Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Dead Cross, at Sacramento's Ace of Spades: touring their album

Mike Patton, vocals, Dead Cross
Mike Patton, Dead Cross
If I tell you I'm "dead cross" with my not-lost-it-yet English accent, it's me showing anger, but in a kind way, a friendly way. You can tell a little kid that you are "dead cross" with them for making a mess, they know you're really annoyed, but they also know that you'll give them a hug anyway. I've no idea if that's where the name of the band came from, but that really sums up how I find Dead Cross: Mike Patton (Faith No More, Dave Lombardo (Suicidal Tendencies, Misfits, Slayer), Justin Pearson (Retox, and Michael Crain (Retox) 's new supergroup.

Dave Lombardo, drums, Dead Cross
Dave Lombardo, Dead Cross

Dead Cross were on stage last night at Sacramento's Ace of Spades, one stop on their current tour. The music is loud, jumping-up-and-down angry, it's screaming-raging-ranting-hardcore punk... and yet there's a distinct, twisted sense-of-humour. It's like Mike Patton is schooling all the wannabe hardcore-deathcore-whatevercore vocalists out there, and showing them how it's done if you really can sing. That sort of humour. Tongue-in-cheek and having a load of fun in the process.

Mike Patton, vocals, Dead Cross
Mike Patton, Dead Cross
Last night's show was a succinct forty-five minutes of Dead Cross, enough time to play every one of the songs on their recently-released, self-titled album, plus a couple of new songs. Then the band came back for an encore, a cover of the Dead Kennedy's Nazi Punks F**k Off. (A few nights before, in Berkeley, Jello Biafra joined Dead Cross on stage for a very special Trump version of the song. I want that T-shirt.)

If you haven't seen or heard Dead Cross yet, catch them on tour and check out the album!

Dead Cross signed off with a teasing few bars of what is saying was a Slayer song, but I swear I heard Faith No More...

(Last time I saw Mike Patton, he was dressed all in white and in the midst of a flower garden, at Aftershock, Gibson Ranch, in 2015. Story and photos here. That Sunday-morning-secret-show was something special.)

For more photos from last night's show, click here to go to the photo gallery.

Dead Cross
Dead Cross, Ace of Spades, Sacramento California

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The War on Drugs: A Deeper Understanding. That's how you release an album.

The War On Drugs: A Deeper Understanding
The War On Drugs' latest album, A Deeper Understanding, was released at the end of last week. I've been listening to it all weekend. On repeat.

It's beautiful. The upbeat songs with the driving beat; close your eyes, you're on a train in the dark, you're riding horseback through the desert under the moon, you're dancing blind. The slower songs, emotional and thoughtful and drifting, timelessly. Deep, layered, timeless, wonderful music.

And, those moments when The War On Drugs hits a sequences of sounds that resonates somewhere so deep, you laugh and cry and sigh at the same time.

I know Adam Granduciel has a reputation for perfectionism. This time? It's not only the music itself. It's perfection of the delivery of the release, too. The electronic download arrived overnight, and by midday someone was knocking at the front door to deliver the vinyl. I had forgotten what I'd ordered--it's been a while--thought it was just the the vinyl edition. But no: it's a box set, a treasure trove containing layer after layer of goodies: the double vinyl, and a special mix 12" for Record Store Day, and the album on CD, plus a vinyl 45of Holding On/Nothing To Find; a beautiful lyric booklet, same size as the box, and even a poster.

That's how you do a release.

This album is going to be on repeat in my house for a long time to come. Here's a sample: the official video for Holding On.

In case you missed it, here's The War On Drugs at Sacramento's TBD Fest in 2014, when I saw them for the first time. Click through to the photo gallery!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Common, #ImagineJustice, and a free concert in downtown Sacramento

#ImagineJustice Common Sacramento
Capitol Mall, Sacramento, full of people for #ImagineJustice and Common
Last night, 20 or 25 thousand people came to Sacramento's Capitol Mall for a free concert by Common and his special guests: far, way more, than the original predicted numbers for the event, when it was announced earlier in the year. But it was more than a rap and hip-hop show: this was about justice for all, a protest against mass incarceration and racism, about raising awareness of several bills currently before the California legislature which aim to reform the criminal justice system, with improvements to the rights of juvenile offenders, and a revamp of the bail system.

Build schools, not prisons, a strong message. Wonderful to see so many people, so much of Sacramento, coming out in support. With inspirational speeches by guests such as Van Jones and author Susan Burton (whose book, Becoming Ms. Burton, I ordered as soon as I arrived home).

#ImagineJustice Common Sacramento
Brother to Brother, #imaginejustice
Common was joined on stage by artists including J. Cole, and from about 6 p.m. onwards, the show was live streamed via the internet.

Impressive how Common made his songs really fit Sacramento. Impressive how this Oscar-and-Grammy winning man, with an international music career and TV stardom, is giving so much time and effort to helping others. This is something every one of us who calls this country home needs to hear. The words that really hit home to me: "The new plantation, mass incarceration". Such a sign of the racial inequalities that are built into American society in a way that I have not experienced, not anywhere else in the world but in America. It needs to stop.

#ImagineJustice Common Sacramento
#schoolsnotprisons: Be your ancestors' wildest dreams!!!
Common is expected to meet with California legislators today.

Take action and contribute: see Common's website plus the Common Ground Foundation. Also check out

More photos:

#ImagineJustice Common Sacramento

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Selecter: fancy meeting you here. America needs 2 Tone right now. Thank you for bringing it!!!

Pauline Black, vocals, The Selecter
Pauline Black, The Selecter, Sacramento, 2017
The Selecter are from Coventry, England: I'm from Syston, Leicester, England. In Northern California terms, that's like saying: you're from Auburn, just up I-80: I'm from Sacramento. Really, really close on the scale of things. Like global things. And yet... where did I see them live, for the very first time??? Yes. Right here. In Sacramento. At the Memorial Auditorium, where they performed as support for Dropkick Murphys and Rancid.

They had the crowd dancing. I don't know how many of Sacramento's American punk fans knew about The Selecter before Saturday night, but they sure do now.

Pauline Black and Arthur
The Selecter, Sacramento
The Selecter play happy-sounding, get-up-and-dance music, but it always has a political attitude. The Selecter, one of the first bands on the 2 Tone label; ska, punk, reggae, calypso, rock, all in a musical and racial blender, creating some of the most recognizable and memorable music to come out of the UK. A music scene to the backdrop of big social issues; austere government under Thatcher; strife and poverty and strikes... and some bloody good music.

Arthur 'Gaps' Hendrickson, vocals, The Selecter
Arthur 'Gaps' Hendrickson, vocals, The Selecter
Take a listen to The Selecter's Celebrate The Bullet.  So very, very good.

Pauline Black, vocals, The Selecter
Pauline Black, The Selecter, Sacramento
If you want to know about the British punk/ska movement in which The Selecter and the 2 Tone record label, (and Coventry and the East and West Midlands) fits, here's a very interesting documentary, which includes an interview with Pauline Black. Many of these bands are still recording, still touring, and if you are in the USA and love the music but don't know where it came from, this is for you (love the quote from Dave Wakeling of the Beat, "... it was as though we had set up a mobile sociology class that just had music in the back, while we discussed race relations!":

For many more photos from the Sacramento show, click here to go to the photo gallery.

For more info about The Selecter, see their Facebook and website.  Tour dates see here

The Selecter
The Selecter, Sacramento Memorial Auditorium, 2017

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Dropkick Murphys, at Sacramento's Memorial Auditorium: review and photos

Dropkick Murphys
Were you there? Dropkick Murphys at Sacramento's Memorial Auditorium
I was at Sacramento's Memorial Auditorium last night, to see Dropkick Murphys. and once again, I wonder why many, many more concerts are not held in that beautiful, designed-for-sound, venue. Because it's just about perfect. Especially when it's full, sold-out and completely packed with happy fans of all ages. Just like it was last night.

Al Barr, vocals, Dropkick Murphys
Dropkick Murphys, Sacramento
Dropkick Murphys are touring as co-headliners with Rancid on the From Boston to Berkeley tour, (tonight, the tour continues at The Greek in Berkeley), and last night were supported by local singer-songwriter Kevin Second, plus -- to my very happy surprise -- The Selecter.

This may have been the most-fun concert I have been to in a very long time.

Dropkick Murphys

The Boston-Irish, punk storytellers and a very enthusiastic audience... circle pit going wild through the band's entire set. Enough crowdsurfers to keep the friendly security team busy. Bagpipes and accordions, electric guitars and banjo. Rousting sing-along songs, more than a little heartbreak, rebel Irish, traditional melody, a touch of sea shanty and a huge heart of punk. They are not America's version of the Pogues: they are, quite definitely and uniquely, the Dropkick Murphys. And I defy anyone to go to one of their shows and keep still.

Dropkick Murphys
Dropkick Murphys, Sacramento, 2017
The band's latest album and their ninth studio album, is 11 Short Stories Of Pain & Glory. One of the songs, 4-15-13, is about the Boston Marathon bombing.

"We stood in your footprints, 'till the rain washed them away
The memories never fade, well they'll still always stay
We stand here together, we bow our heads and pray
For those gone but not forgotten, we remember you each day"

But the album ends, like the Dropkick Murphy's set last night, with the party's-over, boisterous, didn't-we-have-a-good-time-tonight,  Until The Next Time... a plan for the next get-together. We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when... but be there. Not to be missed.

Dropkick Murphys
Add caption
(Check out Dropkick Murphy's Claddagh Fund, which raises money to help the most underfunded non-profit organizations which are supporting vulnerable people... such as these examples.)  Find out more about the band on their Facebook and website.

More photos from last night's show in Sacramento: click here to see the photo gallery.

Links to photo galleries for Rancid, The Selecter, and Kevin Second will be added soon.

Dropkick Murphys
Dropkick Murphys, Sacramento, 2017

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Led Zeppelin memories, and the sound of new bands from Michigan: check these out!

I grew up listening to Led Zeppelin. Kashmir, Stairway to Heaven, Whole Lotta Love and, of course, Immigrant Song: those being the songs everyone remembers, but there are far than that in Led Zeppelin's catalog. Check out the full discography on their website, and indulge your craving for remastered vinyl Zepp to your heart and wallet's content...

Robert Plant's voice and vocal style are not only at the heart of Zepp, they are an influence for a myriad of other vocalists. The whole band has, over the years, influenced and inspired so many other musicians: if you drew a family tree of bands, Led Zeppelin would be at the root of an entire dynasty: a diverse, musical family that today often has little resemblance to its forefathers yet can still trace roots back to the New Yardbirds.

But... it's 2017, almost fifty years since Led Zeppelin formed... and suddenly it seems there's a new wave of hard, heavy, rock appearing... and they are coming out of Michigan, USA. They may never have heard Zepp when they were growing up... yet, the legacy is there. A bit like a great-great-grandchild having the same blue eyes and musical soul.

Here's an example from Michigan-based band Spiral Crush: their third album, Electric Life, is out now. This track, Get It On, really harks back to early Zeppelin...

And then, also from Michigan, we have the young and very talented, Greta van Fleet. If you think you've heard Led Zeppelin on the radio recently, you might just have caught an earful of these guys. I'm really looking forwards to seeing them for the first time, later this year, at Aftershock in Sacramento. Did you get your tickets yet???

This is Highway Tune. It's an earworm... learn the words and sing along!

More info:

Spiral Crush on Facebook and their website
Greta Van Fleet on Facebook and their website
Aftershock festival right here!

(And please... if you work out the meaning behind the cryptic messages appearing on Robert Plant's website, let me know!)

Monday, August 14, 2017

One-Eyed Doll is heading to Europe!

One-Eyed Doll
One-Eyed Doll, Orangevale CA, 2016
All of you in the UK and Europe... do not, I repeat, do NOT miss One-Eyed Doll. Not only are they touring all around the US, but they've just announced European tour dates, including Glasgow (November 3rd), Dublin, Birmingham, Manchester, London, Exeter, Southampton, Haarlem/Amsterdam, Hamburg, Berlin, Brno, Prague, Vienna, and finishing up in Weinheim on November 19th.

See reviews of One-Eyed Doll's live shows here and here and here (when the guy at the merch stand told me, "Never seen One-Eyed Doll before? Then you're in for a treat!". Mark your diaries! Get tickets! You, too, are in for a treat... seriously.

One-Eyed Doll are Kimberly Freeman (guitar and vocals) and Jason Rufus Sewell AKA "Junior" on drums.

Here's a preview. Tickets go on sale this Wednesday, August 16th--don't forget (otherwise I'll keep reminding you.)

More One-Eyed Doll photos in the photo galleries: you can never see One-Eyed Doll too often!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Wide Open Walls: new art on the streets of Sacramento

Miles Toland, Wide Open Walls mural festival, Sacramento, 2017
730 R St, mural by Miles Toland
Wide Open Walls is Sacramento's mural festival, and it's happening right now--from 10th to 20th August--on the streets of Sacramento. With over forty artists from near and far, from Sacramento and California and Spain and Italy, England, New Zealand and more. The festival is adding more beautiful art to Sacramento's already very cool collection.

An early-morning walk today revealed the murals in various stages; from cleaned and prepped walls, ready for the first splash of paint, through sketched-on designs and partly-finished designs, right through to a beautiful, finished work (by Miles Toland, on the SMUD building at 730 R St.)

Christina Angelina, Wide Open Walls mural festival, Sacramento, 2017
Cristina Angelina, working the wall near to the Jade Hotel, setting of the Art Hotel project
These murals are huge, taking up whole sides of buildings; covering worn brick and distressed stucco, surprising you as you walk past a place that only last week, had nothing to show you.

But wait... there's more to come. The festival runs until 20th August and by then, not only will the city be more beautiful, it will have enjoyed many Wide Open Walls events, including mural tours every day, both on foot and on bike; gallery openings, and culminating with the Wall Ball on 19th August. The Ball is an arts-themed fundraiser for arts education.

All information about the festival can be found here on the website, and if you have the "in the Sac" app on your phone, there too. Find out about the founders and organizers, and all of the sponsors who are helping to make this happen!

Lora Zombie, Wide Open Walls mural festival, Sacramento, 2017
Beginnings... this one by Lora Zombie on R
Go for a walk. See the new art. See it grow and flourish over the next few days... it's already amazing!

More photos here, in the Wide Open Walls gallery: more will be added as the festival progresses.

Other Sacramento art collections:

Art Street
Art Hotel
Street Art (Sacramento and elsewhere)

Friday, August 4, 2017

Avenged Sevenfold, A Day to Remember, and Ho99o9, at Sacramento's Golden 1

Avenged Sevenfold, in the crowd, Golden 1, Sacramento
Monday evening at Sacramento's Golden 1 Center: Avenged Sevenfold, with A Day To Remember and Ho99o9.

Sometimes, it's OK to go to a show without cameras. I have a hard time persuading myself of this, but... sometimes you have to remember what it's like, in the center of the crowd, at the front, at the side, behind a giant with his metal horns up or waving his smart phone, or being stepped on by someone dodging backwards to avoid a hurricane of a circle pit... working your way through the gaps to a spot closer to the stage, then back out towards the back for a different view, trying not to get in anyone else's line of sight while they step right into yours. The crush of the crowd, the spilled 14-dollar beers, the balanced soft cup of water because they wouldn't let any bottles onto the floor, the thousands and thousands of happy, excited, jumping, shouting, singing, moshing people.

It was fun. It was a great show.

Ho99o9, Golden 1, Sacramento
Openers, Ho99o9. From the WTF? faces around me in the crowd, I knew their sound was having the same effect on everyone else but... by the end of the set, I wanted to hear more. And I definitely want to photograph these guys, properly, next time around. Check them out...

Then A Day To Remember... and remember it, we most certainly will. Hugely entertaining from start to finish; loud, hectic, guys going crazy in huge circle pits in the crowd, crowd surfing (with one person standing on another, like a guy on a surf board), beach balls and loo rolls thrown into the crowd... the music, oh yes! Here's the set list. I'm glad someone noted it down; I was far too busy just watching and jumping and dancing and keeping out of the way of the huge bald dude who was hurtling round and round in the crowd.

M Shadows in the middle of the crowd, Sacramento
And then, Avenged Sevenfold. First time I've seen them indoors! They brought their signature pyro, lots of it, huge waves of heat in the A/C chill of the Golden 1 Center (a chilled temperature that had been a huge shock, earlier in the evening, after standing in line in full sun and about 100 degrees F.) Huge screens on stage, beautiful art and cartoon animations and outer space and more art and piles of skulls...and a stage that reached way out into the center of the crowd, which the band used to bring the show right into the middle of the people. Always something going on, something to watch. The night of M Shadows' birthday, yes we sang, all the crowd in the Golden 1. They played all the songs everyone was waiting for; they could have gone on all night.

A show to remember.

Avenged Sevenfold are alternating dates as headliners with dates on tour with Metallica; see if you can catch one of the shows!

I did take a few photos. On my phone. Everyone else seemed to be taking videos on theirs. I guess I'm just a photographer through and through... cameras or phone or just somewhere inside my brain.

(More Avenged Sevenfold photos here, from Aftershock.)