Saturday, March 31, 2007

Field Trip! San Francisco- Apples in Stereo, Casper and the Cookies, and the Explorers Club @ the Independent Friday March 23, 2007

Right. I know. This is in San Francisco, however had I been in LA on Thursday night instead of driving the I-5 up North I would have been at Spaceland watching Apples in Stereo, but instead I saw them Friday night at the Independent up in San Francisco.

For all the differences made between Northern California and Los Angeles, I’ll admit that the crowds really were not that different from each other. Boys in faded old t-shirts with obscure band names and girls in footless tights with oversized cinched waist dresses packed themselves in a space made to feel larger by its high ceilings. The drinks pricey, and more ‘diet’ than ‘whiskey’ in mine. Also, I’ve found that I’ve become spoiled by The Echo and its smoking patio. Every time we wanted to step outside we had to maneuver through the incoming crowd out to the front of the club and then fish out ids on the way back in; thankfully by the fourth trip outside the door guys remembered our faces.

The Explorers Club, hyped by a friend of mine as sounding “like the Beach Boys” proved to be entertaining and sometimes did, in fact, resemble the musical stylings of their obvious musical influence. I believe there was six guys in the band and about five of them sang doing different harmonies at the same time, and pulled it off, which I would think should register as ‘hard to do’. They had energy and ended the set with a dancing frenzy rendition of “Johnny B. Goode”. However this level of enjoyment for the evening seemed to peter off right about here…

Casper and the Cookies. No, really that’s the name of the second band and yes, they realize it’s dumb, however “they don’t give a fuck”. To cope with the unnatural glam rock induced stream of hippie indie rock before us, it was decided that this band could be watchable if we pretended we were watching outtakes from This Is Spinal Tap 2. It worked for about 5 minutes then we walked away.

Apples in Stereo always came off to me as catchy, poppy fun songs you could drive around the country on a Sunday and listen to, or make cupcakes; something like that. Now I find that the music’s been stretched to try and fit into a very broad commercial category and that does not come off well live. The performance was a bit stiff and the songs, well, unfortunately the songs started to blend together and start to sound the same. I also miss the boy/girl harmony that is now lacking due to the departure of drummer Hilarie Sidney, who now resides in the band the High Water Marks. Sigh. Just not that exciting now.

Ah well. So, there may be future field trips planned for shows in Portland and possibly Tom Jones in Vegas. I know you are ALL interested to know about that.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

You Can Never Have Enough Keyboards- Oh No! Oh My! @ the Echo Saturday February 24, 2007

Austin just keeps bringing the good music lately. If it wasn’t for Texas’ crazy “shoot trespassers at will” laws and no basement in the Alamo, I’d highly consider that a place to move to. Oh No! Oh My! are yet another band that confirms my jealousy of this town.

I’m only going to review ONOM due to the amount of time I let lapse between seeing the show and me forgetting all the other bands that played with them. (I seem to be confusing a Bodies of Water show’s opening acts with who actually appeared this night. But I’ve been super busy, so let’s just let this slip this one time.)

First, Oh No! Oh My! packed the stage with enough people and equipment that one got the feeling of the stage collapsing in on itself every time someone jumped up and down, which was a lot. From what I’ve gathered, there are only 3 people actually in the band, and when they tour they ask friends/musicians to come along and play with them. Just to give you a glimpse as to crazy amount of instruments on stage, here is a sampling: guitars, drums, banjos, accordions, tambourines, bells, stomping feet, and keyboards, HOLY MOTHER OF GOD so many keyboards. Myself and a fellow keyboard enthusiast (read: nerds) where almost drooling all of ourselves at the Farfisa.

Instantly when they started playing everyone began to bop along to the music. A few of their songs are pretty popular on the indie circuit (“Walk in the Park”, “I Have No Sister”), but even I’m not sure where I actually heard of them first. Anyways, these guys are so full of energy and are fun to watch perform. It seems like the crowd feeds off them and they feed off the crowd and it becomes one big feeding frenzy of energy and catchy melodies that make you want to throw your hands up and dance silly, which they also do on stage.

I couldn’t help beaming; my face was on the verge of splitting in two right where the TMJ in my jawbones resides. ONOM’s music is happy without being sugary, electronic without wanting you to kick the kid with the glow sticks, and hip enough to pack the Echo to capacity. Oh, but there is that slight discrepancy between their live and their recorded music. The album’s liner notes say that it was made in their bedroom, so I guess trying to fit all that equipment into someone’s boudoir is a feat best left up to a magician of some sorts. The album comes off sounding a bit quieter and more stripped down. But I’m not reviewing the album, I’m reviewing the concert. And the concert was good.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Anything But Scary: Grizzly Bear @ the Troubadour February 21, 2007

For some reason I was positive that Grizzly Bear actually came from the Great White North, but Brooklyn? Well, maybe I'll just pretend they're from Canada (please note that is NOT a knock on Brooklyn).

Tonight for whatever reason, the Troubadour decided that they were going to allow myself and a friend to grace the upstairs VIP room that overlooks the entire stage without toes being stepped on or sweaty hipster corduroy pressing against my back... This night was going to be awesome!

The first two bands we actually watched on tvs stationed around the bar between sips of whiskey while we lounged on couches. It was a bit disorienting to be watching tv when you could hear the music from the band you're watching come drifting up the dimly lit stairway in the corner. But why make the effort when you can kick back with your feet up.

The whole mood of the night was incredibly laid back. I would almost say lazy, except I think I would be doing the music of Grizzly Bear an injustice.

The performance bordered on trance-like melodies and howls that I swear you would only find out in the subzero tundras up to the north. The howls however were more than mere occurances. Whole songs rested solely from the gutteral oohs and ahhs that singers Edward Droste and Daniel Rossen (who is the other half in Department of Eagles, who you should check out after finishing this post) would moan out to the audience. Surprisingly enough, these translate well both live and recorded (check out Yellow House).

On another note, being the drum geek that I am, I couldn't help but notice the interesting set up. NO BASS DRUM. It took a good stare before I finally figured out what was different. It worked though; a bass may have broken the soft swells of percussion.

It's very rare that nights out at clubs make you want to curl up with some cocoa and go watch a snowfall illuminated by moonlight. Usually by the end of the night you're scrambling to locate where you've tossed your Motrin and possibly your phone. But Grizzly Bear creates a dreamy low-fi lullabye that you can't help but want them to sing to you as you drift off to sleep.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Did You See the Drummer's Hair? The Ettes @ Spaceland and the Scene, Jan. 27th and February 10th 2007

Technically this should be two posts, but I’m rushing and mainly I was only going to talk about this one band, The Ettes anyways, so there.

At Spaceland, January 27th 2007, I arrived expecting to go sit in the backroom and wait through the usual opening bands (gross generalization here, but wait) until The Black Lips came on. I quite enjoy their mishmash of poppy rocky folky sing-a-longs and shout-a-longs, and I heard one time they pissed on each other on stage. However, once there, we were tipped to go and check out this one band, The Ettes- “Dude, you need to go see the drummer. Crazy.”


This three piece female fronted garage band on Sympathy Records puts many a bands to shame right now. They capture the hard distorted sounds common with many bands in this genre, but add some 60’s chick rock to balance it all out. And you can dance to it. (At this point I’ll just mention that The Black Lips played a good set from what I saw, no pissing though, and we ended up leaving before they were done cause it was obvious no stage pranks were going to happen.)

The tip we received about going to see the drummer was dead on too, she’s fucking awesome. Her speed alone makes you hold your breath to see if a) she’ll lose tempo b) she’ll have a heart attack c) the drum kit will just go flying in 4 different directions OR d) all of the above.

They’re pretty consistent too. The second time I saw them, February 10th at the Scene in Glendale, they were the headlining band that night. This was also the night of my first Burlesque show. I don’t know what I was expecting as far as half naked chicks shaking gold boobie tassels at me, but the bored looks on some of these girls’ faces was not it. Where were the giant bubbles and feathers?

Anyways, the first band to go on, Rocket, was…um. Well, if you pooled a bunch of 13 year old girls and let them run hog wild in Hot Topic and then gave them instruments and said, “Be punky”, then I think you would have this band. The highlight being that a joke was told by a friend that, “This is the type of band that would have a song called ‘Too Cool For School’..” and then shortly after they actually played a song with those words.

The second band, The Affair, were much more tolerable. For some reason I kept being reminded of Interpol, if Interpol was led by a girl. Or maybe I’m completely wrong cause then they switch to sounding kinda like Blondie and 60’s girl pop when I re-listen to them. Whatever, I liked them.

I’m realizing this post is starting to go incredibly long, so I’ll wrap it up. The Ettes played and rocked again. This time the crowd was much more focused on them, as opposed to the Spaceland show. AND there was even an encore.

The only down-ish side to them is the album, which is completely listenable except that when compared to their live set, it seems a bit overproduced, which is sad. To experience them one must go to a show… and they’re massively touring right now so there’s no excuse NOT to see them. They’ll be back in L.A. on March 30th, I think it might be a retirement party for someone at Sympathy but I’m not sure. Regardless, go see them.