Hanni El Khatib at Twilight Concert Series
Last night marked another of the free concerts at the Santa Monica Pier as part of the Twilight Concert Series, presented by MySpace on Thursdays this summer. We headed out to see Innovative Leisure singer-songwriter Hanni El Khatib.
See also: Our feature profile on Hanni El Khatib
The wind was heavy, but that didn't deter droves of folks -- thousands, really -- from packing the pier. And navigating the dense patchwork of blankets and bodies on the beach was often worse than traffic on the 405. Still, the atmosphere was friendly and the liquor? Flowing.
After a great opening set by Nigerien guitarist Bombino, who performed cuts from his critically-acclaimed Nonesuch Records debut Nomad, Khatib took the stage with his dark black hair slicked back and sleeves rolled up, exposing his forearm tats.
Accompanied by drummer Ron Marinelli, bassist Adrian Rodriguez, and guitarist / keyboardist Hayden Tobin, Khatib wasted no time with introductions, setting down his beer and picking up his guitar. But before he could play one note, girls in the front of the crowd were screaming his name. The man is easy on the eyes.
While the crowd was amped throughout the set, jumping, rocking, head nodding, and tossing around beach balls, Khatib seemed a bit lackadaisical at first. Sure, his bone-marrow wail was on point. But he seemed stuck in first gear.
Then, out of nowhere, about two-thirds of the way through his set, everything changed. Khatib was all over the place, his movements and guitar playing manic and wild.
The show was divided between tracks from Khatib's debut Will the Guns Come Out and his recently released fantastic follow-up, the Dan Auerbach produced Head in the Dirt. But from our vantage point, it was his high-octane overhaul of "Human Fly" by New York punk band The Cramps that kicked the show into gear. The final act was high-energy -- a blast.
Tobin's keyboard was often the backbone, including on the rollicking, pop-infused "Penny." And Khatib's grinding guitar, especially on tracks like "Fuck It, You Win," was as emotive as his lyrics. The band closed the set with "Family," which felt like a high-speed chase.
See also: Hanni El Khatib's new NSFW video
Though Khatib's brand of stomping, bare knuckles punk and garage rock blues is probably best served in back alley bars with and sawdust covered floors, the band made it work surprisingly well on a summer night at the beach.
Personal Bias: We're fairly big fans all things Innovative Leisure.
The Crowd: Westsiders male and female, young, old, and in-between.
Random Notebook Dump: Despite large yellow signs on the beach clearly indicating no drinking or smoking, there were plenty of both.
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