Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hot Fun In The Summer Time

As I was assigned to bring the beach chairs for the evening of Summer by Seasons (seen above), I got to The Echo before the first band even started. A large cardboard sun was hanging over the stage and a sun hat sat at the lip of the stage, indicative of the season being honored here on Monday, January 23. Walking in I spotted the night's presenter, Lord Growing of The 704 Blog chatting with Stephen Sigl and his cousin and Happy Casualties bandmate, Brittany Sigl as Downtown Union set up to open the night.

And open it, did they ever. This was clearly one of the best sets I've seen from this band (including the one they did for me at Feed Your Head night last November). The playing was tighter and more forceful, Bo Bory's vocals were spot on, perfectly miked, and the songs sounded better than ever. Most came from their latest CD, Deal Gone Wrong, including "Honey Bee" and the title tune which show the band's real growth in songwriting. Great hooks, aggressive hard rock arrangements, interesting lyrics combine to make Downtown Union seem like they're really on fire right now. Even Jack Gibson of Tenlons Fort joined them for this set, banging on a tambourine. It illustrated for me, again, why I firmly believe there's a new energy and drive alive in the music community since the beginning of the year.

I haven't seen The Health Club in about a year, but I remember being pretty dazzled by them. Although lead singer Gerard Fortich admitted he wasn't feeling too well as they began, there was no sign of illness in his performance. With real style and panache he performed gallantly for the audience, swaying and with such expressive vocals, his catchy songs urge the crowd into dancing mode. Katya Arce's steady and solidly powerful bass demonstrated, both here and later in Manhattan Murder Mystery, why she's one of the community's most respected bass players. I immediately asked them to play for me next month at Lot 1.

I think I would find Seasons a very special band even if I didn't have strong personal feelings for all of its members. Listening to their back story in the fine documentary Pass The Music only elevated my respect for them as I learned they really forged their sound out of view and unaware of the current local music movement that was in it's infancy. I told John and Ray this when we spoke in the 'green room' before their set and said it most certainly has led to their unique and original sound. Though they trip from genre to genre, it's the common thread of psychedelia that binds all their music together creating a genre all their own.

Bringing out the beach balls for their set, the audience (me included) wouldn't let up with balls flying all over the place for most of their set. It was summer after all. The songs on the EP, Summer, are among the finest they have ever written, and to hear them played with some freshened up arrangements, just made them stand out all the more. "The Weight" impressed me right from the first time I ever heard it. I think it was at Mr. T's Bowl a couple of years ago and I thought, then and there, that it was one of the best songs I've heard come out of this scene. And to hear it with fresh arrangements, only increased it's power. It's a beauty! And "The Sea" has always been one of their surest crowd pleasers, coaxing frozen audiences to break out into dancing frenzy. A beautiful set, with the band reaching nine members or more on this occasion.

What else can I say about Manhattan Murder Mystery beyond that they just keep getting better and better every time I see them. They seem perfectly poised to break out big time, if they don't just internally combust from too much talent. They whipped the audience into unbridled revelry (as they are wont to do) with mostly new material, ending in a finale with more people on the stage than in the audience. It was a pure Bacchanalian moment.

I know that Matthew Teardrop would eschew this notion, but not only is his remarkable songwriting getting more incredible, it's even becoming sophisticated. It still retains the strong sense that it's improvisational, and could burst out in any direction at any moment. It's unpretentious, heartfelt and downtrodden. Full of fatalistic hope and impossible dreams, always looking below the surface. But there's a cohesiveness creeping into his compositions and it is bringing out the best in this band. A wild and undisciplined set that was nonetheless brilliant.

I got home very late.


No comments: