Thursday night at the Echoplex, I saw something in live music that is almost as rare as seeing a unicorn.
Amidst a sea of hipsters, I saw a bro in a trucker hat atop another bro’s shoulders. This I haven’t seen since Chet Faker at Coachella weekend two [proof]. I guess that’s just the sort of behavior that Molly Rankin and her kick ass lo-fi rock band Alvvays — that’s with two v’s — inspires.
To be fair, this occurred during the final song of the set before an encore — the indie hit “Archie, Marry Me.” With the sound of the first bit of heavy guitar that comes in proceeding Rankin’s vocals, a large majority of the crowd began moshing like they were at an Offspring show. There’s a reason why Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard called it his favorite song of last year prior to performing a cover version of it last October.
It’s always funny to me how certain bands touch certain demographics in large numbers. Many of the kids at this show were wearing the same types of 70’s-style glasses, for instance. It’s like there’s a shopping center they are going to where you can hear bands like Alvvays over the PA system.
There are few places that a band could play a Camera Obscura cover — “Lloyd, I’m Ready to be Heartbroken” — (RIP Carey Lander) and the crowd will totally get it. But you almost get the feeling that Alvvays wouldn’t exist without a band like Camera Obscura coming before it. Midway through the set –after songs like the set-opening “Atop a Cake” and new track “New Haircut” — I couldn’t help but think they reminded me a cross of that band and Dinosaur Jr.
Often overlooked underneath her heart-stopping vocals is Rankin’s exquisite rhythm guitar. It serves as a perfect complement to Alec O’Hanley’s lead guitar. O’Hanley might be the best power pop guitarist in the business these days, or at least the most promising with just one album under the band’s belt. Bassist Brian Murphy is one of my all-time favorites to watch on stage because he’s always got this “Did I leave the iron on?” look on his face while providing the backbone to all these killer rock songs.
But it was keyboardist Kerri MacLellan that was the biggest hit, something Rankin noted herself to raucous applause midway through the set. “LA just loves Kerri,” Rankin said. Ironically she was wearing the same kind of old school glasses that many people in the crowd had.
Two other songs not from their album were played and they had me walking away as excited for the follow-up to their self-titled full-length debut as much as any album that could drop next year. “Underneath Us” was released as a B-side last year. It didn’t really fit within the context of the album but it proved the band could excel at the shoegaze route should they ever choose to go that direction.
One hilarious bit of banter on stage came when Rankin discussed how the plot to National Lampoon’s Vacation isn’t funny at all. People in the crowd yelled Chevy Chase is an asshole and O’Hanley said the band was Team Dan Harmon, the creator of the show “Community” that butted heads with Chase.
Though “Archie” has gotten lots of fanfare, “Party Police” had just as much singalong. It’s one of the most heartbreaking choruses on the album and on this night, with Rankin pleading “You don’t have to leave, you could just stay here with me.” The crowd ate it up, particularly when the instrumentation came to a pause and shined the light on Rankin’s voice.
Alvvays followed things up with “Archie” and it was one of the top moments of live music for me this year. It really is a perfectly written pop song that translates nicely to the live setting. Ben Gibbard knew what he was talking about. The band closed with a cover of “Alimony” by The Hummingbirds.
This might be the last time fans get a chance to see Alvvays in a venue as small as the Echoplex in Los Angeles. They easily sold the venue out and could probably do similar damage at the Fonda Theatre on their next go-around. Though they’ve proven a hit with the Echo Park crowd, they could easily take Hollywood.
Though lo-fi rocking Los Angeles Police Department is written and produced singlehandedly by Ryan Pollie, the music takes on even bigger life in a live setting with his full band. Pollie began making this music for himself because it made him happy, but there was a crowd full of people that were obviously very thankful he decided to share it with a larger audience. Glenn Howerton, aka Dennis Reynolds from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” was so impressed with LAPD’s set that he bought a band shirt after the show. LAPD’S music and songwriting is so personal and intimate that it definitely hits home for anyone who’s been in a relationship or situation with a significant other where they don’t really know what they’re doing. They’re a band to keep an eye on.
Words: Mark E. Ortega
Photography: Manuel Domínguez