Category Archives: Music Reviews & Previews

The Budrows: Genuine Hoot and a Holler

The Budrows getting fired up at Alex's Bar
The Budrows getting fired up at Alex’s Bar

Ever wonder what fire and brimstone sound like? Two words. The Budrows.  On Saturday, August 22nd they played one of their last Southern California gigs with Jesse “El Gato” Borden–on harmonica–at Alex’s Bar. If you’ve been there you know it’s the gypsy bordello of every hillbilly’s dream.

Parched? No Problem. Monitors above the bar help you track down your poison of choice faster than you can say sooey. No Dukes of Haphazard here either. Their staff do a primo job of helping out all their guests (bonus points if you’re hip jerkin’ and knee slappin’). But before any hell raisin’ journey comes to an end it has to start somewhere.

In our case it starts with the electric and gospel sounds of Aposel. With lyrics that leave you humbled and centered, their country guitar riffs and lofty organ sustain are just what the doctor ordered. It’s like going to church, but with beer. Also, there’s a hacked In-n-Out sign pointing to hell towards the stage (don’t worry, your donations dipping secret is safe with us). As Aposel’s sounds sail into the horizon Son of Heatwave get ready.

As you wait you take a seat and listen to tiki-surf drum rolls wrapped in pipeline reverb as nonsensical background chatter begins to permeate. Next thing you know you see Son of Heatwave dock and drop anchor (land ho).

Frontman Jeff Mayfield’s vocals are like an indie blend of Donovan meets Elliot Smith. The band reminds you of the 50 Days of Summer soundtrack. Several of their songs have a lullaby quality  and if you listen close enough you hear a xylophone timbre. Definitely along the lines of lofty Scottish or English rock ballads. Once weaned off their set you find yourself hearing Dick Dale and Link Wray on the dance floor speakers as they hand the baton to Travesura.

The trio create rich tones with Leo Romeo’s resonator guitar. Violin lines at hummingbird speed run up and down with rustic charm. A dollop of boogie notes for that honky tonk feel on keyboard. And in an interesting twist of events Son of Heatwave frontman cuts in on the action with vibrato from his musical saw (it’s okay, you can rubberneck). Their voyage soon ends but The Budrows idle by the sand, ready.

Vocalist Macarena Rivera plugs in her electric washboard as you know things are going to heat up. Suddenly you hear a roar. Imagine a 1969 Chevy Camaro blast out from the hull of a ship (yeehaw indeed). That’s The Budrows.

Next thing you know your heart hits the ground running, pumping to the stomping bass drum and tambourine of Jason Farthing’s rhythm. Macarena’s gritty vocals waft like thick southern humidity as your heart stays on beat with her flailing maracas.

Occasional cowbell clicks and clacks play as you drive past a grazing herd. Something starts to form in the field. What could it be?

A whirling inferno. El Gato’s harmonica not only caught fire, it was blazing! Together with Farthing’s cigarbox guitar, and Macarena they couldn’t be stopped.

Catch this rambunctious trio and swing your partner do si do before the group says goodbye to El Gato. The Budrows play Mozambique in Laguna Beach on Tuesday, August 25th and Pike Restaurant in Long Beach this Thursday the 27th.

A Different Kind of Prayers

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by CHRISTIAN ARAYA

Cholo Goth? Gesundheit. It’s not your body’s attempt to cleanse its congested nasal cavities of ancestral spirits, ghouls, and ghosts. Actually, it is a lifestyle. And Prayers’ album–Young Gods–attests to that (don’t worry, this is not a test).

The San Diego-based duo neighbor La Santa Muerte’s drug war incubator across the border. So it’s to no surprise that two deathly subcultures–Goth and Gangsta–would eventually intertwine so close to the US-Mexico border. The energy from Leafar Seyer’s words in the first track “Young Gods” (album of the same name) come at you like a pitbull, and producer Dave Parley’s hardcore bass drums make sure your heart is pumping at manic beats per minute. Their music video paints a rough mural.

The new effort from Prayers is not for the timid.

“Young Gods” gives life to the album even though much of it is about violence and death. It is easy to see how the music meshes easily into the inner-city (even your favorite graveyard). You’re riding the city metro late at night. You’re sedated by the grit, violence, and vaccuum of it all. Parley’s beats carry you through a drum machine excursion of inner-city war zones. Grafitti, thuglife, drugs. Vice documented and preserved (or embalmed if you must) what Cholo Goth is and where it comes from.

Then, without notice “Love is the Enemy” dims the lights to a somber shade. The melody sounds like something that you’d want to listen to while excavating your favorite underground cave (Ooo, look! A bat). Its back-beats bounce off crystallized walls (sonar mode activate), stalagmites, and stalactites.

Although these cholos have had other banda and punk counterparts (remember Manic Hispanic and Akwid? Yeah we do too) they are the first to stitch goth with thug life in the middle of the day (hiss, the light, the light, it burns). The Cure fans will hear Robert Smith’s influence in Seyer’s brit intonations (especially when laced with a heavy dose of digital-delay).

“Friends are Poison” gives blunt advice about the relationships we all find ourselves in at one point or another. Instead of elaborating on how to spot positive ones you are warned that words about you will always flow behind your back (real friends stab you in the front).

Initially “WestEndGirls” appears to be a reanimation (more brains) of a Pet Shop Boys original (you should know better). It’s a primer for the final lap.

Parley’s beats in “187” come at you with a stabbing motion, like in a prison yard with a shank (a really nice shiny one). The good thing is that these beats will keep you on your feet (in case you need to make a drive-thru run).

Review: Romanticism and Ferocity

Camerata Pacifica plays the Pasadena Civic.

By CHRISTIAN ARAYA, Contributing Writer
Published: Thursday, January 16, 2014 | 3:26 PM

Camerata Pacifica’s January 14 performance at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium consisted of fine veneer-like works from Haydn, Brahms, Elliot Carter, and John Harbison.

Haydn’s Piano trio No. 43 in C Major, Hob. XV: 27, 1. Allegro began the trickling effects of auditory synesthesia. The mezzo piano arpeggios, reverberating diminuendos, and tantalizing crescendos evoked woodland scenery with picaresque creatures frolicking and being mischievous. All of the Trio’s movements expressed a candor of string and piano virtuosity, but it wasn’t until the third that the violin’s voice paralleled that of the piano, as the cello resonated in between both to channel both themes.

Camerata Pacifica at the Pasadena Civic Green Room.

Brahms’ Quintet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 111 captured the candid twinkling of the night’s sentiment. The splendor of the cello’s theme is as moving as it is touching; as it fights with four voices–two violins and two violas. The ferocity of its willingness to survive amidst stringed chaos is what makes the theme so powerful.

Romanticism pours out like a blossoming orchid in the second, third, and fourth movements. The second introduced a somber mood and viola cadenza, while the third carried a swaying theme reminiscent of Philip Glass’s The Hours movie soundtrack.

The second half of the program opened with Elliott Carter’s Elegy for Viola & Piano,  and ended with John Harbison’s Piano Quintet.

You can hear aural similarities between Brahms and Harbison, but the latter’s quintet suggests a lot more space. This 20th century dedication to the painter Georgia O’Keefe’s abstract sound channels compositions made famous and pioneered by composers such as Arnold Schoenberg.

The collection’s grandeur of fine performances was like watching a cherry blossom branches sway back and forth on a breezy day.

You can find more of Christian Araya’s work at www.christianaraya.com.

Cool Jazz and Coffee

Grace Kelly hits the spot at Coffee Gallery Backstage

by CHRISTIAN ARAYA, Contributing Writer
Published: Tuesday, January 14, 2014 | 12:41 AM

Grace Kelly’s performance at the Coffee Gallery Backstage the other evening, was more than just eloquent and casual—things got funky. The Coffee Gallery is a nice alcove for, you guessed it, coffee and baked goodies, with their back space converted into a cozy sanctuary for jazz and folk.

Grace Kelly at the Coffee Gallery Backstage

Think of an intimate and warm venue such McCabe’s in Santa Monica, except Coffee Gallery Backstage has walls adorned with cargo bags of coffee beans from around the world. It feels like you’re at a small airport in Uruguay, about to take a private plane in an adventure all over South America, with an untested pilot and a busted altimeter.

Back to Ms. Kelly.  Having performed in places such as New York’s Birdland, Carnegie Hall, The Newport Jazz Festival, and many more jazz stages around the globe, she shared her original compositions, and some covers, and also brought with her two talented backing performers—Michael Miller on twangy jazz guitar and Jerry Watts on a funky electric bass.

She would switch off between soprano and alto sax on her various tunes. Her cover of Henry Rollins’ “St. Thomas” was doused with some breezy sub-tropical rolls and raspy sax phrases. Her musical prowess extended into singing as her soft and tender voice told a lovely story in “Walking on Egg Shells”.

Another original composition that really made an impression was “Leaves”—a meandering of warm, breezy, and colorful sax tones which navigated around the stage.

The trio was actually playing together for the first time, but they sounded as if they knew each other for years. Miller’s artillery of pedal board magic created a layered dreamscape for a lot of Kelly’s love songs. His own solos were a labyrinth of harmony and latin staccato. Watts’ created a scat-a-tat dialogue with his bass a lá George Benson. All their individual nuances came together as they ended their set with some funky jazz, which the audience just couldn’t get enough of.

The Coffee Gallery Backstage is at 2029 N Lake Ave, Altadena, CA 91001. (626) 398-7917. www.coffeegallery.com. 

Christian Araya also lives and blogs at christianaraya.com

New Location, Same Great Music

Grassi and Trio play out the year in cool style

By CHRISTIAN ARAYA

Pasadenans will well remember Red White + Bluezz. When former owner Andre Vener sold his interest in the club, the new owners thankfully saved the name and the concept of live jazz, and the new effort is proving to be quite the venue for new and  established jazz artists.  The restaurant’s new location at the Pasadena Playhouse is in ideal proximity to Colorado Blvd. and Old Pasadena for all your wintry-warm California promenading.

In fact, the restaurant/club  features daily jazz every evening, along with a jazz brunch on Sundays. You’ll find a major–and not so minor–list of French and Californian white and red wines. Your experience is ever so augmented by the homegrown culinary masterminds of Cordon Bleu. The sophisticated, yet casual enclave will surely tantalize the senses especially with the their choice in jazz musicians.

Just recently, we  saw Lorenzo Grassi and his trio as they hit all the right notes Saturday December 28th, at Red White + Bluezz.

Lorenzo Grassi at Red, White + Bluezz

Grassi, with bassist and drummer at his side, reverberated a breezy and enchanting repertoire that matched the intimate ambience set by white Christmas lights and exquisite service. You sit so close to the stage that during intermissions Grassi walks around and chats you up. Their song selections, including bebop as well as standards, was finely finished with blue notes, bass slaps, blistering chord changes, and an earful of voicings–all the essentials for a jazzy night.

The arpeggios, grooves, and damped rhythms were loud enough for you to still carry on a conversation with friends, family, or whisper sweet nothings while monochrome portraits of jazz greats lined the restaurant walls and seemed to listen in, approvingly.

Grassi’s ability to expand on standards must come from his involvement in eclectic projects which span genres such as trip hop, electro funk, and drum n’ bass. You could hear how these influences colored a lot of the bebop played that night.

Mr. Grassi is definitely one of the more promising contemporary jazz acts of 2014, and is a terrific example of the depth of artists performing at what could be your new favorite jazz hang, no matter where it’s located.

Red White + Bluezz is at 37 S El Molino Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101. (626) 792-4441. Live music at 6:30 p.m. daily, with jazz brunch 10:30- 2:30 p.m. on Sundays.  www.redwhitebluezz.com

Credits: @redwhitebluezz,  Pasadenanow.com, Lorenzo Grassi,

Blood Orange’s Cupid Deluxe Hits Bull’s Eye

Shut up and take my money, Devonté Hynes a.k.a. Blood Orange does it again!

"Cupid Deluxe"

Cupid Deluxe follows the dance moves of Hynes’ debut album Coastal Grooves which received a lot of attention from low brow audiophiles and press alike. As a whole the albums is tinged with a myriad of artistic collaborations.  It is less linear and more of an abstract painting–like something that Basquiat would put together in a warehouse.

Hynes’ Chamakay creates soft tribal rhythms that sound like tropical rain fall. Haunting yet creamy vocal duets stream across the album’s love-themed sky like comet tails. And if you listen closely you can hear sensual sax lines and echoing hooks.

Beats and synth-grooves (by means of a vintage TR-505 drum machine)  drape most of the album like a downtempo homage to 80’s acid house. Retro slow jams like “You’re Not Good Enough” help paint this picture as the outro exposes you to a jazzy New York background (and the girls in polkadot dresses go doo do doo do doo do do doo…).

Guitar riffs and slap-bass lines keep things pulsing (listen to “Uncle ACE” and you too will get funky). To keep it fresh Clams Casino adds rap production while Despot and Skepta lay down some rhymes. By the time you get to”High Street” you know you’re listening to something dope.

Often times you can hear influences such as those of a young Michael Jackson or Bruno Mars, instilled with the seductive qualities of Marvin Gaye and a vogue Usher. The production style might also remind you of Quincy Jones but the album really does stand on its own. What’s more encouraging is the fact that Hynes concocted the bulk of these tunes on his own then veiled them with angelic voices of singers such as Samantha Urbani and Caroline Polachek.

With songs of this artistic quality and far reaching creativity who needs pop divas?

Get Active at the El Rey

Active Child is set to fan a spectrum of digital earthtones at the El Rey Theatre, in the heart of Miracle Mile, Saturday November 23rd, 2013.

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Every club is a playground with Active Child.

When you listen to Active Child’s ambient layers, you’ll visualize LA’s twinkling city lights atop the Hollywood Hills–er–yeah, like something out of a Julius Shulman photograph. Or you’ll easily find yourself taking an audio tour of the Sistine Chapel with renaissance minimalism, lasers, and cavernous electropulses (take it from the robed monk doing the Da Vinci code on the dance floor). His downtempo beats will bring up M83 in your memory synapses.

The Show opens with JMSN and Lawrence Rothman. Active Child’s set will be fully loaded with string quartet, choir. and mythological arrows.

Check out his homepage for sample tunes.

Credits: The Arroyo Seco Journal, @ActiveChild

Rock Royalty Run Amuck at The Avalon

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Chaos with a cause. The Kings of Chaos rock the Avalon

November 18th, 2013–If there’s one thing that is worth fighting for it’s your freedom. But what about those that can’t fight for their own freedom? Should we fight for theirs?

Ric O’Barry might be known as the man behind the ‘discovery’ and training of america’s most loveable finned movie star, Flipper, but he would refuse to be associated with such a memory. In fact, ever since T.V’s most recognized dolphin passed away in his arms he has taken it upon himself to battle an industry of animal abuse and another that keeps dolphins captive for amusement. To do this he started Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project.

He also laid the foundation with 2009’s The Cove documentary. It was at a protest in Taijii, Japan that Ric O’Barry met Matt Sorum (former drummer of Guns ‘n Roses) where they found out that they shared the same cause. Their collaboration ensued as they teamed up for a benefit concert at one of Hollywood’s most historic and lush venues–The Avalon.

Along with Sorum were fellow super group rockers Slash (Guns N’ Roses) , Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses, Jane’s Addiction, Velvet Revolver), Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Black Sabbath), Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour), and Steve Stevens (Billy Idol, Michael Jackson),

Sorum started the set off with a twangy rocker ballad which eased into Hughes playing Deep Purple’s “Mistreated” with gnawing aye-aye-aye’s and high pitched octaves. Then Taylor comes out, and together with Stevens, they take the crowd by storm with tracks like “Rebel Yell” and “Smoke onthe Water.”

There were more head bangs, pelvic thrusts, and fist pumps that you could count on two hands. Next thing you know Juliette Lewis (Natural Born Killers) jumps out, shouts out to all the ladies, tantalizes the gents, and electrifies AC/DC’s “Dirty Deed Done Dirt Cheap.” Afterwards, Hughes comes back out as they regroup and cover some classics like Led Zeppelin’s “Communication Breakdown” and “Immigrant Song.” Just when you think they’re done rockin’ guess who comes a knockin’?

Special guests Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam) and Billy Ray Cyrus (“Achy Breaky Heart” and Miley Cyrus) appear. They play Queen’s “Tie your Mother Down” with all the original grit, teenage angst, and rebellion. By the time they play their last song, Guns N’ Roses’ “Paradise City”, you can’t help but wonder how come the stage didn’t explode with so many rock stars in one place.

Credits: thearroyosecojournal.com, @Dolphin_Project, @kingsofchaosusa

What a Fool Believes: A-Track and Danny Brown Rock the Parking Lot

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Danny Brown and A-Track kick it to the curb, literally. 

Fool’s Gold Day Off at the east side parking lot of The Shrine Auditorium was bumpin’ and fist pumpin’ this past weekend. By nightfall,  the parking lot was almost filled to the curb with crunkers, hipsters, ravers, punks, (bubble in all other relevant subcultures here).

Remember your public school yard? Yeah, exactly like that (including the occasional skirmishes over some off-the-cuff remark. Ah, the good old days).

Though unlike public school, there was food that was easily identifiable and comestible. Long lines led the way to two catering trucks parked and dishing out the pizza, tacos, and burgers to the masses with the munchies (an essential for any electro-hip-hop event).

The opening acts served expletive entrées as partygoers leaned like cholos, did the running man, and all of the above to the blend of rappers’ old school and new school styles.

Iamsu and Jay Ant were catalysts for those party time beats, kickback-style. They came down from the Bay Area’s independent hip hop scene with some fresh sounds. Iamsu’s tone is non-chalant but his rhymes are raw–you know– girls, making it big, and money. Jay Ant’s style is a slightly more down to Earth. They had a good yin-and-yang effect which made their set interesting to a certain degree (the sun was still up and people were barely settling in). It was like combining water and fire (what do they make? Steam and vapor. And what comes out of that? A ninja. That’s right, a ninja). The transitions between acts went smoothly as their in-house DJ kept everyone grooving.

The great thing about the music industry today is that it’s relatively easier to make a name for yourself. That’s one of the perks of the internet age, and in a way an asset to major record labels. Freddie Gibbs used that to his advantage and much to his credit he’s the perfect example of how you can create a following and help your music career via the web. The New Yorker writer Sasha Frere-Jones would “put money on [him] right now”. His flow is real, it cuts to the chase, and you can tell he raps from personal experiences. People were nodding their heads and digging the vibes with their hands in the air. His set was a good segue into DJ Quik.

The man that pioneered West Coast rap with the likes of Easy E, Ice Cube, and Dr. Dre. DJ Quik  talked about the hood and gangs without really over-glamorizing them. That’s why he stood out so well and once you heard him sample old school tunes you were hooked. That night he was on target with the beats, legato rhymes, and what he was always about–party jams (like this). He kept it real and definitely got the party going for A-Track.

With a catchy electro facemelter like “Tuna Melt” and rhythmically fiendish remix like that of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Heads Will Roll”, A-Track easily cranked Fool’s Gold Day Off up to 11. You couldn’t count the number of Harlem Shakes on one hand. At some point you could see a three story shoulder ride (that’s one person carrying another person carrying another person on their shoulders. Whoa! Elevator, going up!). It was a solid set but the overall line-up of the event seemed a bit off-handed. Their in-house DJ and A-Track conducted beats on the dance floor before Danny Brown’s appearance (contrary to the schedule). The tension and high BPM’s of electro are going to overshadow rappers and MC’s (think crescendo not diminuendo).  By the time Danny Brown went on stage people had already lost a few lbs. from dancing. An injustice to his underground hardcore style which is meant to be savored like a chilled 40 in a paper bag.

When you hear Danny Brown you can’t help but think of Ol’ Dirty Bastard (O.D.B.). Their styles are so similar you would think that they were long lost relatives. When you hear him you see hood life scattered in all the confrontation and vulgarities–pretty dank, as they’d say. No one could ever really replace O.D.B. but it is fun to see how his style has managed to reincarnate itself into underground hip hop today.

Credits: thearroyosecojournal.com, @FoolsGoldRecs, @Atrack, @XDannyXBrownX