Los Angeles is the best place in the world to have a love affair with music. Aside from the occasional, low energy, scenester transplants that fill up some of our venues, it is the perfect city to go see shows. There was so much going on this past Friday night that it made the head spin with possibilities. Janky Smooth attended two events: Kurt Vile and the Violators headlining the First Unitarian Church and a surprise and semi secret Ariel Pink show at Over***, L.A.’s seediest, most exciting rock and roll speak easy/after hours. It is L.A.’s worst kept secret and is surprisingly celebrating it’s 3 year anniversary. Amazing it hasn’t been shut down yet.
The night started at The First Unitarian Church for another amazing Red Bull Sound Select installment of 30 Days in L.A. Kurt Vile on stage in a religious sanctuary was draw enough to worship at this opulent altar of Rock and Roll. Red Bull brought in some extra sound and some elaborate lighting to fill up the palatial sized ceilings with more audio and visual. The night featured two more solid Red Bull Sound Select artists, Air Review and Little Tybee.
Air Review gave a seated audience a chill, tight set of low key music with musical buildups at just the right moments. They have a brooding vibe in their arrangement that remind me of Beach House. Lead Singer Douglas Hale reminds me of a mix between Roy Orbison and David Byrne. They put on the perfect type of performance to slouch in a chair to, which is actually a compliment.
The other openers, Little Tybee were a truly gifted group of songwriters and musicians. Lead guitarist, Josh Martin plays an 8 string guitar and has a tapping technique that is as impressive to see as it is to hear. He taps out chords and licks with ease and precision. Lead singer, Brock Scott is equally proficient on his acoustic guitar as he is vocally. This band has great energy and remind me a bit of the Grateful Dead if Chris Martin were to replace Jerry Garcia. It’s much better than that sounds, though.
Kurt Vile took the stage to headline with just himself and his acoustic guitar and opened with Runner Ups. To see him perform in that dynamic is truly special. His acoustic work is Jimmy Page-esque but with cleaner picking. His proficient riffing is refreshing in the current atmosphere of unpolished garage bands. The Violators joined Kurt after the acoustic opener and played Wakin on a Pretty Day. They effortlessly walked on the clouds the entire set. When Farmer Dave came onto the stage to play the most lush sounding pedal steel I’ve ever heard, it once again reminded me of just how important touch and feel are to mastering an instrument. I’ve never heard a pedal steel sound or played like that. Whatever it was boosted with sounded like a full string section.
The mark of a great live, musical performance is the ability to build the right setlist. While there were a large amount of low key, acoustic songs performed without the Violators, Vile knew exactly when to bring everyone back on stage and take it up a notch. The encore featured two surprises: Stella Mozgawa of Warpaint on drums and a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s, Downbound Train. I missed the latter and while most people would be kicking themselves over it, I was never that big of a Springsteen fan. I hastily and hesitantly left before the end of the set to go see Ariel Pink perform at the Over*** 3 year anniversary.
While Kurt Vile and Ariel Pink are both considered to be a part of this psychedelic rock revival, they are clearly on different drugs. I get the sense that Kurt Vile can roll a mean joint and probably does so, all throughout the day. Ariel Pink, on the other hand seems like he is in a perpetual state of drug psychosis with a mix of stimulants and psychedelics as the cocktail. Just a guess. Over*** was packed with beautiful, drunk, sleepless, coked out people for their 3 year anniversary. As I was walking up, I passed by desperate looks and pleas of people who were not able to gain access. I waded through a sea of people as I entered the building and headed straight for the back room where the performance would be. I didn’t wait long as Ariel Pink took the stage in a space suit and helmet. The band broke out into a barrage of keyboard and bass driven anarchy. They were well rehearsed. Pink was on point and the music was making me feel like I had been dosed. I always thought Ariel Pink was a bit overrated… until last night. I was completely in the set and couldn’t be distracted by all the conversation, people watching and stimulation that went on well past the time I left the venue at around 4am.
The most amazing thing about last night was that it was a pretty typical Friday night of Rock and Roll in Los Angeles. Primus, Blood Brothers and FKA Twigs were also playing on this same night, among a ton of other bookings happening from LA to Orange County. Nights like this make me fall in love with the city of my birth all over again and realize what a truly amazing place we live in for live music.
Words: Danny Baraz
Photos of Ariel Pink and Over*** three year anniversary: Taylor Wong
Photos of Kurt Vile show: Red Bull Content Pool