for March 14, 2003
Pop, Overthrown (Internationally)
by Marci Surpin
Dateline, Los Angeles: For some unfathomable reason, I tuned in to the Grammys. Notice I didn't say "watched." I just wanted some background noise as I washed the dishes, did the laundry, balanced the checkbook, wrote a few e-mails, worked out, put together the first draft of my baseball picks, ate dinner, and worked through the Sunday paper. Another hour and I could have finished my novel.
But I learned a new word. Thank you, Fred Durst.
In any case, those three-and-half wasted hours were redeemed in the musical sense on the following Friday, at the International Pop Overthrow Presents. Maybe you've been to the NY version of the International Pop Overthrow Festival. Last Friday of the month, every month, pop impresario David Bash organizes four acts. I should haul my ass out to them more often. It's usually at the Sherman Oaks Lounge, a bar with a huge stinkin' pool table that the proprietors don't want the patrons to place their drinks on, and not too many good places to stand. The PA was struggling under the strain from the keyboards of the two bands that had them. On the other hand, these evenings are free, and the bar staff is pretty on top of things.
The show was well-paced, starting with a kick-out-the-jams hooks and harmonies of Popgun, moving into the beautiful songcraft of Kristi Callan, then off to the glam-rock of the Blondes, before being sent into the night by the drown-your-sorrows-in-cheap-whiskey groove of Plasticsoul. Here's a set-by-set rundown:
One of the quintet (either Larry or Mark, I'm not sure) described their show as a "Comedy of Technical Errors," but methinks the band doth protest too much. Numerous technical hobgoblins plagued the set (the synthesizer was too much for the PA, simultaneous broken strings on guitar and bass), but it just didn't matter because, damn, these guys are good. The synthesizer was used to perfect complementation of the guitars (kinda reminiscent of the Cars), the harmonies were seamless, they have a great onstage presence, and gosh, they are just fun. Full of hooks and good vibes. The standouts of a really fantastic set were "Neutron Bomb" and "Shove Me." Mark (or maybe it was Larry, I don't know-- it was dark, it was loud, they were all dressed identically, and they all have the same color hair) says that they are going to try and hit the east coast, so if they make it out there, hire a babysitter and get thee to the club.
I have fond memories of wearing out Wednesday Week's "What We Had" while a college DJ. Second in the lineup was Kristi Callan, alumni of Wednesday Week and Lucky, and an LA songstress of long and much-esteemed standing. And because I'm a girl and we covet each other's clothes, I just loved her dress. It was a little black sleeveless number with white straps. Late '60s-early-'70s style. From a flea market. Kristi took the stage with her band (including husband David Nolte on bass). The first number, "I Heard" (I hope these are correct--I swiped a playlist but sometimes artists abbreviate the song titles) was kind of bluesy. The highlight of the set was "Betsy," a country-tinged offering with a great hook and lovely guitars. Went down nice and smooth. This was followed by the sad and plaintive "I Wish I," which Kristi dedicated to those in the audience who have regrets. And who amongst us doesn't?
The show promo bandied about comparisons to Slade and the Sweet, but as the Blondes launched into their first song "I just Wanna Stay at Home," all I could think was: "Gosh, this could be the Marquee Club in London in early 1964." Minus the smoke, of course. There's no smoking in the People's Republic of California. But the vibe was definitely early Who. With an energy level to match. Roughly halfway through the set, they started a song and when they hit the lyric "...red light/blue light/strawberry wine..." the synapses started firing and we were in full flashback mode. Everyone started laughing and I was twelve years old again, listening to the first side of "Wings Over America." It was "Rockshow!" And it was great! Long hair at Madison Square, indeed.
Gretsches. Two of 'em.
The funny thing about Plasticsoul is that the backing vocals are handled by the rhythm section. The bassist and the drummer oohed and aahed along with the rhythm guitarist/lead singer while the lead guitarist was bent over his instrument. Not your usual arrangement. Singer-songwriter Steven Wilson's Plasticsoul finished up the IPO evening on a soulful note, starting with the bluesy "Switch" and "Heartbeats & Baby's Breath," and then moving on to the beautiful "Saintly." Then, continuing with the Wings theme, they threatened to sing "Old Siam, Sir." Mercifully, they didn't, instead finishing with two uptempo numbers, "Gravity," and an as-of-yet untitled number. An EP is in the works. Keep an eye out.
And that was it. Four fantastic bands and a lovely evening of great original music. Nothing like some good music to make you feel warm all over.
©2003 Marci Surpin
All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.
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