Sound Advice: Soundscapes and early summer soundtracks
Experiments in chamber rock: I was not expecting the accordion player to sing, but he did, and he did so dramatically.
It was just one element of interest throughout Mother Falcon’s set at the Veterans Memorial Theatre in Davis on February 28. The orchestral indie band from Austin, Texas, utilized 12 people and countless instruments to create fascinating, layered soundscapes.
There was elaborate, at times mismatched harmonizing and childlike crooning, stomping and clapping. Brass and string dueled over rhythms that moved from hip-hop to rock to jazz and back. When they weren’t playing, the musicians stood with their eyes closed and heads down, as if waiting to be activated.
They put a symphonic spin on Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android,” plugging an upcoming album comprising OK Computer covers. The big breakdown and destructive screeching came from a violin.
For the final song, two saxophone players marched to the front of the stage, playfully finishing each other’s lines. Meanwhile, the lone female slid down her chair as she played her trumpet one-handed, and then jumped on top to scream at the top of her lungs.
With cello, mandolin, banjo, keyboard, drums, upright bass, multiple guitars, multiple brass instruments, multiple vocal mics and more, I can’t imagine how long Mother Falcon’s soundcheck took. But the result was certainly worthwhile—the sold-out audience gave two standing ovations.
Earlier in the night, opener Tom Brosseau brought out Seattle singer-songwriter Shelby Earl as a surprise guest, and her deep, soulful voice was a welcomed treat.
Brosseau proved to be a master storyteller, whether in song or in song intros. He told tall tales from his hometown of Grand Forks, North Dakota, dedicating songs to his grandmother, who taught him about music and lutefisk, and Marilyn Hagerty, the 87-year-old restaurant critic who notoriously reviewed the Olive Garden in 2012. Apparently she’s a real sweet lady who sometimes gets stuck on her roof, Brosseau explained, as he began to play “Stuck on the Roof Again.”
Down those cello shots: The Los Angeles band El Ten Eleven creates the sort of warm and upbeat songs that soundtrack your endless summer, which until the recent rains, had been just what this winter felt like. The uplifting instrumental two-piece has said in the past that they hate terms such as “ambient” and “post-rock” but if you have to call it something, well, its brand of looping crescendos are in the vein of Ratatat, but are created with nothing more than a drum kit, a double-necked guitar-bass and an orbit of effect pedals in place of laptops and synthesizers.
Normally, it would seem like nothing new, but what makes El Ten so spectacular is what two men of flesh and blood achieve on stage alone. At it since 2005, the duo released its fifth studio album Transitions in 2012 on their own imprint Fake Record Label. Eternally self-sufficient, the band has continued to produce its own albums without signing to a label. It also had its music featured on a long list of radio and television shows, including a run of documentaries by Gary Hustwit including Helvetica, Objectified and Urbanized. Hear the band for yourself on Thursday, March 6, at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub (2708 J Street). The show starts at 7:30 p.m., costs $12-$14 and is all ages.
If you want more in the instrumental realm, catch Classical Revolution Sacramento when it plays a show on Monday, March 10, at Shine (1400 E Street). The show starts at 8 p.m. and costs $5 at the door. The low-key revolving ensemble, which describes itself as “ live chamber music out of the concert hall” were regulars at the now-shuttered Bows & Arrows. There, drinking, laughing and catcalling made for an unorthodox but attractive atmosphere for anyone looking to enjoy a classical music performance outside of a formal setting. Recently, a link posted to the ensemble’s Facebook page highlighted a new social organizing site called Groupmuse that allows users to sign up to host a “classical music house party.” So far, the closest Groupmuse parties are being held in Berkeley, but if we want this city to hold more keggers and house shows, the time is right for someone in Sacramento to crash the party and sign up as a host. Cello shots, anyone?