by Brad Roberts
I was happy to get an invitation to the video release party held at S.I.R. Studio on Sunset Boulevard last Thursday night, April 3rd, from Bobby Tamkin of Xu Xu Fang to see a live set by the band, followed by a screening of their fabulous video for "Noir State Beach." (that's Bobby on the drums in the murk to the right) I wanted to mention this show as it relates to an earlier version of this evening that took place at S.I.R. on February 13 in a different room that had a profound effect on the impact of the music and the video.
The previous studio was very wide and deep which forced the players to spread out over a width that resembled the area of, say, The Greek's stage. They were too far apart and somehow the vocals were drowned out in the sound mix. The result was a show that sounded like a band finding their way into their new material and not quite sure of it. The video that evening was therefore startling because the music had so much more impact than the live performance.
"Noir State Beach" is a remarkable piece of filmmaking directed by Casey Storm and starring Luke Grimes as an L.A. driver who keeps encountering Steve Railsback (brilliantly effective as Charles Manson in Helter Skelter, and opposite Peter O'Toole in The Stunt Man are among his substantial credits; with Tamkin at right) holding a cardboard sign with the words Xu Xu Fang written on it. With his vaguely threatening and slightly deranged demeanor he strikes fear into the heart of Grimes, who eventually takes off on foot to find this stranger who so haunts him. All the while the relentless pulse of the music sounds like a heart beating in your chest.
But this time, in a room with half the width of the stage as at the last show, the band really seemed to connect with each other, resulting in a powerful and intimidating performance that filled the room with the sound of Xu Xu Fang at the height of their considerable powers. The live set made as much of an impression as the video and the result was somewhat revelatory. The murky, mucky undertow of the driving, tribal beat and the sturm and drang of the roaring guitars is offset by the feathery, light-as-air vocals that subtly lift the song into other territory. Always a trademark in much of Xu Xu Fang's oeuvre, the voices are never allowed to dominate as Tamkin gives equal weight to every element that goes into the formation of their unique and trance-inducing sound.
Accentuated with lots of fog and a very dark lighting scheme, they played a five song set with all new material that left one anxious for the release of their next record. Everyone in the audience was lulled into a state of hypnotic reverie. The relaxed and friendly atmosphere was heightened by the very pleasant wine, beer, cheese and dip spread that was offered. Hitting the street afterward was like landing back on Earth after a voyage to the distant stars.