This month I feature reviews and the latest in a series on international artists and their performances in San Diego – past articles have spotlighted the Beatles, the Who, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Elvis, and now:
SPRINGSTEEN AND SAN DIEGO
Notably, San Diego is mentioned in three Bruce Springsteen songs:
1973 “Rosalita”- from the album, The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle
1995 “Balboa Park” and “The Line” – both from the album, The Ghost of Tom Joad
In a career spanning nearly five decades Bruce Springsteen has performed in San Diego only four times. It might be coincidence, but then again, his first attempts to perform here didn’t go well. He was first scheduled to appear locally on February 24, 1973 at the Civic Theatre, part of a two week tour opening Paul Butterfield’s latest band, Better Days. The show and all but one date on the tour were canceled due to poor ticket sales, but not before the band had flown out to the West Coast. He was next set to appear on July 26, 1974, once again at the Civic Theatre, this time opening for Dr. John. The show was also cancelled due to poor ticket sales. Springsteen eventually performed in San Diego during his 1978 tour, the first of three appearances at the Sports Arena. He finally made it to the Civic Theatre in 1996. Set lists for all four shows are below – note that “Darkness on the Edge of Town” was performed at all four shows
July 9, 1978 – San Diego Sports Arena
Badlands / I Fought the Law / Night / Spirit In The Night / Darkness on the Edge of Town / Candy’s Room / For You / The Promised Land / Prove It All Night / Racing in the Street / Thunder Road / Paradise by the C / Fire / Streets of Fire / Adam Raised A Cain / (Medley) Not Fade Away – Gloria – She’s The One / Growin’ Up / Backstreets / Rosalita / Born to Run / Because The Night / Quarter to Three
***Prior to the show, Springsteen taped an interview with DJ Dave Herman for the weekly syndicated radio program, The King Biscuit Flower Hour. This has been bootlegged, most recently on the album, Agora Night, from Crystal Cat Records. The concert itself has been bootlegged as well.
September 2, 1981 – San Diego Sports Arena
Thunder Road / Prove It All Night / Out In The Street / Darkness On The Edge of Town / Follow That Dream / Independence Day / Jackson Cage / Trapped / Two Hearts / The Promised Land / I Fought The Law / The River / This Land Is Your Land / Who’ll Stop The Rain / Badlands / Hungry Heart / You Can Look / Cadillac Ranch / Sherry Darling / Growin’ Up / Johnny Bye Bye / Point Blank / Candys Room / Ramrod / Rosalita / I’m A Rocker / Jungleland / Born to Run / (Medley) Devil With The Blue Dress On – Good Golly Miss Molly / Quarter To Three
September 29, 1992 – San Diego Sports Arena
Better Days / Local Hero / Lucky Town / Darkness on the Edge of Town / Atlantic City / Big Muddy / 57 Channels / Trapped / Badlands / Living Proof / If I Should Fall Behind / Leap of Faith / Man’s Job / Roll of the Dice / Gloria’s Eyes / Cover Me / Brilliant Disguise / Soul Driver / Souls of the Departed / Born in the U.S.A. / Thunder Road / Born to Run / My Beautiful Reward
October 22, 1996 – Civic Theatre
The Ballad of Tom Joad / Atlantic City / Straight Time / Highway 29 / Darkness on the Edge of Town / Johnny 99 / Highway Patrolman / Sell it and They Will Come / Red Headed Woman / Brothers Under the Bridge / Born in the U.S.A. / Dry Lightning / Long Time Coming / Point Blank / Sinaloa Cowboys / The Line / Balboa Park / Across the Border / Bobby Jean / This Hard Land / No Surrender / Galveston Bay / The Promised Land
Bipoloroid – Twin Language (Get Hip 1164)
17 reverb overloaded, sixties inspired garage rock tracks. Fun stuff all around, with songs like “Tonight We Paint the Town,” perfectly capturing the spirit of the original music this quintet so clearly loves. Sonically it sounds like these were recorded over the span of some time, sounds range from Jesus and Mary Chain-like reverb drone of “Paperless Sun” to “Hollow Fox Archery’s” late sixties Kinks overtones. There is a shift in the recording quality of some tracks, but the energy is excellent throughout. A recommended listen for fans of mod / garage / punk.
Engineered by Ben Glover and Lewis Daubin. Recorded at More Fun Comics / C.O.G. Secret Lab. www.gethip.com/site/bands/bipolaroid
Elgin Park – s/t (Enjoy 002)
One of my all time favorite albums, with a caveat. Released in 2000, the debut and only album by Elgin Park is easily one of the best indie rock albums to be released by a San Diego group in the past two decades. That the band includes acclaimed composer Michael Andrews as well as Eric Hinajosa, John Krylow, Matt Ynott, and Robert Walter tells you automatically that this is going to be a cut above the average release and wow, it is. A fantastic live act, their influences: The Zombies, Love, Pet Sounds Beach Boys, Elvis Costello & the Attractions and other purveyors of great pop. Sadly, upon release, this album got lost in the shuffle. Andrews went on to more soundtracks, #1 records, and further adventures with the Grey Boy Allstars. I was lucky enough to be around the band during the tail end of preps for this release and can attest to what a labor of love it was for the band. The caveat? Thing is, there are two versions of the album in my stack here, a 13-track CDR disc with alternate mixes of nine tracks and two songs, “Melting Chocolate Bars” and “Just Like It Never Was,” which didn’t make the finished album and a 12-track CD with ten newly (at the time) mixed and overdubbed tunes, plus a new song added to the mix, “Waterback Hill.” I have to give the nod to the CDR version – the slightly rawer sound and sparser arrangements give the songs a little more immediacy. That said, I consider both versions essential – the arrangements are nothing less than brilliant. Take the minor-key, mid-tempo rocker “Patience.” I hear echoes of everything from Big Star to pre bombast Who, with a Rod Argent / Paul Atkinson bridge to die for. The swirling guitar flourish hook, the Pete Townshend-like sonics at 1:13. This is one of the tracks with the biggest differences among discs with new segments and dynamics. A true masterpiece, Andrews throws in the kitchen sink, but not a note is wasted. Keyboards enter and leave, guitar lines weave, harmonies swirl, and Andrews tells a passionate tale about losing his patience. The finished disc is more cohesive, though both missing tracks are good rockers in the same vein as farfisa-driven rocker “Happiness,” lyrically, they don’t seem to fit in the mix comfortably with the other tracks, sort of like if someone had included “Little GTO” on Pet Sounds – cool tune, but it doesn’t fit. As for the new track, “Waterback Hill,” any fans of the Zombies Odessey and Oracle will find it a necessary listen. I could go on for days on this album’s charms. Bottom line, track down Elgin Park, it’s an essential listen for pop fans.
Produced by Mike Andrews. Engineered by Todd Burke and Greg Collins at Eddie Tennisons House, Bankers Hill, San Diego. www.elginpark.com
Glowfriends – All Things Made New (JAM JCD521)
What if the Velvet Underground had been a Brill Building pop act? Shoe gazey, jangly indie pop, this Michigan sextet turns in another dozen gems on their latest disc. Not as atmospheric as their earliest recordings, this is still a wonderful dreamy disc that roams from the mid-tempo hooks of opener “Wait for the Waves” – the albums obvious single – to the more torch song introspective “Through the Heart.” The disc is full of radio-ready tunes, including the power poppy “Explain Away” and the acoustic and wonderfully titled “Peter, Do you Love Me?” While everyone is integral to Glowfriends’ lush, complex arrangements, it’s the twin sounds of April Zimont’s vocals and Jenn Hendrix’s mix of glockenspiel and vibes that give their music the edge, particularly when Zimont’s vocals are harmonically matched with those of guitarist Mark Andrew Morris. If you’re an indie pop rock fan, add this to your collection ASAP.
Recorded at ouR House Studios. Engineered and mixed by Charlie Piper. www.glowfriends.net www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUoL4yRv_-g
Greg Gohde – Zerofrets (self-released)
Rarely has a disc been so appropriately titled. Zerofrets is exactly that: Greg Gohde performing on a fretless bass. What makes it a little unusual, perhaps, is that it’s strictly a solo bass album, no percussion, vocals, guitars, or anything else. Indeed, literally, one guitar and one amp created this work. Just the pure sound of the bass. It’s an interesting listen. This is not a pop disc by any means, but it contains a number of choice covers, including “ABACAB,” “Blackbird,” and “Ferry Cross the Mersey,” and opens with a Robin Henkel tune, “Tonopah.” More of a disc for musos than fans of any particular genre, this will appeal to fans of any genre, from jazz to pop. The adventurous listener will find many compelling passages, while bass players will find much to admire in Gohde’s playing.
Produced by Greg Gohde. Mixed by Kyle Thompson / Iconic Studios. Mastered by Paul Abbott / Zen Mastering. www.soundcloud.com/zerofrets
Neighbors – Prime Numbers (Get Hip 1165)
Keyboard-driven sixties-styled tuneage from garage rock to mod pop. The album riffs in with the stomping and Nuggets friendly, “Tell the Truth,” but also includes pop gems such as “Winifred,” which captures the wistful British Invasion sound of the Zombies et al. well. They also veer into horn-accented mod soul, with an excellent tune, “No Matter the Season,” and Weller inflected revival sounds on songs like “Green Shoes.” Some of these songs, such as “No Car,” sound like they could have come straight from vintage albums, but no, it says here, they’re all originals, and great they are. No one-trick pony, this band’s stylistic changes, all while keeping the sound as authentic as possible, make for a great listen. Unlike many albums in this genre, you’ll enjoy playing this is one time and time again.
Produced by Derek White. Recorded at Monophobic Studios. www.neighboursmusic.com
Atom Orr – Flotsam and Jetsam (Populuxe)
The brain child of amazing producer/multi instrumentalist Christopher Hoffee (vocals, keyboards, bass, guitars, piano, “and other such noises” it says here), with percussionist Matt Lynott (drums, marimbas, congas), Atom Orr excels at atmospheric indie rock with sixties and modern pop influences. Beautifully recorded, artfully performed, the arrangements are as inspired as the songs they frame. That said, wow, is this a diverse disc. There is a bit of an oceanic theme, so naturally there is a smidge of Brian Wilson in some cuts. But then, probably my favorite song is “Flotsam,” which at times sounds like a cross between the Moody Blues and Depeche Mode, before going all Echo and the Bunnymen. Opening and closing with vocal choir pieces that have a church like quality, the disc first gives us a McCartney/Costello-esque piano rock tune, “Rise,” before offering up a loungy cocktail jazz / rock hybrid, “Sea Horses Forever.” There is a recasting of the Beatles “Tomorrow Never Knows” that is a worthy listen, but truth be told, it isn’t as good as some of these originals. The sonic adventures continue via the rap/rock track, “Traveling at the Speed of If.” I don’t give stars in my reviews, but if I did, these guys would get an extra one just for their song titles. Acoustic-led “Until the Day” wraps up the music proper before a vocal workout that leads us back to the album’s beginning. Hoffee has churned out a multitude of wonderful musical creations with a multitude of different groups and artists over the past few decades. This new, excellent disc merely confirms his status as one of San Diego’s best songwriters and producers.
Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Christopher Hoffee at Chaos Recorders. www.inthechaos.com
Savannah Philyaw – Uh Uh (self released)
Country pop, but with a rootsy confidence that’s refreshing. Philyaw has a really nice voice and it’s matched with superb production by Jeff Berkley, who gets both an excellent, warm acoustic piano and guitar sound. A five-track EP, the disc opens with the strongest track, “Uh Uh,” an incredibly catchy pop gem with a slinky bass line, banjo riffing, and sing-a-long chorus. Seriously, this is an instant ear worm, a perfect modern pop hit if it gets into the right hands. It should be noted that the song is a co-write with legendary local artist Calman Hart and it’s a winner. By default Philyaw falls into the singer-songwriter category, but this is a full band disc, complete with Hammond organ, such as on the power ballad “Take Me Home.” Lyrically, while a few of the tunes occasionally stray into obvious rhyme, Philyaw’s storytelling is spot on, particularly with the song, “Family.” The lyrics speak of a child’s longing to belong, the country-tinged soundtrack, evoking parts of Elton John’s Tumbleweed Connection. On the evidence of these five tracks, Philyaw is quite a promising talent, these tracks are radio ready.
Produced, Recorded and mixed by Jeff Berkley at Berkley Sound. Mastered by Gavin Lurssen and Ruben Cohen. www.savannahphilyaw.com
Roger! – Dark Matter – (self released)
Wonderfully arranged, dark, and breezy pop. A couple of points to start. Roger! Is a band not a person. Led by San Diego transplant, Texas native Ernesto Garcia Jr. and his acoustic guitar, the combo also includes Josh Cherichetti (guitar), Joel Shedroff (bass), Ryan Shultzaberger (percussion), Candice Earnhart (vocals/guitar/accordion) and Aaron Luke (drums/vocals). This is not revivalist music, but the ’60s – ’80s, Beatles to 10,000 Maniacs, AM Pop to New Wave, echo hard on the ten songs here. What Roger! is about is well-crafted tuneful material with both male and female vocals, from Garcia and Earnhart, at times raw, at times orchestral, with lush arrangements custom fit to each song. Earnhart in particular has a great voice, raw and soulful, full of emotion in every note – the string laden ballad, “Slicktender” is a great showcase for her. The CD opens strong with the melancholy jangle pop rock of “Unpredictable” and doesn’t let up with either hooks or melodies. There are several natural singles, probably topped by the charming, folky “Beautiful,” the intertwined harmony vocals from Garcia and Earnhart adding the right touch to the song to maximize melody. But, it’s hard to pick a favorite. “Creeps Like Me” sounds like it was written by Paul Westerberg while listening to the Beatles’ “Ballad of John and Yoko” – great! This is followed by jaunty ballad “Wasted Days” with twin guitars and layered vocals, meanwhile “Shaky Paper Hands” is a garage/powerpop stomper – the variety on Dark Matter is refreshing. According to their website, Roger! Is working on their sophomore release. I’m already looking forward to it.
Recoded at Mike’s Pad, Ernie’s Garage 1/12-8/12. Engineered by Mike Devine/Ernie Garcia. Mixed by Darryl Blood. Mastered by Aaron Luke. www.Rogertheband.com