Monthly Archives: June 2015

Molotov @ The Rainbow Ballroom, Fresno CA 12/06/14

Molotov are in a nutshell, the Mexican version of Rage Against the Machine. Rap-rock with socio-politically inspired lyrics. Add risqué subject matter, twisted humor, vulgarity and satire, and you have an aggressive yet very entertaining hard rock band. So to be more accurate, this group is like RATM with a somewhat perverse and playful smattering of Primus and Frank Zappa added to the mix. A good example of their unique brand of humor is the title of the group’s debut album, “Donde Jugaran Las Ninas?,” (Where will the little girls play?) which is a pun on Mana’s breakthrough album, Donde Jugaran Los Ninos. Molotov added to the racy title by including even racier cover art, which depicts a young female, dressed in a school uniform, sitting in car with her underwear pulled below her knees. Yikes. More seriously, the group tackles sobering subjects like Immigration and social inequality. I’m by no means a fan, but they actually booked a Fresno date and I just had to experience this group live.

The audience was just as entertaining as the group, if not more so. The crowd was young, student aged, with fans up to their 30s as well. And they were animated as hell. It was a sweaty show, full of movement, jumping and moshing. There were mostly dudes in the audience and a sprinkling of chicas in the mix, most of which could have used some fashion advice from the wifey, but oh well, it’s a Molotov show, not a Pitbull show. This was an impressive turnout, it was cool to see such support for a group that’s mostly underground, even for the Rock En Espanol movement. Molotov have churned out gold records in Mexico and Spain, but the North American market outside of Los Angeles can be tricky to gauge. Fortunately there’s an audience here and a strong market for Spanish language rock.

The gig began around 10pm and there was no opener. Sound quality was very good. However I couldn’t understand what the hell Tito Fuentes was saying! To be clear, the vocals were understandable. But whenever Fuentes addressed the crowd, which was frequent, it was a muffled, warbled mess. All I could get was “bwahbwahbwahbwahchingasumadrebwahbwahbwah.” The band members blew me away with their ability to change instruments and take over lead vocal duties. Randy “El Gringo Loco” would step out from his drum kit to play guitar AND he does lead vocals on a few numbers. The other guys, Tito, Paco and Miky, would also switch it up, trading lead vocals, guitars, basses and even filling in on the drums while Randy played guitar. Very talented bunch of guys. I’m not the most familiar with Molotov’s materials. The group performed for close to two hours. Songs they performed included Frijolero, Gimme Tha Power, Noko, La Raza Pura es la Pura Raza, No Existe, Parasito, Crazy Chola Loca, Chinga Tu Madre (love that title), Mas Vale Cholo, and closing with Matate Tete and Puto.

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Enrique Iglesias & Pitbull @ Rabobank Arena, Bakersfield CA 02/12/15

I’m going somewhat out of order with this blog due to laziness, but who cares 🙂 Ok. I’m not ashamed to admit that I saw this gig and ENJOYED IT…A LOT. And funny enough, some weeks later, the lady that cut my hair gave me a cock-eyed look when I told her I saw Enrique and Pitbull in concert. Look, several things impressed me about Enrique’s performance. I had wrongly written him off as a Streisand. But latin heart throb status aside, he’s actually a great performer and entertainer. He effectively bridged the gap between audience and performer. He worked every part of the stage, including the extended wings and runway, giving each section of the audience a closer glimpse of him, making all the chicks (and some dudes) go wild. He even braved stepping down from the stage right platform into the loge section, standing on top of the barrier while the women clamored down to get a closer look and a chance to grab his ass or something. I’m amazed that none of the braver ones tried to molest him. From my vantage point, it was something else seeing that large cluster of women go buck-wild. Some held onto his legs and supported him, so he wouldn’t fall from the barrier. Others gazed up at him adoringly. Some shrieked and squealed, while others passionately sang along to every word, eyes clenched shut and arms raised outward, as if to embrace him. The fanatics were out in full force and Enrique encouraged the hysteria and fed off of it. Whoa…

There were several changes to the set compared to the shows completed during the fall 2014 leg. Most notably, Enrique opened the show, I think in order to more properly set the stage for Pitbull’s more relentless collection of uptempo songs. And to better compliment Pitbull, Enrique selected more upbeat tracks to round out his set. While a few of the signature ballads remained, the majority of the set comprised of the anthemic and uptempo new songs along with some of his classic dance material. It made for a great party atmosphere. The set was hopping, with a sprinkling of tender songs mixed in. And instead of bringing a girl onto the B-stage for a drink and a slow dance, he pulled up this vato who looked like an Enrique impersonator, complete with the stubble, red v-neck and green ball cap. He was drunk as hell and it was hard to make out what the hell he was saying, but he and Enrique knocked back some shots and led the crowd into a cover of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me,” sort of.

The connection with the audience continued as Enrique regularly addressed the audience in English and Spanish, thanking us emphatically for the support, and he reminisced about the late 90’s when he first performed in Bakersfield. He was personable with the crowd, no arrogance, no entitled prick-like attitude. Erica would later remark that he was truly touched by the energetic crowd and warm reception. In comparison, the LA crowd in October were half-asleep. It was like someone passed around a giant bottle of valium at the Staples Center show. It was reported that Enrique was visibly disappointed with the LA audience and shook his head and threw down his arms in frustration at times when the crowd wouldn’t respond. Here in Bakersfield, the adrenalized crowd actually looked like they were joyously having the times of their lives, unlike the boring LA bastards. What a great moment to witness first hand.

Selections included I’m a Freak, I Like How it Feels, Finally Found You, Bailamos, El Perdedor, Loco, Be With You, Escape, Tonight I’m Loving You, Bailando, I like it.

Pitbull followed after a surprisingly impressive set by Enrique. Pitbull’s set was electric – neon lit, blinking light, Vegas kind of electric. It was like an 80 minute DJ set: non stop and pulsing with energy and beats. While Enrique freely traveled the stage, Pitbull in comparison would take part in some of the dance routines and keep to center stage or periodically venture down the main runway. His dancers, 6 leggy beauties, were practically the center piece of the stage show. The stage show itself was effective but not too elaborate. Some cool backdrops and video sequences were used along with a good light show. This kind of stage production helped focus the attention on Pitbull and his pitgirls. Pitbull isn’t a crooner or that great of a vocalist by any means. However what he lacks in vocal ability he made up for in the performance department. Pitbull worked his ass off and he was quickly drenched in sweat. I give the man props for dressing to the 9’s and being physical up there under bright spot lights. He doesn’t shy away from participating in the stage show. He was very physical, making the set very performance-based. He would break in between songs and give props to the audience, graciously addressing the Latinos of the South Valley and giving special props to the area farmers, expressing “we all work hard, we all hustle,” relating to his personal story, negative to a positive, self-made success.

A wealth of material was performed, with many of the songs melting into other selections – why I say that it was very much like a DJ set. One criticism is that Pitbull performs only portions or interpolations of his songs. You get into a song and you’ll only hear 1 verse and 1 chorus, then bam, a transition occurs and the band is off and running into the next song without a rest. This makes for a nonstop string of songs, but if you wanted to hear the complete version you might be disappointed. Selections included Don’t stop the Party, International Love, Dance Again, Hey Baby (dropit to the floor), Get it Started, Vivir Mi Vida, Bon Bon, Back In Time, Fireball, Shake/Culo, Hotel Room Service, I Know You Want Me, Give Me Everything, Move Shake Drop, and Have Some Fun. The group also snuck in some covers, including sections of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Crazy Train,” making for some rockin’ changeups during the booty shaking set.

The strongest criticism I have is regarding Rabobank Arena’s lackluster security staff. My friend from work had second row, floor level seats close to the runway. She along with some family members tried to enjoy premium seating. However scores of uber excited paisas from several rows back regularly bum-rushed the first couple of rows, making for a shitty time for audience members who paid a lot of money for a better vantage point. These clusters of girls went unchecked, so some of the first and second row patrons had to handle the situation themselves by forcefully or verbally sending these girls back to their seats. Fights could have broken out. Whether it would have been enjoyable to watch cat fights at a concert is a separate discussion. But it certainly is very shitty and unprofessional for arena staff to allow this kind of situation to occur and escalate. And it was a frustrating distraction for the people with the awesome seats, the golden rows (including some older fans who didn’t have the means to correct the situation themselves). They didn’t get to enjoy the show like I did. Staff finally responded to the situation, but only after some minor melee incidents went down (“Wut tha fuuuuuck, you don’t hit a girrl!”)

This co-headlining tour was finally perfected. With Enrique modifying his set, he was better able to bridge his portion of the show to Pitbull’s, making for one stunning, non-stop party. The flow of the entire show was natural and the two artists complimented each other well, despite their differences in artistry and genres. It was astonishing how well this tour package worked. Great job Enrique and Pitbull, you’ve won my respect and gratitude and I’ll be a repeat customer. Thank you to the girls for letting me come along as their designated driver. Fun night and awesome show 🙂

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Sebastian Bach (The Voice of Skid Row) @ Strummer’s, Fresno CA 04/25/15

This was no Micky Mouse, half-assed gig for the black hole that is the Central Valley (sorry fellow valley peeps, I think I’m referring mainly to Porterville). THIS was a true rock show. The energy coming from Baz was relentless. The man was head banging so ferociously, I thought he was going to give himself whiplash or a concussion or something. He came to Fresno to kick our asses and melt our faces off. The steam and sweat was proof of that. Strummers was mostly full and the heat increased as the set continued. The audience was LOUD and rowdy at times. Baz stopped the second song due to a scuffle in the crowd. He gave the signal to kill the song and immediately confronted the two brawlers stage left. Baz called them out, shouting “if you came here to fight then GET THE FUCK OUT!!! GET THE FUCK OUT!!! And the crowd joined in on the chant, while Bobby Jarzombek pounded out a BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM on the floor tom, in time with “GET THE FUCK OUT!” Despite the fight and a couple other would be scuffles, the show was a positive, fun and exciting event. Baz was very personable with crowd. He was talkative, funny, and as candid as a musical celebrity can get. After the first couple numbers, Baz spoke to the crowd and reminisced about the last time he was in Fresno. He said “I can’t remember the last time I was in Fresno..why??? Because we were so fucked up!” Baz went on to say the last time he stopped in Fresno was a Skid Row support slot for Aerosmith. He asked “Who was at that Aerosmith show?” Half the crowd raised their hands. “That means there’s some old motherfuckers in here!”

The ceiling is low at Strummer’s. Early in the set, Baz twirled the mic a’la Roger Daltry, and it hit the overheard girders in the process. Baz winced for second, then regained the mic as well as his composure very quickly. The set was brief, but I have to give the man credit for showcasing quite a bit of Skid Row material. And only a couple songs were featured from the new solo album. I’m happy that Sebastian Bach hasn’t denied his history and let ego drive the set, filling it with mostly solo material. The audience footage found on youtube is not an accurate representation of the live show, those fan videos simply don’t do the group justice. No matter what kind of camera phone you have, you will always record shitty audio, I don’t see why people bother with holding up their phones, trying to film complete songs. From the footage I’ve seen, the vocals and instrumentation can sound weak at times with no definition. People have complained about pitchy, out of breath vocals. While Baz does take moments to catch his breath, the vocal performance was pretty damn good at the Fresno gig, and I only had 2 beers. He executed the highs and took me back to the original studio recordings, hair raising parts and all. I was bugging out, seeing him do those vocal runs and hitting the high parts. Audience response was very strong and Baz was feeding off of it. Quite a few Skid Row tracks were performed including “Slave to the Grind,” “Big Guns,” “The Threat,” “Youth Gone Wild,” “18 and Life,” “I Remember You,” “Monkey Business” and my favorite track, “In a Darkened Room.” The group teased us with a few bars of “Peace of Me” before stopping abruptly and easing into “18 and Life.” “Monkey Business” featured an ass-kicking partial cover of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer,” with Bobby laying down his drum parts just like Neil Peart, including the ‘cream your pants’ rapid drum fills during the breakdown. That part really got us going.

About the backing band, Kevin Chown is the current bassist for Baz’s solo group. He’s got an impressive resume including Chad Smith’s Bombastic Meatbats, Tarja and guitar wizard Tony Macalpine. The dude’s in his 40s but looked like some 18 year old kid onstage. He laid down the bass grooves well but nothing to write home about. Devin Bronson on guitar is just as accomplished if not more so, having played on recordings or tours with Demi Lovato, Kelly Osbourne, David Cook, Theory of a Dead Man, and P!nk, amongst others. Strangely enough, Bronson was the only guitarist onstage, covering lead and rhythm duties, which made some passages sound a bit minimalist and bare at times. Where the heck was Johnny Chromatic? Even with such accomplished, seasoned side men, the backing band was very underwhelming, save for Bobby Jarzombek’s thunderous drum work (ok, so I’m biased about drummers). Bobby’s resume is more bitchin’ than Bronson’s or Chown’s! Bobby has played with Iced Earth, Fates Warning and freakin’ Rob Halford. He also turned down the Dream Theater audition back in 2010. Jarzambek’s playing is technical and precise without sound busy our douchey. He’s also more heavy handed, putting a lot of power behind his strokes, including his pedal work on the kick drums. The band played well as a unit, but I expected some fireworks. In hindsight, maybe fireworks would have detracted from the front man’s delivery.The songs went over very well, and the single guitarist was enough but it would have been nice to hear the songs fleshed out with a second guitarist. Great, affordable show, and extremely happy to have seen another one of the metal greats.

Save to the Grind
Hell Inside My Head
Temptation
The Threat
Big Guns
Piece of Me/18 & Life
American Metalhead
Tunnel Vision
In a Darkened Room
Monkey Business

I Remember You
All My Friends Are Dead
Youth Gone Wild

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U2 @ The Great Western Forum, Inglewood CA 05/27/15 (Night 2 of 5)

The differences from this night in comparison to the 5/19 San Jose gig were significant. This particular show was emotionally charged for the group, having lost longtime tour manager Dennis Sheehan the previous night, during his sleep. The group has endured very big losses recently, Larry Mullen Jr. lost his father as the tour was set to begin. Fittingly so, this show and this tour were dedicated to Dennis. I initially thought the show or even the tour would be cancelled. But, as painful as these current tragedies may be to the group and its organization, they’ve soldiered on and made good on their contracts and appear to be honoring the current schedule. How? I can’t begin to imagine.

About the show itself, a kick-ass change up occurred with the second number of the night. “The Miracle of Joey Ramone” concluded and a stage tech handed The Edge his Gibson Explorer. Whenever you see The Edge sling on that Explorer in natural finish, you know you’re going to experience “Out of Control” or “I Will Follow,” and IWF seems to have a permanent place in the 4th slot of the set. The group has been sporadically pulling “Out of Control” from their repertoire the last few tours. It was bitchin to experience it for only the 2nd time in the last 7 U2 shows I’ve attended. The bass guitar and kick drum rumbled over the PA system and Edge kicked the silvery riff into gear. This was the group’s first official Irish single, preceding “I Will Follow” and both taken from the Boy album. Famous for being written on Bono’s 18th birthday, the driving post-punk anthem speaks about the frustration as well as elation of the two events of life never in one’s control: when you’re born and when you die. Add an insistent, pulsing 4 beat under it, driving bass lines and a gleaming silvery guitar riff, and you have the first U2 classic, ever. This is also one of those tracks where you have to sing along with The Edge on his backing parts. There’s just no way to stop. Coldplay took their ‘ohh ohhh ohhh’ choruses from The Edge, seriously. Bono introduced the song as if they were playing the clubs in 1980, announcing “We’re a band from the north side of Dublin, called U2, formerly known as The Hype!” The group charged full speed ahead and the arena floor starts bouncing up and down. The lyrics have been altered over the years, with Bono singing ‘You’ve got spirit, I’ve got soul, we’ve got some big ideas, we’re out of control!’ As much as I enjoy “The Electric Co,” also off of Boy, this change up was a welcomed curve ball in the set.

Much later in the set, Bono’s delivery on “Every Breaking Wave” was stirring and so much stronger than the San Jose gig. This new material is catching on in a great way. While the San Jose audience was respectful and cheered appropriately, the LA crowd seemed more familiar with the new material, cheered loudly during the song intros and sang along. I could hear many LA fans singing along with EBW. It’s fast becoming a live favorite and emotional center piece for these concerts. On the e-stage and accompanied by Edge on piano, Bono once again soared and nailed his parts flawlessly and with more lung power.

“Angel of Harlem” was pulled out this night, following “Desire.” Both songs got the arena floor hopping. I’m rarely one to listen to Rattle & Hum songs or go bonkers when they’re performed live, but these renditions were electrified and spirited. This version of AOH was bouncy and joyous, it was great to see the crowd on the floor become as animated as they did and filled in during the choruses. It was a reminder that this group has its fun side and an even greater reminder that there’s wonderful material on the Rattle & Hum album. Those songs have a sprinkling of Motown, Delta Blues, jazz and an infectious swagger to them, especially live. The video feed on Meerkat was successfully made and the fan pulled onto the stage playfully filmed the group as they grooved through “Angel of Harlem,” adding to the fun and festive vibe of this portion of the concert.

Near the end of the second set I noticed someone air drumming. It’s awesome to spot the drummers in the audience. During “Pride (In the Name of Love),” a guy a couple rows down held his camera phone with the left hand while his right hand did the 16th note rolls during the pre-chorus. And he even air drummed the snare accents! 🙂

Once again, “The Troubles” was deleted from the set in favor of “Bad.” Bono quietly expressed “So you know, this is a sign, a mark for this show. We surrender to you, you surrender to the music. That God created music, or whatever you think…the grace of God. It’s about surrender, it’s an important word. This is about letting go. So anything you want to let go, just let go of it tonight…I know I sound like a preacher, but you know it’s the truth. Let go. It’s the miracle of music…’if you twist and turn away, if you tear yourself in two again…” Tonight’s version had a bit of rocky start vocally, but as it progressed  it became a hell of a lot stronger than the San Jose version, with Bono confidently building the crescendo and belting out the ‘wide awake’ portion.  A snippet of “Moment of Surrender” was added to the coda of “Bad” – ‘at the moment of surrender, I’ve folded to my knees, I did not notice the passers-by and they did not notice me…’

The closer for the night was changed. “One” was omitted from the set and it was replaced with a moving tribute to Dennis Sheehan. For the die hards out there, you already know that if The Edge and Adam Clayton trade instruments, it means that the rarely played (and legendary concert staple), “40” is about to be performed. “40” closes the WAR album, and it was the regular closer for U2 concerts in the 80s, its lyrics directly taken from the 40th Psalm in the Bible. Bono expressed to the crowd that during filming for the Under a Blood Red Sky video at Red Rocks, it was Dennis Sheehan that encouraged the crowds to continue singing the chorus to “40” long after the show had actually ended, even singing the chorus as they filed into their cars in the parking lots. Tonight the band performed “40” in his memory. Near the close of the song, one by one the band members exited the stage, leaving Larry to continue playing unaccompanied for a few bars, ultimately ending with a final crash. The crowd continued to sing the chorus even as the lights went up exited the venue. I swear I didn’t cry. It was a great send off to Dennis Sheehan, whose image was projected on the main screen.

Songs performed this night which were not performed on 5/19/15 were “Out of Control,” “Desire,” “Angel Of Harlem,” and “40.” Luckily, my vantage point this time around was vastly improved. I was able to snap the following images:

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