I arrived at the Echo on Thursday July 21, 2011 to the exaggerated theatricality of Sam Mickens’ stop-and-go guitar and intense vocals. I felt as if I had walked into a somewhat familiar state of disarray: and I kind of liked it. From songwriter to purposeful spazz in seconds — vocals ranged from soft and breathy to loud and almost operatic. At the end of his set he had two fellow singers, including the lead singer of Extra Life, come up on stage where their layered vocals blended beautifully to a smooth ending of a choppy set.
Next up was NYC/Baltimore based, Extra Life. Lead singer, Charlie Looker’s Nine Inch Nails cut-off tee gave a little bit away as to what was to come. The band went right into a battering ram of drums, synths, guttural, melismatic vocals and a wide range of guitar tones. Initially it made me think of a NIN meets the Residents, especially with the dark storytelling of the lyrical content but it grew a little excessive by the end of the set. Halfway through the set the synth took a clear and distinctive lead, prompting some of the drunk kids in the back to get their dance on. A lot of abrupt song endings throughout with the exception of when they closed out with a new song that was dramatic and never ending but sustained with some sparse, yet cool drumming.
Parenthetical Girls then took to the stage with a whole lot of personality. Electronic drum pads, orchestral-to-poppy synths, bass and dance attack drums were all in motion. Lead singer, Zac Pennington, made use of the entire venue and nothing was left untouched by his presence. He covered every corner of the stage, sang through the crowd several times and serenaded everyone from a seat atop the bar. In the middle of their set they had opener Sam Mickens join them on stage for a few songs, which kicked up some awesomely unruly guitars and included the very noteworthy and danceable “The Pornographer,” which the crowd reacted to with a big whoop and applause. He also proceeded to solicit dubious drugs from the audience for his long drive back to Portland after the show. The singer did nothing short of screaming into the face of the guitar, sticking mics in his mouth, leaving a distinct and lasting impression on the audience.
Hometown (Inland Empire/L.A.) favorites Abe Vigoda took the stage, immediately hitting the crowd with some infectious synths, layered with spastic claps and beats that gave off a bit of an 80s vibe. They kept things going with a mix of new and old tunes, including my personal favorite, “Skeleton” off their last album of the same title. However, I was a little surprised that more of the crowd wasn’t rocking out and bouncing around like the band. The lack of dancing kind of threw me off but they played on with a solid, high energy set and continue to be an L.A. favorite for their odd yet palate-pleasing balance of chaos, dance and rock.
Show Review by Emily Saex
Photography by Matt Draper
Click through the photo gallery below for more photos of the bands!