Painted Face - A local duo starts things off with one woman on vocals and another on keyboards and computer beats and such. From the start, the sound certainly seems appropriate for this bill, but there are only a few things happening on stage, so it is important that they work. And they do. The vocals were expressive and mostly moving. The keyboards and sound generation was melodic with attractive melodies in the pop range, perhaps more mood inducing than bouncy-happy, but not downer at all. Hmmm, there probably is a better way to describe it, but basically I was involved and generally happy hearing these songs. Not much from the drum machine beats, but that's not my favorite sound anyway and it is not a bad way to get started when one or two of you are making your own music. Good 30 minute set and a local band worth checking out, for all of you who don't get to clubs early enough. Your loss.
Active Child - Another duo, but this time they are from LA and tour partners with tonight's headliner. One guy plays bass mostly and some guitar. The other starts with Irish Harp and also plays some keyboards and guitar. They have a couple computers going with only light percussion and do some looping, too. It is a good sound, not overly dense and with great touch. The key is the soaring lead vocals done in the high registers of Antony Hegarty or King Diamond (well if he toned it down a bit). There was a British goth-pop feeling, but it was not overly heavy. I am not sure whether this was due to my first exposure or a crafty set list, but I thought the set built really well to where my early intrigue and uncertainty passed and a feeling of being involved with high quality music resulted. A deceptively good band here, at least in my world. Perhaps it is obvious to everyone else.
School of Seven Bells - The three members hit the stage of the now crowded room and something was amiss. I had seen this band many years back at the 9:30 Club and enjoyed their set, but really had not kept up with them aside from reading some positive press. Alejandra Deheza was there on guitar/vocals and vocals along with Benjamin Curtis on guitar. But the third member was a touring drummer and there was no Deheza twin sister. Apparently she left the band for personal reasons just nine days back. From what I recall, the major loss here is the visual stage presence of the two twins and perhaps there may be more behind the scenes. But musically, the essential core remains with the two guitars playing with whatever recorded parts they need along with the nice live drum sound. The first half hour had a lot more pop-rock songs than I recall, oh so long ago. There was a simpler more direct approach present. But then, the shoegaze came in a bit more during the second half of the set. Actually, it was nice to see a variety of styles that were played with subtle adjustments and easily fit into their overall sound. The band exudes charisma, even more than Deheza's bright white toothed smile. The sound is firm without being too overwhelming and allowing the vocals to work their magic. This band has toured hard and has made a nice name for themselves. I see no reason why it will not continue and even grow some more. And as much as I liked the set, the encore was brilliant. They sounded like the Velvet Underground with Jacquie McShee (Pentangle) rather than Nico. A great slow building psychedelic jam.
Quote of the Night: I get the usual questions of who do I write for or if I am a critic as I scribble some notes, but the soundman asked me "Are you stealing their lyrics?". Hadn't thought of that, but we chatted a bit thereafter (he's local, not with the band). And I also want to remind everyone if you don't hear me complaining about the sound, it means these guys are doing a great job. And I really find I don't complain about the sound too often in most of the clubs in town.