Thursday, September 18, 2008

"Let's Independent!" September Edition

After a show that was as much fun as Death to Anders' Monday night at the Echo, my sensible side says, "you were out till almost two, get some sleep". My incautious side (the dominant one) says "that was so much fun, I want to do it again!". Guess who always wins. My sensible side spends a lot of time in a box at the back of a closet. But I can find it when I need it, otherwise I wouldn't still be here.

Tuesday was the September 16 edition of Radio Free Silver Lake's "Let's Independent!" at Boardner's, which I wouldn't miss because it's at one of the most comfortable spots in town. Everything about it is conducive to making great memories. The way it's just steeped in old Hollywood mystique, circa 1940. And is there a more attractive stage setup in town?

I'd seen the name Tenlons Fort playing around town many times but didn't know that it's basically just one guy, Jack Gibson, armed with a fine, strong voice and prodigious guitar gifts. He's also a talented songwriter. I listened to "Forever is a Long Time" on his myspace page today and I think he performed it at the show, but in any case, it's a terrific song. On his recording of "First Strike", where he's backed by a few instruments, he even sounds a little like Arcade Fire's Win Butler, which I didn't hear in his voice on Tuesday.

He performed with a keyboardist, who, when I finally, focused on him, was Aaron Embry of Amnion. Well, that was a big bonus. I guess it could be called a surprise guest appearance. He played gentle backing keys and sometimes also played a computer with his other the same time! They played beautifully together.

Jack has a voice that works great as a solo troubadour-type singer, but I can also imagine him backed by a large band and his voice carrying over everything. Like Guy Garvey in Elbow. I introduced myself to him afterwards to tell him how much I enjoyed his set and talk about his tri-city lifestyle (Portland, Austin and L.A.). He said he'd be out here later in the year, perhaps fronting a band. In any incarnation I will look forward to Tenlons Fort's future performances. I marvel at Joe Fielder's ability to keep finding amazing local talent month after month, and, like so many others he's presented, this guy will not remain little-known for long.

The second band was Manhattan Murder Mystery, who, I'd been warned, could perform an unorthodox set. In a situation not unlike Monday night with The Transmissions, the lead singer, Matt, and I have been bumping into each other at a bunch of shows for months, but I'd never seen his band! But I'd appreciated how he always took the time to have a chat, so it was long overdue time for me to see the band.

It's just great when the band turns out to be as great as The Transmissions were the other night and how Manhattan Murder Mystery killed me Tuesday. What a show! The band is a curious blend of guitar, bass, drums and three tambourine playing dancer/backup singers. But the sound they create is a neat amalgam of classic rock and gnarly, raucous, but surprisingly disciplined post-punk. It's hard to describe, but singer Matt is not.

He climbs on stage in his green helmet and imposing presence and sings in a sweet groan. He remained there for maybe a couple of songs. The helmet hat flown off early on. Then, lowering his mike stand down to the floor in front of us, he decided to sing in the audience. He moans, shouts, pulls his hair and generally adopts all manner of expressive torment, never losing the song. I think the guy may be a great actor. And his gimmick of coming down into the audience works, because it's done with a complete lack of self-consciousness, as if it's something every band does. No big deal. But it's just a thrill to stand next to the guy while he's performing. Not something I've experienced often.

I was surprised at how focused and structured the songs remain, even as Matt is having convulsions on the floor in front of you. And you gotta love a band that sings songs with titles like "Pancho Villa" and "Sex and Communism".

Lastly was The Poor Excuses, who are also a band whose members I met at shows, before I heard them. This band is fronted by Andrew Lynch, who I had seen numerous times playing with Earlimart and whose name is on many of the CD's I own as a back up player or sound engineer. So I know the man is talented, but this band is not what you expect. It is the total opposite of Earlimart, it is full bore garage punk. Loud, noisy, jangly and full of energy. I thought Andrew might blast off into orbit a few times. This really isn't my favorite genre of music, but they perform it with real feeling and play really well so it's hard not to enjoy it. And I do try to acquaint myself with as many styles as I can...(within a certain narrow range).


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