For those of you who are not familiar with The Shins, they are an American indie rock band from Albuquerque, New Mexico. I was lucky enough to see them perform on Tuesday, March 8th, right here in San Diego. The concert took place at a cute little venue called The Observatory, which is a restored theater in North Park. This concert attracted an eclectic, artsy crowd.
John Mercer, the talented main vocalist of The Shins, was a phenomenal performer. He thoroughly entertained the crowd with his outstanding voice, sweet dance moves and sly comments. Mercer was the man who formed the band, but they were pretty under the radar until 2004, when their song “New Slang” was featured in the movie “Garden State.” Fun fact… In the movie “Garden State” one of the main characters, Sam (Natalie Portman), tells another main character, Andrew (Zach Braff), that the song “will change your life.” That exposure, coupled with the fantastic musicality of “New Slang,” definitely changed the game for The Shins, and they instantly became indie rock icons.
This concert was such a cool experience, especially as a Shins fan, as so many other fans were immersed in the music and having the time of their lives. They played a handful of their new songs at the concert, including “Name For You,” which is featured on the groups upcoming album, and a bunch of oldies such as “Phantom Limb” and “Caring is Creepy.” Their highly anticipated new album, “Heartworms” will be released on March 10th! So, if you are into the indie rock genre and haven’t listened to The Shins, be sure to check them out, online or in person.
¡Hola Aztecs! This week on Foreign Gems, we’re going to be exploring music from the country known for its burritos, tamales and salsas: MEXICO!
Whether it is traditional mariachi or relaxing indie music, Mexico’s got it all. Below are a few Mexican classics that I hope you enjoy.
Viernes // El Trío de Omar Rodriguez Lopez
The group El Trío de Omar Rodriguez Lopez was started by Omar Rodriguez Lopez. Lopez was a solo singer who branched out to create albums with Ximena Sariñana (vocals) and Aaron Cruz Bravo (bass). Most of the group’s music is acoustic love songs, making them perfect for those rainy days that San Diego has been having. Another nice, relaxing song from them is “Domingo.”
Como La Flor // Selena
Before there was Selena Gomez, there was Selena: the renowned pop-star and icon throughout the hispanic community. Born and raised in Texas, she became the “Tejano Madonna” due to her unique fashion choices. If you’re into dancing, “Como La Flor” is a great song to groove to. Another good song from Selena is “Dreaming of You.”
Oye Como Va // Santana
I can’t talk about great Mexican bands/artists without listing Santana. With songs like “Black Magic Women” and “Oye Como Va,” this Latin-rock band will never die. Popular in the 1960s and 1970s, it’s very likely that our parents have listened to Santana.
If you wear thick black eyeliner to match the five coats of chipped black polish on your fingernails, then you should be busy on April 8th and 9th. When We Were Young is a two day mini music festival paying homage to all of your feelings – it even has the biggest sad-boy of all time closing out the event: Morrissey. Happening at the Observatory in Santa Ana, a two-day pass starts at $175. There are 30 bands playing. Featuring punk, emo and garage rock acts, When We Were Young offers an array of artists that will surely make your heart swell. Besides the headliners like Morrissey, AFI, Decedents and Cage the Elephant, here is a lineup of some of my favorite artists that will be at the event. If you find yourself there too, check them out.
The Tijuana Panthers is actually a three piece band from Long Beach, CA. Their sound is very ’50s beach rock, but at the same time appeals to punks. If you ever want to go to a genuinely fun live show, the Tijuana Panthers should be your go-to group. Luckily, the band comes down to San Diego quite often.
Joyce Manor is yet another SoCal band that has been associated with the modern form of emo-pop-punk that experienced a surge in popularity a few years ago. They are a favorite among angsty teenagers, but can still fill the void in angsty twenty-somethings (me). Frontman Barry Johnson is, however, very vocal about his dislike of crowd surfing, so if you’re there don’t be that person.
Silversun Pickups hit the scene when they released “Lazy Eye,” which was a radio hit back in 2006. Now, 11 years later, the group is still going strong.
The Frights can easily be placed in the same genre as the Tijuana Panthers. They are described as a punk band, but the group is very playful. And, they’re from San Diego, so supporting them is supporting your local musicians.
Another band from San Diego, Pinback is a bit of a legend. Formed in 1998, Pinback has a solid catalog of work, and each album only gets better.
Sheer Mag is a band for those who love and miss classic rock. The group sticks to the basics: guitar, bass, drums and awesome vocals from their leading lady. Even their logo belongs to the glory days of ’80s rock.
Turnstile is probably the only hardcore band in the line up. They’re a favorite in the hardcore punk scene and their shows are known to get pretty rowdy. So if you check them out, make sure to have your guard up – you don’t know whose feet will come flying at you.
Choking Victim is a ska-punk band from the ’90s. It’s rare that the group is playing a gig, seeing as the band split in the late ’90s. See them while you can. With this group, however, it’s best if you become acquainted on your own.
Dr. Dog is an extremely underrated band that has a large discography but doesn’t seem to get enough air time. They have beautiful, catchy melodies that will surely make them one of the more chipper bands of the line up.
Taking Back Sunday
Taking Back Sunday has consistently released albums since the late ’90s, however they became mainstream in the early to mid 2000s. They are one of the giants in the pop-emo (if you will) genre and are known for their feud with my personal favorite band, Brand New. In any case, they’ve got enough sass to match yours.
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On Thursday, March 2nd, I had a last-minute phone interview with Nathan Stocker, the guitarist from the indie rock band Hippo Campus. He came across as a nice, sincere guy with an undeniable passion for music both in person and onstage.
Guitarist Nathan Stocker and me. Photo by Rica Perez.
This interview, a month in the making, was an eye-opening experience, as I was able to talk to the guitarist of one of my favorite bands. Nathan Stocker was a complete sweetheart, responding with well thought out and genuine answers that made me love the band more – if that’s even possible. I nervously asked questions that touched on the inspirations for their newest album, “Landmark.” The songs on the album reflect the future sound of the band, and Stocker’s guitar setup. He appreciated my “attentive” comments on the combinations of the guitar accompaniment with the lead singer’s melodic vocals. He explained how the sound of “Landmark” demonstrates a progression in musicality as the band continues to experiment with different sounds and techniques; being stagnant is not an option.
Stocker also commented on how crazy their journey has been – from playing in garages to playing at Lollapalooza. However, Hippo Campus still finds its greatest support at local shows in Minnesota.
I had the opportunity to see Stocker’s guitar prowess during the Hippo Campus concert at the House of Blues later that night. From the opening band Avid Dancer (who put on a solid performance) to Hippo Campus’s first song, “Sun Veins,” I was filled with excitement and anticipation. And, I was not disappointed. From start to finish, the group put on a stellar show with a sixteen-song setlist that included oldies such as “Little Grace,” “Bashful Creatures” and “Sophie So,” and newbies such as “Simple Season” and “Western Kids.” The old and the new equally excited the hyped up crowd.
Hippo Campus’ setlist. Photo by Rica Perez.
What impressed me the most was Hippo Campus’ ability to sound even better live than they do on the album. Jake Luppen’s vocals coupled with the band’s harmonies were an infectious duo. His vibrato, falsetto and playful vocal melodies demonstrated his talent as a lead singer and made the show an even more memorable experience. Stocker’s guitar skills melded perfectly with Luppen’s voice, incorporating bouncy riffs and licks that gave the songs character. Adding depth to their performance was Zach Sutton’s bass. For a tall guy with glasses, his groove was smooth and his dance moves were even smoother. Sutton knows his way around those four strings, and proves that bassists are an integral part of any band. Last but not least, Whistler Allen climbed his way to one of the top spots of my list of favorite drummers. Songs like “Western Kids” show off his funky style of drumming. The group had me bobbing my head the entire time.
Hippo Campus is a group of talented individuals who come together to put on unforgettable performances. Amazingly, I had the chance to meet all the members after the concert. I introduced myself to Nathan, and it made me so happy when he remembered our earlier conversation.
If you have never listened to Hippo Campus, please do. You won’t regret it. They don’t try too hard to fit the “indie” genre, and they have formulated a sound so unique that it’s basically irresistible. Thank you for the great night, Hippo Campus.
Featured Image by Rica Perez.
KCR College Radio: The Sound of State
KCR is an internet based radio station run by students at the San Diego State University that provides music, sports, and talk programs to the SDSU community.