A home for Unwed Sailor

The last time I wrote about the Java Cafe and Brew Pub on Fair Oaks Boulevard was many months ago when some booking confusion led to four bands playing not inside the venue, but rather in the adjacent parking lot. It seemed that a booker had put together a whole month of shows at the Java Cafe only to leave the venue’s employment. The bands weren’t notified of a cancellation, nor were the owners of the Java Cafe told about the booked shows. Hence, when the bands arrived, they were met by bewildered stares, apologies and an innocuous folk act already performing inside.

As noted earlier, like all good young rockers, the show went on regardless. The ostracized bands set up across the parking lot with the blessing of the local authorities, who stayed close but let the show go on, and rocked out in front of a handful of excited kids. The bands looked heroic, and the Java Cafe was left looking a bit idiotic.

How things change! Last week, a three-band bill including superb touring band Unwed Sailor, electropop act Dusty Brown and experimental drum-and-bass duo Swims was left without a venue after the Underground Café canceled the show, citing a band’s late arrival as the reason. Swims’ Mark Rocha rang up the Java Cafe as an 11th-hour shot in the dark.

Fortunately, the two intrepid employees running the Java Cafe counter that night were music fans who already knew of the show and lamented their inability to attend due to work responsibilities. Solution: Bring the show to the Java Cafe. That’s exactly what Emi Yonemura and Christina McKenzie did. Hip young music fans congregated. Coffee and beer poured. And the once-ostracized bands rocked the free world.

And a fine free-world rocking it was: Dusty Brown’s set was marred by a distorted PA system, but Jessica Brown’s vocals matched the electronic compositions well enough that the sturm und drang of the songs came through, regardless of audio problems. This is an important consideration and a mark of success for the duo: It’s not every band that could perform well given the circumstances. Dusty Brown’s music has a weirdly unstuck-in-time quality that moves it beyond the bounds of ordinary pop music (a quality that much of the better electronic music tends to have).

The highpoint of the evening, though, was Unwed Sailor’s set. The music of Unwed Sailor, a bass-driven instrumental band fronted by former Roadside Monument member Jonathan Ford, was heavy and slow in tempo. It was quite a bit louder than the band’s most recent CD release, The Marionette and the Music Box (one version of which includes a hardcover full-color picture book of the CD’s instrumental story), but it was nonetheless emotionally effective. Fans of Explosions in the Sky and Mogwai will appreciate and understand what the band is doing.

Bravo to the bands (local prog-bass-and-drums freakout Swims was interesting enough to deserve longer treatment than this sentence, but I’m out of room) and to Java Cafe. The former for not giving up and the latter for being open to the rock.