Death to Anders rocked the 3 of Clubs Wednesday night, March 4, 2009, which represented the only Los Angeles appearance this month of this local favorite and Isgoodband. A wonderful crowd of well wishers and friends showed up in Hollywood to say, "bon voyage" as they set sail for SxSW in Texas, with many stops in between.
Arriving early, I met up with Ashley Jex (of The Monolators and the Rock Insider blog), who, I was surprised to learn, was playing with Spider Problem this evening. She introduced me to the band and I enjoyed chatting with them.
Then I met up with ace photographer, Anita Marto, who Jon Hershfield (Isgoodmusic) recommended as someone to shoot photos of the shows that I'm reviewing. Jumping at the chance to have shots of the actual shows I write about is something I grabbed onto immediately. I introduced her to Death to Anders and we met the show's host, Brandon, who had kindly given permission for the photography. The photos appear with my review at Isgoodmusic.
The set up of this club, in particular, looks to me like a photographers dream. You can shoot from almost any angle, and get close ups and long shots from a variety of distances, and I think Anita agreed. Check out her photographs here: akmarto.smugmug.com.
First up was a nice surprise in the person of Jack Tempchin, who dropped by on his way to Crane's Tavern for a gig and he asked to play a couple of opening songs to introduce the evening. I was not aware who he was until Anita informed me he was the author of The Eagles' mega-hit, "Peaceful Easy Feeling", among others. I've frankly admitted I'm not a big Eagles fan, but when Jack took the stage and began playing and singing, I was enthralled.
He sang a beautiful little song (composed yesterday, he said wryly) in a fine voice that absolutely filled the room and he played a gorgeous guitar. I recognized I was seeing a major talent. He told funny stories and sang a second song (a birthday tribute), which, again, was a finely composed and performed gem. All at once, I was taken by the fact of how effortlessly and seamlessly the great music I grew up with in the late sixties and early seventies can be folded right into the music I love today. I was thrilled to meet him afterwards. Contrary to what he said on stage, about how he used to be cool in the seventies, I say Jack Tempchin is still cool in 2009. Talent is rarely uncool.
Death to Anders continues their ascension to a level of professionalism shared by only a few other local bands. Brimming with confidence, they dove into the evocative "Handshakes and Earthquakes" and quickly lured the audience into the quirky world of the Anders. This song sounds like it belongs in an old Western saloon with dance hall hostesses strewn about the room. Rob ought to don an extravagantly over sized cowboy hat for this number, to accompany the exaggerated facial expressions.
After the bluntly titled "Asshole Diaries" they played two of my favorites, "For the Headless" and "The Fall". So far the set was really showing off their wide range of styles. Rob Danson and Nick Ceglio share strong songwriting abilities, but with very different sensibilities that lend this band a rich and varied landscape for their music. There's an unpredictability in their songs that keeps them always fresh.
Rob's punk-a-billy aesthetic and Nick's introspective troubadour should clash, but, instead they feed off each other and thrive. And when they collaborate on the same song, the contrasting styles sometimes yield musical interludes of unexpected beauty and even poignancy.
Complimented by the steady, throbbing bass of Pete Dibiasio and the pounding yet precise drumming of John Broeckel, I couldn't help but thinking that this band is more than ready to impress as they hit the road in pursuit of new fans.
They finished up with two cuts from Fictitious Business, "Camera Lens" and "Great Plains States", which continue to be stand outs. As I told Rob earlier in the evening, that CD continues to reveal new rewards each time I go back to it, and it's over a year old! It's like a bottomless treasure chest and I think I underrated it last year.
As usual, Rob and Nick ended up on the floor, twirling knobs and pushing pedals like a couple of kids on the floor of their playroom as they recreated the sound of a jet lifting off the runway. The audience was wildly enthusiastic and it provided a fitting end as they take off for their first out-of-state shows ever.
Also on the bill were Sleepover Disaster, from Fresno, and Spider Problem, but as I had three more nights of shows in a row, I had to bow out early, but Death to Anders and Jack Tempchin had ably satisfied my music cravings.
Thursday, March 5, 2009, I was right back at the 3 of Clubs to catch an early set by Avi Buffalo. Once again, I'm just totally seduced by the atmosphere in this beautiful, old, hidden gem of a club. It's as dark and inviting as a womb. And once again Ashley Jex is there.
This show flew somewhat under the radar and I think that's partly because Avi is coming out of the flu, just like half of Southern California. They probably couldn't be sure they could play. But were they ever able to play.
It was when I met up with Avi that I realized the poor guy was not feeling well. You gotta admire his tenacity. Having time to chat with Rebecca Coleman, I learned that she is quite mature and grounded for her years. And that she has her own band, with Avi playing guitar, who will open on the third May date during the Avi Buffalo residency at the Echo.
Only a few people gathered and it was a sweet set that seemed intimate and soothing. Avi gave his all, but his voice was fighting hard for flexibility so the set was more about the playing than the singing, which I looked at as an opportunity to focus on the strong compositions.
They began with "Summer Cum", which is an incredibly alluring song that gets you right into their style and carried on for about five songs, which was admirable under these conditions. I particularly enjoyed "What's In It For" and of course, "Where's Your Dirty Mind" which is, like, one of my all-time favorite songs already.
They are even so polite, they were going to hang around for the other bands, in spite of having to drive down the coast to go home... and being sick. I had to cut out of there because of two more nights of shows on my schedule. It is going to be wonderful to have the opportunity to see Avi Buffalo four weeks in a row during the Echo May residency.