At the end of a high energy night at Sync Space, this set by M. Geddes Gengras (also of Pocahaunted, Robedoor, and Talisman fame) was just what the doctor ordered. I have streamed his music on many occasions from the comfort of my home computer, and have always found it to be really beautiful. But when you are listening to this music with three Gchat windows open and an episode of True Blood loading in another tab, a certain amount of the magic is lost. You see, although Ged Gengras seems like a pretty unassuming guy, he is an architect of mood at heart, armed with a moog synth and a fierce sense of composition. The crowd of kids who had hung around after shaking their collective behinds to Warm Climate, Soft Healer, and Sun Araw, now sat on the ground in various stages of blissful calm. It was like we’d all gone back to the kindergarten nap times of our youth. However, this music is not for passive listening; the tones oscillate between effervescent and piercing in a way that requires full-body focus. Plug in your headphones when watching the video above, and let yourself fall into a trance. (more…)
As much as I’ve come to love the city of Los Angeles, I’d be a liar if I said that a certain amount of my experience here hasn’t been characterized by feelings of displacement and alienation. Sometimes the feeling of being a small, isolated dot on a large map is too much to bear. I felt this feeling quite strongly on July 4th, 2009. I was at a party on Venice beach thrown by a friend of a friend. We went up to the roof deck to watch the fire works that were being set off in Santa Monica.
As a native New Yorker, I’ve grown up with the Macy’s fireworks extravaganza that (usually) happens over the East River. Although there are some entertaining amateur pyrotechnics going on in certain sections of town, it is all about everyone in the city watching the same bright lights for one night. Obviously the bar was set high, so I was pretty let down when I saw how far away — and relatively puny — the Santa Monica display was. A friend turned to me and said, “this sucks.” I couldn’t help but agree.
Sometimes when you’re searching for the “ultimate” experience here in L.A., it is easy to find yourself feeling let down, left out, and turned off. This city is large, fractured, and easy to feel lost in. The feeling of a communal love fest can be found, but it does not come as quickly or easily as in some metropolises.
But feelings of bliss burn strongly when you learn to love this strange place for what it is. I had an extended moment of happiness on July 4th weekend, 2010. After a relaxed BBQ in a Silver Lake backyard, three of us headed for the Elysian Park Hills to try and scope some fireworks from Angel’s point. As we looked over the hills, we didn’t see one centralized fireworks show. Instead we saw a profusion of starbursts, all obviously products of amateur displays being set off from lawns, porches, roofs, and even from the street. The quality varied, but the volume was unreal.
At that point, something kind’ve clicked for me. These fireworks weren’t as sleek as what I was used to in New York, but with each blast I felt a sense of some individual setting it off. From where I was standing, I could see many of these displays, but the intended audience was more likely the people in the immediate vicinity of the person setting them off. There was something magical about imagining these little microcosms and experiencing the collective energy that they gave off on that special evening. We revelled in thus further as we roamed the streets of Echo Park, where you could find someone setting off a blast nearly every 20 feet. My friend Molly joked that it was like a really pretty war.
What I’m getting at here is that every person is capable of having an audience, even if it is a tiny one. Whether its your lover, your best friend, a room of people, or a huge crowd, you’ve got to do your thing for your audience with as much organic enthusiasm as you can. If you keep at it, and make it count, the energy you give off might gradually cause your audience to grow, but even if it doesn’t you’ve got to keep doing it for the people who are already there. Sometimes the search for the “right” place or experience proves futile and you’ve got to start from scratch wherever you are, and create your own environment. This kind’ve approach to life is essential to the LA experience. As these thoughts took over my head, I was brought back momentarily to the previous evening, when I was watching and taping Sun Araw at Synchronicity Space.
I’ve seen Sun Araw many times over the course of the last year. In fact, I’ve probably seen Cameron Stallones & co. more times than any other L.A. band. Sometimes the room is packed, and sometimes there are only around 20 people in attendance. As time has gone on, Sun Araw has continued to gain fans, and almost all of them are quite enthusiastic. There are lots of reasons for this, but one of the main things that gets me excited about Sun Araw is the persistent passion and energy he channels into every recording and every performance — no matter how many people are listening.
The July 3rd show at Sync Space was no exception to this. Those of us who crowded into that small DIY venue that night were treated to a tight, rousing performance that came equipped with highs, lows, and all the things that remind us why we love music. The venue wasn’t huge, but the performance and the vibe it created were. At one point, Cameron thanked the crowd for making the show into a really amazing zone. When you approach your creative output with passion, energy, and rigor, the space around you will become worth spending some time in. You can feel some of that by watching the riveting performance by Cameron and Nick Malkin in the video above. In the mean time, start engineering your own starbursts. (more…)
Unlike the weather in Los Angeles, Warm Climate are very unpredictable. Their work ranges from heavy drone to gorgeous acoustic folk, sometimes evoking Tyrannosaurus Rex. When I saw them past weekend at Sync Space, I was expecting one, or the other, or something in between. Instead, they performed a set of lyrical Prog anthems featuring Geddy Lee-esque vocals from singer Seth Kasselman. I’m certainly not complaining; an artist who can’t be pinned down so easily is always interesting, and genre hopping can be a great thing — especially when it drives home the skilled musicianship at play. This new identity fits the Southern California trio quite well, and I hope they stick with it for a little while longer. That being said, I won’t be surprised if I am served up some romantic folk next time around. (more…)
Soft Healer are a band of four from Austin, TX. Before seeing them this past Saturday, my only exposure to their music was a handful of MySpace listens. On record, their sound brings to mind Motown and early ’60s garage rock; it’s tight, danceable, and appealing to lovers of vintage aesthetics. But I have to say that as a live band, Soft Healer are even more intriguing than I’d imagined. In this video, they play a number that transitions from poppy Motown rhythms to spacey Kraut Rock guitar riffs and hauntingly psychedelic recorder tones. The audience erupted into an impassioned dance, and I began to resent the camera I was holding for keeping me from joining in. According to their MySpace, Soft Healer are available for weddings. I’m not planning a wedding any time soon, but the prospect of them serenading on such an occasion is pretty enticing. (more…)
One week ago at Synchronicity Space in Hollywood, I had the pleasure of seeing Run DMT for the first time. After a surprise opening set by LA’s matthewdavid, I introduced myself to Mike (also known as Run DMT), who informed me that his live shows were in no way reproductions of his recorded material. He even joked that he might do some Doo-Wop for that evening’s performance. This, of course, left me buzzing with excitement.
Before beginning, Run DMT offered the small but attentive crowd a peace pipe, in case “anyone wanted to hang out.” The song featured in this video was the first song he played that night. According to my colorful memory of the evening, the doors of Sync Space blew open just as he struck the first note, letting in a beautiful but radioactive cloud. Apparently, the Los Angeles smog was amongst the show-goers that evening. Guided by a hypnotic, beautiful drone, and assisted by televisual projections by local artist Miko Revereza, this unexpected guest made this show one for the ages.
Video: Samantha Cornwell
Words: Samantha Cornwell
Run DMT is currently touring the the United States of America with Blissed Out, toy-car-making-its-way-slowly-across-a-roadmap style. Check for tour dates on his MySpace.
These days it seems like I can’t get through a weekend without going to a show at the intersection of Melrose and Heliotrope. This time around I was going to Synchronicity Space, an art gallery and DIY venue. The bill for the night included Pocahaunted and Moon Duo, two bands I was really excited to capture on tape. (more…)