Buckle your seatbelts as this looks to be the first of a barrage of show reviews I’ll be writing over the next week or so. This weekend I’ll be seeing both The Police @ Dodger Stadium w/The Foo Fighters as well as Dj Shadow and Cut Chemist @ The Hollywood Bowl. Next Thursday will be The Deftones @ Gibson Ampitheater and then there will be a gap until I go on a similar marathon towards the end of July/begininng of August. Also being considered are trips up north to catch the Smashing Pumpkins residency in San Fran and Bumbershoot in Seattle. Stay tuned.
Last Saturday I put on my hipster repellent and ventured over to Spaceland in Silverlake. The Rosebuds were headlining that night, but I came specifically to see Land of Talk. Already praised by blogging heavyweights Stereogum, Gorilla vs. Bear, and Brooklyn Vegan (who voted their debut EP Applause, Cheer, Boo, Hiss one of the top 10 albums of 2006), the band has been steadily gaining steam over the past year as well as a growing fan base.
Frontwoman Elizabeth Powell has been a staple of the Montreal music scene for quite a while at this point and I believe I heard somewhere that she used to be roomates with one of the guys from Arcade Fire. I can’t remember where I got that from though so don’t quote me. Quite a few comparisons have been drawn to PJ Harvey, which I can definitely hear at the end of songs such as “Speak to Me Bones”, but personally I think this band is more reminiscent of a Gran Turismo era Cardigans. Powell’s voice also contains several Beth Gibbons/Edith Piaf type qualities that are always gonna make my ears perk up.
As I listen to the EP I can just see some ardent producer sweeping them off to some lush studio in order to polish and gloss them up for mass consumption. I ‘m not knocking that notion, but I have to say that the album has somewhat of a lo-fi charm that I think helps give Land of Talk their own identity. I guess that’s to be expected considering the whole thing was recorded in just 3 days. From what I witnessed Saturday night though I have no worries about these guys staying true to themselves and the music regardless of how they evolve over time.
The night started out with openers Secretary Bird, who I was totally unfamiliar with previously. They started up with a light tempo opener that while “not bad” didn’t really impress me too much. After that they went into a few numbers with a little more energy that were pretty cool. If they were opening for another band I wanted to see again I’d definitely try to check them out.
I’ve actually only been inside Spaceland one other time previously to see Edan last year. It ended up being pretty packed that night so I can’t really say how Saturday’s crowd was in comparison to a standard evening at the venue. When Land of Talk started though I had plenty of elbow room down towards the front of the stage. During the first number “Breakbaxx” it became apparent that it was indeed the front of house engineer and not the opening band who was obsessed reverb. At one point in the middle of a song Liz had to ask him to cut it off from her vocals. Despite this setback and a persistent low frequency hum that the band did everything they could to isolate for the novice running the board, the performance as a whole was quite well done.
It’s great to see a young band with good chemistry working together and having fun on stage. It should be noted that the current drummer has only been playing with them for a few weeks, but you got the vibe that the three of these musicians were really gelling right before your eyes. In terms of how natural and relaxed the whole performance felt it was almost as if the audience was just sitting in on one of their practice sessions with both Liz and bass player Chris engaging in short exchanges with individual audience members in between songs. This vibe was only punctuated by the fact that Liz was also barefoot the whole time and kept breaking into what I can only describe best as a “Dave Matthews shuffle” while playing. Gliding through a set that consisted of most of the EP and 3 or 4 new songs including one that debuted for the first time that night, it was quite touching watching the way Powell earnestly clutched her Gibson SG. While not seeming to be uncomfortable in the least it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to estimate that her eyes remained closed for a good 2/3rds of her time on stage.
After confessing that I discovered the band through blog downloads before I payed for the album Liz urged the rest of the crowd saying. “Our fans are really honest and for some reason they always come clean at the shows, so please buy our album even though you could totally just download it.” If anybody deserves the support of your hard earned dollars in exchange for their art it’s these guys so I encourage you to do the same. I had a chance to talk to Chris after the set and he says that they were able to record about 12 new songs back in February, but due to label bureaucracy they probably won’t be released officially until early next year sometime. I know I’ll be keeping an eye out for sure, I hope more of you will be doing the same.
The crowd filled out a bit for the Rosebuds set and they were having quite a nice set themselves. Unfortunately I only stayed about halfway through it being as how the girl I was with had to get up early the next morning and drive down to Diamond Bar. (As a side note, said female companion informed me that the keyboard player is fairly knowledgeable about how to stop a toilet from malfunctioning and is apparently eager to help another girl in need.) I have to say, while performing they almost succeeded in the damn near impossible task of getting an LA crowd to actually dance… almost. I really wish I had video of the guy who realized what he was doing halfway through busting a serious move. That’s Los Angeles hipsters for you I guess. God forbid you lose your senses and actually get into the groove of the music.
Today for your bonus I’m going to try and back up my unique comparison of Land Of Talk with the Cardigans. Seriously, am I the only one?