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
“I can make it.”
It was a mercifully slow day — only a few altitude-sick tourists stumbling around on deck — so my boss let me go, cautioning me to be careful.
The fastest way down was by the Riva Ridge run, 4.5 miles top to bottom, mostly expert terrain. I wasn’t necessarily an expert skier at the time, but I acted like one that day, making long, giant slalom turns and keeping my speed as high as possible, dangling on the edge of out-of-control, hoping the ski patrol wouldn’t flag me down. Then again, maybe they’d understand and provide an escort.
I got to the office in time. I remember Ray Charles as being incredibly gracious with his time and energy during the interview. (The Vail Trail wasn’t exactly big-time, and he didn’t need us to sell tickets.) The thing that stuck with me was his memory of sight — Charles didn’t fully lose his sight until he was 7 — and what a difficult thing that must have been to live with. More difficult, it would seem, than losing a limb. But when you’ve been hit upside the head with poverty, watching your brother drown in a bathtub (the 5-year-old Charles was too small to pull him out) and the Jim Crow South, maybe blindness is a blessing because you can’t see what’s coming next.
And maybe these were some of the experiences that made him The Genius, the genius I couldn’t possibly fathom in the context of our small interview. But I did feel it. Even on the phone I could feel it.
When we were done, he told me to come see him after the show.
“How will you know it’s me?” I asked.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I’ll know.”
at the Knitting Factory, June 18
There’s something about the manicured lawns, glistening malls and perfect weather of Orange County that breeds wide-eyed pop-punk bands who look like they’ve never witnessed one bad thing in their lives. Closely resembling their O.C. (frat) brothers Something Corporate, Melee have the lovably eccentric semi-nerd front dude; some truly world-class, harmony-heady songs; and Billy Joel/Ben Folds–ish keys-based compositions, all presented with the grinning Prozac glaze of suburban pageant entries.
Tonight Melee are playing at home, for a magazine-sponsored party at which half the attendees are band buddies. When they open, as on the about-to-be-released Everyday Behavior, with “Got It All” and “New Day,” one thing’s immediately apparent: The disc’s production doesn’t do them justice. Everyday Behavior can make Melee sound like dated, overly sincere college rock à la Gin Blossoms, but under the somewhat informal conditions of the Knitting Factory’s bar, the ragged edges lend an authenticity and a sense of irreverence to some potentially chummy tunes.
Main man Chris Cron (who handles lead vocals, guitar and keys) might be the lost member of Britain’s Royal Family, grinning his way through compositions that match recent pop-punk panache with weighty ’70s singer-songwriter chops, and strutting into the crowd, mock arena style, when released from microphone duties. Cron’s warm, vibratoed delivery (bizarrely resembling that of Silverchair’s Daniel Johns) survives and thrives in the live environ, and matters are kept moist by guitarist Rick Sanberg’s relentless sub-Santana countermelodies and bassist Ryan Malloy’s hook-defining harmonies.
Everything adds up: mature songwriting skills meeting youthful zeal and a salable Warped Tour veneer. Melee should be irresistible, yet their in-joke, playing-to-our-friends presentation suggests they won’t yet resonate much beyond college campuses and SoCal all-agers. (Paul Rogers)
CALIFONE, REBECCA GATES
at Spaceland, June 18
You may recall Rebecca Gates as the singer/guitarist for the Spinanes — the energetic, trèstwee guitar-and-drums duo on mid-’90s Sub Pop. Indeed, before Belle and Sebastian’s sullen, sexy pop came along, the Spinanes ruled the radio waves of Clinton-era liberal-arts campuses everywhere. Oh, but how times have changed. Tonight, Gates’ performance was nothing short of a snooze attack. Accompanied occasionally by a keyboardist/cellist, Gates serenaded Spaceland’s restless crowd with her husky coo while ho-hum-strumming a cycle of reverb-and-tremolo-drenched chord progressions . . . for well over an hour. If she’d pounded a quadruple espresso, devised a shorter set list or added a few more players, both her songs and her audience would have been greatly invigorated. Here’s hoping she was just having an off night.
Califone (featuring Tim Rutili, formerly of Red Red Meat) played a brilliant set of American folk music, uniquely melding the atmospheric grandeur of Pink Floyd with the narcoleptic vibe of Massive Attack’s trip-hop. Surrounded by a wealth of pedal effects and flanked by two drummers and a second multi-instrumentalist, Rutili often sang, played organ and plucked slide guitar all at the same time. The band improvised soundscapes that acted as segues between heavily reworked versions of songs from their albums Sometimes Good Weather Follows Bad People and Quicksand/Cradlesnakes. However, sound problems drove even devoted listeners to plug their ears or leave early — a piercing squall of banjo and violin placed too high in the mix buried Rutili’s vocals through most of the performance. Which was a damn shameful thing to do to Califone’s music, which can be intimate, expansive and even awe-inspiring. (Arlie John Carstens)