Surprisingly, the Wiltern was not packed this past June 23, 2011 as Okkervil River, Titus Andronicus and Brooklyn newbies, New Villager took the stage for what I thought would be a jam-packed show. Perhaps it was the week’s competition of touring bands in Los Angeles that thinned out the crowd. Regardless, it was a great show with both East Coast openers being the highlight of the show: Titus Andronicus and New Villager.
The evening greeted us with Brooklyn’s, New Villager. The threesome had been spending the past 10 days prior to their Wiltern date in a China Town art gallery playing a string of shows across L.A. Upon first glance you would assume New Villager to be just another hipster psyche band judging by their Tame Impala-esque bare feet and hippy garbs adorning their set up. To my surprise these boys were totally not of the hipster norm. With powerful group vocals and a lead falsetto laced with some very weird effects and layers, New Villager were soulfully weird (and I mean that in the best of ways). These guys bring out some unusual experimentation that border art rock not only in their pulsating sound but their appearance. At one point the lead singer put on a colorful mask and began to perform some figurative dance with streamers in his hands. Yeah, it was weird but it worked. New Villager have a pleasurably intriguing production, from sound to appearance. If they ever come your way, be sure to catch their set.
If you’re a fan of New Jersey’s Titus Andronicus, you already know they put on an excellent live show. Newcomers to the sounds of Titus were totally enthralled by their infectious stage energy and amplified sound. Opening up with a “A More Perfect Union,” excited bodies began to pogo as the band blasted out their powerful riffs. Titus as a whole is an amazing band, but one of the best things about them is guitarist/violinist Amy Klein. This girl has the best stage presence. She’s like the energizer bunny; she keeps bouncing and bouncing and bouncing. It’s always a great feeling to see band members having a fun time on stage and jumping around, posing with their axe and just head bangin’ the night away — it really gets the crowd engaged. Klein did just that and more.
As the headlining act that was supposed to be the highlight of the night, Okkervil River’s light kind of fizzled. I hate to say it but I walked out of their set just before their encore. Whoever did the sound for Okkervil really fucked up. I’ve always enjoyed seeing them live and I absolutely love their new album I Am Very Far, but this set was painful to my ears. Front-man, Will Sheff has such a lovely voice but for some reason it sounded like a shouting match on this evening. The vocals completely over powered all the instrumentation and it didn’t sound cohesive. I found myself plugging my ears for most of the show because all their aural elements were penetrating my ears like sharp knives. A few other people also complained about it but they still seemed to have enjoyed the show. Nonetheless, Okkervil played together so well as multi-instrumentalists, vibing off of each other’s energy. Sheff performed an acoustic solo towards the close of the night which was gorgeous and vulnerable. But even this was pretty damn loud.
Words: Sandra Burciaga
Photography: Ben Irwin
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