Vista Kicks Perform With Heart On Valentine’s Day REVIEW+PHOTOS: VISTA KICKS @ THE TROUBADOUR 2/14/18
WEST LOS ANGELES, CA- As soon as I walk into The Troubadour on Valentine’s Day, I already regret not listening to the editor of this site, Derrick, or DK, as I like to call him. He told me to arrive early, and I didn’t, and it’s so filled with fans, finding a place to photograph is going to be a bitch.
The venue is packed wall-to-wall with T-shirt and denim clad millennials. There are a lot of couples and although dinner is the fashionable date night on this holiday, it seems many others would rather rock out with the Vista Kicks.
A gaggle of women in their 20s are pressed against the stage and I assumed, having never seen this band perform live before, there was a heart throb element to Vista Kicks. I knew that I’d have the opportunity to get some cool shots because of the energy of the music, but that was all subject me finding some place to photograph in the crowded venue. The last thing I wanted to do was elbow my way through this crowd, saying excuse me, apologizing the whole way. Between my camera backpack and tipsy concert-goers, it could result in issues.
So, I start talking to security about getting up into the booth for at least some clean bird’s eye view pics. I talk to a burly, bearded security guard who tells me to ask one of his co-workers across the stage. I meet that security guard and he tells me his name is Chris. Chris hears my plea to get into the booth and he tells me to find security manager Mike at the front door. I pay Mike a visit, he eyes my photo pass, and says, “Man, the booth is open. Just go up there.” I like security manager Mike.
Up in the booth, I meet Oscar, tell him I’m just trying to peel off some shots and he says peel away. Lucky break, especially since I think Oscar and I have worked together before when I was assistant directing a feature film here last year. He kind of remembers me too and all is right with the world.
After snagging a few shots from up in the booth,I decided to get as close to the stage as I could. I approached stage right and find a cluster of eager women all staring up at the empty stage, transfixed on the neon “Vista Kicks” sign; glowing icy blue in the black air.
I find two women, probably freshman in college, and ask them if they mind if I wheeze in a small pocket on the stage in front of them. I promise not to be there all night and they politely oblige.
This is what I love about photographing live music: a photo pass and a camera grant me the bravery to climb on stage and occupy a nook next to the amps. It’s not my favorite spot, but the area right in front of the stage is packed and squeezing in there is a no go.
Eventually, to the sound of explosive applause, a group of young, long haired musicians take the stage all wearing matching velvet burgundy smoking jackets, and I already like them. Vista Kicks understand their sound and reflect the mood of it in their appearance.
It turns out that this is the first night of Vista Kicks “Booty Shakers Ball”, their U.S. Tour which will carry the band from here to Las Vegas, through Kansas, Boston, Philly, Atlanta, and a bunch of cities in between, culminating at SXSW in Austin.
Their sound is a beautiful blend of The Beatles meets Motown with plenty of gritty rock and roll and flare mixed in. According to their website, Vista Kicks are “Four lifelong friends from Northern California [who] grow up obsessed with the sounds of AC/DC, The Beatles, Black Sabbath, The Bee Gees and Michael Jackson. Living within a block of each other since kindergarten, they began playing anywhere and everywhere with a stage by the age of 16, taking over supper clubs, parties, and backyard barbecues.” And on this night, they rocked a sold-out Troubadour.
By the time the band rolls out their catchy-as-hell track “Gimme Love”, it’s clear to me that Vista Kicks’ sound is built on the history of rock and roll: from the sounds frequented on Ed Sullivan to Buddy Holly to The Arctic Monkeys to The Fratellis, these guys get rock and roll history and it’s prevalent in their sound. They restore faith in how music can be edgy, entertaining, and pleasurable. Their sound is accessible, but not watered down pop that’s polluted ears for way too many decades.
Their song “Work For Me” feels a bit like The Strokes, but I really, really love their interpretation of that sound and front man Derek’s crooner voice knows exactly when to seduce and when to crack. It’s clear to me that he is very comfortable on stage and he is backed up by Trevor on bass, Nolan on drums, Sam on guitar and back up vocals, and the chemistry is nearly perfect by any standard.
Sam’s guitar riffs feel like a polished artist’s who learned in the garage and his presence ads a dynamic that seems to be missing form a lot of modern rock and roll.
And it’s clear to me that the fans that have filled The Troubadour tonight know something the rest of the country is going to discover: Vista Kicks much ass and they belong on everyone’s Spotify’s play list.