Viet Cong | Jagjaguwar
First off, the name thing—get it out of the way right up top—while not particularly cool or clever, does not bother me on the level it does some others apparently. (I would only add to the conversation the point that “official history” tends to evolve, elevating and depreciating certain aspects of past events, wars in particular, as time passes, as befits the victors.) There’s a lot more to read online about if you want to seek it out and contribute clicks and eyeballs to the debate. Moving on.
Viet Cong, four bros, half of whom were in the similarly unGoogleable, relatively decent band Women, from the great white north (Calgary, specifically) took the stage at a packed Echoplex last Friday night. Right away, upon entrance, they dispel any of the darkness or austerity that their music and artwork gives off, with singer/bassist/ostensible leader Matt Flegel greeting his public rather jovially, a little loose with drink, perhaps, with an ill conceived comedy bit to give away random items from their backstage rider. It’s hard to blame the bros for having a good time, riding the wave of new found success. (The sold out show was bumped up from an original booking at The Echo down to the ‘Plex to accommodate more bodies.) But a little bit of an aura of mystery and seriousness is always welcome with the rock, when the tunes justify it. (As is a little style–T-shirts just don’t cut it.) They would have been better served just launching straight into the music. Which of course they eventually do. [Continue reading. . .]
Recently relocated from New York, the city with which he’s been long identified, to take up residence here in the Hills, Dean Wareham seemed at ease on stage with an mild though attentive L.A. audience at the Roxy last Thursday. Looking like someone’s cool dad (which he is) just slightly rumpled in a casual stripped polo shirt and dark framed glasses and hair sprouting perhaps a slightly lesser amount of his usual poof, he gives off an air between bookishness (he is after all an author) and rocker cool (he does after all have a shiny Les Paul). He’s self effacing but you sense the confidence underneath it.
Despite the occasion of the new self titled solo record and last year’s e.p. — first ever sets released under his own full name in a musical career that spans four decades (similar to Ben Watt who also just released a self titled set at age 50 after a 30 year span) — the set featured a healthy chunk of Galaxie 500 classics along with a pair of Luna gems to much audible appreciation from the crowd. Ending the night with the prior’s cover of “Ceremony”, it is hard to think of a song that is as much identified by its cover version as its original recording.
Dean Wareham | deanwareham.com
Ben Watt, best known stateside as half of beloved pop duo Everything but the Girl, made his Los Angeles debut as a solo artist last Friday. Touring in support of his well received new album, Hendra, his first solo effort penned under his own name in 31 years, a melancholy, occasionally heartening, expertly crafted set of folky, sometimes mildly rocking songs, Watt played to a modest, appreciative seated Echoplex audience.
A large part of the draw for the evening no doubt (Watt himself would surely admit as much) was his principal collaborator on Hendra who was billed to accompany him on guitar, Bernard Butler. Now twenty odd years on since those classic early Suede years, Butler comes to us as nothing less than a contemporary legend, and a worthy partner to Watt, who thanked him from the stage both early and late in the set. . . [Continue reading]
Ben Watt | benwatt.com
Though based here and a frequent performer around town, Tuesday night at the Troubadour marked the proper headline debut for Lo-Fang. The sold out room—-admittedly, the numbers probably skewed a bit with industry types curious to check out the buzz—-though there are burgeoning pockets of wooing early adopter fangirls—-hosted a compact 45-minute 10-song set. Musically tight and set list on point (much of the new LP, Blue Film, plus his two cheeky reconstructions of Ginuwine and Grease soundtrack tunes), clearly the recent stint opening for Lorde has honed their chops.
Performing as a three-piece, Matthew Hemerlein is bolstered by a duo behind him on drums/laptop and keys/percussion, with just the right mix of Ableton backing tracks. The live show imbues the studio versions of Blue Film with warmth and occasional surprising muscle. Live drums in particular give the tunes some vital oomph.
Seeing their familiar, quirky name in print, Fanfarlo would seem to be a band I surely must have seen at least once at some point in my showgoing career. If not their own gig, then either opening for someone, or maybe a mid afternoon set at some festival, somewhere. (Christ knows I’ve seen my share for forgotten acts. Architecture in Helsinki, anyone?) I tried to conjure their ostensible “hits” and album art but came up blank. Yet a few songs into their fun, alternately mellow and uptempo set at the Troubadour last week, they felt familiar. I had in fact heard several of these songs (they have been mined by music supervisors frequently) but just could not match the sounds to a particular image or the band name. Admittedly, they do get some of blame for some of this: their artwork and lyrics can at times lack a discernible aesthetic and sense of voice for simple people like me to latch onto.