Monday, July 27, 2009, I headed over to The Troubadour to see Starlight Mints (above). For those who don't know, they're the odd, quirky completely original unit out of the Oklahoma dust bowl (maybe the best thing to come out of Oklahoma since "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning"). What do they put in their drinking water that they can produce the surrealistic psychedelics of bands like The Flaming Lips and Starlight Mints?
I've seen them twice before, both times at The Troubadour, both highly memorable shows, especially the first time when they had a string section with them (5/7/2006). I spoke briefly to Alan Vest before the set to let him know how much I enjoyed his other shows and that I've been listening to the new CD, Change Remains. He told me it was a real departure for them that he hoped people would like. I said I like it and he seemed pleased. A gracious gentleman who I was very glad to finally meet.
They only had to get on stage and begin playing to captivate me completely. As good as the first time I saw them, this was one of those sets that just flies by in an instant, as they careened from one great song to another. Alan's sly yet strong voice is the band's strongest asset. He is the glue that holds it all together. (shown above)
I believed I wasn't familiar enough with their new material to appreciate it as much as the older songs, which are a part of my consciousness. Oddly enough, it was the new songs that had the most impact. Tightly orchestrated, played with passion and precision and sung to perfection, they are rousing, get-up-and-dance songs that get right under your skin.
Starlight Mints' songwriting has always impressed me, with their twisted, contorted melodies, reminiscent of, but not imitations of The Shins, in the way they make the discordant melodious.
Including many songs from
Change Remains: "Natural", "Paralyzed", "Zoomba", "Black Champagne" and "Power Bleed", they punctuated them with some of their greatest hits.
From Built on Squares they played "Black Cat", the impossibly danceable "Irene" (it takes all my resistance to keep from dancing around the room every time I play this song) and "Pages", that grabs you with so many hooks, that when Alan's strummed guitar comes in it suddenly electrifies your attention.
This band uses a wide range of instruments in a sparing and seemingly random way that creates a lace pattern of sound. From Drowation came the driving beat of "Rhino Stomp", the brilliant opening number, "Pumpkin" and "Eyes of the Night", all accompanied by their stimulating pop-art lightshow.
It was a surprisingly spare crowd, but the enthusiasm level was tremendous and each number was greeted with cheers and whoops and lots of movement, grooving to the music. Sometimes the cheers and applause were so loud, it sounded like a sold out house.
Marion Love Nunez (at left) provides such vital and exuberant keyboard and vocals that I must mention it, all the while dancing and swaying to the beat. The whole band is so seamless, and they are obviously loving what they are doing so it's infectious. Also love the fact that all five band members are miked so they can all add vocals where needed creating some astonishing vocal patterns.
Local heroes, Castledoor opened with a red hot set of their greatest hits, streamlined into a 30 minute set. The band was in great form and the miking of the voices were some of the best I've ever heard for them, with Coury Jane and Lisa perfectly balancing Nate's powerful lead in their vocal gymnastics and pure harmonies.
Really fun to see them at The Troubadour, and I was glad to see them get such a positive response from the audience. Terrific renditions of "Dumpster Diving", "Stepping Stones" and "Burn the Maps" highlighted by some impressive vocals by Nate and a powerful pop performance from the band.
Comic, JP Incorporated (formerly: Pleaseeasaur) was in-between and his amusing send ups of TV advertising (complete with giant video screen) are made more amusing by his stage antics, with costumes and wigs and his winning personality. The satire is funny, and he is an appealing stage presence. What's not to like?