• AP Album Review

    Doubt Aplomb: Earnest Goodbye
  • AP Album Review

    Wide Streets: A Past Hatred of the Future
  • AP Album Review

    PIXIES: Indie Cindy
  • AP Album Review

    Crystal Antlers: Nothing is Real
  • AP Album Review

    Tiger Face: On The Beach

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Farewell to My California Family: Departing Words and Melt Down From A Music Blogger in Exile

This following was written on notebook paper on Tuesday July 29th, 2014. I am choosing not to edit it as it is a reflection of how I was feeling that day so there is a fair amount of random thoughts and badly written syntax.

Today, on D day (Departure Day) my mind is reeling in a bipolar sort of way. Part of me feels as giddy as a travel log and part of me as empty as a suicide note. I have practically lived in Southern California my entire life and at this moment am speeding down highway 40 traversing an almost straight line to Flowery Branch, Georgia with wife, daughter, dog and cat all crammed in a mid-sized SUV. This journey started off roughly with a dead battery and a few hours later with my epic melt down. I am an extremely emotional man and father who is leaving 2 of my 3 kids behind to continue to pursue their lives in the Sunshine State. It must be said that these "kids" are adults. My daughter and son are in their twenties. We are such a close family. I am 56 years old and I knew that moving far away from them would be very difficult but I could not imagine how it would really feel until today when my heart has been ripped in two.

Maybe in an attempt to reverse time and undo all the months of planning and promises made to my employer, wife and daughter (who is going on this trek with me and who is so excited to attend UNG) I literally lost it. I felt as numb as the dullest headache and as manic as what I imagine a psychotic episode to be. I felt, truly, like I abandoned my kids and yes, even though they are fully into adulthood, they will always be my kids to love, cherish and hold onto. Now I knew I would not be able to hold them except for visits, 1 or 2 or 3 times a year. While I would rather not get into all the sordid details of this breakdown or my "episode" as it will likely be referred to for years to come, it involved a lot of vacant stares out of the car window and weeping.

My lovely wife came to the rescue and elected to drive the majority of the first leg of the first day's drive while I "composed" myself and in so doing I am composing this post. I know that over time I will feel better that I have to but now and I imagine over several weeks the sadness will come and go. Much of this is all too sensitive for this platform but it had to be shared at least a little bit. I will do my utmost to love and nurture my Cali kids from afar as I will love and nurture the daughter who is within arm's reach.

For the last 3 years, 6 months and 15 days I have been maintaining this blog. The name came from my son. Once while we were making homemade pancakes he asked jokingly, "Is that an American Pancake?" and a blog was born. I have referred to it as my shitty little music blog and it is just that. While I had early on aspirations to be a Buzzbands or something similar I soon found out that was not going to happen. I didn't have the sheer energy while working long hours at my day job. Still the blog has afforded me countless exciting memories.

I am a hack photographer and there are so many great photographers out there that my focus has been videoing bands. Nothing fancy, raw unedited videos shot full of flash pans and the best angles I could hit in an attempt to capture the energy of the live performance. Key in that was a camera that shot pretty good sound. I settled on an FZ100 Lumix fixed lens with a 25 optical zoom. These videos end up on my YouTube channel.

Being the oldest guy in the room has also been interesting. It has never been detrimental at normal venues but at some of the more underground shows I seemed to be cause for concern. One time at VLHS in Pomona, a girl who was obviously pretty buzzed kept coming up to me in a near panic saying, "You're freaking me out" (as she locked eyes with me) "You're a cop right??"  Another time when I was more dressed up than usual at the Echo, this kid kept looking at me and finally asked if I was the owner (what??). "No, just a blogger" I answered. He looked kind of disappointed.

Overall though, kids of all ages have fully embraced me in the indie scene and treated me with respect and a sense of fun. I have found common ground speaking to musicians about music based on my experiences too. I think the fact that I was involved in bands during the late 70's and early 80's which is one of those pivotal times in music that has shaped the indie sound of today in some ways has helped me make an almost instant connection with some musicians I speak with. I guess the ever-present camera bag hasn't hurt either.

I am truly going to miss the So Cal indie music scene and the great venues but most importantly it has been the gracious and inspiring musicians, promoters, bloggers, photographers and music fans who I will miss the most. I want to say a fond farewell to those of you who I have had the great fortune of sharing a smile with.

I did the standard male head nod to the prolific music writer and great photographer Philip Cosores back in 2009 at the secret FYF Peter Bjorn and John show. Ever since he has always been a cool guy to hang with at shows and provided me with valuable advise and resources. He is a smart guy and passionate about what he does. At times, he seems to be omnipresent. He writes for so many publications. Take care dude. Early on, I believe (at a Ty Segall) show I met Ben Irwin, Editor in Chief at Pinpoint Music, blogger and photographer who has always been a real cool guy as well with a big heart. At the Peter, Bjorn and John show I also met the talented and very cool Jamie Margolin from CatJam Studio. He then served as producer on the documentary "Peter, Bjorn and John: Digging Deeper" and I was fortunate enough to lend some of my video footage of the show to the piece and even received mention in the credits as did Alyssa Holland who shot photos at that show. That first year it was also a thrill to meet and speak with Ty Segall, Marissa Paternoster, Katy Goodman as well as Peter, Bjorn and John. All truly sweet people.

Besides covering shows, it has always been a focus of mine to review albums of merit that larger blogs may be (for whatever reason) paying little attention to. So many of those bands have shot me great notes of appreciation and I love that. You guys know who you are.

In 2011- I interviewed Crystal Antlers. I had gotten Bells Palsy which caused half my face to kind of droop and that affected my speech pattern. I almost called off the interview because of this bit of bad luck but pressed onward. The interview turned out great and after so many CA concerts it has always been a pleasure running into and speaking with Jonnny, Kevin and Andrew (not to mention Andrew's lovely girlfriend who is one of the sweetest people on planet Earth).  Another band that was so fun to interview is Kera and the Lesbians who are truly sweet and special people. Daiana Feuer, Executive Editor for LA Record, music writer for LA Weekly, The Los Angeles Times and more and singer / songwriter /ukelele player for the weirdly wonderful Bloody Death Skull has always been super cool allowing me to write some reviews for LA Weekly and inviting me to cover the New Los Angeles Folk Festival which she founded. I have admired her from afar for her ability to multi-task with her own unique exuberance and I hope our paths cross in the future. Thanks so much to Sheri and Joe for giving their time, their support to those who matter to them and opening their home to the DIY music scene in LM. That is no small task.

There are so many fun times and memories from FYF, Burgerama and Viva Pomona shows. Thanks to Sean Carlson for press creds as well as Burger Record's Sean Borhman who has sweetly built better musical mousetraps and people come in droves. When I think of Burger I also think of Bobby May who is one hell of a nice guy who always remembers my name. Love that guy. I will also miss seeing Rene Contreras who has forever coupled Viva and Pomona together. You can't think of one without the other. I remember being amazed at all the different sections of LA I would see him even when I knew he didn't have a vehicle. Hard working and doing it for all the right reasons.

When I think of Fullerton, California I think of Audacity and Canyons. I have been writing about both bands since the beginning of this blog.  Audacity has found that large audience and Canyons with their devoted fan base can too if they so desire. I will always feel a kinship with Canyon's Nicholas, Maegen and Jeremy.

Part of covering shows is being in the photo pit. I have always considered myself to be an interloper and pretender for the simple reason that I am not a skilled photographer. Yes I know how to compose a shot but haven't the foggiest notion how to take a great picture. I am a guy with a camera shooting video and in so doing has had a blast and met some really cool people in the process like Tiffany Luong, Austin Bauman and Marisa Rose and the ever fun loving bear hug of a man, Sammy Dorian Perez who is also the drummer in Melted. Thanks to Preston Thalindroma from Say Cheese and Die, Ivette Orenos from Grimy Goods and Joshua Lovelife from the Hear Gallery who helped me out in the past. After meeting Sounds of Noise in Pomona I got together with Paul, Eddie and Eric to shoot some music videos. Good times guys. See you on the other side someday. Gianna Gianna from BLOK is a classy young lady who knows the importance of family and being able to re-imagine her life the way she wants it to be. Stay true and thanks for lively chats.

Some of my favorite videos I have shot are of Pangea, yeah I will always refer to them that way. The Together tagged on in front just doesn't feel right. I don't know William and Danny well but we have shared some cool conversations here and there and shooting their shows is always fun. Early on I met audio engineer and producer Andrew Schubert while he was working with Pangea and God Equals Genocide.  What an absolutely sweet and genuine guy. I have always enjoyed seeing him at local shows and chatting awhile. Shooting The Garden, always a trip. Wide Streets are a band that I champion. Reviewed their last two albums and vowed to do a video interview with them but it never happened. Maybe some day if they tour on the east coast.

I really enjoyed interviewing Roses, such nice guys and I wish them all the success they desire. Good luck to Michael Christopher Morin who promotes the best shows and is involved with many bands and always made me feel welcome. Every time I would run into Aaron Paustian I would feel like my creative spirit was lifted a bit. A talented photographer and director and one hell of a mustache grower.

If American Pancake was a late night talk show then the house band would clearly be The Lovely Bad Things. For purely artistic and personal reasons they are a band that is closest to me and themselves closest to a nuclear family that you will ever meet. Lauren and Brayden, the cool parents and Cam and Tim the mischievous kids. I love them with all my heart will miss them so much.

So many more people I could mention who have made the California experience sweeter. You all keep pursuing your dreams. Someone once said that if you are doing what you love to do you will never work a day of your life. Words to live by.

Rock on and see you sooner or later on this shitty little blog.-


Crystal Antlers. I am holding up the wall.

Kera and the Lesbians Interview

Me in the blue beanie shooting
Pangea at Burgerama 3

With Sea of Bees (Julie Ann Baenziger) 

Shooting Sounds of Noise Music Video

Mac DeMarco at Burgerama 3

September 2014 Exiled in Flowery Branch, Georgia

10 Iconic Songs Miley Cyrus Should Cover

After hearing the Miley Cyrus cover of Led Zepellin's "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You" I had many thoughts and questions like: "Is this a Karaoke version?" - "Why is it such a lo-fi file?"  It also became clear that the girl does have rock and roll pipes. Whether you like the sound of her vocal performance, whether she can pull off the emotional gravitas of this kind of blues rock classic is another thing. By far, the most entertaining aspect of her putting this out for the world to hear is to read the multitude of comments pro and con! Some are just priceless:

TheSherlockOhms im a really huge led zeppelin fan. I'm not a miley fan. but i don't think she "butchered" this song. i think she did really well. people need to give props when props are due at 5:04

HeartBeatsMiley THIS SLAYED MY SOUL at 5:31 

Nicolas Alava @kel-cardinal: I want to kill myself now. at 1:48

Robert Treves This is an absolute disgrace.. this has gone too far.. covering led zeppelin, she seriously needs to go away.. she hasn't even got the title right.. at 0:28

Roxandrew You are so perfect your voice is amazing!!! FUUUUUCK at 1:03

Zystem just kill one of my Fav Songs Really hurts here on my soul :( at 2:28

Chris Barrick 3 Not as good as Robert Plant or Joan Baez, but still better than autotuned pop at 1:10

Peter Guerin 1 John Bonham is fricking rolling over in his grave. :-P at 0:12

David Bluhm I am... I am sufficiently confused by this being unterrible at 0:24

drugzandpugz She can do no wrong at 0:28

So while many people are scratching their heads and asking why, some are thinking why not and for those thinking that and for those who slow down to gaze longingly over car accidents at the side of the road I give you....
1. Pink Floyd - "Wish You Were Here" (1975)
2. The Smiths - "Girlfriend In A Coma" (1987)
3. The Doors - "Touch Me" (1968)
4. Radiohead - "Paranoid Android" (1997)
5. Michael Jackson- "Billie Jean" (1982)
6. Nirvana - "Lithium" (1991)
7. The Beatles - "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (1968)
8. The Ramones - "Bitzkrieg Bop" (1976)
9.  The Who - "Won't Get Fooled Again" (1971)
10. The Temptations - "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" (1966)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Jack White Tries to Act in "Would You Fight For My Love"

Over the last few records, Jack White has been taking his brand of music very seriously, so much so that, at times, it can feel somewhat pretentious. What has pulled him back from the edge is his ability to inject the right blend of cool and pulp fiction in his sounds and visions. For the video of "Would You Fight For My Love" White pulls off a ton of style but the brooding bite of the song just doesn't match the staid emotion of his acting and tone of the video itself. For me, White comes off like Michael Jackson in the "Beat It" video, trying to portray the emotions of the song but not succeeding. White (like Jackson) just doesn't have the acting chops to make it work and the video ends up detracting from the song. If you don't believe me, close your eyes midway through the video and feel the song come to life (even more).
Robb Donker

Death From Above 1979 : "Trainwreck 1979" on Letterman and "Turn It Out" at FYF

Death From Above 1979 not only have the coolest band / duo name in the world, they simply make a hell of a lot of beautiful engaging noise. There is an impressive aural edge and intensity to their songs all coming from one distorted and perfectly effected bass, drums and vocals. They recently appeared on the Letterman show and surprisingly Paul Schaffer's band actually lent some musical support without stepping over or ruining their usual spartan yet powerhouse sound. Check them out- churning out a killer performance of "Trainwreck 1979" from their album The Physical World. After that, check out the video I shot of them way back at FYF (Fuck Yeah Fest) 2011 in Los Angeles. 

- Robb Donker



Thursday, September 11, 2014

"Apartment In The City" by Teen Men - Aloof yet deeply moving...

Teen Men reside in Wilmington, Delaware and their 2014 EP "Apartment In The City" is full of electro indie pop songs that float, twirl and boogie along propelled by earnest poetry and soothing vocals. For all the honey exhibited that is easy to swallow, there are some deceptively cagey moments like the proto punkish almost Talking Heads like rhythms of "It's All Rushing Back" or "Rene" which could be a mid-1970's soft rock song though it is more. The syncopated shuffle of "Hiding Records"coated in such lush dreamy vocals feels like a lovesick hug. For me the stand out piece is "The Sea, The Sea" with it's sadly comforting vocal melody juxtaposed against a steel drum sounding riff that feels right out of a Target commercial. The song is so cool as to almost feel devoid of feeling and yet it's sad sounding underbelly makes you feel a whole lot. Like the entire EP the song is aloof yet (deeply) moving.
Robb Donker

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

All Them Witches - "Lightning At The Door" Drops Sept. 16th- Tour Dates and Live Performance of "When God Comes Back"

Nashville based: All Them Witches is out on the road with Windhand in support of their latest record "Lightning At The Door" which drops Sept 16th. Check out "Charles William" and the live performance video of  "When God Comes Back" immersing yourself into some ballsy blues based moody psychedelic rock. You will not be disappointed.
Robb Donker


All Them Witches Facebook

September 6     Akron, OH     Musica
September 7     Columbus, OH     The Basement
September 9     Iowa City, IA    Gabe’s
September 10     Chicago, IL     Cobra Lounge
September 11    Minneapolis, MN     Triple Rock Social club
September 12    Cudahy, WI     Metal Grill
September 13    Ferndale, MI     The Loving Touch
September 14     Toronto, ON    Coda
September 16     Ottawa, ON     CafĂ© Dekcuf
September 17     Montreal, QC     Petit Campus
September 18     Cambridge, MA     The Middle East Upstairs
September 19     Providence, RI     AS220
September 20     Brooklyn, NY     Saint Vitus
September 21     Ithaca, NY     The Dock
September 23     Lancaster, PA     Lizard Lounge
September 24     Charlottesville, VA     The Southern Cafe & Music Hall
September 25     Knoxville, TN     Preservation Pub
September 26     Cincinnati, OH     Midpoint Music Festival
September 27     Winston-Salem, NC     The Garage
September 28     Asheville, NC     The Mothlight
October 1     Louisville, KY     Zanzabar
October 2     Lexington, KY     The Green Lantern
October 3     Huntington, WV     V Club
October 23     Little Rock, AR     White Water Tavern
October 24     Dallas, TX     Doublewide
October 25     Austin, TX     Mohawk
October 26     Houston, TX     Rudyard’s
October 29     El  Paso, TX    Lowbrow Palace
October 30     Phoenix, AZ     Last Exit
October 31     El Centro, CA     Strangers
November 1     Santa Ana, CA     Day of the Shred
November 2     San Diego, CA     Soda Bar
November 4     San Francisco, CA     Hemlock
November 6     Eugene, OR     Cozmic
November 7     Portland, OR     Bunk Bar
November 8     Seattle, WA     Sunset Tavern
November 9     Vancouver, BC     Cobalt
November 11     Salt Lake City, UT    The Shred Shed
November 12     Denver, CO     Lost Lake
November 14     Kansas City, MO     Czar Bar
November 15     St. Louis, MO      The Demo
November 30     Nashville, TN     3rd & Lindsley

Busker Diaries #1 - City Blue featuring Katie O'Connor - First Installment of a New Documentary Series

Katie O'Connor from Galway, Ireland offers some beautiful sounds and sagely advise in the first installment of Busker Diaries, a series of short music documentaries focusing on a set of diverse musicians who choose to "busk" or play in public areas for donations as one of their venues to distribute their art. In this first glimpse of what appears to be a stellar series, Katie's decision to make her way in Berlin is treated with a lovely touch by director/ cinematographer Fabian Frost and editor Julian Krohn.

  "I think it is good to throw yourself back into the deep end when the pool starts to get shallow or you grow longer legs or whatever happens and sometimes it's just good to go and try something new and be challenged and be in a place that makes you less comfortable than where you are...."
                                                                                                                - Katie O' Connor

I will be sure and check out the next installment and I hope you will too. Check out Katie's story and song, "City Blue."
Robb Donker

Busker Diaries #1 - City Blue from Fabian Frost on Vimeo.

Katie O'Connor: Facebook

Busker Diaries INFO:
Busker Sessions are focusing on a more private side of the musicians, and show them not only on the street as their stage, but also at home and at their most favorite places in the city.
It answers questions about the qualities of working on the street as a stage, freedom vs survival, the street vs the web, the beauty of direct feedback and a lot more.

Every month the producers will pick out a new artist for the series - buskers can apply or be recommended through / at:
email: busker@dieleiter.com

Producer: Julian Krohn, Ex- A&R (Universal Music), freelance artist developer and music
consultant, studied film production and Commercial Music
Art Direction/Camera: Fabian Frost, Photographer & Director, studied Visual Communication
at UdK Berlin,

Monday, September 1, 2014

Girl Scout by Girl Scout - A Grungy Polaroid of an EP

Cops Are Here, the first track of Girl Scout's self titled EP sounds a bit like Mac DeMarco's and Diarrhea Planet's musical offspring (f they got together and had unprotected sonic sex 9 months earlier).  Jeremy Zerbe spins his tails like stories that may or may not be true but are certainly engaging and well crafted. Some feel kind of tongue and cheek albeit a bloody one like Good Hustle, Hot Pants and others like Glow with it's slow drug hazey garden rock sound feel more down to earth. Besides the aforementioned bands, I thought a bit of Weezer, Dinosaur Jr, and in a strange way Neil Young (if he was in Dinosaur Jr) in the truly post punkish slacker grunge epic Summer Green which might be this EP's opus. I must say that some of the rock progs do feel derivative which usually irks me but does not bother me (so much) here. I don't know why. It might be because the material feels like it has an original heart even though some of the sounds have definitely been heard before and some of them in rather iconic songs like the obvious nod to Nirvana in Where We Slide Down. While Girl Scouts does not sonically break new ground, Zerbe blends musical atmospheres and stories in a way that makes you want to listen. For me, a lot of the hook rests on his vocal performance and the character of his voice which along with the solid retro musical sound makes this comforting soup that takes you back to times that you didn't even know you longed for.
Robb Donker

LO FAT ORCHESTRA - EP "We Need You" is a Swiss Treat You Will Want to Consume

I don't know that much about LO FAT ORCHESTRA except that they are 3 guys out of Switzerland who makes some interesting killer sounds. I have always loved the 3 piece make up. It just appeals to my sense of efficiency, economy of sounds and such and the fact that the lead vocalist pumps out some thick interesting synth as opposed to rhythm guitar is very cool and works so well for what they crank out. When I first listened to the EP "We Need You"- I thought of varied artists from late 70's electronic / proto punk band The Normal to 80's Gary Numan to Kraftwerk which you an feel in the track Down In The Basement as well as the title track We Need You. In this track you can also feel some of the metal heaviness of bands like Nine Inch Nails. On the flip side there is a  pop electronic punkish feel to songs like I Don't Know How to Get Back To You and maybe my favorite song on this EP- Uli Has A New Boyfriend which sonically slaps a smile on my face every single time I listen to it. It a blistering jam of a song hinged on one vocal refrain and it simply grabs you up close and does not let go. This will surely be on my top 100 records list for 2014.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Late to the Party but I found Cristina Black- "Summer's Over" - A pretty and painful affair

Cristina Black is an accomplished singer songwriter, musician and journalist. Besides having a beautiful voice that lays a thick patina of sardonic wit and sadness over her more than candid lyrics she plays the baritone ukulele, harp and piano.

Her Twitter tag says: Pretty songs about difficult things and that description is pretty right on. If you are like me, one of the unfortunate ones who were not familiar with this special artist, then take a listen. The single "Summer's Over" (released on August of 2013) is such a stark and candid track. It is not often that you hear something so easy to relate to, so truthful about all those "shitty affairs" of life. Whether based on actual events or not it is certainly full of truth and (as such) is filled with both pain, hope and a sad sense of humor.

After "Summer's Over" I let a bunch of Cristina's songs play on and lost myself in their lovely embrace. She is a special find indeed. Yes, I am often late to the party but I am glad I showed up this time.
Robb Donker

Cristina Black Twitter