I arrived at The Echo on Thursday July 14, 2011 about 5-10 minutes into the show and the place was already close to full. It wasn’t air tight but a solid group of people filled the room. What filled the room even more which I noticed upon arrival, was the bass. I immediately made way through the crowd into the middle front of the stage and that bass hit so hard I could feel it buzzing in my throat.
This bombastic bass was brought on by Cassettes Won’t Listen — comprised of one man, the Brooklyn based, Jason Drake. A projector behind him flashed with various images, the most intriguing one being of running robots with hairy eyebrows. Buildings and other miscellaneous imagery flashed furiously on a lowered white wall behind him throughout the rest of the set, giving Jason some movement since he stood relatively still for most of the show, triggering effects and singing, with hands prayer style over his mic. From synth strings and horns to sped up and slowed down vocoder voices, the variety of electronics used were accompanied by his melodic vocals. This added a sentimental value to the songs, layered with “woah-ohs” for good measure. Songs like “Paper Float,” boasted heartfelt lyrics. It reminded me a bit of the old school tender days of emo and Jason had the nerdriffic thick-framed black glasses to match. A lot of light head bobbing was the majority of the crowd response but a few hardcore fans made sure their hooting and hollering was heard by all.
The next band Gardens and Villa, from Santa Barbara, took the stage to lots of welcome. The simple occasional flash of different colored lights lent a simple coloring to the mix of thawing shoe gazers and wild movers on the dance floor. The band released their self-titled album on July 5, 2011 via Secretly Canadian. They played several songs off their new album, including “Black Hills,” “Orange Blossom” (my personal fave) and “Thorncastles.” Heavy bass grooves and solid drumming, layered with synths gave their live performance a larger than life sound. The accents of the electronic drum pad, maracas, wood blocks and tambourines would make Sheila E. do a double take! It felt like the tribal emotion of Fool’s Gold, the softer vocal stylings of Local Natives and a time machine trip back to the 80s a la Talking Heads had been whirled up into one super awesome genre crossing band. And the secret ingredient to whip up this musical treat? Just add flute.
One crowd member couldn’t help but profess his love with a loud cry of “We love the flute!” to which singer, Adam Rasmussen responded, with a blush and a smirk, “Oh stop it! You’ll get more flute.” To which he busted out a flute here and a flute there from his plethora of flutes from an archer-style bag, strapped to his back. Rad.
The evening’s headliners, Generationals, comprised of the duo Ted Joyner and Grant Widmer, but fleshed out by a whole band for their live performance, took to the stage after we all got our fill of flute. A big G-E-N banner, with each letter on its own panel in large block letters, with bright light bulbs flashing behind them — seemed more fitting for a big arena stage or American Bandstand.
Although performing with a full band (that looked very hippy-ish), Ted and Grant were the main focus on guitar, bass and doubling up on vocals. The boys exuded straightforward, dance-fueled retro indie pop on their new album, Actor-Caster, released this past March. Live however, they came across overly distorted, loud and muddied, and made me strain to hear the melodies. The loudness of the drums did nothing to help their case either and I found myself wanting to dance along with the movers and shakers that were sprinkled throughout the crowd, but then just being overwhelmed by the lack of clarity in sound, my feet would stop in their tracks. I then resorted to minimal head shaking with the folks in the back as I lingered for the rest of their set.
All the artists put their best foot forward and rocked out but Gardens and Villa really stole this show with their high energy, love for the crowd (and vice versa), engaging songs fit for any wild and crazy 80s inspired dance party in the woods — and of course, the motherfucking flute.
Show Review by Emily Saex
Photography by Monique Hernandez
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