Amanda’s Top Acts of 2015- James Bay

Every year closes and there’s always a select number of events and things that stick around in my brain and really stand out as something memorable. I mean, if it wasn’t that memorable, I probably wouldn’t be able to recall it as vividly as I do after an entire year passes by. For me, 2015 was filled with a fair amount of music related trips and some really “omg this is really happening?!” moments. To be honest, you already know about these artists from our site but I’d like to share what makes them special and why going out to see a band/artist is such an awesome experience for me…


Photo by: Megan Gotch (@thenerdygirlie)

James Bay is someone who’s name you should be familiar with from reading our site. He’s an amazing artist with a really soulful and gritty voice with lyrics that can cut you to the quick and reverberate through your soul. I was lucky enough to see him a few times this year with the standout moment being at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach. Bay had been scheduled to play there back in May and I missed out on the tickets. (Drat!) Then the show had been rescheduled to August and I missed tickets again. (Bummer!) Finally, the date was rescheduled to November and I discovered it just in time to get tickets to the show in November. What luck!

Back in July I had seen James Bay sell out the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York, which according to Wikipedia, holds 3,500 people for musical events. So, the opportunity to see someone who was literally selling out arenas across the US at the 600 capacity Belly Up was something truly special and unique. Also, something that wasn’t likely to happen again. Since I knew this would be a really unique opportunity to be up close and personal, I decided to get there a few hours early and wait in line. I’d say the wait paid off in spades by being part of the first line of people against the stage. There isn’t any kind of barrier at Belly Up so when I say we were there, we were right there!

It was a truly amazing experience and one that will likely never be reproduced. James was his highly amusing and entertaining self throughout the entire evening. He started the evening by saying that he was finally happy to be there after all the issues and “music industry bullshit” and he was just happy people showed up after all the jerking around. I won’t get into the minutiae of the entire evening here because that would take up entirely too much of your time. I will however give you these details (and maybe more if you ask me in person)… he played for over an hour, he played everything from Chaos and The Calm, he also played some of the songs from his previous ep, there was a sing along portion of the evening, and he did a cover of Proud Mary. He completely owned the stage. If you haven’t had the opportunity to see him yet, I urge you to get on it! He’s currently touring everywhere but here it seems so keep your eyes peeled!!

More Photos Here:

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The Bard Interviews: Dear Boy- Part II

Bet you folks thought I completely forgot about my sit down with Ben Grey of Dear Boy. Well, I hadn’t. Life just got in my way but it’s the still first month of the new year and time to come out roaring. Also, Dear Boy is playing their first show if 2014 tonight at the Bootleg Bar. In case you were snoozing, you can find the first part of my interview here. Without further chatter…

A: Do you have a specific approach [to your music videos] because they are definitely unique.

B: Well, we got lucky that we got to work with Bailey Wynn. Who I will just say is my sister. We finished the record in 2012 but we didn’t want to release it because, it’s been my experience and just as a listener [that] I feel like once I have the mp3, or if somebody gives me the mp3 too easily it looses value. And at that time we had never played a show, no one knew who we were and it just was like, I don’t want it out there yet because there’s no audience for it. So, I discovered a new facet of a band’s creativity, which is going to be that visual presence and so we released these teasers with my sister.  We had all this unused sound design we had all these ideas and we just want to start to make things and since there wasn’t a band there were no expectations and was like, well this is something I feel comfortable putting out and seeing how people respond to it. And so it started with a concept and from there it just sort of, I don’t know how to say … I don’t know. We knew what the aesthetic was and we knew what we were trying to go for and it was really easy. And having a collaborator like her, she’s so great that she would take small little ideas and turn it into these amazing things. I’m really thankful that we just had a chance to collaborate with her. It’s a big deal and I’m really proud of the videos.

A: Are there any special stories behind any of the songs? I know you have one that kind of pays tribute to Scarlet Grey. At least, that’s what it sounds like.

B: Yeah, actually. That’s interesting that you would pick up on that. The song “Green Eyes,” which is on the record, is kind of my… It was the first song written for this thing and it was just kind of a way of saying goodbye to all of that.  I think you’re probably referencing another song now that I think about it. But, that song is actually just kind of a “Bon Voyage” but in a really positive way because it was such a positive experience. I’m just kind of not the same person musically or really just at all.

B: So, I think you’re probably referencing a newer song that says my name. Am I right?

A: Probably. I don’t remember the lyrics offhand. I think it goes, “I’m still Grey but I’m not the same.”

B: Yeah. That’s it. That’s a newer one. That song is called “American Gloom” and it will be going on whatever it is this new record becomes. That’s a personal one. I’ll probably keep that a secret.

A: OK. That’s fine. I know your songs definitely take a different… I don’t want to say a different approach but they’re sonically different than what I’m used to from you. But I like them. I’m not saying they are bad or anything. They’re just different.

B: Cool.

A: So I’m just wondering, what inspires it?

B: It’s genuinely the music that I listen to. I mean really my favorite music, my favorite types of music; it’s early 90’s British pop music. You know, post punk and it’s really kind of traditionally how Americans, like I said before, romanticize British music. Obviously I have this propensity for British music. It’s the stuff that I’ve been listening to for 10 years. The problem is that I started Scarlet Grey when I was really young and I didn’t think that it was going to be… that we were going to make a go of it. And it’s just a bunch of friends and I and we just made this fun active rock music and then we started playing and people started coming and then it was. I was in a weird position because I love the songs and I did have this fondness for the whole thing but it was like the more we did it, the further I would get away from what I really wanted to be writing. And not that I don’t, you know have love for those songs or the friends that I’ve made or the fans that we made and all that but this is the first chance I’ve had to really do what I really really wanted to do.

A: Mmmmhmmmmm

B: I know I threw a lot of reallys into that.

A: That’s ok. You’re from The Valley.

B: I’m from The Valley. A lot of reallys and a lot of likes.


The Bard Chronicles: Kill Hannah at The Roxy 12/17/13

Every once in awhile there is a band that becomes so elusive, it’s like your own personal unicorn. They come to town but not while you’re in town. They tour the UK but you don’t live there. They go on tour with a few bands and just before they make it down to your city, the headliner cancels the rest of the tour to go back to the studio. Such has been the case with myself and Kill Hannah. I’d been waiting seven years to see them (thanks HIM) and the opportunity finally came in the form of a one off show at the Roxy in LA. I almost didn’t go because, life and stuff. But I decided this was a once in a lifetime chance and my unicorn might never come around again. Let me tell you, it was so worth it.

The show was pretty amazing. I didn’t really know what to expect from the band having never seen them before and knowing they hadn’t played together in quite some time but they made it seem like no time had passed. And although Matt Devine’s hair is shorter now than it was circa “Lips Like Morphine you wouldn’t have guessed it had been seven years since that song came out or four years since their last release.

Their setlist was focused more toward For Never and Ever to celebrate it’s 10 year (!!!) anniversary and included some of my personal favorites like; “Race the Dream,” “Kennedy,” “10 More Minutes With You,” and “They Can’t Save Us Now.” They also played a few tracks from Until There’s Nothing Left of Us including one of my favorites “Believer.” But that’s not all folks… They successfully made it feel like Christmas came early when the confetti canons went off filling the Roxy with white confetti ‘snow’ while they played “New Heart for Xmas.” If that weren’t enough, they came back for an encore after closing with “Lips Like Morphine” to play “Welcome to Chicago” and shooting off the confetti canons yet again. It was a truly magical experience. 

Below are some photos from the show. Enjoy!


The Bard Interviews: Dear Boy- Part I

A few months ago, I got the opportunity to sit down with Ben Grey of Dear Boy at The Bootleg and have a little chat. In honor of Dear Boy’s show at the Echo tonight, here is a taste of what happened…

A: So, Ben.

B: Yes dear.

A: Tell me about how Dear Boy came to life and the inspiration for the name.

B: Okay. They’re two separate stories. Um, how the band came together… Basically, I’ve known all these guys and worked with them in some capacity for a really long time and I always wanted to put them all together. But it was the first time we were all musically single so I kind of felt like it was fine to ask them out, officially of course.  And then I absconded with them to the UK and that’s how that started. But as far as the name, um, everyone think that it’s the Paul McCartney song or like a smaller group of people think that it’s the Keith Moon book but uh, it really came down to… a waitress said it in the UK. We were there on Thanksgiving and we had been living there for three months or something, and uh we’re in an Italian restaurant cause we had no family there, we had nothing going on so we… the waitress, she was talking to us a few times said, “oh you. Oh, dear boy”, and then that was like, oh my God that’s the name that we were looking for, for this thing

A: Serendipity.

B: Yeah, it was cosmic. Not so much of Paul McCartney’s song, which is great.

A. Cool. Um, I was wondering if at all, how did the time in London affect or influence the sound of the band?

B: It had a huge influence on the band and everything that we wrote there. Basically, I guess. What I say sometimes is that I was desperate to be displaced. And when you start something new… I mean, for me I wanted to be by myself and really really…. (Sighs) I wanted to be not around anything that was my old life because I really wanted to do something different. So, aside from the fact that all American musicians like to romanticize the UK, which is just sort of, at this point cliché, um I just… we had a small opportunity there, like a really tiny one, to play a residency there because my friend was a booking agent and we were just like, we are going to move there and it was just one of those ‘leap and it will appear situations’ and once we did we were alone and just with the city and in a very tiny flat with no heat and no tv and no internet and it was like, it acted as the best distiller. So over that period that we lived in London, everything about it influenced and shaped the record and really helped purify the sentiment and the main, I don’t know, the main innovations.


Stay tuned for more from the interview!

The Bard Interviews: A Sit Down with Saint Motel at the Soda Bar [7/25/13]

It was roughly 8:15pm in the tiny parking lot of the Soda Bar when I sat down with the always entertaining Saint Motel members AJ Jackson (AJ-singer, keys, guitar), Greg Erwin (G-drummer), Dak Lerd (D-bass), and Aaron Sharp (AS- guitar) in their relatively new tour van. We talked about their new single My Type, touring in the UK, must have items whilst on the road, secret special talents, and much more. Read on my friends, read on… (pssssst: you can see photos from the show here)

AB: So tell me about the new track you guys just dropped yesterday, “My Type”, is that from a new record that’s coming?

AJ: We dropped it…. We dropped it like a basketball….

G: We didn’t mean to drop it, it just fell and we’re like, oh well it fell now so I guess we’ll have to pick it up. I’m just kidding.

AJ: Never shake a baby.

G: (mumbles in agreement)

AJ: Yeah. We are very excited about the song. It’s really fun and we’ve been excited to share it with everybody and it was really nice to be able to do that yesterday. And um, we’ve been playing it since a month ago (when) we started this tour but I’m just hoping people aren’t going to record it and leak it on to YouTube and be like “song’s out! Surprise” But yeah, it’s been fun. We’ve really enjoyed that one.

AB: Cool. Yeah. Definitely. It sounds a little bit different from what you guys have been doing. It’s a lot more… brassy.

AJ: Yeah. Yeah, I mean that’s definitely one thing a bit different from it. I mean on Voyeur we already kinda started using some horns and different instrumentation and um, the new batch of music definitely has a lot of sounds we’ve never used before um but I feel like, you know, at the same time it’s got a lot of classic Saint Motel vibe to it. Whatever that means. And um, yeah I dunno I guess we didn’t think too much about it being brassy or not it was just, we liked how it sounded and we liked the song and we didn’t want to, you know, limit ourselves.

AB: Definitely. So when can we expect a new record? Any ideas?

AJ: Um, there’s no information on that right now. Unfortunately. Someone knows but we don’t.

AB: Okay. You guys were recently in the UK. How was that experience? What were some of the best and worst moments? You guys had some epic pictures.

AJ: Thanks. Yeah, it was an epic time. We had two shows in London and then played some shows in Scotland and it was just like… I don’t think there was really any lowlights.

G: I agree.

AJ: I think the beer was a bit flatter.

G: Yeah, the beer isn’t as cold there. They like to serve their shit

[AJ: But you know, when in Rome] cellar temperature.

AJ: But, you know, when in Rome. I said “when in Rome” a lot just because I knew we were in Rome.

G: [Sighs]

AJ: It’s pretty fun.

G: We made sure we told everyone we were American as many times as possible and we wore, like, American flag t-shirts.

AJ: Yeah. You gotta. You gotta do that. Whenever you leave the country you have to do that. You have to wear only American apparel.

G: Especially in Europe. Yeah.

AJ: Yeah, no it was a good time from start to finish. And I think we’re going to be going back over there pretty soon. Which is cool.

AB: Cool. What are your guys’ must have items when you’re on the road?

G: Each other.

AJ: That is important. We don’t want to lose anybody.

G: Ummmmm.

AJ: Ginger has been a new one.

G: These guys eat a lot of ginger.

AJ: Fresh ginger.

G: I can’t do it. It’s too strong.

AJ: Slice it up, take a bite, and just chew on it. And it just makes everything better.

AB: It’s good for you. Keeps you healthy.

AJ: Yeah. Yeah, we keep learning new techniques that ginger… New health benefits I guess.

G: Clean underwear is pretty essential. I had to buy some new ones on this trip. I didn’t have enough time to do laundry.

AJ: They were like ummmm…

G: I just had to buy new underwear.

AJ: They were Batman underwear.

G: Yeah. Underoos.

AB: I approve. What about you two in the back? You guys have been quiet.

[Awkward silence]

AS: What are you asking?

AB: Are there any must have items you need when you’re on the road?

AS: Um.

D: I would say that we have to have a case of water.

G: [laughs] We do. We love water.

AJ: That is important.

A: A well-hydrated band.

D: I mean, like we don’t need keys we don’t need guitars.
Just water.

G: Sometimes we just play the bottles. [plays on a cup in
the van]

AJ: We freeze it at different temperatures.

G: Fill it to different heights.

AJ: Fill it to different heights.

AB: Like that part in Miss Congeniality.

G: Wow that was weird. I was just thinking about that.

AB: Mmmhmmm.

AJ: Whaaat?

G: Yeah.

AB: Yeah. There’s umm… Have you seen the movie?

AJ: [snorts/laughs]

AB: Probably not. Sandra Bullock has all these different glasses and she ends up playing them.

AJ: Is that the one where she’s an undercover cop?

AB: Yeah.

AJ: Ok

AB: She gets all fancied up.

G: Gussied up.

AJ: Undercover cop movies. Kindergarten Cop, Miss Congeniality, always the best crime [unintelligible]

G: Is there even more than those? Cause those are the only two I wanna…

AJ: Undercover Congeniality

G: Undercover Kindergartener?

AJ: No. No. The one where she pretends to be a nun.

G: Sister Act!

AJ: But she’s not really a cop but she’s still like, fish out of water.

AB: Isn’t she a gangsters wife?

AJ: Yeah. Something like that. That Whoppi.

AB: Alright, two more, well maybe three more questions. What’s your favorite guilty pleasure song or band for you guys?

G: Like, something we listen to? That we feel shameful about?

AB: Yes. Everyone has one of those.

[band mumbling]

G: Gesafaltelfish

AS: Gesaffelstein.

G: You don’t…Do you feel bad when you listen to it?

AS: I don’t feel guilty about it at all.

G: She said guilty pleasure song.

AB: Guilty pleasure song.

G: Aaron loves….

AS: I don’t feel guilty about anything I listen to.

G: Dak loves the band Phish

AB: Phish? Ok.

G: And we all feel bad for him.


AB: Oh, you guys are funny. All right, two more. What is a weird skill or talent no one would expect from you? Other than your musical abilities.

AJ: You mean collectively?

AB: No. Well, whatever works.

G: We’re really good at Frisbee.

AB: Frisbee?

G: We play everyday on tour. We’re like, we’re gonna hit the circuit I think. Aaron’s doing trick moves. He’s already doing tricks.

AB: Yeah? What about individually?

AJ: Um. We’re all pretty good at back flips. No one expects that when they see us.

G: We’re probably gonna hit the circuit with that too.

AB: Yeah?

AJ: Yeah. Unexpected back flips too. Like, we’ll just be ordering a beer the bartender will be like, and right when he says that, you do a back flip.

G: And then you’ll get the beer for free though.

AJ: Yeah.

AB: That’s what I was thinking. Ok, last one. If you could sum up Saint Motel in five words, what would they be?

AJ: Sexy

G: Sex

AJ: Sex

G: Just sex

AJ: Sex I guess with a bunch of x’s

G: [laughs]

AB: Ok. All right, that’s it!

Band: [clapping] Yay.

G: Yay.

AB: Thanks you guys.

G: We clap for ourselves. Yay. That’s a wrap on Saint Motel.

The Bard Chronicles: Song Preservation Society at Soda Bar 7/16/13

If you were to cross The Milk Carton Kids and Mumford and Sons, the resulting offspring would be Song Preservation Society. Take the live show, melodic harmonies, simple instrumentation, and a passion for speaking from the heart and you have all of the important elements that make up this band. Admittedly, I was tired from a record number of musical outings by my current standards but watching them play more than made up for it. If you didn’t make it out to the Soda bar for their show, you can catch them August 25th supporting Truth & Salvage Co. at the Griffin. Check out their video Terra  below and peep the few decent photos from the show.

The Bard Chronicles: Better Looking People With Superior Ideas at Soma 7/13/13

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Soma. Actually, I tend to avoid that place and all it’s punk ass underage kids who think they know what’s up. However, when invited by a band to see their debut performance in San Diego, I’ll make an exception.

While attempting to haggle my way inside with my camera, I ended up meeting the band out front when they overheard me drop their name. Since I was only armed with emails and a Soundcloud link , I wasn’t really sure what to expect but I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

Despite it being a rather quiet Saturday at Soma, Better Looking People With Superior Ideas (whew that’s a mouthful) had some fans in the crowd. For a two person band, they create a surprisingly full sound and I was very happy to see a trumpet up on stage. Perhaps my favorite element of theirs was the use of a glockenspiel. Or was it a xylophone? Either way, I though the delicate tones were a great addition and a nice layer. My only wish for BLPWSI is that they find more of a concrete direction in their music. They was a wide range and variety from raging guitar to the delicate glockenspiel and it didn’t always feel like it was coming from the same band. I do see a lot of potential for growth and can’t wait to see where they go from here!

Check out my favorite song below and the gallery while you’re at it.

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