Monday, May 23, 2011

Tommy Santee Klaws (Twice)

I had the good fortune of seeing Tommy Santee Klaws twice during the past week, and since I haven't seen them since the release of their CD, Rakes, last November, I was taken aback, all over again, by the breathtaking quality of this band. On Thursday, May 19, I headed to The Echo to see this band that I've been following for a few years now, and to see a couple of new videos they were premiering this night.

After meeting up with Tommy and the band, spending some time catching up, Donna Jo took the stage and announced the first video, directed and animated by Walt Gorecki for the wonderful song, "In Formation". It was so stunning it brought tears to my eyes with it's wistful images of animal heads against a ruddy brown/red background, and the minute the lyrics, "they sing in form-a-tion" began, the screen was swarmed by fireflies buzzing this way and that. The projection was a little over the size of the screen, causing the fireflies to flood the ceiling and side walls creating a dream-like and environmental experience.

Tommy Santee Klaws took the stage (above) and overwhelmed with a beauty and power I was unprepared for. Without a full time drummer, the percussion was handled by Sam and Donna and I must say the homemade quality fit very well with the overall sound. Singing many of the songs from Rakes, they sounded somewhat more dynamic than usual. The contribution of Jason Boles on mandolin can not be discounted, for his lilting musical presence could be felt in every song. They have also added a violinist in Chrysanthe Tan, who adds not only a classical sound to the mix, but even an occasional vocal. Then balance was perfect and the vocals pristine, and the whole set was a slice of magic. The final video by Donna Jo featured Tommy as an unlikely gnome...but it worked. She cast a delightful spell.

Naturally, I had to attend their set at Silver Lake Junction the following weekend and was I ever glad I did. There I got to see an ever expanding crowd fall under the spell of this band. I saw a lot of bands at The Junction, but I don't think I saw as well a though out or so meticulously performed set all weekend. And the audience couldn't help but feel this was something special. I was so happy to see this many people so moved by this music. Watching a young band like this completely win over an audience is such a privilege to witness.

Adding Danny Banes to the vocals made the band as vocally powerful as I've ever seen them. That, and the miking made them seem like more of a vocal band than I've ever heard. They sped through their set of short songs in record time and had the audience in the palm of their hand. What a great show. They posed for the picture above after their set that afternoon. They are, without question, one of the finest bands around right now.


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