California Blues

A needle in a steel wool haystack.

A Tiny Niche For A Genre Blending Show

A chilly Thursday with some meddlesome rain showers sounds like a good time for a gig. Luckily, Armada was slated for a packed show at Stronghold, a jeans shop in Venice with a spacious attic fitted out as a concert space. Five bands in roughly four hours. First up is John Bardy, a proper country and western attic space playing hillbilly outfit. Or at least that is their sound. Closer inspection reveals moderately cosmopolitan artists with a western styled lead. The strong swagger and jaunt of the strings fits the part swimmingly. They meander through a set suggestion list, as the drummer makes sure they play “the good song” and “the hillbilly song” both of which fit his descriptions appropriately and ease the audience into the texture, feel, and joy of live music. For this three-pieces first gig together, they hit all the notes in the right places.

The Idyllists grace the platform stage with their foot-stompingly grooving take on 50s pop. With a dash of twang and outfits straight out of Hipster Weekly, they confuse the majority of the audience, here to see the next act. The lead fumbles in between songs graciously, as all mild-mannered English lead singers seem to do, before the barrel into another infectiously happy throwback pop diddy. Either they updated the sound with outfits and distortion, or the sound system at Stronghold is as bad as it looks. The Idyllists romance as they should, packaging an easy variety of Weezer with a Kinks kick. And you can’t go wrong with the Kinks.

The stagehands roll out a few IKEA lamps for mood lighting, but unfortunately there’s no dimmer on the stage lights so the houselights go up, making it feel a bit less like a concert and more like an attic. Travis Warren’s music doesn’t help matters. He’s an acoustic artist with tons of fans in tow from Santa Barbara and plays crooning ballads reminiscent of Emerson, Lake, Palmer. The crowd is mostly there for him, as he hits a wider audience and has been around longer. I apologize, dear readers, because an hour long set list of songs almost as good as Extreme’s ‘More Than Words’ does not spark my enthusiasm.

Armada takes the stage next and belts out a setlist comprised mostly of their new EP and kick off with the uproarious–yet catchy–’Beautiful Heat.’ Violinist Syd Page guests on ‘I Love You,’ and the additional instrument really lends it the emotional connection it doesn’t always have. He stays on for the jazzy ‘Possibilities’ and the loose crowd begins to dance. Armada wraps up the set with the crowd pleasing ‘Renaissance,’ fitting in perfectly with the wood floors and ceilings and hitting just the right vibe with the crowd.

Last, are an eclectic group of funk rockstars, WahnderLust with Kim Manning. All the musicians are talented, and the lead singer and guitarist both know how to perform to the crowd, which laps it up and breaks out on the dancefloor. Everyone enjoys a bit of good fun, but the third song is, I think, “Somewhere in Your Tupperware”. And, yes, it hops and dances about a moldy container in the back of your fridge. Maybe I don’t have a sense of humor, but, perhaps, four hours of music is too much. Or maybe I just need training if I’m ever going to attend a festival like Coachella.

The location is great: just the right amount of intimacy with no pretension. The sound system could use improving, as could the light board, and the addition of a full bar would make me happy. Stronghold is a venue to check out when you catch wind of it, and each of these artists are strong in their vein, and well worth at least one viewing, if you’re the same blood type.

6 March 2010

John Bardy

The Idyllists

Travis Warren


Wahnder Lust


14 March 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , ,

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