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)

1 comment:

Rose Marie said...

Great article about Judson, et al, at The Troubadour. It was a fabulous night of music. All musicians were on their A game. The audience was enthralled and so enthusiastic....a truly great evening. You've captured the evening very well!