Sunday, November 23, 2008

Death at Spaceland

Saturday night November 22, 2008 was one of those special nights that you just never want to end. Three bands at the top of their game in front of a warm and responsive audience. You feel privileged just to be able to witness it. Ironic that two bands with the word "death" in their names, Death To Anders and O'Death, would spring to vibrant life right before our stunned eyes.

I've been following Death To Anders since I first learned of them last January. Their music struck me as uniquely quirky and unpredictable. With it's skewed sense of humor and sometimes harshly realistic lyrics, love the line, "you be the dollar and I'll be the whore". Whew, that's brilliant. I've seen them play all kinds of sets, but I think I can say with confidence, what I saw Saturday night was a whole other animal.

Each song was performed at the 'best ever' level, until you let go of all resistance, and just went with it. Rob Danson's singing was stronger and more confident than ever and the same can be said of Nick Ceglio. When bassist Pete Dibiasio occasionally joined them, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I have never heard them sing like this before. John Broeckel contributed his usual solid anchor of drum work, which gives the others the freedom to fly.

Their playing together has become seamless, each piece fitting perfectly into the puzzle. It was also the best set list I've ever seen them play, with each song equalling or besting the previous one. Incredible job, particularly, on "Man of 1000 Regrets". I said to someone, it was the most cohesive set I've heard from them yet, and I think everyone was in agreement. At least everyone had a big smile plastered on their face when they finished. I think the uninitiated were duly impressed. Death To Anders hit the big leagues tonight!

The turnout was great for this show and by now I was in a little cluster of bloggers, Kevin Bronson (Buzzbands), Travis Woods (Web in Front), Mouse (Classical Geek Theatre), along with music scene documenters, Elaine Layabout (not filming) and Scott Shultz. It was a mighty contrast to the night before when I'd been floating in that petri dish with the dates on the west side. The spirit in Silver Lake right now is not to be sneezed at.

Next up were Le Switch. No hint of "death" here either, as they amazed everyone with an electric set filled with spirited playing, great musicianship and beautiful music. I've seen this band before too, but this was the clincher. Same as with Death To Anders, Le Switch has never sounded better and the sound tonight at Spaceland was incredible!

They sing a kind of honky-tonk influenced indie rock with songs that have a solid root in tin pan alley. Aaron Kyle sings in a classic "raspy' and 'whiskey-soaked' voice that shows amazing power at times. He's surrounded himself with an incredible ensemble including Joe Napolitano on drums and backing vocals, who's drumming athletics were dazzling to watch, Christopher Harrison on bass and Josh Charney on keys, who plays a perfect saloon piano. Maria DeLuca contributions with viola, trumpet and tambourine adds the flourishes that make their unique sound stand out and vocals that sweeten the mix.

The crowd at Spaceland was cheering Le Switch on as they outdid themselves, song after song. Lots of members from local bands were on hand to support them including The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra, Division Day, The Happy Casualties, One Trick Pony and others.

Already feeling the night was one of monumental musical proportions, I had been warned by various audience members to be prepared for O'Death. I was not. They're currently on a cross-country tour and I'm so glad they dropped into Spaceland to play one of the best bills I've seen this year.

This New York band took the stage by storm and conquered what was left of anyones resistance to the celebratory mood of the evening. They had the audience jumping and dancing and levitating off the floor in a matter of minutes.

I gotta say right here, there are so many New York bands I love, it really warmed my heart to see these guys taken right into the heart of Silver Lake by this crowd. They treated them like they were local favorite sons. And the band responded in kind.

O'Death combines elements of the gipsy-punk movement typified by Gogol Bordello with fragments of the eastern European style of Beirut, the hillbilly-funk of Benjy Feree and the creative songcraft of a Grizzly Bear. Yet they create a sound all their own. Their playing is clear, concise, wildly energetic, and endlessly inventive.

Greg Jamie has a voice I can't begin to describe, kind of a puppy-dog yelp that is totally endearing. The band backs him up like a jug-band orchestra employing instruments that include ukulele, banjo, piano, fiddles, trombone and euphonium. Special mention must go Bob Pycior for his astonishing fiddle playing.

I didn't have enough cash on me last night to get their CD, but ran to Amoeba first thing this morning to pick up their latest one, Broken Hymns Limbs and Skin (how many CD's are going to have the word 'hymns' in the title this year, anyway?). It's just great and a wonderful keepsake of a very memorable evening.


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