Crystal Antlers

Safari Sam's, Jan. 21, 2008

The sparkling reputation of Long Beach’s Crystal Antlers drew me out to the High Voltage Magazine party at Safari Sam’s last night, and despite the clear lameness of the event (see below for unfortunate High Voltage missteps), Crystal Antlers delivered an outstanding performance of weighty organ and bass flamboyance. They went on as the last of four bands, despite the magazine flyer billing them as second, and they only got to play for twenty three minutes. But in those twenty three minutes, their new percussionist Sexual Chocolate (aka Damian Edwards), formerly of Geisha Girls, had three costume changes, each more scant than the last, and performed pelvic thrusts that gave justice to his stage name and sustained his rep as pure showman. Jonny Bell led the five piece with his scratchy vocals and heavy bass, which he strums like a six string, a stylistic choice that lays the foundation for their overall sound to be on the side of other local heavies Entrance and Tweak Bird; they also take substantial cues from classic rock dramatics Page,Winter, Skynyrd, etc., but thankfully they've left the underage groupies and hotel room trashing for the boomer generation.

In addition to “Swamp Song,” my favorite (and the B-side) off their new BackFlip 7”, Crystal Antlers performed a surprisingly delicate cover of Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” a song that is eternally lending itself to great covers (Them’s 1966 version has been, and continues to be, in my top 10 all-time favorite songs). They have several other shows in L.A. lined up for the next month—apparently, they need to expand beyond their OC reputation as stellar performers, which has left their audience’s expectations quite high (straight from the Orphan Records blog, December 2007: “Crystal Antlers went on at 10:45 and yada yada, brought down the house, as usual…”), but has yet to be overstated.

The event last night was supposedly a party for the newish music magazine High Voltage, but when my friend and I arrived, there were only about twenty people in attendance; at a large venue like Safari Sam’s, that’s as effective but less humorous then there being two. I could get more people to go to my little cousin Jacob’s Bar Mitzvah in Marina Del Rey. There was no sign of the magazine, no partying (aside from the Antlers), and nothing near the elevation of “high” in terms of voltage (aside from the Antlers). It was really sad. I thought for sure it had to be a launch party and that their green status was the reason behind their paltry turn out, but their site informs me that the magazine has been around since 2003. Five years, and that's all the guster you can muster? I understand that L.A. is a big city and it was a Monday night, but if each of their eight founders invited four people, that would already be a higher count than the crowd last night. Whoever planned that party must’ve begged their friends not to go. Lame-o. Poor vibes for their mag. The least they could’ve done was advertise the party so that their bands wouldn’t have to play to a mostly empty house and would be entertained enough to stick around for each other’s performances. Supposedly the same people also run a marketing firm, High Voltage Marketing. Wow. Not for nothing, but as a band, or any creative enterprise, I would seriously consider cutting and pasting flyers at Kinko’s for 5 hours, before signing on to that gravy train.

Thank goodness for Sexual Chocolate.

All photos by Rena Kosnett.

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