Friday, January 30, 2009

The French Semester CD Release Show

I thought Wednesday night (January 28, 2009) would be a great chance to catch up with The French Semester at their CD release event at the Silverlake Lounge, and also to see Tigers Can Bite You and Divisadero, who I don't see enough.

I'm especially glad I went as The French Semester and Dividadero are Isgoodbands and as Jon Hershfield has pointed out on his site, Jan 22nd post, Isgoodmusic, I am going to be contributing coverage of the Isgoodbands show that I attend. Which are plentiful! I really look forward to this opportunity. The home page is here: Isgoodmusic

Tigers Can Bite You are just a band of three but their sound is huge. Lead singer, Dave, makes his guitar sound like at least two or three guitars, jangling away beautifully while Cindy provides a dense undercurrent of throbbing, pulsing bass with her keyboards which filled every particle of space, both inside and outside the head, making me feel like I was underwater. And none of it would make any sense were it not for the steady drumming of Andrew, which gave the whole thing definition and direction.

Their songs are short, tight and to the point. Nothing sounds superfluous and yet their sound is grand in scope. They are a band worth following.

And they were followed by The French Semester. I shouldn't have gone so long without knowing this band better. They play the kind of echoey, jangly rock and roll that reminds me of Southern California in the '60's (from the perspective of a snowbound East coaster, which I was at the time). The sound is of the sun and the surf and the sand.

Their music instantly transported me back to the time when rock and roll was experiencing the growing pains that occurred between The Beatles early, empty-headed pop ditties and the music that resulted after they dropped acid and became intellectuals. The years 1965 and 1966 when bands like We Five, The Turtles, The Byrds and the like were turning to folk music to try to add relevancy to the genre. The times demanded more than songs just about crooning at the moon in June, which was all popular music had been about for decades.

I was too young to understand Dylan at the time (his music was not played on commercial radio in the mid '60's) so I didn't comprehend the revolution he was spearheading. But I was exposed to more mainstream folk music through Peter, Paul and Mary, The Kingston Trio and even Joan Baez, and immediately recognized the value of socially conscious music and it's power to move people.

This isn't to say that The French Semester write political songs. Just that their music reminds me of a time when change seemed possible and necessary. Not unlike now. It's not in their lyrics, it's in the hollow, slightly haunted and distant sound of their music.

The lyrics are often cryptic and unsettling, yet always thought provoking. Riaz writes with just the right combination of irony, wit and truth. His vocal style is plain and simple, no artifice or pretension and after talking to him, I realized he sings as he speaks... naturally and without hype. It's the lyrics themselves that make your head spin, trying to wrap your brain around what he's saying.

Though evocative of the sixties, I don't want to give the impression that they're copying anyone. They have managed to carve out a niche of their own in the local contemporary scene and sound unlike anyone else. There are elements that remind me of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, or a little Grizzly Bear, some Stevenson Ranch Davidians. Even Buffalo Springfield or The Byrds. But after listening to their new CD, Good Friends Only I Could See, I'm more impressed than ever. In fact, I can't stop playing it.

I got to spend some quality time with Divisadero's Josh McCool and Pauline Lay. Josh was telling me how their CD, Lefty, came about and I am glad I got a copy because it is a beautiful piece of work.

Even though I had to get home, I wanted to stay for a part of their set and was very impressed with the sound mix, as Marco Montesclaros was able to compete with the lush orchestrations this band writes. His vocals were miked just right so the balance was even better than at the American Legion Hall last weekend.

I will be seeing Divisadero again soon at the 'Hella Hipster Hoedown' on Feb. 6, and I'm rapidly becoming hooked on their album. Turned out to be a pretty great night.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Death To Anders Shoot Video

Even though I knew Friday night (January 23, 2009) would be a festive occasion, it surpassed my expectations. Word was out that Simon Cardoza would be shooting Death To Anders singing "Camera Lens" for their first video, and it looked like at least one member from a hundred local bands was present.

The program was presented by Elaine Layabout and featured (in addition to Death To Anders) The Hectors, Divisadero and Tesso. The evening turned into such an indie-social it was hard to stop talking long enough to pay the bands the attention they deserved.

Once again the barn-like auditorium and the prime 1960's-1970's American Legion decor hit a bulls eye in the heart of the assembled as, time after time, I heard people say how much they love the place. And special kudos to Ethan of The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra who handled sound duties and miraculously blended the sound of the bands against the acoustic limitations of the space.

Death To Anders performed a tight, polished set, which is becoming their norm, and when they got to "Camera Lens", Simon was all over the place shooting the video and both band and fans behaved admirably. This was my second trip to the American Legion Hall in Highland Park and I have to say, it's one of my favorite venues, too.

The next day I was knocked flat by a cold and subsequently missed some events I had been looking forward to. Like Elaine Layabout's photo and video exhibit on Saturday night (Jan. 24), Marvelous Toy at the Silverlake Lounge on Monday (Jan. 26) and The Monolators at The Echo on Tuesday. I'll be back out on Wednesday to catch the record release party for The French Semester at the Silverlake Lounge.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Creedle and El Ten Eleven at Silverlake Lounge

Thursday night, January 22, 2009, I went to see Pinback's Rob Crow play with another San Diego band, Creedle, as well as check out El Ten Eleven at the Silverlake Lounge.

An audience of straightforward rock and roll fans turned out for the fairly aggressive instrumental rock of El Ten Eleven, who are a local L.A. band who call their music "post rock disco". Kristian Dunn plays a double neck guitar, and with Tim Fogarty on drums and a bass player they craft an infectious blend of avant-jazz/rock and roll, propelled by a heavy dance beat.

For me, instrumental rock of this nature requires strong melody and structure and fortunately, El Ten Eleven, possess impressive melodic instincts. As experimental as the music got, the melody was always there and they never meandered for self-indulgent excess.

I was glad I had listened to a sample track at Isgoodmusic, so I was familiar with the third song they played and was aware of their overall style. The music is loud, but not to the point of melting brain tissue.

I'm never sure what kind of band Rob Crow will show up in next. I manage to see him 4 or 5 times a year, either in Pinback or as Rob Crow in the satirical heavy metal band, Goblin Cock (February 27 at Spaceland). I've never seen Heavy Vegetable.

Just last week I heard he was coming to town with a band called Creedle, who I'd never heard of. I listened to samples and knew it was loud and noisy, so I said, "What the hell" and decided to go.

Here he gets to indulge his garage band/punk/jazz rock tendencies. Creedle is a noisy modern jazz/rock outfit that blasted the Silverlake audience with its enormous sound. It's like every cubic inch of space was filled with sound and it was all aimed right at you.

Rob Crow was on keyboard and added the appropriate yells when needed and it was fun to watch him fold himself into yet another band seamlessly. It's not a style I gravitate to but it's always interesting to see another side of a favorite musician.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Theresa Andersson At Hotel Cafe, Castledoor at Echoplex

I got my second dose of Theresa Andersson at 7PM Tuesday night (January 20, 2009) at the Hotel Cafe. It was a logistical challenge to get out of work, home, to the venue within one hour, but I managed to make it by 7:10. I saw almost all of her dynamic set.

Running into Kevin Bronson later that night at another show at the Echoplex, he told me she has to go on first because of her incredibly detailed sound requirements. Makes sense to me, as any instrument she picks up is tuned and amplified to perfection.

First song I heard was "Na Na Na", which was a highlight of her Amoeba show last Saturday (Jan. 18) and it blew me away all over again. How she can dance, record, loop while pushing pedals and buttons with her bare feet and play an instrument, as she sings with astonishing precision, is a wonder to me.

She blends rock, blues, jazz, soul, bluegrass, even Broadway-style belting into a unique style, quite her own. She adds one, then another, then another background vocal until she's built a four-woman girl group, right before your astonished eyes.

She introduced us to her band. Basically, her right foot, her left foot, her right hand and her left hand. All incredibly talented in their own right. She even has accompaniment, on one number, by New Orleans drummer Smokey Johnson, via a record player, and sings a song by Allen Toussaint, with whom she has collaborated. One song was performed in her native Swedish, which is a beautiful language to sing.

She has an obvious passion for performance art, and I could have watched her dance all night. Theresa Andersson has one more night at the Hotel Cafe on January 30 and I urge you not to miss it. Then she heads off to the East Coast and an appearance on Conan O'Brien.

Instead, I headed off to the Echoplex for the first "Check One...Twosdays" since the demise of Indie 103.1 on the airwaves. There was a slight tinge of melancholy in the air, but it had no effect on the exuberant performance by Castledoor. This band can lift your spirits faster than anyone and they played a great set of old and new tunes. One new song, "Buried Treasure" is a real gem and maybe my favorite of their compositions, but then again "Dumpster Diving" is just as good.

I've seen Castledoor many times and they never fail to have me totally under their spell by the end, and Wednesday was no exception. I can't wait for a full length album from these guys. They have so much good material and their recordings capture their sound beautifully.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Avi Buffalo at The Echo

I only learned Avi Buffalo was on the Robert Francis residency at The Echo earlier in the day and any plans I had were off. This was not to be missed.

I'm beginning to feel a bit pummeled by all the incredible shows I've attended over the last five days and this only added to the list. This was the third time I've seen Avi Buffalo, only my second with his full band.

As his set was scheduled for 9 o'clock, I walked into the nearly empty club beforehand and wasn't completely surprised to see Aaron Embry, since I'd heard they were recording together. Not only happy to congratulate the new father in person, I was doubly pleased to hear he was playing guitar with Avi Buffalo.

There's a gathering buzz around this remarkable band of extraordinary youth and an interesting crowd of music fanatics assembled. This included Rob Danson of Death To Anders, Ashley Jex of Rock Insider, Mary Chartkoff of The Monolators and Ben ('Mouse') of Classical Geek Theatre among others.

Avi Buffalo composes some of the most original, quirky, inventive and intelligent songs I've heard in the entire indie rock movement. Oh, hell, let's just call the songs brilliant! No wonder he's collaborating with Aaron Embry and Amnion. The more I hear what this band wants to say, the more I want to hear it.

It's great to find an 18 year old writing with apparent prescience about life's weightier topics like life and death, and in such a clear headed voice. His writing possesses a certainty I find reassuring. Just listen to the lyrics for "Where's Your Dirty Mind".

Performing as a band of six, their sound overwhelmed me. Much as I enjoyed them before, I wasn't ready for this. Avi Buffalo and Rebecca Coleman handle most of the vocals. He has an appealing high voice and a slightly peculiar delivery as the words just tumble out while he plays some of the most accomplished guitar I've ever heard. She adds strong harmony and vocal support while mastering the keyboard.

Aron Fazio adds amazing bass and bounces around the stage in a fit of joy that's catching. He also adds vocal harmony and when Aaron joined in, the vocals became an overwhelming wall of voices. The extraordinary drumming is by Evan Trine and there was another player in the back on another keyboard, I believe.

Besides "Where's Your Dirty Mind", they played a great song called "What's In It For" and "Sun", I believe. Not only are the lyrics fresh and original, the music sometimes achieves such great beauty, it becomes unbearably moving. And yet it rocks so hard, you just want to dance. Incredible! The whole audience seemed awe-struck.

I stayed to speak to them afterward and was glad to hear Avi's CD is almost done. I am most anxious to have some recorded material. The whole band is refreshingly pretension-free. I would love to have stayed to see Robert Francis for the third time in three weeks, but there's a lot of shows coming up, so I sacrificed.

But I came away from the show feeling I have been lucky to have seen some amazing bands in my life...and this may be one of the most amazing. It will be fun to watch Avi Buffalo progress over the next year.

All this on the eve of the inauguration of President Obama. It's becoming difficult not to be optimistic about the future.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Seasons and Torches In Trees at Knitting Factory

On Saturday evening, January 17, 2009, I walked the few blocks over to the Knitting Factory to see a set by another of my favorite L. A. bands, Seasons. This seems to be a weekend for favorite bands. Red Cortez, Xu Xu Fang and now, Seasons.

I'd never been in the second room at the Factory before and liked the space a lot. Not as dark as the main room, perhaps a little narrow in the audience area, but the acoustics were terrific.

I thought it was one of the best sets I've ever seen from Seasons. I really appreciate the time and care they put into their live sound. This band seems able to adjust to any venue where they play.

But this time Nic's vocals were out in front and miked better than I've ever heard and it made the whole set sparkle, like their lights. It was, maybe, the smallest incarnation of Seasons I've seen (only seven), but it made for a really clean sound. Of course, I really missed Matthew Teardrop's accordion, but Manhattan Murder Mystery was engaged elsewhere (at Pehrspace).

But Nik, John and the rest of the gang really impressed the date night/Hollywood/Knitting Factory crowd who stopped what they were doing and paid attention.

I was pleased to hear "Empty Spaceships" and "Passing Trains" as they don't play them that often and they're really excellent songs. A spectacular rendition of "Old House" was a highlight, as well as regular favorites, "India" and "Song That You Know".

They finished with "The Sea", featuring Erik's brilliant drum-driven jam ending with all the Seasons playing their heads off. That wowed the audience and won them a bunch of new fans.

I was going to duck out after that but ran into some of Torches In Trees and was so impressed I had to stay till the end of their set. They remind me a little of The Jade Shader with their slightly laid back 'San Diego' style I like so much.

Singing songs from their EP, New Blood, New Sight, I was won over by the fine compositions and first rate playing by the band. This Pasadena group has a terrific lead singer in Azad Cheirosman, with great support by Bridgette Moody, who's also an accomplished keyboardist.

I picked up their EP and I think they played all the selections, but I especially like "Pillar's Fall" and "New Life". Terrific songs. I will definitely see Torches In Trees again. And a special note to the wonderful EP artwork by band member, Eric Fabbro. Beautiful work.

Like I said before, it was a weekend of some astonishing music.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Amoeba In Store with Theresa Andersson

I've been hearing about Theresa Andersson for the last few weeks from the likes of Kevin Bronson and others and I figured there had to be a reason for the buzz. A brief visit to her myspace page featured music samples and showed video of her performance style that convinced me not to miss her.

My brains were blown back against the inside of my skull on Saturday afternoon, January 17, 2009 at Amoeba in Hollywood when Theresa Andersson took the stage and began her set. I have seen few performers who express the pure joy of performance as powerfully and as ecstatically as this woman.

I couldn't wipe the grin off my face as she amazed me song after song with her astonishing musical abilities and remarkable voice. I especially liked her slide violin. But she can even sing while pounding on the drums.

She loops, plays back and samples prerecorded elements and carefully blends and builds the song before your eyes. It's a style not dissimilar to Andrew Bird or Gangi or Zoe Keating and I have to say it's one of my favorite trends in current music.

Swedish, by way of New Orleans, she plays a kind of funky, bluegrass, New Orleans jazz mix punctuated by her soaring vocals, with a wonderful swaying beat. With an ingratiating stage style and lots of charisma, I can not see how she can avoid becoming a major force in music. I would recommend trying to catch one of her shows at the Hotel Cafe on September 20 and 30, because Theresa Andersson is an enormous talent.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Red Cortez and Xu Xu Fang

I was happy to return to the 3 of Clubs on Thursday, January 15, 2009, after the terrific night I'd spent there the night before seeing Death To Anders, Les Blanks and The Soft Hands. I went to see The Happy Casualties, Steve Sigle's band, but the schedule was off and they weren't going on until midnight or after. I was out till 2 on Wednesday night, so after a couple of bands, I had to bail on the set. The up side was that I got to spend some time with Steve... and Bobby Tamkin of Xu Xu Fang joined us for a while.

I got to explain to Bobby why I missed them at Spaceland the other week when my bus hit a car on the way there. He also told me about Xu Xu Fang's sudden show at the Dragonfly on Santa Monica Blvd. on Friday night. They scheduled an 11:30 set, so I calculated that if Red Cortez were on at 10 at The Echo and I ran over to the Dragonfly right after they finished I could make my own double-bill and see two of my favorite bands.

I felt bad for missing The Happy Casualties and the chance to see them for the second time, but I'm on a ferocious show schedule this week and any night I can get to bed before 2 is a gift. I will see them again another time.

Friday night, January 16, 2009, I was grabbing a band here, seeing a band there and making a feast of great music. Since Monday I've been obsessing on Red Cortez, because of their set at the Robert Francis residency and the new EP, In The Fall which I listen to constantly. I can't believe how good it is.

Before journeying over to The Echo, Red Cortez had sent out a message saying they've been signed on to a remarkable show at the Club Nokia on March 16 with Primal Scream and The Brian Jonestown Massace. WOW! That's big.

Victim Vision were still playing when I got there and they sounded really solid and played well. It was a stark contrast to the bands I'd seen the night before, who seemed like actors playing rock and rollers. I didn't see enough of their set to form much of an opinion, but it sounded fine.

Red Cortez walked in during the set, and Harley, Diego, Ryan and Calvin were pretty excited about their Club Nokia news and it showed in the set they played. It was nice to be able to tell Harley how spectacular I find their new EP, and how his voice is recorded just right.

Beginning with "In The Fall" they played a set just as electrifying as Monday night (Jan. 12) at the same venue. This was kind of a surprise show they jumped on to at the last minute, so it was pretty much a crowd of strangers, but the band won them over, big time. What would you expect from a band that is as much fun to watch as a travelling circus?

The sound was great, once they got the vocals up to the proper level, and again I was blown away by the extreme talent on display. I could very easily go see this band twice every week. I can only imagine where Red Cortez will be a year from today.

I had to say quick goodbyes as I dashed off to the bus which took me over to Hollywood to see Xu Xu Fang. The free show at The Dragonfly, at the corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and Wilcox, apparently was an office party for some business, though they certainly looked like rock fans.

I lucked out, logistically, as they just began their first song, "The Mourning Son", as I walked in. It's an interesting club with a bit of a history and a cavernous appeal. Very high ceiling, but shallow spectator area and a good space for the oceanic psychedelic rock of Xu Xu Fang. Their music is tidal in it's pull, with an undertow that sweeps you off your feet. You feel like you're being swept side to side by a current.

Because there was little to no fog, I appreciated the opportunity to actually see these wonderful musicians, all seven of them, create their art. It was also nice to see the camaraderie that exists between band members who obviously enjoy playing together. I think the venue was concerned about too much fog.

I always feel completely filled up with music at the end of one of their sets, their sound is so dense. Bobby Tamkin's drumming, the ethereal splendor of Barbara Cohen's voice, and that gang of guitars, with Jenna Blake's keyboard, just engulf you in atmosphere. It doesn't hurt that the songs are so beautiful, either.

Love the new material and can't wait for their next EP. Perfect way to start the weekend, spending quality time with Red Cortez and Xu Xu Fang on a Friday night. It was so much fun to make up my own program this evening, and timing and serendipity were on my side.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Death... Comes to Hollywood

Wednesday night, January 14, 2009, was a definitive club experience that lifted the profile of the 3 of Clubs in Hollywood to top tier status in the pantheon of "my favorite venues". I'd been there once before to see a tremendous set by The Stevenson Ranch Davidians last July, but there were few shows there that I was aware of between then and now.

I'd like to see a lot more activity at this place because it is so comfortable and is so close to my home. Being centrally located, it also attracts the best of the East Side and the West Side audiences. At least that was the case on Wednesday when I wanted to chat with friends as much as I wanted to listen to music.

This dark little club is off Santa Monica Boulevard on Vine Street and is like being invited into someone's living room to hear some music and share some conversation. One-on-one conversation seems to be making a comeback in this digital/isolationist age. It's similar to the size and feel of The Viper Room, but without the "image" or the Sunset Strip crazies.

Walking in, the bar was so dark, I wasn't even sure I was in the right place until I entered the performance area and saw Elaine Layabout. I knew I was in the right place.

Death To Anders whipped through a super set of new and old material. While the songs from their terrific CD, Fictitious Business, are always a pleasure to hear, this was my second or third exposure to some of the new songs they're recording for their next release, and they sound even better than the others.

Amidst all the Rob Danson eye-rolling, antsy singing and Nick Ceglio's thrashing guitar and contrasting vocals, Pete Dibiasio's assured, anchoring bass and with John Broeckel driving it forward with his drumming, there's some really beautiful music going on. It's like we're witnessing these guy's lyric writing and compositional skills growing sharper and there was nothing short of group love coming from the audience. Good show.

Long Beach's The Soft Hands were up next and on my second time seeing them they really impressed me with the sharp precision of their playing and singing. It's fast, propulsive rock and roll, but played so astutely and assuredly I got hooked at the start. I need to pick up their full length CD because they sound very much the same on their recordings. Terrific energy and Matt Fry and bass player, Elizabeth Lindsey, have fine voices.

The final band was Les Blanks, who I liked when I saw them last October at the Echo Curio. Joshua Caldwell howls and shouts and wails the words and their aggressive punky music was so catchy it got much of the crowd up and dancing by the end of the evening. Not always an easy thing to do in L.A.

This was a pretty great combination of bands and audience in a swell atmosphere.


I was sad to learn today of the passing of Terrin Durfey last October, after a long battle with cancer. I'd seen him in The Jade Shader a couple of times and singing and playing keys in Pinback many times and and I admired his contribution to their live sound. My sympathy for the loss to his family and friends.

Surprised by the sudden demise of Indie 103.1 radio. I've enjoyed the many shows they've sponsored that I have attended.

Have heard talk that the upcoming releases by Elvis Perkins and Dios Malos are probably "best of year" albums. Given the quality of these artists, the rumors are easy to believe.

And on a happy note, Nikki and Aaron Embry, of Amnion, welcomed their little daughter, Mayla, into the world last week. All are well. My heartfelt congratulations to them.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Is The Red Cortez the Best Band in L. A.?

For some reason, I was really primed to hear some great music Monday night, January 12, 2009, and the Robert Francis residency at The Echo was the perfect solution.

The Red Cortez was my primary motivation for attending. I feel slightly ashamed of not getting into this band much sooner, when they were known as The Weather Underground. Especially since now they're pushing forward with a lot of great press, superb live shows and a new EP, In the Fall, which is stunning.

I'd bumped into portions of their sets a few times, but I was never there to see them, so I paid little attention. My loss. It was watching the great videos taken of their acoustic garden performance last summer that made me see what I was missing.

In spite of, or maybe because it was a rare acoustic performance by the band, I was really taken by Harley Prechtel-Cortez' singing and piano playing. That performance showed off his impressive basic talent and that of the rest of this great band.

Determined not to miss them again, I began attending their every show. The show at The Silverlake Lounge on October 29, 2008, where they appeared as The Red Cortez for the first time, was the wild and frenzied display of a ferociously talented band. I was wowed!

The next time at The Echoplex Indie 103.1 Check One...Twosday event starring Earlimart, was a structured, more formal performance and showed that these artists can be a very disciplined band as well. This was a performance I couldn't shake off. I thought it was perfect.

Monday's show convinced me to throw my full support behind The Red Cortez and declare them the best band in L.A. From beginning to end the whole experience was one of sublime satisfaction. Harley and the rest of the band, Ryan Kirkpatrick, Calvin J. Love and Diego Guerrero performed a perfect set of some of the standards I've come to love and threw in some new songs as well. I didn't hear a false sound or see a false move during the entire set.

Harley Prechtel-Cortez seems to possess perfect vocal control and sings with a kind of morning-after hoarseness, but with a great tremulous vibrato that he employs sparingly and most effectively. This is matched by his dizzying piano skills. He can tap out a gentle melody or sometimes he simply slaps the keys like some demented seal with flippers.

I picked up their first EP under the name of The Red Cortez called In the Fall and it contains versions of "In the Fall", "World at Rest", Laughing Streetcar" and "All the Difference". It so far surpasses their other recordings because it sounds just like their live shows. Indeed, two of the selections are live, but recorded so well you can't tell the difference. I can't stop playing it today and already suspect it will be on my best of the year list in 11 months.

They're the kind of band that make me aspire to be a better writer.

It took all of Robert Francis' powers to distract me from the perfection I had just witnessed, but he did just that. This extraordinarily gifted singer/songwriter shocked me again, like the week before. I'm just getting into this artist so I'm not real familiar with his material but it doesn't seem to matter when he performs with such command and assurance that you just go along with anything he wants to sing.

His voice is such a supple instrument he can seemingly flex it in any direction without ever appearing forced. I enjoyed this weeks selection of songs better than last week as they highlighted a wider variety of styles. There's still a large helping of alt-country, but he also rocked harder and when his sister came up and joined in with harmony the sound was pure beauty.

I introduced myself to him afterward and he was most gracious and humble. A real genuine guy on the verge of a lot of recognition, if I can believe my eyes and ears. I will probably see him again before his residency is over.

A perfect capper was applied to the evening in the person of Evan Way and his solo set. As a huge Parson Red Heads fan and friend, I always love the opportunity to see Evan solo. He's a very talented solo artist who sings Parson songs and his own solo compositions accompanied only by his guitar and yet it's all the sound you need. He has that great troubadour/storyteller style I've found in so many an artist from the Pacific Northwest. What happens to these people in all that rain and woods.

Sam Fowles and Brett Marie Way joined for a song or two and added a beautiful dense background harmony to the proceedings. It was a fitting end to an exhilarating night of music that I won't soon forget.

Nice to see familiar faces all over the place and especially nice to talk to Harley, Diego and Ryan of The Red Cortez and get to know them a bit. I've just seen a sudden posting about another show for The Red Cortez at The Echo this Friday night, January 16, 2009 at 9:30. If I were you I wouldn't miss it.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Saturday Blast at Spaceland

If Saturday night was any indication, we're in for quite a year of concert and club-going. The energy and enthusiasm was palpable, even in line waiting to get in, as I was missing The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra. My primary reason for attending this show was to see Kelli Noftle's last performance with the band, and they unexpectedly went on first.

But everyone I spoke to was impressed by their set (Jordan Huddock told me to say it was good, and being a man of taste, I believe him). The band hung around all evening so at least I got to speak to all of them and I wish them well in the next phase of The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra.

I entered the fairly packed club as Lemon Sun were setting up, to see a great representation of locals in the place. They were cohabiting the same space at the suburban date crowd that seems to find it's way up Silverlake Boulevard on weekend nights. It made for a nice, interesting mix of people.

I positioned myself of the floor to listen to Lemon Sun and found their set pleasant, with some '60's-style vocal harmonizing and solid indie pop/rock instrumentals. Many in the crowd were bouncing to the beat and the audience just kept getting bigger and more densely compacted as people piled in.

It was clear the big draw was Afternoons and the highly anticipated set by the new lineup of The Henry Clay People, which everyone was anxious about. This was the second of two nights in a row at Spaceland for Afternoons, sponsored by Indie 103.1. I missed the first night, with Xu Xu Fang, due to a bus mishap, so I was determined not to miss this show.

Afternoons ran through a tight set of their operatic/orchestral indie rock sending shivers down the collective spines of the audience with the power of their precise vocal athletics. They can even stand back, away from their mikes, and still be heard over their instrumentals.

The collective that was known as Irving has produced some of the best musicians in the local scene, and, just as with Sea Wolf, Afternoons plays some of the sharpest, most professional sets that I see. They're also one of the best dressed local bands, although The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra gave them a run for their money, tonight. In fact the whole audience was pretty dapper looking.

The Henry Clay People took their turn around 12:30 to a still packed house. Unusually so, even for a Saturday night. Everyone seemed to stay till the very end, and then, no one wanted to leave.

The Henry Clay People introduced a new bass player, Jonathan, and a new drummer, Mike (replacing Noah Green and Eric Scott) who will be joining Andy Siara and Joey Siara as the new lineup on their first tour. The Airborne Toxic Event have invited them along for The Airbornes' second national tour, and Rademacher will join them for many dates as well. (The Fonda, February 12, locally)

As a way of easing their fans into the new lineup they played 5 new songs they haven't been doing live, and that was a smart move. Everyone enjoyed the songs, which are up to their normal high standards, and we had the luxury of not having to compare them to their familiar material. It all sounded fresh and original and just as powerful as when they had 29 people on stage with them on New Year's Eve. In other words, the new lineup is great!

The crowd jumped and danced and cheered and buoyed Joey as he jumped on the crowd to be suspended in midair for half a song. Everybody is so genuinely thrilled by this band's success, you could feel the electricity in the air. It was a performance that's going to be tough to top.

And we bid a fond farewell to our local heroes as they venture out across the U.S. Armed with their great For Cheap or For Free CD, and their incredible live shows, that leave nothing but converts in their wake, I expect The Henry Clay People to come back stars.


Friday, January 9, 2009

Blogger Night and Gangi

I had fun at the blogger gathering on Wednesday night, Jan. 7. I think everyone did and it was great to meet and greet people without having to shout over all that damned music! Quite a civil bunch of people, when speaking at normal decibels. I felt honored to be included.

Lots of talk about The Henry Clay People joining The Airborne Toxic Event for their national tour. I'm sure this first time tour for them will spread their reputation accordingly. And Swedish singer, Theresa Andersson is the focus of much attention as she embarks on three Hotel Cafe dates (Jan 13, 16 and 20). I'd never heard of her so I'm glad she's playing an in-store at Amoeba next week (Sat., January 17 at 2PM).

Thursday night (January 8, 2009) I headed over to Spaceland to see Gangi play their first set of 2009 and to celebrate Matt Gangi's birthday. Playing on a bill with Daedalus and Blank Blue brought a different crowd to see them. I think they won over some new fans in the process of playing their usual high energy, nicely thought out set.

Matt and Lyle Nesse had cooked up some new arrangements for some familiar songs which I thought was awfully thoughtful of them to do for us regular fans. Unfortunately it sounds like the process almost got them evicted for rehearsing late into the night. With their penchant for recording and sampling, Matt even played us one neighbor's terse message: "Matt! You said 25 minutes, it's been 55 now. STOP PLAYING!!"

They opened with the normal rendition of "Commonplace Feathers" which is also the song that pulls you into their album, A. It's a great song and was followed by new mixes of "Ground" and "Subject Positions" which added a whole new level of interest for me. I often think of architecture when I hear them play, the way they build their song structures from the ground up, so each variation can have an effect on everything that follows.

They played a new song that is a work in progress (that I heard last time at The Echo) called "The Gun Show", a hideously ironic love song that may also be the name of their next album.
I like the song already and they say it's not even finished. With the dynamic "Waiting On the Line" they got a great ovation at the end, and I had to dash out of there and go home so I could go to bed, get up and do it all over again.

Tonight I was supposed to be at Spaceland again seeing one of my very favorites, Xu Xu Fang. A series of mishaps, including the bus I was on clipping a car that swung around to make a right-hand turn in front of it, made the show an impossibility. I ran down to Santa Monica Boulevard to try to catch the 4, but waited 30 minutes with no luck and it was past time for the band to be on stage, so I said, "Fuck it!" I was not happy. So I came home and blogged instead. A poor substitute.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Marvelous Toy, Seasons and Robert Francis

The first Monday of the new year, Jan. 5, 2009, afforded a nice choice of shows with the Olin and The Moon residency at the Silverlake Lounge, whose opening acts included Marvelous Toy, and Robert Francis' residency at The Echo sporting sets by Andrew Spitzer of Radars To the Sky and Seasons.

Hoping to, somehow, take in Marvelous Toy at 9:30 and then hop a bus a few blocks to The Echo in time to catch some of Seasons 10 o'clock set, I lucked out on both counts. Walking into the Silverlake Lounge just past 9:30, Marvelous Toy were playing their first song.

I'd been anxious to see Jordan Huddock's band a second time, as the first time I saw them, in November, was a knock out. Again, I was impressed with the fresh sound and strong musical skills of this band. Jordan's songs are written in such a time honored American songwriter tradition that they remind me of some Tin Pan Alley music of the past century crossed with a touch of Kurt Weill. They played a couple of new songs which, to my ears, sounded like two of their strongest songs and the terrific "Waiting For the Fire" from their EP, All is Quiet, and a cover, which frankly, wasn't nearly as good a song as their own compositions.

I love the way their music bounces along, punctuated by Huddock' wry lyrics and phenomenal piano playing. I won't be surprised to see Marvelous Toy with a larger following in very short order. As soon as they finished I said a hasty goodbye and jumped a bus heading up the street.

I walked into The Echo as Seasons were into their first or second song, "Song That You Know" and could see the crowd was already into it. A great round up of regulars was present; bands, friends, photographers and bloggers, as there is already a definite buzz surrounding Robert Francis.

Seasons performed their usual high-spirited celebratory rock and blues mix, highlighted by Nic's impassioned vocals and John's supersonic accompaniment, when he isn't jumping off stage for some tribal tambourine slamming. The rest of the band aided by Matthew Teardrop of Manhattan Murder Mystery performed valiantly.

I saw Robert Francis when he opened for Death To Anders during their Echo residency last September and had forgotten I'd written a very favorable review of his band's set then. His sister performed and sang with Robert that night and I now recall their beautiful harmonies. But now he sings alone or with several band mates and his voice came across as a much more powerful yet subtle instrument than I'd heard before.

His youth belies the maturity and assurance of his vocal skills and the songs themselves reminded me of the heyday of the folk/alt-country rock music of the early '70's by the likes of J. D. Souther, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, Andrew Gold and a host of others. Until The Eagles brought mediocrity and boredom to the mix and killed the genre for a generation, at least.

It's nice top hear it invigorated by Robert Francis with a new passion and talent. This will be a very successful residency, I feel, and could provide the launching pad for quite a prodigious career. I would suggest trying to catch a least one of these Monday nights because he'll be off and running after this.

Terrific start to a new year of shows and this one bodes well for the future.