Thursday, April 2, 2009

Weekend Shows, March 27 - 29, 2009

Spaceland Marquee by Victoria Cecilia (Gliss)

Last weekend was full of music, beginning with the powerhouse performance by Gliss at Spaceland. Friday, March 27, 2009 was my first time seeing them in over a year, but I have a long history with them as I wrote about in my review here:

Chad VanGaalen
It was especially nice to meet up with them again, and then again, as I did the following night when I saw Martin and Victoria at the Chad VanGaalen/Women show the following night, which, as you can see above, took place at Spaceland as well.

Only on Saturday night, March 28, 2009, I walked into a packed Spaceland where the fans were clamoring for Women. I saw this band when they opened for Dungen at The Echo last November and it was a more apt pairing. Women play a loud and sometimes ferocious space-rock with kind of oddball melodies, but it's a lot more aggressive live than on their more quirky recordings.

Just maneuvering one's way around Spaceland was a challenge, but I managed to run into both Randy and Charlene from One Trick Pony, Nick from Death to Anders, Christian from The Transmissions, RFSL colleague, Rachael Ballard, Kevin Bronson, among others. I was glad to see so many musicians I admire into Chad VanGaalen.

I wandered around near the back of the club, during Women, lamenting that I probably wouldn't be able to get any closer for Chad. But when I got around, back toward the entrance, who do I see standing right up at the stage but Martin Klingman and Victoria Cecilia of Gliss, watching the show. I was so surprised to see them again that I walked right up to say "Hi", so when the set ended and the crowd loosened up I was able to slide right over, empty space by empty space, 'till I was dead center, 3 people deep from the stage. I planted myself and vowed not to move. It was perfect.

Chad seems a very amiable guy, who rarely, if ever, stops smiling, but the set up became difficult, and he revealed that his equipment had gotten lost in customs, crossing the border from Canada. Apparently, it was recovered, but it must have been a trying day for him, and then to come into self-indulgent, over-indulged Los Angeles and complain about too many lights (not an unreasonable complaint), he seemed annoyed. I thought, "uh-oh".

But the minute Chad VanGaalen (left) began singing, magic happened, and all angst melted away. All the effort setting up had paid off. The sound was superb. I have become obsessed with his latest CD, and to hear the songs live was just plain euphoria.

Accompanied by an expert drummer/backup singer and a wonderful bass player, each song was an inspired gem. His songs are never less than compelling and his lyrics elevate them to a level not reached by many others. He seems to always see the irony in the commonplace or deal with themes of misrepresentation as in "City of Electric Light", one of the shows highlights.

The only other time I've seen him was at the Avalon in November '06, when he opened, before a restless crowd, for Band of Horses, and the audience barely paid attention. He was most of the reason I attended that night, all because of a music video I'd seen for "Clinically Dead" which contains music and animation by Chad VanGaalen that I couldn't get out of my head. Soon after I saw the "Red Hot Drops" video which clearly displayed his equal talents as an animator and songwriter/musician.

For some reason at the time, I didn't pick up any of his albums, and after the despondent Avalon crowd made it hard to appreciate his performance, I just kind of filed him in the back of my head. Then I read the announcement for this show, bought a ticket, and finally got one of his CD's. Soft Airplanes is the name of it and it cast a spell on me, kept me awake at night and drove me to memorize it's every lyric. If I'd had it when it came out, it would have been on last year's ten best list.

The stark simplicity of his words is in sharp contrast to the deep intelligence and emotional weight of their content. He sings about immediate impressions and their impact on lasting truth. Thing aren't always what they seem in Chad VanGaalen's world. Just as his thin and reedy voice can reveal surprising power live, a jaunty tune will only later show it's dark underside. And sometimes only after multiple listenings.

The whole of Spaceland seemed to fall silent, in rapt attention at this unique performer as he impressed with song after song. "Willow Tree", ""Cries of the dead", "Inside the Molecules" and "Molten Light" sounded especially great. Just having been able to stand so close and really appreciate the work he makes appear so effortless, as if he's still in his basement making this music for no one in particular. It was an honor to witness.

The next day it was off to Space 15 Twenty to see Seasons (above) give a free show in the courtyard of this Hollywood retail space. Every Sunday at 1 pm they have a show in the courtyard and have been featuring some very good local bands. This was the first I attended, March 29, 2009, and it was real pleasant sitting around in the sun with the band, before they went on. Not too many people know about these shows yet, so it was mostly just passerbys wandering through. But they couldn't help but have been impressed by what they heard.

I don't care what incarnation of this band I see, every single time they amaze me. They can just throw together a casual set like this one and make it sound sharp and polished. I feared the sound in the concrete and glass courtyard would be harsh, but it was just fine. It was splendid way to spend a little time on a Sunday afternoon.

They sang favorites "India", "Empty Spaceships", "Song That You Know" and the new "666 - Mark of the Beat". Their next scheduled show coincides with the release of a new EP, at The Echo, April 10th, in a show opened by two more local greats, Karin Tatoyan and The Hectors. That's a night not to be missed.


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