Stranded In The Southland

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Out on the Town...

M. is away again at a conference for the second time in as many weeks (well, nearly), so I took the opportunity to get out and see some live music and wander around LA a bit yesterday evening. A band I'd enjoyed on the local college radio station was playing a free show at Spaceland, a club I'd been meaning to check out, anyway.

As long as I was getting out, I figured I oughta get some good grub and just generally enjoy myself. I started out at the new Culver City incarnation of Father's Office, a gastropub. The place was chock full at 9PM on a Monday night, although I did manage to find a place at the bar. The Santa Monica branch is famous for surly service, but I got prompt and friendly service here.

I started out with a half-pint of Dechutes Inversion IPA, which turned out to be mostly hops and not much else, then followed it up with a Coke (a Mexican coke, made with real sugar -- woo hoo!), and then a half-pint of the local Craftsman Orange Grove Ale. The OGA was pretty wonderful; I didn't taste a whole lot of orange flavor (and I don't know if there was supposed to be any in there), but it seemed like a nicely balanced beer with plenty of body (or maybe the Coke had reset my taste buds).

I also had one of the best burgers of my life -- the thing was dripping with juice, wonderfully sweet with fried onions, and a really crispy bun. It better be great, what with the $12 price tag (sadly, about par for the course for a sit-down burger in LA, although this was better than most $12 LA burgers); the shoe-string fries (another $2) didn't rock my world nearly as much, but they were certainly passable (were they sweet potato fries? They didn't have a particularly strong flavor of it). [NB: FO apparently prefers not to serve half-pints, and only certain beers are available that way. Fortunately, both of the beers that I tried were available as half-pints. Weird.]

I was feelin' a bit under the weather, but decided to press on regardless. I wandered by Amoeba Records in Hollywood (which was sort of on the way). I must be nearly the last person in the world actually buying CDs, even used -- I'm not sure why I'm not just getting everything on-line. Anyway, it's rare that I find the stuff I'm looking for used, including some PJ Harvey, Tegan & Sara, and even the latest Springsteen album for cheap. I was delighted to get the latest Jonathan Richman CD used, but kind of saddened that someone had already sold it back -- it just came out last week!

I don't know when record store clerks got so friendly instead of intimidating and haughty (probably about the time record stores started closing!), but it was a slow night and I wound up chatting with the person checking me out. She said that she'd totally given up on listening to rock-n-roll (and, as she said, "English guys and mopey white guys with guitars") and showed me some old vinyl albums of Mexican and South American stuff that she'd just picked up. I looked at the accordion on the cover and stupidly asked if it was Mariachi music, when it turned out to be some perfectly recognizable (and familiar sounding) TexMex music -- argh, I'm distressingly ignorant of the wonderful non-mopey-white-guy stuff out there, and was suddenly wondering why almost everybody in my collection is white. I mean, I've got lots of music by women and a fair amount of queer music (and lots and lots of music by mopey white guys), but almost nothing by people of color. It's kinda weird, and kinda disturbing -- what does my music say about me?

Finally, I made it out to Spaceland. Parking is impossible around there, due to LA's neighborhood parking restrictions (but that's another rant). After valet parking the car, I plunged in, got my $2.50 pint of PBR (after paying $5 for a half-pint at FO) and settled in for some free music.

I don't know if I was just grumpy, it was too late (11PM or so), or what, but I pretty much got my money's worth. The sound was too loud to listen without earplugs, and even a little loud for my fancy earplugs, so I put in the foam ones, and just heard a muddy mess. I don't know whether it was the mix or the earplugs or the musicians, but nothing sounded very good. Vocals sort of disappeared, and I could feel the drums and bass in my gut, but the guitars would fade in and out.

I'd come to hear Eagle and Talon, a two-piece band that sounded sort of Sleater-Kinney-esque. I'm a sucker for two-piece outfits -- I really love that sparse sound (with the notable exception of the Black Keys, who I find nearly unlistenable). Unfortunately, they'd augmented their sound with an extra guitarist and bassist, and the sound was crappy already.

The drummer came out in a hoody over a long dress, lookin' incredibly geeky and quiet, but it turned out that she could really pound the drums (and with precision) and actually had it going on. At some point she goofily offered up a long story about the soggy Beard Papa cream puffs that she was offering to the crowd -- so often this kinda crap sounds silly and self involved (I remember a WREK DJ trying to get Shonen Knife to eat crackers and whistle on the air), but here, for some reason, it was just entertaining.

The lead singer was wearing a Susanna Hoffs kinda dress, amazingly short and tight and all that. She wore it well, but I just found it distracting. Unfortunately, she didn't really have a Susanna Hoffs kind of delivery, and sounded kind of weak and thready. I couldn't really hear any of the lyrics, or discern the melody, and it all just seemed like a mess. I'd rather talk about their sound than their appearance, but, honestly, I didn't get to hear that much!

Again, maybe it was the mixing, maybe it was the earplugs, maybe it was the late hour, but none of the bands grabbed me. I even walked outside to get some air in the middle of the Mezzanine Owls set. We Barbarians, who were playing when I arrived, sounded pretty good, but again, muddy as hell. It's kind of weird, 'cause I liked the mp3s that both Mezzanine Owls and Eagle and Talon put up on myspace, and I usually like bands better live than recorded. Maybe it was an off night for me, but I guess I was happy to just get out and hear some live music again.

[Argh, this is obviously way too long for a blog post; I gotta start using LiveJournal if I'm gonna write this confessional, stream-of-consciousness narrative crap. Oh, well, maybe I'll try to rewrite it tomorrow and make it more interesting.]