Monday, June 15, 2009

A Real Friday the 13th, (June 5, actually)

Reflecting on the evening of Friday, June 5, 2009, I must mention the obvious misalignment of the stars, or something, that led to an unfortunate series of mishaps. I understand there was an accident involving motorists and pedestrians outside The Echo, the Taco Zone truck was attacked by thugs with Molotov cocktails, burning the roof and Web in Front's Travis had his car impounded, stranding him and friends, requiring Captain (Bronson) Marvel to spring to the rescue.

Meanwhile, over at Pehrspace, we were cocooned against the onslaught of bad karma outside, as Elaine Layabout's third Hella Hipster Hoedown was another barn-burner of a show. A rootin'-tootin', foot-stompin' array of bands charged the evening with enough positive energy to drive demons away.

This was also an important trial run for Pehrspace, who were closed down earlier in the week for excessive noise and unacceptable parking lot behavior. We obviously passed, as there were no complaints, but in retrospect, I think we dodged a bullet, as bad luck seemed to envelope the city that night.

First up was Last of the Blacksmiths, from San Francisco, whose live sound immediately reminded my of Pinback, with that laid back sound, plunking guitar and bass and the gentle, vocal harmonies, blended until smooth. It was great to meet the band members and pick up a couple of CDs. Their music on the recordings, seems simpler and more direct, whereas their live sound was intricate and delicately balanced.

Slang Chickens play loud, raucous, blaring garage/punk and had such a good time performing the feeling was infectious. But it was Telegraph Canyon (picture at right by Hal Samples) who really captured my attention with their sweeping orchestral sound, wrapped up in dusty Southwestern ambiance. Beautifully balancing guitar, banjo and vocals with violin and piano, writer/singer Chris Johnson conducted his band through a set of melodically creative, lyrically inventive songs. I picked up their Tour Release 2009 EP and, sure enough, it's a winner. Telegraph Canyon are a band to watch for.

Being an evening of unexpected events, the next thing I knew, I was being whisked off to Mr. T's Bowl in Highland Park to catch the late set by The Monolators. I later learned they had not been immune to the strange karma out there, as Ashley Jex's bass was damaged by a misplaced foot. In spite of that, she played valiantly and, truth be told, The Monolators gave an electrifying performance as Eli was all over the place at once. On stage, off stage, on the floor...everywhere but the ceiling.

On Tuesday night, June 9, Steve Sigl, of The Happy Casualties dragged me back to Mr. T's Bowl to see his other band, a new project called The Shoenberg Knifefight Ensemble, who have recently been hitting the clubs. I hardly know where to begin, as the sound is totally different from Casualties, the centerpiece being the theatrical, extravagant lead singer, John Rickel, whose odd, tourette -like behavior commanded your attention. I've never seen Steve play guitar like that before and it was inspiring. In fact the whole band, Troy Westover on keys, Steve Rosenthal on bass and Doug Boyle on drums played with a ferocious intensity.

I loved the song about their friend and compatriot, "Victor Ferrari", but how can you not like a song with a title like "Phantom of the Copa Cabana". It was interesting to contrast Steve Sigl's songwriting for The Happy Casualties, which is straightforward rock and roll, with his songs for The Shoenberg Knifefight Ensemble, which are quirky and inventive, with more than a hint of flamboyance. He can write an engaging, attractive melody and then hang irony-laced lyrics on top. I once heard someone describe Broadway composer, Stephen Sondheim's music and lyrics as whipped cream with razor blades inside. The same applies here.

This was an evening curated by John Huerta of Seasons, and being a man of impeccable taste, the other bands were none too shabby either. I saw some of The Seizure and Luna is Honey, both of whom performed energetically and I even picked up a Luna is Honey CD, which is quite good.


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