Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Elsa y Elmar

Gypset presents Elsa y Elmar at the Hotel Café: a musical angel who invites you to dance
Review: Elsa y Elmar – aka Elsa Carvajal - reminded us why she is so popular in her performance Friday night at the Gypset/KCRW concert at the Hotel Café. In a nine-song set she danced, sang, joked, played the keyboard and guitar and, in general, had so much fun on stage that the audience practically smothered her in adoration.  

A young singer-songwriter from Columbia, Elsa calls herself a singer of “spiritual pop”.  I am not sure what that genre is, but if the Hotel Café performance and her 2013 debut album Sentirnos Bien  is any indication, she is a standout in the crowded field of female pop singer/songwriters in any language. Her arrangements are additive, blending hooks and verses with laughs and sparkle. Her lyrics are just plain fun – and sometimes inside jokes. Her stage presence is a breath of fresh innocence that radiates “happy”, which is what everyone in the audience was.
Elsa gave us nine songs, punctuated by conversations, funny faces, a plea  for marriage equality, and some fancy dancing across the stage.  Most songs were from the EP and included her hit single “Exploradora”, a video now on her YouTube Channel with over 23,000 views.
The 21-year old artist began her set with “Decir Que No” from the Sentirnos Bien album and followed it with “No, No, No”, tantalizing us with lines like Porque no hay motivos para ver el mundo al revez  /Y no no no as the built the melody and she swayed behind the keyboard.  “El Final” follows, asking “Dime qué es lo que into/Si está bien o mal/Si estoy llena de miedo, and lightheartedly answering the question by getting the crowd to sing with her, Pero yo te quiero tanto, tanto, which they joyfully did. Dressed in a little black dress with a short black cape and bright brown and white saddle oxfords (nice touch!) she was both whimsical and serious as she launched into her hit single “Exploradora” to cheers from the crowd. For those who had not heard it -- and even those who knew it –  Elsa’s “Exploradora” live from the stage  is a thrilling experience. She put her all into it and we felt every ounce of her energy. This is Elsa y Elmar’s singular talent and why she is standout – she can deliver intensity with joy…she is pure, unadulterated musical fun delivered by a magical angel who touches you with her sparkling wand, inviting you to the dance.

She followed with “Me Viene Bien”, also from the Sentirnos Bien album, and “Animales” and “Ropa Loca” before letting us quiet down just a little and then launching into “Immadura, a Latin love song with twists and turns and fun and questions. She ended the set with “Que Horas Son?”, reportedly the product of flying internationally and landing not quite knowing what time it was. But regardless of the time zone, the audience knew the song and sang with her Qué horas son, mi Corazon?/Quisiera despertar y entre tu cama encontrar/La pista que nos faltó.

Although Elsa is currently based in San Francisco, Gypset Magazine’s decision to introduce her live to a large LA audience at the Hotel Café was unerringly strategic. Elsa y Elmar followed the very popular Brazilian cellist singer/songwriter Dom la Nena, introduced to this country by the nation’s top importer of international music, Six Degrees Records. This gave her a standing room only crowd primed and ready to rock. The combination of  KCRW’s sponsorship of Dom la Nena and Gypset’s introduction of Elsa y Elmar to LA created an unforgettable  night of surprises, dancing, songs and just plain fun. I hope to see many such strategic musical collaborations, and I hope to see a lot more of Elsa.
Exploradora is out now available HERE

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LA. Correspondent
Patrick O'Heffernan
@Music FridayLive

Hunt for Hunter

Release: "Hunt for Hunter is a folk-rock duo, comprised of Michael Hunter on violin, guitar and vocals and Ian Hunt on Cajon, guitar and vocals.  Born out of Hunter’s solo album “A Chance to Shine“, Hunt for Hunter is a blend of both musicians’ diverse musical backgrounds: classical and bluegrass, hard rock and folk, many different genres find a home in this surprisingly big-sounding little band.  A typical performance will find Hunter singing and playing the violin while Hunt plays Cajon with his feet and guitar simultaneously.  It’s an unusual setup, but one that allows for a full, organic sound that perfectly suits their blues/folk-oriented style.

The two multi-instrumentalists spent their first year as a band playing a weekly gig at a local bar in the East Village, writing new material and tightening their sound.  With their recently released self-titled EP and a unique, energetic live show, Hunt for Hunter is ready to emerge as a force to be reckoned with in the New York City music scene."

Hunt for Hunter new EP is out now and available HERE

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Sunday, April 19, 2015


Review: We are the West braved a very late start Friday night at the Hotel Café to deliver a stellar set of songs from their new Regards EP and their album We are the West I.  Many people don’t know what to make of We Are the West because they truly defy categorization to bring a level of creativity to music that is unique and completely their own.  
The core band is three people: Brett Hool on vocals and guitar, John Kibler on standup bass, and Elizabeth Goodfellow on drums. They often add another talent – as they did Friday night – including  Ben Tolliday on the cello and Paul Cox on keys and piano. Together, they manage to sound like an entire orchestra. They play rock and alt rock and something that might be country, but maybe not, and something that sounds a lot like new age, but maybe its folk, or ballads.. They play in storm drains and shipping containers, sheep farms and in abandoned convents and do a monthly concert in an underground parking garage the Saturday before the full moon.
But regardless of what you call it or where they it,  everything they play enthralls listeners, and the concert at Hotel Café was no exception. They started off with Kibler using the standup bass to create sound effects, spinning out the feeling of being in a dark room with a storm, raging outside. It took a minute, but it quieted the audience – they knew something different was happening. As the storm grew, Brett slowly brought in the guitar and began to croon, his voice rising and Goodfellow’s sophisticated otherworldly drumming building a slowly accelerating tempo, undergirding the cello, the standup bass and then keyboards until, if you closed your eyes, you would swear there was a rock symphony on stage.
WATW carried on through 8 songs, wrapping up with my favorite,Good Luck (and all that stuff).  They mesmerized the crowd with unique sounds, the interplay of the bass and cello and Goodfellow’s amazing drumming.  She is an expert at building, and building and building until her beats roll through the room like thunder and then stop as she caresses cymbals’ in ways that don’t seem possible.
It is a shame that the line up at the Hotel Café got so far behind – partially due I was told, to traffic holding up a band and a late start of the opening act,  WATW was scheduled for 10 pm and actually started playing at 11:30 pm. Unfortunately, much of the crowd had dissipated, leaving them with a comfortable room, but missing the packed crowd that was waiting for them at 10 pm. Those that stayed were well rewarded;  the audience interrupted them with cheers and applause several times, especially for Goodfellow'sdrum solos.
WATW is a unique LA creature, one of the most creative bands in the Southland, and one whose members’ individual talents blend together into rocket fuel to take you places no other band can even visualize. Whether it’s in a Hollywood venue like the Hotel Café Friday night, or an underground garage in Santa Monica or one of their upcoming shows in the region, they are a musical experience not to be missed.
REGARDS is out now and available HERE

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LA. Correspondent
Patrick O'Heffernan
@ Music FridayLive! 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Chris Riffle

Release: NYC-based singer-songwriter Chris Riffle releases his new video “Nothing But the Waves,” the second single from his new album Out of Town, set to release on April 7, 2015. The video was directed and filmed in black and white on a super 8 camera by Alesia Exum. The Deli NYC, who premiered the video, calls “Nothing But the Waves” “a song that miraculously forces you to pay attention; a song that moves you, that reminds you that there's still a part inside of you able to feel.”
Developing his music career in his home state of Washington, Riffle has opened for Death Cab for Cutie and collaborated with members of The Mars Volta, Ollabelle and Antony and the Johnsons. Riffle's last EP Another Dream was placed in rotation on over 150 radio stations in the US and featured on Sirius XM.

His new full length, Out of town, recorded at One East (Rolling Stones, Lou Reed), produced by Jimi Zhivago (Ollabelle, Kim Taylor) and mastered at the Magic Shop (David Bowie, Arcade Fire) was released early this month. His just released his music video "Nothing But the Waves," the second single from his new album Out of Town. 

Out of Town is out now and available HERE!

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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Troy Doherty

Troy Doherty: from love-song gentle to pop song raw – a strong debut
Review: The shift from music to the screen – any screen - is becoming easier all the time. Making videos has been part of the music process since MTV launched its first music video in 1981. But the move the other way is not always as easy.  Singing in a film or TV show requires some acting chops; acting doesn't necessarily require singing chops, so when an actor can step off the screen and onto the music stage, I pay attention. A young man who is pulling it off is the actor Troy Doherty, who has just released his debut EP, Citizen’s Arrest.

Doherty had  been co-host of Nickelodeon's Nick Studio 10, and a guest star on Criminal Minds, VictoriousNew Girl, Mike and Molly, and many others when he decided to add music to his IMDB bio. His fans - who are legion – agreed with the move and oversubscribed a Kickstarter campaign to produce the EP, Citizen’s Arrest. The debut release  is a mix of blues and pop-rock that ranges from love-song gentle to danceable energy, all with a bit of country in it.  

The EP starts off strong with the high-energy title song, “Citizen’s Arrest”, squarely in pop-rock territory with a high tempo, builds and hooks and excellent music craftsmanship.  But it takes a step beyond with lyrics that actually tell a good story, a hallmark of all of Doherty’s songs. Partially a teen rebellion anthem (he is 18), partially a statement on how life can close in and how we/he are impelled to push back. The keyboard structure moved along with clap drums is the perfect platform for his monochromatic voice, giving the song an earworm addiction.

But pop rock is just one end of his range; in “Endlessly” he have spins a blues song that plays like a love song but still well within the pop world…very accessible and very addictive. The lyrics range much deeper into a cinematic unrequited love story than most pop songs and the piano structure puts a warm sheen of romance on it. Interestingly, although  his first instrument was the piano and he wrote the song, as he did all of the songs on the label, he went to an accomplished studio pianist for the recording.  No matter, the final piece is all his and all good.
“Push the Pedal” is a statement of his philosophy – do everything to the utmost. A positive and upbeat tune it bounces along with a rhythm guitar, clap drums and backing vocals in the chorus, driven by a full band. Drawing from his love of parkour/freerunning sports where if you don’t give it your all you can die or be injured, it is an energy drink of a song – start your morning with it.
“I’ve got you” drops a little into country pop territory with a tougher message –“it feels like the walls are caving in”,  but ends with a supportive hand up, “I am here for you”. Good country drumming, big rhythm guitar, and keyboards accent his still-young voice, but one with an old heart.
“Animal” wraps up the EP with a funky down and dirty big rock sound.  As with every song on the EP, it is an exploration of a genre to see where it can fit into his eventual musical career direction. But it stands on its own both as a solid piece of songwriting and as what can be a crowd-pleasing performance  number. It may be his best direction for live performances.  
Citizen’s Arrest  is a strong beginning and the first step in a musical journey that we can all follow.  Doherty has the technical skills, strong songwriting ability and good delivery plus the ability to assemble and produce polished music that is widely accessible and often addictive. For 18, he writes like he is fifty and arranges and manages like he is 35. I have added Citizen’s Arrest to my “most played” playlist and have signed up for an alert on the next album and his live performances.

Citizen's Arrest is out now and available on iTunes

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LA. Correspondent
Patrick O'Heffernan

@Music FridayLive!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tumbleweed Wanderers

Release: Americana/rock group Tumbleweed Wanderers release “Bad Blood,” the first single from their forthcoming sophomore album, Realize, due out June 9, 2015. After recording Realize at Panoramic Studios in Stinson Beach (My Morning Jacket, Band of Horses), the band spent months meticulously overdubbing at a mansion in San Francisco that was turned into a home studio. They then drove to Chicago to mix the record with Brian Deck (Iron & Wine, Modest Mouse). No strangers to legendary producers, the group have previously collaborated with John Vanderslice at Tiny Telephone Studio on their debut album So Long.

Oakland, CA-based Tumbleweed Wanderers have escalated from busking to headlining Bay Area venues and attracting fans with a sound reminiscent of  Wilco, Jack White, Delta Spirit and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Based on a shared desire to be in a touring band and use music as a vehicle to meet people and travel the country, Patrick Glynn (piano, organ, synthesizers), Rob Fidel (vocals, guitar, banjo), Jeremy Lyon (vocals, guitar) and  Greg Fleischut (vocals, bass, guitar) spent the first year as a band building a local following in the Bay Area, busking outside of shows and playing cafes, bars and clubs. Together they released their debut album, So Long (2012) and three self-produced EPs, Tumbleweed Wanderers, Library Sessions and Worn Down Welcome. Over the past two years, Tumbleweed Wanderers have toured the country extensively, made appearances at a multitude of festivals and completed their sophomore full-length, Realize.

Tumbleweed Wanderers have come a long way in four years, from sharing the stage with Angus Stone on a North American tour, supporting Greensky Bluegrass, Moon Taxi and The Revivalists, among others, on national tours to opening for Jackie Greene & the Mother Hips at The Fox in Oakland. Additionally, the group have left impressions at several notable festivals including Outsidelands, Hangout, Shaky Knees and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and have sold-out San Francisco’s legendary venues like The Independent and Great American Music Hall.

Bad Blood is out now available HERE

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Toby Lightman

Quintessential New Yorker Toby Lightman wows LA at the Hote Café
Review: Quintessential New York singer-songwriter Toby Lightman held a packed and adoring LA audience in the palm of her hand last  night at  Hollywood’s venerable Hotel Café with the ivory-sheened sophistication of her voice blended mystically with the anger and grit of the street.  Lighthouse’s 11-song set clearly demonstrated why she is loved by both fans and critics across the country. She thrilled a standing-room-only crowd with songs ranging from her earliest releases to the title song from her new album, Every Kind of People. The audience knew the words to many of them and were ecstatic at the opportunity to sing along as they watched a supernova move toward critical mass.
Toby Lightman first entered my musical attention last summer  when I heard  her singing at the end of a television show, adding an aching depth to the final scene.  I was blown away by her powerful, smooth voice that elongated with emotional pain and anger.  She had recently left Atlantic records and was stretching out as an independent. Her recently released  album, Every Kind of People, and her live performances are compelling evidence that the move was best for her and for music lovers across the country.  Of the 100 or so artists I interview or review every year, she is one of the three or four who have the elements of stardom – talent, presence, discipline and an uncanny ability to connect with an audience from the stage or through a CD or download.  Lightman’s songs are musical sorcery that put a spell on you – which is why the audience at the Hotel Café gave her a standing ovation and begged for more as she left the stage.
Opening up with “All this Silence” from the Holding a Heart album, Toby grabbed the crowd instantly with her ivory smooth voice and subtle, angry lyrics.  People were following her, mouthing the words: “I’m here Underwater holding a gun/Knowing it won’t go off”.  As she shifted mood to “My Sweet Song”, a perennial favorite that showcases her voice, she spun her spell into an ethereal atmosphere that shut out everything but her song and her radiant face, eyes squeezed shut.
The anger returned in spades with “Your Welcome”, a hard-hitting  pop blues tune she delivered with force and a bit of the southern voice that she can bring to bear when she wants to – her “alter ego”, she told me last year.  Backed up by her mates on keys/piano and electric guitar, she moved with power and grace on the stage, driving the music with her rhythm guitar and sheer vocal power – the ivory became a dangerous task.  It makes you understand as she reels out her story in verses and hooks her short move to Thailand early in her career to finding herself. As she told me in the interview last year, “ I am 5’1” so I am living out a lot of dreams in these songs.”
But the dreams have shifted. Her dreams have matured and widened in their scope, which was apparent  as she moved through the set, even laughing at herself when a guitar string broke – “I guess I was really angry with that one!”  We saw that the dreams have grown beyond personal tragedy and interior wrath as she lit up the stage with her smile and sang “Every kind of People”, the title song from her new album. The crowd knew every word and sang sotto voce with her, swaying as she took us through her life and reflected ours, shimmering in the spotlight in soft black jeans, a rust tank top and golden necklace that set off her brilliant blond hair, partially corralled under a battered fedora. The street grit is still there, but softened and nuanced in a stage presence that is glowing and beautiful but unpretentious…and very much ready for the big stage.

That glow became more intense as she stood thoughtful, holding but not playing her guitar, eyes closed as if she was far away and long ago singing the achingly beautiful “Bumps in the Road.” Other sounds ceased as she caressed the crowd with notes, welcoming them to travel  life’s road with her, with their special person.  “Bumps in the Road”, along with “Holding a Heart”  and the emotionally powerhouse “Slowly”, which followed,  illuminate the mature, confident rising star, the woman who knows who she is and understands her hold over audiences.  Part of that confidence comes from her skill in placing songs in television and film and commercials, so vital in today’s music world. She has been licensing her music to entertainment  since 2005 including television shows like Brothers and Sisters, Dirty Sexy Money, Bones, One Tree Hill and films including PS,  Love You, Revenge of the Bridesmaids and Uptown Girls.
For me, the highlight of the evening was “Holding a Heart”, my favorite Toby Lightman song, next to the hard rock blues “Long, Hard Day”, which she did on commission for a television program.  But as luminous as “Heart” was, she shined even brighter in “Everyday“ from 2004,  leading the entire room in the chorus, “But I‘ll see better when the smoke clears/When the smoke clears inside my head/And I can listen when the screaming doesn’t repeat every word I said.”  Lightman wrapped the show with the uptempo “Let’s Go” from 2008 and finished with “Devils and Angels” from her 2004 Little Things debut album, which made the Billboard Top 100 in its first week.
Toby Lightman is a star who has been burning brightly for a decade.  With the release of Every Kind of People, she is ready to go supernova.  Her current tour is pulling fans from coast to coast into her orbit.  With her move to independence, she is now free, as she sings in “Everyday”, Of this desire to be what others want me to be/Which is nothing like me. What is like her is headlining a tour, bringing ivory and anger to audiences that are hungry for her kind of magical connection.
Every Kind of People is out now and available HERE

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LA. Correspondent
Patrick O'Heffernan

@Music FridayLive!