Saturday, June 23, 2012

Little Red Lung, Pisces... and Tonight

Turnout was great for the Little Red Lung video release show at the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts last night, June 22, 2012, with the added bonus of watching Sarah Negahdari 's new band, Pisces, blossom right before our astonished eyes. The setting was the sublimely atmospheric Spanish mission-style hall on Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock (a formidable bus ride). The art exhibit that accompanied the show was exquisite, and I was glad to meet one of the artists, Adam Pernell Deal, whose self portraits were profoundly revealing. The whole atmosphere was one of explosive creativity.

When I saw both bands perform together last January at Hotel Cafe, I was impressed with the sense of two artists breaking barriers and forging new styles. For Sarah it was an opportunity to go more personal and move from the realm of pure rock with The Happy Hollows to an experimental, genre-bending blend of interpretive rock that must have been inside her all along. For Zoe-Ruth Erwin it was the chance to hear her compositions fully realized with the proper musicians for an overwhelming, sweeping sound.

Aided by her trusty band of musicians, including Charlie Mahoney on bass, Chris Hernandez on drums and occasionally, Nick Ceglio,or totally solo, Sarah's songs for Pisces are a strange mix that pull you in not only by the personal nature of the lyrics, but also the incredible range in her vocals. When I heard the songs before they were in their early stages, but the sound here, in this cathedral like building added an incredible echo that made the place ring like a bell. Especially impressive was the final number when they were joined by a seated sitar player adding a whole new Indian-raga flavor to the set and bringing it to an ecstatic close. 

Soon afterward, Little Red Lung presented a video for the song "50 Fingers", directed by portraitist Sarah Sitkin, that is easily one of the best I've ever seen. The surrealistic imagery fits perfectly with the haunted Berlin beer-hall sound of some time long-ago alongside the oceanic orchestral sound of her mini-orchestra. Poetic and unsettling, it was a tough act for the band to follow. The crowd was wowed. But live, Zoe-Ruth and her crowded stage of musicians still managed to match the power of the video. Kevin premieres the video over here at Buzzbands.

Beginning with a live version of "50 Fingers" they played a set that completely enveloped the room with a tidal wave of varied sounds, all anchored by Zoe Ruth's bizarre and heady compositions. She also possesses one of the most beautiful voices in the local scene and compliments it with other excellent singers that are never buried under all the orchestration. The songs are so complex, I don't doubt she could write a symphony.

Atmospheric and hypnotic I stood there swaying back and forth as if in a trance. That seemed to be the effect the set had on everyone there, as afterward people wandered around as if a bomb had gone off. The band expanded and contracted with each number like some kind of living, breathing animal. Strings, saxophones, trumpets, keys, pre-recorded material, all had their place and were carefully balanced.

It was a lot to take in and I was glad there were only two bands, as any more would have made my head explode. For these sets of music, the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts was the perfect setting providing an almost reverent environment for the proceedings. I don't think people who were there will ever forget it.

(concert photos by me.)

Now tonight, June23, 2012, I have to head over to Santa Monica to this show:

Headliners, Radars To The Sky put this together, with Radio Free Silver Lake (where you can read a column by Andrew Spitzer of Radars on 5 favorite songs here) and it's a great line up of varied and talented bands ranging from local darlings, The Hectors, to the 'burning up the town!' band Torches, who are about to embark on a tour of the Northwest and gather a huge new following.

Also on the bill are Fort King, who are blazing a new trail with a new line up and newcomer, songwriter/pianist Ceeca. Music starts at 8. Gotta go.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Judson, Tenlons Fort and Torches Triumph at Troubadour - June 20, 2012

Well that was pretty damned impressive! Three of my favorite local bands making it to The Troubadour and delivering a classy, inspiring and satisfying evening of some of the best our East Side friends have to offer. And the audience that trundled half way to the coast to toast these three success stories made The Troubadour feel more like The Satellite or The Echo.

I'll begin with Tenlons Fort because that's where the evening began. I got there early as I had no intention of missing one minute of the action. The club was fairly empty when I arrived but by the time Jack Gibson and his merry band of pranksters took the stage, friends and fans were filing in. Since Jack has been back in town, I've seen him play a few times, and if the first few sets were a little rusty, now, as a band of six, Tenlons Fort has hit it's stride. His preternatural ability to select from some of the best players in town really payed off last night.

In addition to musicians like Sheridan Riley on drums, John Seasons on bass and vocals, Jillinda Palmer on keys and vocals, he brought Nate Cole back to the local stage to provide powerful harmony vocals and it was great to hear his voice again. He and his wife have recently transplanted themselves back to California and this is most welcome news. His band, Castledoor, was one of my favorites in the early years. Together, they made Jack's compositions soar to the rafters of The Troubadour as song after song seemed to reach it's perfect state. I'm more excited than ever for them to play my next Lot 1 show on July 7. What a wondrous bunch of musicians and I hope they'll record together.

Jack's delivery is so earnest and open and completely without pretense, that his heartfelt lyrics are all that much more touching. And the whole band is so tight and together the music is filled with variety and invention. An all-round great set!

But it was Judson's night. He was the reason this whole evening came together with such a talent, top-heavy bill. Like Jack, Judson McKinney has assembled a stage-full of wonderful musicians (John Seasons again! and violinist, Kaitlin Wolfberg) and it's beginning to look like the Judson McKinney Chamber Orchestra.

Beginning simply with just two players in a duet of trumpet and keys, a quiet, baleful little melody set the mood as all the other musicians walked on stage to take their places. I noticed they have expanded to a band of eight. Launching into a full set of familiar and some newer material, they held the audience in thrall.

His way with an American style, folk ballad and his ability to orchestrate for however many musicians he's playing with has always been a hallmark of Judson's music, but here was an army. And if his music sometimes has a tendency to ramble, it's pretty nicely orchestrated rambling, and he always returns to the song in time to wrap it up tightly, sometimes with an unexpected whispered breath. Bridgette Moody of Torches joined them onstage for one of the last songs and added steady, guiding harmony vocals with the same technical polish she brings to her own band. Beautiful song. Of course, Judson brought the house down with "William Jennings Bryan", as they usually do. It makes rocking out mandatory.

By the time Torches took their turn, the audience was primed. Riding high from the glowing reaction to their new album, Heads Full Of Rust, and the superlative write ups of their set at last week's Make Music Pasadena, they take the stage with confidence and burst into their first number.

I've watched with a kind of wonder over the last three years as this band has metamorphosed from an indie rock quintet into a psychedelic trio that is both diffused and hard edged at the same time. It seems to be Eric Fabbro's drumming that provides the forward propulsion, while Azad Cheikosman writes the hypnotic melodies for his twinkling guitar and his steady voice and thoughtful lyrics are aided by Bridgette dreamy vocals and prominent bass playing. I always marvel at how they manage to get that shimmering sound as if they were a band of six to eight players.

I love their album and have enjoyed hearing these song be born and watched them mature. Their sets now sound like a series of "hits". As if that wasn't enough, they pulled Kaitlin back on stage to add violin to the final two songs, though sound problems plagued their rendition of "Heads Full Of Rust" the song has such a beauty it came out fine. I'm so happy for this band success, and they have the chops to run with it.

The sea of familiar faces made it one of the most enjoyable nights I've ever spent at The Troubadour. Among the crowd were Seven O'Fourblog, Avi Buffalo, Matthew Ward, my Radio Free Silver Lake co-conspirator Kathryn Pinto, Laura Velez, Matthew Teardrop, Rob Danson, Ryan Fuller, Todd McLaughlin, Ashley Moon, Nic Garcia, Ray Andrew, Doug Kresse, Jason Tovar and so many more, I can't remember. Kevin Bronson of Buzzbands oversaw the night and he should be proud.


(I took the pictures myself, so forgive the occasional blur. I'll get better)