Why RX Bandits’ farewell is not goodbye

Rx Bandits said goodbye in San Francisco on August 7, 2011 at the band's farewell show. The Seal Beach, CA group announced breakup plans earlier in the summer.

It happens to the best of us.

We get tired.

And that’s how it appears the road-weary RX Bandits are after a decade of constant touring.

The Seal Beach, California group is known for its transformation (see: evolution) from a late ’90s ska band to a four-headed beast of a band playing spacey, prog-rock with reggae and Latin influences.

At the height of the group’s career, RX Bandits played a trio of shows in New York and San Francisco, devoting each night to a full album performance of the band’s last three: The Resignation, …And The Battle Begun and Mandala.

Then, a few months ago, the band said they’d be calling it quits.

After 16 years and 7 studio albums, Rx Bandits announced on its website the following:

“Dear friends,
We would like to express our love and appreciation for all that you’ve done for us and how much a part of our growth you have been. We have all mutually decided that this summer will be our last tour. We love each other and love you all and hope to see you at the shows.

Much love & respect,
Rx Bandits”

When I heard the news, I was shocked and saddened. I’ve been following these guys since I saw them open for Reel Big Fish at the Fillmore in San Francisco around 2004.

The political messages about peace, not war, call and response sing-a-longs, extended jam outs, frenetic guitar noodling and improvisational drum solos are just a few of the

———- that make the bands’ live show a true performance.

I made it out to two shows on the band’s farewell tour — The Catalyst in Santa Cruz on July 30, where Berkley’s Facing New York opened and the FINAL PERFORMANCE at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco August 7.

The Regency Ballroom was a the perfect opportunity for the band to bring out the big guns — a two-piece horn section to beef up older tracks. Both shows were packed, but the energy and emotion in San Francisco was over the top. Each cord resonated just a little extra for both the band and the crowd.

There were no goodbyes, just “I’ll miss you”s and the four members hugged, held hands and bowed at the end of a high-energy, two-hour set.

With a group of such talented musicians — Matt Embree’s powerful croons and free-flowing guitar licks, Steve Choi’s flying fingers on guitar and keys (and sometimes drums), Chris Tasgakis’ tight rhythms, and Joe Troy’s bass grooves — its apparent that the great music these guys play together will not cease.

The four core members have been playing together so long (more than a decade), they’re basically brothers. Choi insists in interviews that this is not the end of RXB, just the end of touring.

Not to mention, members of the group are distinctly connected to rising independent record label Sargent House, which they helped form in 2006.

Embree already plays solo as Love You Moon, and has started a new project called ME & LP, which is sounding oh so sweet.

Check out ME & LP – Bonnie Says (No Shitty Ride) below:

Embree and Tsagakis also have a Sound of Animals Fighting-esque project called Biceratops, and Tasagakis plays in a group called Technology.

Other projects from band members include Apotheke and Coke vs. Bill. The group’s involvement with Sargent House will keep them fresh as they continue to collaborate with bands like current touring partners Zechs Marquise.

Here’s to the end of an era…can’t wait to see what comes next.

  • (Editor’s note: It worked out pretty well for Gatsby’s American Dream, a popular Seattle indie band that broke up in 2006 and went on to form Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground, Wild Orchid Children, Search/Rescue, RedRedBlue, Keith Ledger, Zero Cool, Razia’s Shadow, Princess Dinosaur, Places and Numbers and TickTockMan)

VIDEOS FROM TWO OF RX BANDITS’ FINAL SHOWS:

RXB “Only For The Night” @ The Catalyst in Santa Cruz 7/30/11

RXB “Hidden Track” @ The Catalyst in Santa Cruz 7/30/11

RXB “Drum Solo” @ The Catalyst in Santa Cruz 7/30/11

Openers Facing New York play “Me and My Friendz” @ The Catalyst in Santa Cruz 7/30/11

Pre-Coachella Party: !!! + Zechs Marquise @ Detroit Bar

Nic Offer of !!! likes to dance

Marcel Rodriguez Lopez and Marfred Rodriguez Lopez of Zechs Marquise chop it up at Detroit Bar

The two bands playing Costs Mesa’s intimate, chic-grunge Detroit Bar Thursday night were big. Too big.

Too big for the stage they took, in sheer size, sound and force. Big enough to play Coachella too, to thousands of screaming fans. But on the Thursday night before Coachella weekend, I caught these two astounding bands up close…and for a lot less money.

The night started with instrumental mind-melting jams from Zechs Marquise, the buzzworthy El Paso, Texas prog-rock outfit that not only sounds like The Mars Volta’s little brother, but actually includes three of them. Marfred, Marcel and Rikardo Rodriguez-Lopez play bass, drums and keys respectively, and happen to be the younger siblings of infamous Mars Volta guitarists Omar Rodriguez Lopez. (Drummer Marcel Rodriguez Lopez plays in the Omar Rodriguez Lopez Group).

I discovered these guys when they opened for friends and Sargent House labelmates RX Bandits at The Glasshouse in Pomona a few months back. And while I was blown away then, Thursday’s set was insane. Grooving basslines meshed with frenetic guitar riffs, while Marcel was astoundingly able to keep up to constantly changing rhythms. No singing, but a great prog-rock fix when you’ve already mastered the entire Volta collection.

Next up was veteran psychedelic dance-funk !!! (pronounced Chk Chk Chk). The Sacramento-based band has been starting parties since 1996 and continues to put on an extremely energetic and fun live show. Lead singer Nic Offer handles most of the entertainment with his sexual dance moves that look a little like humping. By the second song, Offer was in the crowd singing face to face with all the fans. It was nuts.

!!! released a new album recently, entitled “Strange Weather, Isn’t It?” Standout tracks are “AM/FM”, “Jamie, My Intentions Are Bass”, and “Hollow”.

Zechs Marquise, formed in 2009, has been touring on their first full-length, “Our Delicate Stranded Nightmare.” A new record on the way. Expect your mind to be blown.

LIVE VIDEOS from both performances below:

I Am A Wild Orchid Child!

With a nod to old school favorite “Three MCs and One DJ” by the Beastie Boys, my latest musical obsession Wild Orchid Children recently released a new music video for the song “Ahead Of Us The Secret.”

It’s a front-row seat to an 11-minute-long, epic jam session that is nearly triple the length of the original video for the same song (watch that one below). I can’t help but smirk at the Seattle seven-piece’s ironic sense of primal Americana, noted by the flags, ponchos and Minnetonka-style fringe boots.

I wasn’t complaining about the first one, but they definitely cranked it up to a whole new level with this one.

This supergroup, formed from Gatsby’s American Dream, Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground and Forgive Durden, has got to be the new Sound of Animals Fighting — another epic, prog-rock super band with members from Circa Survive and RX Bandits.

Three MCs and One DJ:

Ahead Of Us The Secret (Original):


Wild Orchid Children will blow your mind

WILD ORCHID CHILDREN spawned from the dust of the unofficial, no longer indefinite hiatus taken by early ’00s alternative/progressive rock/pop band Gatsbys American Dream.

They are one of many side projects started by Gastby members that has blossomed into far more than just a project. Or a side. The supergroup features Kirk Huffman (vocals), Kyle O’Quin (keys) and Ryan Van Wieringen (baritone guitar & percussion) from Gatsby’s American Dream, alongside three other guys rocking guitars, percussion and effects. (Wild Orchid Children doesn’t even have its own Wikipedia entry yet – it’s embedded under Side Projects within the page on Gatsby).

But let’s get to the point.

This bombastic album sounds like nothing you’ve heard before, while at the same bringing enough familiar noises and jams that associations to any modern indie/prog group are safe to make. Think Mars Volta-style mind-bending beats, with Rage Against The Machine’s Zack de La Rocha-esque vocals and Portugal. the Man instrumentation.

It’s BIG. And adventurous.

The second track, “Black Shiny FBI Shoes” clocks in a little over 18 minutes long, and a good portion of that comprises of an extended percussion jam. It’s no “Moby Dick” (Led Zeppelin) but it is damn good — changing tribal beats dance to the sound of noodling electric guitar, keeping your ears perked with curiosity about what comes next.

Kirk Huffman takes vocal duties here, but sings nothing like his normal self. He has got a very talented and unique singing style, but he throws any sense of melody out the window with Wild Orchid Children. He’s more screaming than singing, and the closest thing you could compare would be de La Rocha – if he were performing through a megaphone, that is.

Now this is no concept album like Volta’s “Frances The Mute” or Coheed and Cambria’s last four albums. It doesn’t always flow from one song to the next, like one big acid trip.

But you don’t have to be high to appreciate the talent going on here.

The sixpiece named its album after Christopher McCandless, the character played by Emile Hirsch in “Into the Wild”, who infamously begins to call himself Alexander Supertramp while living in the wilderness.

Rich with cultural references, the group takes its title very seriously…as you can see by the wilderness motif, intact with real wild animals on the album cover, according to the liner notes.

Now I must note here: this is the first album I have purchased in a really long time.

My appetite for music consumption continues to grow and I have a list of nearly 50 bands I’m slowly getting around to checking out. Normally I look for a T-shirt/CD combo deal or make my contribution to the band by paying for concert tickets.

But this was a worthwhile cost, even if I payed twice as much at Rhino Records in Claremont as I would have at Best Buy.

Take a listen at the madness that is Alexander Supertramp. I’ve embedded “Peyote Coyote”, which has apparent influence from Zeppelin to the Beach Boys, Black Keys, White Stripes and even some cowbell that reminds me of the Cypress Hill/Tom Morello song from the new Green Hornet movie, “Rise Up.” Oh and don’t forget the creep vocal effect that transforms Huffman’s voice into something from a Mars Volta song about a minute in.

Like what you hear? Gatsbys American Dream is making a comeback this year. While you wait for the new tunes, listen to Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground (featuring Huffman and O’Quin, amongst others), Search/Rescue, RedRedBlue, Keith Ledger, Zero Cool, Razia’s Shadow, Princess Dinosaur, Places and Numbers, TickTockMan, or any solo work from any of these madly prolific musical dudes.

Ratatat rocks the Fox, RX Bandits polish off third straight night at the Troubadour

Ratatat @ The Fox Theater in Pomona. Photo by Daniel Ucko.

IT was a double header concert weekend Friday and Sunday with RATATAT and RX Bandits.

AMAZING visuals from Ratatat, the electronic duo that combines video game synths with blazing guitar riffs to create a monstrous, head-bobbing sound.

There were two giant glass panels on either side of the stage, probably a good 50 feet high. Each one had a projector pointed at it from behind, creating ultra-real 3-dimensional images like a violinist and celloist dressed in Victorian-era white wigs and getup. Cue in the X-shaped neon lights on the back of the stage and add the massive pull-down screen with music videos and strange visuals being projected to match or contrast the panels.

For a band that makes completely instrumental music, the sounds are funky enough and change frequently to keep the ears tingling all night long.

RX Bandits was a completely different style concert at the Troubadour in West Hollywood.

The Troubadour has got to be my favorite venue simply because of its size. Its a tiny, divey club on the outskirts of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood and you can get so close to the bands there that you taste the sweat from stage.

RX Bandits have been a favorite of mine for a few years now, since I re-discovered them in college and realized their music style had progressed along the same line as my own tastes. No longer ska-punk, and more reggae-funk experimental prog-rock, it must have been a career milestone for the Long Beach fourpiece, celebrating their growth and indie-level success by performing their three previous albums in entirety from Friday thru Sunday.

So they played “The Resignation”, “…And The Battle Begun” and “Mandala” from front to back, side to side and kept the crowd moving, grooving and singing along.

LA Weekly put it nicely HERE in a weekend highlight.

Love these guys and love how far they’ve come.

They never put on a bad show and since interviewing them at Cal Poly Pomona a couple years ago, I still feel like I know the guys – Matt, Steve, Joe and Chris.

“Mandala”, which I reviewed HERE on its release, is RX Bandits’ most melodic and transcendental album, blending Embree’s soulful voice with flying guitar solos, smooth Rhodes keys and ever-changing rhythms.

Check out one of the awesome percussion jam-outs below:

Now have a listen to “White Lies” by RX Bandits and see what I’m talking about. Click below or on Box.net widget on the right to download the track.

New Music Friday

 

Amazon MP3, which has been making waves with its music download deals, steals and collaborations is offering 100 albums for free right now!

Check em out RIGHT HERE.

The cool part is that not all 100 mp3 albums suck. In fact, there’s some pretty good stuff to be found. For free!

This is what I “purchased” for $0.00:

The following items were ordered:

Animal [MP3 Download] $0.00
By: Miike Snow
Sold By: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Saddle Creek sampler 2008-2009 [MP3 Download] $0.00
By: Various
Sold By: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Sargent House Sampler [MP3 Download] $0.00
By: Various Artists
Sold By: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Frenchkiss Records Super Sampler [MP3 Download] $0.00
By: Various Artists
Sold By: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Sample This Sh*t [MP3 Download] $0.00
By: Various
Sold By: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Digital Bang: The 2010 Sub Pop Sampler For Amazon [MP3 Download] $0.00
By: Various Artists
Sold By: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

I haven’t listened to any of it yet, but judging by the buzz I’ve heard of Miike (two “i”s) Snow and the bands I do know on these indie labels, I should have some good findings to report.

(RX Bandits – Sargent House, The Faint, Bright Eyes – Saddle Creek, Band of Horses, Fleet Foxes – Sub Pop, and Local Natives – Frenchkiss)

Arcade Fire, Amazon MP3s, Warriors of Rock

By now, the entire world has heard the new Arcade Fire album, “The Suburbs.” OK, not everybody…but it came out August 3, so in the blogosphere it’s been pretty much forever.

And the seven-piece Canadian ensemble sold out Madison Square Garden in New York, two nights in a row. Rolling Stone has an excellent review of the show, which was also streamed live on YouTube last week . Now that’s a win for “indie” — if you can still call it that….and turns out you can. The critically acclaimed group is on Merge Records, an independent label, so the term indie stands.

The third Arcade Fire album is amazing. It hooks you in from the beginning with the title track “The Suburbs”, wrapping you into the story of a youth growing up Mormon in The Woodlands, Texas. The dramatic, over-the-top, and fast-paced  nature make Arcade Fire songs run smoothly, but after 13 tracks not much yearning is left.

Pitchfork gave the album an 8.6. So you know there’s something to what I’m saying. The band’s previous album “Neon Bible” got an 8.4, while the debut “Funeral” received a 9.7. This are impressive simply because anything above a 6 from this music blog pretty much means “does not suck.”

If you haven’t got your hands on this album yet, Amazon MP3s seems to be making progress in the digital download lifestyle by offering mp3 albums cheap for a 24-hour period. You can pick it up (well, down) for $7.99…still not bad at all.

In other rock news, I was shocked to hear one of my favorite artists, RX Bandits, have a track on the upcoming sixth installment of the Guitar Hero franchise. I caught drift via @sargenthouse, the label run by Mars Volta guitarist Omar Rodriguez Lopez. Guitar Hero 6, now being called “Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock” features “It’s Only Another Parsec…”, a groove-worthy track from RXB’s latest, “Mandala.” I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to see RXB play its three albums in their entirety, back-to-back in September at the Troubadour from the 24th to the 26th.

I haven’t played guitar hero in a good long time, but judging by the list of other bands appearing on the game, the Long Beach-based experimental/formerly ska act is a standout amongst the likes of big names like Muse, Nine Inch Nails and The Rolling Stones. There are some indie staples like Silversun Pickups and Anberlin, but RXB don’t have nearly the same namesake. Way to go guys. You can check out the full tracklist for “Warriors of Rock” here if you’re curious.

I’ve uploaded “It’s Only Another Parsec…” to the box.net widget on the right of this blog for your utmost convenience!

As for the Arcade Fire’s new stuff, give it a listen on NPR if you want to try before you buy.

NeedtoBreathe bring major label shine to Glasshouse in Pomona

NeedtoBreathe‘s performance at The Glasshouse in Pomona last Friday was startlingly impressive.

NeedtoBreathe is an alternative rock band from Seneca, South Carolina. Some might call it Christian rock, which makes sense since brothers Bear Rinehart (singer, lead guitarist) and Bo Rinehart (guiatrist, vocals) are the sons of an Assembly of God pastor.

The group has got a Midwest-style look and sound, between their cowboy boots, tight jeans and plaid Western shirts.

Frontman Bear (no known relation to Bear Grills) could best be described as the lovechild of Kid Rock and Sawyer from Lost (he’s second from left above).

He’s got the gruff, bad boy appeal with tattoos and long blonde hair and the perfect voice to match.

Rinehart’s raw voice keeps the band from sounding too clean, but the sound is perfectly polished. Live, they sound phenomenal – maybe it was the mixing or the shiny, high end equipment, or the major label support, but I was blown away by the quality.

Not that RX Bandits and The Dear Hunter weren’t awesome at The Glasshouse a couple weekends ago, but being signed to Atlantic Records apparently means a big difference.

It’s not often I catch major label acts, since I try and avoid mainstream music as much as possible (thank you top 40s, now go to hell).

But Atlantic’s been eating up some of my favorite artists recently, namely Equal Vision Records labelmates Circa Survive and Portugal. The Man.

But I’ve been singing NeedtoBreathe’s “Washed by the Water” in my head since they performed an intimate, full acoustic version to finish off their show.

Check out “Lay ‘Em Down”, “Girl Named Tennessee” and “We Could Run Away.”

Call it Christian rock if you want, but it’s just damn good. “The Outsiders” is the third and latest studio effort from this quartet, and with appearances by stomp-clap rhythms, banjo and harmonica it’s a must hear.

>>>Below, “Washed by the Water” acoustic at the Glasshouse in Pomona, April 30:

>>>Below, “Lay ‘Em Down” is one of the standout tracks of NeedtoBreathe’s new album “The Outsiders”:

THIS WEEK IN MUSIC

rx bandits mandala

rx bandits' "mandala" is the best of the latest

I’m waiting for Rhino Records to call me with my copy of Portugal. The Man’s “The Satanic Satinist,” the new one everyone is talking about. I couldn’t find it at Target, Best Buy or Rhino last week! I’m a little in the dark, waiting for my own copy to give it a listen. Sure it’s good, though – “Church Mouth” is one of my favorite albums. And “Censored Colors” was good, but overlooked.

I just downloaded Grizzly Bear‘s new one, Veckatimest. I have to say, I’m not a fan. I’ve gotten about halfway through the album and I’m not sure what the fuss over this band is. They’ve got some good qualities, but overall I get very bored listening.

This SoCal beach-based band has been around for 14 years, and evolved from a second wave ska act to something with far too many labels to full encompass them (progressive, reggae, ska, rock, funk to name a few). I interviewed the guys when they came to Cal Poly last fall, and just caught them on their headlining tour with Dredg at the House of Blues in Anaheim. Killer, to say the least. Their sound gets more off the wall with each record, and for me, that tends to be a good thing. “Mandala” is no different. Gets better with each listen. UPDATE: check box widget on the sidebar to download a track from “Mandala”!

Now, something a bit disappointing was The Mars Volta’s new one, “Octahedron.” I expect a lot from this band, who is now on its fifth album and has a very strong cult-like following of prog rockers, scenesters and hipsters. “Octahedron” is so-so. It’s got a few cool tracks, like “Cotopaxi,” but is nothing new. It’s easy to forget. I still have got to claim “Frances The Mute” as my favorite. Closely followed by “De Loused” and a few tracks from “Amputechture,” like the 11-minute “Meccamputechture” Now that’s the Volta I know. “Octahedron” is sort of just there. Doesn’t do anything significant for me. Just a bit too mellow for this outlandish band, who I still can’t wait to see at Outside Lands in San Francisco in about a month.

Lastly, I just saw mega mashup DJ Girl Talk @ The Fox Theater in Pomona Friday night. Great, great venue. Three bars, space for 2,000, multiple rooftop lounges. Rad. I was unsure of going to see a DJ headline a show at a venue much larger than your typical LA club. While the free show only brought out maybe 1,000, Girl Talk got 40+ people dancing on stage with him his whole show, and got me and the rest of the crowd dancing. Mixing tracks from “Feed The Animals” (download it there…you pay what you want) and “Night Ripper” with an eclectic variety of other mainstream and classic hits and beats, Gregg Gillis aka Girl Talk impressed. Not to mention, the guy plastic wraps his laptop so his sweat doesn’t get all over it.

Hit me up if you need some tracks. I’ve got the tuneage.