Monday, May 25, 2009

Fort King at pehrspace and Other Notes

The above photo is from the pehrspace website, and it was the first thing I ever saw of the club, before my first visit there last year. You would never know that it is the site of some of the finest evenings I've had seeing live music in L. A. It's tucked back behind that short palm tree in the far corner. I just wanted to show how the most amazing things can happen in the most unlikely places.

I didn't know what to expect when I went to pehrspace on Friday night, May 22 to see a band I only just recently heard about. It was at the Tommy Santee Klaws show at Hyperion Tavern a couple of weeks ago when Donna Jo introduced me to their friend, Ryan Fuller, who gave me the CD, Naked Shadows, by his band, Fort King. I figured it would be worth a listen.

I've been obsessed with it for two weeks. Beautiful, melancholy ballads with a strong instrumental sense that recalls French film soundtracks of the '70's. I'm particularly reminded of the score by Arie Dzierlatka for the brilliant, melancholy Alain Resnais 1980 film Mon Oncle d'Amerique.

His use of the cello, played by Catherine Campion, is so subtle and underplayed, it's almost subliminal. I also wondered how his voice, low key and wistful, would translate live. So I was off to pehrspace to see if anyone else knew about this band.

Not expecting to find anyone I knew, I walked right in the door to see Matthew Teardrop and Ian Baumeister manning the admissions. It was a good night from that point on. I snuck in to hear Willow Willow perform a lovely set of two-part harmonies perfectly mixed by Pauline Lay, as usual. Recently relocated from the Bay area, they sing sweet songs with a country flavor, that are quirky enough to get the attention of the indie crowd.

Before they went on I got to have a nice chat with Catherine and Ryan, and tell them how much I'm enjoying the CD. When Fort King (at right) took to the stage, they treated the audience to a set of many of the best cuts off the album. What really pleased me was how Ryan sounded just like his recordings. This requires very careful playing and singing and Ryan on guitar, complimented by Catherine's spare use of the cello, for maximum effect, play with an admirable precision. Tonight they had the accompaniment of Aaron Robinson on dobro, which added a subtle air of country to the sound.

The beautifully understated lyrics fit the gently moving music so well, voice and instrument occasionally reaching a beautiful compositional counterpoint. The recorded versions include many wonderful sound effects that weren't present live, but the music is so strong on it's own, I didn't miss them.

"House Finch", "To the Moon", "Antique Dreams" were all played stunningly. The instrumental, "Tabanata", was a high point for me, and I always applaud a band with the courage to play an instrumental at a rock show. Good to see a band live up to the promise of their recorded work, and then some. I think most of the audience felt the same.

Also, congratulations to our friend, photographer Scott Schultz, who has been getting attention lately for his remarkable Skid Row photographs (see above). First, L.A. Record articles, then the Huffington Post radio interview, and now, tapped by the L.A. County Commission for the Arts to put on a music and arts festival at the Ford Amphitheatre on July 26 to raise funds for programs benefiting the Skid Row residents. There is also much more beyond this, including allocating funds for assisting the homeless through the arts, the support of "Food Not Bombs" and a coalition of South Central Farmers. It sounds so worthy and deserving of support, I'll do what I can.

Just wanted to mention a few CD's that I'm really enjoying lately. First, the Fort King CD, Naked Shadows I recommend for it's songwriting and evocative and moving melodies. Out of the Rain, the Thunder and the Lightning by The Faraway Places is
gaining rapidly in my estimation. I love the range of influences from
The Kinks
to The Beatles to The Brian Jonestown Massacre and their songs are stuck on constant rotation in my brain right now.

I got a copy of The Rhone Occupation's Would It Kill You To Talk This Out? EP from Jacob and I thinks that's pretty good as well, catchy songs and terrific vocals. Still getting to love Swoon by Silversun Pickups more and more. Those songs really grow on you. I picked up 2007's Soul Variations by AM when I saw them at Spaceland a week ago, in anticipation of their upcoming release. The song "Stepping Stone" is a real winner. And, of course, the Avi Buffalo Echo residency self release, which at last gave us something to hold in our hands.


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