Frightened Rabbit,The House of Blues, Saturday, July 27th 2013, Reviewed
There were many surprises during this Sound Select series organized at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip. Red Bull Sound Select sponsors these free/cheap concerts in cities all over the US to introduce emerging local artists combined with more famous headliners, and last time I got to see Wavves at the Echoplex for only $3. On Saturday night, it was even better since the show was totally free for the first 50 persons to get in, and I got to see Frightened Rabbit, Tapioca and the Flea, Gothic Tropic and HOTT MT for this very modest price. Probably the best thing of the night was the series of surprises, some planned and some unplanned by the organizers.
First, HOTT MT took the stage, a local band I have already seen and, among other things, famous for its acquaintance with Wayne Coyne – they are the kids who traveled to Oklahoma City, knocked on Coyne’s door, and asked him to record a song with them… Actually, they have recorded ‘Never Hate Again’ with Wayne Coyne, and also done collaborations with Erkyah Badu and Ke$ha! Their boldness in life certainly equals the boldness of their music and at the tope of this, they want to stay weird and enigmatic, which totally works with their Flaming Lips-inspired music. Last night, they didn’t even revealed what their acronym means (Hour Of The Time Majesty Twelve?) and played a series of their pop electronic Chinese-influenced (or is it Thailand?) songs with their frontgirl bouncing all over the place. They are probably making one of the most bizarre music around, with sudden shouted freak-outs but especially strong dance hooks. With their multi-color hair (this time Ashleigh Allard had yellow hair, fluorescent in the dark), and their stage antics (I have seen her walking on stage wrapped in a sleeping-bag-mermaid tail) they are flamboyant and unexpected just like their music, so when I read they had announced a very special guest, I thought,…. could it be Wayne Coyne? But it was impossible since the Flaming Lips are currently on tour, so they actually got Las Vegas lounge singer Tony Clifton, resurrected for the occasion, and doing his routine, telling his series of odious and offensive jokes (the kind that makes you cringe like the one about the two more bullets for a Beatles reunion), and singing ‘I Will Survive’, then the Wayne Coyne song ‘Never Hate Again’. HOTT MT sure know how to put up a very entertaining show.
Next was Gothic Tropic, who define their sound as jungle krautrock pronto-punk… that’s already very complete and complex to figure out, but their moniker is a good definition too, two very different idea fused in one, as we don’t necessary marry darkness and tropical rhythms, but this is where this three-piece band sees its garage-rock compositions tingled by Afro-Caribbean influences. I had seen them before, and every time I wonder whether I will be eager to embrace their sound, and every time I end up enjoying even much more their chemistry – especially between guitarist Cecilia Della Peruti and drummer Liv Marsico who harmonized together – than their peculiar and quite experimental music mix itself. There is something sexy about them too, and although this trio also features a guy (Daniel Denton on bass), it is definitively a female-led band. They are a talented curiosity, playing kind of pop songs bouncing between two apparent opposites of the music world, and for once they cannot be accused to sound like so many other indie bands!
Tapioca and the Flea did not let the mood go down for a second. I had seen them at the Jubilee in June, but I enjoyed their catchy dreamy synth pop and dance-y-grooves even more this time. The music was a little psychedelic, a little pulsating and glittering, with sweet hooks and explosive choruses, and for some reasons, multi-instrumentalist and frontman Samuel Jacob Lopez, with his expressive face, had a voice whose intonations reminded me that of Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle. They were full of surprises and just plain fun-funky with a party feeling all over the songs. And talking about surprises, they brought a female friend on stage to do a cover of Billy Idol’s ‘Eyes Without a Face’, and also Young the Giant’s Sameer Gadhia for a song! Their sweet mix of electronics, exotic Bollywood-flavor rhythms and bright psychedelic pop could not have been more suited for their fun hot dance grand finale, when they called everybody on stage, including two gold suit dancers.
I guess many people had come for the Scottish band Frightened Rabbit, the last act and headliner. I personally didn’t know them, and despite the late midnight hour, they gave a very energetic show filled with harmonies, layered and expansive guitars, dynamic and even furious drumming. How come I knew nothing about these guys? I was surrounded by true fans who knew the songs and lyrics, and my first idea was that they sounded like a more rocking version of the Lumineers? There were obvious elements of folk, some good handclap and foot tapping numbers, some acoustic-feeling songs, some muscular ones, I am talking Springsteen-triumphant-muscular, and a loveable frontman Scott Hutchison, who seemed thrilled to play in the US again. But with that current renaissance of folk bands, they shouldn’t have any problem to play more and more here. There was a sense of urgency running through the songs, as many of them tended to turn almost bombast without totally succumb to the style, and hearing the ‘yahoos’ that some of the people were shouting around me, the music was producing a real euphoric effect on the crowd. They had a few truly epic songs and really catchy ones like ‘The Woodpile’… and apparently the lyrics were all about heartbreaks and damages that life does to you so I could totally understand why the crowd was so engaged,… not that I could really understand the lyrics as they were competing too much with the piercing ringing guitars and stadium-like sound… But we will hear more of their anthems soon as they have just started a mega US tour.
I talked about surprises, and there was another last one totally hilarious and ‘offensive’ but not really to the organizers’ taste.The Organizers had asked the audience to tweet the pictures taken during the show and hashtag them with #soundselect. As they were projecting them on the screen between the acts, someone, who may have had too many beers, unexpectedly pulled an Anthony Weiner on us! It was there huge and pink on the giant screen… I don’t have a picture of this thing, but people had a good laugh at it.