Ghostland Observatory

Henry Fonda, Nov. 30

The moment the curtains opened, lasers blasted over the crowd's heads to the back walls while smoke machines belched. Michael Jackson used smoke and lasers in the “Rock With You” video. And a particularly good episode of Silver Spoons used them to great effect when Ricky Schroeder made a smoke and laser cannon for a school science project to impress his cranky teacher. Smoke looks awesome as it passes through the lasers – and sure enough the teacher was impressed – but it turns out Ricky spent more than $100 on his project, which was the limit, so he was disqualified from winning. And we know what happened to Michael Jackson….

So right out of the gate, Ghostland Observatory's scoring big points in their favor. Retro-future is all the rage. More good news: Aaron Behrens still sports the aviator shades and excellent Indian-style hair braids while beats-man Thomas Ross Turner is still styling the silver cape with giant blue cross on the back. Years from now this band will either be huge or a footnote, but either way people will say, “Remember the braids? Remember that fucking shiny cape Turner wore? It's like he was channeling Brian Eno in Roxy Music behind that wall of synthesizers! Those were the days.”

Photos by Timothy Norris

The crowd sees this, I see it, and we all wonder why is everyone getting so excited about Daft Punk anyway? Isn't this better? Electro-clash-punk-funk stripped of all of its European ennui – and from Texas yet! Austin, sure, but Texas nonetheless. They even play real drums and electric guitar whenever they feel the need. It's not necessary, or incredible when they do, but it's another reason not underestimate them.

The razor sharp howl of Behrens' voice knocks out one song after another from Paparazzi Lightning and a few from the upcoming Robotique Majestique, while Turner tweaks knobs, pulls levers, and creates an electro-thunder of Moogosity. That voice – even when he runs it through a vocoder – it's piercing, yet pleasant. He actually knows how to control it, and rather than bludgeon the audience with it, as a lesser man would, he's bringing them along, entrancing them like some sort of '60s soul crooner, stealing the women's souls right out from under their men's noses. Between the voice and the lasers we're all nearly hypnotized into a dancing horde, like the last free humans in the third Matrix movie. Behrens' voice has been compared to Prince and that dude from the Deftones, but who does he really sound like?

Slade. The motherfucker's got Noddy Holder's voice minus some of the rasp, and if they'd just record a version of “When the Lights Are Out” – go ahead and do it with theremin and drum machine and 1978 synth loops – it'd be a monster hit, and the could buy all the capes and tight black t-shirts they could ever want.

All photos by Timothy Norris, except probably the above one.

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