California Rocker

Award-Winning Online Music Magazine

Best LA Concerts of 2016: Big Stars in Small Venues, Young Trailblazers, and California Rockers

Bob Weir, Desert Trip, Eagles of Death Metal, The Cure, Make Beautiful Music in 2016

Jesse Hughes and Eagles of Death Metal put on a high-voltage show - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Jesse Hughes and Eagles of Death Metal put on a high-voltage show – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Eagles of Death Metal at The Teragram Ballroom

The band members in The Eagles of Death Metal have coped with a lot and keep going. The most recent excellent performance was a benefit for Dave Rosser, held at Teragram Ballroom. Frontman Jesse Hughes AKA Boots Electric, is one of the most compelling performers — or poseurs — today and holds the audience spellbound with his wild maneuvers, great voice and excellent guitar work. We got an extra bonus on this night: Josh Homme debuted a new song.

See the Review of Eagles of Death Metal



The Reluctant Apostles with Katey Sagal: An impressive crew - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Reluctant Apostles with Katey Sagal: An impressive crew – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Reluctant Apostles at Molly Malone’s

The Reluctant Apostles have come a long way in a short time.  The Katey Sagal and Bob Thiele-fronted band like to play at Molly Malone’s and was formed based on their teamwork during Sons of Anarchy.  The Reluctant Apostles are an offshoot of The Forest Rangers, which came to prominence during the uber successful run of SOA. But new things on the horizon from this star-studded cover band: A new Pledgemusic album and more shows to come.

See the Review of the Reluctant Apostles


Dick Dale gives his fans all he's got - Photo © Donna Balancia

Dick Dale gives his fans all he’s got – Photo © Donna Balancia

Dick Dale and Se7en Reasons Why at Whisky A Go-Go

Where would modern rock and roll be without remarkable performers Mick Scott and Se7en Reasons Why and the ultimate surf guitar master Dick Dale?  Dale’s varied health issues seem to fade away when Dale is on stage, never far from the watchful eye of his wife, Lana.  New Year’s eve at the Whisky A Go-Go has never been better. Dale comes from an era when you performed no matter what ails you. He led the way in the development of the California sound and he’s a true California Rocker.

The Review of Dick Dale at the Whisky A Go-Go


The mystical Robert Smith and The Cure are enduring - Photo by Craig Hammons for

The mystical Robert Smith and The Cure are enduring – Photo by Craig Hammons for

The Cure at The Hollywood Bowl

On one of three sold out nights at The Hollywood Bowl, The Cure would cover over 37 years of Cure songs including the hits, rarities and two unreleased tracks. Reviewer Craig Hammons noted that the set list changed each night with The Cure digging deep into their catalog of impressive material.  Robert Smith and the crew would cover 35 songs in just under 3 hours.

See the Review of The Cure at The Hollywood Bowl


Nick Waterhouse fuses jazz blues and rock and roll, he's depicted here performing from his Never Twice album - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Nick Waterhouse fuses jazz blues and rock and roll, he’s depicted here performing from his Never Twice album – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Nick Waterhouse at The Regent Theater

We can’t say enough good things about Nick Waterhouse and His Tarots.  Every time we see Nick, the performance gets better if that’s possible, as was demonstrated at The Regent Theater a couple of weeks ago.  A multi-faceted musician, who writes, performs, and produces others, Nick is a California Rocker on the rise. Openers Sad Girl and Cutty Flam impressed.

See the Review of Nick Waterhouse, Sad Girl and Cutty Flam


The Black Angels were among the bands at Desert Daze - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Black Angels were among the bands at Desert Daze – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Desert Daze

Desert Daze, the enduring fest where up-and-comers and veterans alike kick around in boots, bandanas and shorts still reigns supreme.  An eclectic mix of newbies and veterans, the fest offers a chance to hear new music and gives veterans a chance to show their stuff. Television, Primus and Thee Oh Sees mingled with Brian Jonestown Massacre, L.A. Witch, and Thee Commons.

The Review of Desert Daze


Gavin Rossdale of Bush on a speaker at The Observatory - Photo © Donna Balancia

Gavin Rossdale of Bush on a speaker at The Observatory – Photo © Donna Balancia

Bush at The Observatory

Gavin Rossdale is a high-energy performer, leaping into the audience and jumping on speakers.  Bush performs all the favorites and this particular show at the Observatory was extremely interactive. After a few rounds of hugs and kisses among his fans, Rossdale jumps onto a speaker and finishes “Monkey” from high above.

See the Review of Bush at The Observatory


Robert Plant - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Robert Plant – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Robert Plant at Theatre at the Ace

Robert Plant and his audience share a special bond and that was illustrated clearly at the Theatre at the Ace.  Bringing flowers, love letters and gifts, Robert still has the gals on the edge of their seats.  Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters put on a show that is Led Zeppelin inspired, but takes us to a new and earthy place.

See the Review of Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters


Soul Asylum takes off at Whisky A Go-Go - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Soul Asylum takes off at Whisky A Go-Go – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Soul Asylum at The Whisky A Go-Go

Dave Pirner keeps going. Whirling around with his guitar and speaking honestly to the audience, with little regard for his sweaty appearance, Pirner is happy to be on stage.  If nothing else Pirner and Soul Asylum are truthful in their performance and the crowd appreciates it. Soul Asylum’s tour started with The English Beat and wrapped solo.

See the Review of Soul Asylum at The Whisky A Go-Go


The English Beat draws the crowds with great performances - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The English Beat draws the crowds with great performances – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The English Beat at The Canyon Club

The English Beat hits a home run every time.  There is not one song from all their famous hits that goes unheard at an English Beat concert and the crowds are devoted.  Dave Wakeling drives the band that has undergone some changes over the years, but the musicians on board are top talents.  Fortunately, The English Beat plays a lot of dates and 2017 shows are all set.

See the Review of The English Beat at The Canyon Club


Michael Franti and the Soulrocker tour - Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Michael Franti and the Soulrocker tour – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Michael Franti and Spearhead

Michael Franti and Spearhead at the Pacific Amphitheatre spreads the message of love and compassion for all. The show was such a warm experience that reviewer Craig Hammons said he felt like he left the stadium with 7,000 new friends.  The crowd interlocked arms, danced and sang songs of inclusion and love.  What’s better than an uplifting performance?

See the Review of Michael Franti and Spearhead


Fartbarf puts all the electronic bands to shame - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Fartbarf puts all the electronic bands to shame – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

FartBarf, David and The Curse at El Cid

Who would think with name like Fartbarf this band would be amazing?  Something must have happened along the way for three guys in caveman masks to call themselves something so silly but play so good.  The electronic music we heard at El Cid blew us out of our shoes.  This is a talented group that does the creators of the Moog proud.  Opener David and The Curse shows how it’s done as this young veteran gives us a new sound that blends Americana with pure rock.

See the Review of Fartbarf and David and The Curse


Kam Franklin and The Suffers triumph at The Echo LA - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Kam Franklin and The Suffers triumph at The Echo LA – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Suffers at The Echo

The Suffers bring you to your knees, they’re that good.  Whether you call it, “Gulf Coast Soul” or good ol’ rock and roll, Kam Franklin and the band bring a blues-influenced power sound to the masses. We caught The Suffers at the Echo, one of our favorite venues, and the place was busting at the seams trying to contain the adoring fans.

The Review of The Suffers at The Echo


Sad Lovers and Giants - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Sad Lovers and Giants – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Sad Lovers and Giants at The Echoplex

Sad Lovers and Giants put on a show for a lifetime at our well-loved venue the Echoplex, bringing 80s new wave to a young, enthusiastic crowd. It’s sad for fans that this beloved British band may not return to the U.S. any time soon, but we are thrilled to have caught Garçe Allard, Tony McGuinness, Nigel Pollard, Ian Gibson and Will Hicks at least once. Review of Sad Lovers and Giants at the Echoplex


The Who - Photo courtesy of Desert Trip for

The Who – Photo courtesy of Desert Trip

Desert Trip

Reviewer Bob Busby called Desert Trip one of the best experiences of his life.  That comes from someone who has been to thousands of shows and festivals. Aside from Roger Waters’ rantings, the moon appearing during Neil Young’s performance of “Harvest Moon,” was a highlight.  And how can you do much better than Sir Paul McCartney sharing the stage with the pop princess Rihanna? Stay tuned for next year.

See the Review of Desert Trip


Mike Campbell and Jason Sinay - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Mike Campbell and Jason Sinay – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The Dirty Knobs at The Echoplex

Mike Campbell and The Dirty Knobs put on a fun, upbeat show, complete with cover songs you haven’t heard in a while. Jason Sinay and Campbell play off each other as “Gator” and “Ape” in a band where nicknames are abundant as dolphins in Florida.  The Dirty Knobs is a band to check out when they play their few gigs every year. They haven’t recorded anything so go live or go home.

See the Review of The Dirty Knobs at The Echoplex


Bob Weir on tour with 'Blue Mountain' album - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Bob Weir on tour with ‘Blue Mountain’ album – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Bob Weir at The Wiltern

The well-worn co-founder of The Grateful Dead only gets better as the years go on. He introduced a new album and played to a crowd at The Wiltern that was comprised of not only Grateful Dead veterans but young, rainbow-clad and dread-sporting fans. Bob still has the verve and enthusiasm and the sounds ring true.

See the Review of Bob Weir at The Wiltern


Cedric Bixler-Zavala of At The Drive-In leaps into the air during a performance at the Hollywood Palladium - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Cedric Bixler-Zavala of At The Drive-In leaps into the air during a performance at the Hollywood Palladium – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

At The Drive-In at Hollywood Palladium

It’s a rare treat to get to see At The Drive-In, but frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala is one of the most entertaining performers in the business. It’s clear from his leaping at The Hollywood Palladium last summer that he’s got a background in skateboarding and he’s a no-holds-barred, balls-to-the-wall musician, saving nothing for himself and giving the crowd his all.  See our award winning-shot of Cedric Bixler Zavala.

The Review of At The Drive-In


Teri Le Butcherettes Photo by Donna Balancia

Teri of Le Butcherettes surfs the crowd – Photo by Donna Balancia

Le Butcherettes at Hollywood Palladium

Teri Gender Bender is the most physical female performer out there and her shows at The Regent Theater, The Echoplex and opening set for At The Drive-In prove it. There are few who can compare to this precious young rock and roll veteran whose demeanor after the show is remarkably calm compared to her rebellious and taunting onstage persona.  Despite personnel changes over the years, one thing remains a constant: Teri’s talent. Review for Le Butcherettes


Joe Bonamassa performs during celebration of B.B. King - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Joe Bonamassa performs during celebration of B.B. King – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

GRAMMY Foundation Honors BB King at Wallis Annenberg

BB King may be gone, but The GRAMMY Foundation hosted a bevy of blues slinging rock stars to honor him at The Annenberg: Slash, Tedeschi Trucks, Joe Bonamassa and a heavenly host of blues performers sang and played the blues in BB’s honor. Review for B.B. King at the Annenberg


Wayne Kramer and Marshall Crenshaw - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Wayne Kramer and Marshall Crenshaw – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Wayne Kramer’s Jail Guitar Doors at The Ford Theatres

Wayne Kramer, Don Was and pals put on an amazingly entertaining show at The Ford Theatres to raise money for their charity that serves those behind bars.  The show featured Marshall Crenshaw and a slew of talent to help Wayne raise money for the charity that is close to his heart. Review of Wayne Kramer and Jail Guitar Doors


Bad Boy Eddy - Photo by Donna Balancia

Bad Boy Eddy Rocks Cruefest – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Cruefest 2016 at Whiskey A Go-Go

Cruefest Hollywood 2016 brings the kindest hearted metal performers to the Whisky A Go-Go stage each year.  It was a Who’s Who of metal with  Heartbreak Heroes from Oklahoma and Los Angeles; Snake Bite Whisky from Brisbane, Australia; Bad Boy Eddy from Northern California; Stonebreed; Wreking Crue from Detroit, and Mick Scott and Se7en Reasons Why; Blacklist Union, Lunden Reign, Westfield Massacre, and L.A. Story; all of whom are from Los Angeles. Review of Cruefest 2016 at the Whisky A Go-Go


Brian Wilson and band at Hollywood Bowl - Photo by Craig Hammons

Brian Wilson and band at Hollywood Bowl – Photo by Craig Hammons

Brian Wilson at The Hollywood Bowl

Brian Wilson never disappoints and his performance at reviewer Craig Hammons said his performance at the Hollywood Bowl was one of his best.  Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Pet Sounds, considered a unique collection at the time of its release, Wilson held the Hollywood Bowl audience enraptured. Review of Brian Wilson at The Hollywood Bowl


Iggy Pop destroys the mic stand during his show at The Hollywood Bowl - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Iggy Pop destroys the mic stand during his show at The Hollywood Bowl – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Iggy Pop at The Greek Theatre

At a time when most people are slowing down, Iggy Pop is going strong, having his best year yet. The “world’s forgotten boy” has a GRAMMY nomination for Post Pop Depression, there’s a Jim Jarmusch movie out about him, and also a new book released about his life.  He’s a 69-year-old anomaly in the world of rock, proudly resplendent in his hard-earned success. Via his partnerships with the young and hip, Iggy continually adds new admirers to his list of longtime fans. It doesn’t hurt to have the “Ginger Elvis,” Josh Homme and the rest of the crew on stage with you. Review of Iggy Pop at The Greek


Burning Spear, the legendary reggae rocker - Photo by Craig Hammons

Burning Spear, the legendary reggae rocker – Photo by Craig Hammons

Burning Spear at The Hollywood Bowl

Reviewer Craig Hammons says Burning Spear is one of the best shows of the year simply because Burning Spear is a solid reggae performer.  The legendary musician among a sea of young upstarts bid adieu to his fans as “I Man” takes a step down from the stage. Over the many years, with grace and dignity Burning Spear has brought new fans to the reggae flock. Review of Burning Spear 

Jackson Browne at Lucky Strike Live - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Jackson Browne at Lucky Strike Live – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Jackson Browne at Lucky Strike Live

It was a pleasant shock to find Jackson Browne appearing at Lucky Strike, which hosts mostly metal-style rockers every Wednesday night during its weekly Lucky Strike Live events.  Browne is a good-hearted type who shows up for a good cause and for the fun of the performance.  At Lucky Strike Live, he gave the regulars — plus about 600 others — a thrill, jamming with some regular players and he had fun to spare. Review of Jackson Browne


Glam Skanks release new album, "Glitter City" - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Glam Skanks release new album, “Glitter City” – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Glam Skanks at MIME

Where are the young women in rock and roll? Answer: The Glam Skanks are right in Los Angeles and they put on a terrific show each and every time. Climbing on speakers, throwing glitter, taunting the audience. Their show at MIME in Echo Park put on by Echo Box heated up the room and had fans screaming for more. There’s a new album and they’re going on tour with Adam Ant.  Stay tuned! Review of The Glam Skanks 


Smash Mouth duo Steve Harwell and Paul DeLisle hang together - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Smash Mouth duo Steve Harwell and Paul DeLisle hang together – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Smash Mouth at The Canyon Club

Say what you will about the in-your-face frontman, but Smash Mouth has made it in a tough rock and roll world. When Paul DeLisle teamed with Steve Harwell, as odd a combination as that may have appeared it worked.  With a little help from a hit animated movie, Smash Mouth reinvigorated “I’m a Believer” from The Monkees and a whole new generation was jumping at The Canyon Club. Openers Paper and Strange Case lit a fire. Review of Smash Mouth, Paper and Strange Case

Editor’s Note: The “Best Concerts of the Year” coverage only includes the performances staff attended during 2016.

Review: Holidays Heat Up As Nick Waterhouse, Sad Girl and Cutty Flam Band Rock The Regent Theater

Nick Waterhouse and his Tarots: "The cards don't lie" - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Nick Waterhouse and his Tarots: “The cards don’t lie” – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia


Nick Waterhouse is a terrific showman and always puts together a night of interesting acts.  This time in Los Angeles at The Regent Theater during his tour for the new album Never Twice, was no different. Nick headlined and the stylish bands Cutty Flam and Sad Girl opened.

Happy not sad: Misha puts a maniacal twist on some very cool music - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Happy not sad: Misha puts a maniacal twist on some very cool music – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Sad Girl

Despite the name, Sad Girl was not a bunch of girls crying but instead a trio of surf-style musicians who have a lot of fun on stage.  Comprised of facial-contortionist frontman Misha, Dakota on bass and Paul on drums, these guys hold the promise of a warm SoCal day even in the dead of winter.

Misha of Sad Girl has the crowd at The Regent Theater enthralled - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Misha of Sad Girl has the crowd at The Regent Theater enthralled – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Not Sad, Happy

Sad Girl makes us happy. We’re fans of the tunes “Little Queenie,” “The Hand That Did the Deed,” and “Love Storm” in particular. Sad Girl’s music makes us feel like we’re enjoying a double feature of a 1950s western, followed with a romantic but nonsensical surf movie.  Misha’s chiseled features initially lead one to believe there’s a movie star quality about him, but any thoughts of that disappear when you see his puppet-like, maniacal expressions as he plays his fuzzy guitar riffs.

Bang Bangs of Cutty Flam Band is the hottest drummer around, prom dress and all - Photo © Donna Balancia

Bang Bangs of Cutty Flam Band is the hottest drummer around, prom dress and all – Photo © Donna Balancia

Cutty Flam

Cutty Flam a rock and roll-inspired band, impressed on several levels. They’ve got a gal on the skins named Bang Bangs who is extremely accomplished despite the foofy bad prom-date dress. Bang Bangs is worth the price of admission on this night. Cutty Flam bassist Chewy Lewy is stylin’ with his rockin bass lines, cool suit and slicked back hair. Frontman Cutty is a big guy who’s got the moves like Elvis. He really interacts with the audience and the crowd enjoyed the band’s ’50s-style sound.

Cutty Flam rocks the house at The Regent Theater - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Cutty Flam rocks the house at The Regent Theater – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Nick Waterhouse and His Tarots

Nick Waterhouse and his Tarots present their big band sound in a similar vein. “The Cards Don’t Lie” proclaims the banner hung behind the band during the night. This is absolutely true.  Nick Waterhouse and his Tarots are true blue rock and roll. The music is upbeat but some of it, like “The Old Place,” is tinged with remorse over the changes for the worse that modern society brings.

Nick Waterhouse and his Tarots pack The Regent Theater in Downtown LA - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Nick Waterhouse and his Tarots pack The Regent Theater in Downtown LA – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Thinking Man’s Musician

As we have written before, Nick Waterhouse is the thinking man’s musician.  He produces, he writes and he performs his blues-influenced music to an audience that goes absolutely nuts for him. In the Regent Theater‘s bar — which boasts some of the best whiskey in all of Los Angeles — we were treated to some vinyl-spinning that included Waterhouse-prouduced records by The Allah-Las.

Nick Waterhouse and his Tarots: Fine musicians - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Nick Waterhouse and his Tarots: Fine musicians – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Never Twice

The new Nick Waterhouse album, Never Twice, was on the front burner on this particular night, but everyone in the crowded house knows the words to mostly every song Nick plays anyway.  Favorites of the night were the haunting “Stanyan Street,” “It’s Time,” and the kooky “Katchi,” which always gets a smile out of the various bandmembers and audience alike.

nick waterhouse donna balancia california rocker

Nick Waterhouse and his Tarots: SoCal’s finest musicians play the big band blues sound – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia


1. It’s Time, 2. I Had Some, 3. Dead Room, 4. Holly, 5. I Can Only Give, 6. Straight Love, 7. High Tiding, 8. Stanyan Street, 9. Sleeping Pills, 10. Voodoo, 11. Tracy 12. Old Place, 13. L.A. Turnaround, 14. Katchi, 15. Is That Clear? 16. Indian Love Call, 17. Trouble, 18. Say I Wanna Know, 19. Some Place, 20. Game, 21. Time’s All Gone, 22. Pushin Too Hard, 23. Don’t You Forget

Nick Waterhouse fuses jazz blues and rock and roll, he's depicted here performing from his Never Twice album - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Nick Waterhouse fuses jazz blues and rock and roll, he’s depicted here performing from his Never Twice album – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Good Musical Blends

Nick, who produces all sorts of bands, has good taste. Last time in LA his openers were Pearl Charles and Paul Bergmann, who each brought their own cool style.  Charles has been getting some air time on Los Angeles stations. Nick is going on tour in Japan and returns next year.  Nick Waterhouse and his Tarots are worth checking out “live and in person,” where he and his big band shine.

Nick Waterhouse: Performer, producer and writer - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Nick Waterhouse: Performer, producer and writer – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia


Eagles of Death Metal Rock, Josh Homme Goes Solo, at Teragram Ballroom Fundraiser for Dave Rosser

Josh Homme premiered a song or two and covered others in acoustic set - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Josh Homme premiered a song or two and covered others in acoustic set – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Gutter Twins and Pals Play for a Cause


Eagles of Death Metal, The Gutter Twins, Josh Homme and more top musicians donated their time for Afghan Whigs guitarist Dave Rosser.  Rosser has stage 4 colon cancer.

The Gutter Twins opened with Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan and were joined by musicians including Duff McKagan and Petra Haden.

Greg expressed his concern over Rosser’s condition and thanked the audience for participating in the evening. Many of the audience members paid for VIP tickets and the money goes to the care Rosser and expenses he’s incurring from what doctors say is inoperable cancer.

The Gutter Twins and friends took the stage - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Gutter Twins and friends took the stage – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Gutter Twins

To call The Gutter Twins alternative is like calling Beethoven a piano player. The band had its faithful in the audience who sang along to most of the tunes in the set, including “Belles,” “God’s Children,” “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory,” and Twilight Singers cover “Number Nine.”

The voices and guitar work by the remarkable musicians were intertwined to present a collaborative effort that appeared long-rehearsed.  The end result was obviously made with love and respect for Rosser.

Eagles of Death Metal – “Save A Prayer” LIVE from Teragram Ballroom LA here:

Jesse Hughes of Eagles of Death Metal - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Jesse Hughes of Eagles of Death Metal – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Headliner Eagles of Death Metal put on an excellent and appropriately raucous show that covered the bases. The set didn’t kick off until 11 p.m. and two set lists later.  Jesse wore a white suit with trademark suspenders and was his usual friendly self, greeting audience members with handshakes and blowing kisses.

Josh Homme and Matt Sweeney - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Josh Homme and Matt Sweeney – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Josh Homme

The star of the night was Josh Homme who did a acoustic set and was later joined by Matt Sweeney.  He was relentless with the kid in the pit right in front of him, named Diego.  And try as he may have he could not censor his language and that was a source of many jokes. He played “Villains of Circumstance,” and with Matt performed Cab Calloway’s “Minnie The Moocher,” and Johnny Cash mining song “Dark as a Dungeon.” One of the highlights of the set was “Spinning in the Daffodils.”

The Eagles of Death Metal came on a 11 p.m. and put on a crowd pleaser - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Eagles of Death Metal came on a 11 p.m. and put on a crowd pleaser – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

And Josh swigged from a bottle and joked during the night but said Rosser’s affliction was a sad matter and he appreciated the audience coming to celebrate his friend.

To contribute to the Dave Rosser GoFundMe page go here.

The GoFundMe page reads:

“Every once in a while a human being comes along that transcends everything: life, art, friendship, wit, music and love. They are among the true ‘one of a kinds.’ Dave Rosser belongs to that category.  A New Orleanian for nearly 25 years, he is widely considered to be a true virtuoso guitar player by some of the most influential artists in the industry.

Jesse Hughes, AKA Boots Electric of Eagles of Death Metal - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Jesse Hughes, AKA Boots Electric of Eagles of Death Metal – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

“He has toured the globe extensively with The Afghan Whigs, Twilight Singers, Mark Lanegan and Marc Broussard.  He’s worked on projects with Ani Difranco, Joseph Arthur and a list of who’s who in music.  He’s played with local bands too numerous to mention.  A working man’s musician.  If that wasn’t impressive on its own, he is also one of sweetest human beings on the planet.  His sense of humor and generosity rival his musical prowess.”



“Save A Prayer” VIDEO

John Lennon Tribute, Featuring ‘The Lennon Report’ Film and Beatles Music, Draws Rock Royalty

Night at Roosevelt ER Detailed in ‘The Lennon Report’

Karen Tsen Lee, who portrayed Yoko Ono in 'The Lennon Report' with Brooke Halpin and director Jeremy Profe - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Karen Tsen Lee, who portrayed Yoko Ono in ‘The Lennon Report’ with Brooke Halpin and director Jeremy Profe – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Albert Lee with wife, Karen - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Albert Lee with wife, Karen – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia


For John Lennon fans —  and for the rest of the world as well — Dec. 8 will always be a day of mourning.  That’s the day the Beatles founder was murdered, back in 1980.

The film, The Lennon Report, tells a story from the point of view of those who were closest to him on that day.

The Lennon Report was presented by Beatles expert Brooke Halpin at the Crest Westwood at a screening that was attended by celebs and rock royalty, all of whom had fond recollections of Lennon.

If you were around on that December day in 1980, you can probably remember where you were when the news of Lennon’s death hit the airwaves. It happened in New York City when the musician known for peace and love met a violent end to what could only be considered a dream life.

John Lennon and The Hospital Staff

John Lennon’s music and life impacted just about everyone. But few were impacted more than those in the emergency room at Roosevelt Hospital where the medical team tried with all their might to keep the legend alive.  And director Jeremy Prufe puts us right into the room with the nurses and doctors, blood and all.

That night is documented in gritty detail by writers Prufe and Walter Vincent in the period film The Lennon Report.

Walter Vincent as Alan Weiss and David Zayas as officer Joseph Medina - Photo courtesy of 'The Lennon Report'

Walter Vincent as Alan Weiss and David Zayas as officer Joseph Medina – Photo courtesy of ‘The Lennon Report’

The movie is an eye-opener, revealing facts that we may have let slip through the cracks as time has passed and the shock of the crime has settled.

For instance, the movie points out that the ambulance took so long to get to Lennon as he lay dying on the ground at The Dakota that officers called to the scene had to take him to the hospital in their squad car.

The story centers on an Eyewitness News producer, Alan Weiss, (Vincent) who happened to end up in the ER at the same time Lennon was there.

Weiss knew he had the biggest story of his life and he had to brave a busted hip — the result of a motorcycle accident that very same night — to get the story in to his news desk and make it to broadcast first.

He also had to get past the nurses Barbara Kammerer (Stef Dawson) and Deartra Sato (Ashlie Atkinson) and officer Joseph Medina (David Zayas) to call in his devastating information to the ABC Eyewitness News desk.

It didn’t seem to be an ethical dilemma to tell the world it was John Lennon in the room adjacent to the hallway where Weiss was lying on a gurney — after all these were the days before HIPA laws. Weiss overhears John Lennon’s name being mentioned and thus discovers he’s in the same ER as the famous Beatle.

True Reporting With ‘The Lennon Report’

Karen Lee as Yoko Ono - Photo courtesy of 'The Lennon Report'

Karen Lee as Yoko Ono – Photo courtesy of ‘The Lennon Report’

The film moves at a fast pace through basically two rooms in the hospital.  And it is painstakingly reassembled almost 40 years since his death.  There are some facts that are revealed that we never knew and some liberties taken with other facts, but mainly The Lennon Report is a solid first attempt by an independent filmmaker who’s passionate about a subject.  Vincent does a nice job in his portrayal of the tenacious Eyewitness News producer, and he co-wrote the strong script.

The Lennon Report is a narrative but it could have easily been a documentary, although that would not have done the amount of information justice. And if you’re expecting any backstory in the picture, forget it.  We don’t know too much about any of the characters except that the nurses are friends. We know nothing about the shooter and the audience doesn’t get a good look at the victim.  All actors evoked the emotion each was supposed to bring and the ensemble works well. Particularly great was Karen Tsen Lee as Yoko Ono.

Howard Cosell Told It Like It Was

'The Lennon Report' one sheet - Photo courtesy of 'The Lennon Report'

‘The Lennon Report’ one sheet – Photo courtesy of ‘The Lennon Report’

Actor Rick Crom showed the conflict in sports broadcaster Howard Cosell, who was given the duty of announcing the tragedy during a tie-score Miami Dolphins-New England Patriots Monday Night Football game. We have a soft spot for Cosell, mainly because after a disagreement we had over running back Alvin Garrett, he included this upstart United Press International reporter in his book, I Never Played The Game. The guy had a lot of heart regardless of what you thought of his style.

During the Q and A, director Profe said he didn’t want the famous figures to steal the spotlight.

He wanted the focus on the hospital personnel, and how with the journalist there as well, they endured a night of unforgettable emotional and physical trauma.

It’s not easy to let go of your icons and this film points that out with pinpoint accuracy.  It’s never been told until recently about the true story of the ER that night and it probably will never be. Profe said his interviewing and the research gets the result to about as close as it will ever come given it’s 37 years later and his work is based on human memory. It’s clear these people who were so close to John Lennon at his death would be haunted by this one night forever.

Revelations: John Lennon’s True Surgeon

The Reel Players with Brooke Halpin - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Reel Players with Brooke Halpin – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

It only came out recently and likely as a result of the research by the filmmakers, that Dr. David Hallaren (Evan Jonigkeit) is the surgeon who actually worked on Lennon.  Dr. Stephan Lynn said for years publicly that he was the surgeon responsible.  It was a no-win situation for the hospital and those operating on Lennon, as he was classified dead on arrival, try as they did to keep him alive.

Following the screening a question-and-answer period with the director Profe and the actress who portrayed Yoko Ono, Karen Lee, followed.

The topic of not allowing guns to get into the hands of people who have a proven mental problem arose, and it sparked a major discussion among audience members including attendee Spencer Davis, founder of The Spencer Davis Group.

“I have a one-word question to ask,” said the impassioned Davis. “That question is, ‘Why?’ Simply ‘Why?‘”

The great Albert Lee also made an appearance, accompanied by his beautiful wife, Karen.

Playing a few Beatles songs after the show were Lenn Johnston, a Lennon impersonator and the evening was hosted by Brooke Halpin, the Beatles expert, who also graced the audience with a performance of Beatles songs as well.

Mike Campbell and The Dirty Knobs Get The Canyon Club Crowd to Their Dancing Feet

Originals and Covers by ‘Under The Radar’ Band Delight Fans

Mike Campbell - Photo © 2016 Heather Harris

Mike Campbell – Photo © 2016 Heather Harris


Mike Campbell and his band The Dirty Knobs have vast riches: Their fans are more precious than gold.

“We love Mike, we have been following him for years,” said Cheryl Marino and her husband Bill Drews. “We see him when he plays in Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, we’ve seen Mudcrutch and we love The Dirty Knobs. We’re true ‘Knob Heads.'”

The Dirty Knobs band may be a “side” project for Campbell with his band mates Jason Sinay, Matt Laug on drums and Lance Morrison on bass, but it’s front and center to the audience.

“This band is under the radar but we have a very solid group of fans,” Campbell told

“It’s a small group but they’re extremely devoted.”

Campbell and Sinay


Jason Sinay – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Campbell is a prolific songwriter whose work has been performed and recorded by everyone from The Eagles to Stevie Nicks not to mention his own Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. In addition, he’s performed with or produced more artists than most people can name. Check out his work at

Sinay, known as Ape, is no slouch as he has been establishing himself as a working musician over the years.

We recently came across his solo LP on which he has an assortment of impressive originals and covers.

Dirty Knobs Keep it Fresh

Cheryl Marino and Bill Drews are self-confessed 'Knob Heads' - Photo by Donna Balancia

Cheryl Marino and Bill Drews are self-confessed ‘Knob Heads’ – Photo by Donna Balancia

The Dirty Knobs like to change it up. When we saw them at The Echo a year ago it was a different crowd than it was at the Canyon Club and the set list showed that. The Canyon show wrapped with Jimi Hendrix, which was “off the set list,” as Mike said. But other tunes included “Easy Wind,” by the Grateful Dead,” and even “Hippy Hippy Shake.”

The Dirty Knobs haven’t recorded an EP and it doesn’t look likely in the near future, but if they did it would likely be in their casual style.

Opener Marc Ford, taking a page out of Campbell’s book, sported a felt fedora and had the audience on its feet with a strong performance.

The Dirty Knobs play on Dec. 11 at The Rose in Pasadena.

Mike Campbell with the fans - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Mike Campbell with the fans – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Smart Pills ‘Lost Studio Recordings’ Are Appropriate Discovery for Today, EP on Sale Dec. 2

Smart Pills Founder Vince Conrad Says Re-Release of Punk Recordings a Labor of Love


The Smart Pills in 1979 – Photo courtesy of Vince Conrad


If you never got a chance to get a copy of any of The Smart Pills songs back in the 1970s, you’re getting a reprieve.

On Dec. 2, Vince Conrad Productions will release The Smart Pills – Lost Studio Recordings EP 1979, a four-song collection of the only studio recordings ever made by the Smart Pills, back in 1979.

The Smart Pills band, comprised of Git Smart, Vince Conrad and drummer Billy Ray, takes on government corruption, relationship screw-ups and life in the punk world they enjoyed back in New York and LA in the day.  It holds up well today.

“By 1979 punk rock and disco were competing forces in music and lifestyle,” Conrad said. “Mainstream radio and big record labels supported and promoted disco, as opposed to punk rock which was still very much the counter culture and not widely accepted. Both were by this time well established as music genres, but disco was far more lucrative for record companies and palatable by mainstream America.”

The Smart Pills: Brash Style Punk Rock


No subject too tough for The Smart Pills – Photo courtesy Vince Conrad

The music is tight, in-your-face, brash punk. The Smart Pills challenge politicians, corporate jerks and even their own girlfriends on The Smart Pills Lost Studio Recordings EP 1979. With titles like “Brainwashed,” “Person To Avoid,” and “Yankee Doodle Boy,” the ideology still rings through.

“Jimmy Carter was president and oddly enough, there was a general political feeling much like today prior to the election,” Conrad said.

“The hostages were still being held in Iran, with one failed rescue attempt by the US,” he said.  “There were high gas prices and high interest rates, with a declining middle class.  Factories had already started moving to Japan and Ronald Regan would be elected President in 1980.”

Formed in New York in 1978, The Smart Pills were one of the early first generation punk bands.  The Smart Pills relocated to Hollywood in 1979 and performed in LA’s punk rock scene.  While gaining the interest of two record companies, the Smart Pills were never signed to a record label.  But The Smart Pills wrote more than 16 original songs, which they played live in New York, Los Angeles and even the Midwest throughout 1978 and 1979.

The Break-Up of The Smart Pills

The Smart Pills in the old days - Photo courtesy of Vince Conrad for

The Smart Pills in the old days – Photo courtesy of Vince Conrad

Git Smart broke up The Smart Pills after he accepted an offer from staff writers at Warner Bros. to embark on a solo career. Conrad started American Bad Taste in Los Angeles after the breakup. The Smart Pills continued to work on projects over the years.

But the original half-inch 8-track master Smart Pills reel-to-reel had been long forgotten, buried deep in Git Smart’s storage unit.  The Smart Pills were pursued by a record label for a deal that eventually fell through and Conrad cleaned up the tracks himself, preparing for the Dec. 2 release.

“It’s been a great experience revisiting this music and the work to get the tracks out there has been a labor of love,” Conrad said.

Conrad has been making up for lost time. The Smart Pills Lost Studio Recordings is the fifth CD release from Vince Conrad Productions  The Smart Pills Lost Studio Recordings is not the only collection that has been retrieved from the depths.

Earlier this year Vince Conrad Productions released a double live CD of rare performances in the midwest by the Smart Pills. The Smart Pills Lost Studio Recordings EP has never been previously released and was not discovered until earlier this year.

“I went on with my life, had a family and then one day when I was moving, I found this box with all the masters that I completely forgot about,” Conrad said. “I played the music and I thought it held up pretty well and was probably more appropriate today than ever.”

Are You ‘Brainwashed’ Today?


Tough looking guys putting out killer music – Photo courtesy Vince Conrad

“Brainwash,” is one of the tunes on the album. It deals with how the media controls the beliefs of the country.

Does Conrad think the people are still brainwashed by the media today?

“People are brainwashed today more than ever,” Conrad said. “No one reads books, journals or other publications any more for information.  Most of the general public seem to get the majority of their information from TV.

“That’s why the first thing governments have done for a long time now is grab control of the media,” Conrad said.  “We saw a lot of that recently in the current election.  You tell me, where did people get their information and why did they vote as they did?”

Vince Conrad formed Vince Conrad Productions in late 2015. The label has released The Aliens NYC, by The Aliens, an early punk rock band performing exclusively in New York’s Max’s Kansas City, CBGBs, Club 82 and other venues during 1976.

The fantastic find was just the tip of the iceberg as the basement discovery yielded more recordings. Conrad started a label and released some of the live recordings, including The Smart Pills double live CD, recorded in early 1979 and songs by another punk band, American Bad Taste, which recorded and performed in Los Angeles and the Midwest until 1981.

More Songs, More Bands on VCP Label


Git Smart and Vince Conrad: Faces have changed, music’s the same – Photo courtesy Git Smart

Conrad also released The Vince Conrad EP, a collection of six songs written from 1980 to 1984, which were performed live in various punk bands, but never recorded until 2015.  The CDs are available for purchase as downloads or CDs exclusively through the VCP website,

Conrad said the music business is different than it was in the old days but if you have enough drive you can not only succeed, but can extend the reach of your music beyond local radio stations.

“True there are a lot fewer record deals being offered to people today,” Conrad said. “But the web has opened up a lot of opportunities for musicians. I have listeners here in the U.S., as well as in many European countries and South America. You have to put in the time and you have to switch your thought process from being a musician to being a business person to get your music heard. It can be done.”

Conrad distributes his own music through his website and he says self-distribution is a new model for younger artists.

“In the Pre-Internet days, major record companies in conjunction with major radio stations controlled the promotion and distribution of music in America,” he said. “These conglomerates controlled the music industry and dictated what bands and what music America heard.  The majority of original music was never selected to make that immortal leap to vinyl.

“Today, with the Internet, artists can take control of the promotion, distribution and finances relating to their music or art,” Conrad said.  “It’s a business model similar to outlet malls, where the manufacturer markets and sells directly to the consumer.”

Smart music lovers will keep watch for The Smart Pills Lost Studio Recordings EP 1979 on the VCP website, which will be released on Dec. 2. Check out the downloads here:


The Suffers Rock The Echo in LA With a Scorching Sound That Heralds An Era of New Soul Music

The Suffers Hit Like A 5-Alarm Plate of Shrimp and Grits

Kam Franklin and The Suffers triumph at The Echo LA - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Kam Franklin and The Suffers triumph at The Echo LA – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia


The Suffers put on a short show that packed a powerful punch the other night at The Echo.

The lively set by the 8-piece band led by dynamic front woman Kam Franklin grabbed the audience and never let go as The Suffers ripped through tunes some new and some known.

The band impressed the crowded house of fans who ranged in age from about 20 to 60 years old.

Kam’s presence is a commanding experience as she dominates the stage with kid gloves, showing the love and talking about how music can be a healing therapy and agent for change. She’s like an open book, inspiring others with her tales of woe and success.

From Banker to Rock Star

The Suffers

The Suffers say they’re grateful to be playing music in LA – or anywhere for that matter – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Kam started as an investment banker and decided to follow her dream.  There were tough times, she said, recalling that she and her bandmates weren’t sure that when they played LA a while back that they would ever actually be able to return.  The Suffers high energy show is a celebration of accomplishments and Kam said the band is a living example that when you set your sites and harness determination, you can achieve your dreams.

Her theme is simple: Music Heals.

Kam encouraged the audience to keep listening to music, keep creating remarkable works and appreciate those closest to you.  The Suffers show was limited to one hour, but the band slayed in that short time, leaving the audience calling for more.

“No matter what goes on in the world outside, we’re all in here for one hour and we’re going to enjoy ourselves,” she told the audience. A tribute to Sharon Jones was to take place shortly after The Suffers set.  Kam paid homage to the musical foundation set down by Jones, the renowned soul singer who passed away last week from pancreatic cancer at the age of 60.

Kam Franklin of The Suffers was once an investment banker. Her talents are now put to better use - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Kam Franklin was once an investment banker. Her talents are now put to better use – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Kam said she has been compared to Jones on many occasions and we all owe a debt of gratitude to Jones who led a soul revival that started in New York City and continues today.

The musicians who comprise The Suffers are the dedicated and talented Pat Kelly, Adam Castaneda, Michael Razo, Kevin Bernier, Jon Durbin, Cory Wilson, Nick Zamora, Jose “Chapy” Luna, Alex Zamora.  The horn section brings a retro pizzazz that highlights the hard work of the bassist, drums, guitar and keyboards.

The Suffers Teach a New Lesson

It’s a cohesive group of Houston-based musicians who came together to teach us a new lesson. This is not your mom’s soul music.

The Suffers are a tight band of talented Houston musicians - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Suffers are a tight band of talented Houston musicians – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Suffers call their style of music “Gulf Coast Soul,” a fitting genre for this band. The Suffers make  you feel as if you’ve just been handed a plate of buttery shrimp and grits with an extra helping of five-alarm hot sauce on the side.  They’re cozy and spicy at the same time, unleashing the tunes of heartbreak and love with a unified sound that heralds an era of new soul music.

Kam bonds with the audience, talking to the crowd as comfortably as she would be talking to a well-loved friend.  Healing, helping and feeding were central to the performance as she continually reminded the crowd of the name of the band and had them repeat it back, along with the town the band is from, Houston.

But after all that, what probably will be long remembered was this special show by a lady with a devoted troupe of talented musicians and her heartfelt request for people to love each other.

The Suffers recently released the video “Midtown,” and you can check them out on Soundcloud.


John Mayall at The Rose in Pasadena: A Divine Experience For Those Who Worship The Blues

Special to

PASADENA – Going to a John Mayall concert is like going to church – not to a religious ceremony, unless blues is your religion, but being inside a cathedral experiencing something divine. With 61 albums and more than a half-century of music behind him, British bluesman John Mayall’s current USA tour is cool, reflective, gentle on the mind and the ears, and absolutely divine.

John Mayall’s new album is Find A Way To Care and you can listen to it on Soundcloud here.

Mayall has released a new album: Find A Way to Care - Photo by Patrick O'Heffernan

Mayall has released a new album: Find A Way to Care – Photo by Patrick O’Heffernan

At 83 years young, it is no surprise that Mayall’s energy level is far more relaxed that it was in the days when Eric Clapton and John McVie blasted out hot blues on English stages with him. But, as anyone who has followed Mayall for the past 50 years knows, hot or cool, he loves the blues and that love was on full display Friday night at Pasadena’s The Rose music venue.

Standing in the spotlight on the stage, Mayall and drummer Jay Davenport and bassist Greg Rzab pulled the audience in close with a warm smile and old familiars.  Mayall started the concert easy, conserving his energy for the 12-song set.  Playing on his revered Hammond, Mayall opened with his 1993 release “I’m A Sucker for Love,” introduced by Rzab and Davenport with a relaxed percussion riff that set the contented tempo.

Mayall’s voice, still strong but flattened with years, moved us along to the breakdown and a hot drum solo.  We knew we were in for a night of classic blues by one of the best.


Mayall moved to the Roland keyboard for the  Arthur Crudup song “That’s Alright” made famous by Elvis in 1954 but reimagined very blue by Mayall in his 2013 European concert.  Switching to the electric guitar, Mayall moved to the end of the stage and electrified the crowd with his guitar chops in a coolly delivered “Do I Please You” from his 1977 album A Hardcore Package.

Mayall's tour continues - Photo by Patrick O'Heffernan for

Mayall’s tour continues – Photo by Patrick O’Heffernan for

Always a natural with audiences, he introduced “The Bear”  from the 1968 album Blues from Laurel Canyon with the story of his stay at the  home of the band Canned Heat in Laurel Canyon and the band’s  lead singer Bob “the Bear” Hite.  He rolled the song out on the Roland with a toe-tapping tempo and his flat voice, edged with a smile. He stayed with the Roland for Sonny Landreth’s song about Louis Armstrong park,  “Congo Square,” delivering the lyrics in a muted monotone but them picking up the pace and adding heat with harmonica. A drum solo further upped the energy and the band finished the song with a flourish.

Davenport and Rzab introduced  “Moving Out and Moving On” with a strong  percussion lead in to Mayall’s guitar, which rode nicely on the kick drum beat. The lyrics were muted, almost flat, but the music moved right along. The feeling shifted to jazz with the “Sum of Something,” originally recorded as electric blues on Mayall’s 2009 Tough album.  Mayall kept things cool until the breakdown and a hot piano and drum solo that got the audience up and clapping.

Both Mayall and the room were fully warmed up as the band came down the stretch.  Even the slow blues number, “Blues for the Lost  Days” had a thrum of electricity through it that  got ramped up in “Moma Talk to Your Daughter” and broke out in a high energy “Chicago Line” with Mayall belting the lyrics and blowing the harmonica for all it was worth.

The band got brought back for an encore which was full tilt blues harmonica, exactly what the room was looking for.  Couples danced, diners clapped and you could tell that as much as Mayall blues are now cool and relaxed,  he loves blowing the harp for all its’s worth and so do his fans.  Mayall’s US  tour has seven more dates in California, Hawaii and Florida before he moves on to Europe, doing what he loves to do… playing divine blues.

Patrick O’Heffernan.  Host, Music FridayLive!, Co-Host MúsicaFusionLA

For more information on John Mayall check out his great fan site:

— Video courtesy of Rob Orme —

Fartbarf, David and The Curse, and Tres, Synthesize Music Down to Its Purest Form at El Cid Friday Night

Mmmm microphone good - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Mmmm microphone good – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia


We never considered seeing Fartbarf for the last few years, mainly because of the name of the band. Too sophomoric. After all, could a band named Fartbarf actually have any redeeming value in the music world?

The answer is an astounding and resounding affirmative.

There are lessons here. Never judge a band by its name, no matter how ridiculous it might be.

First-time Fartbarf show-goers are in for a wild surprise of excellent proportions. Instead of a bunch of goofy neophytes, what we discovered instead was a sophisticated synthesizer-utilizing trio of top notch guys  — we think — who clearly have found a niche in the world of recycled synth.  It is extremely satisfying that this young band appreciates the value of the Moog and the vintage analog sythesizers that played an important role in so many influential bands, including Emerson Lake and Palmer, Yes, and DEVO and the slew of 1980s bands that would follow.

But Fartbarf puts its own modern spin on what would normally be pretty cool songs, and takes their work to a galaxy far far away.

The El Cid crowd digs Fartbarf - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The El Cid crowd digs Fartbarf – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

It’s apparent that Fartbarf has taken a page out of the Residents’ book.  But Fartbarf not only does not sound anything like The Residents, but does them one better in the “mystery” department — in addition to covering their identities with masks, their voices are rendered unidentifiable courtesy of cool Moog enhancements.

The Fartbarf songs get the crowd jumping, as at El Cid there were only two people we could see who were standing without tapping their feet or nodding their heads. The bulk of the crowd was semi-moshing, jumping around, and doing some very unusual and retroactively disposed of dance moves, including The Robot.

The Neanderthal masks and imitation NASA jumpsuits  — heaven forbid NASA’s famous “Meatball” logo should be used in such a facetious manner — give pause for thought. What is Fartbarf’s statement and are they trying to give us a warning?  Has man advanced despite his earthly and regressive ignorance? Are we as a culture doomed unless we explore other worlds? Are the guys under the masks cute?

Only the excellent, dentally challenged post-Neanderthal musicians known as Josh, Dave and Brian know those answers.

Apparently it's always a good time for Fartbarf - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Apparently, life’s a perpetual smile for Fartbarf – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

In the meantime, the fans — many of whom have been with the band since before the band’s debut 2014 album, Dirty Power, were having a blast.  Of course some of the favorites off Dirty Power were played including our new favorite “All Systems Go.”

“I’ve seen them at least five times and El Cid is the best place to see them,” said one concert-goer with his girlfriend. “I don’t know if there are any philosophical statements or questions for us to think about. I think they’re just fun.”

It’s so great to see the Moog being used so well. You’re not hammered over the head with the classic analog instrument.  But it’s clear Fartbarf deserves a page on the Moog website for most innovative use of the company’s prized invention.

The best part about Fartbarf — costumes and marketing ploys aside — is the music.  The band takes some cool sounds from the 1970s and catapults them forward to capture the love of both the millennial and pre-millennial demographics.


David Stucken of David and The Curse is a grateful sort – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The connecting link between the three bands at El Cid Friday night was that they each gave a nod to synthesizer and keyboard sound.

David and The Curse preceded Fartbarf. Kyle Hamood, known for his keyboard and synth sound with several bands, most notably Them Guns, sits in with David and brings his talent across the tracks to true rock and roll.

While seemingly a disparate matching, David and The Curse, a rock and roll band with a punk edge, certainly stood out, as lead singer David Stucken brought his best show to date to El Cid.

“I’ve been watching David’s career and he’s been in a few bands, but this band is excellent,” said one concert-goer. “He’s a great performer and he’s a really nice guy.  You should talk to him.” did talk to David, last week.  Read the interview here

David and The Curse - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

David and The Curse – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

And he truly is a nice guy with big aspirations.  There’s the sense with David that there’s nothing this rocker can’t play.  David’s enthusiastic and it’s obvious he loves what he does.

As for the opener, Tres, it’s an interesting band with a great sense of humor comprised of three fun people who admit their music may not be to everyone’s taste.  But the point is, they’re trying, they’re up there,  and the sound may be unusual but it’s fun.  And that’s the only answer we need.

Val Kilmer Gives Mark Twain New Audience in ‘Cinema Twain,’ The Great Film Based on his One-Man Play

★★★★★ Kilmer Scores With ‘Cinema Twain’


Val Kilmer takes on the role of humorist Mark Twain and gives an extremely heartfelt — and funny — performance in Cinema Twain.

Kilmer, known for his portrayal of troubled characters like Jim Morrison in The Doors, and Doc Holliday in Tombstone, brings a new sensibility to the role of American humorist Mark Twain in Cinema Twain.

Cinema Twain was produced, written and directed by Kilmer and is basically the film of the award-winning, one-man play he wrote called Citizen Twain.  Kilmer slays the audience and holds the viewer spellbound for 90 minutes bringing to life an American figure who has been relatively unknown to modern audiences.

Kilmer appeared in person at the first of two Westwood screenings last Thursday.  The film will screen again on Nov. 17.  Tickets are available, for more info go to Val Kilmer’s website.

It is not known if Cinema Twain will get a theatrical release.

Val Kilmer told an audience in Westwood that he loves Twain’s humor and that Twain was really one of the first American stand-up comedians. He said he has spent 10 years immersed in the research, writing and rehearsal of the remarkable work.

This effort is a tour de force for Kilmer, who has been battling illness. It is apparent the Mark Twain projects have been a labor of love and a guiding inspiration for him.

Kilmer said the film about his one-man play called Citizen Twain actually came together after he wrote a screenplay about Mark Twain.  He said he is working on finding financing for the film.

Kilmer is a revered actor who has portrayed a variety of roles in his career including the character “Ice Man” in Top Gun opposite Tom Cruise.

But his talents as an actor merely compliment a host of other abilities that we the audience never get to see. Anyone who has seen The Doors knows that Kilmer can sing. And if you go to his website, you can see his prolific collection of modern art paintings.

We do catch a bit of the singing talent in Cinema Twain as Kilmer gives his best rendition of Mark Twain singing a tender rendition of “Old Man River.”

The raw emotion is there, Kilmer is clearly at home in front of an audience, live or otherwise.

It’s clear from the project — Kilmer spent a lot of time in the Berkeley library in particular researching — that Kilmer has grown to love Mark Twain and if Twain were alive today he would be humbled by the outstanding treatment of the subject.

Do not miss the opportunity to see this great performance. Go here for tickets to the Nov. 17 screening at Landmark Regent Theatre.

California Rocker Rating: ★★★★★

Legendary Alice Cooper Goes from Kid’s Playhouse to Fantasy Springs and Still has Time for His Golf Game

Review of Alice Cooper at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

Alice Coooper - Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons for

Alice Coooper – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons for


The first time I saw Alice Cooper was in the gymnasium of Cal State Fullerton in 1969. He was on the bill with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.  Spirit was the opening act.

The only real prop he had at that time was a small kid’s play house that he would go inside and stick his head out the window and sing “Nobody likes me.”

There have been a lot of changes over the years and now this is a big-time rock and roll show full of lights, dancers, costume changes, snakes, monsters and guillotines.

Alice had a legion of fans that came out to this desert oasis to see the man who has entertained them for most of their lives and showed us all that rock and roll can still be fun.  Alice once said “From the moment I leave my house or hotel room, the public owns me.  The public made Alice Cooper and I can’t imagine ever turning my back on my fans.”  Alice is a true master of his craft and takes it to a level that cannot be matched.  He has influenced many but no one can touch him.

Alice Cooper: A Really Big Show - Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Alice Cooper: A Really Big Show – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Hitting the Links

When I was checking into the hotel I saw a group of golfers who had just come in from playing 18 holes.

I joked to the attendant that I bet Alice will be out on the course today and she said “He just finished up about an hour ago” and that was at 10 A.M.  Not many rock stars can golf before breakfast and then rock before dinner.

Tonight Alice Cooper would welcome us back to his nightmare full of monsters, madness and mayhem.  Anticipation was running high as the Alice look alikes, families and hardcore followers of the master of shock rock were ready for their idol to take the stage.

The curtains were a close-up of Alice’s eyes.  The lights went down and the voice of Vincent Price came on introducing the “Black Widow.”  As the curtains dropped, sparks started flying and Alice draped in a black hooded cape was front and center.  Just his presence on stage made us minions feel we’re not worthy.  Alice Cooper came fully loaded with his triple guitar attack of Ryan Roxie, Tommy Henriksen and the mighty Nita ‘Hurricane” Strauss.  Off went the cape and he went right into “No More Mr. Nice Guy” prowling the stage like a venison of the deep.

‘Under My Wheels,’ ‘Billion Dollar Babies’

Rockin' the Casino with Alice Cooper - Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Rockin’ the Casino with Alice Cooper – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Alice kept the pace lively reaching into his bag of tricks bringing out some classics like “Under My Wheels” and “Billion Dollar Babies.”

They spend no time in between songs talking to the audience.  This is a well-oiled rock, well timed rock machine full of energy and chemistry.

Alice may be the main attraction but the rhythm section of long time bassist Chuck Garric and drummer Glen Sobel kept this wild rock and roll train roaring down the tracks.

Alice brought out his boa constrictor Julius Squeezer to help him sing “Is It My Body.”  I once saw his boa constrictor get sick and throw up on stage.  He must have had stage fright.  Next came “Woman of Mass Destruction” that led into Nita’s fierce guitar solo.  She is a force of nature shredding the fret boards with her long blonde mane flying in the breeze as she finishes to a huge ovation.

‘Doctor Alice’

During “Halo of Flies” Glen Sobel’s drum solo mesmerized the crowd with skill and intensity.   But before we knew it good old Doctor Alice was back in a full length, blood splatted lab coat, gas mask and strapped to an electrical gurney that ignites into “Feed My Frankenstein.”   Entering stage left is a giant monster roaming the stage while everyone tries to stay out of its way.

Alice Cooper - Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Patriotic Alice Cooper – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

The show only slowed down once when Alice came out and sat down on a trash can to sing one of his beautiful power ballads “Only Women Bleed.”  He was later attacked by a frightening naughty nurse who gave Alice a shot and put him into a straight jacket to sing the “Ballad of Dwight Fry.”  As he is later lead to a giant guillotine and beheaded at the end of the song.   The crowd eats is up and the band goes into “I Love the Dead” with an audience singing along.

Alice who is a member of the Hollywood Vampires then paid tribute to some of the rock and roll legends we lost this year.

Gravestones of David Bowie and Lemmy were on stage as the band ripped into intense versions of “Suffragette City” and “Ace of Spades” with bassist Chuck Garric on vocals.  It was a great gesture from a master showman and made for a very memorable moment in the show.

Now the energy in the room was at an all-time high as they kicked into two of rock and rolls biggest anthems “Eighteen” and “Schools Out.”   With confetti, bubbles and giant balloons flying, Alice then introduced the band and only once did he ever break character when he said “playing the part of Alice tonight is me.”

For the encore, he brought out Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to beat each other up until they finally kissed during “Elected.”   Alice wearing a red, white and blue jacket in front of an American flag backdrop said “we got problems all over America and personally, I don’t care.”  This two hour, 25-song set full of energy and excitement left the crowd filtering out into the casino happy and proud to be a fan of the one and only Alice Cooper.

La Paloma Theatre Shines on Benefit Night as Jack Tempchin and Musicians Sing Her Praises

Concert to Raise Money for La Paloma Wildly Applauded

Jack Tempchin - Photo by Donna Balancia

Jack Tempchin – Photo by Donna Balancia


ENCINITAS, Calif. – Musicians Jack Tempchin, Cindy Lee Berryhill, Keith Harkin and Darius Degher electrified at Love The Dove, a benefit concert for La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas Saturday night.

Tempchin, the renowned songwriter who crafted tunes for the Eagles and others, headlined a night that mixed legacy with compelling new performances.

He introduced Keith Harkin, an outstanding Irish performer whose agressive guitar playing is unlike anything we’ve heard. He plucks the strings so hard they break — often he says — and from his work he elicits a great deal of emotion.  Harkin is a true music star and was an unexpected surprise in a night of beautiful work.

Strong Collaboration: Tempchin and Harkin

Jack Tempchin and Keith Harkin - Photo and video by Donna Balancia

Jack Tempchin and Keith Harkin – Photo and video by Donna Balancia

Tempchin on harmonica and Harkin on guitar performed songs they wrote together including the upbeat “Ring Tail Rat.”

Berryhill, the tall singer-songwriter veteran performed the Beatles cover, “Revolution,” which got rousing applause from the audience, which was comprised mainly of Encinitas locals who packed the room.

Berryhill has a new album coming out in March and her new songs including “Somebody’s Angel,” sent chills through the crowded room.

Love The Dove

La Paloma Theatre is a staple of San Diego County culture.  It has been around since the early 1900s and was a stop on the train by movie stars, celebs of the day, musicians and other notables.

Cindy Lee Berryhill - Photo by Donna Balancia

Cindy Lee Berryhill – Photo by Donna Balancia

Locals remember the days it had “couches” and was the gathering place for North County music lovers.

Emcee Danny Salzhandle recalled the theatre has hosted the best in the arts over the years. La Paloma is in need of repair and the tireless Alan Largent and his crew are thinking outside the box to get the funding to restore the jewel in the rough to its former grandeur.

The group is planning to have a fundraiser concert every quarter “or every three months,” if possible.

Musicians Giving Back to La Paloma Theatre

Degher led the night off with his folksy tunes that had people smiling and tapping right along.  He was a gracious leadoff artist joined by Micheal Packard and Ellen Maisen. His debut poetry collection was published in 2014; he has released five CDs and played on many stages.

Darius Degher opened the night at La Paloma Theatre - Photo by Donna Balancia

Darius Degher opened the night at La Paloma Theatre – Photo by Donna Balancia

Degher, Harkin and Berryhill joined Tempchin for a heartfelt finale that included “Already Gone,” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling.”

In a world of free downloads and where there’s an overabundance of worship of all things new, the historic La Paloma took the spotlight, hosting this unique night of touching performances.

The musicians reached receptive audience members who gladly paid $20 a head to enjoy rare performances.

Being able to repay La Paloma for all the joy she has brought Southern California was an honor for both performers and attendees.  The La Paloma which has stood so proudly for almost a century, will graciously continue on, through the generosity of the musicians and art lovers.  A night like this is what it’s all about.


Jack Tempchin leads 'Peaceful Easy Feeling' - Photo and video by Donna Balancia

Jack Tempchin leads ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’ – Photo and video by Donna Balancia

Desert Trip Dispatch: Our Ace Reviewer Bob Busby Gives A Thumbs Up Wrapup From ‘Oldchella’

Busby: ‘One of the Best Events I’ve Ever Attended’

screen-shot-2016-10-18-at-12-25-35-amBy BOB BUSBY

Roger Waters kept his politics in check during weekend 2 of Desert Trip, but did basically tell the crowds that he would still support the Palestinian people and their causes.

Nobody yelled anything at him. There was no discomfort in the crowd. Some people left a little earlier; he finished at 12:35 a.m.

Bob Dylan opened and he was great, of course.

The people said he was better than last week. He was really good, he opened the first set and the show in fact with “Everybody Must Get Stoned,” he did “Tangled Up in Blue” and he did five or six songs that were popular. The band sounded great.

The Rolling Stones: Still Smokin’

Keef and Mick are still smokin' hot - Photo and video courtesy of Prestoff2000

Keef and Mick are still smokin’ hot – Photo and video courtesy of Prestoff2000

The Rolling Stones were The Rolling Stones, of course they were great. Mick made a funny joke to the effect of “I know people are calling this ‘Oldchella’ but maybe they should call it ‘Who’s gonna croak first?’  He also said, “I can’t help call attention to the fact that we’ve never shared the stage with a Nobel Prize winner before,” referring to Dylan.

On Saturday night Neil Young opened with classic acoustic songs and the favorite, “Sugar Mountain.

By coincidence it was a full moon, which rose huge with great light to the side of the stage while he was playing, “Harvest Moon” and the cameras went to the moon and put it on the screens. It was a crystal clear moon, it was very emotional. It was literally magical. Other people were affected in the same way. It was the most magical thing. Neil was just really on.

Sir Paul With Neil Young at Desert Trip

Photo by Kevin Mazur

Photo by Kevin Mazur

Then Paul came on, and these guys are not retired, they do this all the time and it shows. Then he brought out Rihanna.  I didn’t know the song, “FourFiveSeconds” but she was really good. Then she left. Right after that he brought Neil out and they did “A Day in the Life,” and it was a fantastic version. Neil just rocked. Paul was like, “This is Neil fucking Young!” Neil went apeshit on the guitar and Paul looked at the audience like “I hope you realize what you’re watching.” And Neil was saying “This is Paul McCartney!” It was two icons.

Saturday was the best. The Who complained before they sang a note. Roger Daltrey said, “Can somebody please turn off the fan?” That’s because it was windy and like 90 degrees at 6 o’clock still.  Not only was the heat holding, the heat held all the way through the night, it cooled down and then at 10 o’clock it warmed up again.

The real star of the show was the venue.  And the screens and the speakers. The screens were at least 10 stories tall and 100 yards wide.  The screens were so big.  We just kept remarking on how incredible the video production was. It was so crystal clear. The real star of the whole thing is the venue for sure.

The Venue at Coachella

The Who - Photo courtesy of Desert Trip for

The Who – Photo courtesy of Desert Trip

You know you can put thousands of people into Giants stadium it’s tiered so it doesn’t look like this. Believe me, 85,000 people on a flat surface goes way the heck back. My friends were in the back. They had four giant screens in the back too. Four huge screens, and there were amazing speakers every 25 yards in every direction and Roger Waters made full use of those speakers with sound coming from all directions. You’d be hearing sounds like a taxi cab coming from a thousand yards to the left.

All in all, musically it was one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended.

Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters Rock the Festival of Disruption at The Ace

Robert Plant - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Robert Plant – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia


Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters put on a once in a lifetime show at the Festival of Disruption at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel.

While many of his rock n roll brethren, like The Who, Paul McCartney and The Rolling Stones were in Indio, Plant drew a zealous audience that made a pilgrimage to see the world’s best.

Lisa and Tina from Ventura brought him a bouquet of roses, Leslie raced to the stage to see the master at his craft and Amy wept as Plant and his band played Led Zeppelin favorites as well as new tunes.

Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters

Robert Plant - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Robert Plant – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Sensational Space Shifters is comprised of some of the finest musicians around with Plant, Justin Adams, Juldeh Camara, Billy Fuller, Liam “Skin” Tyson and Dave Smith.

For those who never had the opportunity to see Led Zeppelin, this band brings the well-known hits to life but adds a global twist complete with exotic beats and Plant taking on hand drums. Favorites included “Over The Hills,” “Black Dog,” “Rock N Roll,” “Whole Lotta Love” and “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You.”

While he celebrated his 68th birthday in August, Plant has all the verve and energy of someone half his age. He’s looking good and he commands the stage with a powerful confidence exuded only by someone who has been doing this longer than most audience members have been alive.

Robert Plant - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Robert Plant – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Plant’s Audience

Plant has an affable way of connecting with his audience and in an “intimate” setting he’s personable, telling jokes and putting on a show that’s appropriate for the artsy new festival in downtown LA.

The Festival of Disruption features exhibits and discussions by a range of artists, photographers and performers.

Lynch, the mastermind behind works ranging from “Blue Velvet” to “Twin Peaks” is the curator.

Robert Plant - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Robert Plant – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Additional musicians taking the stage Sunday night were electronic artist Jon Hopkins, who presented his sounds against a backdrop of creative visions; and St. Vincent, who adapted her show to include compelling performance art with dancers and physical performers.

The Festival of Disruption continued Sunday with Debbie Harry and Chris Stein, Jason Bentley and a discussion on the music of “Twin Peaks.”

Hammons Reviews: Thievery Corporation Still Keeps The Fans Dancing Under the Black Moon


Thievery Corporation celebrates 20 years - Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Thievery Corporation celebrates 20 years – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Thievery Corporation brought their hypnotic grooves, intricate rhythms and mystical funk to the Santa Barbara Bowl on this cool summer evening.  This is the 20-year anniversary of a band that continues to inspire with their broad canvas of styles and sounds.

Opening the show was Mexico City’s favorite band of muy loco rockers Café Tacuba.  These guys really know how to get the party started.  Lead singer Ruben Albarran and guitarist Jose Alfredo Rangel got the audience up and dancing to their various styles of espanol rock and roll.  The band’s flashy costumes and energy won over the early arrivals and set a festive tone for the evening.

As sun was setting and the black moon rising the anticipation was running high as most of the audience I talked to had seen Thievery Corporation before.  The lights dimmed and the familiar sounds of sitar, bass and percussion jammed out on the opening instrumental “Facing East.”

As the song ended out comes the first vocalist of the evening Lou Lou Ghelickhani singing “Take My Soul” a song with lush textures and sweet vocals.   The set had a caravan of rotating vocalist for each song.   Next up was Jamaican vocalist to get us fired up and grooving to songs such as “Blasting Through” and “Radio Retaliation.”   Before the song “Culture of Fear,” the vocalist said he was afraid of the police.  The opening line “seems to me like they want us to be afraid, man” touches on what is going on in our world today.

Set List of Crowd Favorites

Rob Myers rocked out on sitar - Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Rob Myers rocked out on sitar – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Thievery Corporation has the mighty DJs Rob Garza and Eric Hilton sitting high above the band knocking out the beats mixing them with their many different cultural styles.  This tour being their 20 Anniversary had a set list full of crowd favorites and even a few covers.

About half way thru the set they did a version of Grateful Dead’s “Fire on the Mountain” and later the percussionist came forward to sing a rocking version of the Door’s “Strange Days.”

The quality of the musicianship and vocal power of all the singers highlight their vast changes in musical styles.  Ashish Vyas the bass player never stops moving while high stepping across every square inch of the stage.  Rob Myers the sitar / guitar player rocked hard on both instruments.  My favorite singer of the night was the mighty and majestic Natalia Clavier.  Her soft and sexy vocals styling on such songs as “Lebanese Blonde” draw you in to her seductive charm.

Rob Garza on Guitar


Ruben Albarran of Cafe Tacuba – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

They heated things up again with two live show staples “Vampires” and “Heart is the Hunter.”  They created such a bond with the audience we all forgot about out problems and were fully engaged with their rhythms, beats and intricate electronic music.  Rob Garza came down from his DJ booth to play guitar as they closed with “Warning Shots.”  Everyone was dancing to the heavy bass riff and rap reggae vocals.   Rob then stepped to the mic and said “we weren’t going to do this song” but he said he wrote it while he was roaming the hills above Santa Barbara and they went in to the sweet and sensual “Depth of My Soul.”

As this sweaty hippie groove party was about to end they came back out and jammed on the instrumental track “The Forgotten People” before bringing Lou Lou back to sing “Sweet Tides.”  But it would not be a Thievery Corporation show without doing “The Richest Man in Babylon” from there 2002 album of the same name.  After shaking my suitcase for two hours with this band of incredible musicians and the two beautiful songstresses I felt good to be alive.  A band of this caliber should not be ignored.  Every person there was a delighted fan or was converted by the sweet melody, atmosphere and vibe only Thievery Corporation can provide.

The Talented Phil Gammage Shares His Bluesy Life with New Album, ‘Used Man for Sale’

Phil Gammage is a 'Used Man for Sale,' but he sounds darn good - Photo courtesy Johann Vipper

Phil Gammage is a ‘Used Man for Sale,’ but he sounds darn good – Photo courtesy Johann Vipper


Phil Gammage has truly got the blues.

And that’s a good thing for listeners. The talented singer-songwriter’s state of mind has brought about the heartfelt works via his new album Used Man for Sale. 

Used Man for Sale, underscores Phil’s talent as singer-songwriter and is a thought-provoking piece that rifles through everything from love and success to breaking up and then getting away from it all.

Phil sounds like a combination of Elvis and the beloved folk singer Fred Neil, who was covered by everyone from Linda Ronstadt to Harry Nilsson.

But he’s got a new age edge and his rockabilly style has been put to good work on a range of TV shows and films.

Most of the songs on Used Man for Sale are tell of love or heartbreak, they’re beautifully written, and Phil’s excellent voice acts as a more than suggestive guide commenting on life’s ups and downs.

Phil takes a break from the heartbreak with a smile - Photo courtesy of Tim Macy - California Rocker

Phil takes a break from the heartbreak with a smile – Photo courtesy of Tim Macy

Phil’s a rare commodity in the do-it-yourself, cookie-cutter world of music today.  He takes the time to tell the story, he projects the words forward with deliciously simple melodies and sits back and lets the story unfold.

Stream Used Man for Sale here:

Phil sounds like he’s a little road weary, or that he’s tired of running. It’s obvious he’s been on the road looking for the next thing.  When will it come?  He has a big train on the album cover, which indicates the strong possibility he’s been around or lives in a perpetual state of motion.

Regarding the track list, “Locomotive” is good with a lot of power, we love the lusty “I Beg of You,”  the adventuresome “Ride With Railroad Bill” and the hopelessly upbeat “Lost in Loserville.”

Perhaps one of the best assets is Phil’s fantastic voice. It’s a voice that will make any gal swoon.  It’s a rare talent Phil was born with and wherever he’s going next, we want to tag along.

James Lee Stanley: ‘Alive At Last’ is an Album That Inspires and Feels Good

Stanley Shapes Life Experiences Into Great Music

James Lee Stanley with Chad Watson and Scott Breadman at The GRAMMY Museum - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

James Lee Stanley with Chad Watson and Scott Breadman at The GRAMMY Museum – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia


James Lee Stanley released a new live album called Alive at Last and it’s more than a live album. It’s a romantic comedy story of his life set to music.

Stanley’s truthful work sums up the highs and lows we all encounter.

But when he talks about his trials and tribulations it’s funny — and hopeful.

James Lee Stanley Stories

“People have said to me, ‘We want to hear the stories,'” said Stanley, whose career has spanned the diverse, including a run as the opener for comedian Steven Wright. “They ask me, ‘What are you, a comedian or a musician?’ Well I’m a little of everything.”

His storytelling style of performance is a rare find in a world filled with cookie-cutter musicians.

James Lee Stanley at The GRAMMY Museum - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

James Lee Stanley at The GRAMMY Museum – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

At a recent performance at The GRAMMY Museum, Stanley basically stuck to the script and in person and on the album, he takes the listener on a few detours of interest.

Among some of the favorites on the album are “I Don’t Want To Talk About It,” “The Street Where Mercy Died,” and “Racing The Moon,” a touching piece about lost love and teen yearning. His experiences have given him songs that he imparts on lucky listeners and they are more fortunate for his memories.

Stanley produced Alive at Last, which touts the talents of the renowned Chad Watson on Fender bass and Cheryl Prashker on percussion.  The album was recorded during a live concert at Morning Star Studios in Spring House, Penn., by Glen Barrett. At The GRAMMY Museum, he was joined by Scott Breadman on percussion.

Stanley’s an interesting cat. This is a guy who actually sat down with Jimmy Buffett and when Buffett told about his new song “Let’s Get Drunk and Screw,” Stanley thought it was a little bit too lowbrow for him.

Years later when Buffett flew into LAX in his private jet, took a private car to his book signing at Brentano’s in Beverly Hills and told Stanley about his life aboard the yacht in the tropics, Stanley had second thoughts.

‘The More I Drink’

So he wrote the audience favorite sing along, “The More I Drink,” which has a chorus of “The more I drink, the less I think. The less I think, the better I feel, the better I feel, the more I drink. I got a system and it works for me.”

Chad Watson - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Chad Watson – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

A night with Stanley is like visiting with an old pal. He tells stories that cover everything from high school and the girl that got away all the way up to the current day with his beautiful wife. He even mentions a wife or two in between, with the song “Worry About You.”

But Stanley’s got great timing and he really enjoys performing — the audience enjoys him right back. songs on the new album range from tender and sweet to raucous and rowdy and Stanley wouldn’t have it any other way.

He leaves no stone unturned when it comes to telling his life stories, whether in song or not.  A part of the hippie generation, there were times when his appearance bugged his family.

Like his Italian grandmother who would give him grief over his long hair and beard, mainly because there was no cheek to pinch buried under all that hair. Years later, when she was on her deathbed, he recalled, her last gasp words were, “But Jimmy why are you wearing an earring?”

‘Alive At Last’

It’s either clever that he recorded his performance or that he’s performing to the album.  Either way, if you see a Stanley performance and bring home the CD, it’s a great way to reinforce a great time.

James Lee Stanley at The GRAMMY Museum - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

James Lee Stanley at The GRAMMY Museum – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Stanley shares a real camaraderie with the audience, as most of the people who were at The GRAMMY Museum performance appear to know him personally or are big fans.

As for his style in an age of manufactured talents, it’s a lesson for the young. He’s warm with the audience, his voice is so clear and so appealing in tone, and his jokes are actually funny. If we had to guess, it’s a good bet the late 1970s band Seals and Croft lifted his whole style.

But while Stanley is reminiscent of Seals and Croft and also the great storytelling songwriter Jim Croce — his songs are really for today. He sings of politics, even skewering the clerk who refused to sign the wedding documents for gay marriages, a song called “Do It In His Name.”

It’s a dying art what Stanley does and his style is inspiring. He’s a man who tells his story and says others should do the same.

“I would tell young people today to make the music you want to make,” Staney said. “And be proud of everything you do because it follows you for the rest of your life.”


Slash, Tedeschi Trucks, Bonamassa, Play to Pay Tribute to B.B. King at GRAMMY Foundation Event

Tedeschi Trucks

Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks – Photo by Donna Balancia


BEVERLY HILLS – A heaven’s full of blues performers were on hand at the Wallis Annenberg Center for an amazing tribute to the legendary blues great B.B. King.

The Life and Legacy of B.B. King, presented by The GRAMMY Foundation and The GRAMMY Museum, brought superstars of the blues together to honor B.B. King.

B.B. passed away May 14, 2015.

B.B. King: Mentor and Friend

B.B. was mentor and friend to all those on hand, including Slash, Keb’ Mo’, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks and Jimmy Vaughan.

“Oh he would have loved this,” B.B.’s pal and bandleader James Bolden said of the sold out event.  “BB was very down to earth. He would appreciate that the blues are being recognized.”

Photo by Jesse Grant/WireImage for The Recording Academy

Slash let his guitar do the talking – Photo by Jesse Grant/WireImage for The Recording Academy

The classy program, hosted by Scott Goldman, vice president of the GRAMMY Foundation, interspersed film clips of BB with remarkable performances by top names in blues and blues-rock music. Presented by The GRAMMY Foundation and The GRAMMY Museum, the production was smooth and effortless, and was a reflection of the man people came to honor.

Conan O’Brien’s Basic Cable Band, kept the beat led by Jimmy Vivino.

‘Adoptive Father’

Each gave a few words about B.B., as teacher, friend and even would-be family member.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd showed a clip from his documentary 10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads, in which he shares an “adoptive father” moment with B.B.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Noah Hunt - Photo by Donna Balancia

Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Noah Hunt – Photo by Donna Balancia

“B.B. was one of the most generous human beings I ever met,” Shepherd said. He added that the blues genre will survive as long as “people keep hearing it.”

Shepherd took the stage with his longtime frontman Noah Hunt, who commands one of the most underrated and superb voices in all of rock n roll.

The audience was blown away by the performance of this dynamic duo.

But the lucky 500 in the audience — the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts is an amazing but relatively small venue — enjoyed mind blowing performances from all across the board on this night.

The Great Impact of B.B. King

Joe Louis Walker, whose radiant smile permeated the room, said he got to know BB as his opening act on the road.

“That’s how we got to know each other,” he said. “It was like having an uncle.”

Joe Louis Walker and his lovely lady - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Joe Louis Walker and his lovely lady – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Walker, who’s working on a new album for release next year, said B.B. impacted the music of so many artists over the years and still is loved by young artists of today like Gary Clark Jr. and the UK’s Joanne Shaw Taylor.

Jimmy Vaughan, ZZ Ward and Quinn Sullivan also gave tribute to B.B.

Slash, fresh off his Guns ‘N’ Roses tour, let his guitar do the talking, playing on a variety of B.B. tunes.

B.B. King’s Daughters

B.B.’s daughters were on hand, each more beautiful than the next, with great spirit and kind words.

B.B. King's daughters were among those on hand - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

B.B. King’s daughters were among those on hand – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

“My father taught us to be independent,” Rita King said. “We knew another side of him, he was our father. The only difference was our father had a unique job and if we wanted to see him we went on the road.”

Rita said much of her father’s inspiration is included in her new book, “Messages From My Sister God is our Source and Supplier.”

All agreed the celebration was important for the preservation of The Blues.

GUIDES: One of the Hot Indie Band Discoveries From LA’s Local Festival, Echo Park Rising

Wrapup: LA Fest Yields New Music Finds Across The Board

guides-6-echo-park-rising-wtmk (1 of 1)

Chris Cogswell and his remarkable voice – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA – Echo Park Rising is more than just a little musical festival in one corner of Los Angeles. The 6-year-old event has come to be one of the major economic drivers of the area.

From the music perspective, EPR should be a place where music executives, agents and scouts walk around and talk to the musicians. Maybe that doesn’t happen any more in this DIY world, where musicians have to do their own promo, raise their own money to record and tour and grow their own fan base.

Instead, we find great bands playing to small audiences, small bands getting an opportunity to get on the bigger stages of Echo Park, and headliners commanding the late night slots at the Echoplex, The Echo and the Liberty Lot, located behind the great Taix Restaurant.

Liz Garo looks out over the crowds her event draws in Echo Park - Photo 2016 Donna Balancia

Liz Garo looks out over the crowds her event draws in Echo Park – Photo 2016 Donna Balancia

The Power Behind EPR

The powerhouse behind the fest is Liz Garo, who runs the show, booking bands into venues and keeping things running smoothly. And props go to SpaceLand, which basically donates its Echo and Echoplex to the festival in a revolving door of talented acts.

In its sixth year, the 2016 show brought Friday headliner Chicano Batman, Saturday punkers The Weirdos, and Meatbodies, which closed out Echoplex Sunday night.

Crowd favorites: Globelamp, Hammered Satin, Wasi, Lexie Rose and Froth.  These performers couldn’t be much further apart in genres, but they each have the own special appeal.

But every few years there’s one band that grabs the attention of industry people and concert-goers alike and this year it was the three-piece indie band, GUIDES.

guides-2-echo-park-rising-wtmk (1 of 1)

GUIDES Rock – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

‘A Blend of Sonic Youth and The Smiths’

GUIDES appeared quietly onstage — under the radar — with an early gig at the Echoplex. This group of three: Vocalist and guitarist Chris Cogswell, Jayson Larson on drums and Be Hussey on bass and guitar, may have taken the stage quietly, but that’s where their low profile ended.

GUIDES’ sound is big and commanding. The band’s poise makes it appealing to a broad range of indie fans.

They’ve performed only a handful of gigs, but their uniquely upbeat shoegaze-style music catches the casual concert-goer off guard as presented as a three-piece band, their sound is much fuller.  GUIDES is a blend of Sonic Youth, Sad Lovers and Giants and The Smiths all rolled into one.

Be Hussey of GUIDES - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Be Hussey of GUIDES – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Cogswell is clearly a star, with an alternative voice like that of any of the big new wave punk indie bands of the 1980s like Morissey. Larson’s drumming ranks up with some of the powerful hard rock drummers and he leaves little air up there. The basslines of Hussey keep everything together and all together, it’s an amazing unique yet familiar sound. Check them out on Soundcloud.

“Abstract Head” plays up Cogswells howling and unique tones, “Long Face” highlights the physical drumming of Larson and Hussey shows his diverse talents on bass with “Midas Eye.” The song “Pictures on Pictures” is simply unforgettable.

GUIDES’ Soundcloud page has the EP which can also be purchased on iTunes.

It’s bands like GUIDES that make you glad you came to a festival with more than 300 acts, because when you catch a star, you want to hang on for the ride.

Hammons Reviews: Yo Yo Ma and Friends Show at Hollywood Bowl Brings Music Worlds Together

Global Ensemble Make Beautiful Noise at Hollywood Bowl

A night that brought worlds together - Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

A night that brought worlds together – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons


Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble bring the world together in music and song as they end their 17-date run of the USA at the Hollywood Bowl.

Yo Yo Ma is a man who understands once music hits the ear it makes order out of chaos.  It joins people together – there is no culture that doesn’t have music.  Ma brought together the evolution of his favorite 18-year project, The Silk Road Ensemble.

Transcending Borders

The music they create celebrates difference by exploring the unfamiliar and giving them the opportunity to build something new.

The opening fanfare showed what it is like to transcend borders and the joy of allowing it to happen thru music.  Cristina Pato from Spain playing Galician bagpipes and Wu Tong playing the Chinese horn in electrifying abandon meet center stage connecting two sides of the world and their cultural roots.  Next up was “Ichichila” a tune traditionally sung by the people of West Africa.  It had a cool relaxed vibe to it and a good way to set the tone for the evening.

© 2016 Craig Hammons

Bagpipes, horns and violins – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Silk Road violinist Colin Jacobsen — originally from Minnesota — brought us “O’Neil’s Calavary March,” a tune in the Irish tradition that dates back to the early 1800s.

It featured layers of instruments from a kamancheh, a pipa and some western strings.

On “Green (Vincent’s Tune)” they took a simple melody and turned it into an explosion of bass drumming and gong slamming gone mad.

My favorite song of the night was from Syrian clarinetist Kinan Azmeh called “Wedding.” He said that back home in Syria amist the bombs dropping and the daily fear, there is still the search for love.  This a song about coming together to beat the odds and celebrate.  He warned us that this song could get loud and next thing I knew it was like we were in a Syrian village party.  He dedicated it to all the Syrians who have managed to fall in love in the last five years.

Silk Road Ensemble

Ma did come forward to explain how the Silk Road Ensemble came together but mainly was just another member of the band.  He picked up his cello joined Christina Pato now on piano to do a piece together that was beautiful and full of emotion.

Myriad colors and music - Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Myriad colors and music – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

There were many other mergers of musicians and instruments some that seemed improvised while others were full grooves and rhythms.

Kayhan Kalhor, one of the band’s core members, plays a kamancheh otherwise known as an Iranian fiddle.  He was featured in many of the songs making his instrument sing while at time putting us into a trance.

Tribute to Prince

Some of the crowd wished there was more Ma but no one was disappointed.  They closed out the night with a colorful version of Prince’s “When Doves Cry” a song that fit well into their repertoire.   The Bowl was lit purple and the crowd was on their feet giving these musicians from around the world the standing ovation they deserve.

Many of the selections tonight were on the Silk Road’s new recording Sing Me Home. You can find out more about the Silk Road Ensemble at

Lemmy Statue Unveiled, Motorhead Rocker Honored with Celebrations at the Whisky and The Rainbow

Motorhead Rocker Honored at His Sunset Strip Hangouts

The crew celebrates the Lemmy Statue - Photo by Donna Balancia

The crew celebrates the Lemmy Statue – Photo by Donna Balancia


If Lemmy Kilmister were alive, he would probably would have been overwhelmed by the love of fans at events held in his honor on the Sunset Strip.

On Wednesday night hundreds gathered to see the unveiling of a statue created in Lemmy’s image. That statue now has a permanent residence at Lemmy’s favorite place, The Rainbow Bar and Grill.

The night before, Ultimate Jam Night had a Lemmy Tribute night, complete with the regular jam musicians and a few special guests including Tracii Guns and Dug Pinnick.

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Tracii Guns performs at Whisky A Go Go – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

“I’m here because I loved Lemmy’s music,” said Debby Cincianella who came from New York City for the unveiling. “Lemmy meant a lot to a lot of people and we want to honor him.”

John Hammer drove all the way from Bakersfield to get the event in time for the presentation.

“I drove like crazy to get here,” he said. “I had to see this.”

Most of the attendees came from the Los Angeles area and came dressed in their rock n roll finest, many wearing Lemmy-style hats, leather and some form of Motorhead T-shirts, jewelry or jackets.

When the time came to unveil the statue, people were poised to take pictures and get a selfie with the life-size bronze replica of one of the most beloved rockers of our time. There were plenty of photo opportunities with the bronze Lemmy.

The Lemmy statue is in the back of the Rainbow patio area and permanently rests in what many said resembles a black marble upright open tomb.  The likeness is appealing and rest assured there will be plenty of photos around with your favorite pal by the bronze Lemmy’s side.

“It’s been a wonderful way to celebrate the life of one of our favorite musicians,” said Sandy. “I love the Lemmy statue and I went to the show last night at the Whisky. I’m here tonight because this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance.”

Lemmy's widow, Cheryl, gives a kiss to author Sonny Donato - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Lemmy’s widow, Cheryl, gives a kiss to author Sonny Donato – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The jam night at the Whisky on Tuesday night drew one of its biggest crowds to date, proving the popularity of the “Ace of Spades” musician.

Even Lemmy’s widow, Cheryl, was on hand and she was touched that the musicians performed his songs throughout the night.

The concert event was live-streamed on Facebook so that people around the world could see the show. It’s been a tough year for rock lovers.  David Bowie and Glen Frye were among the other major rock stars to pass away this year.

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Kitty Cadillac and Ruby Carrera at The Rainbow – Photo by Donna Balancia

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Courtney Cox of Iron Maidens at The Whisky – Photo by Donna Balancia

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The cool guys turn out for Lemmy – Photo by Donna Balancia

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Kenny Kweens and a couple of dolls – Photo by Donna Balancia

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He didn’t drive from Bakersfield – Photo by Donna Balancia

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Pharoah Barrett of Kraterface – Photo by Donna Balancia

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Carla Harvey and Tracii Guns – Photo by Donna Balancia

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Walter Ino and Howie Simon – Photo by Donna Balancia

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Seann Nichols – Photo by Donna Balancia

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Carla Harvey gets the approval of Cheryl, Lemmy’s widow – Photo by Donna Balancia

‘Malibu Rocks Hollywood Monday Nights’ is the Latest Great Entertainment at Lucky Strike in Hollywood

Mike Hayes - Photo by Donna Balancia

Mike Hayes – Photo by Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA – Malibu Rocks Hollywood, a new Monday night music event at Lucky Strike Live, got off to a rockin’ good start.

Presented by the Malibu Guitar Festival, the new program is expected to bring a range of great guitar players to Lucky Strike each Monday.

In its first night of weekly performances, Malibu Rocks Hollywood launched with top-tier guitarists and musicians.

Guitarist extraordinaire Mike Hayes opening for featured performers The Kenneth Brian Band with special guest Robert Randolph.

The Malibu Guitar Festival is a popular event held annually in Malibu, created by Doug DeLuca and John Watkin. Last year, Richie Sambora and Orianthi were among the headliners. Hayes, The Kenneth Brian Band and Randolph played as well.

Robert Randolph - Photo by Donna Balancia

Robert Randolph – Photo by Donna Balancia

In introducing the Mike Hayes band, Kiefer Sutherland once referred to Hayes and his group as “one of the most beautifully melodic and fun bands of our time … one of the tightest bands that I’ve seen … one of the greatest guitar players I’ve seen since Stevie Ray Vaughn.”  And that’s no lie.

Hayes is a thinking person’s blues player. He knows the history of the genre, and he is clearly an expert in his passion.

Hayes’ outward appearance is deceiving as he appears soft spoken and quiet. When he gets on stage it’s a different guy. Hayes is excellent, with guitar skills that go far beyond most of the blues or any other guitarists out there. He plays the music any which way, including over his head and behind his back. He is truly a master, with a strong voice to boot.

Robert Randolph and Scott Thurston sit in with Kenneth Brian Band - Photo by Donna BalanciaThe Kenneth Brian Band is an innovative group, combining a few different styles of rock. The Kenneth Brian Band has a new EP out called Blackbird and it’s worth more than a listen. The band has some rythm driven upbeat songs and one of the things that was impressive is Kenneth’s taste in covers. On Monday night, the band played a cover of “Freeborn Man,” that rivalled the Outlaws’ very own performance of the classic tune.

Randolph needs no introduction and instead, his humble presentation takes over. The funky musician known back East for his work with Robert Randolph and the Family Band, joined the Kenneth Brian Band on Monday night and fit his pedal steel guitar right on in.

36-malibu-guitar-kenneth-brian-wtmks (1 of 1)As the frontman for Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Randolph is considered one of the most prolific players of the “sacred steel” around. His training is from church where he grew up back in New Jersey. He is fortunate to have had some hits, he’s had some deals with the NBA, and has opened for Eric Clapton.

The performances at Lucky Strike were riveting, and The Kenneth Brian Band had another special guest sit in.

Scott Thurston of Tom Petty and Iggy and the Stooges fame, manned the keys.

The music community welcomes an additional night of good music as Tuesday and Wednesday nights have brought jam nights back, much to the delight of music lovers. Now Monday nights also will hit the right notes.

Parquet Courts Have Seen Shinier Days as Band Disses LA on Heels of Cancelled Orange County Show

Parquet Courts bassist Sean Yeaton - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Parquet Courts bassist Sean Yeaton – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia


Parquet Courts gave a Human Performance to hundreds of eager fans in downtown LA the other night.

They played songs off their new album, called Human Performance, and a full set, opening with “What Color is Blood,” “Dear Ramona,” and the upbeat “Master of My Craft.” There was no encore, as most of the room was expecting “Stoned and Starving,” but who needs to do what the fans want, after all?

Maybe that’s part of the New York schtick, but it seemed the passive aggression was met with a lukewarm reception.

The second half of the show featured tracks off the new album, including “Steady on my Mind, “Berlin Got Blurry,” and “Outside.”

Last blast - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Last blast – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The New York-based band took a couple of random jabs at Los Angeles, comparing the two cities on opposite coasts with Austin Brown saying “Hell is a lot like LA, and heaven is like New York,” which was met with catcalls.

Then they doubled down: “Anyone good is in New York, I heard Jesus got a place in Pelham.” The band even wise-cracked: “At least we have water,” a bizarre dig at a population that has no choice in the California water shortage situation.

Like the humor of Donald Trump, Parquet Courts may have taken it a little too far, especially coming on the heels of a listless LA performance and a cancelled Orange County concert that fans there are still smarting from.

The audience members were a group of good sports, moshing and having fun despite the uneven and the oddly slightly passive aggressive performance. There were some points where the band’s energy was compelling but it seemed as if that came a little late in the evening, for the Dead Milkmen-like “Content Nausea,” and “Human Performance,” “Light Up Gold,” and “Sunbathing Animal.”

parquet courts setlist set listAfter his final strum, it sounded like curly headed guitarist-vocalist Andrew Savage removed his guitar and uttered the word “Perfect” under his breath, as he stomped offstage, but we can’t be sure.

But it was clear he was done, for whatever reason.

And while there were a few good photos to be had, nothing would have adequately captured the look on the faces of the audience when after 14 quickie songs, the house lights came up and the recorded music came on.

By the way, are encores actually required?

There was no “You Got Me Wonderin’ Now,” no “Pretty Machines,” or “Black and White,” or “Stoned and Starving,” examples of Parquet Courts songs that — for good or bad — get the band compared to Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers. But whether the band wants to change its style to more serious or not, these are the Parquet Courts’ trademark songs that are loved, and they’re fun. On Saturday night, it all seemed so serious.

“What happened to the encore?” asked one concert-goer. “It’s so weird. There were a few songs I wanted to hear that they didn’t play.”

Marbled Eye opened strong at The Regent - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Marbled Eye opened strong at The Regent – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

What’s a band to do? If you change your style they complain. If you play the same songs over and over they complain. Will the cancelled Orange County tickets be refunded to the fans? Stay tuned.

A high note of the evening was the opener, Marbled Eye, a band from Northern California. With a unique sound and cool indie feel these guys could quickly become a headliner. After all, they have the enthusiasm and they were … fun.


Setting the Standard: James Williamson Engineers Unique Sounds with New Collaborations

‘Blues Jumped The Rabbit’ is Williamson’s Latest Single


James Williamson believes that change is energizing.

“I like to collaborate with different people and this was a great opportunity,” said Williamson of his newest work with multi-talented musician Petra Haden, on their single called “Blues Jumped The Rabbit.”

“Blues Jumped The Rabbit,” taken literally on Williamson and Haden’s cover art, is believed to be originally recorded in 1926 as “Rabbit Foot Blues.” It received a new turn in 1970 by Bob Dylan collaborator Karen Dalton. The B-side of Williamson’s new vinyl is another interesting find, “Last Kind Words.” The single is out on iTunes and will be available on seven inch vinyl on August 19th.

Collaboration is the key for Williamson, a prominent player with Iggy and the Stooges, who says working with new people has been a great experience for him over the last few years.

Blues Jumped The Rabbit - Album Cover by Heather Harris

Blues Jumped The Rabbit – Album Cover by Heather Harris


Talent Scout

Williamson’s become somewhat of a talent scout in the few years since the release of the last Iggy and the Stooges album, Ready to Die, in 2013.  He seeks out collaborators, traveling around to find musicians that are suited for certain projects. Williamson is exacting about the talent he uses on his projects.

In most music lovers’ books, Williamson had already accomplished more than the average superhuman: He’s the co-creator of arguably the most revered American rock anthem of all time, “Search and Destroy.” As a member of Iggy and the Stooges, he basically introduced an entirely new guitar sound to music and lived a parallel life as an accomplished computer engineer and family man.

As for his music, there is more to Williamson than his vast work in the world of punk. With “Blues Jumped The Rabbit,” he puts out an interesting collaboration with violinist and vocalist Haden that has a unique bluesy feel and has a purpose.

James Williamson and Petra Haden - Photo by Heather Harris

James Williamson and Petra Haden – Photo by Heather Harris


The Charity Factor

“The fact of the matter is nobody buys records anyway,” Williamson said. “If we can get people to be aware of these charities, it’s great, it brings awareness of great causes.”

The money raised from the sale of the vinyl single goes towards the Tazzy Animal Rescue Fund in Burbank.

Williamson was impressed with Petra’s work on The Who Sell Out and he asked a Stooges pal for an introduction.

“I was so impressed with her, and then I found out Mike Watt knows her,” Williamson said. “I started using her on different things. I had her to something on Ready to Die. I liked her work on Ready to Die so much, she would do backing vocals and violin, I thought, she’s so good and so versatile I always though she should have a lead vocal.”

Historically, “Blues Jumped The Rabbit,” is an important song, recorded several times over the course of the 1900s.

As for the literal adaptation of the blues on the album cover, it came from an idea James had a while back.

“I saw this picture of a model with a rabbit on her head,” he laughed. “So I floated the idea by my artistic director, photographer Heather Harris, and she came up with the blue rabbit. It’s different.”

Lisa Kekaula and James Williamson work

Lisa Kekaula and James Williamson work


Re-Licked and Lisa Kekaula

Williamson’s made some other impressive moves into the collaborative world of independent musicianship.

He and Lisa Kekaula of the Bellrays released a single called “I Love My Tutu,” a release that benefits Project, Hawai’i, for homeless children in Hawaii, where Williamson lives part of the year.  Kekaula was a prominent player in Williamson’s Re-Licked project.

Last year, Williamson released the album Re-Licked, bringing together alternative A-Listers in an award-winning one-off concert at The Bootleg in Los Angeles. He met with many musicians before finalizing the lineup for his Re-Licked recording.

Williamson relies on another Re-Licked musician, Joe Cardamone of Valley Recording for his projects. And Williamson’s son, Jamie, is also getting into music more and more — he was also involved in the collaboration with Kekaula. Williamson hinted that another single would be coming soon, this one an up-tempo original tune that he wrote with a young musician.

Petra Haden - Photo by Heather Harris

Petra Haden – Photo by Heather Harris


Getting Recognition

The award-winning computer engineer, who was honored in Washington, D.C., last year by the American National Standards Institute, Williamson has been realistic about his music career. There were times when it was not easy. And he balanced the unpredictable music business by starting a successful engineering career.

Though he thinks it’s even harder to make it in music today, relationships and persistence matter, Williamson says.

“The only game these days is playing live,” he said. “And of course live requires you to have enough recognition to get a gig … or at least get a break. In that sense it’s always been that way, however, no promotor wants to risk their money on an unknown because they’re in it to make money.

“But that said, the best avenue is to somehow get into an opening slot for free or whatever and kick some serious butt, such that the audience wants you back and the promoter takes notice. That’s the old school way, and it works, if you can survive long enough.”

DOWNLOAD “Blues Jumped the Rabbit” at ITUNES

Mike Comfort Offers Compilation Album, ‘Pretty Sweet Stuff’ to Fans Beyond Northern California

By JOHN DALY – It’s no surprise Mike Comfort and his band were voted “Best Band in Sacramento,” by the Sacramento Bee and “Best Band in Northern California” by 107FM The Point Chico.

Comfort’s voice is pure Rock N Roll and his style is upbeat — even when it comes to singing about some tough topics.

The alt rock artist has a new compilation album of the work from his other albums, called Pretty Sweet Stuff.  It’s an appropriate name and maybe his marketing manager suggested the title.  Few would disagree.

While all of the cuts on the record are great, our favorite is “Disarray.” It’s a song about lost love, but executed in such an almost upbeat manner that the words hit home.  Comfort gives a good change of pace with a song that has such a great beat, but sad message.  The song leaves us hanging, wondering if the guy will get the girl back mainly because he doesn’t know and he’s trying to go on with his life.

Photo courtesy of Mike Comfort

Photo courtesy of Mike Comfort

The star of the show here is Comfort’s voice. It has an emotive and raw quality that captures the essence of heartbreak and happiness. In the case of “Disarray,” the voice projects the topic of proceeding alone while still in love.

“I sit around and I wonder why all that I did I did for you … It’s just no telling now how much more this heart can take.”

The song’s rockin beat gives the listener the impression the singer feels he may have a shot at getting the gal back.  Hope is good, especially in this crazy world.  What we don’t need is another depressing breakup song and obviously Comfort agrees.

Pretty Sweet Stuff!

Pretty Sweet Stuff!

Tunes that are the sweetest of the sweet also include “Story of Your Smile,” “Upside Down” and “Anywhere With You.”

This is no amateur act. Comfort and his band have been selling out shows in and around Chico for years. Comfort was a session musician and met Chris Holmes and recording engineer and guitarist at a session for another artist. Before the collaboration, Comfort was writing songs and working with or for a host of top-charted artists.

The band is tight and top notch.  Other than Comfort on vocals, the band is comprised of Holmes on guitars and backing vocals, D.J. Farrell on drums, Jonathan Stoyanoff on bass and Brandon Mains on guitar and backing vocals.

The songs were produced at Heirloom Studios in Chico; Red Dot Studios in Tracy and B. Mains Bedroom Studios in Chico.  It was produced by Comfort, was co-produced and engineered by Holmes and was mastered by Rob Beaton with RKS Mastering in Los Angeles.

Listen to Mike’s album, Pretty Sweet Stuff! 

Lance Lopez and All-Star Friends Rock Monday Night Blues at the Valley’s Hot Spot, Maui Sugar Mill

By DONNA BALANCIA – Lance Lopez has more in common with late friend Johnny Winter than a love for the blues.

Like the great Johnny Winter, Lance gives it his all while jamming with pals.

“I really had a great time tonight,” Lance said after a night of All-Star blues presented by Cadillac Zack at Maui Sugar Mill. “This is a great place to play and the fans are super.”

Dug Pinnick fronts for Lance Lopez; Kenny Aronoff on the kit - Photo by Donna Balancia

Dug Pinnick fronts for Lance Lopez; Kenny Aronoff on the kit, Fabrizio Grossi on bass – Photo by Donna Balancia

Lance Lopez Influenced by Johnny Winter

It doesn’t take much to be a super fan when the guitarist who’s performing is one of the hottest blues musicians around.  Lance, who recently released the hot album Lance Lopez Live in NYC, was mentored by Johnny Winter and it shows.

“It touches me to mention Johnny,” Lance said during a conversation about the legendary Johnny, who passed away two years ago at age 70.

Read the California Rocker interview with JOHNNY WINTER

One performance, and it’s easy to tell that Lance is one of the most talented young blues guitarists around. Period.  At the Maui Sugar Mill he brought on some of the most prolific musician pals, including Kenny Aronoff and Guitar Shorty. Dug Pinnick of King’s X also made a special appearance, fronting for Lance.

Lance Lopez and his all-stars - Photo by Donna Balancia

Lance Lopez and his all-stars – Photo by Donna Balancia

Supersonic Band

Lance has a band called Supersonic Blues Machine and Maui Sugar Mill patrons got a taste of what the band’s all about as Aronoff took his spot behind the kit and Fabrizio Grossi played bass. The band debuts album West Of Flushing, South Of Frisco featuring Billy F. Gibbons (ZZ Top), Warren Haynes (Allman Bros./Gov’t Mule), Robben Ford, Walter Trout, Chris Duarte and  Eric Gales

Lance’ latest work is the hot album called Lance Lopez Live in NYC that rips. Check out his website and the photo gallery below.


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