Friday, February 28, 2014

New York, New York. And Times Square in the rain.

This says it all:

ALISON TOON: Manhattan in the February rain &emdash; Times Square in the rain
Times Square NY, February evening, rain
More pictures on  Find them in the Places and Events section.

Another New York gem... Lorenzo Laroc and riding the subway

There are many things I dislike about New York; the knife-wielding icy wind, the slush pits at the corner of the cold streets, people who push pregnant women and women-with-children out of the way on their rush to be a step ahead... but there are lots of things I adore. First is that Jade lives there): then the old mixed with ultra-new, the tangible energy, the random conversations with total strangers, the freedom to walk and walk and walk and ride the subway, travelling miles without needed a car... and the music that just happens.

This trip, I came across Lorenzo Laroc, playing his signature five-string electric violin/viola in the subway station below Manhattan's Grand Central. The cavernous environment added depth and echo to the sound of one man and his music. He was playing samples from his album, Under The Covers. I brought a copy home with me.
ALISON TOON: Lorenzo Laroc &emdash; Lorenzo Laroc, electric violinist, performing in subway station in New York

The instrument is unusual, made of plexiglass not wood and beautifully shaped; regular violins have four strings; so do violas, with an overlap in musical range. By combining the two, Lorenzo Laroc has one instrument with a stretch range of notes that he uses to play both a wide range of cover songs (50 Cent to Metheny to Led Zepplin) and also his own compositions.

ALISON TOON: Lorenzo Laroc &emdash; Lorenzo Laroc, electric violinist, performing in subway station in New York
Lorenzo Laroc
Having played violin when still at school (and failed miserably to master third position), found electric violin entrancing the first time I heard an amplified violin (Slade's Jim Lea playing on Coz I Luv You), I still have a yearning to try and play again... maybe. So I was drawn into the crowd who stood and listened to Lorenzo Laroc. Yes, there were people standing and listening in a subway station; not hustling by with a sideways glance at the busker, but stopped-in-their-tracks to listen.That says something about the music. This was New York, Manhattan, and people were standing stock-still.

ALISON TOON: Lorenzo Laroc &emdash; Lorenzo Laroc, electric violinist, performing in subway station in New York

More info on Lorenzo Laroc can be found on his website: 

Talking of Slade, I found their smiling faces peeping out from a magazine rack in Barnes and Nobles' yesterday. Cover of Vive Le Rock! magazine, glam rock special. (As usual, we are probably a month behind the UK publication date but it was available in Citrus Heights B&N yesterday.)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Escape the Fate, Eve to Adam, New Year's Day, Track Fighter and Awoken Shadows... all in one show!

Two of these bands, I'd seen before: Escape the Fate at Aftershock Festival in 2012, and Sacramento's own Track Fighter when they supported Trapt later the same year. The other bands were new to me.

Escape The Fate live 2014
Escape the Fate
Headliners Escape The Fate put on a wonderful show. I was happily surprised by their set; I don't know if they have matured a lot since the last time I saw them, or if it was the different environment, or just because they really are this good and I just didn't click last time. I really, really enjoyed the show last night. Worth listening too more often. Especially "Ashley". Despite Craig Mabbit being sick, he still put on a huge show. Nice job guys, nice job! Check out their website for more info... I may have to buy that vinyl.

Escape The Fate live 2014
Escape The Fate
I hope they come back again soon. I'll be there. All my photos from last night's show can be found here:

Eve To Adam live 2014
Eve To Adam
Main support act were Eve To Adam: from New York and more straight rock than hardcore. Liked their cover of Rebel Yell. More photos here:

New Year's Day live 2014
New Year's Day
In the middle of the show was New Year's Day. A fair few of the packed-out crowd were there to see New Year's Day. You could tell by the makeup and face-paint, beautifully done. More photos:

Track Fighter live Feb 2014
Track Fighter
Track Fighter. They rock!!!  Excellent band. Need to see more of them. More photos from last night: in the Toon's Tunes gallery

Track Fighter live Feb 2014
Track Fighter
And Awoken Shadows. Great start to the show! A few more photos here:

Awoken Shadows live 2014
Awoken Shadows
I'm jumping on a plane in a couple of hours. Most of the photos are ready, in the galleries. Go to and look for the band's name. That's where all Toon's Tunes' music photos are. Or just click on one of the photos in this blog, they will take you to that band's photo gallery.You haven't been to visit yet??? Darn...

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A busy week and I'll miss some of it. You go, write me a review? Phantogram and White Sea

One of the shows I'd hoped to cover this week is Phantogram and White Sea, who will be on stage at the Ace of Spades on Friday, 21st February. A little bit of a change from all the recent rock... more electro, more wistful, female vocals.

However I'll be out of town (for a very good reason, out of town), and won't be there.

Maybe one of you can write a review and share it here, in the comments section?

Phantogram: lots of airplay right now. But also check out White Sea:  Samples of music on the website (just click that link). "Prague" is stunning.

White Sea is Morgan Kibby... of M83. This is where once again the world has become smaller. M83 are French ambient-electronic, from Antibes. And, as soon as I heard White Sea's music, I was back in France. (See the article on Zardonic on this blog.)

Having struggled through another spin class yesterday with a really-awful electro-pop soundtrack, I request all spin instructors who choose electro to now play White Sea and Zardonic instead. Or go metal.

Enjoy the show on Friday!

Friday, February 14, 2014

And Ghost Town; four bands so full of energy it's surprising the walls are still standing

Ghost Town were second in the lineup, after lionfight, before Mod Sun; Breathe Carolina have done a fantastic job of working with supporting bands who bring more to the show than just showcasing the headliner. Nice job. Really nice job.

Ghost Town live 2014

Ghost Town: jumping, bouncing; pogo set free from punk. Happy fans. Electro, rock, guitar, vocals, and really really good drums. Really good drums.

Ghost Town live 2014

Ghost Town are Kevin Ghost with the lead vocals, Evan Pearce driving the electronics, Alix Monster with guitar and vocals, and MannYtheDrummer on drums. Really good drums. Did I say that already?

Ghost Town live 2014

Find Ghost Town on Facebook, YouTube, and all the usual places.

Full gallery of photos from Ghost Town's show are in the gallery:

lionfight: look out for these guys. Seriously. #theprideisreal

The Breathe Carolina show was good from beginning to end; if the energy expressed on the stage that night could have been caught and bottled, it might have gone a long way to solving the power needs of a small country or a large US state.

But: if I'm totally honest, it was the first band on stage, lionfight, who blew me away.

ALISON TOON: lionfight &emdash; lionfight, live Sacramento 2014
Nick Astacio of lionfight
They only played four songs, I think. Might have been five. But no more than that. They seem to spend half the time in mid-air, some of the time flat on the floor, and the whole time making really intense, half-pure, half-screamo metal rock. (Yeah, I know, I use labels too.)

ALISON TOON: lionfight &emdash; lionfight, live Sacramento 2014
lionfight performing at Sacramento's Ace of Spades
Nick Astacio is a music-photographer's dream. Incredibly expressive, active, intense, and as long as the light's right, each shot is a gem. You'll see a lot more of Nick in the gallery at along with the rest of the band (all: very talented, very expressive, and together they put on a must-see show).

ALISON TOON: lionfight &emdash; lionfight, live Sacramento 2014

lionfight are from Chicago, Illinois: Nick Astacio, vocals; Akash Hans, guitars; Bryan Patrick Cole, bass; Peter Dornowski, drums. Download lionfight's first EP, for free, here:

Find lionfight on Facebook: and on Twitter with @lionfightmusic and hashtag #theprideisreal.

Many more photos from lionfight's set in the gallery:

And... you can watch their video, right here, right now. Do it! I forsee a great future for these guys...

ALISON TOON: lionfight &emdash; lionfight, live Sacramento 2014

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Happy as F*ck, yes indeed: Mod Sun and hippy hop

Happy, happy, hippy, happy... I have no other words for Mod Sun!

Have you heard hippy-hop yet? Think hip-hop with a late sixties/early seventies twist, long hair, a big smile, and happily stoned. That's Mod Sun. That's hippy-hop.

ALISON TOON: Mod Sun &emdash; Mod Sun live 2014

Currently on tour with Breathe Carolina, Mod Sun bounced around the stage last night at the Ace of Spades, immensely entertaining and full of good cheer. You couldn't help dancing. (Or at the bare minimum tapping a foot, in the case of a stern-looking matriarch who was no doubt only at the show because the kids had dragged her there.) You couldn't help smiling. I couldn't help grinning.

ALISON TOON: Mod Sun &emdash; Mod Sun live 2014

"I don't have any fans. Just friends!"

ALISON TOON: Mod Sun &emdash; Mod Sun live 2014

I think Mod Sun now has more friends. Many more. Probably as many as the sell-out crowd.

ALISON TOON: Mod Sun &emdash; Mod Sun live 2014

If you haven't heard hippy-hop yet, you need to check out Mod Sun.  Check out the tour dates and run buy a ticket. You'll be entertained, and you may find that grin you've been looking for.

More photos from Mod Sun's show at the Ace of Spades, Sacramento, last night:

Breathe Carolina, Savages tour, Sacramento: February 2014

Breathe Carolina headlined last night at the Ace of Spades, following no fewer than three very entertaining and strong support acts: Lionfight, Ghost Town and Mod Sun.

Very good evening and "the crowd went wild"!

ALISON TOON: Breathe Carolina &emdash; Breathe Carolina, Savages tour, 2014

Young fans were lined up outside the venue, clutching VIP passes, before the doors opened. A collection of photos to be signed; a new tour T-shirt already being worn; excited faces. A lot of the crowd were under 21; there were families and some oldies like me, but for the most part it was kids out having fun, seeing their favourite band.

ALISON TOON: Breathe Carolina &emdash; Breathe Carolina, Savages tour, 2014

Breathe Carolina opened their show with Savages, first single from the new album (also called Savages), which will be released on April 15th. The single is already available: find a link on

ALISON TOON: Breathe Carolina &emdash; Breathe Carolina, Savages tour, 2014

From the moment they started, they just piled on the energy.

ALISON TOON: Breathe Carolina &emdash; Breathe Carolina, Savages tour, 2014

The light show was intense and together with the hazy-fog, made it tricky to photograph the individuals in the band. But the show wasn't about one person, or another: it was about the organic meeting of music, performers, audience and the energy generated. So in the gallery, that's what you'll find. <-- click the link

ALISON TOON: Breathe Carolina &emdash; Breathe Carolina, Savages tour, 2014

Breathe Carolina are currently on tour and still have many dates lined up. Catch them near you!

More pictures from last night's show at the Ace of Spades, Sacramento:

ALISON TOON: Breathe Carolina &emdash; Breathe Carolina, Savages tour, 2014

Kickstart this project: new Black Lab album. Wonderful music; let's share it!

Another Kickstarter project that you may like to participate in: the next album from Black Lab.  Find all the information here:

Just launched, and already well on its way to success. Go help take it there!

One of my favourite Black Lab songs (but there are many others) is This Night (and you may have heard this on The Shield or House, if you watch the same TV programs that I do):

Now go check out the Kickstarter page, because you'll find more Black Lab videos there.

(Here's an earlier post about finding music to love--including Black Lab.)

I love this way of helping to fund new music projects. It's roots, it's real humans deciding what they want to hear--and it's a chance to change the music world. Independent artists rock. Here's an example from Steve Rothery.

UPDATE: as of 3 pm Pacific time, February 14th, this Kickstarter has raised... wait for it... more than $42,000.  Wonderful!!!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Enough with the labels! Music, human beings, everything. We're all human. And it's all music.

It's time for labels to be gone.

Caucasian, black, Hispanic, Asian, whatever... welcome to the human race. We're all humans.

As for music? How many darn labels can you contrive? Death metal, metalcore, posthardcore, prog, pop, classical, post-classical, pre-Grunge-but-not-quite-punk, punk, punk rock, punkcore?? whatever whatever whatever. Yawn. Do we really, really need that level of classification? If so, please point me to the scientific methodology. (Maybe the Music Genome program has something... but it doesn't do too well so far in deciding what we "like" rather than how it sees patterns.)

It's that human factor that doesn't need labels. It needs ears.

By segregating and labeling, we all miss out. Take "metal" and "prog" (progressive rock), for example. There are websites dedicated to each. There are print magazines dedicated to each. There are radio stations, traditional, online and satellite, dedicated to each sub-category of music. There are festivals for each genre.

But who decides the dividing line? Who chooses what goes where? Who restricts each band's audience, by deciding what readers will like to listen to?

Radio is soooooo.... restricted. It used to be that you'd hear a great variety of new, old, inventive, adventurous and mainstream on the same day without changing the dial. If you stayed up real late, John Peel would really surprise you with something obscure that you wanted to hear more of. Breakfast time, and you'd be sure it would be middle-of-the-road and cheerful.

But it wasn't locked to one particular sub-genre of a sub-genre of someone else's invented classification.

(If you know what you are looking--or listening for, you can find it. If you don't know what you are looking for, you don't have a chance. You'll never know it existed.)

Shouldn't we, the listeners, just listen and decide what we, as human beings, like?

We might not agree. We'll probably have very diverse collections, and a very different set of choices. But that's what music, art and life in general are all about. We are human. We are global. And we have minds of our own.

(You may have to click through to YouTube for this one.)

If you disagree, please tell me which of the songs shared on this page are metal, and which are prog, with an intelligent reason other than you heard or read someone else saying so.

And I'm talking about the music, not the fans per se... what do you hear?

(I wanted to include Alter Bridge's "Calm the Fire" here too, but can't find an official video to share. But I'm sure you know where to find a version to listen to.)

And please: if you hear something that you enjoy, share it with your friends. Local band? Old favourite? Help others to hear about it... and maybe they'll return the favour.

We're humans. Not labels. And the same goes for the music we listen to. Enjoy it, and help others to know what they are looking for, too.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Hail to the King

Avenged Sevenfold, Aftershock 2013
Avenged Sevenfold performing at Aftershock 2013
Every time I start my truck, I hear Avenged Sevenfold play, Hail to the King.

It's not my phone's ringtone and it's not in my CD player.

Avenged Sevenfold, Aftershock 2013
Avenged Sevenfold performing at Aftershock 2013
Somehow, it's the only track that has been copied to my Windows phone. I have no idea how it happened. It wasn't intentional. I have the radio/CD player set to play from the phone via Bluetooth, so it does, as soon as I turn the key. Until I go to Pandora and set the station for the trip.

Otherwise, it's Hail to the King. Not a bad way to start a journey, right?

More photos from their performance at Aftershock Festival, 2013

Friday, February 7, 2014

Russian Police Choir sing "Get Lucky" at the Sochi Winter Olympics

I don't quite know how to describe this. It's wonderfully-surreal on so many different levels: you'll have to watch it.

Watch the video on NBC's website:

First and foremost, it's a great cover of a happy song. Daft Punk has gone global. If they weren't already.
But then... these are policemen. Not jolly, corner-of-the-street-pointy-hat-on-head English bobbies, but hard-case Russian Interior Ministry of Internal Affairs or somesuch. They are wearing uniforms, and particularly the hats, that go back to the years of Stalin (who apparently "disappeared" from the history of Russia, as presented during the opening ceremony... maybe he "disappeared himself. I think he was good at disappearing people.)

On a trip through Eastern Europe, prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, I saw men in uniforms like that. I thought they looked like comedians until I saw the fear on the faces of the people around me. Uniforms like that still carry the weight of some heavy years and some heavy karma.

No, the uniform doesn't make the man. But the uniform represents a collective spirit, intent, and the execution of that intent.

And yet these guys, in these uniforms, were out there at the Sochi opening ceremony, pulling faces like rock stars, and rocking the song.

They were singing about staying up all night and waiting to get lucky. Is that what cops do?????

Oh my...  part of me is wondering if these guys even understood what they were singing about. The other part says, what a wonderful, wonderful sense-of-humour!

There are some wonderful faces in the choir, obviously from families whose histories reach across the gigantic land that is Russia, from east to west. They did an amazing job and if I see no other event from the Winter Olympics, this will forever be memorable.

Rock on, cops!!!

And here's a version recorded earlier... I prefer the Sochi version with the hats, and the older guys looking puzzled, serious, bemused and happy by turns. Or all at once.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Happy Birthday, Bob Marley. One Love!

Can't believe it's a year since The Wailers were here, and more than a year since I was in Jamaica. The Wailers will be here again soon... playing Legend, beginning to end. And one day I will go back to the homeland of Reggae.

Until then... one love!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Zappa Plays Zappa Plays Sacramento: review and photos

ALISON TOON: Zappa Plays Zappa &emdash; Zappa Plays Zappa at the Crest Theater, Sacramento, 2014
Sacramento's Crest Theater
The venue: The Crest Theater in the heart of downtown Sacramento. (Maybe it IS the heart of downtown Sacramento.) A beautiful, vintage theater, in a building that was originally constructed in 1912. The seating is steeply raked, everyone has a good view of the stage (unless you're on the front row right at the side, and the performers happen to have a giant stack of speakers in front of you). The seats are comfortable as armchairs, and there's room between the rows for standing and dancing without thinking you'll fall on the people in the row in front (there were guys in some of the upper rows last night testing this out through the entire show and obviously having a really good time).

The show: Zappa Plays Zappa

The audience: ranging from young, to not-so-young, balance tipped towards the upper range; long-time fans of Frank Zappa and his music, kids that had been raised with his music, and Dweezil's own followers. I hope there were some newcomers to Zappa.There should have been.

Equipment afficionados looking over the huge set of guitar pedals and controls. Guys queuing to purchase Zappa t-shirts and CDs. Throughout the show, two gentleman dancing and gyrating through the entire show right at the back, right at the top of the rows of seats in the Crest.

ALISON TOON: Zappa Plays Zappa &emdash; Zappa Plays Zappa at the Crest Theater, Sacramento, 2014
Dweezil Zappa
Snippets of conversation overheard. "I traded all my original Zappa collection for knives. What an idiot! I was a kid! Knives!!!"  Another: "I was so hungry for the music. I wanted to know each note. I tried to transcribe it."  (It wasn't Steve Vai, though it could have been. I checked.)  
ALISON TOON: Zappa Plays Zappa &emdash; Zappa Plays Zappa at the Crest Theater, Sacramento, 2014
Dweezil Zappa

And the music:  Roxy & Elsewhere, in its entirety--and that was before the intermission. The crowd had their money's worth. A night full.

ALISON TOON: Zappa Plays Zappa &emdash; Zappa Plays Zappa at the Crest Theater, Sacramento, 2014
Scheila Gonzalez

Dweezil Zappa's band do his father's legacy justice. It's such intricate, deeply-layered, intense and complex music. 

The fun and jokes are an extra, a freeby, thrown in because words are needed, and you might just sometimes think you were listening to some arty-farty jazz if they weren't there. Just don't ever mistake Zappa for comedy. This is music, this is rock, (some call it "jazz-rock")... this is special. This is Zappa.

ALISON TOON: Zappa Plays Zappa &emdash; Zappa Plays Zappa at the Crest Theater, Sacramento, 2014
Kurt Morgan
I find myself counting, working out the time signature. It's not so complex, it's twos and fours and it's countable but... it's layered over and over and over with so many other rhythms, unique combinations of notes and song-like sequences and twists and turns and how the heck do these crazy musicians ever remember all that???? 

ALISON TOON: Zappa Plays Zappa &emdash; Zappa Plays Zappa at the Crest Theater, Sacramento, 2014
Chris Norton
(Many years of work my dear, many years of work.)

ALISON TOON: Zappa Plays Zappa &emdash; Zappa Plays Zappa at the Crest Theater, Sacramento, 2014
Ben Thomas and Ryan Brown
Our cat is called Muffin. You know where that came from.

(I wonder what would have happened if Frank Zappa arrived on the music scene today, instead of late sixties/seventies. Today's commercial world is less tolerant of musical invention and the market appears to crave conformity. The world still needs Zappa. Do your kids, your grandkids, a favour, and introduce them. There are plenty of albums to choose from.)
ALISON TOON: Zappa Plays Zappa &emdash; Zappa Plays Zappa at the Crest Theater, Sacramento, 2014
Ben Thomas

I envy one of my long-time-England friends, who saw Frank in concert in Sweden. I am happy that I saw Dweezil and Zappa Plays Zappa last night. They made the music real. How many albums are there? Sixty? That will keep Zappa  Plays Zappa going for a few more years yet. I'll see you again.

Go see, go hear, Zappa Plays Zappa. They'll be playing near you--don't miss the tour. 

Zappa Plays Zappa are: Dweezil Zappa (guitar), Scheila Gonzalez (sax, vocals), Ben Thomas (vocals, trombone, recipient of diploma from Phelan High School), Chris Norton (keyboards and vocals), Ryan Brown (drums) and Kurt Morgan (bass).

For more Toon's Tunes photos from the show, go to to see the full gallery.

ALISON TOON: Zappa Plays Zappa &emdash; Zappa Plays Zappa at the Crest Theater, Sacramento, 2014