I'm back from Los Angeles to see you know who doing you know what at you know where. The report will follow as soon as I can translate the notes I scribbled by candlelight on cocktail napkins. In the meantime, here's a shortish one to glance over.
The Night Porter, The Hemlock Tavern, October 19, 2005: Maudie and I fetched Heidi from SFO and came right back into town to catch a benefit show by Carla Bozulich's band. The proceeds from this gig were earmarked for Quintron, Miss Pussycat, and their Spellcaster Lodge in New Orleans. We knew little of the artists but were glad to check out Carla's band again. I hadn't seen them since a weeklong Wilco run back in November 2004, so I was curious to check out their progress since then.
Obviously, a headlining slot is different from an opening slot. For one thing, there's the size of the venue and the audience. But in addition, the band had spent nearly another year with each other and with the songs. Tunes that sounded more like sketches last year seemed a lot more polished now, and the band also had a palpable chemistry. I recognized a few songs from the earlier shows, and this time, I could even hear the words. "Sha Sha" (if that's the correct name) was the highlight of the set: a dreamy, meditative piece with soft harmonies and subtle instrumentation. But the band was also capable of screeching, howling roof-raisers. While Carla was tuning for the nonencore encore, Shahzad tormented her with a couple of U2 songs, but he still seems like a cool guy. And alas, thus are the economics for a new band that they had to drive back to LA that night in a van with a broken CD player.
The openers certainly deserve noting. The first was Anni Rossi, who had a beautiful voice that reminded me a bit of Emiliana Torrini. She played the violin, though defintely not in the typical classical fashion, and her songs had an off-kilter though ultimately melodic feel to them. She had come from LA with the Night Porter and accompanied the band on one song that I believe they referred to as "Nuevo Depresso."
The middle act was a one-man band called the Militant Children's Hour. He used a small drum kit and an electric guitar and dressed in a woman's jumper, '80s-style plastic sunglasses with a grid pattern on them, and plastic wrap encasing his head. His vocals were distorted so that he sounded like an evil Transformers robot. Every single song pretty much sounded the same--like a much more primitive Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, say--but we've felt compelled to talk about him to everyone we know, so he's definitely succeeded on that level.