As I arrived at The Echo on Tuesday, May 26, 2009, I was struck by the beautiful noise coming out of the venue even before I went in. The doorman said the first band had just gone on. I bolted inside to be overwhelmed at the gorgeous jangle of the many instruments assembled on stage.
It was Divisadero (above), and I was there early to see them play live, as I'm going to post a review over at Radio Free Silver Lake, of their CD Lefty, being re-released this very day on JAXART Records, I also wanted to speak to a couple of band members to get their thoughts. But when I walked in they were furiously hammering and sawing away on their instruments and the music was sublime. I think it was "The Boxer's Daughter".
Their dense swirling wash of sound was hypnotic, as they spun through selection from Lefty. Lead singer, Marco Montesclaros, vocals were pitched just right. On record, his vocals are carefully laid into the fabric of sound at just the right level and this must be duplicated live. I've heard them when Marco's voice was too loud and it threw the whole balance off, or too soft and he gets lost. This night was just right, and, apart from some clicking sounds, Ashley Jex pointed out to me, when the band got very loud, I found the mix to be, overall, very good.
Highlights included "Understand We Have No Understanding" and "Lefty's Lament" featuring Josh on electric saw. Speaking to Pauline Lay and Josh McCool after the set, I learned this was the first time Divisadero had played The Echo. I'll bet they're invited back real soon, as the crowd loved them.
Greater California (at left) were the next band and they impressed me with their solid playing and strong songs. In fact, they sound like a headlining band. Lot's of variety in the music, with sunny pop, undercut by big slices of psychedelia played on a wide array of instruments, with band members sometimes playing two or three of them within the same song.
The crowd seemed into it, but by the time Avi Buffalo took the stage, there was a restless element in the audience. To be sure, there was the faithful army of Avi regulars present, but
Avi Buffalo's reputation is beginning to precede them. There was undoubtedly a presence of those who have heard this band is the next BIG thing and had no interest in the music, only in being somewhere perceived to be"cool". Word has definitely gotten out as this was the biggest crowd of the entire residency.
Tonight's program was a "greatest hits" set that focused on their biggest crowd-pleasers, from "What's In It For" to "Where's Your Dirty Mind" with plenty of opportunities for Avi to get crazy and shred his guitar in between. The whole set was beautifully balanced and most got into it, but the constant din of conversations, where there should have been none, was frustrating for fans like myself...and for the band.
In spite of that, I would call the night a success, owing to the devotion of Avi Buffalo's many friends and fans. Actually toward the end of the set, I moved way down front and it pretty much obliterated most of the chatter and I noticed a marked improvement in my perception of the show. I wish I'd been down front for the full set. This is the first residency I've seen all installments of, and I can't think of a band more worthy.
There was a decided moodiness in the city that night and things were a little tense as I was making my way to The Echo on the bus, earlier . The L.A. riot police were out in full force at most major intersections expecting protests to the abominable State Supreme Court decision to let Prop 8 stand. It won't stand forever, it's defeat is ultimately inevitable. Just goes to show what happens when the Christian Taliban is allowed too much access into society or government. That always becomes, forgive the term, an "unholy" alliance.