Wednesday, July 31, 2013

LIVE Review- PAPA, NO, and LA FONT at Figat7th Downtown Festival 7/26/13

Headliner - PAPA:

After one of the most awful and arduous drives into LA on the 110 that crawled along like molasses in winter the plaza that is home to Figat7th Downtown Festival felt like heaven especially once the night descended and Papa took the stage. Playing passionate music that has all the earthiness and full on rock and roll power of Springsteen but with darker tones played in the midst of skyscrapers shooting up around them felt dramatic to say the least. Judging by the legions of girls who were pressed up against the stage, lead singer and drummer Darren Weiss low commanding voice oozes sex appeal. When they started with the totally rousing Put Me To Work it felt like a collective shot of adrenalin right into our hearts. Brother Evan, a stellar guitarist punches up the down beats, bassist Danny Presant jamming up on his toes and Alex Fishchel pounding on the keys. The tone was set.

 As they shifted into the stirring If You're My Girl I think I heard every girls heart skip a beat. The song with it's stirring synth bed and somber lead lines felt embraceable under the stars. Darren addressed the audience saying how great it was to be back in LA- their home town, how they live down the street really. He kept it loose and mentioned how many lovely ladies there were in the crowd. I wondered if it was easier being a bit flirtatious behind a drum kit. After the playful almost 50's sock hop feel of Let's Make You Pregnant  a girl in the audience asked him to marry her at which point Darren told her it could not be as he has a girlfriend (thank you).

I stepped way back to the depths of the plaza when they performed Young Rut (one of the songs on their upcoming debut full length "Tender Madness" due out in October) and with it's choppy rhythm, alternating shuffle beats and big chorus it sounded totally anthemic and was quite frankly awe inspiring. Ain't It So with Evan Weiss's sparkly guitar had people dancing. I have always loved Collector from their EP- A Good Woman is Hard To Find. After the first verse and musical break, Darren stopped the song cold saying, "We, we will go on in a minute but before we do I just got to know.... Los Angeles, are you with us tonight?" to arousing applause and woops- "The Hell yeah. We are with you too." Touches like this, even if planned added a gravitas to their connection with their audience which is already such a potent thing. They edged right into "Because The Night" (written by Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen) and finished the night with Lion King.

Papa makes music that at times feels like hymns, rock and roll hymns and seeing them perform under the stars with building rising up like Cathedrals made me feel like I was in the Church of Papa and now, brothers and sisters, I have been converted.

(photos courtesy of Alyssa Holland)
PAPA, NO, LA FONT Flikr photo set 


I had first seen NO at the Jubilee several weeks ago and as wonderful as they were something was missing. Oh, yeah it was the audience and it wasn't the fact that they were performing, it was the fact that for whatever reason, the Jubilee crowds did not turn out like before. Be that as it may, they were well received by the small crowd that turned up to hear them. At the Figat7th stage lead vocalist Bradley Carter played to a crowd eager to see them. No's music has a decidedly 90's feel, with jagged guitar and bouncy bass lines. Bradley's voice has a cool slow burnish quality with a tinge of Paul Banks creeping in from time to time. Their songs like Another Life have melodies that feel a bit tattered and torn, lush and almost cinematic in scope. The songs can feel a bit too epic at times for a hardened cynic like me but I cannot deny their emotional tug and inherent romantic edge.


At the start of this review I mentioned the absolutely horrid traffic I had encountered heading to the Figat7th venue and unfortunately I was able to catch only one song (if that) from La Font. It is a damn shame because I liked what little I heard. The lead vocalist had a raised lip snarl, the music edgy indie rock with pervasive spaghetti western guitars. Hope to see them in full in the future.
Robb Donker
photos by Alyssa Holland

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