26 March, 2011

Opal - "Happy Nightmare, Baby"

I was introduced to this album around 1989...I wasn't sure at first to make of it. I knew I liked it, but I couldn't define it. I was completely oblivious to the whole paisley underground that emerged out of L.A. Well, to say I was completely unaware of it is a little misleading, I knew many of the bands associated with the scene, Redd Kross, Rain Parade, Dream Syndicate - but I didn't know they were from a flock of new and burgeoning musical directions. As my appreciation grew, so did my desire to find more... unfortunately, their release as Clay Allison was already obscure, and forget about trying to find the singles; truth is, you were lucky to find anyone who even knew who Opal were even at music showcases. This album stands in contrast to their other material because it embodies a more psychedelic and acid-tinged feel, whereas Early Recordings and the aforementioned singles drew from a more folk/hippie environment. Where Early Recordings may be an inspiration to new folk acts like Devendra Banhart or Vetiver, Happy Nightmare, Baby would be more appealing to bands such as The Black Angels or Sleepy Sun. It's hard to imagine that the relationships in the band were tumultuous, but given the abrupt end of the tour in support of this album - it seems it was exactly that. There is a lot of isolation in the vocal delivery as well as the lyrics through the album; musically it suggests you are somewhere you shouldn't be contemplating things you probably shouldn't do. Imagine the madcap whimsy of Syd Barrett and layer that with Jefferson Airplane.. it's a warm embrace, but the warmth is likely that from your own blood. Perhaps that sounds macabre or maddening... I am not suggesting that Happy Nightmare, Baby is the equivalent of swallowing a bottle of valium and slitting open your wrists. I am however attempting to paint a picture that illustrates the mood, the attitude, and delivery that not only embodies Opal, but also Opal's successor, Mazzy Star. Jellyfish, Redd Kross, Rainy Day, Susanna Hoffs - they belong to a paisley underground that wants you to enjoy the fragrance of the flowers and bask in the brilliance of being carefree and probably naked. Opal, on the otherhand doesn't look so good naked - is quite ashamed of itself; pretty much hates itself; hates you for noticing it; likes b & w photos of flowers; and would rather tear-ass across a field of daisies in a '69 GTO than a birthday suit. Did I paint a picture here, or was this my worst attempt at a review yet? ;Did I mention that I love this album? I do. If you knew me, you'd know I like all that mopey shit.

23 March, 2011

Vetiver, 22 March, 2011

Clearly - this night was a stark contrast to the previous night. We met two older ladies outside of the Social, and they talked about one of the opening acts, apparently she's the daughter of Arlo Guthrie and grew up on stage with him performing. The bands started rather promptly - which was quite a surprise... all 40 of us in the club were in for an intimate show. To say the opening band sucked would be a mischaracterization - but they heavily borrowed from traditional folk music and rock ala Neil Young. Members of Vetiver accompanied the group for about 2/3 of their songs, and they measured from standard fare to outright South-Western Desert Rock (a term I have coined to describe Los Lobos, The Sidewinders and Sand Rubies).

Vetiver came out and presented the crowd with their pleasing fare of Indie Folk, and if it had ever been muddled in my head the difference between traditional folk and indoe folk, it was quickly evident after but a few seconds into Vetiver's set.

As usual, The Social provided perfect sound. Vocals were strong and emotive, and not since Bill Callahan had I felt inspired creatively during a show. Vetiver invited 'the Guthrie' and friend back onstage to perform a couple of songs, it was enough to inspire two young lesbians to pull people out onto the dance floor. The show ended with high energy, and oddly early.
Another amazing show at The Social, and I will see Vetiver again.

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, 21 March, 2011

I haven't been so excited for a show since Gogol Bordello, 2 years ago. My anticipation was over-the-top because not only was I going to see Sharon Jones, but I was seeing Sharon Jones at The Beacham. In my days of musicing - we played The Beacham twice, and both shows were incredible. Walking in through the foyer, it looked comfortably familiar, but entering the main hall was like coming home after college, everything was just as I remembered it.

We took a position at the front of the stage and refused to budge. We were immediately accosted by a "dude" touting the splendour that was Sharon Jones. I was happy just to find the boxset I missed out on, this guy took a train to Rhode Island to see her when she cancelled her only Florida date last year. He then began spreading his gospel to the people filling in around us, and that left us to enjoy the show.

Up first was Peter Baldwin, and he was the vocalist in the 3-piece (sans drummer) band. It was immediately that we realized we had an issue. Standing right up on the stage - everything except the vocals were crystal clear - the vocals were going thru the PA system which projected out into the venue and left us hearing only what was bouncing off the walls. That sucked. We had to decide whether we wanted to be close to SJ, or hear SJ. We decided on close. The Dap Kings played, then the two back-up singers each came out and performed a song. The energy was building to a fevered pitch when Sharon Jones emerged and immediately exuded a wall of tireless excitement. She danced and sang like a women possessed by Tazmanian devils. The band was tight and strong, and provided a foundation from which Sharon Jones was drawing her strength. She consistently pulled women and men on stage exciting the crowd to near orgasmic fervor. It truly was a surreal experience being so close to such a dynamo; I could smell her perfume, I was that close - and more amazingly - I felt her waves of energy pushing out into the crowd like waves, and the rush of that passion as it returned to it's source. I will she her again, but next time I will do so from a distance only because I felt robbed in not hearing her voice.

If The Beacham wants to sustain this time around, the $6.50 dixie cup liquor needs to go, and they need to find a way to accomodate the die-hard fans who not only want to be as close as possible to their idols, but they want to remember the show as without flaw. Otherwise, it's a great story, probably a great photo - but you won't have that audible memory that took your breath away.

15 March, 2011

Dum Dum Girls - The Social, 12 March, 2011

There were high hopes for this show. I had only recently discovered this all-girl band from California. I was lucky enough to get an original pressing of their debut LP and score the limited cassette through Sub Pop...so needless to say - I was full of anticipation. Doors opened timely, which was surprising, but the first band, Dirty Beaches, did not get started until 9:30.

Dirty Beaches was a one-man effort, Alex Zhang Hungtai to be more specific. From looks alone, which consisted of James Dean walking off the set of Twin Peaks, Maisy surmised we were about to be crooned. She was spot on with her assumption. Crooning may be too elegant a description for what we experienced. If Julee Cruise was an angry Asian male - she'd been standing on stage at The Social this night. Alex employed loop effects to deliver the soundscape, and layered that with his voice and guitar. The effect was absolutely mesmerizing. The only disappointment was (in retrospect)... he didn't play for the remaining three hours we were there. Little did we know Dirty Beaches was setting the precipice by which all other bands on the bill would fail to reach.

La Sera was second on the line-up. I'd call them an indie band, but nothing about them made them unique.Though proficient and solid as a band, they simply didn't manage to impress me. None of the songs connected with me lyrically or musically. The crowd seemed to enjoy them well enough, but for me personally, they played too long. I may simply be too old to appreciate this band.

Tennis was the third band on the bill. Apparently Tennis' roots are in Marathon, Florida, and it sounded like it. I imagine Marathon as sleepy, boring, and forgetable.This was a three-piece that had a tiny pixie at the helm and was keyboard-guitar-drum driven. Though significantly more impressive musically than Tennis - I still felt disconnected from them. I'd measure half the crowd as being here to see this band. Two of the songs would be something I'd own, but amid the blandness that was the rest of it - I'd rather pass. Their set was too long as well.

Finally, the Dum Dum Girls. While I will admit they looked amazing, and out-performed the previous two bands, they certainly didn't sound amazing. I was looking for the indie/lo-fi 60's girl-group pop revivalists I adored from their studio releases. What we received was a heavy dose of an indie band burning at both ends. I don't know if it's their standard fare, but they was zero chemistry between the members, and the hot mess that was the bassist looked like she was ready to walk at the drop of a hat. My favorite songs were nearly unrecognizable because the bass was too heavy, the vocals were too lifeless, and the delivery so aggressive. I imagined a band that played pop songs to be the life of the party - but all I felt was that even if one of these girls would give me the time of day, they'd stab me afterwards and then talk bad about me to my friends. The only mesmerizing aspect to watching the Dum Dum Girls performance was the energy and playing style of their drummer. She was absolutely captivating.

I'd go see Dirty Beaches again in a heartbeat. The rest of the bill - not on your life. Even the new material that the Dum Dum Girls presented was done so in such a poor fashion, I can't even envision buying their new e.p. This was the first of four shows we have this month, I hope it doesn't set a precedent.

11 March, 2011

Disc Exchange- "Ralph's Stupid Crap"

Ralph and I exchanged our discs today. Not sure what he's going to think of his, the only comment he had upon receiving it was, "I don't know any of these bands except Muddy Waters." I maybe went to obscure? Hopefully not. All Ralph really knows of my tastes are that I like Gary Numan and don't like Elbow - so I'd say he had the bigger challenge between us. He did however turn out an awesome disc filled with post-punk and new wave gems. I will cherish this for a long time and given that he used an archival 300-year disc, I can rest assured that I can still enjoy it on my deathbed, and my childern, grandchildren, great grandchildren, great great... and so on and so forth can do the same.

Here's the setlist for, Ralph's Stupid Crap:
1. Simple Minds - Theme For Great Cities
2. Clearlake - Almost THe Same (Never heard of this band but I loved the song)
3. French Kicks - Oh Fine
4. Killing Joke - Adorations
5. Magazine - Back To Nature
6. Ocean Colour Scene - Up On The Downside (I've tried to get into this band on more than once occasion, and just can't.)
7. XTC - This World Over
8. Sneaker Pimps - Superbug
9. The Chameleons - Swamp Thing
10. The Cinematics - A Strange Education
11. The Jam - Scrape Away
12. Supergrass - Prophet 15
13. The Temper Trap - Sweet Disposition
14. Ultravox - Slow Motion
15. Wire - In Vivo (Under recoginized and under appreciated band!)
16. The Posies - For The Ashes
17. God Is An Astronaut - From Dust To The Beyond