Monday, June 2, 2008

Film School at the Fonda

Saturday night (May 31) was a tough night for music fans with all the competing concerts like The Cure at the Hollywood Bowl and Beirut's second night at the Wiltern.. Swevedriver at the Fonda was my destination mostly because of the chance to see Film School at this great theatre and to finally see Xu Xu Fang who I've been hearing about alot lately. I've also been listening to a lot of Swevedriver in anticipation of this chance to see them. I can hear this band's influence on a range of new bands including tonight's two openers, but also San Diego band The Jade Shader, in particular. Having enjoyed everything I've heard by them, I looked forward to their set., too.
Xu Xu Fang came on at 9PM sharp as the curtain rose and billows of fog swirled out into the audience, only the sound of the band told you there was anyone on the stage. I have to admit I'm partial to what, I guess, is called Lo-Fi or Slow-Core (I'm not great with genre names); bands like Low, The Besnard Lakes and Dead Meadow; maybe it's Trance-Rock, at any rate, it's all psychedelic and that's fine with me. Drummer Bobby Tamkin is the leader and writer for the band but lead singer, I believe it's Jenna, drones into the microphone pulling it all together as the band surrounds her in a wash of guitars and atmospheric sound, swaying to the beat until she sees fit to stand back and let her voice soar. They played about 30 minutes and I was sufficiently impressed to buy their 4-song EP. A nice opening for what was to come.
I think Film School expanded their fan base with their phenominal performance that had the audience alternately enraptured and cheering. Having become a dedicated follower as they played smaller L.A. venues over the last year, I was always anxious to hear their great big sound translated to a theatre like this. Speaking to Greg, Jason and Dave before they went on they each told me how excited they were about playing the Fonda and that the sound would be great. They weren't wrong. Always opening with the extraordinary song "Compare", they've lately added an extended intro which serves as something like a Film School overture. It sets the mood as the band plunges into the propulsive motion of that song. Top performances by all, brimming with enthusiasm and energy as they ran through a set of many of their best songs; "Lectric", "Two Kinds", "Sick Hipster Nursed by Suicide Girl" and "Capitalized" from the "Hideout" CD. From their self-titled CD they played "11:11" and best of all "He's a Deep Deep Lake". Greg Bertens writes such wonderful songs you just see how much the band enjoys playing them. Terrific vocals by Greg, occasionally supported by Lorelie and Jason, add to to the rich wall of sound. It was electrifying and the whole audience seemed to agree. People seemed a bit dazed when they finished.
Swervedriver were next and they played to an adoring audience of obviously long-time fans. I can see why. They played many of the great songs I've been listening to and they sound even better live. With a perfect sound mix, the vocals were clear and up front and the band's playing was precise and dynamic. The crowd was a bit rowdy by this time, but it just added to the festive atmosphere.
All in all a pretty amazing weekend of music where I got to see three of my favorite bands: The National, Beirut and Film School.


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