As much a chamber music ensemble as an indie rock band, their roots obviously spread wide. Eight performers, including three violin/cello players and a one man brass section on tuba and maybe trumpet, and accordionist, bass and drums and a lead singer/songwriter, Ari J. Packer, on guitar provided a pretty thrilling set of music. Frequent forays into pure instrumental/classical passages enrich the sound measurably on the pastoral songs with evocative titles like "A Room Where Your Paintings Hang" and "Walk Around The Lake" Inventively orchestrated and beautifully played, it was almost hypnotic and reminiscent of film music crossed with pure folk music. I picked up the CD, and while it's very nice, they should be seen live to really be appreciated.
Ran home, grabbed a bite, and took off for El Cid to catch a set by The Californian, who I'm currently trying to see as many times as possible. They're that good. Ran into The Hectors and we sat together during their set as I attempted to describe The Californian's particular sound and the best I could come up with was "surfy/creepy".
Beset by continual sound and technical problems, including a suicidal microphone stand, this band impressed me more than ever before because of their professional aplomb and good humor and smart repartee as everything went wrong. And they still sounded so good that The Hectors became fans on the spot. I'm beginning to think they can do no wrong. It's hard to think of a tighter band, that can just get up on stage and pour passion and energy into a set making it look as easy as walking down the street.
The next day, August 11, Wednesday, I trundled off to the Bootleg to catch up with Division Day (at left), who were opening for The Joy Formidable. I had seen part of Division Day's set at the Silver Lake Jubilee earlier in the summer and wanted to see them in a setting where I could really concentrate on the music, apart from the circus atmosphere of a festival. Their last album, Visitation, was less accessible than Beartrap Island, but I wanted to hear a mix of material from both albums played live so I could more fully understand the relationship between the two CD's.
That was a good idea because now that they've been living with the new material for maybe a year the live renditions of them were the best I've heard them played yet. Division Day opened with "Malachite" with it's halting, yet propulsive rush, "Surrender" with Rohner Segnitz spitting out the lyrics, and the whole band playing powerfully, they sounded great. They ended with songs from Beartrap Island, delivering unforgettable and moving versions of "Colorguard", "Tap Tap Click Click" and "Little Blood". It was a tight, well coordinated and invigorating set by one of the very best bands in town, and it is good to have them back on stage. The headliner was The Joy Formidable from England and the audience loved them. It seemed a very commercial sound to me and I'm sure they could become hugely successful.
I was gifted with some pit tickets to see Avi Buffalo and My Morning Jacket at The Greek on Thursday, August 12, and though I'd been to five shows in three days, I wasn't going to let that go by. I had only heard about Rebecca Coleman leaving the band a couple of days before, so I was still somewhat in shock. But I've seen Avi in different configurations before, once at Echo Curio completely solo...and that was revelatory, so I know he can triumph over line up shake ups. Once they played the little room at the House of Blues and Sheridan couldn't attend because of finals, so Arin performed some very simple but very effective percussion. That was another unforgettable show.
It was an unusual performance, but not without its strong points, Avi played a searing guitar and dazzled with his virtuosity. I've heard complaints that his voice did not carry to the outer reaches of The Greek, but from where I was, I could hear just fine. Sheridan Riley and Arin Fazio seemed at ease and comfortable on the giant stage and added their prodigious talents to the mix and they were augmented by two additional back up musicians, who couldn't quite replace Rebecca. Sheridan added an occasional vocal harmony which worked well. And I must add, my heart soared a little when Avi saw me in the pit and said "Brad...you're here!" from the stage of The Greek. That's a weird feeling.
My Morning Jacket (at right) are a band I knew very little about and the CD a friend played for me didn't particularly impress me. So I was completely bowled over by their dazzling show. An incredibly beautiful light show swept the whole area as the band played a crowd-pleasing set of favorites. They have a very devoted following and they paid the band the respect they deserved by being completely attentive. It was all quite overwhelming in the pit. Great show.
Other shows that stood out include Red Cortez and Vanaprasta at Bloomfest downtown on August 14. Darker My Love sounded quite amazing at their CD release party at Bootleg for Alive As You Are on August 17, as they played the album in it's entirely and ended the set with a radical reworking of "Immediate Undertaking" from their previous album, 2, that was astonishing. They're one of the tightest live acts in town.
And then there was Sunset Junction, which, in spite of itself, I quite enjoyed this year. Reviewed at RFSL. Then the Radars To the Sky CD release blow out, also reviewed. I got a lot of shows in and a lot of writing done this month, along with my first radio exposure, so I got to feel a nice sense on accomplishment on my 60th birthday.