The Best Parts of Seeing Mt. Joy at the Music Box

Mt. Joy

The Four Best Things We Saw at the San Diego Music Box’s Mt. Joy Concert!

I have never shown someone Mt. Joy’s music and had them dislike it. I would even be as bold to say that mostly everyone who I’ve shown them to has started listening to them and grown their own obsession. The first time I saw the Mt. Joy perform live, I had never heard their music before. My friends had insisted we stopped by their performance on the way to see a different artist at the Life is Beautiful festival in Las Vegas. After that show I could not stop listening to them! To this day, I distinctly remember specific songs from their live performance that gave me a truly intimate connection with their music. Since that festival in September, I somehow have managed to fit at least one song from Mt. Joy’s first self-titled album into my music shuffle everyday. 7 months later, and Mt. Joy made their final tour stop over at the San Diego Music Box . Here’s the best 4 things I saw at that show:

1. New Music

The band premiered 2 new songs “Bug Eyes” and “Ruins.” I am not always the most excited when artists debut new songs at shows but these songs brought me to tears. Lead singer Matt Quinn’s vocals silenced the room as everyone peered onto the stage in complete admiration. I didn’t know if the band’s new music would live up to their debut album which I cherished so deeply but after they performed these songs, I know now that whatever is coming is going to be incredible. The songs mirrored the themes of the first album, topics on loss, life and nature.

2. The Encore

The band left the stage after performing one of their greatest hits, “Silver Lining.” Afterwards, the crowd didn’t budge as they begged for an encore. When the band stepped back onto the tiny stage they played another new track and then concluded with a fan favorite, “Julia.” The song is smooth, melodic and hypnotizing. A simple story of a man too nervous to order food from a beautiful waitress.

“Don’t say you love the old me” Quinn poured out. The song then switched into a cover of the song “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers before returning again to “Julia.”

3. The song “cardinal

While listening to this song on any streaming service, the beginning feels nearly recognizable from the whistling melody which introduces the track. Although I anticipated to see this song live, I wasn’t sure if the whistles would be apart of the performance but sure enough, Quinn whistled to the tune as perfectly as the recording. The song builds upon itself and then breaks back into a peaceful melody much like some of the band’s other songs.

4. The live music

Lead singer Matt Quinn’s vocals were more powerful and raw than anything I have heard before. The show was filled with guitar solos and keyboard solos. Performances like these remind me why I love going to live shows. Often, I’ll see a band perform live, and while the performances are still incredible, the music doesn’t sound as great live, but with Mt. Joy that was not the case. Each song live relayed the authenticity of the songs and the stories that were told in each. The songs on the album vary from many different music styles. “Dirty Love” sounds like an upbeat ukulele tune whereas “St. George” feels like a slow ballad. The band’s ability to perfect playing these differing songs live show the full range of talent Mt.Joy encompasses.

Written by: Kelly Kerrigan

Catfish and the Bottlemen at the House of Blues

Catfish and the Bottlemen

Catfish and the Bottlemen played at the House of Blues San Diego to a sold out crowd. But first…

Did you know that Catfish and the Bottlemen were originally called, “The Prestige?” The band started in April 2007, when Van and Billy started playing guitar together. They started playing shows all over Wales, opening up for their friends bands, as well as other gigs. The band had an early demo played on BBC Radio 6 Music in March 2009. They ended up changing their name to Catfish and the Bottlemen, which comes from Van McCann’s first childhood musical memory. This memory was watching a street busker in Australia who went by the same name. They continued to play gigs, and in 2013, they signed to Communion Music, and managed to release three singles. The next year, they signed to Island Records. On this record label, they released their debut album “The Balcony.” One single, “Kathleen,” ranked at number one on MTV’s hottest tracks in April 2014. Since the release of their first album, they have been constantly touring, playing festivals and shows all over the world.

Van McCann at the House of Blues on March 19, 2019.

The last time I had seen Catfish and the Bottlemen was in 2017, in Toronto, Canada, at the Rebel. They were still on tour for their second album “The Ride,” which has been described as, “just blistering, swashbuckling tunes.” The venue was humongous, and with a sold out crowd of 2,500 people, it was an insane show. It had been the first time I had seen them live and the performance was astonishing. I have been to way too many concerts to count, and that Catfish and the Bottlemen concert is still one of my favorites.

Flash forward to Catfish and the Bottlemen at the House of Blues…

This time, seeing Catfish and the Bottlemen was a whole new experience. It again was a sold out show, but this time at the House of Blues San Diego. With a capacity of only 250 people, it was destined to be a much more intimate show. The Worn Flints opened up the show, playing for about thirty minutes. Catfish and the Bottlemen went on at 9, and I got to shoot the show from the photo pit for the first three songs, which were “Longshot,” “Kathleen,” and “Soundcheck.” While I was in the photo pit, every time I would turn around and look at the crowd, I could see pure joy on everyone’s face. After shooting the first three songs, I went into the crowd and joined my friends. The atmosphere at the show was just pure bliss. Everyone was having such a good time, screaming the lyrics right back at the band.

They played a total of 17 songs, ending with “Tyrants.” The crowd and I also got to hear their new single, “2all,” for the first time ever live, along with other songs from their upcoming album. If you have not had the chance to see Catfish and the Bottlemen live, you are missing out on an extraordinary experience that is like no other.

Catfish and the Bottlemen is releasing a new album called “The Balance,” on April 26th, which they already have three songs out from the new album: Longshot, 2all, and Fluctuate. They have not released anything since 2016, their album “The Ride,” so this album has been much waited for. You can preorder their new album here!

Written by : McCaeley O’Rourke
Pictures by: McCaeley O’Rourke

SwuM & TVBOO at Music Box

The SwuM/TVBOO show at Music Box was a bass thumping, energy-inducing high of good-vibing music.

Held at the Music Box in downtown San Diego, the show catered to people of all ages, but targeted the young in the community (18+, although I did see a couple 12 year olds running around). Although the advertising mainly promoted SwuM & TVBOO, there were several opening acts consisting of talented/young DJ’s & musicians who are breaking into the industry. I am proud and honored to say that not one, but two of my coworkers performed that night and amazed myself and the audience with their immense skill.

Doors opened around 7pm and people flooded in ready to experience a great environment.

The venue itself had a bar for those who were of age, and a merchandise shop to pull in some extra revenue. While there was little to no sitting room (not including VIP), it was not really needed as the crowd preferred a more open area to jump along to the bumping music.

Kastro opened the evening as the venue opened to the public, and introduced us to the wonderful evening and mood that would be set for the evening. My coworker, Domoniqxe, went on next and showcased some amazing original compositions that the crowd really enjoyed. She then handed the floor to Lydon (another coworker of mine) & Zuma who really got the crowd moving with some bass-heavy mixes. Both of them served as DJ’s as well as MC’s and worked well with one another. From there, there were a few more wonderful openers before the main acts came on stage. SwuM is notorious for the lo-fi genre and catered to audience seamlessly.

TVBOO is a more hype edm/dubstep type artist and was saved for later in the night. Some people only went for the latter of the two as TVBOO creates a different atmosphere than SwuM. Having the two perform in the same night was a good move though because electronic artists have such a wide variety of fans that can vibe together.

All in all, it was a wonderful show made possible by talented artists, dedicated people, and a great venue. I hope to see everyone artist again in the future, maybe even on a bigger stage.

A major shoutout is also in order for Lydon & Domoniqxe as they publicized the event to a large majority of San Diego State University students.

Written by: Eduardo Orozco
Pictures by: Eduardo Orozco

The Growlers’ Snow Ball III (Night Two) at the Wiltern

The Growlers bring their signature Beach-Goth style to Los Angeles’ Wiltern Theatre for two nights of Christmas-themed theatrics!

It’s the second week of January. Christmas is over, and you’ve got the credit card bill and weight gain to prove it. The excitement of New Year’s Eve has disappeared, replaced with morning-after regrets and the realization that you’re making the same bad decisions that you were in 2018. All you’ve got to look forward to now is the upcoming semester of school and, if you’re me, your impending return to Canada. The going is getting tough.

Allow me to transport you back to a more magical time. A time full of whimsy, mischief, and light debauchery. It’s December 22nd. Christmas is approaching, you’re finished with school and work, and your best friend Mariah has just arrived in San Diego despite almost having her entire vacation cancelled the day it was supposed to begin. You drive to Los Angeles for what will become one of the most special concerts of your life: it’s night two of The Growlers’ Snow Ball, the self-proclaimed “beach goth” band’s third annual holiday extravaganza at the Wiltern Theatre.

Havin’ a ball at Snow Ball III.

The Growlers are big in the Southern California surf/garage/psych rock scene, and for good reason. Formed in 2006, the band has developed a unique sound that’s immediately recognizable as distinctively their own. Despite numerous changes to their lineup, frequent label switches, and explorations of new musical styles, one constant that underpins The Growlers’ music is vocalist Brooks Nielsen’s signature raspy vocals. When they’re not making music, The Growlers also host their annual Beach Goth festival (now put on independently by the band after legal issues with the Observatory in 2016) and frequently tour the globe. During their live shows, the band is known for their wild costumes and elaborate stage designs. Even knowing this, I still wasn’t prepared for what I’d see at Snow Ball.

Leading up to the show…

Despite not being die-hard Growlers fans, Mariah and I planned to make the trip to LA for the second night of Snow Ball. When tickets went on sale, we were aghast at the roughly $60 price tag. “Who do they think they are, Beyonce?” “No openers? How egotistical!” Surprisingly (to us), the Saturday show sold out and people were reselling tickets for upwards of $100 each. Despite this, we set off for Los Angeles on December 22nd with the hope that we’d end up at the show that night. After dealing with numerous people from Craigslist who we believe were scammers, we finally secured tickets from two people we found on The Growlers’ subreddit (pro tip for finding legit resale tickets!). An hour before doors were set to open, we found ourselves in a line that extended down Wilshire Boulevard and wrapped around the corner.

The big reveal

Have you ever actually stopped in your tracks? I used to think that was just a phrase used in novels for hyperbolic effect: “She stepped through the doorway and stopped in her tracks.” However, upon having my ticket successfully scanned to enter the Wiltern, I stepped through the doorway and stopped in my tracks. I had not anticipated the level of production The Growlers had curated for this show.

Red and white striped candy canes lined either side of the path into the main lobby. Upon closer inspection, these “candy canes” were actually joints, or “doobies” as Mariah called them. She is actually a middle aged dad. “Snow Ball” was spelled out in glittery letters suspended from the ceiling. To our right was a spot to take photos with Biker Santa, straight ahead was a spot to take photos with the Grinch. Christmas carolers covering The Growlers’ songs greeted you as you descended the stairs to the lower level of the venue. Balloons, signature holiday-themed drinks, inflatable snowmen – there was so much going on we surely didn’t see it all. Decorations aside, the Wiltern is a beautiful and historic venue worthy of commendation on its own. Mariah and I immediately realized why ticket prices were so high for the Snow Ball shows and felt bad for being so ruthlessly critical of The Growlers in the weeks leading up to the show.

“Candy canes”

The DJs that kept us occupied before the main event were spinning straight bangers for an hour and a half – fun old tunes, Motown, The Smiths, nothing pretentious. Just after 8:30, they made an abrupt exit as the lights dimmed. Christmas music began playing, and a feeling of excitement and suspense was palpable throughout the sold-out crowd. As the curtains were whisked open, shrieks and gasps could be heard throughout the venue.

The stage was unveiled, revealing a life-size recreation of the hotel and vacancy sign from the Problems III music video, now dubbed the Snow Ball III Hotel. Set against a mountainous backdrop, the color of the lights illuminating the set would change throughout the night to fit the mood of each song. The musicians were wearing white pants, bow ties, and red, fur-trimmed coats. However, this wasn’t quite The Growlers yet – after dealing with some lineup changes in 2016, the “official” members (as far as I know) are only Brooks Nielsen on vocals, Matt Taylor on lead guitar, and Kyle Straka on keyboards and guitar. We’d have to wait a little longer for the full band.

Rooms 4 rent by the hour.

The never-ending setlist

The night started off with a rendition of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”, complete with a horn section and a cameo appearance by the Grinch himself. The aforementioned carolers then took the stage for a few songs, closing with “We Wish You a Merry Growlers Christmas”. Finally, we were asked to welcome to the stage “what’s left of The Growlers” as Nielsen, Taylor, and Straka joined the rest of the band (lineup changes, am I right?). They opened with “Night Ride” from 2016’s City Club amid deafening cheers.

Standout songs from the night’s setlist were plentiful and included: “One Million Lovers” and “Pet Shop Eyes” from 2013’s Hung at Heart, which everyone sang along to. “Black Memories” and “Love Test”, both from 2014’s Chinese Fountain. A cover of The Shirelles’ “Mama Said”, the perfect song for my preferred style of dancing. The 2017 single “Monotonía”, which I’d only been introduced to a few weeks before. “Navaeh”, heartfelt and acoustic, from last July’s Casual Acquaintances. The songs were really just a vehicle for Brooks’ top-notch dancing, which Mariah and I spent the night mimicking. I’m happy to say I’ve added some new moves to my arsenal (left hand over stomach, right hand in the air as if holding a microphone, rocking side to side).

The only two songs they didn’t play that I would have liked to hear were “The Daisy Chain” and “World Unglued” from City Club. Other than that, I heard every Growlers song I’ve ever wanted to hear. In one show. Talk about bang for your buck. I’m surprised I didn’t burst into spontaneous tears when “Someday” started and I finally heard my favorite Growlers song live. I’m more surprised I didn’t cry during “Lonely This Christmas”, as Brooks serenaded each and every one of us while fake snow cascaded over him.

The only snow I ever want to see is fake snow floating down onto Brooks Nielsen’s head.

Like I said, The Growlers were never my favorite band. I like their music a lot, but there was just something about them that prevented me from entering obsession territory. Since Snow Ball, everything has changed. Mariah and I listened to their cover of “Lonely This Christmas” on repeat (literally, we put it on repeat) for seven days.  I’ve begun my descent into watching every video related to the band on YouTube. If your Tinder anthem is a Growlers song, I’m swiping right. The obsession grows each day. There is only The Growlers.

The Growlers closed out Snow Ball III with “Going Gets Tough” from Chinese Fountain. It’s a song of hope and happier days to come, and also a song that gave me momentary comfort during the hellish two hours on December 20th wherein I thought Mariah’s vacation to San Diego was cancelled and I was going to be Lonely This Christmas. It was a beautiful and pure send off after a dreamlike, awe-inspiring night. Post-Growlers, the opening notes of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” (naturally) rang out. Mariah (not Carey) and I grabbed each other’s hands, I kicked off my shoes for some reason, and a holiday dance party and sing-a-long ensued.

All in all, The Growlers played for about two and a half hours with no breaks. The costumes, the stage design, and the decorations throughout the Wiltern were completely over the top (in the best way) and exceeded any expectations I had had for the show. Whatever your opinion of their music is, you have to respect the level of effort, planning, and heart that The Growlers put into these Snow Ball shows. And while I’m sure the band does get enjoyment out of playing them, I like to believe shows like Snow Ball exist as a way to give back to their fans at the end of the year. So thank you to The Growlers for giving me what ended up being one of my favorite memories of 2018.

Andrea Renney loves crying to The Growlers, writing for KCR, and crying about not writing for KCR anymore. She wishes everyone at San Diego State a beautiful spring semester.

Written by: Andrea Renney
Pictures by: Andrea Renney
--From all of us at KCR, we'll miss you Andrea!