Finger-lickin’ yoga grooves
At Echoplex, a painting of Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Colonel Sanders wearing a glow-in-the-dark G-string hangs above the venue’s sound board. At the bar, plastic-cup Pabst Blue Ribbon drafts put you back four bucks. Outside, a flood of 20-somethings eat bratwursts and salads prepared by a fleet of food trucks. It’s a scene that would never happen in Sacto—except maybe the finger-lickin’-good fetish fantasy.
For starters, finding a home in the 916 for an all-day, all-ages gig such as Waved Out’s L.A. microfestival bodes difficult. The Echo is a smaller venue stacked on top of the larger, 350-person-capacity Echoplex, where headliners Surfer Blood anchored more than two dozen bands on two stages on two floors from 3:30 in the afternoon to last call. Nearly a thousand people came and went throughout, enjoying “hipster bingo,” free Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles popsicles and bands curated by L.A. blogger Aquarium Drunkard (www.aquariumdrunkard.com).
And the blogger has flavor. The main draw, MTV2 darlings Surfer Blood, ensured a capacity crowd, but its too-polished, stuck-in-that-post-South by Southwest-lull set disappointed. After days of showcases in Austin, it’s like playing music was a chore for the band, like scrubbing shower grout. (Make up your own mind this Friday, April 2, when Sacto’s own Ganglians open for Surfer Blood at Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th Street in San Francisco; 10 p.m.; sold out, look on Craigslist.)
Active Child is best pigeonholed as Sufjan Stevens meets Erlend Oye meets Joanna Newsom. Wearing green-denim pants, a blue-jean shirt and conservatively parted red hair, Active Child is unassumingly nerdy Pat Grossi, who at first comes across as perhaps a Mormon crooner, but then his addictively ’80s pop baritone captivates; his ironic post-synth ballads, played on MacBook Pro, keyboards and even a harp, wondrous. Grossi was joined by a live electric bassist for his set, which breezed by and transfixed in the most unexpected ways, like encountering a modern Michael McDonald dance party in the back aisles of T.J. Maxx.
Also keep an eye out for girl band the Coathangers. Drummer/vocalist Stephanie Luke brings the punk, thrashing on the kit and chanting gnarly verses into the mic; and singer/guitarist Julia Kugel brings the dream pop, complete with spunky, dirty chord interplay and fun choruses such as “Why / does / ev / ree / thing / I / love / have-to-break,” sung in a shrill but addictive staccato. Pigeonhole as locals Dog Party, but times two, plus a few years—and a few beers.
Living in Los Angeles must be like SXSW every day. Nathan Williams, who recorded a never-to-be-released(?) Wavves album here in Sacto with Zach Hill, was seen taking in the Waved Out ruckus. And when it was over, everyone found their cars and scurried back home on their freeway of choice. Until the next huge show—probably the following night. (Nick Miller)
From Blowfly to Loggins and Messina:
Let’s talk juxtaposition: Less than 24 hours earlier, I’d been laughing like a jackal from the bowels of The Press Club at the X-rated antics of Blowfly, a.k.a. the 71-year-old rhythm-and-blues singer Clarence Reid, the raunchy king of hilarious Miami funk. And here I was in the balcony at the Crest Theatre on a Wednesday evening watching Snatam Kaur, a woman roughly half Blowfly’s age, leading a community gospel song of sorts to an audience—composed largely of middle-aged, yoga-toned women—that filled two-thirds of the venue.
Gospel, that is, California style: a syncretic expression of Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, Christian and other beliefs, mated to simple Western pop-music forms. Kaur, a bell-voiced woman clad in white topped by a turban, signifying her Sikh faith—now lives in Eugene, Ore., but she attended Waldorf school in Sacramento as a child. She sat center stage on a cushion before a harmonium, the hand-pumped portable organ used in Indian music, which she mostly accompanied herself during the two-hour kirtan concert, occasionally playing the violin. At her right sat Guru Ganesha Singh, a turbaned, bearded man who played a large acoustic guitar with a cutaway. At her left was Ramesh Kannan, by contrast to the other two, apparently of a central Asian ethnicity; he played tablas and other percussion.
Their music was comfortable, a soft-rock expression of the 1970s Loggins and Messina aesthetic. One song sounded like the beginning of the 1960s standard “Unchained Melody,” albeit in Gurumukhi, the Sikh sacred language; others, in English, communicated positive ideas of cosmic love, peace and brotherhood. The rapport of Kaur and Singh with the audience was warm, familial even, and the lengthy unison singalongs weren’t too difficult to navigate. By the end of the show, my Blowfly-tainted mind was almost out of the gutter. Almost. (Jackson Griffith)