Tuesday, April 28, 2009

April Wrap Up: A Bunch of Shows, Part I

If I don't do a post entitled "A Bunch of Shows", I'll never catch up, so here goes. It was a marathon run of 9 shows in 12 days, My own mini-Coachella. Beginning on April 9, 2009, when I saw Tommy Santee Klaws and Avi Buffalo (below, photo by Devin O'Brien) at the tiny Parish Room at the House of Blues (reviewed here), followed the next night by the Seasons EP release event at the Echo. (reviewed directly below this post)
I took Saturday off.


Sunday, April 12, 2009, I saw a fantastic performance by Vetiver (at right) at the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts. My review of that show is over at Radio Free Silver Lake, here.

The Henry Clay People, The Broken West, The World Record, Writer

I attended the second Monday night residency of The Henry Clay People on April 13, 2009, arriving early, as reports from the week before predicted a mad house. I got there to find Spaceland nearly empty, with one Henry Clay person seated at the back. Going up to talk to Joey Siara, I learned this was to be a guitar-driven band evening, as, one by one people started filing in. (Photo at left is by Charlie Chu and features Ross Flournoy of The Broken West on the left.)

This was the pre-Coachella show of the week, at least until My Bloody Valentine showed up on Thursday, and a last chance to see friends and fellow bloggers before they took off to Indio. Jordan Huddock of Marvelous Toy was there to join them on stage to play keys.

Writer was up first and played a pleasant set of San Diego indie rock, and being partial to that sound, I enjoyed their set. The music was sunny and surfy with jangly guitars and good vocals.
I'll bet their recorded work is worth a listen.

Next, The Broken West came on and played a terrific set, evenly balanced between older and newer songs. I have to say again, I think the new material shows a growth and musical maturation that the early work only hints at. It's strong and sturdy songwriting that spans styles from rangy indie rock to solid power pop. One of their new songs, "House of Lies", even reminds me of The New Pornographers. Led by Ross Flournoy's easy natural singing style, the band gives really solid support, most of them adding vocals here and there. Their catchy set was a good lead in to The Henry Clay People.

The Henry Clay People were a pleasure to hear again. The last time I saw them was at The Fonda as they left on their first cross-country tour with The Airborne Toxic Event so it was nice to see them in the neighborhood again. They appear to have coalesced as a band from their time on the road together and the set was augmented by Jordan Huddock on keys and Ross Flournoy even sang on a couple of songs. This band induces a party atmosphere just by appearing on stage and playing their music.

By now the club was strewn with various members of The Parson Red Heads and family members, as The World Record (below) is made up of odds and ends from that band. But they are hardly an afterthought. Now, I've been a fan of The Parson Red Heads for years now, but had never seen, nor heard, The World Record.
It was late, but I just had to stay for a couple of their songs. They began and I was caught immediately. It was power pop/indie rock of the highest order. Like The Parson Red Heads, it's guitar driven, strong on vocals, smartly written. It was a polished and perfected sound that just floored me.

Andy Creighton writes wonderful melodies and lyrics that are thoughtful, direct and honest. "Sizzling on a bus bench" is an expression I related to right away. I think he's a remarkable songwriter.

In talking to Sam Fowles over the past year, I knew he was a drummer, but I had only seen him as a guitarist/vocalist with The Parson Red Heads, so his drumming was a revelation to me. He transformed from a singing guitarist to a singing drummer in an instant.

Evan Way is always impressive to me, either as a solo performer or as THE Parson Red HEAD, but to see him fold himself into The World Record as second guitarist and harmony singer revealed an artist willing to step back and let others shine. And his contribution helps make this band as special as they are.

Aaron Ballard handles bass duties and provides the thrust that, when combined with Sam's drums, makes it impossible not to want to dance. I immediately picked up their CD and have played it over and over. It's as technically polished as any CD I've heard this year.

I'm not going to use up all my superlatives on this band now, because I'll be seeing them over and over and want to save some to use later.

Fol Chen

Wednesday, April 15, 2009, was the Wavves, Fol Chen show at The Echo, and I don't like to go more than a month without seeing Fol Chen, so this show I wouldn't miss. I listened to some Wavves on myspace and they sounded good, but I didn't realize what a fan base they have until I arrived at the venue that night.

Fol Chen were scheduled to go on at 9 PM, but there was a line up the block when we arrived. I was happy when Rebecca and Aron of Avi Buffalo popped out to say hello, from the line which crawled at a snail's pace. Once inside, it was easy to see that the crowd skewed young, as Wavves are barely over 20 themselves.

Many bands would blanch at the the challenge, but Fol Chen were very much up to it. Beginning, just as they have the last couple of times I've seen them, with the drummer appearing alone on the stage and, without a pause, pounding out the hypnotic and seductive beat for "Red Skies Over Garden City" over and over for at least two minutes.

The notorious Samuel Bing (at right, in photo by Russell Butner) takes the stage, dark shadows over his eyes, (they're very much into the societal misfit image, and it seems genuine) and begins aggressively strumming his guitar as Melissa Thorne appears at keyboard. And they sing, "God damn your pity", challenging us.

The music spans genres the way a schizophrenic spans moods. But it's so strong and so powerful that it all works. Once the twisted and unpredictable vocals kick in, over the disparate musical instruments, this crazy patchwork of sounds fits together like the pieces of a puzzle. I fall under the spell of Fol Chen everytime I see them perform and this night was no exception.

Wandering around after their set, I realized how different this crowd was from the usual Fol Chen audience. Wavves is obviously a popular band, but by the time they came on I was so caught up with Fol Chen, I barely heard them. The songs were shouted anthems of teen angst that went right over my head.

But I had a great time hearing all the latest news of Fol Chen with Sam/Adam. They're about to hit Europe for their first ever overseas tours. In June they play seven dates in England, where their CD Part 1: John Shade, Your Fortune's Made has become an unexpected hit. Unexpected to who, I don't know. I think it should be an international hit already. I believe they said they're going back and playing around the continent in September. That's great!

Talking with Melissa Thorne revealed that she is a fine artist and an art teacher. She designs the striking graphic artwork on their albums (example at left). I shouldn't have been surprised, for on stage she displays the focus of an artist. We discussed my former life as an artist, working for the legendary graphic designer, Saul Bass. I think we could have talked for hours, but the opportunity arose to escape the crashing Wavves all around us and I beat a hasty retreat.

More in a day or two.


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