Up Close At KCRW Morning Becomes Eclectic

I got to cross something really awesome off my LA music scene bucket list Wednesday afternoon. KCRW Morning Becomes Eclectic shot me an invite to come check out the studio while they were recording an episode, and it featured one of my favorite songwriters at the moment, Los Angeles native Phoebe Bridgers.

I took a drive to the KCRW studios located at Santa Monica College and because I anticipated accident-related traffic, I got there a little early. I was able to take a quick look around the place, their dope wall of Polaroids of all the famous people that have stopped in (picture above), and their infamous music room, full top to bottom with CDs and records that had me feeling like a kid in a candy store. Right as Phoebe was about to play, I took a seat at the back of the control room and got to watch an MBE filmed and broadcasted live.

Phoebe Bridgers was there in support of her excellent debut Stranger In The Alps, and I haven’t had a chance to see her since first catching her opening for Julien Baker at the El Rey last year. Despite the dark and intense tunes she writes and performs, she’s absolutely hilarious (seriously, follow her on Twitter for gems like these) and brought that same candidness to her live set.

When I saw Bridgers open for Julien Baker, it was just her and sometimes her with one other friend on stage. Lately, she’s been touring with a full band, and it’s really brought a ton of depth to her already scintillating sound. There was some awesome piano and even slide guitar to accompany Bridgers’ beautiful vocal talents. “Motion Sickness” has never sounded so good, and I got a chance to hear it three times between the live show and her performing it for the 360 degree camera video. She nonchalantly mentioned it was a song about Ryan Adams, as Bridgers released her first single through his label PAXAM.

Her candidness was ever apparent at the end of the beautiful “Smoke Signals” — where she mentioned it was a love song about her drummer, though they’ve since broken up “because we can’t have nice things,” Bridgers said hilariously. She then delivered a moving rendition of the holiday classic “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” before ending her set with “Scott Street”. You can listen to the entire session below:

Phoebe Bridgers is playing an album-release show Saturday, December 16 at the new Highland Park venue the Lodge Roomget tickets while you still can!

KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic is probably my favorite music-related programming out there. They are always excellent at the bands they choose to play it and I’ve been lucky enough to see some of the sessions recorded at Apogee Studios in Santa Monica with acts like Alabama Shakes, Spoon, and Glen Hansard.

Five acts I’d love to see play KCRW Morning Becomes Eclectic in 2018:

Dream Wife Echoplex
Dream Wife at the Echoplex, photo by Tim Aarons

Dream Wife

Another recent discovery, I got a chance to see them at The Echo at the beginning of the month and was blown away by their sheer power and charisma on stage. They also have a vintage sound but with some really forward-thinking lyrics — “I am not my body, I am somebody” from their song “Somebody” seems particularly poignant right now. They drop their debut record in January 2018 and I can already tell you it is really strong beginning to end.

Sunflower Bean

One of my favorite discoveries of the year was catching them at Firefly in June and then later at Desert Daze last month. I was seriously blown away by their Pretenders meets Thin Lizzy vibes and especially lead singer Julia Cumming’s voice. Listen to “I Was a Fool” here.

Tash Sultana

Tash delivered one of the best NPR Tiny Desk Concerts in recent memory earlier this year and the Aussie multi-instrumentalist is an absolute savage on everything she plays. I’ve had the good fortune to see her live twice now and she has to be heard live to really be appreciated to her full power.

Moses Sumney

Another really strong live performer, this Los Angeles neo soul singer and songwriter is fantastic, as is his debut record Aromanticism. I first saw him open for Hundred Waters at the El Rey several years ago and then more recently at the Fonda Theatre earlier this year, he’d be an excellent addition to KCRW MBE’s already staggering list of acts who have played. Listen to “Lonely World”.

Julien Baker at Palace Theatre photo by Tim Aarons

Julien Baker

I’m actually pretty surprised that KCRW hasn’t brought Baker in to play a MBE set yet. She fits right in on their airwaves and her 2015 record Sprained Ankle was one of the best debuts in years. She followed that up with her sophomore effort Turn Out The Lights a few months ago and it’s just as exquisite, as Baker knows how to write some of the most disarmingly emotional songs I’ve ever heard, and her rawness comes across in her live shows. Listen to my favorite cut from her debut, “Something”.

Whatever you do, support KCRW and listen to Morning Becomes Eclectic whenever they have a new show! I’m pretty sure they are done for 2017, but stay tuned for more shows in the new year.

Phoebe Bridgers, Soccer Mommy pack powerful punch at Constellation Room

Phoebe Bridgers packs Lodge Room for album-release show

Noah Gundersen, Phoebe Bridgers make magic at El Rey

Phoebe Bridgers shares haunting new song “Funeral”