Om shanti shanti shanti om
Fertile ’60s reborn:
A string quartet at Old Ironsides? On Saturday night, yes, tucked off to the right of the stage during Doom Bird’s performance. The band, currently a five-piece, played seven of the 10 songs from its recent and quite wonderful self-titled album during its half-hour set, and while Joe Davancens’ lush arrangements on record lost a little in the translation—think the softer gradations of a landscape painted in oils rendered harder-edged by pen-and-ink illustration—the overall effect was still quite magical.
Brought to life with Kris Anaya and Davancens on guitars, along with Zac Brown on bass, Matt McCord on drums and Dan Block on keyboards and trombone—augmented by violinists Reylynn Goessling and Kristin Arnold, violist Christina Maradik and cellist Alison Sharkey—Doom Bird illuminated Anaya’s ambitious songs, which evoke Randy Newman, Jimmy Webb, Brian Wilson’s work with Van Dyke Parks and other names from rock’s fertile late-’60s Baroque heyday, while sounding utterly natural and unforced. Only the limitations of Old Ironsides’ sound system, which kinda sounded like a sheriff’s department auxiliary PA during the string passages, kept the music from achieving utter bliss.
If Doom Bird delivered the exotica, Seattle quartet By Sunlight—featuring expatriate local guitarists Mike Sparks, formerly of Mister Metaphor, and Robert “Flossy” Cheek, who’s also a fine record producer—brought the prog. By Sunlight’s clean, Fender-driven sound is stunning; it’s tight with that turn-on-a-dime precision that marked the best recordings of Yes, but without the hobbit vocals. There were points when Sparks sang, the melodies Shins-like, but it was the long instrumental passages, some building dynamically to happy-ending crescendos, that elicited looks of joyous satisfaction from the crowd. This is a band that can play. (Jackson Griffith)
Where did the time go?:
Ten years of Rock the Light? I was there at the beginning, although some of it I only dimly remember. The show on Saturday at Luigi’s Fun Garden was more like a reunion. Three out of four of the Riff Randals were in attendance. Rock the Light was formed as kind of a Tower Theatre house band, and many of us past and present popcorn slingers were in the crowd, too.
I discussed the many permutations of the band with guitarist and former bass player Dillon Linnebacker. He said it was when they added supremely ripped bass player Justin Pyne, and Linnebacker switched to second guitar, that he and guitarist David Aslanian indulged in “twice as much shrill noodling as before.” We also discussed the story, possibly apocryphal, that drummer Charles Albright once tried to make the switch to guitar by showing up at practice with a dude and informing everyone that he was the new drummer. Didn’t go over too well.
The MegaCools opened, playing their first show in two years. I asked singer and guitarist Albright how it was possible that it was also an album-release show, and he said that they recorded it two years ago and have been working on it ever since. Albright’s singing voice has ripened and mellowed over time, as has his mustache.
The Mantles were in town from San Francisco, fresh off their 6.8 album rating on Pitchfork, and their set was sonic bliss. I knew it was destroying my ears, but their sweet guitar felt like an eardrum massage.
Rock the Light whipped the crowd into a frenzy with classics like “Hesher in a Half Shirt” and, fittingly, ended with a series of chants. Sacramento loves a good chant. Or a stupid chant. (Becky Grunewald)
Local label made good Lefse Records, which now calls a small second-floor Midtown office home, is having what I’m going to call a homecoming show of sorts this Saturday, January 30, at Luigi’s Fun Garden (1050 20th Street, 8:30 p.m., $6). Headlining is Calico Horse, who are signed to Lefse, and whose inventive, polished, rompy country-jam feel, complete with singer Emily Neveu’s moody vocals and saloonlike piano styling, should fit right in with all you cowbell folk. (Please, leave cowbells at home. Please.) (Nick Miller)