Smoke Season, Tapioca And The Flea At The Sayers Club, Saturday February 28th 2015
Smoke Season, a band that I discovered this summer during their residency at the Echoplex, was playing a late show at the Sayers Club on Saturday night. Since the last time I saw them, they have opened for Geographer at the El Rey among other big venues, and have since attracted a loyal following, as the cozy leather couches of the Sayers Club last night were really packed. The small club is a dark and intimate place where people probably come more to drink and relax than to see a band, and I just regret that the lightning above the stage isn’t brighter and that people drinking at the bars aren’t quieter, but the bands got the most of it, despite the late hour.
First, Tapioca and the Flea started with their catchy synth-pop, and I know that this term is used at any occasion, but their sound was very dance-y right away with big vocals and an uplift and almost funny vibe, although they actually started with just guitars and percussion,… I had seen them before and had the same impression last night, strangely, frontman Samuel Jacob Lopez’s way of singing reminds me that of Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle, which can’t be a bad thing. Beside their intriguing moniker, I thought they had an original sound and an exotic tempo, when they announced a new song, called ‘Hypnotized’, which sounded a little different, less on the fun side and more sun-drenched, with a freak out dance kicking a bit later. They have been included in the OC Weekly best new bands of 2014, and with their pulsating and vibrant sound, they called themselves ‘psychwavers’!
Smoke Season’s sound is a bit mysterious and hard to exactly pinpoint as it brings to mind a blend of psychedelic electronic pop haunted by an Americana flavor,… but they simply define their music as ‘dustbowl soul’ on their Facebook page. Whatever you call it, the band has a formidable energy on stage and in particular, Gabrielle Wortman is a very expressive front girl, who knows how to hold the same passionate intensity at a very high level all-set long. Behind her keyboard, she sings and croons while moving like a free spirit, she twists her slender body while whipping the air with her pink mane.
There is something a bit eerie about their music, and something very moody at the same time, the songs had some great foot tapping tempos while going in many directions with echoing sonic outbursts, whereas the crowd’s eyes were always going back in Gabrielle’s direction.
Contrasting a bit with the rest, their song ‘Badlands’ followed a very smoky Americana trail – they actually sing about bones on a dusty road – with hard hitting guitars, a stomping rhythm and Wortman’s ethereal vocals lost in an open western landscape. Other tunes, like ‘Opaque’, produced eerie and lush soundscapes with Wortman’s high-pitched and sultry vocals as if it was a new version of some forgotten Kate Bush songs… however all of songs had an explosive pop style and very moody atmosphere with some deep bass lines, changing electronics, polyphonic vocal harmonies and sexy drama. Last night, I could see how much Smoke Season, which also consists of Jason Rosen on vocals and guitar, Christopher Roberts on drums and Gabe Davis on bass, is a very visual and theatrical band, eager to give an epic dimension to their songs, while creating a tempestuous atmosphere alternating between languidness and anger… Smoke Season knows how to cultivate the mystery and like any mystery, they will captivate you.