The review simulposted on LA RecordResisting the urge to amble into Two Boots Pizza I made my way to the Echo in lovely Echo Park to catch the KCRW presents show featuring Nashville's Tristen, Hi Ho Silver Oh, and East Coast transplants Marcus Very Ordinary. The stage was set with the drum kit conspicuously up front to make room for a 4 piece horn section, an upright bass, a sax player, and violin / viola player, (and that was just in the back row). This massive amount of musical real estate was for none other than Marcus Very Ordinary, a 9 piece ensemble "speakeasy" band that originally hails from Buffalo, New York but who now reside in LA. I spotted the bass player who was sporting a tie. My brain screeched to a halt as if all my senses were barreling toward a seaside cliff. Those who know me, know that I suffer from "tierockaphobia". This rare condition is the fear of rock musicians who wear ties and stems from the general feeling that if you are on stage and are going to rock you should not be wearing a tie. I think this phobia griped me way back when I saw Huey Lewis on stage but I digress...
Very Ordinary is a band that is difficult to define. I call them a "speakeasy" band because their music transports me to a 1930's dance hall where women of ill repute lurk in the shadows. Their lush sound is part side show and part burlesque. It is dramatic, dark and alluring. If they were a movie they would be a Cohen brothers film shot in high contrast sepia tones. Lead singer Jon Lorentz switched from acoustic guitar to keyboards flanked by a sultry female singer. They both can sing like the cats pajamas and their voices are strong and evocative enough to match the orchestral sound that often swells around them. A major strong point, and there are many strong points to seeing MVO live, is watching and hearing the amazing Butch Norton on the drum kit. The former Eels member who has since worked with the likes of Fiona Apple, Tracy Chapman, Lisa Germano, Aimee Mann, Michael Penn, Rufus Wainwright and Lucinda Williams has so many tricks up his sleeves and uses them all perfectly to support this wonderful ensemble. So wear something dangerous and go check Marcus Very Ordinary out. You can even strap a tie on. Stand out songs for me were "Killing the Horse"- "I'm Easy" and "Right Where You Belong".
Have you ever been on a porch in Big Sur on a cold foggy morning warmed only by a bottle of Jack and thinking about that love that got away. For some reason, Hi Ho Silver Oh put me in that funky place of Polaroid pictures and broken memories. Casey Trela's beautiful voice embracing often time forlorn lyrics can break your damn heart and make you smile all at the same time. "My Confessor" strikes a lovely melody and in "Showers without Warning" Hi Oh Silver Oh shows how they can make you feel and dance at the same time. Standout song of the evening was "Big Rocks" - a moody song that exists in the swirl of vocals, swelling cymbals and bright guitar chords as well as in the "pauses" - only to build to a powerful conclusion. Absolutely brilliant songwriting.
Well, just as soon as Hi Ho Silver Oh stirred my emotions into utter retrospection a bright spark walked onto the stage. It was Nashville's Tristen who was the headliner this evening touring to support the Feb. 15th release of her new album "Charlatans at the Gate". I had never heard her before this evening and didn't quite know what to expect. She is a tiny girl with no hint of reservation as she expertly moved through her 11 song set. While there is a definite folksy rock thing happening, Tristen's sound is hard to pinpoint. It is part indie, part retro 60's surf pop, part country western. I can hear traces of the Chrissie Hynde and Patsy Cline at the same time. I was particularly struck by how familiar her songs sounded even though this was the very first time I had heard them and, mind you, they didn't sound familiar because they were typical, no... I think they sounded familiar because they embraced you as if you were family. A family you want to be part of.
Coupled with sassy downbeats and stellar songwriting her songs are amazingly assessable and endearing supported by an awesome band, Jordan Caress on Bass, drummer- Rollum Haas and guitarist extraordinaire Buddy Hughen who has a knack for playing the perfect counterpoint to Tristen who played guitar and ukulele. The sounds coming out of Buddy's hollow body guitar were amazing. He does not merely play but phrases each note and I feel that his guitar work gave some of the songs a more indie feel. I really loved the song "Eager for you Love" with the splash of retro guitar sounds that made me think of surfing and spaghetti westerns. Another standout song was "Wicked Heart" - a fairy tale of a song featuring only Tristen and Buddy that had the crowd moved to silence. It is not often that you hear a band for the first time and walk away loving or even liking every song but on this particular night this was the case for me. I would guess that everyone in that room felt the same way judging by the rabid applause and the beeline for the merch table to purchase Tristen's CD.
At one point in the show Tristen said, "I'm not in Kansas anymore, and I like it." Well, the funny thing is as I listened to her perfectly crafted, beautiful songs I didn't think I was in Los Angeles any more but, instead, on some vast smog free plain wearing a Levi jacket and a down turned cowboy hat snuggled in the warm embrace of her songs.