Saturday, September 27, 2008

So Much Local Music Talent

I spent Wednesday and Thursday (September 24, 25) with local musicians at a couple of terrific shows. Guess I'm not going to see any bad shows this week.

Wednesday night I finally caught one of Aaron Embry's resident nights at Tangier, this week with Eleni Mandell and Sara Lov, and it was a lovely, quiet evening of singer/songwriters, sharply contrasting with the crowd euphoria at the Fleet Foxes show and the super-enthusiastic bunch at the Okkervil River Fonda gig. This was intimate and civilized, in the best sense.

Seeing performers in the front dining room area of this venue is kind of unique, as I said when Inara George and Van Dyke Parks played here in July. The windows to the street with all the foot and car traffic, just reinforces the notion that the music is part of the communitiy and the community is part of the music. Passerbys peer in the window and we inside, look back.

Sara Lov was already on when I walked in and, in an instant, she was able to transform me from a harried individual rushing from the Vermont/Sunset subway station up to Tangier, into a relaxed, mellow music lover. I've been a big fan ever since I saw her at the Knitting Factory with her band, The Devics, a couple of years ago. They were opening for The Black Heart Procession, and she actually joined them for one song. I had just gotten into The Black Heat Procession and was kind of obsesssed with their music for a while (still am) but to hear a female vocalist added to their already extraordinarily beautiful music was thrilling. I just love their dark, dour, funereal, Edgar Allen Poe music.

So, I saw Sara again last April 30 as a solo artist with a back up band. This was during the Fol Chen show at Tangier and she performed all new material I didn't know with a whole new band. I loved the songs, but, at the time, none of it had been recorded yet. I finally got up the nerve to go up and introduce myself one night as she was DJ-ing at the Echoplex during the Sea Wolf show June 19.

Enough backstory. In her characteristic style Sara Lov lured the listener to a deeper, more reflective place with her haunting melodies and the romantic-unsentimental dichotomy of her lyrics. Accompanied by a talented multi-keyboard artist, they played beautifully together, allowing me to hear some of the same songs as with her band last time, but in a simpler form so you could really notice the quality of the writing. The set was bewitching, and I was happy to be able to tell her at the end of the evening how much I admire the consistent thematic thread that flows through all her music. The rueful sadness in her music and the maturity and assuredness of her lyrics make a potent combination.

Eleni Mandell was on next, contrasting nicely with her witty, sophisticated songs that have a slightly country feel. But not too much so. She sings in a clear, strong voice and plays guitar well. Where Sara in more pensive, Eleni Mandell in more uptempo, but the study of romantic entanglements from two perspectives was interesting and instructive. She has such a winning personality that she seduces the audience into appreciation of her musical gifts and I look forward to getting to know her music better.

Aaron Embry took his turn around 11 and this was a stunner for me. To hear the wonderful Amnion song I have come to love so well in a stripped down, solo version, only showed me that they're better than I thought. I am overwhelmed at Aaron's songwiting. Each song contains so many chord and key changes, not to mention the time changes, it should sound like a mess, and yet, Aaron makes it all sound as natural as water cascading down a rolling stream. It's irresistable!

It wouldn't mean much if he weren't such a consumate piano player and superb singer. I was amazed at how easily he could handle he material alone. As a band, Amnion makes the songs seem a complex as a Mozart symphony, but solo they become feats of musical gymnastics for the single performer. He performed songs from the Amnion CD Amen Namo and "Better Day" and a couple I didn't recognize, but all were perfect.

It was late and I am seeing a lot of music this week so I had to get home, but this was such a comfortable, informal music experience with friends I hated to see it end.

Thursday night I went over to KROQ's free "Local's Only" show at Safari Sam's. Arriving well past 9 I had missed The French Semester and Light FM were already on. I'd seen them last April 4 when they played with The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra at Spaceland but they didn't sound like this.

The sound at Safari Sam's is really super and Light FM had a lot more punch than I remembered. Their sunny, California pop songs come at you, one after another, until they lift you with their solid craftsmanship. Josiah Mazzaschi's lead vocals are front and center in their sound, but the rest of the band play so tightly it all meshes together perfectly.

I've missed this band many times over the last year but I'll try to see them again soon.

The Western States Motel celebrated the release of their new EP Painted Birds Flying in the Orange Mirror Sun by playing all the songs plus a sample of songs from the self titled CD that I've had for a long time. Actually, I've seen Carl Jordan's band nearly a dozen times, but only twice with the new line up. They sound just great, and it's interesting for me to hear the old familiar songs with readjusted arrangements. Carl is a talented songwriter and it was the quality of writing that first attracted me to his band.

I got the new EP from Carl and I love the songs. A lot of people have described his music as sounding like riding along a desert highway during magic hour with the windows down, and I couldn't agree more. These songs also have that quality, that particularly southwestern United States sound I like so much. More Mexican-influenced than country-influenced. I'm seeing Calexico Monday, and they personify that genre to me. But I'm glad that we have The Western States Motel right here in Los Angeles for us.

Music is such a comfort in difficult times, and it's just nice to hear a singer say it out loud, "We're living in a fucked up world, and it's one I don't understand!"

Don't forget to vote.

Not crowded, but a nice bunch of fellow bloggers and band members made for a congenial atmosphere. Highlight for me was to get to meet Ashley Jex (Jax) of Rock Insider. Also the great bassist in The (Triumphant!) Monolators. She filled me in on a lot of history of the Los Angeles blogging community and I'm so grateful to be a part of it. But were it not for her, we might not be here at all.


No comments: