Spoek Mathambo at the Echoplex (Hells Yeah!)

Spoek Mathambo at the Echoplex, LA

“Ek sê LA, I’m Spoek Mathambo.”  Nthato “Spoek Mathambo” Mokgata wasn’t exactly addressing a lot of LA, but the fifty something strong crowd was sure happy to see him. Emerging from the dark of the Echoplex, people clamored to the front not only to get as close as they could and take iPhone photos but also to show him that they were each jamming the hardest. His dubstep frequency basses and kwaito type beats are extremely difficult to not move along to – try saying otherwise to the bald guy whose right arm was the starring limb in his own dance moves or the older lady with the spiked up mom hair cut jumping around like the best of them.

Spoek Mathambo is enthusiastic as hell with a colorful scarf sometimes protecting his face from his own awesomeness. He jumped and gyrated and rapped and sang in a way that can only be described as Jozi ­– ­Johannesburg type attitude and style and moves that honestly left me feeling kind of homesick.

With him on stage was super groovy guitar licking (not literally but his playing was sharp like a tongue) electric guitarist and Pegasus Warning on a red, glittery drumkit stage left. Pegasus Warning opened the night with his own pop-y electronica that was a little bit of Phats & Small and a little bit Sam Sparro but ultimately let down by a drummer who I later found out was a stand in which makes it sort of OK. Kind of unexpected though was Gothic Tropic: super fun with soaring, psychedelic guitar played by flame – headed lead singer, Cecilia Della Peruti, and the cutest, fiercest drum faces you’ve seen this side of anywhere pulled by Liv Marisco (who’s played with Cold War Kids and Hot Hot Heat and seriously knows how to bang a drum). The mustached bassist, Daniel Denton, provided a thick rope of bassy stability in the midst of these two super-hot rock chicks and together put on a legitimate rock show complete with the big bang of a finish.

Gothic Tropic at the Echoplex, LA

After the World Cup I didn’t think I wanted to hear the word ‘ayoba’ again (and ask any South African and they will quickly concur) but it did bring a little joy hearing Spoek Mathambo elicit the word from a couple dozen unknowing Americans. “We love you!” the darkness shouted to the stage and Spoek responded “I love you equally.” And when it was over he didn’t seem quite ready to leave and honestly, I don’t think the crowd was quite ready to let him.

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Song of the Day: Oasis ‘Champagne Supernova’

First of all, this is why I love radio — I was listening to KCRW just now and this song just came on making me pause for a second. There is nothing nicer than accidentally hearing a song that you have in your archives that you haven’t given ear to in a while and then find yourself instantly transported to some other time and place. So this one is for old time’s sake — for the memory in song.

Hearing this oldie from the album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory reminds me of an afternoon beach drive with my friends one September holiday. Six of us were piled into my little car, winding down the green hills of Kenton to get to the beach. Oasis was playing softly and we were enjoying the serene rolling along even though we were definitely lost trying to go beachwards. The kind of grey sky and our misdirection did nothing to our easy, holiday moods and the seven stretching minutes of ‘Champagne Supernova’ made everything more beautiful.

“Where were you while we were getting high?” Liam Ghallager asks. Probably in Kenton.

From my archives: We finally made it to he beach in Kenton, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Yay! for Passion Pit’s ‘Gossamer’

There is nothing like the sophomore album to honestly separate the proverbial men from the boys (music wise) – it has to show growth and ‘taking it to the next level’ but also still have the things that we loved from the debut. Three second albums I have been waiting for are from Passion Pit, The xx and La Roux. I’ve literally been chomping at the bit and luckily, it seems that by the end of this year my sophomore dreams may come true (I’m not entirely 100% on La Roux but there has been news). The xx today released the first track, ‘Angels’ from their second album and oh yay! NPR is streaming Passion Pit’s Gossamer on ‘All Songs Considered’.

I loved Manners with its shrill, speeded-up-recording sounds of little children and on Gossamer, those kids have grown up, their voices have deepened, life has happened and they have kept making cool, dance-y indie music.  There are still those colorful synths riding on those sweet bubbles of ‘aaahs’ that float throughout tracks, but it’s all just matured.  Like the very soulful kind of r’n’b-ish ‘Constant Conversation’ that could so easily have smooth rap on the remix (Dear Passion Pit, I’m just saying) and the quite fun ‘Carried Away’.

The album does get quite emo towards the end, like the pessimistic ‘Love is Greed’, though it is all still quite sonically interesting and perhaps, were I in that (post-break-up) state of mind, I could see myself jam/crying to it at some point. But really, I would like to high-five frontman Michael Angelakos (who just announced that the band has had to cancel July tour dates due to mental health issues) for a pretty darn solid sophomore effort.  This is why the follow up LP excites me – getting to hear an artist go in the musical direction that’s a sweet reminder of that moment of love at first album.

Idols Jumping the Shark?

If ever there was a sign that American Idol was teetering on its last legs, Katy Perry as a judge would be it. I have absolutely nothing against the candy-colored California popstress and have no reason to question her amateur judging abilities – it just seems a little clutching at straws-y for American Idol to start looking in her direction as the next Simon/Paula(most likely)/Randy/Steven/Jennifer/Adam (for as long as that rumor lasted).

The show is on what, its 127th season now and the title of American Idol is about as meaningful as say, that of the current Miss World. It’s been feeling a little stale and really, the best parts were the auditions and Simon Cowell being freezingly honest and then being really nice (and now you can watch him do that on X-Factor). Basically, does anyone worth asking even still watch American Idol?

Though she has smartly declined the offers to judge because of the “commitment”, if she we were to help find and mold America’s next big superstar, would she be as entertaining as the William Hungs of the world?  My experience of Ms Perry outside of ‘I Kissed a Girl’ and ‘Firework’ (a song I secretly, secretly don’t hate) was her in an SNL skit a couple of years ago. I decided then that I didn’t mind her and actually don’t think she would be revolting to watch regularly on TV. Her walking away from judging makes me like her more because she’s obviously polite and not dumb.

Ultimately – and this is the most important – it’s just because if you’re going to be a judge for a singing competition, you should really, really know what you’re talking about. And no offence but I just don’t feel like Katy Perry would. Idol was legit back in its day because the judges were trustworthy professionals. Now it’s more like they’ll take anyone who America can look at for the 13 weeks or whatever, and for that, if you had to pick someone, Katy Perry wouldn’t be a bad choice.

Remix of the Day: How Come You Never Go There?

One of my current life regrets is not seeing Feist when I had the chance at Bonnaroo – granted it was for an all-day wait for a prime Radiohead viewing location so it wasn’t a compete fail, but still, I just think that she would be very cool to see live.

So in the meantime (because I will catch her at some point) I’ve kind of been binging on her music and enjoying this, the Remix of the Day, ‘How Come You Never Go There (Beck Remix)’ from her 2011 album Metals. Brass instruments are always, always a good add and they are the call to attention at the beginning of the track, and then used like little bits of italics to emphasise Feist’s point.

There’s cheeky, shoulder shaking beats and light flutters of piano that ups the ante – coloring in the original and filling it out and that is exactly what a good remix should do.

Andre for Jimi!

Here’s something I don’t get.  Experience Hendrix LLC, which is in charge of the Jimi Hendrix catalogue, is denying any rights of the guitarist’s works to a biopic starring Outkast’s Andre Benjamin/3000 called All Is By My Side. That’s fair, I guess, but I also don’t see why not. If I was Janie (Hendrix’s sister who runs the company) I too would be finicky about who I allowed to play and portray my legendary brother’s music but my argument is that it’s Andre 3000!

FIRST: He has that kind of beautiful -for – a – man’s face like Jimi Hendrix had and as a fellow afro wearer, I believe that he could pull it all off rather beautifully. Andre 3000 in the ‘Hey Ya’ video alone is reason why he could play a famous somebody in the sixties that had the wholesome girls wetting themselves screaming.

SECOND: I think he can act. The only role I remember him in (and by remember I mean I know he was in it and didn’t gross me out as an actor) was Four Brothers with Mark Wahlberg and Tyrese Gibson. There’s just something there that makes me feel like he could pull of being Jimi and it wouldn’t be at all offensive.

THIRD: He’s actually a musician. So that’s already cool because they could have had someone who didn’t even know how to hold a guitar to try and pretend to be the greatest great. Refer back to the ‘Hey Ya’ video and watch him strum convincingly on that guitar but put that together with his getting into an acting role and it sounds to me like you could have a Jimi Hendrix type.

Rollingstone.com quotes a representative of the Hendrix estate as saying “They want to make a Jimi Hendrix movie without Jimi Hendrix music. It would be like making a movie about Lincoln without being able to use the Gettysburg Address.”
And they’re right. It doesn’t make sense especially because, and maybe this is just me, I don’t see Mr 3000 taking a role like this very lightly – so what’s the problem? If they came out with reasons why not and they were valid I would respectfully accept them but right now, to me, it just seems a little hater-ish and absurd.

P.s. For the movie the focus is on Hendrix circa ’66 and ’67 so Andre 3000’s recording covers like the Beatles’ “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band” and some Muddy Waters and Cream jams

P.p.s. Below is my favorite Jimi Hendrix song.