Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Haunted Summer - Amoeba Music (Sep. 10, 2013) El Rey (Sep. 14, 2013)

It's been difficult to keep up with Haunted Summer this summer as they've been courted to play dates up and down the coast, even opening for The Polyphonic Spree during some of the California shows on their latest tour. That's why I made doubly certain not to miss the record release in-store set at Amoeba Music on Tuesday, September 10, as they're about to do a couple of shows with Cœur de pirate, like on Saturday night (Sept. 14) at El Rey. Soon after that they take off for a Parisian honeymoon, yes, John and Bridgette are getting married!

I made sure to get there early enough to connect with them before the show. And connect we did! Johnny came out and got me and took me up to see the Green Room at Amoeba which is quite a nice space for the bands to relax in before going on stage. At seven we all trooped down the stairs, me to the audience, the band to the stage. They proceeded to play one of the most fully realized sets I've seen from them yet.

The event was to perform songs from, and to celebrate the release of, their first EP "Something In The Water". It's been fun to watch the development of songs like "All Around", "Young Enough", and "1996" from semi-improvisational studies in sound and distortion into comprehensible compositions. "Something In The Water" is still obscure and scary, but I think that's the way they want it.

With Daniel Goldblatt on drums and Augustus Green on bass, the band now numbers four and they have coalesced into a four-piece unit that is evolving with a clearly defined sound. The addition of the drums and bass have anchored the more ethereal sounds generated by John and Bridgette, with a formidable low end making the music move steadily forward.

With an audience made up of many friends, it had a bit of the reunion feeling to it, and they were warmly appreciated by the rest of the crowd. I even managed to finagle a couple of free shows out of the evening with Jacob Dylan Summers inviting me to the Avid Dancer set on the following night, Sept 11, at Bootleg, and John and Bridgette invited me to attend their El Rey set on Saturday. Have I ever said I love this town?

On Saturday night, Haunted Summer was back from playing an opening set for Cœur de pirate in San Francisco the night before and they were all still understandably tingly from the experience and the long drive down the coast to make this date. I met them in the front foyer of the theatre and was, again, whisked up to the Green Room, but this time it was the El Rey theatre. A place where I have seen so many venerated bands that I love, that I felt a little dizzy. It was a bit of a shock to see how small the actual stage of El Rey is, and how it looks so much bigger from out in the auditorium.

Johnny Seasons has brought me into so many remarkable places that I would never have had access to in order to gain the perspective that I've been able to accumulate over the past few years that I'll always be grateful. This was another one. Much of the tour personnel was weary and punch-drunk from being up for so many hours

Rufo Chan was the victim of too many candid photographers after he simply collapsed from exhaustion (at right), having just driven the band for eight hours, back to L.A. Jason Tovar was still standing as tour manager, and spoke word artist, Scott Schultz, back from Boston and Jack Gibson (Tenlons Fort), back from Austin, made up part of the celebratory spirit of the whole night.

We all spilled out into the the theatre when the time came for Haunted Summer to hit the stage. With a program that was substantially the same as the set at Amoeba, the revelation was hearing it in the gigantic dimensions of the El Rey, with all the atmospheric lighting and cathedral-like ambiance of the hall itself.

 I wandered about the venue all during the set in order to experience it from many different vantage points in regard to sound and visuals.The vocal mix was best at a greater distance as Bridgette's voice was somewhat under emphasised at first. Overall the sound was good, although when I was by the sound booth, I could see the technicians were a little perplexed at what exactly they were hearing. But for the most part the sound was just right.

It ended up being a delightful night, spent with good friends and thoroughly enjoying each other's company. I feel like a very lucky individual.


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