OC Music Awards Showcase 1: Best Live Band, with Jeramiah Red, Paulie Pesh, the Gromble, Strange Birds and James Fletcher Jan 3, 2011 Detroit Bar, Costa Mesa
Last night saw Costa Mesa's Detroit Bar kick off the first in a series of showcases comprising the OC Music Awards. The five groups, competing for the title of best live band, consisted of Jeremiah Red, Paulie Pesh, The Gromble, Strange Birds and James Fletcher. With a couple exceptions, the performances were solid, and the gold star, in my humble opinion, goes to the Gromble.
Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly
These five boys from Laguna Niguel are fronted by Spencer Askin Trevin Eck-- a bespectacled and physically unassuming chap whose stock and trade appears to be indie-hued power pop in the vein of Weezer or Pavement. But there were moments when the music surged with waves of distortion and saw Askin either blaring through a trumpet or furiously stomping around stage with his guitar in a manic rage. It bordered on frightening--albeit thrilling--and were reminiscent of the glory days when indie bands like Neutral Milk Hotel reigned. Let it also be said, Askin pounds Heinekens with reckless abandon and shows little impairment.
The other notable performance goes to blues-hued classic rockers Jeremiah Red, but before we break them down, a disclaimer is necessary. Lead singer Wes Dickson happens to be the love interest of Weekly Editorial Assistant Taylor Hamby.
That said, Jeremiah Red play an energetic brand of rock which frequently sees Dickson's voice slathered with a slapback echo lending the band a Zeppelinesque sound. I hate Led Zeppelin but it can't be denied that Dickson has oodles of charisma and works an audience with a swagger both simmering and brooding. He also looks a little like Mark Wahlberg.
Drummer and vocalist James Fletcher, whose band closed out the night, also gave a fine performance, which saw the evening's only use of lap pedal steel guitar. But their dreamy brand of country-inflected rock probably did more to drive tipsy patrons out the door and toward their beds. (Think of Wilco on codeine.)
Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly
Whatever criticisms can be leveled at Fletcher and company, they were head and shoulders above Paulie Pesh, a 12-peice ensemble outfitted with violin, cello, saxophones a tuba and many more instruments. Their sound can best be described as Arcade Fire derivative. It's likely, the tiny room at Detroit just can't accomadate a band this ambitious. The massive throng of players crammed together on the small stage failed to gel musically and the performance came off stilted. Worst of all were the harmonies between husband and wife vocalists Paulie Pesh and Cristal Peshkepia, which were painfully mismatched and out of key.
Still, they didn't present the bitter dregs of last night's show.
Feral Ferguson's "showcase stinker award" goes to Strange Birds. It would seem the Irvine indie quartet intended to perform a set of songs with the soaring vibrations of Local Natives. From the get go, the band struggled with their sound mix.
Singer Aiden Sadhegi kept motioning to the sound guy to increase his vocals. Whether the ultimate blame lies with sonic gremlins or Sadhegi's creator is uncertain. The tone of his voice clearly bore echoes of Police-era Sting, but like the tantric performer, Sadhegi's lyrics were indiscernible, and came across as a grating, incoherent bellow leading to an excruciating 20 minute performance. There were moments where the vocals were so muttled as to seem intentionally bad, like a Tom Green style practical joke.
Still, we're all excited for the next showcase, which will feature the folk stylings of Nicole Vaughn as well as the soulful grooves of Allensworth. Stay tuned.
The crowd: Detroit Bar was packed to the rafters and the booze flowed freely. A Wahoo's taco truck was outside with co-founder Wing Lam chatting up hungry patrons. Young the Giant bassist Payam Doostzadeh was also hanging out in the crowd.
Overheard: "How much money will it take to get you to say that the Gromble is the best band of the night?" one guy asked music editor Lilledeshan Bose when he found out she was judging the show. "How much money do you have on you?" she shot back.