Waterstrider - The DC9 continues to book some great shows this year, although everyone here would have been happier if they even remotely came close to opening the doors in a timely manner as the large crowd was filling in every gap upstairs, down and in between. Waterstrider got rolling quickly enough after the large crowd filed in and dug into this interesting pop music. There were two percussionists with one adding some keyboards at times, so even though things were often light and airy, there was a steady throbbing pace. One or two guitars were going, although there were only a few times where they stood out. More often, it was the falsetto vocals that soared above it all. Some songs were good, with others not resonating as well with me, although the crowd seemed to appreciate the overall sound. However, the band cut into one masterful song which sounded like an outtake form Tim Buckley's incredible "Starsailor" album. I am not sure they want to go this experimental all the time, but I was excited to hear them stretch their pop sound into territory this wild and bizarre. So credit to Oakland's Waterstrider for appealing to a broad base of listeners.
Gardens & Villas - These fellow Californians follow closely to same odd pop stylings of Waterstrider and also feature upper register singing, even less guitar, more bass, and a bit more keyboards. The guitar does not even appear until the third song, but the flute that the singer/guitarist employed early and here and there later on was a great plus. They sounded like a clever progressive outfit from the Canterbury scene when they had the flute dueling the keyboardist. Yet they changed the sound around from song to song in fascinating ways. The bass player was so heavy at times, it was nearly in the Gang of Four or Jah Wobble range. The keyboardist had some powerful moments and the rhythms were interesting throughout. These songs are fleshed out with lots of exciting moments, yet still retained a pop sensibility to grab on to (unlike some progressive bands). They had a mixture of warmth and cool that came out, enhanced by the backlighting and projections employed. I enjoyed this band a lot and I don't often and both bands impressed me more than I expected with their music resonating well with me the morning after.