Friday, December 3, 2010

A November Compilation

Let me write about a recent musical odyssey that was particularly stimulating for a variety of reasons. First was a six day run beginning with the Pepper Rabbit (at right) show at The Echo on Thursday, November 18, who I have been wanting to see ever since their show there last April. Their swirly, hazy psychedelia with a European flavor is beautifully realized on their CD, Beauregard, and live, they perform faithful reproductions via looping and playback that adds layers of richness to the complex compositions. There's a poignant, rueful sadness to the songs that adds a depth and emotion to the writing, reminding me of Beirut. They had the full audience in the palm of their hands. Truly gorgeous and inspiring music. And now this
extraordinary, young band have a date at Hollywood Palladium opening for Passion Pit on December 7. They're exploding fast, and deservedly so.

I saw a band called Avi Buffalo (Avi at right) on Friday night at Echoplex, and it's no secret that they have been going though some major changes ever since they signed to Sub Pop, but they seemed like a different animal altogether at this, their last concert of the year and their final one before going on an extended hiatus. The past year of touring and the releasing of an album that is destined to be deemed one of the best of the year has taken a toll on the band, and, performing with a number of new members, the set was just not what one expected.

The evening began most promisingly with a band I was really looking forward to, based on the advance buzz, and Lord Huron did not disappoint. Recently transplanted from Michigan to L.A., I was intrigued by the samples I'd heard that were very calypso/reggae in their beat and hazy/fuzzy in the vocals making for a very intoxicating mix. Like sipping a Pina Colada on a hot beach.

In person the vocals were much more up front and the effect was even better since the whole band can really sing. Ben Schneider is the mastermind behind Lord Huron and I don't know any of the band members names, but they were all amazing and even though they told me this was only their eleventh performance as a band they seemed like a total, cohesive unit. I picked up the double package of the two EP's Into The Sun and Mighty. I haven't stopped playing then since.

The less said about the rest of the evening, the better. I've been following Avi Buffalo pretty much since the beginning and seeing only Avi and Sheridan from the original band there, was emotionally wrenching and the performance that night that made me wonder where the band is going. And this would have been a sad conclusion, were it not for what I saw the very next night at HM 157. It's like I saw a band self destruct one night and rise from the ashes triumphant the next.

I didn't intend to miss Tommy Santee Klaws' record release show (at right) at Historical Monument 157 on Saturday night, not only because I'd never been there before, but Avi Buffalo was performing a solo acoustic set under the name, El Dorado, and I needed to see him under completely different circumstances. He appeared in the middle of the evening and only did a couple of songs, but it was enough to convince me he will be fine. The songs were totally unknown to me, were both thoughtful and sad, and especially moving, under the circumstances, and I was transfixed. His voice sounded strong and assured and his guitar playing was, well, astonishing, so I ended up feeling encouraged.

Being my first visit to this venue, I was kind of overwhelmed by the atmosphere and the amazing friendly vibe of the place. The trip out to Lincoln Heights was daunting enough, so walking into the artist-friendly/hippie comfort of this beautiful, slightly dilapidated old Victorian was like sinking into a warm embrace. Due to the inclement weather, the show had been moved inside, which was absolutely packed but maneuverable, and from one room looking into another I watched Amanda Jo Williams perform. The only disconcerting element was the view out the front windows of those twin representative symbols, the American flag and the McDonald's flag flying side by side, patriotism and life-killing food products.

Backed by a full band, she sang her quirky, deadpan folk with equal parts forcefulness and originality. Her reedy voice gains strength from her pungent and surprising lyrics. A fascinating set by one of the most unique artists around. The crowd size necessitated a move out to the front porch for Tommy Santee Klaws' set. It was pretty chilly outside, but the crowd huddled together and Tommy and company performed lots of new material along with familiar hits like "Dead Leaves and Bumblebees".

The move outside perhaps compromised the sound of the set, but nevertheless there was enough compensation in standing under the stars and near-full moon to hear the pearly vocal tones and solid musicianship that stands this band apart from most others. Even without a balanced sound mix, Tommy Santee Klaws still pulled it off.

After that memorable night, I was off to the first show I've been to at Origami Vinyl to see Lord Huron (above), to see if they were really as good as I thought on Friday night. No question, this is another band with all the elements in the right place. I'd had time to digest the two EP's I'd gotten at the Echoplex show and really like the songs, but I love the way the vocals are more forcefully delivered in concert and I think the band plays really well off each other. I enjoyed the unique way Origami has of presenting music with the band in the loft at the rear, way over your head. I had to look almost straight up to see the band, lit from one dramatic light source, with the beamed ceiling providing the background. The sound was great and the experience was unique and is just another great way to see free music in L.A.

Monday, November 22, I ran over to Silver Lake Lounge to catch a set by All Wrong And The Plans Change. Kassia Conway is their way charismatic lead singer and she has the assurance and style to take command of the stage. Her strong voice can be soft or sharp as they play songs that range from hard driving rock to jazz. She reminds one of everyone from The Raveonettes to Dusty Springfield, without seeming redundant.

On Tuesday, November 23 was the fourth Radio Free Silver Lake Free Tuesday at LaBrie's and I'm going to post about the last three of those November residencies over at Radio Free Silver Lake. Meanwhile, I took a couple of days off.


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