There was a guy in one of those Pharrell hats from Urban Outfitters, making it work like so many of our father’s did in so many of our throwback Thursday photos. Knit caps, ugly Christmas sweaters, peacoats, sweatshirts tied around waists, and even a Firestone- branded, USA Olympics team jacket (circa Sarajevo ’84). Yes, it was “Winter” in LA and no one could agree on what to wear. They had come for Mystic Braves and friends (Levitation Room, Drinking Flowers, Mr. Elevator and the Brain Hotel) . They had come to get in from the cold and slip away from holiday stress with some good, old fashioned psych rock. It was $10 per ticket and $9 per Sapporo; the face melting was free of charge. Before Levitation Room went on, the room was cold (LA cold anyway). There’s no telling, exactly, what a levitation room is, but the crowd secretly hoped there was a fireplace in it.
Lead singer, guitarist Julian Porte, grabbed the attention of the early, disparate crowd immediately. The Echo’s spot-on sound carried his well-annunciated lyrics to the foreground, even if their brand of psych is of the ilk that sounds a bit like it was recorded in the bottom of a 55-gallon drum or being played on the other end of a tin can telephone (it works).
Porte and his crew delivered songs that harkened back to The Animals and The Yardbirds but they managed to make it their own. The last half of their set was all new material, including the parable “Crystal Ball” which includes the double entente insight “Sometimes, when you trip, you fall.” At one point, Porte said of another song, “This one’s about when you’re seeing someone and you’re not really feeling it.” However, the early crowd saw Levitation Room on Friday night, and it felt good. Check out their new EP from Lolipop and Burger, out next month!
The backdrop at The Echo is, what appears to be, leftover wall padding from an insane asylum. The perfect setting for Drinking Flowers; the band, not the recipe for ‘shroom tea. Although, ‘shroom tea may have been a good idea.
The sound that came out was almost suffocating. It was significantly louder than Levitation Room’s set. This may have been by design, to get that bass to reverberate through the crowd as we all swayed and gazed at our shoes; but, it was abusive. So much, that much of the crowd backed away from the stage or just went outside for a few vape hits.
When you weren’t looking at your shoes, you got to see a pretty bassist that reminded me of Debbie Mazar’s “Jane” from “Empire Records” and a lead singer with pasty makeup, black lipstick and a hairdo that Jennifer Aniston’s “Rachel” would have loved. They had style. But the crowd wanted more substance.
Drinking Flowers’ set may have been better enjoyed at a lower volume, but it all just seemed to get muddy. There were points where the wall of sound they created came together in a body-shaking, psych-symphony, but those moments were too fleeting. Their latest EP is worth a listen, though. Hopefully, their live sets will translate better in the future.
Soon, and almost without warning, the sound of an organ on acid bubbled through The Echo and completely changed the vibe; in a very good way. The next thing one notices about Mr. Elevator & the Brain Hotel is that they are guitar-less. Just a drummer, bassist, keyboardist and organist/tambourinist. The crowd wasn’t left wanting for one, though.Tomas Dolas’s effusive vocals and Doors-like keyboard weaved through some magical organ and heavy bass to bring the venue onto their feet.. And into each other!
There aren’t many psychedelic bands that are able to elicit a mosh pit response from their audience, but Mr. Elevator is of that new breed of psychedelia: surf rock tone, San Fran melody, an indie rock/Beach Goth tempo. They are able to craft songs that are both introspective and frenetic at once. The type that make your brain hurt (and maybe your feet) in the best way possible.
Psych? Yes. But, absolutely rock ‘n’ roll. Subversive, smooth, sexy. Speaking of sexy, at least one of their songs sounded like it was pulled straight from the “Deep Throat” soundtrack (and it was fantastic). Mr. Elevator packed the place; wall-to-wall people everywhere, including the mosh pit. If there was accounting for taste, every one of their future shows will be packed, too. Don’t miss them at the Great American Music Hall on Jan 15, in SF, where this music will feel right at home.
Mr. Elevator & The Brain Hotel
Mystic Braves, whom many missed in the early hours of Beach Goth 3, came out swinging, and the crowd, that had just been to Mr. Elevator’s penthouse, were ready for them. On stage, the pose that the bassist (playing a righty with his lefty) and the two guitarists took for their set looked like the “Three Amigos”. Much like those embroidered, mariachi-styled superheroes, Mystic Braves had some good looking weapons in their arsenal, but all they needed was their trance inducing charm.
Their beachy energy got the crowd in a surfing mood and, one after another, surfers attempted their craft. A young woman in high waist shorts was the decided winner, the crowd was able to carry her like ol’ JC from Jesus Christ Superstar. It added a little bit more magic to Mystic Braves cool set.
Each of the Amigos took turns as vocalists and musically driving the songs while the keys and drums built soft bones for hanging their twangy notes. There was even a bit of a Ween-like country tone in the mix at times. But, at the heart of Mystic Braves is a party, one that happens when, as their lyrics suggest, you “listen to your heart”.
The level of skill exhibited by each musician in Mystic Braves is really impressive and harkens to the best of their predecessors like Jefferson Airplane and Iron Butterfly. Truly a joy to watch.
On this Friday night, in Echo Park (the current hood for most of these bands), the crowd followed their heart up on to the stage; and, by the end of the night, the band was surrounded by dancers and stage divers and young folk just out for a good time. If that isn’t what rock and roll is supposed to be, then what is?
Their latest LP, “Desert Island”, is out now (vinyl/cassette) from Burger and Lolipop. Can you say psychedelic stocking stuffer?
Words by: Auggie
Photos by: Sharee Allen