The Hollywood Bowl
September 25, 2011
Better than... any of these acts sound on record.
Not quite a festival, Sunday night's five-act concert at the Hollywood Bowl was the Inception of this year's indie shows -- buzz band opening for buzz band opening for buzz band. And with the lineup a bit of a stylistic potpourri -- from Arctic Monkeys' UK art punk to Warpaint's mellow L.A. dreamin' -- I was curious to see how each band's distinct style would translate at the venue.
For all of its repute, the Bowl can be a hit or miss for rock shows. It's magnificent for orchestrally-inclined bands like Belle and Sebastian and The Decemberists, who have played landmark gigs with the L.A. Phil, but has proved to be a let down for groups like Pavement and Sonic Youth, whose sounds demand the raucous intimacy of a more traditional rock venue. While nearly every band on the lineup last night proved themselves to be better enjoyed live than on record, that was about the only similarity to their sets. Here's our rundown of how the L.A. Phil-curated set closed out the 2011 summer concert season at the Hollywood Bowl:Smith Westerns
After playing FYF earlier this month, the Chicago boys' 6 p.m. set was the opening credits to the evening, with the sun still up and much of the audience loitering near the refreshments window. You couldn't help but feel kind of bad for Smith Westerns. But not too bad; if there's any gig for an up-and-coming band to be the little fish in a big pond, this was it. Their hazy, hooky rock was, if nothing else, the perfect soundtrack to settle in with your bottle of wine.
The show marked a celebratory moment for hometown heroes Warpaint, whose set capped an extensive slate of touring. But as bassist-singer Jenny Lee Lindberg quipped in the band's interview with West Coast Sound last week, "It's happening a lot sooner than we expected, but we're also probably playing at 5:30." She wasn't too far off the mark -- the band played a five-song set that began at 6:20 -- but the ladies seemed to be enjoying themselves plenty, their laughter and lighthearted demeanor a nice complement to the moody psychedelia of their music.
In theory, those kind of gauzy, understated tunes are an apt choice for the Bowl's acoustics, but the venue ultimately sounded a bit too big for the band's britches. The mixing was muddled and the sparse crowd that attended the earlier part of the evening added to the feeling of it being background music. That said, if you happened to be seated closer to the stage, the intensity of their performance was downright magnetic -- Warpaint even dared to defy the Bowl Gods and their infamously strict set times by launching into an unplanned fifth song, and kept playing even as the stage rotated away.