Tuesday, September 6, 2011

An Incredible Weekend Of Music

I may have missed the FYF FEST, but I had a weekend festival of my own at the Lot 1 on Saturday night and at Bootleg Bar on Sunday. I was hoping for the best on Saturday as I inaugurated the first Saturday of the monthly series of shows I hope to present at Lot 1 from now on, and into the future. I was flying by the seat of my pants, but as soon as Omar Velasco began his set, I relaxed and saw this was off to a good start. When I first heard Omar at Judson McKinney's residency at The Central back on August 2nd, I was instantly a fan, and I remember running up to him afterward and blathering some compliments at him and practically begging him to come play my first show.

Omar Velasco is one of the most remarkable talents that nobody knows about yet, so it is always going to be a source of pride to me that he led off with the first set on the first night of my Feed Your Head nights at Lot 1. It was a perfect start to a really swell night of music that pulled in a respectable crowd, in spite of the competition, so I was pleased. Those who were lucky enough to get there early were as impressed as I have been by Omar Velasco, who has one of the best voices around, with striking vocal control, that is matched by his varied and accomplished songwriting skills. When you hear his EP, See Lion Run, you will be equally impressed with how he has filled out his sound for the recording, adding layers of feeling and mood through orchestration.

There was a bit of a break as we resolved sound issues for Dirt Bird, but once they got underway, Lot 1 was gently lifted off-earth for a trip around the universe, bouyed by the ethereal and dreamlike vocals of Claire Mckeown and Athena LeGrand, aided by their harmonium, keyboard and drum. I had been longing to hear this band ever since Claire sent me their EP, Summer Night Hours, which I reviewed at Radio Free Silver Lake, but I don't think I was adequately prepared for the group hypnosis they perpetrated on the audience.

From the moment they began, a hush fell over the room, punctuated only by the vigorous applause each song received. Ordinarily each voice is individually miked, but our spare set up on Saturday required Claire and Athena to share a mike, but I think it worked out beautifully as their distance from the mike created an almost church-like echo quality that suited the songs well. Perfect for what they aptly self-describe as "sacred music for secular people", they manage to be creatively bold and daring while keeping the audience soothed and comfortable. These ladies are after my heart. I'm especially glad that Dirt Bird is set for a show at Hotel Cafe tonight (to make up for the cancelled Sunset Junction/Hotel Cafe sponsored show). I'll be at the front on the line.

Death To Anders was the headliner for the show and Rob Danson (Zoe-Ruth Erwin's photo at right) took the opportunity to play a lot of new music, which is incredibly good (the four-track sampler I got from him is proof of that). He'd promised a laid back, slightly restrained set to match the rest of the program, but what we got was a powerfully good performance, full of the throbbing intensity and dense storytelling we've come to expect from him. His song "Odessa" is a real winner.

Judson McKinney rounded out the evening with another perfect sounding set, after a week which has included three or four other shows around town for them. And their hard work is paying off with an ever-growing base of fans and and a performance style that is simultaneously relaxed and beautifully structured. Sheridan Riley's drumming displayed her usual polish (and this after playing with Avi Buffalo at FYF earlier in the day), John Seasons provides thundering bass support and the duets between Judson and Mary and her violin were as stunning as ever. All in all, the wide variety and quality of the musical acts made the evening a complete success for me.

The following night was the Torches video release party at Bootleg Bar presented by Radio Free Silver Lake and with another fabulous line up of bands. Summer Twins began with a strong set of indie alt/country which was tightly played and sung with passion and energy. A rousing good opening. Seasons are trying to lay low for a little while, but no one will let them. They showed up to support their good friends in Torches and went the extra distance by introducing a few new songs. All of them good.

On the back patio to chat with friends, the party took off to a point where, I'm embarrassed to admit, when I returned to the Bar, the video was already over. Torches played one of the loudest and most emphatic sets I've ever seen from them and it was like watching a band get bigger right before your eyes. I've since seen the video and it is a wonderfully imaginative take on dental hygiene and bondage...I think. (Note the Volkswagon in the photo at right, which plays a supporting role in the video)

Usually the last band plays to a dwindling audience as people wander toward the exits. Not so with Naive Thieves. Once they began, there was no way to tear yourself away. They are so good and play such catchy and intelligent rock that the whole crowd was transported. I seemed to be one of the few people there who had seen them before, so it was fun to see everyone flabbergasted by this group. With a twangy/surfy '60s sound they twist the audience around their finger making us willing to follow them anywhere.

When I saw them back at the beginning of August at Lot 1, I was equally impressed and chatted with them, getting their EP, Le Sheik Rhat, and hoping to see them again. Since listening to the album and becoming familiar with the songs, it only increased my appreciation for what their doing. Naive Thieves is a band with a future, make no mistake. I think I experienced acute musical perfection this weekend.