Couples night at the Press Club
According to a pal, I had it all wrong. “You sound like some ranting bicycle geek,” he told me. “You keep going on and on about how the transformation of downtown and Midtown is a bad thing. Lemme tell you, more salons and sushi bars and groovy nightclubs for the Hummer limo crowd is a good thing. More salons all over Midtown mean more beautiful women. Don’t you want to be surrounded by beautiful women?”
He had a point. Imagine the possibilities: Our onetime bicycle-friendly Midtown grid morphed into a miniature version of West Los Angeles, a veritable metropolis of temples to the new narcissism. If that means more unattainable eye candy for us hoi polloi, who can argue with that? Not me.
Speaking of beautiful women, I recently braved creeping narcolepsy to catch a set, or part of a set, by Two Sheds at the Press Club’s Monday-night installation, Club Pow!
First, a caveat: On a weeknight, when you’re advertising three bands, don’t list the show’s beginning as 9 p.m. when the first band doesn’t go on until 10:30, especially when you’re forcing your somewhat captive audience to listen to old sides by the likes of Queen at ear-splitting volume.
That said, the old Press Club, the site of many scribbled escapades involving an earlier incarnation of this scribe, has long been converted from a neighborhood boozery with a pool table and a cast of well-marinated regulars into yet another venue painted black with crummy sightlines. This configuration may work when patrons are listening and dancing to records, but for live music the room is somewhat problematic, what with the stage jammed into a corner where the bar used to be, in what seems to be an enlarged version of a hallway to the bathrooms.
The San Francisco-based, mostly acoustic group Dame Satan got underway at 10:30 as a trio (it’s usually a quartet). It played a short set of mutant mountain songs, with the notes hanging like ghosts in the air. It’s always nice to hear a band use space as an integral element in its sound, the way that classic jazz acts do. The trio finished its set with a hog jam onstage featuring members of Kings & Queens and Two Sheds, with an unraveling-yarn version of Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.”
Kings & Queens, or half of that combo, followed. Stripped to a duo of Andrea Good on organ and husband, Richard Good, on guitar, the band played an intimate set that evoked its Nevada City home. As Dana Gumbiner, who recorded that group for the recent Grass Roots Record Co. Family Album, put it: “These guys remind me of Scott Walker.”
Two Sheds, another band built around a married couple, closed the show. I can’t reel off enough superlatives about singer-guitarist Caitlin Gutenberger; she’s probably the closest thing we’ve got to Lucinda Williams in this town, and her band, with husband John Gutenberger on bass, Sam Coe on drums and Robert Cheek on electric and slide guitar, just keeps getting better and better every time I see them. Gutenberger’s earthy, melodic gems more than made up for the late start. Wish I could have made it to the end, though.