Kolars, With Smoke Season, Holy Wars At The Echoplex, Monday February 6th 2017
Smoke Season was headlining a night of heavy hitting music with a lot of soul and glam energy, and if I was there to cover Kolars, a truly fantastic duo whose performance I enjoyed greatly, the three bands which played that night were equally phenomenal… I am always amazed to see how many great bands Los Angeles can produce each night.
It was Holy Wars’ first show ever, as frontwoman Kat Leon said to us, and this in itself was an amazing thing. Of course, they had much more to give than a reference to a Megadeth song – this shows up a lot in a google search – and everyone who witnessed their set will probably agree with me, they took everyone by surprise in a very good way. Leon is a hell of a frontwoman, sexy and bold, she ravaged the place with her distorted bluesy guitar or her catwoman’s theatrics. She was wearing black tights and with her platinum blonde hair, she looked like a cross between Michelle Pfeiffer and Debbie Harry, dancing though the thick fuzz produced by the guitars, which was building an impenetrable dark wall of sound…. Ha, the dramatic epic pauses this woman could take, all stretched arms and pointed fingers! Like a dark angel, she was controlling her own tortured stormy war and if it was a war, it must have been a nuclear one at times, Strangely, I almost get a Pixies vibe on a song, while her impressive howls were floating between seductive aggression and a punk dark wave. I can’t wait to see them again.
If drumming is really physical – have you ever hugged a drummer after a show? It’s extremely wet! – Kolars has brought this musical exercise to the next level. Reinventing the traditional boy-on-guitar/girl-on-drums duo is not an easy task when so many of these pairs have existed before… When the girl is behind the drums, the White Stripes come to mind of course, but with Kolars, the girl is not behind the drums but at the top of it, and this becomes more physical than ever. Lauren Brown has come up with her own drumming style, she stands on a bass drum and she tap dances rhythms with her feet, jumps and bounces, while still playing a stand-up drum kit. How does she do this? This must be so exhausting but it’s a very original way to renew anyone’s interest in a very simple formula.
If Lauren does all the heavy lifting, Rob Kolar sings and strums a rollicking guitar, while moving all over the place, so that it was certainly rare to get these two in the same shot. Rob, with her rocker hairdo and glam cirque-du-soleil look – I loved his striped pants – is the one you notice first, whereas Lauren is a major attraction, as the drums become an extension of her legs, bringing the energy of the show to another level.
The most striking thing about the duo is their astonishing synchronicity, their real chemistry (they are wife and husband), and if they are only two on stage with rather minimal instrumentation, the sound is full and diverse, often upbeat, with a few bluesy southern accents in the guitar, whipped by Lauren’s constant and powerful foot-and-arm drumming. Rob does most of the singing – and I honestly I don’t think Lauren could take the task while doing all this physical work – and while there were trails of long desert rides and bluesy country rock, their genre was, once again impossible to categorize in one simple formula. After they did this fantastic cover of ‘Mystery Train’, a song made famous by Elvis Presley but which fitted them marvelously, they became sexier with a few rockabilly guitar licks going all-thunder when Rob was trashing the place with plenty of new sounds and inventiveness.
There was a certain vintage quality to their foot-tapping catchy music, but also a touch of punk attitude, a sexy swag mixed with a real enthusiasm in what they were doing. But there also was another element. I suddenly realized that all the people around me were dancing their heart out… bringing another dimension to their glam-bluesy-folk-country act. Yeah, there also was a layer of disco, of dance, and the tempo, thanks to Lauren’s tireless beats, was infectious.
I have seen Smoke Season a few times and each time, they appear even more accomplished as a band whereas the crowd inside the Echoplex is getting thicker and more captivated by their soulful electro pop. They played new songs, and they are apparently taking a more ethereal dimension especially thanks to Gabrielle Wortman’s eerie howls. She is quite a vision, all white with orange hair, she was dancing with great style, and spoke to us with a sultry sexy voice: she is the frontwoman who gives life to Smoke Season’s unique sonic vision, going to dark shades and interesting developments on a few new songs I hadn’t heard before. The music, often moody-dreamy then all tempesty, is lived with intensity as Wortman moves around her synth and Jason Rosen‘s atmospheric guitars with a rare grace. If I remember about a song or two with a stomping style and vague Americana vibe, this seems to be a vague memory now, they have embraced a full dream pop sound which backfires into another level of epic,.. and just like for Kolars, the crowd was yelling their lungs out asking for an encore,
Holy Wars, Kolars, Smoke Season, three bands which gave mesmerizing live performances, three bands which are certainly going to make it.