Jonathan Pirro

Two evenings of spellbinding wonder and incredible sound

Sigur Rós at the Fox Theater, Oakland

Sigur Rós at the Fox Theater, Oakland

This is the first of two posts chronicling my journey to see Sigur Rós for five performances in April 2017: two in Northern California, and three in Los Angeles with the LA Philharmonic Orchestra. Be sure to catch them on tour and tune in to Pitchfork on Friday, April 14th for a stream of their second LA Phil performance!

Fifteen years ago, I remember wandering down a dimly-lit suburban lane on a chilly November evening, the street silent as a tomb. I had a copy of ( ), the third record by renowned Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós, put that album in a Discman, and the quiet world around me instantly seemed to shift into some strange new world. I’ve always found that record to be an utterly sublime and immensely powerful expression of music, and was supremely pleased that some of my favorite songs from that album were in the set the first time I saw Sigur Rós play live. The band and their production crew are absolute masterminds at blending sound, light and visuals into an otherworldly experience; that show, in 2006 at the Marin Center in San Rafael, is still probably my favorite concert that I have ever experienced. This past weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing Sigur Rós two times, playing two sets each (!), making these my sixth and seventh time experiencing their live performances — and they are just as astonishing as they have always been.

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This is the new synth party in town — and it’s as aggressive as it is danceable

Adrien Grousset of Carpenter Brut

Adrien Grousset of Carpenter Brut

An intriguing new in heavy electronic music is a genre known as “dark synthwave”, and numerous artists that fall under its umbrella have been snarling their way into existence. It brings along the sounds of retro analog synths, thundering snares, and wildly vibrant guitars, possessed of a vibe reminiscent of action movies and old-school video games; a colleague of mine referred to it as “French musicians playing the best music for driving 100MPH in 80s cars”, and it’s a rather apt description. Players like Perturbator and Gost have made their way into the Bay Area in recent months, and closing out the month of March was Carpenter Brut, the one-man-masterpiece of one Franck Hueso (or “Frank B. Carpenter” as his live moniker) that mashes up the ideas of John Carpenter’s action/horror films with a blast of furious guitars and drums to drive the music at a fevered pace.

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Even with a few stumbles, this is an ultimately fun return of a classic franchise.

Saban's new Power Rangers

Saban’s new Power Rangers

Remaking a story like that of Power Rangers requires a great deal of care on two fronts. On the one hand, preserving the world, the characters, and the essential plotlines, is important in order to make the new film appeal in the first place (brand new characters, names, etc., simply wouldn’t fly), but also requires being modernized to fit the sheen and shine of big-budget motion pictures. However, there’s also the concern of keeping a lot of the original charm — which isn’t without its strong sense of extreme camp and over-the-top flashiness — and not having that clash strongly with a modern sense of acting and drama. Thankfully, Lionsgate’s new attempt at rebooting the Power Rangers franchise is ultimately a very fun effort, despite its occasional awkward moments that stumble slightly before the big, explosive finishes arrive. [read the whole post]

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A passionate, spellbinding set at the final leg of the duo’s North American tour

Brian King of Japandroids

Brian King of Japandroids

If you can believe it, five long years have passed since the last time that Japandroids came to San Francisco and took over The Fillmore, and it’s been far too long of a wait. Their 2012 work Celebration Rock marked a pivotal shift from their laden-with-chaos-and-noise debut tunes to the triumphant, thundering anthems that their singles are now gleaming with, and 2017’s Near To The Wild Heart Of Life continues in this fashion, offering up a slab of pieces full of vitality and potency — this time with the extra sheen of studio magic. Lest you be concerned that the slick sounds of overdubs have marred the energy level that the Vancouver duo are famous for possessing, worry not: if anything, their chemistry has reached an all-time high, their precise delivery pairing magnificently with the massive walls of sound they can tirelessly deliver. If Japandroids were tired at the end of the tour, there was no sign of such weariness at this performance.

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Exciting evening of noise and rhythm in a new addition to Oakland’s vibrant live music scene

Daveed Diggs of Clipping.

Daveed Diggs of clipping.

It’s hard to find a more jarring juxtaposition of talents and roles than those that Oakland-born hip-hop star Daveed Diggs has possessed as of late. After half a decade building a steady underground following as the MC of noise trio clipping., he became a household name after taking on the role of Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson in the original production (and first Broadway run) of the massive hit musical Hamilton. Finishing his theatrical run in mid-2016, Diggs hurtled right back into his work with the experimental outfit, knocking out two releases in the latter half of the year and continuing a heavy schedule of touring. The group’s Noise Pop gig at Oakland’s young-but-blossoming Starline Social Club was one of the first in the festival to sell out, and even with three openers on the bill and a long, rainy night to greet them at the end of it, rabid fans of the three-piece packed the walls of the bright ballroom and celebrated the return of their heroes, in the hometown of the man at their helm.

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Energetic, potent set slightly marred by confusing opener pairing

Dylan Baldi of Cloud Nothings

Dylan Baldi of Cloud Nothings

It’s been a few years since we’ve crossed paths with Dylan Baldi and his chaotic music assemblage, Cloud Nothings, but their recorded output has confirmed that they have been taking some excellent time to polish and tighten up their sound. While absent of gigantic, sprawling bruisers like “Wasted Days” (the 8-minute magnum opus from Attack On Memory), their new record Life Without Sound continues to sport excellent 90s grunge/alternative staples along with a modern sense of punkish attitudes and new-school production, and the resultant collection of songs is delightful to listen to. Their Noise Pop show was one of the more popular gigs — badge-toting friends of mine claimed they couldn’t make it into the sold-out show even before the openers had finished — but while the Cleveland foursome brought the noise and the bouncy response to the show, it was at the end of a strange rollercoaster of genres that, if nothing else, made the audience even more hungry for the headliners to appear.

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Listen to At-The Drive In’s First Song in 16 Years, “Governed By Contagions”

December 8, 2016
www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-NYWzd7JW8

A brand new sonic explosion from the Texas quintet It was never predicted to happen again, but it has: after nearly two decades, the El Paso post-hardcore masterminds of At The Drive-In have not only continued to stay united AND tour, but now there is finally new studio material in recorded form available! Now on Rise Records, […]

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Show Review: Flight Of The Conchords at the Masonic, 6/27/2016

July 5, 2016

Never before has spontaneous comedy seemed so effortless — and brilliant — in a musical performance Comedy and music have always seemed to be slightly at odds with one another; there’s always this slightly underlying sense of novelty in humor-driven bands, a thought that without certain “gimmicks”, their work wouldn’t be nearly as funny, or […]

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Show Review: John Carpenter: Live Retrospective at the Fox Oakland, 6/17/2016

June 23, 2016

Music in film is an often-celebrated phenomenon, but it seems to exist primarily in the medium it’s made for. Occasionally, composers and songwriters will offer up their works for public or private performance, though they themselves may not be in attendance, and in general the world of film music feels very separate from that of […]

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Show Review: At The Drive-In with Le Butcherettes at The Warfield, 6/3/2016

June 7, 2016

It took 15 years to happen, and it was worth every moment. Ten were spent wondering, with all involved working on new projects, exploring music and art in numerous forms. Two passed, with excited fervor and mild confusion, as they returned to the fold, thrust into the spotlight on unsteady feet and with only a […]

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