[For more images of the Crocodiles show see Timothy Norris' slideshow "Crocodiles, Tamaryn @ The Echo".]
Where: The Echo
[Originally posted 1/29/2011]
Last night a line of hopefuls procrastinators stretched down Sunset Boulevard to get into the Echo. They had waited too long to buy their Crocodiles tickets and were now grumpily eying those who slipped in front of them to pick up their tickets at will call. It was so bad, that I wished I could smuggle one of them in under my coat, but that would probably lead to petty jealousies and unrest. Not to mention it would be hard to explain the four feet under my coat to security.
However, once inside I had my million dollar idea. I would create a flare gun that you could shoot from the back patio that would light up the night sky with the words "Don't worry. You're not missing anything." Like a bat signal to those who were sure that they were missing out on the time of their lives. Patent is pending.
And they weren't. On stage in the blue half light, the vague shapes of Tamaryn were playing a set that made the crowd sway slowly back and forth hypnotically. This was not rock. This was not dance music. This was what some critics call dark gaze or gothic dream pop, but what I know as the time honored "study music." As in the kind of music you put on when you want to focus on something else, but want something playing in the background. Pretty music to ignore while you're attention is on something more important. Something that guarantees you won't start singing along.
Tamaryn has that in spades. Sleepy, dusty guitars growled while the lead singer made unintelligible, lovely sounds and looked at us meaningfully from under her thick bangs. At least I think it was meaningful, it was very dark. Whenever the drummer was given more freedom and notched it up from a drag to a crawl, people in the crowd would make a few desperate attempts at a nodding dance move, before giving up. This was not the band you wanted to hear on a Friday night after a long week at work. Cutting loose was not in their repertoire. In fact it was a miracle that there weren't more couples passed out asleep on the couches at the edge of the room. (There were only two.)
All of the cobwebs that had collected on the crowd were shaken off as soon as the Crocodiles took the stage. The duo of Brandon Welchez and Charles Rowell has grown to include a bassist, keyboardist, and most mercifully a drummer. They've come a long way from the drum machine, one guitar, and one mic act that graced the Troubadour two years ago around the time their debut Summer of Hate came out. That sketchy idea of what a they should sound like has been fully fleshed out with the addition of the new members. They've grown into a force to be reckoned with.
The set was a combination of their two albums with their latest single "Sleep Forever" kicking things off. All eyes in the house were on front man Welchez as he strangled the mic base and let out a few whoops. He is everything you'd want in a front man. Never still, Welchez spent the set violently jerking his body around like a man possessed, often with his fists pounding the air around him. There was no mistaking his passion, which was equaled by Rowell's fuzzy, dark guitar solos that created a menacing wall of sound.
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The lyrics match this sinister sound with an air of desperate malaise. Words like "I can't stand it! I can't stand it!" and "All the kids sing swan songs. All the kids sing along with me. I want to kill tonight." wrap around the audience's ears and send comforting signals that they are not alone in their dissatisfaction with the way life is going thus far. This is music that is built for the youth that are coming to terms with the fact that their futures are not as bright as they once thought. That what was promised to the generation before them, might not happen for them. It is a release of that tension that we carry around with us in this recession. It is a relief.
The evening ended with a guest appearance by Welchez' wife, the great Dee Dee of the Dum Dum Girls. In a black hooded jacket, she sang a rousing cover of the Misfits "Last Caress." There was no encore. It was a short set that ended almost as quickly as it began, but everyone looked much more relaxed after it was over. As if it was a cathartic exercise at the end of the week, a reassurance that music is the cure (if a temporary one) for what ails you.