Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Start Of A Monumental Week: Lavender Diamond at The Echo

I just inadvertently deleted a bunch of my most recent posts, so I'd better get back to writing to fill the gap:

I had planned on not missing the final Lavender Diamond (above) residency night on Monday, September 24th at The Echo because I was not able to attend the earlier ones. When I heard, late Monday afternoon, that Dirt Bird had been added to the bill to open the night, that clinched it. I ran home from work, gobbled down dinner, and headed out to the 8:15 # 02 bus on Sunset which got me to The Echo at 8:55. Of course, the music didn't start until 9:30, but it gave me the opportunity to grab a beer and say hello to Athena and Claire of Dirt Bird and see and touch their astonishing new "Amadeus"-style wigs.

Claire Mckeown happily agreed to pose, out on The Echo patio, to document the event, seen at right. Stunning, huh? Well, I've seen Dirt Bird a few time. they even played  my first Feed Your Head Lot 1 show back in September 2011. But they have become such a tight and highly regarded act in the past few months that it was time to see them again. Claire Mckeown and Athena LeGrand have perfected their art and gave a performance that silenced The Echo audience (hard to do) and held them in rapt attention for the duration of their set.

One might think the particularity of their style might limit the music to a rather small palette. Not so. Though the roots may be in 18th Century Camber Music, when coupled with their pungent, contemporary lyrics they create a whole other bird, which they call "New Renaissance". Both ethereal and caustic, there's something vaguely other-worldly and Miss Havisham-like about their demeanor as they sit on stage in the glowing blue and red lights that play off their elaborate wig-hats. They need cobwebs on the stage. The time-travel aspect of their performance would resonate throughout the entire evening.

The gorgeous dueling soprano vocals weaving around each other like two halves of one voice were showcased in songs like "Lil' Bo Blue", "Cliftons", "Easy" and the title tune off their lovely EP, Summer Night Hours. I can't recommend this act highly enough, simply as an example of the huge range of styles we have here in this flowering music community.

Next up was Diva, who appeared buried in chiffon, to take us on a meditative journey out into deep space. She instructed the audience to begin by relaxing our entire bodies, piece by piece, until we felt able to rise as one whole unit through the roof of The Echo and out into the night sky. We continued on up until we passed beyond our own Solar System, out into the outer reaches, kind of like the slab in 2001. Bringing us back to earth, Diva then doffed the chiffon to reveal a costume not unlike something Carmen Miranda might wear and proceeded to sing some unusual song accompanied by pre-recorded music tracks.

The intention was clear. Becky Stark wanted the audience in a relaxed and open- minded state in order to receive Lavender Diamond directly into our souls. But when the music is as gorgeous and as moving as the new material from Lavender Diamond's latest album (released today) Incorruptible Heart, she needn't have worried.

After a couple of song where her vocals were a bit too soft, the sound mix was corrected and allowed Becky's voice to soar over the band. Last night, more than ever, I noticed the similarity of her pure, crystalline voice to that of Judy Collins or Julie Andrews. A voice that seems completely unaffected and as natural as a mountain stream.

With a backing band assembled from previous band members and a few new faces they progressed through a program that included songs bound to become my favorites. From "Everybody's Heart's Breaking Now" to "Oh My Beautiful World" and especially "All The Stars" in which Becky literally has to stand back from the mike and let her pearly tones ring out, so she won't break the mike or shatter glasses.

Still entertaining the audience with her gift for humor, the between song banter is as much fun as the music itself, but she seems to reign herself in so as not to break the mood with too much talk. the entire night was enchanting and what better way to start the week.

Tonight I get to contrast that with the concert by Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra at The Fonda. From tranquility to perversion. I love it!

photos by Brad Roberts

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