On this pilgrimage, like the ones I always take to Spaceland or Pehrspace, I realize this is a head-clearing activity that primes me for the music I'm about to experience. All the walks through all the previously undiscovered neighborhoods of Los Angeles I've encountered in the last three years, since going out to clubs, has really affected my relationship with this city. I appreciate it so much more.
It's always after dark, the street are often devoid of people (in spite of progress, this is still a driving city) of even, ironically, automobiles. Sometimes it has rained and always I'm struck by the smell. The dank smell of earth that wafts through the air. In these neighborhoods, there are many empty lots, left by buildings that either fell down from age or collapsed in an earthquake and were never replaced. Plenty of mud and shrubbery. But I don't smell fumes or smog or gasoline, just damp earth.
I'm reminded, once again that, for all the concrete and buildings and sidewalks and pavement, Los Angeles has never successfully fought back nature. The city loses every time. After a particularly wet winter, the vegetation just invades the city, hanging all over everything, over buildings, empty lots, up through the sidewalk, making roads into leafy tunnels. In L.A. the 21st century mingles with the primordial. (In more ways than one, actually).
Did I digress? I arrived as The Preacher's Son were on and I walked into this warm, inviting club and was struck by the powerful singing I was hearing. Is this really unmiked? The acoustics of the room must be incredible. Maybe it's all those books lining the walls.
The Preacher's Son is David Piorek, aided on this night, by Jason Boles, of Cave Country, on mandolin, and vocally assisted by the lush, warm vocals of Sam The Cat Foot Spirit (he's Tommy's brother, so I think I'll call him Sam "Klaws" for tonight. The music is is an early American folk/spiritual style and beautifully played and sung. Deceptively simple ballads with deep lyrics sung with some stunning vocal harmonies.
During their set, I met up with Tommy Santee Klaws and most of his band, who are all people I enjoy spending time with. They're all pretty excited about about a busy upcoming concert schedule, which includes some out of town dates and another round at the Hyperion Tavern on May 7th. Tommy told me they've never been so busy and it feels good.
They filled the air with Tommy's ultra-flexible voice, aided by Sam's powerful bass vibrato, and the gorgeous playing of guitars, bass violin, plucked strings, toy piano and a variety of percussion instruments. Of the new material, "Dead Leaves and Bumblebees" was a stand out, and I'm always pleased to hear "Chasing Bodies" and "Smoke Spells" or just about anything by Tommy Santee Klaws.
Each band had only about half an hour to play , but with four bands I wanted to see and it being a 'school night', I was glad to get out of there before 1am. Although it would have been real easy to hang out with these bands for hours.
I was real happy to see Cave Country play, because last time they played with Tommy, I met them, but had to cut out before they went on. They kind of reminded me of sixties band New Riders of the Purple Sage with the sweet vocal work of The Byrds, but with a freshness and spirit that felt contemporary. With beautiful swelling harmonies over lush yet precice guitars, the songs are well crafted indie/country/rock.
I was kind of surprised, when we talked afterward, to find out at least some of them are surfers. But I see the connection, now, in that the dexterity and balance required of a surfer seems to infuse the precision of their music.
Finally I saw Isgoodband, Slings, who are quite an impressive assemblage of musicians, which includes players of trombone, accordion and musical saw. They weave this variety of embellishments into a solid fabric created by the strong vocals and flowing guitar work. This really was such an evening of astonishing voices, I felt honored to be in attendance.
I am happy I picked up their CD, The Old Hopeful Trail, as I'm enjoying the full amplified band version of songs I liked equally as acoustic numbers. That seem to me a testament to their song writing talent.
Once again, a trip to the Hyperion Tavern was an experience I won't soon forget.