04 November 2014

EXPERIENCE: Sat., Aug. 2, 2014 - Arcade Fire at The Forum (Los Angeles, CA)

[Ed. Note: I know, I know. This show was back in August and in Internet Time, that's an eternity. But I like to chew on things for a while before I digest them. Thanks for reading about ancient history.]

Pet Bear Sounds already spilled a lot of pixels on Arcade Fire. Back in November of 2013 the post "ROTKELFER: Reflecting on Reflektor by Arcade Fire" - written shortly after the release of Arcade Fire's double-album Reflektor - posed the question: "Is Arcade Fire the U2 of our generation?"

In that long-winded post I concluded:
Arcade Fire may not have the universal appeal of U2 but their musical progression is similar. And while I continue to digest and enjoy the current Arcade Fire record, I'm already looking forward to what they can provide us with their fifth album. If only to look forward to a place to hang my hat. Hang on my hat on some bit of today's pop-culture not related to some shitty reality show and the guilty pleasures of Miley Cyrus, if only to call a modern band my own, if only to point my future children to Arcade Fire and say, "This is what it was like when I was your age" in hopes that they will understand what it was like for their old man. Much like the way I obsessively imagine what it was like to be young with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in the 1960s and Floyd and Zeppelin in the '70s and U2 in the '80s.
Blah blah blah. Long story short, I think Arcade Fire is pretty great. I think they have universal appeal. And I think if they had a big, radio-hit single they could find themselves climbing towards U2 status.

But I can't help myself but think; Just over a year after that post and a few months since the Arcade Fire concert at The Forum on Saturday, August 2, 2014, I'm still mulling over the question: Is Arcade Fire the U2 of our generation?

It is difficult to make the comparison considering I've never experienced a U2 show in their hey-day of the late-80s/early-90s and only saw them perform in the early-00s in a post-9/11 world on the back of their so-called "come back" album All That You Can't Leave Behind. But I had the luxury of seeing Arcade Fire twice in 2014: Once at Coachella and again in August at The Forum and I still can't help but romanticize that "This is what it was like back then."

In that November 2013 post I track the progression of both U2 and Arcade Fire by comparing their albums and there are a lot of similarities between the two bands. But it's hard to say if Arcade Fire ignites the same fire, passion and almost religious fervor that U2 seems to create.

But perhaps that is the problem; Maybe I just want Arcade Fire to stir the same embers that U2 seem to do for their generation of fans. After all, the similarities are there. But I now recognize and accept that U2 was a reflection of that era and Arcade Fire is a reflection of this era.

Arcade Fire's Reflektor - produced by LCD Soundsystem leader James Murphy - cleverly captures a delicious blend of epic indie-rock with EDM-inspired grooves that fills the void between poignant (i.e. soul-bearing indie-rock) and mindless (i.e. EDM). In the same way, U2 wrapped social-consciousness with accessibility that touched hearts and nerves and launched U2 beyond the mainstream and directly into universality.

Could Arcade Fire be just as universal? The demographic of the audience at The Forum seems to suggest they can: Seen-it-all-before gray-haired rockers bobbing their heads alongside cross-armed hipsters mouthing words punctuated by the burst of excitable youngsters soaking in their first Big Show.

(If you were curious, Pet Bear Sounds schizophrenically falls into that space somewhere between gray-haired rocker, crossed-armed hipster and excitable youngster).

Arcade Fire may lack the so-called "singles" or the "hits" that demand the short but rapt attention of the public in the way U2 does (which is a discussion for another time) but Arcade Fire seem to be reaching towards a big universal theme like U2 while taking a different path.

U2 calls for collective action from the masses "in the name of love" while Arcade Fire unifies the masses with a sense of uncomfortable, unfamiliar introspection, asking "So can you understand why I want a daughter while I'm still young? I want to hold her hand and show her some beauty before this damage is done."

U2 arrived in a world that thirsted for big revolutionary change and had the desire to fight the good fight in the great battle for Justice but perhaps the current generation feels that the big battles are over or too daunting, perhaps un-winnable like the so-called War on Terror. And with all this Fight The Good Fight fatigue, now the big battle seems to be within the individual: How to search for small/personal/the-little-things meaning in a largely cynical world.

Is Arcade Fire the U2 of our generation? I think so.

And if Arcade Fire continue to progress as they have done so far, we may look back on Arcade Fire and remember them as the reflection of our current time in the same way U2 reflected their time.

Of course, I'm probably over-thinking it. But, y'know, isn't that what this blog is all about?

(Hint: It is).

Oh, and one more thing. You've probably listened to Reflektor a million times by now but back in that Arcade Fire post I wrote a year ago I re-organized the sprawling double-album two different ways so you have two new ways to experience the album:
  • Listen to Reflektor back-to-front (i.e. last track first; first track last). Click here to open Spotify and listen to my "Rotkelfer" playlist.
  • Click here to open Spotify and listen to a Disc 1 vs. Disc 2 version of Reflektor. Track 1 on Disc 1 will be followed by Track 1 on Disc 2; Track 2 on Disc 1 then Track 2 on Disc 2; Track 3 on Disc 1 then Track 3 on Disc 2; etc., etc.
Let me know what you think! Enjoy. :)

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23 October 2014

EXPERIENCE: Hozier and alt-J

I was fortunate enough to experience Hozier and alt-J in concert over the last handful of days. And to borrow a phrase from God, "it was good."

Check out all the pictures on the Pet Bear Sounds Instagram (@PetBearSounds) and if you possess both the ability and the patience to read, you can read my thoughts below.

Hozier at Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Los Angeles, CA
Thurs., Oct. 16, 2014

So, a Methodist and a Jew walk into a Presbyterian church to see #Hozier (an Irishman. Catholic most likely)!

A photo posted by Pet Bear Sounds (@petbearsounds) on

Hozier's most well-recognized song "Take Me To Church" - most recently placed in a carefully crafted and redemptive Beats by Dre commercial starring NBA superstar LeBron James - is an unabashed commentary on the Church. Anyone who has seen the music video and has paid attention to the lyrics can see the themes surrounding love, sexuality, and equality. No doubt, there was a satisfying feeling of irony and beauty when "Take Me To Church" reverberated in the gorgeous Immanuel Presbyterian Church.

There is an admirable way in which acts like Hozier and Belle & Sebastian can reflect on issues of faith without a heavy-hand. They seem to have a way of reconciling their faith against modern sensibilities. It's done in a way that is more subtle than, say, U2 or Arcade Fire.

Social commentary aside, there is a genuine purity to Hozier's brand of Americana (even though he's Irish), blues, and rock 'n' roll. It is reminiscent of Gary Clark, Jr.

Is it Hozier's confessional vulnerability? Is it the combination of innocence and nostalgia that the 24-year-old brings? Is it an inclination to embrace the blues? Whatever It is, Hozier's set was captivating and proved to me there is still space in this world and my heart for raw soul-bearing music wrapped in good ol' fashioned rock 'n' roll.

Check out Hozier on Spotify.

alt-J at The Greek Theatre, Los Angeles, CA
Mon., Oct. 20, 2014

More #AltJ!

A photo posted by Pet Bear Sounds (@petbearsounds) on

"Man, you gotta see 'em live."

This is the common phrase uttered by True Believers who can't seem to convince their friends that a certain band is a "completely different experience" live compared to the album.

[Aside: I felt that way about Austin, TX rock band White Denim. Sure, their records are enjoyable but when I saw them live at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, CA earlier this year, I found myself sputtering, "This is what it must have felt like to see the Allman Brothers in the late-60s." (Hashtag hyperbole but that's how I felt and still feel).]

alt-J's records are quirky and exceptional especially in a musical landscape that has seemed to set the bar of quality so low. At times there is a feeling that they are a bit too clever and are intentionally odd for the sake of being odd (in the way Muse feels conspiratorial for the sake of being conspiratorial. Though, somehow Radiohead never made me feel they were trying a little too hard. Radiohead Fan Boy Bias highly likely).

Whatever the case, alt-J's unique and sometimes trap-inspired beats, soothing harmonies, production that is equally lush and spastic coupled with sharp, memorable riffs really resonate with music-lovers. It's delicious ear candy that makes for perfect headphone music. alt-J isn't the second-coming - whatever that is - by any means but I filed them away as extremely enjoyable headphone music.

But, man, you gotta see 'em live.

Much of the boisterous audience were standing and dancing (myself included) for the majority of the alt-J set. The songs from their two albums translated in a muscular way on stage. The pace of the set was like baby bear's porridge: Just right. They performed with a confidence that only appeared in glimpses when I saw them at Coachella 2013 (not surprising considering their inexperience).

The vibe from the crowd was unexpected; the infectious energy was more than welcome.

Man, you gotta see 'em live.

Visit Spotify and listen to some alt-J (And then go see them live).

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18 July 2014

DISCOVERY: Novos Baianos - "Acabou Chorare"

That's it. World Cup 2014 in Brazil is over. Done, dusted, finished. The End. Fin.

And as the smaller details of the tournament gradually fade away from our ADD-addled brains the larger picture that remains in focus is the magnificent backdrop of the World Cup: Who can forget the exotic Far East splendor of the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, the majestic Bavarian beauty of the 2006 World Cup in Germany and the sights and sounds of the vibrant vuvuzela in South Africa in 2010?

In the same way, it will be hard to forget the thin white beaches of Brazil outlining the coast, the cities carved into lush mountains, the bridge straddling the Rio Negro, and the perpetually sun-kissed colors of the country.

And, of course, you can't forget the music.

Pet Bear Sounds has long enjoyed the sounds of Antonio Carlos Jobim, all the Gilbertos and the samba-influenced grooves of Basement Jaxx but while the love for Brazilian music runs deep, the knowledge is limited.

Imagine my excitement when I discovered "Brasil Pandeiro" by Novos Baianos off their album Acabou Chorare.

To many Brazilians and fans of the music Novos Baianos is no secret. The influential band from the 1970s combined the traditional sounds of Brazilian music with modern rock and jazz sounds that ultimately resulted in a trend known as música popular brasileira (MPB).

You can call it whatever you want; I'll call this record simply delightful.

Click play below to listen to the album on Spotify

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09 April 2014

COACHELLA 2014: Set Times, Selections and a New Approach.

The Coachella 2014 set times were finally released but, oddly, the related stress, hand-wringing and forcible removable of tufts of hair from the scalp isn't really there.

Did concert promoters Goldenvoice get it just right this time? Perhaps. Have I grown disinterested in Coachella? No, I'm still quite excited about it. Is the 2014 lineup ho-hum? On the contrary, it is one of the best overall lineups in quite some time. (Perhaps the lack of reasonably priced tickets on sites like StubHub.com is a clear reflection of that. Two-thousand dollars for a non-VIP Weekend 1 pass? You gotta be fuckin' kidding me!).

Perhaps the real reason for the lack of stress is that I am approaching Coachella 2014 with more of a sense of freedom: I'm just going with the flow. Research new bands? Pfft. I'll stumble upon them. Planning out 30 minutes of this band then 15 minutes of that DJ over here and then back across the vast Polo Fields for the end of that set? Forget about it. The best laid plans are often laid to waste by the spirit of the moment. So, I'm just going with it.

All that being said, here is a rough outline/guideline of the acts I want to check out. See you there!


| My Friday Spotify Playlist |


| My Saturday Spotify Playlist |


| My Sunday Spotify Playlist |

Coachella 2014 Weekend 1-ers: Activate wristbands and unite!

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04 April 2014

SONG #2: Joe - "High Upon A Hill" (original)

Back in February I introduced my 2014 Song-a-Month project and my song for March (yah, yah, I know it's April now) is an original composition called "High Upon A Hill."

I had the skeleton of "High Upon A Hill" figured out a while ago but I recently got around to adding some much-needed flesh to the song (drums, extra guitars, lead guitar parts, harmony parts, etc. etc.). I feel as if it's one of the purest, happy-love songs that I have ever written. And it's written, recorded and shared without any hint of irony, cynicism or sarcasm.

And all with that said, I dedicate this song to my friends Alex and Sabrina who recently got engaged in San Francisco. San Francisco has hills. This song is called "High Upon A Hill." It's about love. So that worked out really nicely for me.


Watch this space for my April song. It's another original one called "You Sold Your Soul (To The Rock 'n' Roll)." It's mostly about Coachella. See you there! Weekend 1!

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19 March 2014

POSTCARD: SXSBroke - How To Enjoy SXSW For Free (And A $2 Bus Pass (and money for booze))

Editor's Note: I love postcards (it's like the Twitter of the letter-writing world. Ha!) and this love of postcards inspired me to start a new series on PetBearSounds.com in which I will post some digital postcards for your enjoyment. Ideally these bits of digital-ephemera will occupy the space between the quick Tweets/Instagrams and the longer-form posts.

To kick off this series we are pleased to introduce Evan Harris as our Austin, Texas correspondent. Harris spent some time exploring the budget-options at the increasingly-costly South by Southwest music festival and conference and came away with an embarrassment of riches. He managed to stay sober (kinda) long enough to send Pet Bear Sounds some postcards from SXSW. Here's the first of many. Enjoy!


It's become fashionable among a certain set of Austinites to grouse about how big and mean and corporate SXSW has become: Oh the traffic! Oh the long lines at my favorite taco truck! Oh the startups hawking their wares! Oh the myriad bands just trying to catch a record deal!

Please. That's the point of SXSW. That's what it does.

I love SXSW. I love the crowds, the madcap carnival atmosphere, the hustle of the bands and the marketing folks, the sheer over-the-topness of an entire city temporarily devoted to trying anything to grab your attention. A stage shaped like a massive Doritos vending machine? Dudes stopping you in the street to listen to their album? Legions of paid hotties handing out flyers and swag? Bar-after-bar of bands, snare hits and guitar riffs echoing down 6th Street? My gods, yes. That. More of that.

Maybe those Austinites are jaded and can't see the fact that for a week-and-a-half the groups that flood into this city are devoted entirely to impressing the shit out of you. And by and large they do a pretty good job of it.

Yes, it's gotten pretty expensive. Back in 1989 you could see a ton of local bands for just $10. These days a wristband for the music portion alone will set you back $100+. A badge for the whole festival can cost north of $500. But there's more to SXSW than the official events, and there's plenty of things to do and see all across the city that are completely free; I set out to explore as much of that as possible. More to follow!


Stay tuned for more postcards from our Austin correspondent throughout the next week or so!

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17 February 2014

SONG #1: Joe - "All My Loving" (Beatles cover song)

As you may remember from my Christmas cover songs, I do a bit of music-ing here and there. Making resolutions for the New Year generally isn't my "thing" but I did want to set creative goals for myself and decided that I'd share one song per month in 2014.

I failed to share anything in January (see why I don't do resolutions?) but I did share a Beatles cover song just in time for Valentine's Day:

The intent is share original songs and cover songs throughout the year. In all honesty, these songs aren't much more than glorified demo tracks recorded in less than ideal situations with less than ideal - but very serviceable - equipment but I think it should give folks an idea of what I do musically.

Thanks for listening and watch this space for future songs!

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09 January 2014

COACHELLA 2014 SPOTIFY PLAYLISTS: It's gonna be a good one.

The Coachella 2014 lineup is out and, well, it looks like it's going to be a good one.

I mean, just a quick run down the lineup and it's already pretty damn exciting: Outkast, The Knife, The Replacements, Broken Bells, Zedd, Girl Talk, Ellie Goulding, HAIM, Neko Case, AFI, Bryan Ferry (Roxy Music), Flume, Jagwar Ma, Muse, Queens of the Stone Age, Skrillex, Lorde, Pet Shop Boys, Empire of the Sun, Fatboy Slim, Nas, CHVRCHES, Solange, Washed Out, Holy Ghost!, Blood Orange, Arcade Fire, Beck, Calvin Harris, Neutral Milk Hotel, Disclosure, Lana Del Rey, Alesso, Beady Eye (Liam Gallagher's band), STRFKR, AlunaGeorge, John Newman, Surfer Blood, Poolside, Classixx, Aeroplane, etc. etc. etc.

Is your head spinning yet?

In previous years many could argue that the lineup was too top heavy, too bottom heavy, too safe, too this, too that.

But take a glance at the lineup this year and there seems to be a great balance throughout: The headliners at the top of the Coachella bill feature the now-traditional hip-hop act in Outkast, epic rock 'n' roll with Muse, and "electronic" with Arcade Fire (see what I did there?). Mix in the hot acts like Zedd, Disclosure and Lorde against the nostalgia acts like Pet Shop Boys and Bryan Ferry. And then fill out a strong selection of up-and-comers like Flume, MS MR, CHVRCHES, and AlunaGeorge.

I feel as if there's a lot of credibility in this lineup too: Indie-rock cred (Neutral Milk Hotel, Afghan Whigs), metal cred (Motorhead), hip-hop cred (NAS), EDM cred (yo, Skrill' drop it hard), chick cred (HAIM, Kate Nash, Neko Case, Lorde, CHVRCHES, Lana Del Rey, AlunaGeorge, etc). It's a pretty cred-filled lineup.

And we haven't even started talking about the small-print bands at the bottom half of the lineup; Your new favorite DJ, singer/songwriter, band is in there somewhere.

Perhaps the rush of excitement (and the booze [Ed. note: This was written last night. I'm not drinking this morning. Yet.]) has gotten to my head but, for the first time in what seems like a long while, I can say that the Coachella 2014 lineup is like Baby Bear's porridge: Just right.

See you there!


I've created Spotify playlists featuring the bands on the Coachella 2014 lineup for Friday, Saturday and Sunday and I'll be adding to it from now through April. Eventually I'll have at least one song from each band on the lineup. Subscribe, listen, enjoy!




P.S. You can't go through a Coachella post without mention of David Bowie or Daft Punk, right? For a variety of reasons, I've given up on seeing Bowie at Coachella but I'll still hold out some hope for Daft Punk (per tradition). Last year there didn't seem to be a "wow" factor and many had very high expectations that Daft Punk would provide that punch in a lineup that didn't seem to have much fight in it. Last year Daft Punk almost had to be the double-scoop of delicious ice cream while this year it seems as if they would "merely" be the sweetest of cherries on top. That is the beauty of this year's lineup.

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