Show reviews: Beck at the Disney Hall, Obits, Wire, Quasi at The Echo and Echoplex (plus CASH Music: LA Summit)

Just got back from the Walt Disney Hall. Wow. While most artists consider releasing new music on vinyl to be O.G., Beck schooled everyone by releasing his last batch of songs in sheet music form. Intended to be interpreted by any musician at any skill level, the Disney performance is only one of a handful of official performances. Most songs were played by the L.A. Philharmonic (conducted by his dad, David Campbell) with vocals from the likes of Jack Black, Jarvis Cocker, Jenny Lewis, and Childish Gambino. John C. Riley, Becky Stark, and Tom Brosseau played as a trio. Interspersed between the songs were brief readings on music from the likes of Jonathan Gold, Allison Anders, Tig Notaro, and Randall Poster. Wow. But ultimately, the point was not to show off big-time names in L.A.’s most elite venue but to communicate that music is meant to be performed, interpreted, and enjoyed by anyone. Only the humble genius of Beck pull it off.

And now back to the usual shows where you can stand right in front, earplugs are a good idea, and cameras are allowed. There was no way I could miss Obits, with the screaming hardcore of Obliterations (above) and ridiculously prolific and equally melodic Rob Crow (below).

The latter’s newest group, Rob Crow’s Gloomy Place, and isn’t quite as focused as his most popular band Pinback but catchier than many of his other bands (Thingy, Optiganally Yours, Devfits, etc.). It was only their third show but they sounded pretty tight to me. Check them out!

The new Obits album is even more refined than the previous one but the band remains as intense as ever with surf guitars dueling in garage and post punk carnage. But raw doesn’t equal rough, with the four members being masters at what they do (members of Drive Like Jehu, Edsel, Boys Against Girls…). The songs go down smoother now but they’re still killers.

During Obits’ set, I noticed Rob Crow standing next to me and afterward I reintroduced myself to him. He remembered the time I interviewed him for Giant Robot mag (it was at the Palace with Sleeping People opening) and said that he still visits the GR booth every Comic-Con. Cool! When we started talking about our families and kids, I hit him up about playing a Save Music In Chinatown show and he said sure. That’s cool, too!

Earlier that week, I went to The Echo’s big room to see Wire. Seattle’s Chastity Belt opened and played stilted punk with dark undercurrents but were clearly stoked to be there. A great contrast for the older dudes that would follow. Wire were possibly stoked but in a more seasoned manner…

It says a lot that punk pioneers like Wire stopped performing their most loved songs from their first few albums many years ago, yet still fill larger venues like the Echoplex. Their continual playing and evolution has earned them respect and a pass for not busting out “Ex Lion Tamer” or “Heartbeat” (hits that were kept alive by the Rollins Band and Big Black, respectively).

Although Wire don’t do their oldest songs anymore, their first show in L.A. since 2008 had some vintage sounds thanks to their last LP that builds on previously unfinished sketches of songs from their punkier days. So there was a powerful mix of catchy and heavy music, anger and craftsmanship. Even the hardest core fans were not disappointed.

The Saturday afternoon before I saw Mike Watt (The Minutemen, fIREHOSE) and Maggie Valie (The Bangs, Kill Rock Stars) at a free conference about music and technology. It wasn’t a concert but you can read about how CASH Music is making technology available and music sustainable for artists here.

Just one more show… Quasi played The Echoplex and were great. So were the openers Blues Control. They started out with some free jazz tweaking but ended up cranking out the heaviest possible fuzzed out noise. Rad!

What can I say about Quasi that I didn’t already gush about in my recent Q&A with Sam Coomes? That the duo shows off such stupendous chops, melody, and sense of humor in their songs and sets is almost unfair. And then they play a ripping cover of Black Sabbath on top of that. Congrats to Quasi for kicking ass for two decades in the studio and onstage–if not on the Billboard charts.

Although the show was 18 and over, I got Eloise into sound check to meet Quasi. Not only legends but sweethearts…

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