’s very scheduled,” said Berry.

But it’s all worth it for that special feeling only brought about through live music they get to give to audiences.

“At the end of the day, music that really grabs people and makes people really happy is doing something authentic. I feel like the odds are higher of reaching that sweet spot with real people, playing real instruments and behaving in a real space together,” said Berry.

Still, the band can’t help but feel alone at times.

“I feel like we’ve been the odd bluegrass band out at a rock, indie or EDM festival,” said Berry. “We don’t really have bands we’re compadres with.”

It’s always been a struggle, but Trampled by Turtles is happy to be where they are.

“Life is what life is, and if you’re not doing this, you’re doing something else,” said Berry.

For Berry, he’s glad to be doing what he loves: being a father and playing with some of his closest friends.

 

Photo by Pieter M. Van Hattem 

It’s the big questions that matter to Alejandro Rose-Garcia, also known as Shakey Graves.

Take, for instance, if he should wait to eat until after the show or think about the entirety of his human existence.

Sitting in the media lounge of the Arroyo Seco Weekend festival, Rose-Garcia opted for the latter.

With no preshow ritual set in place, Rose-Garcia’s still figuring out the confusion of it all. Especially when it comes to defining what type of music he makes.

“I have a lot of trouble with genres. I’m bad at the elevator pitch. It used to be a lot easier to say I played something,” said Rose-Garcia.

Now, Rose-Garcia struggles to find the right words.

But not knowing doesn’t scare him from asking even more questions on his new album, Can’t Wake Up.

“It’s about being introspective. It’s looking at your life like something that isn’t going to change unless you change it,” said Rose-Garcia.

But that’s a challenging feat for a world in which everyone is waiting for life to change itself.

“The album is a bunch of little vignettes of fantasies about your life changing and being hard on yourself for not changing,” said Rose-Garcia.

To Rose-Garica, everyone wants a reset in today’s world.

“Things are weird. There’s a lot of visual stimulus and a lot of emotional anger,” said Rose-Garcia.

Though he doesn’t have the answers, Rose-Garcia isn’t blinding himself to the ways of the world, especially when it comes to growing up.

“When you’re young you feel like you’re the kids these days, then when you’re older all your friends have kids these days, then by the end you think kids are ruining everything,” said Rose-Garcia.

The concept of becoming what you hated in youth is nothing new to Rose-Garcia, who believes the future generation always looks ridiculous to the past. It’s all part of life, and Rose-Garcia is concerned with more pressing matters.

“Are we going to figure things out and be nice to each other? Are we going to blow it all up?” said Rose-Garcia.

Though he doesn’t know, he’s not afraid to ask.

 

For singer-songwriter Maxim Ludwig, rock and roll isn’t confined to the stage: it’s a lifestyle.

After an afternoon performance at Arroyo Seco Weekend amongst headliners such as Neil Young and Jeff Goldblum, Ludwig left the stage for his band’s trailer.

But the journey wasn’t easy. He was stopped along the way by Goldblum, who referred to him only as Jude Law, a compliment so charming Ludwig had no other option but to escape the irresistible actor turned musician.

Back in his trailer, Ludwig was finally able to “chill,” his mind free from the stresses of performing and focused on the food he would be eating throughout the day.

Surrounded by suits, empty La Croix cans, gold chains and pinky rings, Ludwig’s trailer is as rock and roll as it gets.

“Yes, there is a guy rolling a joint right now,” said Ludwig.

It’s the Maxim Ludwig experience, bandmembers always coming and going, sharing stories and playing off each other’s spontaneous humor. It’s a casual closeness only brought about with time.

“They’re guys I’ve been playing with forever. I’ve known my guitarist who’s my producer, engineer and sometimes cowriter since elementary school. I’ve known my drummer since he was 16. We all trust each other. We speak the same language. We make music together in this wonderful way,” said Ludwig.

There’s no explanations needed, making the music-making process all the more clear. And for Ludwig, that’s what he’s headed for.

“Musically, I’m going toward honesty,” said Ludwig, who considered his first record, All My Nightmares, a cry for help. “It’s an upbeat song with so much self-loathing and self-deprecation.”

It’s an irony found even in the band name itself.

“What are you going to do when your name is Maxim Ludwig,” said Ludwig. “Also, I’m an egomaniac.”

But the contradictions only add to the authenticity of the band.

“For me, authenticity is whatever you make it. I don’t care what people think of me when it comes to my lyrics,” said Ludwig. “I make music that I want to listen to.”

And for Ludwig, that starts with realizing what music doesn’t exist.

“There are bands out there that you go, ‘Oh they’re good, but I’d rather listen to the real thing,’” said Ludwig.

That’s why Ludwig listens to his own music.

“I make songs that I’ve never heard before,” said Ludwig.

But Ludwig isn’t just the band’s frontman. He also dresses every bandmate.

“When you have a job, you dress for it. You’re presenting yourself. To me, the suits are a dichotomy between the lyrics and my personality, because I think it’s kind of funny to see a guy like me in a suit,” said Ludwig.

To Ludwig, it’s all about capturing the idea of a man out of place.

“I call our look New Year’s morning. It’s January first. Everyone’s hungover, but they’re in a suit and they don’t know where their shoe is,” said Ludwig.

It’s an authenticity most aren’t willing to present, but Ludwig is, and proudly so.

“I’m aware of how strange I am,” said Ludwig, wearing his three-piece suit, vest included.

Amongst the many nostalgic headliners that made up the second annual Arroyo Seco Weekend, a festival dedicated to honest, hand-crafted music, was the iconic band beloved by all, especially Prince.

Created and assembled by Prince himself, The Revolution quickly rose to fame along with their brilliant frontman, who’d go on to become one of the best-selling music artists of all time. Now, two years since Prince’s passing, what remains is the passion, love and celebration he left behind in the music, a message still touching audiences today.

To long-life friend of Prince and the band’s original drummer, Bobby Z., that message has always been clear.

“What Prince’s music was always about was inclusion and the ability to grab everybody. Everybody’s a Prince fan. Whether you’re into polka music or heavy metal, he seemed to touch people. He took you to another place,” said Z.

That’s evident in the fact that even after his passing, Prince is still bringing people together.

“He was a champion for the underdog. His passing is like losing a family member for a lot of people. He’s a huge part of their life,” said Z.

Playing to an audience of all ages, races and orientations, the show was a cathartic release in form of celebration for many, including the band.

But the decision to start playing again wasn’t easy.

“It was a horrible year,” said Z., describing life after Prince. “Forty-three years of having him be the beacon and center of my life. To have him gone is like a compass gone haywire.”

Still, with Prince in mind, the last thing he would’ve wanted was for the music to stop.

“We needed each other to get through the mourning period and what better way to celebrate him through music? It’s all he cared about. It was a natural thing,” said Z.

Reunited, the band started playing tribute concerts only to find a growing audience of their own.

But Prince’s memory isn’t going anywhere; he’s what started it all in the first place.

“We’re not going to try and replace him. We’re trying to be true to everything. Everybody knows the songs so we’re in a cheerleader mode,” said Z.

And there’s no need to find a replacement for Prince’s voice when the audience shouts all the lyrics, free of any inhibitions.

It’s something only Prince’s music can do.

“Just by playing this music and bringing all different kinds of people together–black, white, old, young, green, blue–it makes the world a better place and that’s what we’re trying to do,” said Z.

It’s what Prince what have wanted, to see people of all backgrounds losing themselves in the music.

So far as The Revolution goes, they’re still making sense of things in a world without Prince.

“He’s only been gone two years. It’s not very long. It’s still quite a shock for me,” said Z.

As of now, the band will continue to play around the world and learn from there, never losing track of what it’s all about: Prince.

“I’m playing for him. If you make a mistake you don’t look at each other, you look up. He’s always there. He’s in the notes and the measures.”

And that’s where Prince has always been and will be: in the music he poured every last bit of himself into.