Legend has it that a stoned Paul McCartney was one day listening to the playback of something The Beatles had just recorded and kept cracking himself up by repeating “Plastic soul, man, plastic soul.” Later, he and his band mates embraced the autoderogatory comment and, famously, titled their next record Rubber Soul.
Which brings us to Fool's Gold, who topped a really entertaining bill last night at the Echo. Like The Beatles, they are very aware that they have taken a particular ethnic sound —
AfrobeatEast African music, in their case — and made it hipster-friendly. But also like the Liverpudlians, Luke Top, Lewis Pesakov and their merry band of rotating noisemakers embrace the situation and make the best of it. If you ever seen any of the African acts that serve as their model (Konono No. 1, for example — if they tour the US again, JUST GO!), you know where the actual gold is. Still, as the band showed last night to a packed dancefloor, there's a lot of fun to be had with its US replica.
The evening started with Tearist, in an oddly subdued set (for their intense standards). It's no secret we're big fans of their shtick, but last night Yasmine Kittles' vocals were mixed way down and she seemed less on fire than usual. (By the way, last time we wrote about Tearist, a couple of commenters kept going about how they're just “Hecuba Jr.” We really don't see it. Hecuba are good at what they do, but their thing is more of a soulless, grad-school, super-self-conscious “performance.” The combination of YK's raw singing and jerking and Will's lo-fi drone synth is way more soulful and it constantly teeters on the brink of derailment in a way the controlled Isabelle Albuquerque would never allow.)
Tearist was followed by The Entrance Band (aka, the band formerly known as Entrance), who enticed a healthy contingent of supporters and people curious to check out if the substantial buzz about them was justified. Entrance is one of those bands with ok albums that one is constantly told to disregard and check them out live instead. It's easy to see why: while their albums foreground the vocals and lyrics of leader Guy Blakesleee, the live show is grounded on his far more interesting guitar work, and, crucially, on the powerhouse rhythm section of bassist Paz Lenchantin and drummer Derek James.
Blakeslee clearly feels very strongly about his lyrics, but his unabashed hippism comes off as a little absurd and slightly embarrassing, particularly over the killer psychedelic blues grooves that the power trio lays under them. Closer “Grim Reaper Blues” is still one of their strongest cards, and the live version last night wiped the floor with both versions on CD, particularly the latest, more anemic one for Thurston Moore's label. Yes, it is undeniably “plastic soul” two-steps removed, being Entrance's version of an early Led Zeppelin jam, itself a sludgy Brit riff on the old blues. But Blakeslee sells it, and the dual Lenchantin-James attack is a steady thing to behold — these two could easily provide funk breakbeats if they so chose.
Experimental Tearist and serious Entrance were good, left-field choices to set the stage for the much more enthusiastic main act.
Fool's Gold came up and played a tight set of
AfrobeatEast African jams peppered with some dubby dirges that had the entire Echo jumping, stomping, arm-waving, and even doing a conga line. It's great that they're playing hipster joints from Williamsburg to Silverlake and all points inbetween, but their real home is as a party band. Forget the LMFAO nonsense–in a better world, Fool's Gold would be the real “party people” and they would play weddings and bar mitzvahs. Which, come to think of it, is what the African bands they model themselves after do when they're not touring hipster joints in the US (ok, perhaps Konono No. 1 doesn't do bar mitzvahs, but you get the idea).
The highlight of the evening was a long jam when the already numerous Fool's Gold crowd invited all of Entrance and Yasmine from Tearist onstage for a collective party that spilled out of the Echo into Sunset Blvd. and back, with everyone following the hypnotic, highlife beat.