City of the Sun: “If you came here for a chill acoustic show, this ain’t it” – The Cornerstone in Berkeley (Nov 7, 2017)

Written by Erica Andreozzi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SO STOKED to have met the TREMENDOUSLY TALENTED TRIO (John Pita, Avi Snow, Zach Para) that is City of the Sun after their MIND-NUMBING SHOW at the Cornerstone Brewery in Berkeley.  I may have been tired and jet-lagged from Iceland Airwaves music festival (for which I only just returned the day before), but that surely did NOT keep me from SEEING THE SUN, City of the Sun. This EXPLOSIVE, GENRE-BENDING band blends post-rock and flamenco style guitar with unique percussion (learned in Peru) to create soundscapes that SWEEP YOU TO THE SKY. I first discovered City of the Sun at BottleRock Napa back in May and remember my knees getting weak (yes, THAT GOOD) as I ran to the stage half-way into their first SONG. They reminded me a bit of both Explosions in the Sky and Rodrigo y Gabriela, two of my ALL TIME FAVORITE bands (but with very different styles). They also had a bit of a Vancouver Sleep Clinic vibe, which (oddly enough), they told me they met a few months back at a music festival in Vegas and considered Tim Bettinsons‘ vocals a great fit for their music.  🙂

Having honed their craft as buskers in NYC, their stage presence was pretty phenomenal for a band new to the festival circuit, and you could tell they were thirsty for a rowdy crowd. It’s pretty cool that they wrote a song (‘You and I… And New York‘) about the city that provided much of their influence and inspiration, as well as a platform to play to a world full of strangers. NYC pedestrians are def a tough crowd!

I smiled SO FREAKING WIDE when John Pita (lead guitar) stuck his head over the crowd and shouted “LET ME SEE ALL YOUR FUCKING EYES!” Haha. YAAAAAS. You better believe I took that command to heart and waved my big-eyed puppet face his way the entire set. Whelp, he must have liked the puppet participation, cause during the encore (‘Everything‘), he launched toward me at 2 min in and yelled “HEY!” as if to raise the roof of the joint! That song is EVERYTHING I could ever want and need! So FREAKING SICK; a true TIMELESS, UNIVERSAL TRACK that will have EVERYONE and EVERYTHING moving their bodies in ways they never knew how! It’s only a matter of time before these guys shine their vibrant tunes ‘To the Sun and All the Cites In Between.’ (name of their debut album).

Another standout track (but let’s get real they are all amazing) is ‘Explosions.’ (video below) If this song does not make you FEEL EXPLOSIONS all over, I am concerned for you. It’s seriously one of the most beautiful instrumental tracks I’ve heard in a long, long time. ‘Brothers‘ (video below) is another track that has my heart, for when is hits, I simply “feel no pain” (and I’m pretty sure Bob Marley would agree). It’s probably not a coincidence then that they kick off their album with this one. The build-up is so damn gorgeous. What a slayer.

Lucky for us they happened to perform two amazing covers: (1) Santana‘s ‘Jingo‘ and (2) The xx‘s ‘Intro.’ WHAT A TREAT to hear City of the Sun brand this XX masterpiece with heir own unique flamenco guitar/post-rock signature. SOOOOOO GOOOOOOOD.

They also treated us to a new song called ‘Firefly‘ (which def flew right into my heart and lit it up) as well as an unreleased song with no title (video below).

I will never forget John Pita’s last words to the crowd: “If you can here for a chill acoustic show, this ain’t it.”  DAMN STRAIGHT. You came for something that words simply cannot describe. You just gotta show up and see for yourself. ❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Videos from their set at BottleRock Napa:

 

 

 

 

Mogwai: “Music is so powerful that it’s quite beyond my control…and when I’m in the grips of it I don’t feel pleasure and I don’t feel pain.”

Mogwai– KOKO, London

(July 29, 2014)

I had always heard that Mogwai was an incredibly SOLID BAND and one of Scotland’s FINEST, but for some reason, I let them slip under my radar (which is pretty surprising considering my hearty appetite for Scottish bands: Frightened Rabbit, The Twilight Sad, Admiral Fallow, Three Blind Wolves, Washington Irving, We Were Promised Jetpacks, RM Hubbert, Fatherson, Bwani Junction, CHVRCHES). I remember I was going to see Mogwai at Sasquatch music festival back in May 2012, but they cancelled last minute due to visa/travel issues. Looking back, I can’t even IMAGINE hearing/watching their ethereal music emanate over the Gorge’s siiiiiiiiick celestial skyline. MY GOD. Seeing them and Explosions in the Sky on one weekend might have shattered my brain to bits, and maybe it was for the best…NOT. If it wasn’t for The Twilight Sad (one of my favorite Scottish bands) announcing a benefit concert with them to honor the loss of Julia Brightly, I might not have traveled down MogWAY (thankfully I did). The benefit was the idea of Stuart Braithwaite from Mogwai and Daveid Phillips from KOKO, and the message they posted on their ticket page was:

“On Saturday 3rd May, ​we were devastated to learn of the passing of our beautiful friend Julia Brightly who lost her struggle to sudden illness (cancer). To say all of us were in shock is a huge understatement.  Anyone who knew her from the days of the Mute Drivers to any artists she did sound for, from Mogwai, Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, Caribou to Slint and her friends & family will all agree, she was one of the bravest and most talented people we were lucky enough to call a friend. We all miss her dearly, and although sadly departed she will never be forgotten. In her honour we are staging a benefit to donate all the proceeds to one of Julia’s favourite charities, Gendered Intelligence – something very close to Julia’s heart…All proceeds from the concert will be donated to GenderedIntelligence.co.uk.” SUCH an amazing idea and generous offer by both bands, and I’m so glad I was able to be a part of it.

After a brilliant set by The Twilight Sad (they keep getting better and better every time I see them), I anxiously anticipated this “post-rock instrumental band” that I had been hearing alot about. I recall meeting a guy at The Twilight Sad’s Bandstand Busking event (June 21) telling me that Mogwai was his FAVORTE BAND OF ALL TIME and that he’s seen them 11 TIMES NOW (including traveling to Primavera Sound Music festival every year they’ve played). Well, let me tell you…I can TOTALLY see WHY he’s seen them that insane amount of times, and whey he’s harnessed an addiction for their hypnotic concoction of music. I am STILL LEVITATING from Tuesday night’s performance at KOKO, and my EYES HURT (literally, I’ve had sore eyes since) from how long I’d kept them WIDE-EYED (buggin out!) during the entire set. I was lucky enough to soak up all the magic from the very front, and might just have collapsed if the railing was not there. Serious adrenaline. Serious numbing. Serious loss of motor control.

It’s hard to describe the beauty of the compositions that Mogwai create– their music steal snippets of magic from genres like shoegazing, math rock, art rock and occasionally instrumental metal. It was once stated in an interview that “the band do not like the categorisation of post-rock” because they believe it “over-analyzes everything.” I definitely agree, and many times I’ve found that the most beautiful things in life are often the hardest (and sometimes impossible) to describe. What I CAN SAY it is seems to me like symphonic music made with rock instruments, similar to Explosions in the Sky, but with alot more distorted guitar (which I LOVE). I was lucky enough to see Explosions in the Sky both at Sasquatch music festival (2012) and at the Palace of Fine Arts theater (sick, I know). More recently, I’ve seen 65daysofstatic and sleepmakeswaves, two other bands who I can draw some parallels to Mogwai.

I was so BLOWN AWAY by how adroit and technically-sound all of Mogwai‘s band members were, and how flawlessly they would exchange instruments like they were PLAYING A GAME OF CATCH.  In the absence of lyrics, it’s obvious they all communicate through their unique instrumental dialogue: raging riffs, piercing percussion, tantalizing trill, disturbing distortion, bellowing base…(You get the picture). Having formed in 1995, Mogwai (…MogWAY…MogWOW) has craft their craft into the music scene for nearly two decades now, and their talented cast includes: Stuart Braithwaite (guitar, vocals), John Cummings (guitar, vocals), Barry Burns (guitar, piano, synthesizer, vocals), Dominic Aitchison (bass guitar), and Martin Bulloch (drums). The spot I chose to stand (front left facing the stage) just happened to be directly across from John Cummings, who is one to stand the farthest out on stage (and I’m not complaining). BUT, the COOLEST THING about this band is that there IS NO FRONTMAN. They ALL alternate in taking “center-stage,” and it’s not like all the focus is can be on the singer (cause they don’t have one!). I love this concept.

The entire set was MIND-BLOWING (did I mention that already?), but the first song to strike a chord in me was White Noise, (see video below) off their 2011 album, ‘Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will.’ I loved being right in front of John Cumming’s guitar greatness, especially for this song, where you can’t help but sink into the mellowing monotony of his undulating riff. You then find yourself sinking deeper into this wave at 2 min in, when Stuart layers on an additional guitar riffs that stagger John’s in all the right places. I wish all WHITE NOISE sounded THIS GOOD. But, we must be honest with ourselves…this “noise” is “in fact the brilliant music of a genius.” It’s fusion of complex sound is guaranteed to stimulate a level of curiosity that is beyond our control.

I also recall the 5th SONG being one of my FAVORITES of the night, and I’m a bit upset I didn’t get it on video. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but I found out later (from that guy I met who’s seen them 11 times) that this 5th song is called Christmas Steps, and that it’s one they HARDLY EVER play live. Well then…I must have a pretty DAMN GOOD FILTER, cause I put this on the top of my list without ever haven’t listened to their albums (although now that’s definitely changed now). I just remember gentle guitar melody in the beginning suddenly become devoured but a BABBLING BASELINE at about 4 min in, and the clashing contrast was just freaking phenomenal. The plucking of the base strings in that one was like something I’d never seen before. BRUTAL ATTACK. (So good).

Nearly right after Christmas Steps was Autorock, the piano powerhouse off Mogwai’s 2006 album, ‘Mr Beast.’ The piano riff starts out soft (well, For Mogwai’s standards), and slowly builds volume and intensity throughout, keeping us VERY MUCH on our TIPTOES the entire time. Barry Burns banging on those keys was definitely a “MR BEAST” in this one. xx

Then came Remurdered, a popular gem off Mogwai’s newest album, ‘Rave Tapes’ (released October 2013). This album, by the way, entered the UK album charts at #10 and as of April 2014 has been the best selling UK album released in 2014 in terms of vinyl sales. WELL DESERVED. I currently can’t get enough of Remurdered, and it’s def going to be the title track of my next playlist.

Immediately following this one was Helicon 1, one of Mogwai’s best from their debut album, ‘Ten Rapid.’ I knew this one was gonna be SOMETHING SPECIAL when Stuart took a seat. It reminds me so much of an Explosions in the Sky song, but more distorted guitar (as I mentioned before). YAAAAAAAS. Grip me with that kinda distortion any day. A flood of adrenaline at ~4 min in, and everything becomes numb. xxx

With only two more songs left, my brain could NOT EVEN HANDLE all of the stimulation/euphoria I was experiencing. My eyes were bugging out of my head and tearing (thank gosh cause I’m sure they would have dried out), and I was left speechless. SPEECHLESS (and anyone who knows me knows that I ALWAYS have something to say!)…It was so cool to later share my REVELATION with the girls standing and me, including someone I had met previously at a Twilight Sad gig (see our huge smiles below). Then, I later saw that Mogwai music buddy (who had seen Mogwai 11 times) on the tube that night and basically let our ENTIRE TRAIN CART know how I felt about the life-changing gig. (I tried to subdue my squeal and number of “holy shit”‘s…)

Since that gig (see set-list below), I have downloaded all Mogwai albums and been listening non-stop. This new discovery truly came at an ideal time, and with an insane amount of scientific data to soon tie up, their music offers the perfect mindscape. I was all excited to analyze my 100+ brain images yesterday, knowing that I had this MogWOW feast to dig into. Just like they state in their Postpunk song, “Music is so powerful that it’s quite beyond my control…and when I’m in the grips of it I don’t feel pleasure and I don’t feel pain, either physically or emotionally…when you just couldn’t feel anything, and you didn’t want to either.”  YES….I know EXACTLY what you mean. And although you might not be conscious of how Mogwai’s music is making you feel WHILE listening, you later realize that it’s seeped into your subconsious will all sorts of healing powers.

I’m on such a Mogwai kick right now that I’m vacilating between the decision of seeing them (or not) at Richmond Park in Glasgow as part of East End Social’s ‘Last Big Weekend.’ Not only will it be one of their last announced gigs of the year, BUT, it will be IN THEIR HOMETOWN. I can’t EVEN IMAGINE that musical “MogWOW” madness…. (I’m most likely GONNA GO)  🙂

VIDEOS:

Helicon 1:

Autorock:

White Noise:

PICTURES:

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