Saturday, August 9, 2008

Darker My Love, Amnion - Troubadour - August 7, 2008

I couldn't wait to see Amnion Thursday night (August 7, 2008) since it's been a while since we've had a chance to see them and their wholly original blend of psychedelic/funk/soul/tribal/gospel/jazz styles. This band dazzles me in ways I can't even describe. They could become my very favorite L.A. band if they keep giving shows of this quality. They produce euphoria through a kind of group hypnosis.

Nikki Embry was radiant, and pregnant...and a twirling, dancing sprite. They began with "Aton", as Aaron Embry's sinewy vocals weave into his mellifluous piano seamlessly and Nikki pantomimes the lyrics with interpretive dance. Amnion had grown to six for this show, adding a great second drummer, and a superb singer named Rocco Harris. All the beautiful backing vocals that grow in that song on the Amen Namo CD were present here and maybe more. Sometimes all six band members were singing, creating some of the most beautiful sound I've ever heard. You feel like you're floating on air when, suddenly, the drums come bubbling up from somewhere underground and the song turns into pure funk, pulling you in.

The tonal shifts and sudden genre changes within each song, that keep you in constant anticipation, are the hallmarks of this band's particular genius. I don't know if there's anything they can not do.

The audience, as always, transforms into an undulating mass of swaying souls; the uninitiated stare in wonder at the unique band of artists onstage, while the loyal fans grin in recognition as Amnion creates new magic with familiar songs.

Every live show I've seen of theirs is different, but never less than awe-inspiring. They performed the newer songs, "Better Day" and "Right Where You Are", along with the always welcome "All the Way" (the singing in this number was truly astonishing). The sound mix at the Troubadour was superb and the band has never sounded better. This was as good as the first time I ever saw Amnion at Joe Fielder's "Let's Independent!" at Boardner's March 18, 2008 (combined with Fol Chen, that was a night I will never forget!). Also happy to hear about their upcoming residency at Tangier every Wednesday in September. Imagine seeing them every week for a month!

When they finished you felt adrift in space. As if they'd taken you into orbit and left you there. But it's a wonderful feeling. By this time I was hanging with The Flying Tourbillons and they were as stunned as I was.
Spoke to Nikki's mom, Sandy, who I'd met before. She's, perhaps, their biggest fan, and admitted wondering if she was just prejudiced in their favor, being family. So I reassured her that, no, her feelings are justified...they are one of the best bands on the planet.

I have to admit I was too stunned to pay much attention to the next band, Eulogies. They played a nice sounding set of solid indie-rock, well sung, well played, but I had to wander around to get my bearings. At one point I spoke to Rocco Harris, a new Anmion-ite who I really enjoyed getting to know a little.
I told him how amazing I thought his vocals were and asked how long they'd had to rehearse together. He said only 4 times. I was floored! They had all played and sung with such precision. He said he and Aaron had spent a lot of time perfecting their vocal, though, which was evident.

I wanted to let him know how important a band like Amnion, and this whole music scene, is to the world right now. I told him how similar the feeling is to what I felt in the '60's, when people were eager to connect on some level deeper than the superficial. The way everyone has become increasingly isolated by their cars, computers, and portable devices. Even movies, which used to seem like communal experiences, have become such sonic assaults on the senses, you can't even notice the person sitting next to you in a theatre anymore.

So the shared group experience of a live music event seems to be something people are starving for. In the nearly three years since I started going to concerts again (after 25 years of NO music concerts, at all) I've watched the crowds steadily getting bigger and bigger and the enthusiasm level rising. I mean, my god, with all the free residencies on Monday nights in L.A. you can choose between 16 - 20 bands every Monday night, nowadays! And people stand around and talk to each other, without the aid of any technology at all! It seems remarkable.

The place was packed when Darker My Love began and, I must say, the longer they played the more impressed I became. At first I thought they sounded kind of ordinary, but when the vocals and harmonies kicked in, I took notice. Here was some extraordinary singing. When the interesting range of the compositions got through to me, I realized this was more than just a Beach Boys/Led Zeppelin mix, with a kind of wall-of-sound vocal and sweeping orchestra style which reminded me of Rogue Wave or the singing of The Byrds.

I was glad I had their CD sitting in my pocket, which was free for the price of a ticket (which was only $9.99). From the few chances I've had to play it yet I know it will be a favorite. Here we go again...another goddamned great local band! And they got a crowd like this even though The Airborne Toxic Event had sold out the El Rey across town.

The two lead singer/songwriters, Tim Presley and Rob Barbato, have a nice, unpretentious stage manner and just get on with the business of playing music. Each song impressed me more than the last and by the end of their set I was a big fan. I'm sorry I missed all their residencies at the Echo last month.


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