Mystic Braves, Death Valley Girls, Dead Feather Moon, The Pretty Flowers, Band Aparte At Popfuji, Saturday July 14th 2018
The Brouwerji West, a large brewery located in San Pedro, hosts a series of musical events, and Saturday night was their second Indie Night, named after their beer Popfuji. The afternoon/evening was filled with performances by emerging artists, and for the family-friendly crowd, it was the occasion to listen to a few familiar acts, discover new talents while drinking tasty beer and enjoying a large variety of food trucks… The lineup, headlined by Mystic Braves, was also featuring Death Valley Girls, Dead Feather Moon, The Pretty Flowers and Band Aparte, and if you were not there, you missed out some good time in the great outdoors.
I always enjoy Band Aparte’s existentialist crisis, even late afternoon, and since their somber textures are more fitted for dark rooms, they had this time to fight the sun with Brian Mendoza’s usual theatricality and their Smiths-meet-the-Cure-inspired songs. They also played, ‘Damaged Goods’, a Gang of Four cover, a band, which they said was a big influence on them, and the song did perfectly fit in the middle of their emotional but bouncy post-punk soundscapes. It was music to vandalize a perfectly healthy red rose bouquet to, it was a punk-synth soundtrack for screaming under a hot sun, and it all ended with sinister howls and rose petals all over the floor.
The Pretty Flowers followed with an explosive to melancholic pop rock set, and some Superchunk-style guitars. They had actually no flowers but thick and layered guitars, multi-harmonies and a ultra dynamic drummer making funny faces. They also did ‘Heart of the City’, by influential Nick Lowe, while delivering a few of their own tunes with power-chord and hooky choruses, The Pretty Flowers were mixing a gritty side of indie rock with classic rock guitar solos, and they have just released a debut album, ‘Why Trains Crash’, last June.
San Diego-based Dead Feather Moon was a bluesy grand ensemble with keyboards, a layered orchestration and a frontman with a high-pitched croon channeling the tradition of ‘70s rockers. Their sound was vast and did install a bluesy psychedelia, flirting with the dark side thanks to their tunneling fuzzy guitars. Their first full-length record, ‘Dark Sun’, won ‘Best Alternative Album’ at the San Diego Music Awards in 2012, and the band won ‘Best Alternative Band’ at the San Diego Music Awards in 2014. Their performance was done in a very arena-rock style, with plenty of psychedelic jams.
Iggy Pop’s favorite, Death Valley Girls — the Godfather of punk regularly plays them during his weekly BBC radio show — took the stage for a dramatic set, embracing the dark side of rock ‘n’ roll with Quincy Larsen’s metal-trip gritty bass lines, Larry Schemel’s psychedelic guitar textures and Bonnie Bloomgarden’s cute devil vocals. If their lineup has changed over time (Bloomgarden and Schemel are the only two constant members), the sound is still the same, acid-tripping-in-the-desert, glowing-in-the-dark boogie, hard rocking and damn sweaty, with shades of the Stooges and Black Sabbath. They were the only girl-fronted band of the day, so they deserved all the intention of the crowd and they surely got it, putting the venue under their spell,… and magic spell is certainly the right expression when it comes to mention Bonnie Bloomgarden’s demon-haunted keyboard!
Mystic Braves closed Popfuji with the longest set of the night and a young crowd dancing to their groovy tunes. It’s impossible to not get a strong ‘60s flashback when you listen to them, but their gentle accelerations and repetitive grooves were so cinematic that the first guitar lines brought to mind surf, beach, and pretty people dancing in the sun. On stage, the quintet was very low key and ultra serious, with little movement but honeyed and mellow harmonies, vintage jangling guitars, and at the end a music digging deep into our collective memory, from European summer vacation, to spaghetti westerns and even Ravi Shankar Beatles. The hooks were big whatever they played, as they browsed their 3 albums, ‘Mystic Braves’, ‘Desert Island’, ‘Days of Yesteryear’ and even played new tunes. Signed to indie label Lolipop Records, the band, which consists of Julian Ducatenzeiler on guitar and vocals, Tony Malacara on bass and vocals, Shane Stotsenberg on guitar and vocals, Cameron Gartung on drums and Ignacio Gonzalez on organ and tambourine, had a knack for mixing nostalgic riffs with a real modernity and infectious tempos, and although all their songs did trigger more or less the same upper-body-shaking dance among the crowd, everyone had a great time dancing in a beer-induced drug haze.