Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Lotta's & Canter's cupcakes

Frosting is arguably the best part of any cake or cupcake. The sweet, creamy glaze used to cover and decorate baked goods can also be found on cookies, gingerbread houses and gingerbread men. This cupcake review focuses on the frosting on cupcakes from Lotta's Bakery and Antique shop in San Franciso and Canter's in Los Angeles. 

Red Velvet cupcake from Lotta's Bakery & Antique Shop
photo by Nikki DeMartini

Located in San Francisco's Pacific Heights neighborhood,  Lotta's Bakery and Antique Shop, as it's name suggests, is a unique bakery and antique shop. It's pretty small, like a little nook and it reminds me of Grandmas house with it's Carnation Pink striped wallpaper, gold rimmed picture frames and all the little nick-nacks. They have lots of pies, cakes, different kinds of breads and an assortment of breakfast pastries to choose from. 
On top of one of the display cases was a glass cake dome and in it were cupcakes. Two different flavors of cupcakes to be exact: one that looked to be yellow cake with chocolate frosting and the other Red Velvet. I went the Red Velvet route.

The cake, though very red like a pretty red rose, was dry and crumbly to the bite. The white frosting that topped it was heavy and when I tasted it I could tell why. It wasn't a creamy frosting, it didn't have that crystallized sugar texture that stale or frosting that isn't fresh gets but it was hard. In the sense that you couldn't lick any of it off the top, you had to nibble it off. It was, however, recognizably, cream cheese frosting. The most cream cheesiest frosting I have ever tasted.

Red Velvet cupcake from Lotta's Bakery & Antique Shop
photo by Nikki DeMartini

It definitely had to be made from scratch and maybe every batch is different? This particular batch of Lotta's cream cheese frosting didn't add a lot of sugar to the mix at all. Except for a very subtle hint of sweetness it tasted like straight up cream cheese. Even it's texture was very close to that of straight up cream cheese and not the spreadable cream cheese that comes in a canister either. This full service bakery that specializes in wedding cakes and specialty cakes probably has an incredible Cheese Cake. I'll have to revisit their cupcakes when they're put out on display the day they are made.

Canter's  has been around since 1931.  It's a restaurant, bakery, deli and bar, Canter's really does have it all.
Whenever I am in L.A, I can't not go to Canter's in Fairfax for one of their delicious, hearty sandwiches. And, the last time I went, I left with a cupcake.

Yellow Cake with Chocolate frosting cupcake from Canter's
photo by Nikki DeMartini

You can't miss the display cases stuffed with fresh baked goods: challah, jelly filled pastries, bagels, coffee cakes, black & white cookies, tea cookies, brownies, rye bread and more! Everything you see is baked on the premises twice a day, everyday! And if they don't get you on your way in, they'll get you on your way out. Tucked in a corner in one of the display cases with all the other treats I spotted cupcakes as I was leaving after lunch and I walked out with a yellow cake with chocolate frosting cupcake.

The chocolate frosting was dark and topped with little, round rainbow sprinkles. The cake, golden on the outside, was spongy and soft on the inside. It appeared that it wasn't yellow cake at all but a sort of Angel Food Cake instead.

The frosting was thick in it's texture and thick it's chocolatey taste.  It was more of a fudge frosting than chocolate frosting, the way it sticks to the roof of your mouth bite after bite until it melts away.
 It was a top heavy cupcake, falling over and rolling on to it's side when I set it down but the frosting stayed intact, smooshed a little but not smeared off. And it was a fresh cupcake, I could tell with every bite of the light, springy cake and the gooey chocolate fudge frosting.

Yellow Cake with Chocolate frosting cupcake from Canter's
photo by Nikki DeMartini

Monday, December 24, 2018

Last Christmas 2018

Originally done by Wham! in 1984, "Last Christmas" is one of my favorite Christmas songs. 

The emo X-Mas song written by George Michael has been covered by: Taylor Swift, Jimmy Eat World, Ariana Grande, Postmodern Jukebox, Rita Ora and Fifth Harmony just to name a few of the many artists who have covered it since it's release.

Last year Gwen Stefani released You make it Feel Like Christmas and like the 12 days of Christmas there are 12 songs on it. Some of the songs Stefani sings are classic Christmas songs ("Jingle Bells", "Let It Snow"), some are originals ("My Gift is You", "You Make it Feel Like Christmas") and one is a cover of the classic 80's Christmas song "Last Christmas".

This year, the former No Doubt front woman gave us the deluxe edition of  You make it Feel Like Christmas, on it are the same 12 songs plus 5 more including a festive rendition of "Feliz Navidad".

Gwen went through a pretty rough divorce from fellow rocker Gavin Rossdale before being swept off  her feet by her current lover Blake Shelton. It's no surprise that most of her original songs on her Christmas album(s) are so obviously about her new BF, Blake but I can't help wonder if "Last Christmas" is on there as a nod to her split from her long time love, Gavin. Whatever her reason is for featuring "Last Christmas" on You make it Feel Like Christmas I'm happy that she did. 

She really put on the Holiday cheer for both album covers: with simple mistletoe and bow props and of course, in true Gwen fashion, her signature fire engine red lipstick. What I really want from Gwen though is a No Doubt reunion and some new No Doubt music. That would be nice. 

Dream-pop, goth rockers, Pale Waves have been around since 2014 but they released their debut album, My Mind Makes Noises this year, so for some (like me) they are shiny and new. Back in November they kick started the holiday season early by releasing their cover of "Last Christmas" via Spotify singles. Pale Waves' take on Wham!'s Christmas song isn't merry and bright but rather it's synth heavy and blue which I think is just right.

Whatever way it's wrapped up and delivered I enjoy hearing "Last Christmas" this time of year and I hope you've been enjoying your favorite Christmas songs, too. 

Friday, December 21, 2018

Fall Back: Songs of Summer

Now that it's offically Winter, how does falling back to warmer, (maybe) simpler times sound? Here's a playlist of singles released on or around the months of Summer to keep your daydreaming of Summer daze alive.  

Find out what songs made the list and why  below then listen to my summerrrrr 018 playlist on Spotify to keep the good times rolling. 

1. "Balla Balla" - Brazilian Girls (Let's Make Love)
It had been 10 years since the dancey, downtempo fusion band from New York known as Brazilian Girls released an album. That changed on April 13th when they dropped their fourth studio album, Let's Make Love
The track "Balla Balla" reminds me of the beautiful, tropical queen Carmen Miranda: it's foundation is a mix of Tango meets Flamenco, rich with horns and percussion layered with looped lyrics and sample vocals that sweep you to a 1940's ballroom atmosphere. 

LP Giobbi @ The Fox Theater 5/18/2018
photo by Marc Fong 
2."Amber Rose" - LP Giobbi

This fiery song from the rising DJ starlet, LP Giobbi, is her most popular one to date. Named after the Walk of No Shame bombshell Amber Rose, the song asks a flurry of questions starting with "Do I need a hook to live? Am I just a lyric in a rap song?" backed with affirmations like "Yeah I got ass shots and lace" then the chorus drops "So I just Amber Rose on these hoes".

It's an unapologetic dance song with deeps beats and heavy drops with shimmery dance-hall melodies in between and a great build-up. "Amber Rose" is your new anthem to listen to when you're getting ready for girls night.

3. Bat Shit - Sofi Tukker (Treehouse)

Sofi Tukker @ The Fox Theater Oakland 5/18/2018
photo by Marc Fong 

Electro-pop duo Sofi Tukker already got the dance party started long before their debut album Treehouse dropped earlier this year with their single "Best Friend". They have a Carnival,
college party vibe heard all throughout the album which is vibrantly brought to life at their live show. A lot of tracks from Treehouse are Summer playlist worthy, like my favorite, the Portuguese lyriced single "Drinkee".

But with it's nostalgic "I'm Too Sexy" opening this late night hook-up inquiry themed song is a perfect fit for those "carefree" late Summer nights that could leave you feeling and or looking a little bat shit after.

4. "Worry No More" - Diplo fest. Lil Yachty & Santigold (California)

The light yet colorful complexity of the melodies of "Worry No More" quickly caught my attention and Santigold's sweet, raspy vocals locked me in. This isn't the first time Diplo's genius hit us during Summer, three years ago he gave us "Lean On" by way of Major Lazer and MO  and "Worry No More" has the potential to be just as popular. Like Summer, the song is carefee and youthful and it wants it to stay that way.
"I don't want to worry no more
I just want to ball like the big league
I just want a nice house on the shore
I just want a big house like Gatsby
So catch me if you can
\I'm chasing after my dreams
I want to be the man
I want to be the star on the scene"

 Lil Yachty's charismatic contribution to the song and the overall easygoing vibe reminds us that even when you're working hard to meet your goal, what ever it may be, you should never take yourself too seriously. The music video is fun and bright, too which of course is the icing on the cake of one of my favorite songs of this Summer.

5. &Burn - Billie Eilish feat.Vince Staples

Billie Eilish at ALT 105's BFD @ The Concord Pavilion 5/13/2018
photo by Marc Fong 
Billie Elish has been hot this year and she's only getting hotter. With her debut album slated for early 2019, Billie has been busy on the2018 festival circuit (Governors Ball, Bonnaroo, ALT 105's BFD, Outside Lands, Music Midtown, Camp Flog Gnaw) as well as launching her own headlining tour across North America. She's been dropping singles along the way, including her brand new, brooding track "See Me in a Crown".

But before that there was "&Burn" which was released late in 2017. Her collab with Vince Staples dropped a couple of weeks shy of 2018 and it fits so well with how a Summer fling can leave you feeling burned I had to add it to this year's Summer playlist.
Also, burn like sunburn, right?

6. "Spicy" - Lil Kim feat. Fabolous

The original queen bee has been back for a bit and she has released new music since being freed as a jail bird but this is her best new one yet. It features Fabolous and she's just as fiesty and sassy as ever before. This hot track rings Notorious K.I.M and while it might sizzle, don't be confused cause it isn't Lil Kim who's spicy, it's all the haters who are spicy.
(instead of salty, maybe it'll catch on?)

                                      7. "Gravity" - MNDR 
MNDR hasn't released a full studio album since Feed Me Diamonds in 2012. But, for the last few years she has released, or been featured in singles that have dropped around the Summer months

In 2013 RAC released Don't Talk To which featured MNDR and Bloc Party's Kelle on was featured in "Let Go"
Three years ago, in 2015, I was convinced she was gearing up to release her second album after the release of the single "Kimono" and her "Dance for a Dolla" EP. 
In 2016, MNDR  announced on Instagram that her second album, The Mainstream was finished but still has yet to be released. 
2017 saw two more MNDR collaborations: "We Love" with TOKiMONSTA and in celebration of
Pride month "SWERLK" with Scissor Sisters dropped in June. The catchy dance-club song was also in honor of the one year anniversary of the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando Florida. 

In May of this year (2018) MNDR hit us with"Gravity" just in time for Summer. With a chorus that reads:
'cause I feel your Gravity all around me
My heart in agony when your around me
So why you pull me down?
Why you pull me down?
Why you pull me down?
Why you pull me down?
"Gravity", produced my Hudson Mohawke, is another smart, well polished, experimental pop song. It's not your typical Summer anthem.  It's an earnestly sweet reality check for anyone with their head in the clouds about being in love.

It's rumored to be the first single off a new album titled COM COY (Cult of Me, Cult of You). Hopefully the rumors are true and a new MNDR album will land soon.

8. "Sangria Wine" - Camila Cabello feat. Pharrell Williams

"Havana" off of Camila Cabello's debut album might have lit up the airwaves for the better part of the year but her song with Pharrell, "Sangria Wine" is fire, too. Released May 18th, the Salsa influenced pop song is laced with South American flavor features Cabello singing verses in Spanish.
Sangria, red or white, frozen or not is a perfect Summer day pairing and even though "Sangria Wine" didn't make it to the album it's a great addition to any Summer playlist to get you feeling good.

9. "Summer Games" - Drake (Scorpion)
Drake may have fallen from Riri's grace and this song might be about just that. "Summer Games" has Summer in the name so it's kind of a given that this song off of  Scorpion made the Summer playlist cut.

10. Kream - Iggy Azalea feat. Tyga

It’s been four long years since getting “Fancy” with Iggy Azalea and the blonde Aussie bombshell hasn't really given us anything quite as buzz-worthy since. This past August though, she released her six song EP, Survive the Summer and on it, the attention grabbing track "Kream".  The only single released off the extended play features Tyga and a slow bounce-back beat giving it a throw back vibe. This sexy + boss bitch track knows exactly what it wants and doesn't shy away from going after it. Iggy's one and only, hot new single off her aptly named EP dropped just in time for Summer festivities.

11. "Bring It On" - Deap Vally 

I'm a rock N roll girl at my core but songs that truly rock don't make my Summer playlist cut too often because they tend not to have that certain Summer appeal. But, back in June the ladies of Deap Vally released "Bring it On". With the November elections not too far off,  their timing couldn't be better.
"Bring It On" came as a shout out to those politicians trying to keep us ladies down and like Lindsey and Julie say, we say,  bring it on.

Flush with the duo's fashionable, garage riffs, licks, hooks and plethora of crashing symbols all whirling around the background psychedelic harmonies this new Deap Vally song isn't shoving politics down your throat and it rocks, that's what makes it work.
Hopefully it's a tease of more new stuff to come from these two in the new year. 

12. Hallelujah - Years & Years (Palo Santo)

Years and Years @ The Warfield 10/26/2018
photo by Marc Fong 
Thanks to a friend, one of my favorite finds this year is Years & Years . Their debut album, Palo Santo, dropped on July 6th and the infectious "Hallelujah" is not another take on the religious hymn (hallelujah!). It's a bombastic track full of dance-able melodies that will effortlessly draw you to the dance floor.
Crushing lyrics of the effects of lust:

"Was I just something for the moment?"

"I wanna dance til I'm drunk on the feeling"

"Somebody like you that I could dance to this to, that knows what to do
Somebody like you that I could move to this to
Until our bodies are singing hallelujah"

It's a song about those feelings that get our blood pumping, making us want to move our bodies like the heavenly creatures that we are.
I know you know the ones.

13. Boys - Lizzo

Lizzo has a way to make any and every girl feel fierce!
She's all about self-love and sexuality and expressing them loudly and proudly. She released two singles this year, "Fitness" and "Boys". This Twin Cities dweller taught us that everybody is a beach body and even though being boy crazy happens year round, Summer really is the perfect time for being full-on boy crazy and this is the song for it.
Remember boys, we don't need you, we just wanna freak you.

14. Secrets - P!nk (Beautiful Trauma)

What happens during the Summer, stays in the Summer, amiright?
Maybe it's a secret lover or a Summertime fling or just a romp on the beach. P!nk knows we all have secrets, she does too. It's a track off her seventh studio album, 2017's Beautiful Trauma and if you ever needed a reason to love this hot, power-pop mama anymore, this is it.
The music video for "Secrets" came out this July and we couldn't be happier to ad this classy exposure of "Secrets" to our playlist.

15. Coo Coo Coo - Santigold (I Don't Want: The Gold Fire Sessions)

Santigold @ Treasure Island Music Fest 2018 
photo by Nikki DeMartini

Santigold released I Don't Want: The Gold Fire Sessions on July 27th, 2018, just one day after announcing it. The dance-hall inspired album comes as a follow up to 2016's 99cent and it's her fourth studio album to date.

An Afro-Caribbean influence, used to evoke a "looser, summer spirit of Summer" is heard through out the whole album and really stands out on "Coo Coo Coo" and the track that could be considered a single from the album, "Run the Road".
"Coo Coo Coo" is a bubbly dis to all those cat callers out there:
"Do you coo coo coo if you want me?
You don't want no love"
It's witty and fun and will have you smiling and feeling warm as you parade down the street with your head held high.

16. Smoke. Netflix. Chill - Tank and The Bangas

NPR's 2017 Tiny Desk winner, Tank and the Bangas haven't released an album since their debut in 2013 but, this year alone they did release "Smoke. Netflix. Chill" and "Spaceships".
What modern pass-time says Summer better than, "Smoke. Netflix. Chill"? The song carries the same chillax feeling that it's title suggests it would.

17. Make Me Feel - Janelle Monae (Dirty Computer)

This song had me movin' and groovin' the first time that I heard it in April and the same thing has happened every time I've heard it since then. I venture to say that "Make Me Feel" off of Janelle Monae's risque Dirty Computer is the album's sleeper hit.
 The titillating song has a strong, undeniable Prince vibe: it's sexual, outspoken and seductively vulnerable. And the music video is just as titillating. Great for those warm Summer nights or cold Winter ones at that, and will brighten up any day in between.

18. Miami - Kali Uchis, BIA (Isolation)

When you think of Miami do you think of  bright colors, beaches and sunshine or is that just me? Latin, neo-soul singer Kali Uchis blazed trails in 2018 with her headlining North American tour and she'll continue to spread her sound in 2019.

Kali Uchis @ The Warfiled 9/17/2018
photo by Marc Fong 

19. Might Not Make It Home - LPX 

Lizzy Palpinger of MSMR, emerged as a solo artist LPX at the beginning of this year. Released in August, "Might Not Make It Home" wasn't on her EP, Bolt in the Blue but we think it's sentiment is a perfect ending to this Summer playlist. 

Friday, December 7, 2018

Kimbra at The Chapel 12/4/2018

It had been 4 years between albums from New Zealand's multi-instrumentalist, singer/song writer, fasionista Kimbra and about the same amount of time had past since the last time she played a show in SF. That all changed when she released her third studio album, Primal Heart earlier this year and set forth on tour in support of it which found her playing at The Regency Ballroom in February. A few months later she released a less electric, more introspective version of the same album, Songs from Primal Heart: Reimagined. 
And now, she's back on the road, this time with an acoustic show. Kimbra played a three night residency at The Chapel December 2nd, 3rd and 4th and contributing writer Michael Pettett was at her third and final sold-out show in the city to tell us how it compared to the last time she played here. 

Kimbra at The Chapel 12/4/2018
photo by Marc Fong 

As Kimbra blossomed into the music scene with her first album, VOWS and making a guest appearance on Goyte's single "Somebody That I Use d to Know", we immediately saw the shear, raw talent that she possess.  With an electric sound and notably exposing her influences by showcasing a live rendition of Nina Simon's "Plain Gold Ring", it was obvious that Kimbra had a plan to seemingly take the world of jazz influenced pop by storm.
Kimbra at The Chapel 12/4/2018
photo by Marc Fong 

The Golden Echo, her triumphant follow up to VOWS, gave us maturity in a way that didn't stray too far from her original sound, allowing fans to relish in ability to write hooks and phrases like none other. Her poetic prose left you feeling an array of emotions unlike most contemporary pop artists today. 

Kimbra at The Chapel 12/4/2018
photo by Marc Fong 

With her third release, Primal Heart we are given a new perspective. Almost what seems to be a step backwards into the realm
of commercialized pop, yet we find ourselves feeling the same emotional weight that Kimbra knows how to deliver best. It wasn't until she released Songs from Primal Heart: Reimagined that I shifted my perspective about the record, Primal Heart

Initally I was displeased with the record itself, mostly feeling a lack of inspiration for the material on the record which paled in comparison to her first two. Songs from Primal Heart: Reimagined however, give us the Kimbra we originally fell in love with. 

Kimbra at The Chapel 12/4/2018
photo by Marc Fong 

As expected, Kimbra set out in the road and subsequently sold-out three nights at The Chapel in San Francisco's Mission District. With a two piece band consisting of Zach Tenorio (Arc Iris) on Piano, and Spencer Zahn (Kimbra, Dawn) on upright bass, the three of them harmoniously occupied space on the stage and perfectly complimented one another, giving  Kimbra the stage to fly. 

Kimbra at The Chapel 12/4/2018
photo by Marc Fong 
To say that she's talented is an understatement. And to say that she's captivating live is almost insulting. Kimbra brings an energy to her performances like no other performer that I've seen and she was explosive on stage at The Chapel. Their sparse set up on stage and the show being a seated one made the intimate night with Kimbra feel like we were at a small jazz club back in the prohibition era.

It's rare that to find an artist in the public eye as she is, willing to fold inward, back into a place of vulnerability to release a record that showcases an array of abilities including poring out emotionally into studio recordings.  You can see direct responsiveness in the fact that she sold out three nights of shows in a row, during her second run in San Francisco this year.  

Kimbra at The Chapel 12/4/2018
photo by Marc Fong 

Now that Kimbra is touring on the release of Songs from Primal Heart: Reimagined, we can see that polished pop princess practically broken down on stage in front of us. Her connectivity to the crowd is unrivaled and now that she's touring acoustically, it's even more so. 

 Kimbra at The Chapel 12/4/2018
photo by Marc Fong 

Eye contact, articulation,  discussing the importance of regrouping as a civilization to connect and not focus on social media so much are the types of things you can expect to encounter on this tour.  Not to mention her romper was unbelievable! She must have been in 8 inch platforms! 

Kimbra at The Chapel 12/4/2018
photo by Marc Fong 

In my opinion, it's shows like this that can truly expose the real artists, the people who actually sweat and cry from their artistic process. Kimbra is that. She embodies everything about her own art and will surely give you an experience unlike anything you've ever seen before on this Reimagined tour of hers. 

review written by Michael Pettett 
photos by Marc Fong 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Kimbra residency at The Chapel December 2nd, 3rd, 4th

In 2011 "Somebody That I Used to Know" launched Australia's Gotye and New Zeland's Kimbra into one hit wonder stardom, here in The States anyway. Since then the now 28 year old diva has released three albums: VOWS (2011), The Golden Echo (2014) and Primal Heart (2018). The last of which is a far cry from her retro, doo-wop debut as she's moved into the realm of experimental. 

A couple of months before the release of Primal Heart earlier this year, Kimbra played an illuminated, visual show at The Regency Ballroom on Valentines Day. Months later the fashionable songtress released, Songs from Primal Heart: Reimagined, a 4 song acoustic EP of songs from the synth soaked album. And now, she's touring in support of it. 

Three of the eight shows in the U.S are at The Chapel in San Francisco. Starting on December 2nd Kimbra brings her acoustic set to a venue with an elegant acoustic aesthetic with two nights of sold-out shows. Tickets are still available for the third and final, intimate, reimagined evening with Kimbra. It will be interesting to see what she brings to the stage this time around. 

Thursday, November 22, 2018

German Chocolate Cake Cupcake from Martino's

The Original Martino's Bakery has been serving Burbank since 1926, that's 92 years! I'm not sure if they've been in the same location at 335 North Victory Blvd but that's where I was unexpectedly introduced to them. It's a spacious place and it's no thrills appearance makes it easy to miss along the busy streets. Dedicated to providing fresh, delicious, beautiful baked goods, all of the shelves in The Original Martino's are chalk full of them. From pies, cakes and morning danishes, to muffins and cookies, to tea cakes, fruit cakes, cupcakes and cake balls they have it all! 

German Chocolate Cake cupcake from Martino's
photo by Nikki DeMartini

Their cupcakes are reasonably priced at $2.59 each and while their Carrot Cake Cupcake was enticing with it's walnut encrusted cream cheese frosting and cozy spices of the season, I went with a flavor I haven't reviewed before. 

One that you don't see in cupcake form too often. One that because of it's coloring could be considered Thanksgiving appropriate. 
I got a German Chocolate Cake cupcake. 

Traditionally German Chocolate cake is layers of chocolate devils food cake with a coconut-pecan paste like frosting. At first bite I knew this was not a chocolate devils food cake (it wasn't nearly decadent enough) but I couldn't put my finger on it. There was a familiar flavor...rum cake? As I ate on it hit me. It wasn't rum I tasted, it was Kirsch and it reminded me of the other famous German cake, Black Forest Cake. It was a light cake, not buttery or moist but not dry, just light. It didn't have a lot of flavor beyond the familiar taste of a Black Forest Cake. 

German Chocolate Cake cupcake from Martino's
photo by Nikki DeMartini
The frosting was a pulpy blend of coconut, pecan, butter and sugar. Though there was more coconut making up the chunky consistency, the taste of pecan was stronger than coconut. The quarter sized dollop of milk chocolate frosting that might have been there cosmetically to hold the maraschino cherry in place added the perfect amount of sweetness to the mix. You don't see too many cupcakes with bright red cherries on top, maybe Martino's does that on their German Cake cupcakes as a nod to the Black Forest Cake. Over all it's not a very sweet cupcake. As I was eating it I thought to myself it's a great cupcake for people who aren't really into sweets or if your sweet tooth isn't that big. But it did satisfy my sweet tooth that afternoon. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Deap Vally at The Echoplex 10/30/2018

After national and international tours opening for Wolf Mother, Garbage and Blondie the girls of Deap Vally returned to the place they call home for a headlining show at The Echcoplex in L.A. 

It was the night before Halloween and costumed concert goers slowly trickled into the dark venue. I learned when I got there that it would be a late show with second openers of the night, The Paranoyds going at 9:30, Deap Vally would play closer to 10:30. Dressed as cockroaches, The Paranoyds offered surf rock jams with a Twilight Zone twist. People filled the space close to the stage and before long it was time for Deap Vally

Deap Vally at The Echoplex 10/30/2018
photo by Nikki DeMartini

I read somewhere that the Deap Vally girls hadn't played a headlining show in L.A for a while and the last few times I was them was when they played in San Francisco so it was awesome to catch a rare, hometown show of theirs. Another fun fact about their show at The Echoplex, a venue that reminded me a lot of The Independent in SF only bigger, was that The Rolling Stones played there in 2013. So before they even started, I knew this place knows how to host a rock show and Deap Vally knows how to rock so we were in for a rockin' good time at The Echoplex. 

Buoyant cheers rose from the chatter in the crowd as Lindsey and Julie took their places on stage: Lindsey front and center with Julie kitty corner to her stage right. One of the things I love so much about Deap Vally is that it's just the two of them and they rock so hard. In a time where almost all music is auto-tuned and over produced, my musical tasted was formed in the age of The White Stripes. I'm inherently drawn to the grungy style of blues duets that rock as hard as bands like The Kills and Deap Vally do. The fact that Deap Vally are two girls makes it that much more badass.
They were both in the Halloween spirit that night: Lindsey dressed as Wonder Woman and Julie as Daryl Hannah's character from the original Blade Runner, Priscilla "Pris" Stratton. A friend donning KISS face-paint joined them on stage at first, lending some back up vocals to Lindsey's predominate wailing. 

A loud, distracting buzz coming from one of the speakers during the first few songs of the set which I attributed to being a blown speaker turned out to be a bad guitar cord. After stopping mid-song during "Smile More" to work out the technical difficulty they decided to play without the cord and the sound was much better after that. 

They played favorites from Femejism including "Little Baby Beauty Queen", "Royal Jelly," "Teenaage Queen" and a song from the album they've never played live before, "Critic". It was stripped down and slowed down allowing you to hear Lindsey's vocals being summoned deep from her diaphragm. The times that I have seen them since the September 16th, 2016 release of their second album (Femejism) and even before that, their set-lists consist of songs from it and usually one song from their first album (Sistrionix) "Walk Of Shame." They played two songs from that album at their show at The Echoplex that night, "Walk Of Shame" and "Make My Own Money." They also played a new single that was released this Summer, the guitar riff driven "Bring It On". 

Friends joined them on-stage through out the show playing bongos and backing lead vocals and a silver bodysuit clad T-Rex danced around the stage during the last song which everyone fully enjoyed. Deap Vally's rock N roll spirit on the eve of all Hallows Eve was a fun treat. There aren't too many shows left on their West Coast Fall Tour but they're rumored to be working on a new album which means we'll likely be seeing Deap Vally again soon.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Our Music Festival @ The Greek Theater in Berkeley 10/20/2018

A new festival popped up as the festival season started to wind this year. Our Music Festival took place in Berkeley last month and Marc Fong was there to cover it. 

The inaugural Our Music Festival took place on Saturday, October 20th at The Greek Theater in Berkeley, closing out the outdoor music venue's 2018 season. In a time when music festivals saturate the market and festival-goers have more than enough options, what's one more? 

OMF CEO Justin Blau (known by his DJ moniker 3LAU) and the rest of the OMF founders are hoping that this fest offers more than just the "typical" music festival experience.  The OMF website boasts "fan incentives", a "hybrid blockchain ticketing system" and "decentralizing decision making". What does all that mean for fest-fans who went to the event? That's a good question.

Our Music Fest @ The Greek Theater Berkeley 10/20/2018
photo by Marc Fong 

The website offers some promising, tech-savvy buzzwords but what this means beyond the music remains to be seen. The Our Music Festival "model" (in contrast to the "traditional" music festival "model") suggests that there will be referrals, fan feedback (perhaps in regard to future artists who might play OMF) and rewards in the form of  redeemable OMF tokens. All of this sounds good but the details are still hazy.

Our Music Fest @ The Greek Theater Berkeley 10/20/2018
photo by Marc Fong 

I downloaded the OMF app., scanned a QR code and received tokens. OMF staff helped me scan another code on-site and then I was rewarded with an OMF bracelet...future Our Music Festivals will likely clear up how fans really benefit from the technology behind it. 

In my opinion, all of the tech stuff isn't as important as why people go to music festivals: for the live music.  I do acknowledge there's probably a fair segment of festival goers who go simply for the notoriety, to partake in a community that welcomes booze and drug use, skimpy clothing/cowboy hats/headdresses, etc, etc but I am choosing to ignore those. 

Our Music Fest @ The Greek Theater Berkeley 10/20/2018
photo by Marc Fong 
Our Music Festival offered a modest line-up with a common theme: feel-good, college dance party. The majority of attendees looked ready for some ass shaking and by the time Zedd (the headliner) took the stage it was clear they got their money's worth.

Kid Quill at Our Music Fest @ The Greek Theater Berkeley 10/20/2018
photo by Marc Fong 
Kid Quill opened the show with a smooth take on rap that was pleasing for those who made it out early. Quill's song, "The Opener" was fitting, given that his place on the line-up. ("I'm just the opener/no one came to see me/singing all my songs and nobody knows em/I'm just the opener, handing out my CDs/standing by the table if they want a photo/Yeah, and I'm the first on stage/but they don't know my name"). 

Kid Quill gave his impressive opening set his all and energetically engaged with the audience. They may not know his name now, but give it time. 

Charlotte Lawrence at Our Music Fest @ The Greek Theater Berkeley 10/20/2018
photo by Marc Fong

Next on the bill was Pop up-and-comer Charlotte Lawrence: young (only 18), bubbly and impassioned. She already has an impressive number of streams for songs off of her Young EP and I can only imagine her burgeoning fanbase grew after her OMF performance. With a lot of middle fingers thrown in the air and waving them around like she just didn't care, her performance was unabashedly rebellious for a pop artist while also being dancey and down to earth. 

Matt & Kim at Our Music Fest @ The Greek Theater Berkeley 10/20/2018
photo by Marc Fong 

Our Music Festival welcomed Matt & Kim to the stage for the rock portion of the evening. My personal fave, the duo poured their hearts out, blasting out fan favorites like "Day Light" from 2009's Grand and "Happy If You're Happy" from 2018's Almost Everyday. 

Their party-rock sound was a lot different than the rest of the bill that Autumn afternoon but that didn't effect Matt & Kim, they always know how to throw a party. 

The Brooklyn based pair blessed the crowd with confetti, giant pictures of Oprah and blow-up dolls with their faces on them! Their over the top, upbeat energy was a great addition to the OMF line-up.

Matt & Kim at Our Music Fest @ The Greek Theater Berkeley 10/20/2018
photo by Marc Fong

Matt & Kim at Our Music Fest @ The Greek Theater Berkeley 10/20/2018
photo by Marc Fong

 Rockers at their core, Matt & Kim is clearly made for dance fueled festivals like Our Music Festival. Their loud, infectious sound is just part of their live show. The stage presence these two have is unlike most bands: they're explosive, non-stop energy is a huge reason to see them live. 

3LAU kept the dance party going in earnest shortly after Matt & Kim. 

Matt & Kim at Our Music Fest @ The Greek Theater Berkeley 10/20/2018
photo by Marc Fong

Matt & Kim at Our Music Fest @ The Greek Theater Berkeley 10/20/2018
photo by Marc Fong

As one of the founders of OMF is wasn't surprising to see the Vegas DJ on the line-up. Nor was it surprising to see that 3LAU is as good as you'd expect, seamlessly blending beats and melodies to an eager crowd. Showcasing a use of samples so vast I can't remember them to tell, 3LAU fed a melody hungry audience. 

3LAU at Our Music Fest @ The Greek Theater Berkeley 10/20/2018
photo by Marc Fong

By the looks of the outfits, or lack there of, fans in the crowd were there to shake (and show off) their booties and 3LAU got them to do just that. Toward the end of his set, QR codes with OMF tokens were shot into the crowd as they danced. Witnessing paper technology raining down on shiny, happy dancers was pretty neat. 

Big Sean at Our Music Fest @ The Greek Theater Berkeley 10/20/2018
photo by Marc Fong

Big Sean was up next and if anyone was upset by the rapper's interruption to the dance party, they clearly did not protest the issue. Instead, the rapper/singer delivered a lively performance that consisted mostly of well-known hits that fans loved hearing, adding to the already great OMF experience. 

Zedd at Our Music Fest @ The Greek Theater Berkeley 10/20/2018
photo by Marc Fong
Headliner, EDM god Zedd, closed the show with larger than life visuals and a commanding stage presence. I don't think there was ever a question how he would sound but he sounded fantastic: I and many other can attest that the 29 year old producer has a unique sound with in the EDM genre that is all his own and he knows how to work it.

Zedd at Our Music Fest @ The Greek Theater Berkeley 10/20/2018
photo by Marc Fong

Zedd at Our Music Fest @ The Greek Theater Berkeley 10/20/2018
photo by Marc Fong
From a deck seemingly hovering in the air, high above fans and the stage itself, Zedd immersed us in bone-shaking EDM. The audience, riled from all of the previous acts, erupted in screams of excitement when he took the stage which didn't stop. He fed off of that energy, creating an amazing vibe which made for a great ending to a cool day spent at a festival. 

Though I lack the savviness to fully appreciate the tech nuances of OMF, I can appreciate that 3LAU and company know how to throw a party. I am curious to see what the next iteration of this festival brings to the table. 

Zedd at Our Music Fest @ The Greek Theater Berkeley 10/20/2018
photo by Marc Fong

review and photos by Marc Fong