OC Music Awards: Night 7 Offers Sashaying, Soundtracking and Loops
It was cold and rainy, and the Wahoo's free-taco goodness was moved inside. The neon lights of the old-timey Yost shined bright, as the concert series' final showcase echoed inside the highest ceilings of all the venues. Having attended the Detroit Bar for the series opener and now this closing night, one thing has endured through every guttural yell, cymbal crash, distorted riff and keytar swing: the camaraderie between all the bands. After Time and Energy's avant-chaotic yet sonically soothing set, Edgar Trento (bassist for Electro City) made it a point to hug and congratulate a fresh-from-the-stage Jorge Rios on the duo's performance. His smile was genuine, and his beard was bushy.
Mary Bell The calm before the dance storm.
Mary Bell "Power of the scorpion, yo!"
In a jacket that would have made Ritchie Valens proud, Chris Lynch, a.k.a. Brother C, couldn't wait. The bluesy, foot-stomping Brother C & Sister J were the evening's openers, and the nervous energy that came with them shined through. Youthful and earnest in their craft, their loud, brash style was reminiscent of the White Stripes. "Bad Woman Blues," a song for the discerning male, was fit for a roadhouse with broken glass, spilled PBR and sawdust on the ground. For the first band, raw imperfections actually seemed to work in their favor, even when Lynch broke a string at one point. The stage may have been too big for them (and most of the other acts), but Brother C & Sister J didn't shy away from the spotlight. With thigh slaps, tambourines in the crowd, and a lengthy drum break for the closing "Zombie Blues," it was a nice way to ease into the eclectic evening.
For those who have never seen Electro City perform, the first, second and third thing that need to be brought up are Edgar Exciter's dance moves. Kid's got talent. His ability to gyrate, salsa, booty-shake as though he were Shakira, and sashay across the stage was without unparallel to anything we've seen recently on a local level. Energy notwithstanding, some of the songs early in the set sounded a bit too similar. The indie-ish, Santa Ana-based garage outfit were tight, technically sound and, despite losing guitar for a snip on their fourth song, showed serious promise with their last tune, which Exciter says, "It's so new it isn't out of the box." I don't know if "Lemme Ride the Soundwave" is the name of the new song or not, but I want more of what's coming out of that box.
Though long-winded and rough around the edges, the Kettle Drivers managed to carve out a satisfying set of instrumental fuzz rock. The Costa Mesa trio are a living, breathing soundtrack. Have them re-score Bruce Brown's Endless Summer II, and methinks Greg Johnson and company will do it justice. The sequence of "The Most Beautiful," "Wonderful Personality" and "Wet Blanket Sleepover" was watery and surfy the way the Meters were on "Stormy," with shades of punkish instro roots à la Link Wray. That said, did my ears betray me, or did I hear a cover or variance of Wray's "Rumble"?
Mary Bell I can rock a mic when I'm not rocking the loop.
Equally strong was the aforementioned Time and Energy. The electro, experimental looping sensations were easily the best thing to watch during the evening. The music wasn't too shabby, either, but watching it come together was part of what maybe had Trento so eager to bear hug his buddy Rios. Brennan Roach, the other half of the band, would set loops and run back to his kit while Rios would turn, twist and pound knobs with one hand while laying down some keys with the other. The result was a colorful sonic soundscape that almost comes off as a cacophony, but is always steered back toward rhythmic normalcy just before teetering off into the avant-garde abyss. Between the sequencing and busy-ness of "Tree Salad" and the wailing sax on "Hot Air," there is a controlled chaos in Time and Energy's delivery, and they know just when to rein it in before becoming musically inaccessible.
Mary Bell Filling the room the way no one else could.
As the crowd thinned, standing last was Decode Radio. Of all the acts that came before, Tyler C. Burns (vocals) and Eric Stoffel (programmer/rhythmic button pusher) filled the room like no one previous could. Joined by a drummer, it added meat to their moody yet dancy, synth-heavy style. "Untied" benefited most from the drums giving the song a menacing boost going into its dubstep-inspired breakdown. It's big-sounding in every way it should be, and Burns' voice is perfectly tortured. "Sixteen Bit" was also thickened up in a way only drumstick hitting drum head can produce. Despite many skipping out, Decode Radio's sound probably played best for a room that size.
Critical Bias: Sound guy kinda blew it when he played Miley Cyrus' "Party In the U.S.A." instead of letting Time and Energy play an extra song.
The Crowd: The friends of friends who show up for you in the rain.
Random Notebook Dump: If it weren't for the free tacos, I would have murdered me an Elvis sandwich.