Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Surreality of Pehrspace and Fleet Foxes (Night One)

The journey over to Pehrspace on Friday night (June 27) clued me in to the unique nature of going to that venue. First of all I couldn't get a sense of where it was located, even after consulting maps, and being a mass transit kind of guy, it needed to be accessible. It's hidden at the back of a minimall in a mythical land somewhere between Echo Park and downtown L.A. Too far from Sunset Blvd. to walk, I chose the Beverly Blvd route, which dropped me at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power at around 10 at night. It looked like a giant old dinosaur of a building sided by that big stone bridge that carries Beverly down into downtown. Most odd was the fact I was the only human being in sight. No one...not one; only an ocasional car seeming to drive itself by. Downtown lay directly ahead of me and I knew Glendale Blvd went off toward the north somewhere around there. It was a "Twilight Zone" episode come to life. Only a martian looking like Ross Martin was missing. I walked one block east, crossed the street, went one block back west to where I saw a traffic sign indicating Glendale Blvd. turning right. That looked promising, but still there were no human organisms in sight and I thought, "Where the hell is everybody?!" Up Glendale a few blocks, still no one, but I saw the tall sign indicating the minimall entrance. Then, glancing to my left at Court Street, I saw one of those long, tall cement staircases running severely up the side of a steep hill, and I, this was the very one made famous in the original 1956 "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" that Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter run up, chased by pod people. Well, already, my night was complete. I had crossed the line into total Lewis Carroll surrealism as I walked up to the dark entrance of Pehrspace behind a short palm tree that I fully expected to see a smoking caterpillar sitting atop of.

Inside I found what looked like a large living room with a kitchenette in the corner and a band playing to all the people who had depopulated the earth I had just come from and were now here packed in like hot sardines. Resisting the impulse to jump back outside to the cool night air, I plunged bravely into the crowd just to hear the last three notes of the last song by Health Club. I really wanted to hear this band...after Fol Chen, they were the reason I attended, but earlier I'd had to wait about 50 minutes for the Beverly bus and it delayed me too much. But then I would have missed my appointment in the twilight zone.

Ran into Hunter of The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra and his bandmate, Ethan, who was doing sound for the evening. The room emptied as the next band set up and I could see the room, which cooled down considerably to tolerable levels. Weave and Hearts of Palm UK both played entertaining, danceable sets that the audience really enjoyed. As I've been told, and it's true, Pehrspace gets one to the best audiences I've yet been a part of... Rob Danson of Death To Anders, Devisadero's fabulous violinist working admittance, Mouse of Classical Geek Theatre, Joe Fielder of Radio Free Silver Lake and members of many other local bands like Eagle Winged Palace, etc.

Fol Chen went on around 12:45 but played another incredible set. Is this band ever less than incredible? Adam and troop, playing both familiar and unfamiliar material, displayed their tremendous showmanship. These guys are definitely entertainers as well as great musicians and Ethan had the sound just right. Thanks to the Squaregirls for hosting.

The night ended with chatting into the wee hours and a ride up to Sunset from two kind friends. I hopped a bus and was home by 2:30, thinking how well this story illustrates just how much my life has changed from the fairly sedentary existence I was living just a couple of years ago, and all due to the power of music.

Saturday night was my first exposure to Fleet Foxes in concert and I'll write a more fulsome review after I see them again Sunday night.

The Echo was sold out when I got there and I missed Frank Fairfield which was a big mistake, but the place was packed...and HOT...really hot and filled with a very different crowd. I had no idea what to expect of a Fleet Foxes audience, but was surprised to see, almost exclusively, suburban, Orange County-types, very clean-cut, (boring dressers) and very much in dating mode.

Watching The Duchess and The Duke from a pretty good vantage point near the stage, the room became more crowded and hotter. The band was good, but not enough to keep me standing there to the point of passing out, so I fled out back to the patio. Smart move, good air, and from across the patio Evan Way of The Parson Red Heads and I saw each other, recognizing kindred souls, we stood together wondering who are these people and where did they come from. (Were they the pod people I almost ran into last night?) We talked a while and I told him I was looking forward to seeing his solo acoustic set on Sunday night. He headed inside to find Brette and I met up with Mr. Eagle Winged Palace so there was the occasional familiar face in the crowd.

Heading inside for the band, the room was as crowded as I've ever seen it (Like for the Beck shows I saw last year) so I had to position myself at the back, near the entrance in a lone pocket of oxygen. Of course, being at the back of the Echo is still close to the performer. Fleet Foxes sounded just as I wanted them to, with a great sound mix even they were very happy about. And the audience proved themselves to be respectful, enthusiastic and completely attentive to the band. I was surprised and pleased. Robin Pecknold has an easy and ingratiating stage manner, obviously loving what he is doing and proud to share his gifts with us. Sometimes it seemed like he couldn't stop grinning. They played many great songs from both their releases including "Sun Giant", "Drops in the River", "White Winter Hymnal", "He Doesn't Know Why", "Ragged Wood", "Blue Ridge Mountains", "Oliver James" (solo) and the most beautiful version of "Mykonos" I could imagine, where the song devolved into some of the most stunning vocal harmonies it's ever been my pleasure to witness. Absolutely incredible, I didn't even notice the heat. If anything Robin's voice sounds even better live, kind of like Joni Mitchell in the early years, until "Blue" captured her vocals accurately, more flexible and modulated. Maybe one of the finest voices I've ever heard.

I can't wait for tonight.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Thailand CD Release Party

Some nights at a show are far more like a party with friends these days. What a great collection of local musicians, writers, visual artists and photographers is out there and often these talents are combined in single individuals. Last night (June 25), the CD release show for Thailand at the Silverlake Lounge was one of those nights. I step down off the bus right at the front door to see Rob Danson of Death To Anders having a chat with Joe Fielder, whose Radio Free Silver Lake co-sponsored the event with the Fold. After talking outside for a while we moved inside where I met up with fellow bloggers, Mouse of Classical Geek Theatre and then Kevin Bronson of the L.A. Times, all to see Thailand.

The Soft Hands were amazing because last month at the "Let's Independent" show I'd been satisfied but not drawn into the music the way I was last night. Their quirky kind of Oingo Boingo-esque rollicking rock really sounded intriguing. A kind of constant confounding of expectations takes place as they set you up in some melody then fly apart into a sort of atmospheric reverie, only to have the melody reassert inself, stronger than before. If it's a formula, it works, because they do it in each song. Nice, strong male/female vocals and terrific playing make this a band I'll continue to follow. I got their EP last month, but it only hints at their work live. See them if you can.
Now here's where I humiliate myself. When I came into the club earlier I'd asked someone who that band was and they thought I'd asked "Who's next?" and said, "The Soft Hands". So for their entire set I thought I was watching Thailand. When they were done I said my goodnights to quizical looking friends and was almost out the door when Hunter Costeau walks in and says, "Where are you going?" and I said, "Thailand was terrific" and he said, "I missed them?'" and someone kindly informed me how far my head was up my ass by simply stating, "That was The Soft Hands, Thailand's up next". Hence the previous paragraph. When I realized they weren't a different band but the same one I'd seen last month, I had to acknowledge how much better they sounded. Anyway, I felt like a jerk and the next time I'll know who they are. Hey, if that only happens once out of 250 concerts, I'm not going to feel too bad. Great to chat it up with Hunter and Ethan about The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra's new CD, the artwork and the release party July 3rd at the Echo.

Thailand is a band I've been meaning to see for a long time, so I was glad they lived up to the hype. Their catchy, clean, post-punk indie-rock sound is contrasted with some really thoughtful lyric writing. Picking up their newly released EP last night, I've really noticed the writing, not to mention the beautifully designed package. But their live performance was very fine, with maybe the best and most natural sounding use of a drum machine I've yet seen. I ws especially impressed with the song "Heartland Failure" (gotta love the title) which isn't so much a protest song (is that a dirty word...tooooo sixties?) as a current events song, where the anger is replaced by a certain objectivity. The powerful line "One more year hating your country. One more year tearing your heart in two (Our hearts stopped beating)". It illustrates so well how painful it is to be angry at your country. People on the right love to believe that left-wingers live to hate America, but that is such a lie. The song states it better than I can. Have to admit, I can be partial to a band that bandies in politics... after all, it is our civic duty. I enjoyed all their songs, especially "Control, Control" and the older songs, too.

I even stayed for the paired down One Trick Pony. Minus their drummer, Randolph Williams sang a lovely set of narrative folk-like songs accompanying himself on the guitar and aided by the beautiful violin work and occasional vocal of Charlene Huang. He has a wonderful evocative voice and I look forward to seeing more of them.

Finally, I went home.

Friday is Fol Chen and Health Club at Pehrspace. And Saturday and Sunday are Fleet Foxes, now augmented by Evan Way of The Parson Red Heads going solo as an opener on Sunday. Can't wait! Then Monday is The Happy Hollows ans Afternoons at Spaceland...Tuesday: The Mai Shi and Death To Anders at Spaceland, again...and on...and on.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Sea Wolf and Make Music Pasadena

Sea Wolf played Thursday night (June 19) at the Echoplex which was thankfully cool that night. I was tired from three concerts in a row earlier in the week but got there in time to see some of The Jealous Girlfriends who sounded good.
Sea Wolf played a solid set, as usual, including some of their best songs, along with a new one called "Song of the Magpie", written for the audiobook "A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of My Father" by Augustus Burroughs about a father/son relationship and quite moving. It's a recurring theme in some of Alex Church's more revealing writing. It was beautiful. Alex's vocals get stronger and more self-assured each time I see them. The whole band was great, but I want to make special mention of Lisa Fendelander on keyboards and Catherine Odell's gorgeous cello. Oddly enought, Catherine was sitting in front of me on the bus on the way to the concert, and I thought she looked familiar. I wish I'd said "hello". Only in L.A. do you ride metro with the band! Cool!

Saturday (June 21) I went to the Make Music Pasadena Festival scattered through Old Pasadena and I fried in the sun. There were five main stages and random smaller stages here and there throughout the city. Had it been 10 or 20 degrees cooler, it would have been perfect, but as it was it was pretty great. My intention was to be there for Division Day at 2 and stay through to Everest at 9. Arriving by 2 just as Division Day was setting up on the Antics Stage on Holly Street, the audience huddled along the storefronts on either side as the street heated up like a frying pan. Each time I see this band the more I realize why they are one of the very best in L.A. Even under the beating sun and heat they still gave me chills. It's not only the perfection of their live performances, but it's easy to get lost in the beauty of the songwriting. They started off with "Littleblood", one of their most beautiful and haunting songs, filled with potent imagery and wonderful harmonies by Rohner Segnitz and Seb Bailey. they played a couple of other of my favorites, "Hurricane" and "Colorguard" and, I think, "Lights Out" and "Ricky". Bravo to them for playing so well in that blazing heat, but, of course, they did the same thing last year at Sunset Junction.

When they finished I thought I'd head over to the El Molino Stage in the Playhouse District to try to see Nordic Collective, but just a couple of blocks away from the Antics Stage I was enticed into an alley by the sound of a good female vocalist and her band. It was a band from Pasadena called Hunter's Point and I stayed to listen to some nice, jazz-infused, Indie-rock. I liked the songs I heard and Tahkus Ekedal is a good singer. Plus this alley was shaded and breezy, albeit a hot breeze, but moving air was appreciated nonetheless. After that I wandered over to the Emerging Artists Stage in the One Colorado Courtyard to see where Everest would perform later. Johnny Rocket's is there so I picked up a burger and headed back to the Antics Stage to catch Autolux at 4. I know this is a good band, I just don't own any of their CD's, but I saw them last year at Sunset Junction and know everybody is impatiently waiting for them to put out a new CD. They played a really good set, but with the temperature hovering around 110, you could see they were suffering, though they, heroically, had no complaints. Carla is a most entertaining and proficient drummer!
The heat was getting to me by now, so I had to walk around a bit to reorient myself, but came back in time to hear most of set by The Raveonettes. This danish band really rocks and they delivered a blistering set that had some in the audience dancing, in spite of themselves, and I saw a band I want to know more about.
Now I needed a milk shake, so back over to the Johnny Rocket's, where I settled into one of the chairs beneath a nice umbrella'd table at the Emerging Artists Stage and watched AM deliver a nice set of pretty Indie-pop tunes. AM is the name the singer goes by and he was accompanied only by a guy on keyboards, but together they had a rich, full sound.
Before long I had to head back to the Antics Stage to see Kinky, but after five hours of baking, walking, standing and hydrating, I didn't think I should drop dead in the street for the love of music, so I opted out. Sorry to have missed Kinky and Everest, but I think I made the right decision (Especially when I stuck my head outside at home around 8 and it was still as hot as hell). I was really glad I attended and hope they do it again next year...and maybe at temperatures more conducive to the human animal.

Next up: the Thailand CD release party at the Silverlake Lounge sponsored by Radio Free Silver Lake and The Fold on Wednesday night (June 25).


Thursday, June 19, 2008

"Let's Independent!" - Parson Red Heads

Well, Joe Fielder did it again on Tuesday night (June 17) with this months installment of "Let's Independent!" at Boardner's. Another evening of superb music, superior sound quality and a great bunch of bands, fans, and friends in the audience. The music kicked off with The Hidden Hooks giving his first public performance, which was hard to believe given the amazing sound he produced. With just enough prerecorded atmosphere, Chris Johnston performed alone with a guitar, a set of beautiful compositions, finely sung and played. His voice reminded me a little of The Ruby Suns' Ryan Mcphun, with a similar, warm quality. The audience, including myself, seemed a little bit stunned at what we were hearing...nobody moved, except for swaying back and forth. I spoke briefly afterward to congratulate him and pick up the CD he was giving out (which seems to be both his EP's combined as it has 16 tracks). It's wonderful. I listened to it probably 5 or 6 times the next day, it's so hypnotic and addictive.
Up next was Buddy, a 7-piece band that performed really tight, peppy Indie-rock that was beautifully sung. The music surges forward relentlessly with each song building on inself into a thrilling crescendo. Terrific energy from the lead singer, Buddy, who, at one point, bounded off the stage to dance and sing throught the crowd, around the candle fountain and back up onto the stage, to the audience's delight.
We were pretty primed when The Parson Red Heads went on. Now, I've seen these people 6 times, but many I spoke to were seeing them for the first time. What's remarkeable to me is that I've seen them play with up to 14 players, yet every time there are less than that, and last night there were 5, there is never a drop in the quality of the music or a loss in the level of performance. They're incredible, and even new fans were impressed. Credit Evan Way with fronting a band of dedicated musicians. They played their hearts out and sounded superb. Special credit to Sam Fowles for what seemed like extra duty on harmony vocals, he and Evan blended together beautifully, and to Brette Marie Way for her great drumming. They even had the courage to begin with 2 new songs which sound like 2 of their best songs, the undeniable '60's vibe being something that just seems to come naturally to them.
This evening was so much fun I even stayed around for 45 minutes after the music had finished just to chat with the bands and to meet some great new people. My head felt well fed!


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Everest at Spaceland... and More

Monday night (June 16) I took a bunch of friends to see Everest at Spaceland as part of the Afternoons residency and it was a night none of us will soon forget. We first went to Echo Park for dinner and arrived up at Spaceland with too much time to spare. So we walked down to the art installation that is always on that lot near the sidewalk restaurant on Silver Lake Blvd. I've enjoyed previous exhibits there including the tee pee and the parachutes but now they have this large hollow cube with odd shaped chambers, nooks and crannies inside. It's called the "Phalanstery Module" by an artist named Jimenez Lai, and it's really remarkable. Well, we all clammored inside, situating ourselves, only to realize that the thing was rotating, so the wall slowly became the floor which became a wall again. The constant shifting of your center of gravity does strange things to your brain and before long we were helpless, rolling, laughing masses of jelly. So, in this state of mind we entered Spaceland and saw Everest play an extraordinary set beginning with "Rebels in the Roses" and including "Reloader", among others, a great cover of Dylan's "Down in the Easy Chair" and ending with "I Can See It In Your Eyes" in an alternate version that really rocked and even included a quote from the Television song "Marquee Moon". Everyone I brought became an instant fan and my good friend Stephen took the photo above. Great to see Russell and the guys safely back from their first cross country tour. Next, they're off to Europe on Monday! I stayed for a few song by Afternoons which sounded really good, but since I'll be back there on the 30th, I'll see them when they play with The Happy Hollows.

The night before, Sunday, June 15, I was at the Troubadour to see Russian Circles. I don't know how to classify them because if I say they play very heavy instrumental rock, it may sound like I'm into hair metal bands (which I'm not). They can play very aggressivly, but they modulate with numerous quiet passages, and have a sure sense of melody that reminds me, slightly, of Pinback at their most boisterous. Any band that wanders into Pinback territory is going to immediately interest me. Interesting crowd of longhairs and , perhaps, metal fans, but, contrary to expectations, extremely well behaved and wonderfully intent on the music (no text messaging, I could see). I've seen this band a few times now and would happily go back for more. Their CD "Enter" is worth checking out if it sounds interesting to you.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Crowd Reaches Euphoria at the Echo (June 13)

Thursday June12, beginning a run of six shows in eight days, I went to the Unknown Theatre, on Santa Monica Blvd. and Seward, around midnight to see The Poor Excuses play at a venue that doubles as a legitimate theatre earlier in the evening. Wandering down to that neighborhood at midnight on foot could seem like a risky venture, but actually, once you start eastward into the theatre district there are clusters of theatregoers outside each playhouse. This theatre is smallish and intimate, but warm and inviting. The bands perform on a stage set, a dramatic kind of forced perspective of a ladder/staircase swooping up to the top of the back wall, which is bathed in an orange to yellow spectrum suggesting sunset. Great environment to walk into, and being a theatre, the acoustics were terrific. I took a seat and watched The Teanecks perform a good set of straightforward, folk-tinged rock (similar to Irving) with some strong vocals and sharp playing. A little after 12:30 The Poor Excuses took the stage. Andrew Lynch is a terrific keyboard player (he also plays with Earlimart) and he and the band tore through a set of post-punklike songs with pretty boundless energy, considering the hour. It was almost surreal, seeing bands in a setting like this, with a different kind of visual excitement that was more than just a lightshow. I would love to see more bands this way and it's so great to see the arts community supporting each other.

A secret show was scheduled for Friday night (June 13) at the Echoplex by Beck at 8:00, so when I arrived there for The Submarines show at the Echo, I was surprised to look down from the overpass on Sunset to see no one down by the Echoplex entrance. Proceeding to the Echo boxoffice I saw a long line running down the block only to find out that Beck had cancelled due to illness. I've been lucky enough to catch his secret shows at the Echo a couple of times in (I think) 2006, I assumed the line was dissappointed Beck fans who decided to stay and see this show instead, but seeing the show, I realized, no, they were rabid Submarine fans. The place was packed, but I met up with some friends, and settled in to watch Castledoor win over yet another crowd, which they proceeded to do with dispatch. Right on their first song, "Burn the Maps", they had the audience eating out of their hand. Wild cheers greeted each song they played, and the crowd and the band ratcheted up each other's energy. This band amazes me... and the bubble machine worked this time. The Submarines came on amidst roars of approval even before they began, and they seemed charmingly overwhelmed at the response. They played a good set and this was the first time I've seen them with a drummer who definitely adds to their live soundscape. I haven't seen this band in over a year and didn't know how big they've become. This music scene is going to burst wide open right before our very eyes real soon. You can see it beginning to happen at a show like this. L.A. is a great place to be!


Thursday, June 12, 2008

June Concerts

June is starting to fill in, concert-wise, and here are some I think are good bets.
Tonight (June 12) there's Helio Sequence at the Echoplex - good CD's, good both times I've seen them live and I hear their new album is something special. I like their songs and would like to attend but I'd also like to see The Poor Excuses at a place called the Unknown Theatre. I've been trying to catch up with this band, some of whom I've met, for a while now, but their latest gigs have been late (midnight or after) and tonight they go on at 12:30. But, hell, it's almost Friday and this place is only a few blocks from my home so I may make myself go. To quote Warren Zevon, "I'll sleep when I'm dead".
Friday (June 13) is The Submarines and Castledoor at the Echo. I've enjoyed The Submarines' couple/relationship, indie-rock a few times live and from what I hear, they just keep getting better. For me, Castledoor always come across as a life-force on stage. Positive energy just seems to pour out of this band and their live shows are always spot-on musically.
I see Russian Circles again on Sunday (June 15) as I'm pretty impressed by this band. I love instrumental rock, especially when it has a direction. I've been a fan of Explosions in the Sky and before going to see them at the Wiltern last March, I bought 3 of their CD's and enjoyed them. But seeing them live I became aware of a sameness in many of their songs and, frankly, I became bored during their set. This never happens to me...well, almost never, and maybe the fact I was so far back and couldn't see this, almost always seated, band way down on the stage was a factor. Anyway, a little over a week later I saw Russian Circles at the Echoplex and they were everything I wanted Explosions... to be. Beautiful instumentals, punctuated by loud, aggresive, but danceable, rock. They always adhere to melody and that sets them apart from a lot of instrumental-only bands. I've heard their new CD is excellent and I look forward to seeing them again, and at the Troubadour.
At Monday (June 16) night's Afternoons residency at Spaceland they're joined by Everest, fresh off their cross-country tour (beautifully documented on their blog at the Everest website by Russell and the gang). Afternoons is Brian Canning with fellow Irving members and assorted friends and their sound is in the Irving/Sea Wolf/Afternoons vein: i.e. beautiful, melodic indie-rock. It'll be nice to see them again and Everest will be Everest, which means, pretty much perfect.
Tuesday (June 17) is "Let's Independent", Radio Free Silver Lake's monthly event of great music at Boardner's. It's now $5. to attend, but that is nothing compared to the fact that it is always one of the month's programming highlights and this month is no exception , the headliner being that phenominal indie-pop collective The Parson Red Heads, promoting the release of their great new EP. Also on the bill is Buddy, who, according to his myspace page, plays "wimpycore", but the song samples sound really good so I'll pay attention, and The Hidden Hooks who Joe introduced to me a little while ago, and who I think I'm going to like alot.
Thursday (June 19) is Sea Wolf at the Echoplex. This band has never disappointed me at any of the six shows I've seen...O.K., maybe the sound at the Natural History Museum was a mess, but not their fault. Great songs, great singing and beautiful orchestrations are what I look forward to at their shows. I love their use of strings!
KCRW's Make Music Pasadena festival on Sat. June 21st sounds like a good time with performances by The Ravonettes, Autolux, Kinky, Everest, The Little Ones, Division Day, Jesca Hoop, Nordic Collective, Dengue Fever and others. May attend.
Thailand's CD release at the Silver Lake Lounge on Wed. June 25 with The Soft Hands interests me, but I will definitely be at the Fol Chen and Health Club show at Pehrspace on Fri. June 27. Fol Chen is one of my favorite new bands and Health Club sound beautiful, and never having been to Pehrspace, in spite of everyone from Mouse at Classical Geek Theatre to Travis of Web in Front to Joe (Radio Free Silver Lake) singing it's praises, I think I'd better go.
Fleet Foxes at the Echo on June 28 and June 29 at Spaceland I've already written about.
Afternoons final night of Spaceland residency (June 30) features The Happy Hollows and they are such fun. Sarah Negahderi is as enchanting on stage as she is talented as a singer, player and songwriter, and she's backed by a great band.
It's going to be a great summer.


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Fleet Foxes - CD review

Fleet Foxes released their first full-length CD on Tuesday (June 3) to glowing reviews and a rapidly expanding fan base. I eagerly join that chorus as I've been basking in their indie-folk music for three months now. What I've gathered from various sources is that 21 year old Robin Pecknold got together these friends for the express purpose of singing three, four and five-part harmonies. They recorded their first EP just last January, then started performing live around the Pacific northwest and at their third (or second) show Sub Pop approached them, signed them, and consequently released the "Sun Giant" EP in April. In March they toured a bit, ending up at SXSW where bloggers and critics who saw them wrote unqualified raves . I read one of them somewhere which led me to their Myspace page where I listened to some songs and heard those astonishing harmonies, coupled with that beautiful melancholia and I was hooked, as it was folk-influenced rock in the mid sixties that first attracted my taste for rock and roll. I felt like the natural target for their music.
Now comes the full length, self-titled CD, again on Sub Pop. Sometimes new music comes along that, when you hear it for the first time, feels as though you know it already. As if it had been plucked from some other cosmos, where music exists, already written and somehow certain artists can pull this music out - fully formed. I've felt this with Everest's CD "Ghost Notes", and "Amen Namo" by Amnion, and anything by Beirut; and such is the case with Fleet Foxes. Their music reminds me of ancient sonnets or madrigals. Of another era, yet comforting and familiar and filled with the joy of performance.
Robin Pecknold's startlingly mature and sophisticated songwriting is matched by his confidence and ability as a singer. And he has surrounded himself with comparable talent perfectly matching his gifts as as a singer and instrumentalist. "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" is a stand out, pensive and moving, that seems timeless, so pure in it's beauty. "He Doesn't Know Why" and "Blue Ridge Mountains" also jump out at me and more songs will reveal themselves to me the more I listen.
Beautiful packaging, with the great Breugel painting for the cover, also seems to be a hallmark of this band, as is the rather lengthy essay on the meaning of music as it relates to all our lives, found inside. I believe Mr. Pecknold writes these pieces, and they're worth a read as they're filled with that youthful directness and honesty, that, even from where I sit, feels undeniably true. I love his observations on the relationship between music and memory, and even more his quote that music is "it's own strange religion for nonbelievers".
I look forward to seeing them live on June 28th at the Echo and June 29th at Spaceland if only to see who plays what instruments an they steadfastly refuse to detail that in their liner notes, only saying they all play everything. And what an opportunity to see a band that will be huge, before they're at the Greek or the Hollywood Bowl.
No question, this is one of the finest albums of the year!


Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Couple of Shows

Monday night (June 2nd) I wandered over to see In Waves at the Viper Room. I saw them a few times a little over a year ago and was intrigued by their shadowy, echoey music, like being haunted in a very, very large room or at the outer edges of outer space. Lead singer, Jimmy Strange, puts so much reverb on his vocals they occasionally lose any human connection and become just another instrument in the wash of ghostly sounds. As diffused as it all sounds, they never lose the melody that holds it all together. They played selections from their 2006 EP and new songs from a forthcoming full-length debut CD, due out in the fall. If the new songs are any indication it ought to be a good record. I was glad to see them again and thanks, once again, to Mark for the invite to Mr. Shovel's Indie 103.1 Check One...Two night and kudos to Melissa for the fine programming.

Castledoor is another local band for whom I clearly see a bright future so I had to go to the Troubadour to see their first show at this legendary venue. As Nate Cole said, since they moved to L.A., it's been a dream of theirs to play here, so just three short years later, here they are. In celebration, they presented a spirited, energetic set containing the favorite standby's "Burn the Maps", "Magnetic Forces" and "Dove" (My favorite) from their first EP. They also played some new songs, one in particular called "Skipping Stepping Stones" was a real gem. Not only does Nate possess one of the best voices in town, he also writes great, catchy indie-pop songs and has stage presence that just doesn't quit. In fact the whole band seemed on top of their game and I can't wait for their new CD. See them on June 13th with The Submarines at Spaceland if you can.

Trying to firm up my concert schedule for the month of June, what had seemed like a slow month is turning into a rampage. Initially I had tickets to only three shows: Russian Circles at the Troubadour on Sun. June 15th, for a band considered Post-Metal, they make really beautiful music. Then on June 28th and 29th Fleet Foxes come to town for their first two show in L.A. at the Echo one night and Spaceland the next. If you've heard them, you'll understand why I expect this will be two nights to remember. Their full-length CD, released last Tuesday, is dominating my music listening this week


Monday, June 2, 2008

Film School at the Fonda

Saturday night (May 31) was a tough night for music fans with all the competing concerts like The Cure at the Hollywood Bowl and Beirut's second night at the Wiltern.. Swevedriver at the Fonda was my destination mostly because of the chance to see Film School at this great theatre and to finally see Xu Xu Fang who I've been hearing about alot lately. I've also been listening to a lot of Swevedriver in anticipation of this chance to see them. I can hear this band's influence on a range of new bands including tonight's two openers, but also San Diego band The Jade Shader, in particular. Having enjoyed everything I've heard by them, I looked forward to their set., too.
Xu Xu Fang came on at 9PM sharp as the curtain rose and billows of fog swirled out into the audience, only the sound of the band told you there was anyone on the stage. I have to admit I'm partial to what, I guess, is called Lo-Fi or Slow-Core (I'm not great with genre names); bands like Low, The Besnard Lakes and Dead Meadow; maybe it's Trance-Rock, at any rate, it's all psychedelic and that's fine with me. Drummer Bobby Tamkin is the leader and writer for the band but lead singer, I believe it's Jenna, drones into the microphone pulling it all together as the band surrounds her in a wash of guitars and atmospheric sound, swaying to the beat until she sees fit to stand back and let her voice soar. They played about 30 minutes and I was sufficiently impressed to buy their 4-song EP. A nice opening for what was to come.
I think Film School expanded their fan base with their phenominal performance that had the audience alternately enraptured and cheering. Having become a dedicated follower as they played smaller L.A. venues over the last year, I was always anxious to hear their great big sound translated to a theatre like this. Speaking to Greg, Jason and Dave before they went on they each told me how excited they were about playing the Fonda and that the sound would be great. They weren't wrong. Always opening with the extraordinary song "Compare", they've lately added an extended intro which serves as something like a Film School overture. It sets the mood as the band plunges into the propulsive motion of that song. Top performances by all, brimming with enthusiasm and energy as they ran through a set of many of their best songs; "Lectric", "Two Kinds", "Sick Hipster Nursed by Suicide Girl" and "Capitalized" from the "Hideout" CD. From their self-titled CD they played "11:11" and best of all "He's a Deep Deep Lake". Greg Bertens writes such wonderful songs you just see how much the band enjoys playing them. Terrific vocals by Greg, occasionally supported by Lorelie and Jason, add to to the rich wall of sound. It was electrifying and the whole audience seemed to agree. People seemed a bit dazed when they finished.
Swervedriver were next and they played to an adoring audience of obviously long-time fans. I can see why. They played many of the great songs I've been listening to and they sound even better live. With a perfect sound mix, the vocals were clear and up front and the band's playing was precise and dynamic. The crowd was a bit rowdy by this time, but it just added to the festive atmosphere.
All in all a pretty amazing weekend of music where I got to see three of my favorite bands: The National, Beirut and Film School.