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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