Stones Throw Records are celebrating their 15 year anniversary with a series of direct-to-vinyl shows, recorded live in front of an audience. Last night was the first show in the series with jazz group Rick (with Sam Gendel from Teen Inc/Austin Peralta's Deathgasm!) and Mayer Hawthorne & the Country, with label head Peanut Butter Wolf DJing in between sets. Only 100 lucky fans scored invitations via Stones Throw's website, Facebook and Twitter pages–so since you probably weren't at the party, here's what you missed:
The show was at Capsule Labs, a boutique vinyl record pressing plant–the only one in L.A.–whose owners have perfected the art of direct-to-disc recording. Live performances are mixed, mastered, and cut to vinyl in real time, and then pressed on the lab's vintage lathe. 500 records are made on the spot. The entire process is entirely analog–no computers ever come into play–and unlike most plants, they use 100% virgin records (meaning they don't recycle the excess wax edges)–and the result is a sound that is so raw and pure. For a room full of record geeks, this was an incredibly exciting prospect.
The party was in Capsule's hanger-like warehouse, only noticeable from the street by the small blue light fixed above the entrance. Inside, speakers were mounted in a checkerboard formation all over the corrugated metal ceiling, with white paper lanterns lighting up the center. A small stage was set up in the back of the stage, opposite PBW's turntables and the Lab's massive press. There was an open bar, stocked with weird VnC “bartender in a bottle” pre-mixed drinks, served up by a bartender wearing a dress so tight it's amazing she was able to walk from the bar to the nearby ice buckets.
Soon after we got there, we ran into Jamie Strong–Stones Throw's Minister of Information–who lead us straight into the back room for a private tour of Capsule Lab's mixing and mastering rooms to see how the D2D process was actually going to work. Capsule Labs acquired all this equipment when it was in shambles, and they spent twelve years restoring the vintage pieces. We checked out the boards and got up close to see the blank vinyl that would be recorded on mere minutes later.
Capsule Labs' owner showed us various projects he's worked on–including a synth he crafted out a shoebox. “We're all musicians here,” he said. “We like tinkering with this stuff.”
After the tour, we ventured back out into the crowd, and soon Peanut Butter Wolf got up on stage to get the recording started. He clued everyone in on what to expect–15 minute sets (all that fits on one side of a record without audio quality being compromised), have to wait for the red recording light to start, etc.–and then introduced new jazz quartet Rick, whose sax player, Sam Gendel, is PBW's neighbor. They looked pretty nervous, understandably, since there would be no second takes on this record; any fuckups would be glaringly obvious on the finished product. They handled that pressure well though, and did two smooth sets timed perfectly to fit each side of the record.
Everyone's cell phones were out and ready to capture Mayer Hawthorne's set by the time he and his band The County showed up. Shrieks and squeals rose from the crowd when PBW introduced Hawthorne, who wore aviators to the show instead of his signature horn-rimmed glasses. With an adorable, confident grin on his face, he dedicated the night to everyone who loves vinyl and joked about his drummer being stuck in a plastic bubble.
They ended up playing three sets. Set #1 was “Make Her Mine,” “Maybe So, Maybe No,” “Gangsta Luv,” “I Need You,” “I Wish It Would Rain,” before they ran out of time on Side A with the closer “Work To Do.” Next set started with “No Strings,” and when Hawthorne sang “I know you wanna be good girl, but you imagine what I'm like in bed,” girls in the crowd started flipping out and screaming for more. The band continued with classic weed anthem “Green Eyed Love” and failed romance story “Just Ain't Gonna Work Out.” “The Ills” got pushed to set #3, and after playing one last song Hawthorne thanked the crowd and the Stones Throw family and said goodnight.
Stones Throw's D2D party was a definite success and there's more to come. Be sure to grab the record–500 will surely go fast–and be on the lookout for details on the next show.