Not the end of the world

Sound problems and rock innovation mark two-band bill at Off Limits

ET SA GUITARE Adam Scarborough is just a quarter of La Fin du Monde’s dual-guitar, dual-bass attack.

ET SA GUITARE Adam Scarborough is just a quarter of La Fin du Monde’s dual-guitar, dual-bass attack.

Photo By Tom Angel

Lee Simpson Band & La Fin Du Monde Off Limits Thurs., June 23

Off Limits’ in-house sound man was late, I was told, which is why the audience witnessed the Lee Simpson Band’s sound check just seven minutes before the 10 o’clock start time. Sound and tempo problems plagued LSB throughout its set—namely, a loud volume at times verging on and occasionally dropping over into feedback and the gradual slowing down of certain songs. The loudness, I learned from leader/lead singer/guitarist Simpson afterwards, was not the band’s intention. Simpson would have preferred a somewhat lower volume more in keeping to the band’s rootsy side, but apparently the sound man was having none of that.

LSB—Simpson; Bruce MacMillan on guitar, lap slide and back-up vocals; Chris Martin (of Coldplay) look-alike Dave Elke on electric bass; and Nick Bearden on drums—played their Southern rock-influenced set to a modest but appreciative crowd. The pony-tailed Simpson leads the group with a strong voice and likeable demeanor, and he and MacMillan worked well together as vocalists, with MacMillan contributing high harmonies. Late in the set, both seemed to struggle a bit with vocal intonation, likely due to having a hard time hearing themselves sing because the instrumental volume was so loud.

I was happy to hear pretty rocker “Flying Blind,” from LSB’s CD LS, though it was one of several songs during the set that noticeably slowed down to a somewhat laborious tempo.

Headliners La Fin du Monde played a short set (the whole show ended before 12:30 a.m.) to a crowd that seemed alternately lulled and animated. The five-piece all-instrumental group with two guitars (Adam Scarborough and Chris Roberts), two electric basses (Mike Crew and Josh Kinsey) and one drummer (Dan Elsen) offers up a loud, changing soundscape of at-times innovative musical ideas.

On a handful of tunes, La Fin du Monde lured the audience into a trance-like state with its moody, pedal-effected sounds. One guy sitting near me seemed to be deep in thought, looking a little gloomy, during one such section. On occasion, the band drops into the obligatory, fast, punkish, instrumental rant, which serves to make audience members jump to their feet and cheer.

The band is tight and clearly enthused with the project. Stop-times are played crisply, and the band members move and sway together like parts of a quirky, well-oiled machine. Unlike the opening band, La Fin du Monde maintains a consistent tempo within songs and song sections, even when playing in a fast 11/8 time signature, which it did for a stretch before moving to a somewhat dreamy 6/8.

La Fin du Monde’s music reminded me at times of Neil Young’s eerie, odd soundtrack for Jim Jarmusch’s 1995 film, Dead Man, with its ability to conjure up and maintain an out-of-the-ordinary mood and state of mind. I’d like to see the band continue to delve into these peculiar sonic territories.