|Photo by Jason Amos|
LIFT TO EXPERIENCE at the Silver Lake Lounge, June 29, and at the Derby, June 30
Talk about cojones: These boys opened with "Kashmir." Is there really anything to add? Okay, here: A guitar-bass-drums trio from Denton, Texas, going onstage at 7:15 p.m. on a Saturday night; that stage being in a small, hole-in-the-hood Silver Lake bar not particularly suited to magnificence; playing to a hundred or so folks -- some club regulars, some bar regulars, some AA-meeting-next-door spillover, some just curious, almost none familiar with the band. Think about it a sec: choosing to cover Led Zeppelin, the most popular rock & roll band of all time -- and not just any song by that band, but "Kashmir," for crissakes, easily Zep's most massive, exotic track -- and not just cover it in the middle of the set, or as an encore, but as an opener, as something you're gonna have to try and follow.
And it's a genius move. If you're a (relatively) young band playing to an unfamiliar, alien (and jaded L.A.) audience, opening your set with "Kashmir" certainly gets attention. And if you can seam it into an instrumental cover of one of your own songs -- as LtE did the first night, seguing into "Just Was Told" -- you're showing a staggering amount of confidence and ambition. Then again, it's not likely you'd have a problem getting a response in the first place, looking how you do: that is, with a horned bull skull stage center, a Texas flag draped over the bass amp; Josh (The Bear) Browning -- a bass throbber of burly frame, serious beardage and eyes-closed concentration; Andy Young, a drummer with the build of the sturdiest steak house either side of the Rio Grande, leaning forward on the stool Keith Moonlike, switching between mallets, drumsticks and handclaps, cymbals in perpetual perpendicularity; and Josh T. Pearson, a gangly, scraggly-haired guitarist-vocalist in biker Nudiewear and bracelets, wearing a cowboy hat ringed by thorns.
And then there's your music, introduced periodically as being from your album, which is about the final battle between Good and Evil that will occur in the Promised Land, which, you remind us, is actually Texas. Cue guffaw track from the local agnostics, followed by open-mouthed, slow-headbanging awe, as they realize you artist-mystics mean it in the deepest way. The rhythm is muscular, spacious, dynamic; the guitar is meditative, gossamer drone parted by noise mass and riff shapes; and the vocals, when they finally come, are uniquely full and rich -- triumphant yet resigned -- sung in a beautiful voice of steady comfort.
When you open that Saturday-night show at that little bar on Sunset, you're standing below a neon sign that says "Salvation." You can't lose. By the time you finish Sunday night's Derby show with an epic rendition of your debut, double-disc concept album's 10-minute-plus apoclimactic closer "Into the Storm," you've made a missionary-zealot pout of everyone. After all, you are the most exciting, fully formed art-rock band to bow since Sigur Rós.
You're the kind of band that can follow Zeppelin.
PUFFY AMI YUMI, IRVING, THE BLOKES
at Spaceland, July 5
Puffy Ami Yumi
Photo by Gergory Bojorquez
The most resilient rocker in Hollywood, Ken Andrews hasn't had much luck since he broke up his underrated original band, Failure. And if his post-Failure synth-popsters On never lived up to their promise, Andrews got quickly back in the saddle with the Blokes, peddling deceptively straight-ahead grunge-groove that the early arrivals at Spaceland dug -- even if they didn't know it yet.
With their grainy, paisley-tinged power-pop and Strokes-like shag cuts, Irving got tonight's crowd -- an incongruous mix of Japanese tourists and hipsters with yellow fever -- loose of limb and game for all things retro. The band's strum-a-lumma vibe was pitch-perfect, but Irving proved capable of ratcheting up the fare to Sgt. Pepper levels, as they did with "El Cid," a winsome bit of whimsy from their forthcoming LP.
Correcting their Western image problem one gig at a time, Puffy Ami Yumi wasted no time dispelling the myths that they are 1) a Japanese version of the Spice Girls; 2) that they are some unintentionally hilarious Pink Lady & Jeffstyle novelty act. Cofront woman Yumi Yoshimura charmed our sox off by reading a handwritten note in broken English and hastily adding, "We . . . hope . . . you . . . like . . . this." While "huge in Japan" doesn't mean much on this side of the Pacific, Puffy's high-octane blast of dumb-rock superfun has no problem translating. By singing nearly the entire set in their native tongue, they not only shatter the notion that English is the language of rock & roll, they're recycling American pop idioms and selling 'em right back to our kitsch-worshipping asses in the process. And with all the devil-horn flashing going on between the band and the crowd, you have to wonder who's making fun of whom. (Andrew Lentz)