Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Xu Xu Fang Showcase and An Evening at L'Keg

Xu Xu Fang were the subject of showcase at Swinghouse Studios in Hollywood on Thursday, July 30, 2009. Invited audience members included fans and friends of this band, who are rapidly becomming known as one of the best psych-rock bands around.

Located on Willoughby Ave., the Swinghouse performance space is a large, tall, black box of a room with some couches and sitting platforms. The majority of the space is taken up by the stage area, and the food and drink flowed freely, heightening the sensation of seeing a private performance for insiders.

Doors opened at 7, with the band taking the stage at 8, amidst a brace of candles they had set up all over the stage, which made fitting Xu Xu Fang in that space a challenge as they are now a band of 10. Now featuring four back up singers, their sound was full and rich, with the additional singers freeing lead singer, Barbara Cohen, to exercise her prodigious vocal powers, with the melody carried by the cooing, smooth back up.

The place was so dark and atmospheric anyway, they didn't need a lot of fog, so I was able to watch band leader, Bobby Tamkin, and focus on his extraordinary, versatile drumming. It can be sly and steady, or hammered with bombast, blasting the song forward.

They played a solid set of some of their best songs. I could have used a little more ooomph in the lower registers, but overall the sound was good. The heavy wash of guitars, combined with bass and keys, create a hazy sonic atmosphere before the drums anchor the whole thing as Barbara's voice eilther swoops in from above or bubbles up from below. Their music is very visual and I'm always intrigued by the construct of these towers of psychedelia.

It's been a while since I've seen them, so it was great to come out and see them all and offer my support. Xu Xu Fang seems to really be on a roll.

Friday night, July 31, 2009, was the end of a loooong week, and I needed to just sit and listen to some beautiful music. I got just what I was looking for at L'Keg. Tommy Santee Klaws were playing a show with Marshweed, who opened for Tommy back in early July at Echo Curio, where I had been severely impressed by the magic they created that night.

L'Keg is a really homey and inviting little gallery near Pehrspace in Koreatown, and this was the closing night of their current exhibit, highlighted by some musical performances. Nights like this are really what makes this whole music/art scene so special. The opportunity to meet and get to know such creative people is an honor, and I'll always feel a bit humbled by it. I enjoy the big shows I go to, a lot, and try to see a huge variety of bands, but these small intimate gatherings are the fuel that burns this fire in me.

Marshweed above, at Echo Curio

Heather Lockie and her sister, Shaun, and the gorgeous contrebass of Laura Steenberge form Marshweed. They begin so quietly, with Heather alone on a banjo, and singing so softly, everyone leans forward. Of course, this was an unmiked set, so the effect was pronounced. That feeling that the music was private and almost not meant to be heard, only to realize that the wit and irony is making you listen.

I can't go on forever. I'll just say it was another wonderful set that proved I was not mistaken. I loved the songs I'd heard before, was impressed with the ones I hadn't, and especially loved "Je t'adore Fyodor", with it's wonderful interpretive presentation. Now I've seen Marshweed twice, and look forward to more.

Nora Keyes was an artist I haven't seen before, but she came highly recommended. Utilizing a high falsetto, she sings brutally honest lyrics with an unyielding vibrato, that was reminiscent of Yma Sumac, and at times, Edith Piaf. Very impressive.

Good friends, Tommy Santee Klaws (above) performed acoustic and as the full band for a performance level that rivalled their best sets. This band can be so loud, without any electronic help, it amazes me they don't blow out the back walls when they are amplified.

They played such an impressive set of their beautifully crafted songs, the audience demanded an encore. A super wonderful night.


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