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Foxy Shazam

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Best of 2014 List

Last year I posted my Top Five Albums of 2013, so this year I decided to do my favorite songs of 2014, plus my favorite concert experience.

Let's start with my Favorite Concert of 2014 as that's short and sweet.  I saw Twenty One Pilots for the third time this year, this time at the Fox Theater in Oakland.  As always, this eccentric and entertaining alternative hip hop/electropop duo blew me away!  Tyler Joseph and Josh Dunn really know how to get an audience pumping, and with each show they keep raising the bar, adding more tricks, throwing in some interesting cover songs, and growing their showmanship.  It's incredible to see how much traction they've achieved and that their underground following is growing exponentially!  The venue was packed and I was brimming with happiness as I sang along and watched the high energy madness ensue.  The only downside was that I wasn't up front at the stage as I was last year at The Independent, which definitely adds to the connection with the band.  Last year I was holding Tyler up as he came into the audience, as well as during the drum-off encore, and those two moments were exhilarating and missing from this year's show.  Here's my favorite shot from the show:

 Favorite Concert of 2014 Runners Up:
1) Carnivores Tour with Linkin Park, 30 Seconds To Mars, AFI at Concord Pavilion
2) Foxy Shazam at Slim's


Top Five Favorite Songs of 2014

This year has been a great year musically for me!  I love so many bands that released songs this year, as well as learning about bands through my Pandora station.  Some notable mentions are The Jezabels, Haerts, Young Wonder, The New Division, The Knife, Zella Day, Depford Goth, Washed Out, Kitten, and Warpaint.

10) Augustines - "Nothing To Lose But Your Head"

I've been a fan of Augustines since their debut album while they were still known as We Are Augustines.  I was hooked the first time I heard "Chapel Song" and discovered this rockin' band.  I've seen them live a few times now, including this past summer at The Independent.  The new album Augustines is a bit harder than their debut, but I like it, especially this song!

 

9) Glass Animals - "Gooey"

UK indie rockers Glass Animals came to me by accident.  I don't actually remember the first time I heard "Gooey" but I'll assume it was probably on Live 105's Soundcheck program.  It was one of those songs that creeps up on you, you're intrigued at first listen, and then all of a sudden you're hooked.  It's different, it's soothing, it's unusual, it's haunting, and it's relaxing, all at the same time.  Seeing them perform live at DNA Lounge in December was a treat; they really delivered live.

 

8) Semi Precious Weapons - "Aviation High"

I first heard of Semi Precious Weapons when they opened for Lady Gaga on her Monster Ball tour.  I remember being amused by them, but nothing really stood out.  Then I heard "Aviation High" and I fell in love with the song instantly.  The lyrics are sexy, the song is flirty, and the melody makes you move.  All qualities I enjoy in songs.  I ended up meeting the band at Live 105's BFD after their set; they were just hanging out in the crowd watching the next band, so I approached the lead singer and told him how I love this song, especially how kinky it is, and Justin said that he meant for it to come across that way.  Then we took a selfie together.  Very cool, I respect any band that hangs out with the commoners at a show.

 

7) Goldroom - "Embrace"

Because I had not yet heard of Goldroom, I missed his headlining set at SXSW in The Green Room.  But then The Beautiful Buzzz used this song as the background tune in their SXSW recap video and I instantly knew I had to download it.  I love the ethereal quality to the song, plus the singers voice suits the melody excellently, especially in the chorus.  I've since downloaded the whole EP and thoroughly enjoy all five songs.  I also recommend you check out the single "Fifteen," which brought him his initial success with the top spot on the Hype Machine charts.

 

6) Phantogram - "Black Out Days"

NY electronic duo Phantogram is just phenomenal.  I love pretty much everything by them.  If you haven't downloaded Voices yet, it's a must-have!  Not only does it feature the first single "Fall In Love" that drew people in and blew up so quickly that everyone was eager for the full album, but it also features 10 other amazing songs, including this hard-hitting jewel.  There's something beautiful and haunting about the song, the triggers deep in my soul.  I don't think I'll ever get sick of this song.

 

5) Broods - "Mother & Father"

New Zealand siblings Broods were one of those accidental discoveries.  I heard "Bridges" and enjoyed it so much that I downloaded their whole first EP Evergreen without even listening to it first.  I never regretted that decision and was happy to see they finally released their full-length self-titled album, produced by Joel Little, known for his work with Lorde.  "Mother & Father" is their best work so far and I'm excited to hear what else this band will deliver in the future. 

 

4) Banks - "Beggin For Thread"

I first heard of LA singer/songwriter Jillian Rose Banks in 2013 when she released "Waiting Game."  I was instantly drawn in by her haunting vocals and lyrics.  I heard the melodic songs "Brain" and "Change" in early 2014, which also struck my fancy.  Then I heard "Beggin For Thread" and I was blown away -- what a powerful and beautiful song!  It's such a hard-hitting dance song with angst-ridden lyrics any female can relate to.  Plus we all wanted to know why anyone would want to beg for thread, and then you hear why and it strikes a chord, deep down inside. The bridge is my favorite part: "hold it out, whoa, try to hide it out, but my tracks are better" -- it just hits you like a punch!  I should add that I really enjoyed her performance at Treasure Island Music Festival.

 

3) CHVRCHES - "Dead Air"

I've been a fan of CHVRCHES since their Recover EP, and all I can say is that "Dead Air" is their best song to date.  I thoroughly enjoyed their set at Coachella, probably one of my highlights of the festival, and to hear them release such a perfectly composed song like this just made me incredibly happy.  Not only is it perfect for the Mockingjay movie, but it just proves that these Scotts are improving musically exponentially.  If this song is any indication of what we can expect from them in the future, then we are in for a treat.  Trust me.

 

2) Lorde - "Yellow Flicker Beat"

What can I say about Ella Yelich-O'Connor that you haven't already heard?  Lorde is the voice of this generation and she's the force to reckon with these days.  I probably heard "Royals" about 6 months before most people, all due to a small blog I read.  That was before anyone knew what she looked like, we only knew she was 16 years old.  That song became my anthem and I posted about it on my Facebook to deaf ears.  Then the song blew up, and I mean really blew up!  For once the music industry was rocked by an unknown teen from New Zealand, with her unique sound that didn't conform to the the standard songs shoved down our throats by terrestrial radio.  It's artists like Lorde that gain international stardom organically that give me hope in the music business.  By 18, not only did she release 2013 acclaimed album Pure Heroine and won some Grammy's, but she's asked to put together a whole soundtrack for the third installment of the box office smash "Hunger Games" movies.  Not only does she rise to the challenge delivering a phenomenal assortment of songs, including my #3 song above, but she also writes an incredible hit song!  "Yellow Flicker Beat" is a beautifully written gem -- it's the perfect anthem for this trilogy that captures the essence of Katniss flawlessly.  All I can say is that Lorde continues to amaze me and I look forward to what she has in store for us next.

 

1) The War On Drugs - "Red Eyes"

I struggled a bit in choosing "Red Eyes" by The War On Drugs as my #1 song.  Not because it doesn't doesn't deserve it, it really does, but more because I'm such an electro-pop junkie that it seems more like me to choose Lorde instead.  But The War on Drugs album Lost In A Dream made such a huge impact on me this year that they deserve top honors.  It's seriously an amazing work of art that has been on repeat so much that my best friend Eric requested me to take a break before we got sick of it (like that's even possible!).  "Red Eyes" is a gorgeously composed song from beginning to end; it's upbeat with a hint of melancholy, with a driving beat that takes you for an exciting ride.  It's a beautiful journey that I enjoy taking as often as possible.  Every substantial music blog has listed this album high up in their best of 2014, and that alone should tell you that it's worth the buzz.

I can't wait to see what 2015 brings, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoyed my songs.  Would love to hear what you have on your list, so let me know!

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My #UnforgettableGig

Being the music junkie that I am, I go to a lot of shows, mostly considering I book shows and manage bands as a side business.  I could tell you about the first concert I ever went to, which was Neil Diamond with my Mom when I was 12 and how amazing that experience was, but it wasn't the most life changing experience.  I wasn't really aware of what music meant to me at that age.  It wasn't until I was older that I realized how vivid music was in my life and that it burned deep in my soul, impacting me in ways I never knew.

Obviously U2 was one of the first bands that brought me to that new level of appreciation of music.  I remember listening to "Unforgettable Fire" and "War" over and over again in the early 80's; "Bad" will probably be my favorite song of all time until I die!  By the time "Joshua Tree" came out in 1987, U2 was my favorite band and they've kept that status ever since.

I didn't see U2 live until the early 90's when they went big with their Zoo TV tour.  I was in college at that time attending University of Colorado at Boulder, so I saw them in Denver with my college best friend Lisa, also a huge U2 fan.  We were both members of Propaganda, so we got our tickets early and were close to the stage.  That was the first time I was blown away by a band; it was such a wonderful show with so many props and such high energy.  I had never seen a frontman demand your attention like Bono does, it's almost like a religious experience the way he draws you in and preaches to your soul!  I have seen every U2 tour since then, most of the time up close due to early presales and waiting at venues all day, and the band never disappoints.  I was even at the historic Rose Bowl show for U2 360° Tour, which was the largest attended concert I've ever been to.

My favorite time was probably when I got into the heart for Elevation Tour, enjoying the show from right up front against the railing -- making eye contact and seeing everything so close was unbelievable!  The girl next to me was selected to get on stage and dance with Bono during "Mysterious Ways" and I will admit, I was a bit jealous (too bad Bono doesn't like blondes lol).  I had the pleasure of meeting Bono and The Edge when they were in San Jose, CA, for the U2 Special Edition iPod launch with Apple.  Bono was so gracious and sweet when I told him I've been a life-long fan, cupping my hand in both of his the whole time we talked.  The Edge was also very sweet, though so soft spoken and shy I almost couldn't hear him.  Meeting your idols is such a surreal experience, there's something magical and unforgettable about that moment.  To this day I regret not taking a picture with them. *sigh*

Despite my many amazing U2 experiences, the moment I've been most inspired by a band and their live show has actually been more recent and by a band not as well known called Foxy Shazam.  I was told about Foxy Shazam by chance by a local musician and was instantly curious when I saw their video for "Oh Lord."  They're like a cross between Queen and The Darkness with a bit more R&B soul flavor to them.  I happened to attend SXSW in March 2012 and while hanging out in a small dive bar venue called Rusty's, I see the lead singer walk by me.  It was one of those double-take moments because you're not sure you really saw what you did.  But there he was, and there was the rest of Foxy Shazam, just hanging out at the bar.  Turns out they were playing next and all I can tell you is that after seeing Foxy Shazam live, no band has ever compared with the absolute craziness that ensues on stage during their set!

Sky, Shannon, Pablo & me

Sky, Shannon, Pablo & me

The on-stage chemistry between lead singer Eric Nally, guitarist Loren Turner, pianist Sky White, bass player Daisy, trumpeter and back-up vocalist Alex Nauth, and drummer Aaron McVeigh is electric, plus the way they integrate with the audience is mind-blowing to watch.  Sky literally jumps on and over his keyboard to get closer to the audience, making the most ridiculous and fun faces that it's hard to keep your eyes off him.  Alex and Eric have these interesting choreographed routines, they even slide between each other legs, all while hitting high notes, then dancing and running around, it's almost exhausting to watch.  At one point, Eric jumped onto Loren's shoulders, who just hangs his head down and doesn't miss one note on his guitar, then while sitting up there comfortably, Eric asked the audience to give him cigarettes, proceeds to stuff about 10 of them in his mouth, lights them all up with a lighter thrown to him, takes two drags, takes them all with one hand and puts them out on his tongue, chews them up and spits them out, then dives right into some faced-paced lyrics and the audience is just going crazy!! When you think it can't get any crazier, Daisy decides to swing the rafters, hanging on with one hand, playing his bass with the other.  There was more, but I honestly can't remember because I was so caught up in the moment, my eyes and ears constantly bombarded with stimuli.  I walked away from that show in awe and joy; I had never seen anything like it.  It was insanity, it was exhilarating, and it left the biggest impression ever.  Seeing them at such a small venue in such close proximity just made the whole experience more intimate, more satisfying.

Pablo, Shannon, me & Alex

Pablo, Shannon, me & Alex

Since that SXSW trip, I've introduced everyone I possibly could to Foxy Shazam.  I've brought various friends to their shows and each of them have walked away with that same love and awe for the band as me.  I saw Foxy Shazam at Slim's in San Francisco back in August and as always, they didn't disappoint.  They are even better and crazier now and that show was just as exhilarating as the one in Austin.  The best part.....we got to go back stage after and hang out with the band!!  Thanks to my friend Brandon who knows drummer Aaron from his younger days, we got introduced and they invited us to stay after the show.  What an absolutely amazing time, talking to really down-to-earth musicians who appreciate what they do and their fans!  Alex (my favorite) was super friendly and sweet, Sky has this huge personality and so much fun to listen to, and Eric with his soft-spoken voice is just too adorable, mostly when he was learning how to whistle from my friend Pablo.  I will never forget how genuinely inviting the band was, wanting to get to know us and include us.

Me, Eric, Pablo & Shannon

Me, Eric, Pablo & Shannon

Seeing a band surprise me with their stage presence and drawing me in so deeply that I can't get enough of them is rare, and Foxy Shazam did just that.  It's the closest I've ever come to experiencing that same feeling I did the first time I saw U2.  I was mesmerized then by U2, I am mesmerized now by Foxy Shazam.  These two bands are the ones that make me appreciate music and a live performance more than any other band, and they are the reason that I work with bands that I believe in, that I hope impact others the way that I've been impacted.  Music truly is the meaning of life to me, and there is always a song that comes to mind behind every emotion I've experienced.

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