Grateful to have discovered the massively talented singer/songwriter Eric Long at High Sierra music fest this year, and even more grateful to have caught him at an intimate Sofar Sounds show in SF earlier this month. I found myself instantly memorized by his rich, raspy vocals and his blending of folk, Americana, and blues. He stands out as one of the few SF Bay area musicians playing a finger-style bottleneck slide guitar that draws strong similarities to Keb Mo, Taj Mahal, and Charlie Parr. SUCH A TREAT. Songs like ‘Dance with Me,’ ‘Hey Now Baby,’ ‘Leaving,’ ‘Maraschino Cherries,’ and ‘Pennsylvania on My Mind’ had me hooked hard, and I found myself playing his 2018 album, ‘A Long Way From Home,’ during my entire 10 hr drive back to LA the next day. ‘Pennsylvania on My Mind’ especially hit home, considering that I too moved from Pennsylvania to California over a decade ago and had to endure the mixed emotions of uprooting to a new coast in search of new adventure and new possibilities. ‘Hey Now Baby’ is also a beautiful track for the lovers, with lyrics that certainly melt the heart: “Hey now baby.. while your dreaming gets my heartbeat, you are stealing my breath away.” If I had to choose a favorite, it would probably be ‘Maraschino Cherries,’ for the melody and beautiful violin, as well as the pensive lyrics that I think we can all relate too: “Still don’t know where I’m going, guess it’s time to move along, don’t know where I’m headed there’s just no where to know. It’s so easy to say, little harder to do, sometimes it’s the sweetest things that you can’t hold on to …Take alot of man to know what he’s after, a better man let it walk away.. What’s a good man to do without a women by his side… Sometimes it’s the sweetest things that fade away before too long. So hold onto the best, and let go of the rest, cause in the morning, them sweet things might be gone.” Eric Long’s music a sweet thing that I certainly want to hold on to, and I hope he will be playing for a long, long time. ❤
The Oh Hello’s surely HAD US AT HELLO last night at their headline show in San Francisco back in March. This high-octane, Texas-bred folk-rock octet delivered an explosive, high-energy performance that SHOOK The Fillmore like a level five earthquake. Their energy was BEYOND INFECTIOUS, and watching ALL 8 members go APE SHIT on their instruments just had you instantly flailing your arms and stomping your feet to join the madness. I remember from first seeing The Oh Hellos back in 2015 at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and being BLOWN AWAY by extra-expressive fiddle, banjo, and bass players who were jumping around stage like pogo sticks while still managing to shred their strings in mid-air. This band first stole my heart back in 2010 when I came across ‘Hello My Old Heart,’ a song that would pretty much revived my pulse an had me staying calm during very, VERY trying times: “Nothing lasts forever Some things aren’t meant to be But you’ll never find the answer Until you set your old heart free.” Other songs like The Truth is a Cave, Eat You Alive, I Was Wrong, I Have Made Mistakes, Trees, Constellations, Grow, and On the Mountain Tall, Eurus, and Hieroglyphs, have also hammered on my heartstrings and instilled timeless messages that I continue to revisit (especially this one): “The sun, it does not cause us, The sun, it does not cause us to grow… It is the rain that will strengthen, The rain that will strengthen your soul. It will make you whole.” I was so happy they played this song (‘I Have Made Mistakes’) last night, cause Tyler and Maggie Heaths’ brother-sister harmonies absolutely SLAY, and you will be lathered in chills by the end. I would have LOVED if they played ‘Hello My Old Heart,’ but their set was chock full of string-saturated songs (YES) from their new EP, Eurus (a nice EP follow up to ‘Notos‘ released just last year), and this band would not have had time unless they played for 3 hours straight (an actually request by someone in the audience to which Tyler facetiously said would “lead to their demise”). Playing for 3 hours at their pace and their intensity would definitely require serious endurance, but I have no doubt they will get there someday. Even the bango player/percussionist had enough energy at the end to leap onto a high-rise speaker and bang on his drum from 6 feet in the air. EPIC ENCORE. You had me at hello, and you had me at goodbye. COME BACK SOON! ❤
‘Climbing Trees‘ is one of my FAVORITES from this incredible folk rock ensemble. Coincidentally enough, yesterday (the first time I saw this song played live) was the birthday of my good friend Hillary who ALSO loves this song and loved CLIMBING TREES and other things (mountain, walls, etc.) Wish she could have been here with me!
LOVE THIS ONE. This timeless track (‘I Have Made Mistakes‘) will forever hammer on my heartstrings with lyrics that bring light even in the darkest of times. “I have made mistakes, I continue to make them. The promises I’ve made, I continue to break them. And all the doubts I’ve faced, I continue to face them. But nothing is a waste if you learn from it… And the sun, it does not cause us to grow It is the rain that will strengthen your soul (OMG YAAAS)… And it will make you whole.” TRUTH BE TOLD. ❤
I love the honestly and life wake-up-call element to this one. SO FREAKING GOOD: “I’ve seen the true face of the things you call life The voice of the siren that holds your desires But death, she is cunning, and clever as hell And she’ll eat you alive … Oh, she’ll EAT YOU ALIVE.” YAAAAAAS>
The lyrics to this ‘This Will End’ just absolutely SLAY. Wow. So heart-wrenchingly beautiful:
“Heartache, I’ve heard, is part of life ❤ And I have broken more and more … But I can hope how this will end With every line a comedy That we could learn to love without demand (if only it were so easy) But unreserved honesty”
That time you meet one of the most talented folk/Americana artists out there (Langhorne Slim) after his show at the Swedish American Hall (as part of NoisePop festival) and nerd out with him about (1) effects of music on the brain (why music holds such strong memory), (2) playing music to old people (he loved playing to his Grandpa Sid and I encouraged him to play at nursing homes), (3) our perception of time (why time seems longer when we are in unfamiliar environments like when we are kids and everything is new), and (4) Langhorne (the town where he grew up but the one that I always remember my soccer team never being able to beat!). Never did I think I would have such a heart-to-heart with someone whose music had my heart when I first I heard it. Langhorne Slim is a true wordsmith whose way with words makes you feel so warm and welcome in his company, as if he was a long-lost friend that you have known for years. I couldn’t stop smiling when he was spouting off his deluge of stories (he’s certainly got plenty!) and providing context for how his various songs came to be (some in a dream). Aside from being one of the kindest, funniest, most humble human beings I know, he is one of the most AUTHENTIC, and you will never doubt that every word, whisper, belt, chuckle, howl coming out of his mouth is HIS OWN. He is not like the rest — just like Kurt Cobain (“I’m not like them / But I can pretend”) whose birthday he honored on Monday — but he does not pretend. You can certainly count on Slim NOT being slim with his self, his FULL SELF. ❤
Some of my favorite songs that he played tonight: Changes (“I’m going through changes, rattlin’ cages, I’m going through changes now”), Song For Sid (“Tell me where do all the good ones go, when they’re gone”), Back to the Wild, Coffee Cup, Again tonight and Be Set Free. It was also awesome to hear him cover Leonard Cohen‘s Tonight Will Be Fine” and Jackie DeShannon’s What the World Needs Now. Just also wish he played The Way We Move!
Lucy Rosejokingly said, “never bring an opener on tour who is better than you.” She was of course referring to Charlie Cunningham, the super-talented British singer/songwriter who was definitely more of a “show stopper” than “show starter” and who had you stopped in your tracks with HIS stunning tracks. Apart from his exquisite guitar work and super-soothing vocals, his incredibly pensive, poetic, introspective lyrics will seep into your soul and etch some long-lasting “Lines” (coincidentally the title of his debut album). His music reminds me a bit of Nick Mulvey and Jose Gonzalez, which is funny cause apparently Jose Gonzalez is one of the main musicians that Charlie’s record label curator (Magus) works with. Keen hunch! I l also hear a bit of Spanish guitar influence, which makes sense considering that Charlie traveled to Spain to create the music he wanted to play, free from the prerequisite of “having to read music” first. Charlie also learned to play piano before he learned guitar (at age 14), and I hope he brings both with him on his next US tour… which BETTER BE a HEADLINE one. His 45 min opening set at Swedish American Hall was way too short for satiation, and there was a unanimous request from the entire audience for him to keep playing after his last song, ‘Minimum‘ (video below), my FAVORITE (aside from ‘An Opening‘) and one that really hits home:
“How do I walk this earth? So much work at first, it goes How should I walk this earth? So much worse the further, the further you go
Go, take off a load Letting your wings unfold And keeping everything down to a minimum Everything a bit though Tell’em what you know but all that you know, though The truth be told you need it more than you thought But you’re managing, that’s how you evened out, out
Keep on walking that line, the fine line Between a wrong and a right You get yours, I’m gonna get mine Is that what you signed for? They’re feeding you lines To keep you on their side It works every time
What you got to live for Now you got the whole of the world at your feet And how much more can you pass yourself round?
What you got to live for now You got the whole of the world at your feet But you’re still shaking? You need to make up some ground
Go, take off a load Letting your wings unfold And keeping everything down to a minimum Everything a bit though Tell’em what you know but all that you know, though The truth be told you need it more than you thought But you’re managing, that’s how you evened out, out” ❤
Mad props to Lucy for bringing him on tour with her! It was also nice that she invited him up on stage to help sing a few of her songs. I was so bummed when I missed seeing him open for Low Roarat The Chapel last year cause of being away for a work trip. This was certainly a super sweet an unexpected treat!<3 🙂
Mammut is by far one of my FAVORITE ICELANDIC BANDS and have been ever since I first discovered them at the Great Escape music festival in Brighton back in 2013. I am somewhat OBSESSED with their newest album, Kinder Versions, especially after getting hooked on ‘Kinder Version‘ (“I’m bringing all my stories back, erasing all the kinder versions of my past”) ❤ ❤ ❤ , ‘The Moon Will Never Turn On Me‘ (“I want to make this right but I don’t feel right, Cause sometimes life tries to eat us up… but then I take a look around and see how dust turns into gold and I embrace this world, embrace the world, embrace the world and I love it all”), and ‘Pray for Air‘ (“Taste the dirt of the water… you know you’ll never be pure.”) *Note: Air in water unfortunately would mean less blue ice when that water freezes!* Not only did National radio and television RÚV chose Kinder Version as the best album of 2017, but it was The Line of Best Fit selected it at #18 for 2017. Mammut was also awarded performers of the year (Krókurinn 2017, Menningarverðlaun Rásar) and selected to be on KEXP‘s top 10 list of the YEAR. They definitely had a REMARKABLE 2017! Can’t wait to post my review on them! I got some epic videos of their first set of Airwaves in Reykjavik, especially during ‘Kinder Version‘ when Kata pointed to me about a 1 min in and asked “Have you been excited?” with a gaze that stared into the depths of MY SOUL. If I wasn’t excited before, I certainly was after.:)
City of the Sun was one of my TOP FIVE PICKS OF 2017, and their EXPLOSIVE, GENRE-BENDING sound (post-rock blended with and flamenco guitar and unique percussion) will SWEEP YOU TO THE SKY. 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 debut album).
(In order to access the playlist, you have to press the 3 vertical dots in the upper right hand corner and select download. You can then cancel the download immediately and still have access to the playlist. If you are still having uses, let me know and I can send you a link to download the tracks!)
So Low- Geographer
Love Yourself- The Boxer Rebellion
Chateau- Angus & Julia Stone
Moon / Sun- Trevor Hall
Kinder Version- Mammut
Before The Hurting Lands.- Jaws Of Love.
I Don’t Believe In Us- Overcoats
Mountain To Move- Nick Mulvey
Make It Out Alive- Angus & Julia Stone
Chemistry- Kiriyama Family
Second Sun- City of the Sun
Right & Wrong- Caught a Ghost
Trying Not to Love You- Caroline Smith
Pray For Air- Mammut
Speak Of The Devil- Black Pistol Fire
Snow- Angus & Julia Stone
The Wires- Ben Sollee
Remembering- Nick Mulvey
Wander- Trevor Hall
Kai’s Song- Overcoats
Firefly- City of the Sun
Blind Spots- Omotrack
The Moon Will Never Turn On Me- Mammut
21st Century Heartbeat- Luke Sital-Singh
Magazine- Caroline Smith
Transform Your Game (We Remain)- Nick Mulvey
Light Years Away- Kiriyama Family
Fed All My Days- Mani Orrason
Baudelaire- Angus & Julia Stone
Torches- The Oh Hellos
Dark Night- Amber Coffman
Wake The Riot- Black Pistol Fire
Love Me Like I’m Gone.- Jaws Of Love.
I Can’t Quit- The Vaccines
Bloodstyle- Caroline Smith
Ekki Sleppa- Hórmónar
Sahara- Songhoy Blues
Time- City of the Sun
Overalls (Live)- Emily Scott Robinson
Imaginary Mountains- Omotrack
We Tried Love- Mammut
Mechanical Advantage- Ben Sollee
Hawaiian License Plates.- Jaws Of Love.
On the Mountain Tall- The Oh Hellos
Apart- Kiriyama Family
City Dream- Axel Flovent
Heart Attack- Tune-Yards
Nothing Stays The Same- Luke Sital-Singh
Up There- Trevor Hall
In Your Hands- Nick Mulvey
All To Myself- Amber Coffman (of Dirty Projectors)
Come Along- Cosmo Sheldrake
Where It Goes- 雞蛋蒸肉餅 GDJYB (Gai Dan Jane Yuk Bang)
SUCH A TREAT to have discovered the sweet, sassy, SUPER-TALENTED Southern singer/songwriter from NC (Emily Scott Robinson) who now lives on the road with her husband in their RV, writing and performing across the country and touring with bluegrass/grassroots powerhouses like Ben Sollee and the Kentucky Natives (Swedish American Hall). Equipped with an angelic voice and natural knack for storytelling, Emily gives us a glimpse into her wanderlust window, exposing us to the “traveling mercies” of life on the road and missing community and a home base. One of my favorite tracks from her set was ‘Better with Time,’ inspired by “the first place you live with someone you love” (which for her was a tiny one bedroom house in Colorado with a beautiful view). Another track that had my was a brand new one (finished only a few days ago) called ‘Ghost in Every Town.’ It was inspired by the monotony, desperation, and loneliness that she witnessed living for a short while in a small RV park in Oregon. The lyrics SLAY, and I could not help but get chills when she sang “The kinda desperate that forces you to kneel… The kinda howling you can only do alone.” WOW. But overall, it had to be ‘Overalls’ (her inaugural Patreon song) that stole the show. Written about her dear friend’s father who served in WWII and passed away this year, ‘Overalls‘ will touch your ❤️ and leave you in a puddle of tears/joy. It’s just so refreshing to hear stories veterans who were so grateful to be alive when they returned from war and who measured their wealth by their experiences and family/community (“I know I don’t have much to show, but I’m the richest man that I know”). I can’t help but smile to imagine this grateful fella who grasped every day as a gift and now looks back on his good long life with pride and appreciation: “So raise a glass to my good long life, don’t dress in black, don’t let me see you cry, I’m not afraid, I’m just headed home. It’s time to let me go.” Having released her debut album, “Magnolia Queen” just last year, Emily has started a Patreon page and will be releasing songs periodically while on the road. I sure hope her RV makes a very long pit stop in NorCal so I can see her again soon!
A bit numb standing next to one of the most INCREDIBLE CELLISTS and singer/songwriters (his vocals have the warmth of James Taylor and Paul Simoncombined) that I’ve EVER SEEN. Even though Ben Sollee is classically trained, he plays the cello in a very eccentric, electrifying way that carves a niche of his own. He ambitiously strings together elements of Celtic, folk, Americana, gypsy jazz, and African percussion to create a grassroots medley that is nothing but generic. This most recent reflection of this has been in his badass “bluegrass without borders” (what I like to call it) project with 4 friends on banjo, violin, bass, and drums that he calls “Ben Sollee and the Kentucky Natives.” Last night at the Swedish American Hall Ben and his buddies broke all boundaries of what is possible and had everyone’s jaws on the floor for most of the set. The coy call-and-response banter back and forth between the different strings had me laughing and howling all at once. You could get a sense of everyone’s personality just by watching them play, and it was obvious that this quintet is bound by more than just strings. I am just so amazed to watch friends doing watch they love and making the world a happier, more patient, more conscientious place because of it. The epic encore of Ben and the Kentucky Natives singing ‘Traveling Mercies‘ with Emily Scott Robinsonsure did leave me wanting more. Ben will cease to amaze me with his continued efforts to use music as a weapon against hate and injustice. It’s therefore not a surprise that he’s written songs called “It’s not impossible” and “A change is gonna come.” To Ben, anything can be done, even a tour across the states with a cello strapped to the back of a bicycle (yes, he did that back in 2012). You do not want to miss the chance to see him next time he rolls through town!
Ever since I first stumbled upon Tow’rs from a promotional sampler on Noisetrade, I DROPPED MY JAWS in disbelief. HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS BAND? Where are they hiding?! Well, turns out they are hiding in Flagstaff, a small town in Arizona that I (oddly enough) know quite well after spending a summer there in 2007 (internship with W.L. Gore & Associates). I felt an instant connection with them, and was incredulous over the fact that they came from a place I was so deeply fond of. I soon learned that the band was born out of husband and wife duo, Kyle and Gretta Miller, who had been playing music with their best friends — Emma Crislip, Kyle Keller, Kory Miller — for many years (six to be exact) before finally realizing that they needed to bring this music beyond their local Church scene and into the general public. Just like that, the foundation of Tow’rswas laid down- a foundation of folk roots, soothing strings, and happy harmonies that would build one of the BEST BREAKOUT indie/folk bands of 2015 (in my opinion). I guess it’s true when they say that BEST FRIENDS truly make the BEST MUSIC, and I was happy to find “a place at their table” last Saturday night. 🙂
“Through our music, we explore the questions that haunt us, the pain that marks us, and the hope that redefines everything for us. We invite you into the conversation, build with us, find your place at the table.” -Tow’rs
HUGE THANKS to Tow’rs for coming out west to captivate us with their live set, slaying us with songs like The Kitchenand Circles, both from their newest (and my most favorite) album,The Great Minimum. I really enjoyed meeting the beautiful people behind this beautiful music, and hope that they leave a bit of their heart in San Francisco and come back soon. When they do, I seriously hope they tour with one of my other new favorite folk artists, Zach Winters (who I think would be perfect compliment). For those fans of The Head and the Heart, Horse Feathers, Of Monsters and Men, Blind Pilot, The Oh Hellos, and Typhoon, you HAVE GOT to check them out.
Fresh off their win (‘Emerging Artist’) from the 2015 Viola Awards, Tow’rs released a new album (The Great Minimum) in June 2015. It follows up their well-received debut self-titled album from 2014.
(see below for videos and more detail from the show)
Tow’rs had me FREAKING OUT when they kicked off their set with my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE, The Kitchen. The captivating cello intro hooks you HARD and soon has you swaying with every stoke of the bow. Once it does, you can’t help but fall into a reverie imagining how this next verse would play out:
“You made me dance in the kitchen with you If I was the night then you were the moon Expectation is the currency of fools (LOVE) I spent it on you, I spent it on you.”
This one is another favorite from their collection, and I especially enjoy the plead of electric guitar that perfectly compliments the “pleeeeeease come home” plead throughout.
The beginning of this next one initially reminded me of an old Bombay Bicycle Club song (acoustic) but then came into its own when the perky percussion picked up the pace at the first chorus (“It’s not black or white but in between”).
This next one was major crowd-pleaser and obvious favorite from their debut album
Loved the staggering call-and-response vocals from husband and wife, Kyle and Gretta.
This next one is a definite favorite from their recent album, and I can’t help but belt out the chorus of “Just because we’re breathing doesn’t mean we are alive.” TRUTH BE TOLD. Turns out that Helm is also a favorite of Kyle and Gretta, for it was inspired by the birth of their first son (now almost 1 year old) and about the nervous anticipation that often accompanies such big life changes.
Was really impressed to learn the this one was written by the cellist, Emma, who I was lucky enough to flag down after the show. Cello players hold a very special place in my heart, for cello had come to be my favorite string instrument. I can’t quite pin down what about this instrument makes me melt, but it DOES. Props to Emma for hammering on my heartstrings all night. Also mad props to Kyle for alternating between electric guitar, harmonica, and trumpet throughout the set- a modest multi-instrumentalist who was as pleasant to chat with as he was to watch!
Loved this STUNNING version of Circles as their encore. This here is perfect proof that BEST FRIENDS really do make the BEST MUSIC. I was grinning EAR-TO-EAR as I watched them exchange smiles and laughs while they serenaded the crowd with their dreamy harmonies and soul-stroking lyrics: “Circles are the perfect shape…to describe the hearts of man.” Hands down my favorite part of the night. ❤