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Leslie and the Lys, Devon Williams at the Echoplex, 3/7/2008

The Church of Glitter. Photos by Rena Kosnett.

For the rest of this review, body glitter = sweat. Iowa’s mainframe zaftig-white-female hip hop star, Leslie Hall, cleaned house at the Echoplex Friday night with her traveling circus act Leslie and the Lys. It looked like a neon fringe and gold lamè factory exploded all over Echo Park.

More than a musician, Leslie Hall is a movement, because Leslie could not do what she does (and she does it so well) at any other time than the present. She exists now as the result of a culture in whiplash from several pop commodity crashes: Suzanne Somers, Jazzercise, heroine-chic, daytime talk shows, the celebutante, Tony Robbins, and, of course, the Bedazzler.

Leslie rapped about being a Midwest Diva (she insists guys like to please those corn-fed girls in their WalMart jeans), killing zombies, and her ass, which she introduced with: “I’d like to sing a song about my butt cheeks. So round, so ripe.” I got the feeling that she wanted to be more sexually explicit than she was, as her hands kept creeping down from rubbing her gold covered belly to rubbing her gold covered groin; but, the good Midwestern girl she is, Leslie restrained herself, as there were several very young kids decked out in glitter and purple leggings at the show, holding up “We Love You Leslie” cardboard signs.

Many more pictures after the jump.

Hall was hilarious. She even made changing her costume an event by enveloping herself in a sheer sparkly fabric tube, which was held up by her lovely deadpan assistants, and then lingering inside it a little longer than necessary to build up anticipation for the new wondrous spandex concoction her mother had whipped up back in Ames (Momma makes all the costumes). Leslie showed her fan appreciation by talking and cooing to the audience (“I’ve had the chance to fall in love with a few of you”) and then calling individual internet superfans onto the stage—one young man walked up wearing a button T and khakis, but then ripped off his square outfit to reveal a glittery black and gold ensemble underneath. Three gem sweater-clad pre-teen girls were put on display for the Gem Sweater Initiation Process, reminiscent of the de-virginization ceremony new audience members have to undergo at the midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. To officially ordain their gem sweaters, the girls had to defend their diva status, kneel in front of Leslie, and then get knocked on their asses as Leslie plowed into them while screaming the newly anointed name of their particular gem sweater, something along the lines of “clover kitten supreme taco truck” (I couldn’t really catch all the words, it was too insane). They were then lightly sprinkled with glitter and given an official sweater certificate.

Honestly, and I mean this without the slightest bit of sarcasm or irony, I cannot think of a single better role model for young girls. She preaches self-confidence, pride in body type, and being completely unashamed of having interests other people might consider lame. (That’s lame, not lamè.)

But, regardless of all that, she gave an amazing performance. She ended her encore with a freakin’ Coin Drop Windmill! As we all know, that’s one of the hardest breakdancing moves out there. When her lovely assistants ran up to her with a sparkling gold robe a là James Brown, which she kept tossing off before she finally acquiesced, I didn’t think it was at all a stretch, aside from it being made out of lycra spandex.

Devon Williams opened for Leslie and the Lys.

Los Angeles’ own Devon Williams opened the night with his backup band, the Allen Bleyle 3. I was elated when Williams played a cover of “Alex Chilton” towards the end of his set, not just because it's a killer song, but specifically because one of the notes I scribbled down in the first few minutes of Williams' playing was “Waiting for Somebody.” The same feeling of whimsical mischief felt when listening to Westerberg’s love song from the 1992 Singles soundtrack is aroused when hearing Williams’ innocent pop guitar and string arrangements. Just as The Replacements sound like the lighthearted black sheep of the early 90s (compositionally, not lyrically) when occasionally/awkwardly lumped into the same category as grunge superpowers Nirvana and Alice in Chains, Williams’ work stands out as effervescent defiance in the face of the indulgent psychadelia that is getting much of the local attention. Spindrift, Entrance, and Devendra Banhart are all acts that I have written about and very much appreciate, but Williams is unique in that he refuses to be another psych-folk-blues musician in Los Angeles. He’s just not having it. Instead, Williams writes refreshingly light tunes tinged with Westerberg-like self deprecation that could have been fitting on the soundtrack of any My So Called Life episode: songs for being distraught, but laughing about it.

I didn’t get to hear my favorite Devon Williams song, “Elevator,” which is played in house music rotation these days at Spaceland, and I’m not sure if that’s because I walked in a bit late or because he has decided he’s had enough of it and won’t play it anymore. I hope it’s not the latter, Mr. Williams, because that is a damn beautiful, nearly perfect song, clearly crafted with precision and dedication.

Devon Williams will be releasing a new record on Ba Da Bing! this April.

Leslie and the Lys, Devon Williams at the Echoplex, 3/7/2008
Leslie and the Lys, Devon Williams at the Echoplex, 3/7/2008
Leslie and the Lys, Devon Williams at the Echoplex, 3/7/2008
Leslie and the Lys, Devon Williams at the Echoplex, 3/7/2008

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