La Banda Skalavera and Their Wall of Horns Gets a Second Wind

Categories: Bands We Like

Fred Morledge
La Banda Skalavera at Viva Ska Vegas in 2012
The mark of a great band is not measured by the size of the crowd they draw at the height of their career, but by the size of the hole left in the music scene when they break up. When La Banda Skalavera called it quits around 2013, that hole was pretty damn big--and not just because their sprawling lineup (10 to 13 members, most of which made up their "wall of horns"  brass section). As one of the pioneering Latin ska bands in Southern California, they proved that a kid from the barrio could skank to Jamaican riddims, headbang to heavy metal, get in the pit for a punk show, and still salsa his ass off. For 15 years, La Banda Skalavera was Latin ska at its biggest and boldest.

"I remember, at one point, we had, like, nine horns and percussion, keyboards, a 13-piece band," says lead singer/guitarist George "Yorgo" Mercado. "We tried to project as much energy as possible to keep the crowd listening and not get them bored. That's why we'd change it up from one song to the next; it keeps the crowd listening."

More »

The B-52s Should Be So Much More Than a Pop-Cult Act

The B-52's Perform at Pacific Amphitheatre. Photo by Scott Feinblatt
The B-52s
Pacific Amphitheater

When The B-52s first got started, in the late '70s, their stylistic trademarks included bouffant hairdos, the influence of '50s rock music, and nods to campy '60s movies. Though they retooled these elements into a wholly original concept which helped establish the New Wave movement, their act has become an anachronism of its own -- and a popular one, at that!

Middle-aged folks filed in from both the parking lot gate and the one accessible through the OC Fair fairgrounds to fill the Pacific Amphitheatre, while opening act The English Beat got the party started. To look at the scene, one would swear he was at a Zumba class from the way virtually every member of the audience frantically aerobicized to the 2 tone revivalist band's beats. By the time the band vacated the stage, the people who weren't suffering heat stroke from this dreadful heat wave were thoroughly energized and ready for The B-52s, who hit the stage after a 20 minute intermission.

More »

Rush Entrances Audience at Irvine Meadows

Rush's Geddy Lee at Irvine Meadows. Photo by Scott Feinblatt
Rush has announced that their 2015 tour is likely to be their last, and if their desire is to go out with a bang, then they're doing it. In honor of their stop at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre [thank the gods -- the name has been reverted back from Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre], sixteen thousand fans packed the joint in a sold out show, and while the age of the fans predominantly tipped the scale towards forty and fifty-year-olds, the forty-year-old act put on a spectacular show that made this tour stop one to remember.

Actually, the band was formed in 1968, making the act forty seven years old, but since drummer / lyricist / songwriter Neil Peart joined bassist / singer Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson in 1974, when they released their eponymous first album, it is likely that their first tour together occurred forty years ago. Given that this is a legendary band, which has never since altered its line-up of amazing musicians, too much scrutiny should not be given to this matter. The fact is that they still perform like the incredibly gifted youths that have since inspired many other musicians and pop cultural icons.

More »

10 Reasons MxPx Is Still Relevant

Categories: Bands We Like

Jered Scott
Pop-punk legends MxPx are playing two sold out shows at the Observatory this weekend (Friday and Saturday). That may come to a surprise for some, as the Washington-based band hasn't toured in a few years (these shows aren't part of a bigger tour either) and has only released one full album since 2007.

Nonetheless, MxPx remains as relevant today as ever, so here are 10 reasons you should still care about them.

More »

Tanlines Get Deeper Than a Remix Project On Their New Record

Categories: Bands We Like

Columbine Goldsmith
When Eric Emm and Jesse Cohen first joined forces in 2008, they probably never imagined their collaborative project would go beyond their producing a track for the former's band, Professor Murder. Though there wasn't a firm plan in place when they started working together, Emm and Cohen dipped their proverbial feet in multiple different facets. After several remixes and an opening slot for Julian Casablancas later, the duo released their first record in 2012 and their follow-up, Highlights, earlier this year.

Whereas the duo went through the grinder for their first effort, this time around saw them build a bigger, more confident sound. Attributing that to figuring out their direction and understanding of what they are as a group, Cohen says finding an identity allowed for their songwriting and production to flourish on Highlights.

"When we started on this album we had the experience of touring a lot behind the last one," he says as over the phone from somewhere in Southern Oregon. "We wanted to add a little bit more of that onto the album."

More »

Sublime With Rome Took Their LBC Sound To Texas to Record Their New Album

Categories: Bands We Like

Bryan Sheffield
Following the surprising success of their debut, you could forgive Sublime With Rome's lead singer for being overly excited. After all, it's not often--if ever--that a singer could perform with a band whose pedigree is on par with Sublime's, not to mention release an album. Yet Rome Ramirez found himself introducing Sublime's brand of reggae rock to an audience who were only a few years younger than him.

Sublime With Rome's debut, Yours Truly, may have breathed new life into the band, but there was trouble simmering internally. Drummer Bud Gaugh left the outfit in December 2011, vowing to never rejoin the band amid doubts over the group's name and desire to tour. His subtraction allowed for Eric Wilson and Ramirez to enlist drummer-to-the-stars Josh Freese to take over behind the kit for subsequent tours.

When the trio went back into the studio this past December to work on a sophomore album, the band's return to Sonic Ranch in El Paso proved to be trying. They had already worked on a few ideas in Wilson's studio, and now they were working again with producer Paul Leary, but the songs weren't as plentiful, so the band returned to California without making progress. However, when they returned in February, something was different. The group recorded 19 songs in three weeks, with Freese proving to be a calming, creative force in the studio.

More »

John Butler Trio Give Us the Last of Their Flesh and Blood

Categories: Bands We Like

Kane Hibberd
John Butler, the driving force behind Australia's John Butler Trio, is a musician of eclectic tastes.

He prefers to play his collection of twelve string guitars without the high-G, pulls electric sounds out of acoustic instruments, and embraces stylistic infidelity. His musical ADD has kept his sound evolving over the last seventeen years, which courses through reggae, blue grass, folk, funk, and rock. The group is in the final leg of touring for 2014's Flesh and Blood, which is the group's last stint before a new record. Flanked by bassist Byron Luiters and percussionist Grant Gerathy, Butler and his trio will hit the Observatory on Friday, July 3.

"This is the last tour of Flesh and Blood. We usually get four or five tours out of every album, and this is kind of the last hurrah," Butler says. "There are so many cities we want to get to and people we want to see. I'm sure you could tour your whole life and still not see everybody."

While his collective tours in the U.S. haven't reached every major city, they've made a considerable dent. He's racked up a headlining show at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado, opening gigs at Madison Square Garden, and billings from nearly every major American music festival. He's done all of this despite not having a traditional "radio hit" here in the states, but he's scored a slew of hits and industry awards from down under. He's achieved all of this while maintaining a family and a passion for environmental activism.

Butler's activist nature led him to join a handful of artists on the anti-hydrofracking album, Buy This Fracking Album, released last week. The compilation featured JBT's song "Revolution" off their fifth studio effort, April Uprising, and touts tracks from several other activist/musicians including Bonnie Raitt, Michael Franti, and Anti Flag, among others.

More »

Cutty Flam Is Your New Favorite Rockabilly-Meets-Prom-Punk Band

Categories: Bands We Like

Cutty Flam
Since they first met as sophomores in high school deep in the San Fernando Valley, Jose Varela and Ashley Stuart were interested in playing music. Though their interest and participation in the local punk rock scene initially led them to become part of the Los Angeles Experimental Orchestra, called KILLSONIC, which played jazz and orchestral free jazz allowed the longtime friends the opportunity to collaborate. When that project reached its end, the duo were left to ponder where their next sonic journey would take. The result was an undertaking that has seen them exceed even those initial hopes and expectations.

After attending the Viva Las Vegas rockabilly festival and shooting a documentary surrounding the event, the duo were inspired by the scene and sound that encompassed the event. Mesmerized and smitten with the scene, Varela decided he wanted to take what he enjoyed from that festival and start a new band.

Now, a few years later, he goes by Cutty, who sings and plays guitar and Stuart by Bang Bangs, apropos due to her handling the drumming. Those alter egos properly fit their rockabilly-meets-prom punk sound. Inspired by vintage 1950s pop culture a la the diner scene in Pulp Fiction, the band goes by Cutty Flam, and has added a bassist, Chewy Lewy. They liked the idea of that era because "when you went the movie theatre, you had to dress up" and wanted to bring that vintage feeling to their live set. When it came time to come up with their theatrical show, changing their names to reflect this presence felt natural.

"The names were Bang Bangs' idea," Cutty says. "We wanted to create another world beyond ourselves and our normal life, and take the band in a different direction. We wanted to be more theatrical and came up with some fun names."

More »

PHILM's New Album Roars Across Metal Genres

Categories: Bands We Like

Courtesy Alex Solca
Far from being a typical three-piece anchored by a famous drummer, PHILM--the power trio forged by Dave Lombardo--is creatively audacious in its own right. The Los Angeles-based band is rounded out by vocalist/guitarist Gerry Nestler and Pancho Tomaselli on bass.

Together, like eccentric laboratory scientists tweaking new concoctions, they explore new realms rooted in heavy, pulsating rock but daring enough to dabble in thrash and jazz.
"It's definitely not a side project, it's a band," Lombardo tells the Weekly. "We all have the same goal and are working hard in continuing the creative process." The musicians are all-in on PHILM, with Lombardo departing from Slayer in 2013 and Tomaselli leaving as bassist for funk band WAR earlier this year. Hectic tour schedules no longer get in the way of their goals. "We made the decision to be able to focus 100 percent on our band once and for all," Tomaselli says.

More »

Fu Manchu: Still Kings of the Road and the Riff

Categories: Bands We Like

Courtesy of Fu Manchu
When O.C. rockers Fu Manchu perform this Saturday night at The Wayfarer in Costa Mesa, the gig will celebrate twenty-five years of fuzzed out hard-driving riffs. It will also celebrate a band that is quintessentially Californian.

During their rise to major-label prominence in the '90s, the group was lumped in with the desert-rock scene birthed by acts such as Kyuss. But Fu Manchu's inspirations were more firmly rooted in the band members' coastal roots.

"My entire upbringing revolved around the beach," says Fu Manchu vocalist/guitarist Scott Hill, the driving force and remaining original member from the band's early '90s roots. "I remember being a kid about to enter the fifth grade...walking up to the Huntington Beach Pier one day and seeing a guy in an El Camino. There were surfboards hanging out the back and he talking to a pretty girl. I remember wanting all of that."

More »