Concert Review: The Aristocrats/Travis Larson Band/The Kyle Motl Trio

In my youth, Friday nights were spent particularly seeing concerts, whether they were my favorite bands or simply a band worth seeing. That is how I spent my last Friday, having the privilege of seeing The Aristocrats live at UCSD. Being a student from rival SDSU (Go Aztecs!), I immediately felt lost upon arrival since I had never stepped foot on this campus. Luckily, with enough maneuvering I found the Price Center Ballroom, and awaited what I expected to be an amazing performance.

Being one of the more intimate concerts I’ve seen in a while, I was surprised by the venue. The Price Center Ballroom was just that; a ballroom with folded chairs that sat roughly 400 people. Thanks to a guest pass I received (to whom I’m very thankful of), I plotted myself right in front of where guitarist Guthrie Govan would be later in the set. But until then, two performances awaited me.

kyle motl trio
Photo by Kenny Norton

Up first were the Kyle Motl Trio, consisting of band leader Kyle Motl on the standup bass, a saxophonist and a drummer (I can’t remember their names). Playing what I can only describe as freeform, avant garde jazz, the three played one 15 minute song for their set. Although it wasn’t my cup of tea, the former college student in me would have loved this type of music. The jazzy sound, the improvisational and chromatic approach, the bow used on the bass; I could easily recall bands I listened to in the past similar to these guys. Unfortunately, my taste of music has evolved over the years, and although I didn’t particularly enjoy the opening set, I heard much of the crowd praise the Kyle Motl Trio after the show ended. Maybe I just need to give them another try.

Photo by Kenny Norton
Photo by Kenny Norton

After a few minutes, the Travis Larson band graced the stage. My first thought when I saw them was that I’d seen them before. I wasn’t sure why, and I wasn’t sure how, but I swear I’d seen these guys in the past. Their set was amazing, a sound more similar to the main even than the last set. With every break in the song, Travis would interact with the audience to liven them up. He commented that we were the most sober audience he had played with in a while, which was a good thing to him. Having played in front of too many crowds who didn’t cooperate, I could only imagine having an audience’s full attention is very rewarding. The biggest surprise of the night happened during their set thanks to the magnificent bass playing of Jennifer Young. Being one of the bassiest concerts I’ve attended, her playing was easily heard from all reaches of the venue. I especially enjoyed the song “Attention Deficit Disorder” with its numerous time signature changes and rests. With nearly an hour set, I enjoyed the Travis Larson band much more than the first act, and was eagerly anticipating the final set of the night.

the aristocrats live
Photo by Kenny Norton

With the Aristocrats’ hour-plus long set, I can only think of one word to describe it: playful. It was so obvious that Marco Minnemann, Guthrie Govan, and Bryan Beller enjoyed this set so much. I loved seeing the playful banter between them, the numerous knick knacks on their equipment, and hearing the stories behind each of their songs. Ranging from inspirations from a fictional burglar, to a crazy lady Bryan met at a Texas gas station, to experiencing culture clashes and tornados in California, I was surprised that each song had its own theme and concept. I especially loved learning this since I had no clue about these inspirations.

As for the sound itself, my oh my can these guys play. Considering they are all veterans with high accolades, I wasn’t expecting anything less than perfection, and with such high expectations coming into this concert, the gentlemen didn’t disappoint. Playing mostly material off their newest album “Tres Caballeros,” I was very familiar with the set, which included “Stupid 7,” “Jack’s Back,” and “Texas Crazypants.” In fact, there was only one song I couldn’t recognize, which happened to be my favorite off the set. The song “Desert Tornado” was by far was my favorite song of the set, mainly because it included a ten minute drum solo by my favorite drummer Marco Minnemann. A barrage of cymbals, toms, and bass pedals, I couldn’t help but lean forward and stare in amazement. In fact, he is one of the main reasons I named my site after two pieces of a drum set. His musical abilities are inspiring, and makes me want to play musi again.

Overall, it was an amazing concert, albeit a very simple layout. Being in a lower budgeted ballroom on a college campus, I wished there was more stage theatrics, particularly a more elaborate lighting display. But for the quality of musicians for the show, the audience was not disappointed. In fact, all I heard were rave reviews as I walked towards my car. As the Aristocrats finish up their North American tour, I highly urge all my European readers to check them out once they tour again in November.

You can check out my concert photos here.

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