Show Review: Khruangbin @ Lodge Room

This is not what I expected.

March 30th, 2018
Kyle B. Smith

Image by Mary Kang

It started without a greeting. With some hammer-ons, some hammer-offs. It brought to mind a sitar. An opium den. Someplace ex-US. Laura Lee cooed a bit. This is what I expected. Loungey, but you know, cool. There were hot pink search lights scanning the crowd. Within two minutes, it was officially notarized that this was going to be all vibe. “Como Me Quieres,” it was. Then it was “Dern Kala,” and I don’t know what that means. But Lee and guitarist Mark Seer were front and center doing coordinated knee-bends. Ok, maybe this is a bit looser than I expected. Our greeting finally came as follows, “Los Angeles, California!” This led to “August 10.” Donald Johnson sat back behind his kit, all pocket. There was no rush in these songs. Psychedelia came courtesy of projected soap bubbles, just like they used to. Then those search lights were blowing highlighter yellow over the darkened Lodge Room. Things slowed a bit for “Friday Morning.” Yes, there were echoes of Floyd, and friends asking, “What would the masons think?” Then Seer – what a name – told us that the Texan trio were very humbled to be there. Then “Mister White” arrived, as did the wall-to-wall sensation that whatever the fuck the caricaturized DOPE is supposed to mean now, this must be it. Some of these songs off new LP Con Todo El Mundo could one day graduate to be indie jazz standards? Maybe not. I don’t care. Wait, no. They’re a house band in Jabba’s lair? No, I’m high. Wait, what? In any event, Khruangbin is a band of few words, many sounds, dreamy intros and quick transitions. But then somewhere past the midpoint of the seamless set was a whole James Brown element coming on strong. The sorta mystery of how this impressive sold out three-night run came to be evaporated with one of those soap bubbles, at which point the hipper-than-thou crowd assembled in Highland Park was simply fucking lit. This is not what I expected. Khruangbin had succeeded in turning a room full of typically staid Angelenos in to something out of a late night set at Bonnaroo. Musical shape shifting, if you will. The beer was cold. Egos were lost. Lead guitar was given room to breathe. Slippery solos never betrayed dexterity, even when they put some stank on it. Are those Shaft quotes? Ohhhhh noooo, ohhhh yessss here it comes, it’s your grandma’s quilted-together crowd pleasing, hip hop medley! “Footsteps in the Dark” (for some, Cube for others, I had to look it up), “Summertime,” “I Got 5 On It.” Better stop right now, or somebody’s gonna get pregnant (thank you Prince). After a long strut with the covers, Khruangbin returned to their intellectual property to cool things down before the encore. The first encore. The Donald, alone on stage, swiveled his chair away from his kit, to face a piano at the back of the room. Then a delicate little pecked number came out of nowhere like a bar fight. It did not fit the proceedings, yet somehow did. His comrades returned. It got tropical sounding, and balmy in the air. Clothes were coming off. The tune accelerated in to a foot stomping jam treading closely behind the Dead. A bit ersatz, but hey it’s Saturday night in what’s become a juke joint, and it’s clear that nobody cares. Especially when things dropped in to a straight modern funk disco hybrid. And then it was over, all too soon. The room started to empty. There were smiles, sweat, cups kicked around on the floor. Where’s the next party?? But those with ganas remained. For a while they clapped, and insisted and, yes, that second encore did happen. Cribbing from the Godfather of Soul a bit more with a pinch of The Doors, it was chemical cross-pollination. A helpful drug for when Khruangbin vamped over instructions directed to the remaining faithful to “make new friends.” Sure why not? And so everyone started talking to strangers. I turned to my right and met Tim. What a concept. Then, a call your Uber-hip warning, “We gonna hit it and quit it.” And Khruangbin wasn’t lying. Their crusade in the name of vibe was over.

More info:

Khruangbin

Phoebe Bridgers @ The Natural History Museum

A hair-raising set surrounded by dead animals

February 13th, 2018
Kyle B. Smith

Phoebe Bridgers haunts me. Her songs tell tales like a series of sad Polaroids strung together. It’s a dose of reality heavy enough to legitimately scare the wits out of you. Delivered with precision and delicacy, the dead calm in her songs also conjures hair-raising moments in her live performances. Never mind that she usually plays in a jet black dress that is worn over a near-transparent complexion, all whilst touring a breakout album that has a spooky ghost on its cover.

Phoebe Bridgers appeared live at the Natural History Museum as part of their wintertime First Fridays series, surrounded by a room full of dead animals. While the lifeless creatures stood still in well-lit diorama scenes, Bridgers opening set stayed the steady course of 2017 LP, Stranger in the Alps – the eight songs in her abbreviated set carried the weight of a delicate thud.

The aptly-named Rob Moose (violin), and local whiz kid producer Ethan Gruska (keys) were Phoebe’s collaborators for the evening. As is usually the case at First Fridays, a chatty and upbeat weekend-ready crowd drowned things out towards the back of the room. But myriad textures came to life closer to the action. From Moose’s plucked violin and Gruska’s subtle ethereal sensibilities, to Bridgers’ own multidimensional vocal spectrum, many moments rang clear as a bell to those paying attention.

The trio took “Scott Street” for a walk early on. The song is about as close as Bridgers treads to euphoria, with a collective walk down that ushered in a heck of a tension and release moment towards the tune’s end. Rob Moose’s string contributions hinted at strains of southern rock, before Phoebe took over with some woo-hoo coo’ing.

An electronic, knob-turning cacophony from Gruska gave way to Bridgers’ stoic delivery of the brutally honest confessional of “Funeral.” More unexpected Dixie-flavored sounds snuck in to the wrenching piece, arguably the best cut off Stranger in the Alps.

Those who have seen Phoebe Bridgers perform over the past year or two may have been caught off guard by the execution of “Georgia.” Once (and perhaps still a little bit) timid, Bridgers can now sing with a newfound command, harnessing power from the depths of her vocal range. As the song kept growing bigger, her voice blossomed with similar gusto. The outro flaunted a masterful intertwining of violin and Phoebe’s confident vocal projection.

Standing perfectly upright, Bridgers sang “Killer” sans guitar, and with her hands held together behind her back. From there, she quietly fell to her knees to tune her guitar, while Gruska and Moose gently volleyed an earthy, ad hoc jam back and forth. This led in to the finale of “Motion Sickness,” and yet another glowing example of Phoebe Bridgers’ less-is-more approach to her art.

Discovered mid-set was a bit of indie rock’s own natural history. Leaning against the wall, engrossed in the performance of one of his de facto protégés, was none other than Bright Eyes himself. He did not come forth to provide vocals on “Would You Rather,” as he did on the album. Instead, Conor Oberst opted to hang quietly to the side of the room, taking a place between other taxidermied creatures of the past, like some sort of diorama of 2005.

Setlist

Smoke Signals
Scott Street
Funeral
Georgia
Would You Rather
Demi Moore
Killer
Motion Sickness

Hippo Campus @ Fonda Theatre

The Minnesota quartet continue to rise

January 30th, 2018
David Fisch

I would suggest that it’s just a matter of time before Minneapolis-based quartet Hippo Campus breaks out, but by the looks and vibes of Friday night’s audience at the Fonda Theatre, I could have mistaken them for already having done so.


Photos by David Fisch

With a full-length under their belt and a score of singles and EP’s in the last few years and, most importantly, a delectable sound that is indie pop at its grandest, they sold out the venue top to bottom and commanded the stage left to right with an energetic performance that could easily pull both adoring fans and newcomers alike.

The band played just over an hour, performing their most popular tracks like “Way It Goes,” “Suicide Saturday,” “Buttercup,” and “Little Grace.” They were also supporting their most recent release, the warm glow EP, performing its three tracks.

The band will be out on the road in the U.S. for the next few weeks, and you can find those tour dates here. Check out the music video to “Buttercup” below.

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Hippos Campus

Destroyer @ The Regent

Singer/songwriter Dan Bejar imbues mystique

January 15th, 2018
David Fisch

A baroque minstrel wandering Earth for the last twenty-plus years, Dan Bejar has crafted some of the most poetic alternative music as his project Destroyer, most recently releasing his 12th studio album ken. With each new set of songs comes a new lens on his introspection of relationships, and that follows through to his live performances.

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La Louma/Object as Subject @ The Satellite

Bitchwave’s first showcase was an enormous success

December 7th, 2017
Lex Voight

Ready or not, the Bitchwave is here to sweep you away. A record label founded for the purpose of fostering and mentoring female and non-binary identifying musicians and bands by members of La Louma and personal favorites Rituals of Mine, Bitchwave held its first showcase the other week at The Satellite, featuring the talents of La Louma and Object as Subject (as well as headliners The Pack AD).
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Ariel Pink @ The Regent

It’s just gonna get weird from here

November 20th, 2017
Melissa Karlin
Category: Review, Staff Pick

HE DIDN’T PLAY “JELL-O.”

I think I’m literally the only person who was disappointed by that fact. I mean, he played other tracks I love like “White Freckles” and “Round & Round.” But not “Jell-O.” And that’s my review.

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Rhye @ Moroccan Lounge

The debut of new songs to swoon to

November 9th, 2017
David Fisch

The downtempo R&B stylings of Rhye were something of an enigma back in the early 2010’s, releasing singles of androgynous vocals and soulful chill with underground raves before finally releasing a full-length LP in 2013 in the form of Woman. With the exception of touring in the following year, Rhye has been fairly quiet – that is, until this year, when the band resurfaced with a similar release strategy that once again began the hype machine of high anticipation, leaning on superb singles that hinted at a brighter energy and expanded scope.

While information of a new full-length follow-up is pending, Rhye will be back on the road with a formally announced tour heading into 2018. In the meantime, though, the LA-based band made a sold-out stop to test new material and perform older songs at the Moroccan Lounge, which is rapidly making the case for becoming LA’s best venue for intimate settings, devoted crowds, and outstanding acoustics.

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Protomartyr @ Moroccan Lounge

Detroit post-punk arrives in LA with precision

October 17th, 2017
David Fisch
Category: Review, Staff Pick

My initial appreciation of Detroit post-punk rockers Protomartyr came upon an album download of Under Color of Official Right and seeing them at the small but hearty Bootleg Theater in Silverlake in 2014, where the musicianship on display was a thing of beauty and leader Joe Casey was drinking beer and wallowing in his precise rants about everyday life. Much was the same at the Moroccan Lounge Monday night, perhaps with an extra case of beer and a few more people, but with two new albums released since then and an even tighter edge and studio-like clarity, the band has sounded better, performed as ferociously, or felt as meaningful as this very moment in time in their existence.

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