SEE THEM ATTACK: Sun., March 25, at the Bowling and Drinking Club, 4459 Eagle Rock Blvd., L.A., at 9 p.m.
FEEL THE PRIDE: Ariana Delawari, who fronts this Silver Lake three-piece, recalls falling asleep as a child to the sounds of Afghan musicians in her parents’ L.A. home. As Delawari grew older, she cut her sonic teeth on Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and John Lennon. Lead guitarist and part-time harmonium pumper Max Guirand grew up with an organist grandmother, while drummer Zachary Clancy got his start on the pots and pans of his childhood home. Though this unsigned band only formed last July, something magical seems to happen between these three friends.
LION OF PAN-WHAT? The moniker “lion of panjshir” was given to Ahmed Shah Massoud, the great Afghan military leader cum national hero who fought off the Soviets and later the Taliban in Afghanistan. He was assassinated by Al Qaeda two days before 9/11. Massoud was from the Panjshir Valley of Afghanistan (Panj Shir = Five Lions). “We felt it appropriate in these times to honor him,” says Delawari.
HEAR THEM ROAR: Lion of Panjshir’s music is psychedelic folk rock with deep influences of traditional Afghan music. Haunting Afghan lyrics suddenly morph into English, translated through Delawari’s vulnerable, girlish yet powerful voice; she embodies the raucous rants of Janis Joplin and the modest feistiness of Cat Power. Whether you understand the words doesn’t matter — you may even prefer the hypnotic effect of an unknown tongue (see the Doors-esque “Tree Hymn”). The compositions have the power to drop your heart in a chord change, reminding you that angst and instability aren’t just a rock & roll cliché but a crucial element of a good performance. Max’s guitar provides quiet accent, blanketing the songs in an organic swirl, while Clancy’s drums rove from wild jazz antics to gentle finger-tapped tabla nuances. The compositional influence of Jimmy Page and Joni Mitchell is clear, as well as drummers Bill Bruford and Dave Grohl.
SILVER LAKE/AFGHAN CONNECTION: The ’Lake is exactly 14,000 miles from Afghanistan, but not so very far in spirit for the Lions. “There are a lot of intelligent minds and musical ears longing for change, and that’s exciting to us,” says Delawari. They’re also fond of plastering their Eastside hood with posters. “It’s like in Alice in Wonderland, we’re painting the roses red!” (Telephone poles have yet to comment on their new look for this season.)
“LIONSPACE” IS GOOD: On their MySpace page (myspace.com/lionofpanjshir), you can get involved in a little something called “Operation Tent City,” helping Afghan refugees with basic human needs through an L.A.-based foundation.
FUTURE OF THE LIONS: They’re gearing up to travel to Afghanistan to record with traditional elder Afghan musicians. It may be a milestone for a rock band with a front woman to perform inside the Afghan borders.