Sunday, December 14, 2008

Radars...and A Sweater Festival

This weekend is such a swirl of activity (December 12, 13, 2008) so far, I'll just do some quick notes. Radars To the Sky threw a super party on Friday (12/12) for the release of their Spaceland recorded concert from their April residency. Unfortunately, I got there a little late and missed what everyone was saying was a really great set by The Hectors. I'm sorry about that, but Swedens Wildbirds and Peacedrums were busy with their Nordic, Euro-throb rock. I barely got to pay attention as this was my first show in a while, and with so many locals there, I had a lot of catching up to do.

Radars To the Sky always seem to assemble a crowd of admirers, and that crowd is growing. They played a nice set with more vocals from the wonderful Kate Spitzer than I'm used to hearing. And together with husband Andrew, they gave one of the strongest dual voiced shows I've ever seen from them.

I was glad to pick up the CD, too, as I've always wanted recordings that captured the raw energy of their live performances. The atmosphere at Spaceland definitely leaned toward 'party', and everyone hung around till the very end after a very pleasant set by a band I didn't know called Archways.

Saturday (December 13, 2008), I had to run to the thrift shop to try to find an ugly Christmas sweater and came away with one that was only mildly distasteful. Of course, when I got to the Echoplex for The Christmas Sweater Festival, the stunning variety of really awful monstrosities, proudly displayed, made me feel inaequate. One of my favorites was Ashley Jex in a creation that looked like a solar panel that had crashed into a late-'50's Cadillac.

It was nice to see the huge audience this great event attracted. The Deadly Syndrome were the driving force behind assembling bands for this mind-boggling display of local talent on one stage. The evening was a benefit for Doctors Without Borders and resembled a TV variety show format with comedic (comedic?) routines between bands.

Damn the buses, which made me late, so I missed most of the set by Amnion. But what I saw left me spellbound, as usual. And with the added attraction of guest artists from Castledoor and the addition of Avi Buffalo on guitar, how could this band ever possibly get better. Aaron Embry sang with passion and joy and Nikki Embry was a vision of beauty in her advanced state, radiating life and contentment. It was great to hear her voice again.

They were singing selections from their great CD Amen Namo when I walked in and then launched into a Christmas song. I could tell by the audience reaction that they had delivered an impressive set. Certainly what I saw was wonderful.

Next up was Castledoor who delivered my favorite set of the night. They are so good, Nate Cole, such a commanding and entertaining front man, and Coury Jane Combs and Lisa Cole adding glorious vocals and keys, they just grabbed me with their first song. Adding in some wonderful new material and, of course, an ironic Christmas song, their set was perfect. Aaron and Nikki Embry and Avi Buffalo even joined them for the first song. What a wonderful collection of voices!

The Echoplex was pretty damned festive at this point so I wandered out to the smoking patio and ran into an ocean of people equal in size to what was inside. So many people, so many ugly sweaters.

The Pity Party took their turn next, dressed in matching knitted creations, each sporting a giant 'P' and, I thought they sounded great, but wondered, which one is 'Pity' and which one is 'Party'. Last time I saw them was during their residency last February at Spaceland when Maurice Robert had just broken his hand (hand?) so they had 3 fill in guest guitarists and Maurice sang. Tonight Maurice was back in tip-top form and sang and played with easy command. Heisenflei wailed away both in voice and on her drums all the while playing keys with her left hand. She provided the glue that holds it all together, always reminding me of standing next to some gigantic generators in a gigantic factory. They play industrial-strength rock.

The Deadly Syndrome is a band I've seen a few times over the years, and I'm always impressed with their proficient and spirited playing, but Saturday they really nailed it for me. They sounded far more mature and assured than I'd heard before, particularly Chris Richards' lead vocals. It's been a long time since I've seen them so it was gratifying it turned out so well.

I was starting to fade at this point, but figured to stay for a few numbers by The Happy Hollows. But once they began, leaving was not an option. Sarah, Charlie and Chris gave their all in a magnificent set that was just the adrenaline rush the hour required. Leaping, dancing, playing hard, singing harder, this was a sterling performance by a band that just keeps getting better.

I had to duck out before Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros came on, but I'd love to know how that went. It was getting really late, it was really cold (for Los Angeles) and I was tired, so I headed home, my Christmas sweater keeping me warm.


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