Puro Instinct (with So Many Wizards) at the Echoplex: Live Review

Skylar Kaplan of Puro Instinct
Skylar Kaplan of Puro Instinct
Leslie Kalohi

What: Puro Instinct (formerly Pearl Harbor) with So Many Wizards

Where: Echoplex

When: April 4th, 2011

"Should we do two more or should we just fuck off?" Piper Kaplan asked the crowd at the Echoplex last night. No sooner had the words left her lips that one would imagine that she wanted to take them back.

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The reaction was lukewarm at best and certainly not what the front woman of Puro Instinct was going for. There was a couple half-hearted claps and one or two cries of encouragement, but for the most part the room just stared back at her in an awkward silence as if it to say "Whatever, dude. Do what you want. We don't care."

Not what you want after a half hour of music. It's probably better to be booed off the stage than to be faced with indifference or (worse) mere politeness. At least there would be some passion in the response. However, it is near impossible to imagine someone being overcome with any sort of passion in reaction to Puro Instinct's pretty, ghostly pop.

Piper Kaplan of Puro Instinct
Piper Kaplan of Puro Instinct
Leslie Kalohi
The frenzied crowd.
The frenzied crowd.
Leslie Kalohi

No fits of rage or lust or heartbreak could be found in those swirling pretty songs. No lyrics either for that matter. Piper's distorted voice floated over the crowd and blended into her sister Skylar's guitar riffs and created this wallpaper of psych pop. Not particularly memorable, but never unpleasant, and perhaps what people wanted after the long Monday slog. Perhaps all they wanted was to get a drink and talk with their buddies over the music, but if they were at all interested in rocking out on a Monday they would have been sorely disappointed. There was no rock to be had.

The evening did not start this way, though. The show, put together by David Greenwald of Brand X, included the irrepressibly cheerful band, So Many Wizards. This three piece specializes in hazy pop with self conscious lyrics. Strumming fiercely on his acoustic guitar, lead singer Nima Kazerouni hit some absurdly high notes which he held for a little too long. "Those last notes were on purpose," he announced with a grin. "So you could feel the awkward to the maximum. Oh shit, this next song is really awkward too."

So Many Wizards
So Many Wizards
Leslie Kalohi
David Greenwald of Brand X
David Greenwald of Brand X
Leslie Kalohi

So Many Wizard's charm lies within their unvarnished lyrics and bright melodies. These are not swaggering rock star Casanovas. They named an EP Love Songs For When You Leave Me for Pete's sake. These are blunt sensitive dudes who are going to be straight with you. "Nothing is real. My mother told me so," Kazerouni announces in their song "Lose Your Mind." A refreshing standpoint in a city where a lot of bands are trying to create their own mythology and mystique. So Many Wizards have no such pretensions. They where their hearts on their sleeves for better or for worse and submerge them in bright bubbles of sunny lo-fi.

One can only hope, Puro Instinct was paying attention to their set. Some well-sharpened lyrics would improve their set immensely even if they were awkward and poorly thought out. That would be better than the constant oohs and aahs. Or as one bystander commented to his friend "This is like the part of band practice you don't want to play live. Find a cool riff. Repeat it. And then when the lead singer feels moved, croon nonsense over the mic."

If Puro Instinct wants legions of fans, they need more than just a pretty sound. They need to shape those feelings into stories and ideas that connect with their audience: Otherwise the audience will create their own and talk over them like they did last night. Clutching their drinks while they gabbed about their hairdresser's drug addictions, their boyfriend's new bike, and how the Dodgers were doing. I bet the Kaplan sisters can do better than that.

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