If ever there was a lineup for under-discovered indie pop goodness, this was it. After catching the brief in-store performance by Menomena/Ramona Falls Brent, I hit up the west side's funkiest child-friendly cafe/beer bar, bela dubby, to catch local favorites Afternoon Naps and the two bands opening for them - Seattle's Iji and Santa Barbara's Watercolor Paintings - both of whom I'd been digging on myspace since checking them out when I first learned of the show.
(Whew - how's that for a long, poorly written introductory sentence?)
I knew the show would be good, but I had no idea just how much I would enjoy it. All three bands were truly wonderful, each similar enough that there was no problem flowing from set to set, but each distinct enough that they were all worth paying attention to in their own right.
Santa Barbara brother-sister duo Watercolor Paintings started the night off with an audience-interactive chant, then broke it down as best you can on a small harp and baritone ukulele for the rest of the set. That's right - this was a twee pop ukulele/harp duo, and they were magnificent. The sister in the sibling pair, Rebecca Redman, had a cute voice that always hopped back and forth over the line between singing and shouting, but in a way that was pretty darling. The songs themselves were very Kimya Dawson-esque in both structure and lyrical style - not a knock, just a description.
Following them up were Seattle's Iji, a band whose more complete sound and volume plays great on the album but thanks (or not) to poor sound equipment and leveling, the best parts of the band's sound (especially lead vocalist Zach Burba's mini-Wayne Coyne/sometimes Daniel Johnston voice) were lost. When the band tried to speak between songs you could barely understand what was being said, the sound was so poor.
Fortunately, the band brought their best, especially multi-instrumentalist Jon Manning (who also runs a fantastic little record label) who kept bringing out the best instrumental toys, from a small Casio keyboard to a melodica to an Asian market omnichord (my favorite of his grab bag). The bass player was solid and the drummer was just bangin' and as the band closed with two audience participation tunes, all was right in that little enclosed patch of land on Madison Avenue. Burba, when entreating the audience to sing along, promised that doing so would feel good. Chanting "da da da da da da da da da" and "love lingers on ... it lingers on" while the band boogied on, it was quite clear he was right.
The happy mood perfectly set the stage for headlining locals, Afternoon Naps. The band started off with three tracks from their forthcoming album, including their new "dance" song, and followed that up with my three favorite tracks from their Sunbeamed EP, "Orange Paw," "Clean Bill of Health," and "Postcard."
After that, it was "Plum City Fight Song," then one I don't know the name of (I call it "the tune I think is Tom's best vocal track"), then another dance tune I also don't know the name of (this one I refer to as "the one where Leia does her asteroid effect tomfoolery"), and finally the closer, "The Sun Ain't the Same" off Sunbeamed. Well, not really the closer, as the band decided to run out an immediate encore, which I also don't know the name of.
As expected, the Naps set was fantastic, as were all the sets, and though the promised Survivor cover never materialized (despite my offer to buy a $1 can of Black Label), it was well worth the westward trek. I came away a bigger fan than I already was, with newfound appreciation for the role the band's bass player, Mike Allan, has in the band and the realization that Leia can do no wrong on xylophone.
2 years ago