by Brad Roberts
Saturday was like an extended trip down the rabbit hole, keeping one step ahead of the next band I wanted to see. The day started out normal enough, breakfast, blogging, rolling preparatory elements, etc. and boarding a bus down Sunset to the east side for Echo Park Rising. Once I figured out the schedule and where I wanted to see who, I decided my best course of action was to begin at the western edge of the festival and slowly work my way east.
Arriving around 2, I went into Taix to find the Champagne Room where The Far West were scheduled to play. Kevin Bronson (Buzzbands) was curating the activities here and the line up was most impressive, but after a rousing set of alt country indie by The Far West, I was off to Echoplex to catch some garage rock by The Dead Ships, before heading upstairs to The Echo to see Seasons.
By now the neighborhood was filling up and there was a good crowd for Seasons at 3:30 which was payed off with a really terrific set by the hard working band. In fact their violinist, Kaitlin Wolfberg was all over the place performing in different bands, and ending up at the wedding party that night at The Bootleg for Jacob Dillan Summers and Caitlin Dwyer (Congratulations to you both), which I couldn't attend owing to the Torches show at The Satellite...also that night.
Seasons (at right) were all in top form and their twinkling, musically ambitious indie pop is always a tonic. There was socializing on the patio between acts and when Manhattan Murder Mystery took the stage I could only stay for a couple of numbers (electrifying as usual) before taking off for Sancho Gallery where I spent the best part of the day.
I've walked by this gallery many times on my way to Lot 1, just a few doors up Sunset Boulevard, but never went in. They have the back yard set up as a performance space and it couldn't have been more perfect for the acts they were showcasing. Ruthann Friedman (at left) was half way through her set when I got there, but is there any performer who makes her audience feel so welcome? Her obvious joy at presenting her clever and intelligent short-stories-in-song for an appreciative audience makes her set very special.
The yard was quickly filling up with refugees from other clubs and everyone stayed for the next three sets that I witnessed. Since Kaitlin decided she could squeeze in a set between Seasons at The Echo and the Bootleg wedding, she raced over to join Fort King (at right), and together with Ryan Fuller, Rob Danson and Jef Hogan they enchanted the crowd, many of whom hadn't seen the newly retooled band and were properly overwhelmed. It was another instance where the audience was so attentive they laughed out loud at some of the witty details Ryan uses to tell his tales. "Black Palm" is a song I could listen to over and over, so much so, I often awaken to find it going around in my head. Like a record on a turntable that won't stop turning.
People really started to flood in as Amanda Jo Williams (at left) began her set, which started with a simple folk song sung in her inimitable twangy voice. Dressed in her disheveled pink party dress, I could sense a certain discomfort in some audience members until the rest of the band began rollicking and rolling and adding tremendous punch to the music. With each song, and with each swig of whiskey, Amanda seemed to rev up the audience more and more until they were clamoring for more and more. I've been impressed with Amanda Jo Williams and her unique and singular music before, but this took it to a whole new level.
Whenever Tommy Santee Klaws (at right)takes the stage there's a definite enchantment that sweeps through the crowd, as those familiar with the band are once again whisked off to the parallel universe of darkness and lightness that infiltrates all of the band's music. Newbies are always knocked a little sideways by the alternating delicacy and power of their compositions. The beauty achieved by the wide array of instruments coupled with the high-pitched, near yodeling vocals of Tommy and brought to earth by the powerful gravitas of Sam Seree's rumbling baritone is astonishing. Add in Jason Boles' gorgeous mandolin, Tom Paige's upright bass and Donna Jo's menagerie of children's toys and noise-makers, and they nearly always bring me to the edge of tears.
Leaving everyone behind, I floated out of Echo Park Rising and headed to the bus to get down Sunset to Parkman, stopped for a burger and wound my way up to The Satellite for the night's festivities. There was already a crowd gathering for this show starring Torches and hosted by KROQ, which had been well promoted. As a huge fan of Paulie Pesh and their particular brand of orchestral rock, I was particularly anxious to see their off shoot band Young Empress (below) who were opening the show.
Not exactly orchestral rock, more like orchestral soul, with the powerful presence and natural charisma of Cristal Pesh as lead singer, who is able of own the stage by merely posing and singing out in her strong clear voice. Beautifully augmented by Paulie Pesh, they weave intricate and glorious vocal patterns that soar over a sublimely talented band. This is easily one of the most astonishing new bands on the horizon. Oh, and their compositions are superb as well.
The swirl of the days activities were beginning to catch up with me as the eighth hour of live music was dawning, but Incan Abraham were so good that I perked right up again. I'm sure I've seen this band before, but I wasn't prepared for how good their surfy, dreamy indie pop sounded. Far from ordinary, they specialize in unpredictable tonal shifts and variations, held together by spot-on harmony vocals. A really upbeat and uplifting musical experience. I made sure to meet members of the band afterward.
These bands were an appropriate lead in for Torches (at right) who, yet again, thrilled the audience with their psychedelic music. Both haunting and lyrical, this band always achieves the perfect balance between the ethereal and the thundering aggression of the quintessential rock band. I've been seeing this band a lot lately, yet I'm still knocked out by the precision of their performances. They always sound letter-perfect to me.
Anyway it was a very long day, but a very rewarding one. As usual, I didn't see nearly enough of the bands I have never seen, but I'll get around to them all one way or another. And I think the Echo Park Rising was a smashing success and infinitely better than what Sunset Junction had become, and I didn't even stay for the headliners. I had intended to stay for another show, but one should know when to leave the party, so I weaved my way down Silver Lake Boulevard, snapping the picture (above) on my way, boarded the number 4 bus on Sunset, grabbed the Santa Monica/Western subway and got home at one AM. Twelve hours after I left my apartment that afternoon. Somebody said I'm a machine.