Okay, it’s been a few days … some good, some not so good. Had a friend get deported due to the increasingly extreme immigration policies of our time. That totally sucked. Caught a cold, which has been lingering for the last few days. That still sucks. There was that Game of Thrones finale, which was kinda what I expected, and that also qualifies as sucking. And then there were two bright moments in this sea of negativity … both involving The Chemical Brothers, who played two nights in L.A. I’ll have a lot to say about that in an upcoming post. But in short, holy fuck!
Now that I’ve recapped the rollercoaster events of the last few days, I’m ready to get cracking on this second and final post for Just Like Heaven, that new SoCal festival I posted last week that zeroes in on the acts of the early to mid ’00s. I’ve saved the three headliners for this concluding round of musical musings, New York indie rock/semi-punk act the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Baltimore dream-pop makers Beach House, and French art-pop rockers Phoenix.
Let’s start with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I was originally planning on posting a series of videos from their Hollywood Bowl opening set for LCD Soundsystem, curiously one year ago to the day of Just Like Heaven – i.e. 05.04.18. Weird. Anyway, I just never quite got around to it. Then this performance came along. And quite honestly, I prefer this one, if only because they’re one of three headliners, and vocalist Karen O offered a spirited array of costumes, theatrics, and all around good raucous energy befitting of a headliner.
It’s too bad these guys and gal haven’t produced any new material since 2013’s “Mosquito.” I feel like they’ve got a lot of great material still in them. But until that moment happens, we’ll all have to settle for their fantastic back catalogue of dance-oriented, punk-spirited, glam and gutsy art-rock. And for a little over an hour, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs brought a piece of this collection to the Long Beach waterfront.
I’ve got five tracks featured here, three of which are fairly obvious, “Soft Shock,” “Gold Lion,” and “Zero,” this last one featuring some geeky, silly, yet sincere banter from Karen O.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs perform ” Soft Shock” @ Just Like Heaven at Queen Mary Events Park in Long Beach on 05.04.19.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs perform ” Gold Lion” @ Just Like Heaven at Queen Mary Events Park in Long Beach on 05.04.19.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs perform ” Zero” @ Just Like Heaven at Queen Mary Events Park in Long Beach on 05.04.19.
I’ve also got “Under the Earth,” which skews a little more obscure, but still remains one of my favorites. It’s just got this slinky, sleazy, sexy cabaret quality to its slow-rolling synth tumble. And it’s a mood I can brood to.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs perform “Under the Earth” @ Just Like Heaven at Queen Mary Events Park in Long Beach on 05.04.19.
And then there’s “Skeletons,” which I hear they don’t always perform live. But since it’s the 10th anniversary of their seminal indie album “It’s Blitz!”, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs chose to break this one out of cold storage. They’re overall set featured four other songs from this release, including the aforementioned “Zero” and “Soft Shock.” Shows how much they still value this era. Plus, “Skeletons” is such a groovy little ambient mood piece of vibrant euphoria. It just has this subtle intensity that comes in waves, until it peaks in the most epically chilled of ways. I kinda love it, and am very happy to have experienced it.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs perform “Skeletons” @ Just Like Heaven at Queen Mary Events Park in Long Beach on 05.04.19.
That wraps up the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. If I was closer, I probably would’ve recorded the whole set. But the main stage viewing grounds kind of bottleneck in such a way as to make it incredibly difficult to shimmy to the front. It’s just too dense to maneuver, unless you get there well and early. And since all the acts literally started one after the other, and the stages were on opposite ends, it made for a tricky trek … if you wanted to see everything. And with this line-up, that was certainly my goal. So this is where I ended up, and this is what I got.
Here’s their setlist …
Yeah Yeah Yeahs:
Next up is Beach House, another act I’ve long intended to feature for their live performance. I’ve got clips of their appearances at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, the Fonda Theatre, and the Theatre at the Ace. All excellent shows. But again, for one reason of another, I never got around to it. Plus, I think a lot of it has to do with my footage being too dark and fuzzy. Beach House tends to perform with minimal lighting, sometimes in darkness. It’s a mood thing, and it totally makes sense, when you experience it. But it does make for less than ideal footage. This time around, the camera on my fairly new phone has undergone an upgrade. So the photography is a bit crisper, handling those low light moments with a bit more finesse.
Anyway, nobody cares about all that technical banter. It’s really about the dream-pop anthems that Beach House eschews. And this Baltimore trio has an infinite knack for crafting beautiful, strolling rhythms of ambience and effervescence. It’s the kind of laid back groove that makes you wonder how it would translate live, since it’s so chilled and mellow. But Beach House finds a means to retain those qualities, while kicking up the volume and sensation where it counts. There’s a subtle power and intensity to their live performance, which is elusive on album, yet palpable on stage.
I’ve got five tracks featured here, some excerpts, others complete. I have no explanation as to why. It’s just the way things went down. But it’s all worth checking out. For starters, there’s the softly twangy “Space Song,” which just makes me think of ’60s Vegas sci-fi supper club ecstasy. I don’t know if that’s really a thing, but that’s what comes to mind.
Beach House perform “Space Song” @ Just Like Heaven at Queen Mary Events Park in Long Beach on 05.04.19.
I only grabbed a minute and a half of “Wishes,” so prepare yourself for an abrupt conclusion. But this one dates back to my introduction to Beach House with the 2012 album “Bloom.” So there’s some selfish interest there. Plus, I’ve also got “Myth” from that release, which I didn’t miss any of. I think this one will always be the track I associate most with them, since it was the first track I heard from them. So a lot of firsts …
Beach House perform “Wishes” @ Just Like Heaven at Queen Mary Events Park in Long Beach on 05.04.19.
Beach House perform “Myth” @ Just Like Heaven at Queen Mary Events Park in Long Beach on 05.04.19.
“Drunk in L.A.” and “Dive” are two tracks from their more recent “7” album, which came out last year. The former just feels like a nostalgic trip through a Lynchian SoCal landscape of subtle soothing surreality. The latter remains one of my favorites, because it’s so unexpected in where it goes. It’s a beautiful chiming ballad that slips into what probably qualifies as their most upbeat rhythm to date, if that’s what you’d call it. It’s practically shoegaze in how it builds into a noisy, groovy crescendo of escalating sound and feedback. Check them both out.
Beach House perform “Drunk in L.A.” @ Just Like Heaven at Queen Mary Events Park in Long Beach on 05.04.19.
Beach House perform “Dive” @ Just Like Heaven at Queen Mary Events Park in Long Beach on 05.04.19.
And here’s Beach House’s setlist …
Lastly, French artists Phoenix wrapped up the evening. Admittedly, I’m not the biggest nor well-versed Phoenix fan. I know many who love them, and can speak volumes to their name. Myself, not so much. I like them. And I’ve seen them once before, at a past FYF performance in 2014. But I’m not sure that I ever really got them. They’re somewhere in that indie DMZ between rock and pop, yet seemingly not committed to either. They’ve got that artsy French flair to their sound, yet sometimes come across as slightly lukewarm, rather than sizzling hot. And I’ve never been quite sure if I’ve liked Thomas Mars vocals. Sometimes yes, others, not so much.
So I approached their performance with a slight bias of indifference. Yet I like to believe I have an open mind .. or at least one that’s more receptive (than not) to finding the right approach to understanding. In other words, I’m there. They’re there. I might as well give it another go and see what all the fuss is about. And most definitely, there was quite a bit of fuss, as pretty much everyone was their to see Phoenix conclude an 11 hour marathon of constant tunes.
Now, I’m just going to come out and say that I totally enjoyed Phoenix’s performance. I still think they might have a little too much pop in their blood for my blood. But at least their brand of pop has a certain degree of elegance to it. It’s never over the top, or cliché. And it even holds a few surprises, venturing into places I wouldn’t expect. For example, there’s their mashup of “Bankrupt!” and “Love Like a Sunset,” known simply as “Sunskrupt!” I absolutely loved this performance. And it showed a side of Phoenix I was completely unaware of … or at the very least, hadn’t taken notice of. Check it out …
Phoenix perform “Sunskrupt!” @ Just Like Heaven at Queen Mary Events Park in Long Beach on 05.04.19.
Back to that aforementioned pop, “Fior di Latte” is a quirky little downtempo track that’s practically retro whimsical in spirit. It reminds me of a more carefree and innocent time.
Phoenix perform “Fior di Latte” @ Just Like Heaven at Queen Mary Events Park in Long Beach on 05.04.19.
And then there’s “1901,” which if memory serves, is the first track I heard from Phoenix. I still prefer the remix version by The Chain Gang of 1974 and Christophe Eagleton, which I’d include in this post if I could find it online. But all traces of it seem to have been erased. If you can ever find it, it’s so worth it.
Anyhow, their Just Like Heaven performance makes a strong argument for its ongoing appeal. It’s a strangely asymmetrical pop/rock song that doesn’t really conform to expectations. And that’s why I continue to like it, despite some of my previously cited reservations towards their music.
Phoenix perform “1901” @ Just Like Heaven at Queen Mary Events Park in Long Beach on 05.04.19.
I don’t think I’ll ever go full Phoenix, and start checking them out every time they’re in L.A. But I’ll certainly be frequenting their catalogue with a bit more interest this time around. I’ll begin that process with their setlist, and see where things go from there.
And that’s a wrap on Just Like Heaven, 2019. Coming up, I should have some wonderful clips to share of The Chromatics, The Chemical Brothers, White Lies, The Church, and a more robust selection of The Faint, which I find myself liking more and more these days. Plus, they’ll be the usual random daily selections. I’m finding it challenging to keep things updated on a regular basis. So for now, I’m just going to go with the flow and see how this all plays out. I’m trying to keep things low key and enjoyable, versus entering the rat race of constant blogging for blog’s sake. I guess what I’m saying is I’d like to keep it fun, even if I’m the only one in the audience. Have a good night and be back soon.