The Mezzanine Owls w/ The Mae Shi, Eagle and Talon, and Frankel @ The Echo (Hell Ya! Night) 02-28-08
Last night the ladies of Hell Ya! delivered a line-up that met all of the impossible expectations set before it. Access Silverlake (zomg!!!!11!!one!1one!!1!) reports seeing members of The Transmissions, The Henry Clay People, and The Parson Readheads in attendance. Also in the crowd was a sizable Blogforce: Bronson, LA-Underground, and Squaregirls all popped-in for the hype-heavy bill of the evening. (As well as yours truly and of course, and JAX, who was promoting the night) Deadly Syndrome / Mae Shi Superfan Bob brought a legion of his friends to the 18+ night as well.
Things started-off a bit hairy, though. Late soundchecks and (presumably) a host of other minor problems lead to doors opening 20 minutes late the entire schedule being about 30 minutes behind. The crowd was late filtering-in. But the evening of music was so good that all the speedbumps were pretty much forgotten by 1:30am.
This was the third or fourth time I've seen indie folk darling Frankel, and every time creative-force Michael Orendy has had a different backing band scenario. On one hand, its great that his songs can pull it off. On the other hand, I think the shows suffer a little from lack of consistency. I'm sure the situation isn't how Orendy would have it.
But let us not focus on the negative incidentals, because Frankel was charming and wonderful, as usual. He played a bluesier-than-normal set, sans drummer this time. ("Drummer-schmummer" in his own words.) One of the fun things about Frankel is that the songs in the set list (and the instrument Orendy plays on them) always seems to be near-improvised. For you at-home players, a new song called "Don't Get Too Comfortable" was one of the stronger numbers and "Previous Life" was probably the best of the set.
Those of you who know me as a blogger have told me that what you appreciate most about CGT is its honesty in the writing. Those of you who have known me in the Meat World for some time know me as a person who can be brutally crude and offensive. Let us allow the two selves to merge. I have no other way to go about this, but write the truth:
I loved Eagle and Talon, though I can't be sure if it was for the right reasons. I don't know. Sometimes, certain anatomical things that make-up some people trigger certain biological things in some other people, and those biological things begin to pollute the mind with a cloud of noxious poison, like methane filling an air-tight enclosure of autistic kittens. It's genocide of the synapses in very large, chunky, blood-stained increments.
There are clichés about nerdy guys who go to shows and there are clichés about women who play in rock bands; these are clichés that usually involve the cuing of Gary Wright singles. I'm not trying to be uncouth or creepy here, but part of what we do here at Classical Geek Theatre is document the scene, and the scenesters, and the nerds, and try to present an interesting, literary perspective for the outsider on what it is like.
And a large, large part of the spectator experience in the Los Angeles music scene (or any other music scene) includes the inexorable band crush. Pick a night at your favorite rock bar, any night, look around, and you'll see the cursed black storm of confusion befall at least one poor unshaven soul in a horizontal-striped sweater. It isn't chauvinism so much as it is the natural order of things.
Le fucking Sigh.
So, I was enchanted by Eagle and Talon (or a particular aspect of the band) and am unable to present an objective viewpoint of their performance. It's not fair to me, the undeserving victim, nor is it fair to the band, the unwitting spell-caster. But it happened, and now you know. Fortunately, these spells are like sandcastles on the beach. Given a day's time, the tide (under the control of the gravitational pull of that galactic fascist, the moon) washes them away into meaningless grains. I'm already feeling a little better this morning.
I can tell you that the list of Eagle and Talon influences would mirror The Happy Hollows' influence list by about 90%. I can tell you that they seemed hesitant to play a "more experimental" song, and that it was their best song of the night, and if they played in town twice a month (instead of twice a year) and wrote an entire albums of songs like that one, then they would have the adoration of all 2,000 LA hipsters (my estimate) who regularly attend shows.
I can tell you that I'm pretty sure, sorcery and dark arts notwithstanding, they played a terrific set of music. They have an album coming out some time soon-ish, and I bet it will be interesting. I can tell you that, my own gender-inscribed weaknesses notwithstanding, they are my favorite personal new discovery in 2008. To date, at any rate.
The Mezzanine Owls were celebrating the release of their 7" single and digital EP. They killed it. Absolutely phenomenal. Since last July I have gone from being annoyed by The Mezzanine Owls to wanting to do them all in the pooper. With relish. (I don't even like doing anything -- female, male, or otherwise -- in the pooper. This is what their music does to me!) They seem like a different, better band every time I see them. The Mezz Owls are the East LA Borg, always getting stronger and taking on a new, improved form of the same basic techno-organic species. Locutus of Silverlake, if you will.
Lead singer / guitarist Jack Burnside seemed very, very comfortable with himself. You can really get away with their kind of lyrics, and their kind of music, when you start to stand-up straight and own it like Burnside did last night. The band as a whole seemed to be having a lot of fun. (Their bass player balanced his four-stringed ax in the palm of his hand by the neck. Didn't see that coming!) Any criticism a snob might offer in regards to The Mezz Owls falls to tatters the second the band shows that it is having fun. And they looked like they were having a blast.
Let us just say one last time for posterity: their new songs are wonderful. Simple as that.
"Temporary Health" is one of the best songs of 2008 so far. But, as any smart band is wont to do, their strongest live number of the set was the closer: "Snow Globe." (Also the A-side on the vinyl. It's been added to Indie 103.1 and KXLU, I am told.) Congratulations to the Mezzanine Owls. You just released a great set of recordings, you played a killer set at your own record release, and there was a line at your merch booth to buy your music. That's living the dream, guys! Enjoy it.
Last night The Mae Shi proved, again, that they are the best live band in Los Angeles.
No, your counter-argument is wrong.
I love Silversun Pickups, Autolux, The Cold War Kids, Airborne Toxic Event, Earlimart, and any other LA flag-bearing band of excellence. Those bands are remarkable assemblages of talent and we are blessed to have them. They write amazing, inspiring, thoughtful music. They write better songs than songs The Mae Shi write. But The Mae Shi are the best fucking live band in Los Angeles. Bar. Fucking. None. End of the conversation. Omega. Fin.
I don't know what the devious Britons did to our princes of noise-punk last month while they were across the pond. I don't know if The Mae Shi were tortured, brainwashed, genetically re-engineered, replaced with alternate future clones, or were simply rejuvenated by a mass orgy with the entire stable of Page 3 girls. But something changed in The Mae Shi since the last show they played in LA. Whatever band closed-out The Echo last night was a different... a different thing than the still-incredible band that I saw six or seven times last year. It was a magnificent beast of a... my god, it was beautiful in its madness, simplicity, and raw power. Sugar may never again taste sweet.
It was the best set I've ever seen The Mae Shi play. It was like everything they've ever conceived of and planned for finally matured into the enormous, glorious, plump, ripe, fruit it was always meant to be; a fruit that was presented to and engorged upon by the 60 or so lucky patrons who thought they'd hang around late last night. Sticky juice went everywhere.
As for specific details... original lineup member Brad Breeck was on drums for the whole night, with Marcus Savino nowhere to be seen. Bill Gray was still in the lineup; the indefinite Tim Byron hiatus goes on.
The band made a terrific modification to their costume-change ritual. Before, they would change costumes in plain view, an impish gesture that threw their cleverness in the face of the audience. Now, the band changes clothes under a white bed sheet lit from underneath. The stage spectacle transformed from a funny, cute gag into a ritual. One little detail elevated the entire presentation.
The set was composed almost entirely of HLLLYH songs, though "Born for a Short Time" and one Terrorbird track (the specific title escapes me at the moment) snuck in there. "Party Politics" sounded unreal. "Young Marks" was another super-strong number, and I may be mistaken, but it might have been the first time I've seen it played live. Basically, you know you're witnessing The Mae Shi at their best when "Lamb and the Lion" is the least energetic song of the night. So look at this video I took, make sure you get to the last 45 seconds, and understand that every other song in the set was more insane:
Kudos to The Echo for employing the full range of their lighting set-up. It really made a difference.
Folks who I had told about The Mae Shi, but had never seen them before, saw the light last night. I overheard members of at least two local bands say something to the effect of "Okay, so I want to play with The Mae Shi now."
JAX thinks they're about to blow-up, and I think she's right. They're playing six dates at SXSW. Jeff Byron told me they're going back to England for a whole month in May. John Gray told me that they have bigger things planned for the fall. They're the Autolux / No Age of 2008. It's going to be over for the locals very, very, very soon. Nobody in town deserves it more.