Now that it's almost half way through June, perhaps I should write about all the great sets I saw in May. It started with the Avi Buffalo CD release show at The Troubadour on May 1st that set a very high bar for all the other bands I saw that month. Their's was truly one of the best sets I've ever seen from the band, and though I've written about it elsewhere, I just want to restate that the more Avi Buffalo tours and plays, the tighter and more solid their shows become. It's quite amazing. I feel so lucky to have stumbled across then very early in their career so I could observe their extraordinary growth. Also that night I was introduced to opening band, Wailing Walls, who are as creative and inspiring as you would expect from a band that are friends of the Buffalos.
May 7th was the second anniversary show for this website at Pehrspace and, at the risk of self-aggrandizement, it was a pretty great show. Of course, I don't think I could have celebrated properly without Seasons being there, but to have George Glass, Radars To the Sky and Downtown/Union there, the latter gifting me with their version of "White Rabbit", it was only made more perfect by the late addition of Harley from Red Cortez to serenade me with a very special performance. There's no way this won't be among my concert highlights of 2010. A giant thank you to all who played and attended.
I knew The Besnard Lakes/The Happy Hollows show on the 13th at The Troubadour was going to be phenomenal, just based on The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night, which is one of the best CDs of the year, and the fact that both times I've seen them, they've blown my mind. The Happy Hollows are...well...The Happy Hollows, so I expect a riveting performance every time I see them, and they haven't failed me yet. This was a show that lifted me off the ground and it took days to get back down, as documented here. As their previous L.A. shows were shamefully under attended, I was glad to see so many people at the show, especially those who were seeing The Besnard Lakes (shown above) for the first time, who seemed more than a little impressed.
The week of May 16th, I saw three big shows, Roky Erickson w/ Okkervil River on May 18 and Broken Bells on May 19, both at The Fonda, which were good, solid, professional shows, with Broken Bells most impressing me with the live versions of the songs from their terrific album. You can tell that this James Mercer/Danger Mouse collaborative band is just getting used to playing together, so there were some loose ends, but, all in all, a solid performance. But The National, on the second night of their two-night stand at The Wiltern, gave a show that was both electrifying and exhilarating on Saturday, May 22.
I've since heard that on the first night, Friday, lead singer, Matt Berninger, was pouring wine down his throat and even ventured out into the audience during one number, throwing the sold out crowd into a frenzy. If he was more subdued on Saturday, it certainly didn't ever feel like anything but a first rate show. I arrived too late to get into the pit and deciding I was not going to get rammed up against one of the railings that front each tier level of the floor section, I wandered near the back of the auditorium. There I found a quiet level featuring some tables with two-chair arrangements, and a clear view over the sound booth and over the heads of the herd ahead of me.
I plopped myself down, alone, at one of the tables, said 'hi' to Ethan of Walking Sleep as he sped by, on his way into the teaming mass of people, and was soon joined by a nice couple I'd never met, who asked if I minded if their female half sat on the empty chair. They were a lot of fun to talk to, but soon I noticed I was being surrounded by some Radars To the Sky. Kate and Andrew Spitzer and friends had just coincidentally wandered into area, so we co-mingled and all became the perfect companions for a superb show. Ecstacy love company...or however it goes.
I've seen The National three times before, but this show was the best I've seen. They played much of the new album, High Violet, but an equal number of songs from The Boxer, which I still think is their greatest record, and even early numbers I didn't recognize. All the songs were great, and, coupled with a magnificent and occasionally hypnotic light show, and the perfect sound, it made for one hell of a wonderful show.
(photo by William Couch)
I'd been so moved by Harley Prechtel-Cortez request to play at my anniversary show that I had to go see Red Cortez at the Bootleg when they opened for Shadow Shadow Shade on May 21. Chatting with Harley and Travis Woods of Web in Front before their set, I learned a lot about the recording of their forthcoming album and what a remarkable experience it was for them to go to England to do it. Suffering from a sore throat, he bravely led the band through a set that included favorites scattered among the new material. His raggedy vocals lent the songs a different flavor, but still sounded strong and powerful. This band can do no wrong, in my book.
That weekend was the Silver Lake Jubilee, my new favorite festival, which took place Saturday and Sunday (May 22 and 23) on Myra Avenue, with amazingly cooperative weather and no complaints from perturbed retailers in the area since no portion of Sunset Blvd. was closed. An amiable and friendly crowd filled the street on Sunday (the only day I could attend), along with so many food vendor trucks it made it the simple decision of what to eat a subject of great deliberation. I will say that in order to have a drink one had to enter an enclosed area that vaguely resembled a pen where cattle get branded. But the 'pens' were close to the stages so you could still enjoy the music.
I saw some terrific sets and parts of sets by Dios, Seasons (see John and Ray above), The Monolators, Division Day and Walking Sleep (who were particularly great), but as the sun went down and it got quite cold, I realized it was Sunday night and I had to get up for work the next morning and... you know how that goes. I bailed at dusk.
Friday nights can be very tricky at Spaceland, when the 'neighborhood bar' atmosphere that usually characterizes the place gets swamped by a wave of out-of-towner/date night partygoers, coming into Silver Lake to gawk at the hipsters. Ironically, most of the hipsters are elsewhere. Those of us who brave that crowd are pulled by the lure of the music, usually to see a specific band. That was the case on Friday, May 29, when I went to see Whispering Pines for the first time. As a fan of their CD, Family Tree, I have been anxious to hear them live and they were as proficient and authentic sounding as on their album. A kind of freak folk/alt/country mix with solid songwriting. Headliners, The Parson Red Heads were the other attraction for me and this night they performed as a nine piece for the first time in quite a while and it was glorious sounding. The crowd of strangers took it all in and were polite and courteous (fairly inoffensive).
The month finished off with the second "UnderCovered" show put together by Joe Fielder and Radio Free Silver Lake at the Eagle Rock Bowling and Drinking Club, and I think the best write up of it was over here at The 704. I'll just add that it topped off the month beautifully to get Joe back into town and attend a function where so many bands and friends got to show him our appreciation.