Live Review: OFF! with Cerebral Ballzy and NASA Space Universe at El Corazon 4/13/14

all photos by Brittany Brassell

“This is a really beautiful city”, Keith Morris remarked halfway his El Corazon set with super punk supergroup OFF!. He was talking to the punk kid who had fought his way to the very front of the crowd, sweating profusely through the leather jacket he dared not remove in the pit. “You don’t know that yet, though”, Morris continued, “you haven’t figured out how to find the good parts and... oh, well, you know, that stuff comes later”. Back behind the pit, you can hear some chuckles. They come from the denim vests and true vintage Circle Jerks t-shirts in the back, who have spent twice as many years at punk shows than their juniors up front. They know what Morris is talking about - with time, the virulent opposition to everything within a 50 mile radius of mainstream culture becomes more focused, and while the anger may continue to burn towards the deserving, you learn to appreciate the good for what it is.

For example, the good tonight was a maniacally intense set from OFF!, perhaps the most impactful and furious voice in the modern punk context. It helps that the face of the band is Morris, who has had more experience telling it like it is from the vantage point of a microphone and a pair of ripped Levi’s for longer than anyone on the scene. But together with equally legendary bassist Steven Shane McDonald (founding member of Redd Kross), devilishly good guitarist Dimitri Coats, and drummer Mario Rubalcaba (a veteran of too many punk bands to count), they make for one hell of a performance, no matter how long you’ve been on the scene. The band is on tour in support of new LP Wasted Years with Brooklyn band Cerebral Ballzy and Santa Ana punks NASA Space Universe. Armed with an armada of vans and one totally kickass tour poster, the three left a crater where El Corazon used to be.

If you were hoping for a nice, easy energy buildup to the pinnacle of OFF!, you were in the wrong place Sunday night. NASA Space Universe singer Kevin Rhea jumped off stage and started the circle pit himself, microphone in hand, while his band played furious speed punk up on stage. The band has been making noise on the California punk scene since 2006, and last year, they released another EP of brutal, two minute throw-downs. Their recorded material is almost purposefully unlistenable, to entice you into witnessing the fullness of the band, which is their live show. The crowd loved it - pits continued throughout the brutal show and the thirty minute set gave plenty of time to get the blood pumping.

NASA Space Universe:

After their sizzling opening number, Honor Titus introduced his band with a giggle, like even after saying it a thousand times, the band’s name still makes for a laugh. Cerebral Ballzy were no joke, though — the band’s forty minute set of merciless east coast punk numbers, combined with Titus’s fantastic crowd interaction, made for a grand old time. The band released their self-titled debut back in 2011, with cover art by Raymond Pettibon who has done all of the OFF! covers, and with much hype from Adult Swim and others. This year, Cerebral Ballzy will release the follow up, produced by Dave Sitek! The impressive list of collaborators is deserved, though. The New York band have a great combination of 80s punk sound and presence that make an easy sell. Titus’s stage persona was great, listing off pizza, skateboarding, cutting class, and Brooklyn girls as pretty much all inspiration for tracks. If you question the extent to which skateboarding plays into things, they had a track called “Speed Wobble”. Altogether, a very fun performance and a great crowd hype before OFF! took the stage.

Cerebral Ballzy:

OFF! played 21 songs, the total studio time of which comes out to about 26 minutes. Stage dives from audience members continued throughout the show - if you were anywhere near the front row, you had to have your head on a swivel, because otherwise, you are going to wake up with a pretty serious concussion, and worse yet, have missed the rest of the show. The fact that most songs barely hit 90 seconds was almost a mercy act. Any longer, and the bursts of pit brutality would have been too much to handle. But after throwing elbows and kicking you in the face, you always get picked back up so that the beautiful chaos can continue.

If you managed to find a good spot to actually watch the show as opposed to watching out for your life, OFF! were merciless on stage. Dimitri Coats is up and down the neck board faster than you can mentally process, and all while head-banging literally the entire show. McDonald is as legendary a bass player as he’s always been, riffing out every line with pristine excellence. Then it’s up to Mario and Keith to keep the pace and keep the peace (or lack thereof). Keith’s scissor kick during “Hypnotized” still put him a solid foot above the kick drum and his banshee scream on “Darkness” is as visceral as it has ever been. The guy is not slowing down any time soon, and least of all at any point in tonight’s performance. Back and forth across the front row, Morris was in every face, screaming at other people screaming. It was a great bonding experience. Then when Dimitri crowd surfed during the “Panic Attack” guitar solo for the encore, crowd and band bonding reached new levels of nirvana.

Most of all, it was fantastic to see OFF! playing an OFF! show for OFF! fans and (especially Morris) being 100% content and present in the immediate moment. In the age of remasters and anniversary reunion tours and endless cash grabs for ancient money, Morris is still up on stage at El Corazon, screaming his head off and playing a truly unforgettable performance to fans young and old. Answering one heckler asking for an old Black Flag cut, Morris answered, “If you want to see Black Flag, go see Greg Ginn”. There was no spite in his voice, either - Morris was simply making a statement. OFF! is the present state of Keith Morris’s work, and writing songs with Dimitri and playing alongside Steven and Mario, it’s some of the best work he’s done yet. OFF! isn’t counting on any wasted years past to support them in the here and now. Besides, they are too busy torching the stage to look in the rearview.


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Song of the Day: Sun Tunnels - Notice Me

photo by Sugar McGuinn

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Notice Me” by Seattle duo Sun Tunnels from the 2013 compilation Ball of Wax Volume 34 (in 3​/​4 time) by Ball of Wax Audio Quarterly.

Sun Tunnels - Notice Me (MP3)

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KEXP Q&A: Patrick Fitzgerald of Kitchens of Distinction on Record Store Day, KEXP In-Studios, and Why Radio Still Matters

Patrick from Kitchens of Distinction has his own ideas about “Extravagance”

In the wake of their 2013 full-length Folly, the first new album from Kitchens of Distinction in 19 years, the UK trio celebrates Record Store Day with the limited-edition 10-inch single “Extravagance,” featuring two B-sides culled from the band’s KEXP in-studio session last year. I asked Patrick Fitzgerald of Kitchens of Distinction to tell me a little more about “Extravagance” and got an earful about how the band’s KEXP in-studio inspired him, why human curation still matters, and “perving out” on LP sleeves.

KEXP: Two of the tracks on your RSD single, “I Wish It Would Snow” and “Drive That Fast,” are originally from your 2013 KEXP session and feature very different, stripped-down arrangements from the originals. Was arranging them a big challenge?

Patrick Fitzgerald: It was a massive challenge to take the gory excesses of the studio versions of Folly songs and to reduce them to bare essentials. The key was to find a way of playing [the song] on the piano that I was happy with, and then to slather on the Julian Swales Guitar Sounds of the Unknown Universe. Without that it would have been drab.
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Live Video: The Afghan Whigs

photo by Matthew Thompson (view set)

The boozy blues of obsession and regret never sounded so good... at least not in the last 16 years. It’s been that long since The Afghan Whigs released an album and its members turned their attention elsewhere. Yet, while other 90′s bands are now cashing in on their notoriety with 20- and 25-year anniversary reunions and reissues of their past classics, Greg Dulli and co. have returned to form with a brand new album of tantalizingly dark, soul-inflected rock. And The Afghan Whigs proved they’ve lost none of their swagger as they took control of the KEXP studio to perform four songs from the Do to the Beast. This session was broadcast yesterday as part of our ongoing Live Streaming Video series, but you can watch it now in its pure unadulterated glory:

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Wednesday Music News

photo by Dave Lichterman

  • In quite possibly the best music news of the day (IMHO), Parquet Courts have unveiled the music video to the track “Sunbathing Animal,” starring the inspiration for that song, Frida, beloved cat companion to frontman Andrew Savage. The song is also the title track of the band’s forthcoming album, out June 3rd in the U.S. on What’s Your Rupture/Mom+Pop Records. Watch below: [Pitchfork]

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The Song That’s Shaking Me with Samuel Herring of Future Islands

photo by Dave Lichterman (view set)

KEXP asks musicians, “Old or new — what is your favorite song RIGHT NOW?”

    Samuel T. Herring: “There’s this guy, he used to go by the name of Sach. He was a member of The Nonce, which was an early ’90s hip-hop group. They were only able to put out one album. Then he was a member of the crew Global Phlowtations Artist Committee — that was in the mid ’90s, probably ’96 to ’99. Chali 2NA was a brief member, and Myka 9 from Freestyle Fellowship, but also Adlib — who is Thavius Beck, an electronic musician.

    Anyway, Sach just put out five albums at the beginning of this year. He’s going by the name Sachillpages now, and he’s got his stuff on Bandcamp. And it’s a song called “Impress” off his album Happy Verse Day. The first line is, ‘I hold the pen of blossoming,’ and I just love that. It’s also introduced by his son, Junior Sach. He’s like, ‘What’s up, Junior Sach?’ and he’s like, ‘Hey Dad, why don’t you bust some of those impressionistic raps.’ And then he just goes into this beautiful verse.

    That’s the song that I keep playing for people and bringing up. He’s a guy that I’ve loved for many years — it’s been about five or six years since he put anything out. And he’s an early ’90s vet. He’s been around forever. So, it was like, ‘I hope he’s not done,’ and then he comes out with five albums in January. I don’t think a lot of people know about it, but he’s a living legend.”

Future Islands‘ fourth album, Singles, is out now on 4AD Records. Watch their KEXP in-studio session here.

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Live Review: Odesza with D33J and Kodak to Graph at Neumos 4/12/2014

all photos by Dave Lichterman

Last September, ODESZA were slotted for Saturday night of Decibel Festival at Neumos, along with Slow Magic and a headlining set from Gold Panda. Set to open the night’s festivities up, the boys were a bit nervous. As our photographer Dave Lichterman recalls from a conversation with Harrison, they were concerned about stage presence, considering Slow Magic had live drums. It’s funny to think of ODESZA like that now, even thought that was just barely over six months ago. Now, Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight have remixes on teen movie soundtracks and sold out more than half their tour dates a month in advance, all while still giving away 100% of their music for free. No surprise at all that their homecoming after months on the road resulted in two back to back sold out nights at Neumos. I talked to a couple people in the crowd who could name every track from Summer’s Gone and My Friends Never Die in a heartbeat. ODESZA have hit the big time, and Saturday night, it was a blast to welcome them home with open arms and packed out room of nonstop dancing. Together with opening sets from D33J and Kodak to Graph, ODESZA night #1 set the bar pretty high for round 2.
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Song of the Day: Cloud Nothings - I’m Not Part Of Me

photo by Pooneh Ghana

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “I’m Not Part of Me” by Cloud Nothings from the 2014 album Here and Nowhere Else on Carpark Records / Mom+Pop Music.

Cloud Nothings - I’m Not Part of Me (MP3)

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Out This Week 4/15

Highlights this week include the first new album in 16 years from veteran rockers, The Afghan Whigs. KEXP Music Director Don Yates describes their latest, titled Do To the Best, as “a strong return-to-form of brooding, soul-inflected rock with atmospheric guitars and keyboards and occasional strings accompanying Greg Dulli’s husky vocals and dark, often-ominous lyrics of degeneration and mortality.”

Another highlight of the week comes from New York band Woods. Their eighth album, With Light and With Love, “finds them continuing to sharpen their song craft while polishing their sound on a consistently strong set of songs ranging from brightly colored pastoral pop to torrid psych-rock jams.”

The latest album from Nashville artist Bobby Bare, Jr.’s Young Criminals’ Starvation League is “a diverse, expertly crafted set of break-up songs ranging from distortion-drenched rockers and jangly power-pop to moody, tension-filled rock and melancholy roots-tinged ballads.” (They’ll be LIVE on KEXP on Sunday, June 8th.)

Jessica Lea Mayfield is back with a darker sound on her third album, Make My Head Sing..., “featuring a stripped-down, primal rock-band sound, the album combines thick, grungy guitars and muscular rhythms with Mayfield’s sultry deadpan vocals and dark, often-seedy lyrics.”

And, as always, there’s tons more new releases to check out below! What new albums are you most looking forward to this week?
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Tuesday Music News

photo by Matthew B. Thompson

  • Twin Shadow has shared his new song “To The Top,” an intense, pounding percussion anthem about starting over. His statement about the song offers a glimpse into the song’s inspiration. He said, “What is it when you realize that someone isn’t right for you? Or when you find that you do not and can not posses someone entirely? You want someone so bad and it feels like hell.” Hey, we’ve all been there. [Pitchfork]

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