Tuesday, June 7, 2011

May Shows Wrapup

Apart from Feed Your Head's third anniversary party on May 9th, I had a great time at The Happy Casualties CD release show at Lot 1 Cafe on Friday the 13th. The night began with Manhattan Murder Mystery's Matthew Teardrop (at right) doing a solo gig, and it was very instructive to hear his music in this simplified form. The lyrics often sound like some post-midnight conversation in a bar, sometimes confessional, sometimes confrontational, and in a solo setting they become even more personal. Were it not for the earnestness and honesty contained in his words it might come off a aimless self-pity, but instead, one senses a yearning for something better. The whole set made me feel privy to a certain level of Matthew's songwriting process.

Richard Sax Ross is a one man band who performs a cross between street musician, elevator music and lounge-lizard razzle-dazzle. His electric performance impressed everyone who took the time to pay attention, and I'd like to see more of this. Some amazing saxophone playing. Randolph Williams, of One Trick Pony, performed a small intimate set as Remote Consoller, with just a few friends and it was another chance to bask in his warm, honey-toned vocals. But this was The Happy Casualties night, as they were releasing a 16-track CD, Sons of the New West (album cover at right), and they took the stage and played a potent set of numbers from the album. Steven Sigl's cousin Brittany is singing harmony vocals and her presence adds a whole new dimension to the sound. I've seen them a few times, with a few different band members, but I think this line up is the best of all. The new material is wonderfully cohesive and this is borne out by repeated listenings of the album.

The next night I missed The Henry Clay People for the second night in a row because I had a ticket to see Lord Huron at The Troubadour, and I'd had it for months. I really enjoy following bands I like that start out small and suddenly get the heat turned up on them to see how they handle it and what happens next. Lord Huron (at right) only surfaced a few short months ago and already have developed a substantial following. Good write ups from Brand X and Buzzbands didn't hurt plus a free show at Origami and they just took off. South by Southwest seems to have been particularly good exposure as well and they came back to town to now play The Troubadour, and I didn't want to miss it. Performing with accompaniment by The Calder Quartet on a few numbers, their already full, rich sound only became fuller and richer. And they still appear to be having the time of their lives which makes this band so infectious.

Chris Douridas of KCRW hosts School Nights! at Bardot in Hollywood and I had only attended one before, but the show Monday, May 16 was such a winner I want to go back soon. Hands were the surprise headliner, announced at the last minute, and along with Gardens & Villa and Obi Best they delivered one hell of a strong show in a gorgeous environment. It was a cool and blustery night, like we've had so often this winter, but I braved the elements to get there and dressed warmly cause I know, basically, you're outdoors at this club, being on the roof and all. Cody the Band was there, as was Hunter from Walking Sleep, so I didn't feel 'alone in Hollywood' at all.

I had seen Obi Best at a Radio Free Silver Lake LaBrie's show, and had been so entranced by the dreamy, kinetic, swaying music, it felt like a drink of cool water in a hot desert. But on this night, Barbara Gruska of The Belle Brigade was back behind the drums of this band and, together with Wendy Wang, Obi Best turned in some of the finest three-part group harmonies I've ever heard. Alex Lilly also premiered her new Obi Best video for the song "Tropical Fish", which was lovely, and tossed copies of her latest EP out to crowd members who correctly answered her questions. Hunter got one of them. Also that night, Gardens & Villa impressed with a solid set of crowd-pleasing indie rock, and then Hands rocked the place with their electronic/indie rock combination. One thing about these programs at Bardot is that they tend to run into the wee hours of the morning.

The Belle Brigade electrified a big crowd at Amoeba on Wednesday, May 18. Just two days before, I'd seen Barbara playing drums for Obi Best, as detailed above, and chatted with her and her brother, Ethan at the club. The store filled up pretty quickly as 7 o'clock approached. There's been enough buzz on this band that they're starting to be hard to see (their Friday show at McCabe's that week was sold out).

They're so relentlessly sunny and upbeat, you'd want to slap them silly, if they weren't so god-damned talented. They tear into their songs with the ferocity of a dog with a new bone. Their potent combination of indie/folk rock and alt/country seasonings make me think of everyone from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to The New Pornographers, with Fleetwood Mac in between. It's power pop of the highest order.

I've already reviewed the two show with Tommy Santee Klaws that I saw in May here , one of them being at Silver Lake Jubilee, which I reviewed at Radio Free Silver Lake. Another enjoyable set was Walking Sleep's first show ever at Hotel Cafe (photo from The Satellite on right) on Saturday night, May 28. As that is just a ten minute walk from my house, I couldn't resist the chance to go see them so close to home. My weekends can often be taken up by the L.A. Show Low Down that I publish for Radio Free Silver Lake every Monday morning, but it was a nice respite to stop working and wander over for a fine set of music. Even as The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra, this band has always impressed me with their tight and very professional on-stage commitment. As Walking Sleep they've taken a step forward and seem to be writing the best songs of their career right now and I look forward to their next record.


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