Saturday, August 15, 2009

This Is a Punk Rock Band

It's not irony. It's not rock and roll. They're just talking to the kids.

I've now seen Art Brut* four times since June, and the only regret that I have is that I've missed the other five or six chances I've had to see them in that time. There's something to be said for music shows that are simply fun. I love the Super Furry Animals. I think the Walkmen are one of the finest live acts I've ever seen. But I've never had more fun at a show than I've had an Art Burt show.

They played last night at Subterranean with Team Band (who were a whole lot of fun themselves). Once again, they failed to disappoint. Loud. Energetic. Polite. Willing to mix it up with the crowd. If you ever have a chance, do yourself a favor and please, please go see this band live.

*I'd embed that video if I could, but it's disabled. It features Eddie Argos' girlfriend Dyan Valdes of the band Blood Arm, who is very nice. I chatted with her and Eddie for a bit before one of their shows at Spaceland in Silverlake.

Demons Out

Direct Hit Interview

Emily Kane

Back on the Horse: Angels 5; Orioles 1

After Friday's 16 run debacle, the Angels handed the ball over their big horse, John Lackey. Lackey responded with seven innings of one run ball, and was the beneficiary of a five run third inning as the Angels beat the Orioles 6-1.

All of the game's runs came in the third inning. After Brian Matusz started the inning by striking Jeff Mathis, he allowed the next five batters to reach base. Chone Figgins walked, Erick Aybar singled, and Bobby Abreu walked to load the bases. Matusz then walked Vladimir Guerrero to drive in the first run of the game. Juan Rivera singled to center, and Adam Jone's misplay allowed Aybar and Abreu to score. Howie Kendrick's ground out score Guerrero, and Robb Quinlan's single scored Rivera for the Angels' fifth and final run.

In the bottom of the third, a double from Nick Markakis scored Adam Jones, and that capped the scoring for the evening. John Lackey shut down the Orioles the rest of the way. He lasted seven innings, striking out six while allowing 8 baserunners. It's the type of performance the Angels expect from Lackey, and the type of performance they'll need if they make it to October. Kevin Jepsen worked a scoreless eighth, but Jason Bulger struggled in the ninth. He allowed a single to Melvin Mora and walked Felix Pie, creating a save situation. Mike Scioscia summoned Brian Fuentes, he quickly got three fly balls for his 33rd save.

Thoughts on the game:

  • For John Lackey, that makes seven straight quality starts. He has an ERA under 2.00 over that stretch. Let's not forget that he's playing for a contract. And while he's had a rough go of it at times over the last two years, every quality start adds dollars to his next deal.
  • It seems like I've written a lot of recaps lately in which I mention an inning in which the Angels see five, six, or seven straight batters reach base. Reminds me a lot of the 2002 offense.
  • With Kendry Morales getting a rest tonight, the Angels offense had a mere five straight hitters in the lineup hitting over .300. Of those, only Bobby Abreu failed to get a hit tonight.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Voodoo Does that Voodoo That He Does So Well; Angels win 6-0

Ervin Santana has been an enigma all season. The velocity, the movement, the ability seems to have been there all year. Yet he entered tonight's game with Tampa Bay with an ERA over seven, struggling to find any type of consistency. He looked like Santana v2.008 tonight, simply dominating Tampa. Santana held the Rays to three hits, just five baserunners, struck out six, and completed nine innings in fewer than 100 pitches to earn his fifth win of the season. Coupled with the Rangers' loss in Cleveland, the Angels all but wiped out the weekend series, and pushed their AL West lead to five games.

Almost more surprising than Santana's performance was the Angels offense. Not the six runs so much as how they got them home. All six of the Angels' runs came with two outs, and five of them were driven in by Reggie Willits (2) and Jeff Mathis (3), both of whom are hitting under .220.

David Price took a no-hitter into the fifth inning before Juan Rivera led off with a single. With two out, Mathis delivered a base hit, but both runners took an extra base on an error by left fielder Carl Crawford. With two outs and two strikes, Willits delivered a two run single, advancing to second on the play at the plate. He was subsequently singled home by Chone Figgins.

An inning later, the Angels loaded the bases with singles from Vladimir Guerrero, Kendry Morales, and Howie Kendrick. Jeff Mathis then delivered a rocket of a double over the head of Crawford. All three runners scored, breaking the game open to 6-0, and the Angels never looked back.

Thoughts on the game:

  • The Angels were quiet at the trade deadline, but the resurgence of Ervin Santana and Vlad Guerrero could be bigger than any acquisitions the Angels could have made. When Santana is on his game, he's one of the best pitchers in the AL. Vlad, meanwhile, has hits in ten straight games, including two more tonight.
  • Vlad's two hits put him over .300 for the season. That means that the top six hitters in the Angels lineup, after tonight's game, are all hitting over .300. Howie Kendrick sits at .270, and Napoli, who is the top starting catcher on the team, is hitting near .300. This is really an incredibly fun offense to watch.
  • Santana's effort meant the Angels didn't need to use the bullpen, but if they had, one guy we would not have seen is Justin Speier. The Angels gave him his unconditional release today with a season and a half remaining on his contract. It's sad, really. Speier's first season was excellent, but after last year's illness, he was never really the same.

400: Angel 8; Rays 7

Vladimir Guerrero is trying to slug his way into the hall of fame AND into a big contract for next season. He hit two home runs, including the eventual game winner in the seventh inning, the 400th of his career. Kendry Morales hit his 24th and 25th homers of the year, the bullpen combined for 4.1 innings of one run relief, and Juan Rivera made a game saving grab as the Angels shook off their weekend series with Texas to take game one of their matchup with Tampa Bay.

Tampa got two runs in the first inning for the early lead, but the Angels stormed back in the bottom of the second, taking a 3-2 lead on the strength of a solo blast from Vlad, and RBI singles from Erick Aybar and Chone Figgins. Jason Bartlett's third inning homer tied the game briefly, but Kendry Morales homered right back in the bottom of the inning, a two run shot for a 5-3 lead. The Angels pushed the lead to three in the fourth inning, but the Rays fought back to tie it in the fifth, with Carlos Pena's home run eventually chasing starter Sean O'Sullivan from the game.

Morales' second homer of the game gave the Angels the lead yet again, but Jason Bartlett's RBI triple in the sixth inning brought the Rays even again. Bartlett finished a single shy of the cycle.

That set the stage for Vlad's heroics. He drove a 3-1 fastball off the foul pole in right field for an 8-7 lead and his 400th career home run. Following Juan Rivera's single, Vlad acknowledged the crowd with a curtain call to the delight of more than 37,000 home fans.

Kevin Jepsen, after a shaky seventh, worked a perfect eighth, and turned it over to Brian Fuentes in the ninth against the heart of the Rays order. Fuentes got Carl Crawford to bounce to second on the first pitch, and followed that by striking out Evan Longoria. Ben Zobrist, the Rays' last hope, drove a deep fly ball to the short fence in left, where Juan Rivera robbed a likely home run to preserve the 8-7 win.

Thoughts on the game:

  • The Angels may have gotten their big bat at the trade deadline after all. Guerrero, in seven games since returning from the DL, is hitting 357/400/786, with four home runs (all solo). We'll forgive him for the 1-2-3 double play he grounded into in the fourth inning.
  • Kendry Morales is, well, I don't even know how to describe what he's doing. Since the All-Star break he's hitting 349/374/771, with 10 homers. His OPS+ is comparable to Mark Teixeira (135 v. 144), and he's making $22 million less. The only real difference between the two is Teixeira's patience, but on this Angels team, that's not as important as it may have been last year.
  • Trevor Bell makes his major league debut on Wednesday filling in for the injured Joe Saunders.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Raveonettes w/ Living Things @ the Empty Bottle - 8/8/09

In the very early days of this blog, when I was still sort of experimenting, I wrote a short post about a band that I was going to be seeing in the near future. They were the headliner in a three act bill, and I was really only going because I wanted to see the second act, Autolux (who were, quite frankly, a bit disappointing). When I wrote that post, I was not sold on what I'd heard from the headliner. But at that show, I fell in love with the Raveonettes, and four years later, they keep getting better.

I saw the Raveonettes for the third time on Saturday night, the day before their set at Lollapalooza. And for the third time, they put on a terrific show. It helps that their music translates very well to a live setting. Drenched in feedback and distortion, they don't rely on slick production. This works for two reasons: First, it's much easier to replicate stuff in person that already sounds fuzzy to begin with; Second, that sort of sound, when played very loud, really envelopes the audience, and it's just not a feeling you can get via conventional media players. You're just drowning in it.

The Raveonettes are getting set to release their fifth album (if you consider Whip It On a proper album), and while their sound hasn't changed all that much, they've really gotten good at focusing on their strengths. Their lyrics are a little darker, but their sound is still bright, poppy, and laden with hooks. When I wrote that initial post, I described them as a sort of Buddy Holly as played by the Jesus and Mary Chain. They still fit that description, and it still sounds great, although their obvious affection for other acts of the period, like the Ronettes, is pretty evident as well (they even recorded a track with Ronnie Spector on their third album).

As for Sunday night, they were test driving some of the new tracks, which you can track down if you're so inclined. 'Suicide' is the one they played that I knew. But they hit the old stuff as well, dusting off Attack of the Ghost Riders from Whip It On. The rest of the set included (but was not limited to):
  • That Great Love Sound (encore)
  • Let's Rave On
  • Aly Walk With Me
  • Hallucinations
  • Dead Sound
  • Love in a Trashcan
  • Red Tan
  • Here Comes Mary
  • Twilight (encore)
They played for about an 1:15 or so, which is set-length I can live with, even if there are a couple songs that they left out that I wanted to hear, like Noisy Summer and You Say You Lie. Noisy Summer is one of those songs that I was lukewarm on until I heard it live, at which point it really clicked, and has since become a favorite. Someone made a video for it, so I've posted it below. It's a great example of a song that sounds so innocent that you barely realize how abosolutely drenched in feedback it is. But once you realize it, it makes the song even better. Twilight was, again, a major highlight.

Noisy Summer


Dead Sound