Vol. XXVI, No. 24  November 25 - December 8, 2002

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These artist reviews can also be found in the current paper edition of Music Connection magazine.
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Photo By: Bernard Baur

John McGill: Compassionate singer/songwriter with insightful material.

John McGill
Lava Lounge

Contact: Pres Pak PR, 310-532-9448

The Players: John McGill, vocals, guitar; Ralph Torres, keyboards, vocals.

Material: This singer/songwriter is a throwback to the days of sensitive troubadours who sang tales of life, love and the human condition. Part folk, part rock and all truth; John McGill is an absorbing artist with a dynamic delivery. Along with his songwriting partner, Ralph Torres, McGill covers everything from subjects as serious as homelessness to silly little ditties like “Entangled,” which he dedicated to the stage cables. Though some of his tunes have a dated sound, most are compelling stories that overcome any musical deficiencies. For the most part, this is a songwriter whose material is smart, compassionate and comforting.

Musicianship: For a duo, these artists create a dynamic soundscape. With flowing rhythms pouring from McGill and rhythmic beats coming from Torres, this pair frequently manages to sound as if they are a full band. Although a few tunes could benefit from additional players to fill out the sound, the arrangements and structures appear to be written perfectly for two –– resulting in fully realized songs. McGill leads most of the vocals, but both artists have expressive voices. Together, however, they really hit paydirt, with harmonies that are golden.

Performance: McGill projected a warm, laid back personality that drew in the patrons at this small lounge. He often had a back-story to go with a song that gave the set a storyteller feel. Humor laced many of his tales, like when he indicated that he suffers from a “bad hair life.” This approach quickly got the crowd into his songs and gave the show an intimate down-home vibe.

Summary: John McGill is a singer/songwriter who makes simple songs seem big. Folk-rock in essence, but epic in scope, McGill’s material is insightful, poignant and funny. Indeed, he hits major emotions with such a skilled touch that his listeners are put at ease and become part of his world.

––Bernard Baur

Photo By: Scott Perham

Kanary: Catchy songs brought to life by impressive vocals and bass lines.

14 Below
Santa Monica

Contact: 323-876-7487

Web: www.Kanary.com

The Players: Leslie Knauer, vocals, guitar; Mary Kay, bass, backup vocals; Tony Matteucci, drums.

Material: Intertwining bass-heavy songs with elemental guitar hooks and an expressive vocal style, Kanary’s approach to rock & roll is noticeably similar to that of the old-school rock trio, Concrete Blonde. Though the guitar work at times appears bland, the impressive bass lines effectively maintain the listeners’ attention during the instrumental portions of the songs. Knauer’s raspridden voice remains in the forefront of the material, reaching its emotional peak in the catchy chorus of the stand-out song, “Haunted.”

Musicianship: Blending simple background beats with intricate lead lines, Kay’s instrumental agility on bass serves as the cornerstone of Kanary’s musical foundation. Though Knauer presents herself as a captivating lead vocalist, her basic chord combinations and lackluster leads don’t provide enough originality to warrant only one guitarist in this project. Serving as the pulse of the performance, Matteucci’s simple drum beats combine with the basic guitar chords to form solid, stripped-down grooves.

Performance: Around the horn, each member of the band displayed a genuine connection with the music that kept all eyes on the stage. Grimacing into their microphones, both Knauer and Kay sang with a conviction that fueled the set with energy. Though both ladies could have been more physically animated, they displayed enough bodily movement to keep the audience entertained.

Summary: Kanary present a batch of catchy songs that are brought to life with a raw level of emotion. However, the structure of their material screams for an additional instrument. The incorporation of an additional lead over the current guitar and drums could bounce off of Kay’s intricate bass lines and beef up their attack.

––Scott Perham

Photo By: Bernard Baur

Jugulur: Pumped up, blood boiling, fundamental metal.


Contact: Charlie Walters, Mgr., 909-875-2889

Web: www.jugulur.com

The Players: Paul DePillow, lead vocals; Ash, guitar; Monster, bass, backup vocals; Jim Cram, drums.

Material: This Inland Empire act threw a horror-driven metal bash, complete with skulls, crossbones and a bass player named “Monster.” It’s as if Andrew W.K. and Alice Cooper put a silly-scary fun-loving party band together and called it Jugulur. Musically, this group is a throwback, with an old-school style and a straight-up approach. But, that doesn’t make them any less effective than the nu-metal acts currently so popular. In fact, Jugulur’s songs pumped the crowd as hard as fists pumped the air.

Musicianship: A huge wall of sound emanates from this band, with a large part of it being DePillow’s vocals. He screams like he’s projecting from the depths of hell, managing to exorcise demons as well as his pain. Monster’s bass is an imposing presence that hammers the beats into every song, along with Cram who nails the rhythms down with his double-bass rig. Ash adds that perfect Seventies guitar edge, spitting out riffs that are Kiss-like in execution, but as fast as Slayer. Tight and taut, this crew is fundamental metal, with no excuses or compromises.

Performance: In-your-face headbangers, Jugulur know how to rile up a room. Constantly goading their audience, they had the crowd running in circles they were so hyped up. DePillow was not above challenging the craziest fans to even greater heights, resulting in some members of the audience losing all control and going virtually nuts –– pumping the air, knocking their brains against their skull and shouting expletives.

Summary: They’re not original, but they are entertaining –– and on top of that, Jugulur is an excellent band. Their traditional metal will always live and have a fan base ready to eat it up. And, this act is a great example of what bands can do with a simple form of music. It may not be fancy or new, but it sure gets your blood boiling.

––Bernard Baur

Photo By: Jana Summers

Los Pinguos: Crossover, Spanish-flavored rock with a catchy and unique style.

Los Pinguos
Temple Bar
Santa Monica

Contact: Los Pinguos 213-380-0413, 323-441-8733, lospinguos@lospinguos.com

Web: www.lospinguos.com

The Players: Jose Agote, vocals, guitar; Adrian Buono, vocals, guitar; Enzo Buono, guitar; Juan M Leguizamon, drums, percussion; Juan Manzur, guitar.

Material: Los Pinguos moved out to Los Angeles from Argentina early last year and has already managed to attract a pretty large fan base in the city of starving artists. They began playing regular performances at the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica and are now able to fill the Temple. Los Pinguos plays high-energy Latin music that appeals to a very wide range of musical tastes. The band mixes salsa, reggae, and Caribbean rhythms into upbeat, more than danceable songs.

Musicianship: Los Pinguos is a five-piece band with four men playing guitar and the fifth on drums and percussion. It is surprising that they have only been together for two years, because they have a sound so tight it comes together like a finely tuned instrument. They supplement their acoustic rhythms with vocal harmonies, singing passionate poetry that pays tribute to their love of the land and sense of humanity.

Performance: The Los Pinguos players had as much fun on the stage as the audience did on the dance floor. They were full of smiles and positive energy. The exchange between them was one of camaraderie. In fact, these musicians seem to be playing for the love of the music, not for the prospect of fame or money.

Summary: In a similar fashion to the Latin performer Manu Chao, Los Pinguos has a catchy and unique style that appeals to more than just a Spanish-speaking audience. While Los Pinguos draw much inspiration from the traditional music of Argentina, they bring many other influences into their music that makes it stand on its own.

––Jana Summers

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