By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
El Gran Silencio hadn’t played Los Angeles in two years, and the sold-out crowd moshed and sang out their pent-up-for-too-long love. By the time the band covered the cumbia standard “Déjame si Estoy Llorando” near the night’s conclusion, there wasn’t a dry eye or shirt in the House. (Gustavo Arellano)
Two factors made this rare Procol Harum apparition solider than the recently veneered Doors: original singer, new material. The gods of storm also conjured an appropriate atmosphere, releasing celestial flash & splash on our unprotected pates after pianist/vocalist Gary Brooker, organist Matthew Fisher and friends had tiptoed around the normally fierce “Bringing Home the Bacon” and cracked open the creepy “Pandora’s Box.” Following an enforced 40-minute retreat, however, Procol charged into their most bombastic epic, “Whaling Stories” (“Lightning struck out fire and brimstone”), rivaling the Olympians for power and glory.
Then came many demonstrations of the essentialist art and craft that made Procol Harum the best classically influenced rock outfit of the ’60s and ’70s: the kingly pace and Keith Reid poetry of “Homburg”; Brooker’s transcendent wail on the soul-abandoned “A Salty Dog”; the pounding, leaping balladry of “As Strong as Samson,” with a beautifully filigreed guitar solo from bushy beanpole Geoff Whitehorn. “Simple Sister”’s heavy lurch could coalesce only via the possessed scatter-thumping of the late B.J. Wilson, so if drummer Mark Brzezicki didn’t drive it, he need not shroud.
Some of the hottest sparks, though, were struck from Procol’s new The Well’s on Fire. “The VIP Room” boosted Brooker into his rudest-ever R&B belt. If you wondered where this band had been, “Shadow Boxed,” with its hooky changes, slingshot bridge and marimba-synth touches, rocked the story in classic fashion. And the sight of white-haired Brooker and bookworm-bent Fisher trading keyboard passes on Fisher’s swelling, radiant instrumental “Weisselklenzenacht” — well, it made you think dignity might be okay again.
A perfectly splendid “A Whiter Shade of Pale” concluded to the accompaniment of resumed pyrotechnics in the eastern sky, and the band bowed off, anointed by rain spatters as dry leaves swirled around them in a warm rising wind. How’d they do that? (Greg Burk)
THE POLYPHONIC SPREE at El Rey, July 30
It’s a telling irony that the Polyphonic Spree — all two dozen of them — draw religious-cult comparisons in part because of their collective onstage ecstasy. After all, wasn’t having fun the essence of rock & roll before commercial hyperawareness reduced bands to joyless teams in a race? Okay, the robes and Godspell-inspired presentation further the Spree’s fanatical façade, but if leader Tim DeLaughter is the Jim Jones of indie rock, then all he’s putting in the Kool-Aid is, uhh, cool. The Polyphonic Spree serve their ’60s-flavored, gently persuasive anthems — evoking the Beatles, Jellyfish and ELO — with an arms-aloft, hair-flailing rapture that triggers a smiling (re)discovery of music’s cathartic pleasures.
After an ecclesiastical organ intro, the Spree parade down the aisle beneath soothing big-screen images, already high on life as they shimmy into stage positions. A flock of first-class, improv-happy musicians — complete with eight-strong chorus — they muster a mosaic depth of field and complex dynamics well beyond the reach of conventional bands (and which their debut album, The Beginning Stages Of, misses miserably). Amid horns, theremin, flute, violin and harp lurks pulsing pop power; DeLaughter, bassist Mark Pirro and drummer Bryan Wakeland, all alumni of alt-rockers Tripping Daisy, provide a foundation of comfy chemistry.
“Hanging Around the Day” is the Polyphonic Spree in microcosm, with Sgt. Pepper’s horns, breezing fields of keys and DeLaughter’s whiny, mid-Atlantic vocals swamped beneath uplifting chorus cascades. And a shriek-inducing balloon drop is an apt metaphor for their kaleidoscopic message of bliss through togetherness. The Polyphonic Spree’s sound, though endearing, is superficial stimulus; it’s their massed spirit that truly infiltrates and imprints upon our hearts and minds. (Paul Rogers)
THE GOSSIP, SLEETMUTE NIGHTMUTE, PARADISE ISLAND at the Echo, August 3
With a line forming before 9 o’clock, it was hard to believe it was a Sunday night on the Eastside, but that’s the kinda love kids have for the Gossip. Support band Sleetmute Nightmute made us pine for the Sapphic icons all the more; angular skronk has its place, but the unsmiling guitarists gazing poker-faced into each other’s eyes as they wokka-wokka’d in repetitive, unmelodic fashion was a little too CalArts. There was sweet relief in a beguilingly warped acoustic set from Paradise Island, who is the singer from Erase Errata.
While the Gossip’s front woman and all-purpose diva Beth Ditto has been flooring fans for a few years now, she got a whole new test of her mettle when Brace Paine’s guitar string broke. To fill the sudden vacuum, she began a rambling monologue trumpeting her delight at being back on the West Coast, offered up some good ol’ bawdiness, an anecdote or two and a bit of mock-flexing, but was never more endearing than when she uttered, “Um, I don’t have anything to say.” As comically springy as Rosie or Roseanne, she was quick to ask, “Are there clubs for fat people? If not, then we should build them?”
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