Friday, May 15, 2009

"A Bunch of Shows, Part IV"

I attended the last two April Monday residencies of The Henry Clay People at Spaceland and they were as much party as concert and I mean that in a good way. Both nights, April 20 and 27, The Henry Clay People filled the stage with guest musicians and the exuberant fun was contagious, as documented in these great shots by Scott Schultz. The local bloggesphere was well represented.

Both evenings featured strong sets by the band, but the final Monday, April 27, was a real cause for celebration. It seemed like at least one member from every band in L.A. was there and the place was packed. It was also a special day in the history of The Henry Clay People, who had been asked out on another cross country tour with Ben Harper and just that day, Andy and Joey Siara had quit their day jobs. That's a huge, scary step and I applaud them for taking the chance.

This night also had The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra on the bill, performing without a lead female vocalist. Hunter explained to me earlier they'd be performing new songs, and ones that weren't heavily reliant on the boy/girl vocal dynamic. I was very impressed at the set. Hunter is a fine singer and we really got to hear just how fantastic these musicians are. It was nice to hear so much unfamiliar material as well, and based on this show, the new songs show lots of promise.

Adam of Fol Chen took the stage next and sang a song of introduction for The Henry Clay People, much to the audience's pleasure. Then, augmented by guests like Hunter Costeau on vocals, Jordan Huddock on keys, additional guitar by Ross Flournoy and the fabulous back up from The Damselles, they roared through a set of their own material and lots of covers, like "Proud Mary" on which the back up singers took the lead, to a wildly approving crowd.

The costumes they wore elevated the festive atmosphere to a carnivalesque level with striped pants, suspenders, top hats, sunglasses and the brothers Siara, wrapped in day-glo feather boas. They began on a high note and stayed there throughout the entire set. It turned into a fabulous party.

On Saturday, April 25, I got over to the west side for a Death to Anders/The Happy Casualties show at Trip Bar. This bar is nice and friendly and low key. The Happy Casualties went on first, adding a jolt of energy to the room. Their classic anarchist rock style and Steve Sigl's irony-laden words make the brain work, while the feet move. I've waited too long to cover these shows so the details are sketchy.

Death to Anders played next and again floored me with their remarkable skill. They sail through their sets with such ease these days and always put together a varied and logical progression of songs. I know they're working on lots of new material so they always throw something new into the mix.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009 was the joint 7" release for The Parson Red Heads and CD release for Castledoor party and with the addition of Princeton it was a show too good to miss. I arrived as Princeton were in the middle of their set, and though I've only seen them a couple of times, I can see why they have such a passionate following. They mix brainy lyrics with a strong indie pop sensibility to weave songs of intellectual complexity. And now the literary component of their writing has wrangled them an invitation to perform at the Virginia Woolf Conference at Lincoln Center in New York on June 5. Big congratulations to Princeton.

Castledoor, headed by newly blond Nate Cole, fired off a nice set in celebration of their new release, Shouting at Mountains. Actually it's their first 'official' release. The Parson Red Heads appeared in a full band incarnation singing their golden-throated rock and roll, highlighted by selections form their new 7" release, Orangufang, which is a good capture of their sound.

Thursday night, April 30, was the night of the Radio Free Silver Lake and Manimal Vinyl presented Record Release party for Seven Days Now by Xu Xu Fang at The Echo. Sharing the stage with Downtown/Union for their CD release event as well, were VoicesVoices and The Voyeurs. A really strong line up that was given a run for it's money when Silversun Pickups suddenly announced a secret show at the Echoplex, downstairs. It was also the night of a show with Avi Buffalo and Tommy Santee Klaws at L'Keg and another with Jack Wilson, Jr. Les Blanks and The World Record at Echo Curio. Truly, an embarrassment of riches that is becomming a norm in Los Angeles.A

I attended the Xu Xu Fang show as a member of RFSL and a huge fan of the band. I've also been listening to the new EP for a while now and was anxious to hear the new material live. But first Downtown/Union performed selections from the new CD, Aurora Ahora with album guest artists Joey Siara and Andy Siara from The Henry Clay People. Bo Bory ably lead the band through some solid rock and John Huerta of Seasons added some nice keyboard on a number. This is a really enjoyable band who played the best set I've yet heard from them.

Xu Xu Fang played a beautiful set mixing old and new material. Propelled forward by the chugging rhythm established by leader Bobby Tamkin's drums, the army of guitars add a stunning wash as Barbara Cohen slowly intinuates herself, her voice taking center stage and dazzling the listener with the range and power of her sound. Powerful stuff.

Friday night, May 1, 2009, was a weird night with a false start. I went to The Natural History Museum to try to see The Ruby Suns open for Wolfmother on a press pass. The place had sold out so there was no way to get in, even on a press pass, so I wandered the exhibits of the Museum and heard a little of The Ruby Suns from waaaay across the hall, and as Ryan McPhun only had one male accompanist (the rest of the band must have stayed home in New Zealand), I bolted the place for the ISGOODMUSIC sponsored Seasons show over in Highland Park. Busses and trains got me to Mr. T's Bowl by 10:30. Jon Hershfield was there as well as the bands so, ultimately, it turned into a great night with friends.

May 4, 2009 was the first of the Gangi Monday night residencies at Spaceland and it's been too long since I've seen this band. Matt Gangi and Lyle Nesse always impress me with their amazing technical proficiency coupled with their seemingly inexhaustible creative energy.

Opening band were a trip, called Head Like a Kite, who play machines and instrument in a similar genre to Gangi, but had their own unique voice and an arresting sense of humor displayed in the home made movies they projected, depicting graphic sex between plastics. I'm talking Barbie and Ken here, who, I gotta say, are better porn stars than actors. Very funny.

Then they got serious and sang a version of "Ohio" by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. And I didn't even realize, till the next day, that it was the 29th anniversary of the Kent State shootings. I find it really telling of the band's integrity that they never even mentioned it on stage, just sang the song and let it speak for itself. I was moved because I was actually in college in Boston when that occurred and was even among those who helped close the college for the remainder of the term by marching on the governor's house. Have to admit, every college and university did pretty much the same thing, particularly in the Northeast. I also think it's now a time most, who have lived through the Bush/Cheney years, can relate to.

Gangi played some new material I was excited to hear, and some older songs with smashing new arrangements. It was a really good set, but by now all these shows were taking their toll and I was sleepy. Will catch these guys at least once more during this residency.

Avi Buffalo's first Tuesday night residency (May 5, 2009) at The Echo was a good set up for a month of interesting bands and Avi, week after week. Opening band Deep Sea Diver amazed the crowd with her wonderful literary indie/folk rock. I suppose one could compare Jessica Dobson's style to Feist, but I wouldn't. She's too different and unique. Hook-laden melodies paired with jazzy, seductive arrangements give the cushion to her assured and natural singing. Another instance of the performer being flooded by people wanting her EP as soon as she stepped off stage.

Avi Buffalo won over another audience with their set, playing for a crowd of enthusiastic friends and many first-timers who had come because of all the buzz. It sounded good, but was really just a warm up for more to come. The highlight of the evening was to get my hands on some recorded music finally from this band. We have waited! It's only eight songs, but to have anything is a treat, primitive though some of it is, the raw quality makes it special to me.

O.K., I'm catching up. Some individual reviews coming soon, of Tommy Santee Klaws, Iron and Wine, The Shins and more. Some posted at Radio Free Silver Lake. Keep a look out.


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