November 2009 Web Edition Issue #3
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Live & CD
by Jerry Jewett
Photos Courtesy of Big Hassle Publicity
Sometimes things happen curiously, or rather, curiosity finds more than it sought. There I was, Tuesday, September 17th, with my Fender Showmaster stuck in the shop at McCabe's Guitars for upgrade work. I borrowed a few moments from office work on the computer to peruse the Fender website, the better to drool over the amp I would like to get to enhance my sound. That 65 Twin Custom 15 is still on Fender's website, thank God!
Looking deeper into this amplifier's back story, Fender features an Artists section, citing the many, many groups who have a member who plays through a 65 Twin Custom 15. I never see one of these amps in a music store, yet I would very much want to hear one before dropping $1,500 or so to BUY one, right? See who plays them? OK, a host of unknown groups scroll past me; I see Deap Vally. Who? The curiosity flag runs up.
Google me silly as I noodle around. Deap Vally is Lindsey Troy on guitar and vocals with Julie Edwards on vocals and drums. They're from SFV, brought together by serendipity if not kismet, and getting known from playing just LOTS of places. Forget the Hotel Cafe gig where Marilyn Manson heckled them at first. They got a slot at Coachella in 2013, they found an audience at Glastonbury this year, and they have warmed the stage in many another venue on other continents, more than in the U.S.
Two piece groups (not to be confused with duos like Brooks and Dunn, or Simon and Garfunkel) don't spring up every day. Probably everyone knows The White Stripes or some other power duo, but it's not your everyday combination. So I got more curious still. Checking their fall touring schedule, it comes to pass that they are playing The Glass House in Pomona.
Now classical music is my favorite musical genre, with folk/Americana/bluegrass/Celtic and ethnic/world music artists as a distant second and third. The last "clubs" I had been in were Altadena's Coffee Gallery Backstage, hearing the amazing musician women of Sugar in the Gourd and the great and uplifting harmonies of Run, Boy, Run, or at the Roof Garden of the Museum of Jurassic Technology, enjoying amazing folk music from other cultures. The Viper Club and Whisky A Go Go venues have a compressed, hectic, artificial feel to them, sort of that Music Marketing Practicum thing, so I haven't been in a Sunset bar in a long time.
But when I saw that Deap Vally was playing in Pomona, and realized that I would not have to go to Sheffield, England, or Brisbane, Australia, to hear them, I revved up. I did more Internet research, reading interviews, articles and reviews, filling info gaps.
In her teens, Lindsey and her sister were The Troys, a folk duo. That ramped up to an album deal, an album that got made but never got distributed. Lindsey was unhorsed for a while,casting about for a musical future. She found it. Deap Vally is a group dedicated to reviving guitar-based hard rock, that's what I heard. Sounded like a good program to me. Original and talented musicians, that has the right ring to it. Only $12 to hear them at The Glass House in Pomona? Done deal!
As the next day was a work day and the time was after 11:30, I omitted staying after and hoping to schmooze with the band. I expect they probably got 100 hangers-on. Until the highway construction on the 10 Freeway around San Dimas forced everyone off the freeway, 90 mph seemed like the best cruising speed after a show like this.
Classical music recordings satisfy the greater part of my musical appetite, while my budget is often not geared to grandiose live entertainment (e.g. Bad Company plays L.A. County Fair at end of September, but I'm not springing $170 for a ticket). For those reasons, I have not been to that many rock shows or concerts. I have heard Jefferson Starship, the Grateful Dead, Johnny Winter, the Eagles, Mick Fleetwood and Friends, the Rolling Stones, James McMurtry, and Humble Pie live in concert (twice for the Pie). As I was riding home, I realized that the combined satisfaction I get from a great musical performance (intellectual and emotional satisfaction intertwined) varies directly with who performed. I got the same satisfaction out of hearing Deap Vally as I did with the Stones and Humble Pie (twice with the Pie). I couldn't say better than that.
These two have a sense of confidence and authenticity that makes their show very refreshing. I have become accustomed to limited venues where there is seating for 50 or less. The Glass House has no seating but room for hundreds to stand or dance. In this larger space, the quality of the show and the content of the songs brought some intimacy even into the bigger space.
Julie really runs that drum kit for all it's worth,with tremendous energy and precision, yet she never overdoes it. The CD lacks some of the marvelous drumming of the live show. The live show lets the vocals be buried a bit deep in the mix; the CD is better at letting their voices soar, but these two women have real voices, can sing, and have some catchy tunes, to boot,so their voices should feature more prominently. One would hope that the next album brings out their voices more fully.
Baby I call Hell, the second tune on the album, features not just lyrics but also some wordless vocal stylings that lightly resemble the wildly Dionysian yelps and energy of "Combination of the Two" by Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin.
If esthetics mattered, these two have some fashion designers who put fancy, pretty tops together for them to wear on stage. These Deaps glitter and glow warm and sparkly. Barefoot and in cutoffs or short shorts, they eschew spike heels and fishnets, exuding a proletarian or farm-girl wholesome sexiness, rather than being stylized femme fatales. Women approaching the full flower of femininity describes them.
I was listening to Track 11, Six Feet Under, the slow, intense blues tune at the end of the Sistrionix album by Deap Vally. Usually, when the last song is over, I turn off the CD player, or stop it and put in a fresh CD. This time, I did neither. It kept playing.
The result was that I heard the haunting "hidden" or bonus track. As it is subsumed under Track 11 but clearly not a bit a part of Six Feet Under, I will simply call it the Homage to Old People Who Were Young Once. Julie sings it a capella, with light tambourine percussion, with Lindsey chiming in at key points. It is almost a lovely song, and shows a dimension of the group that is not all loud-and-fast. What a delightful treat!
Are they after-born children of the Summer of Love? Despite modern technical resources and socially contemporary material, they have some of that Throwback Sound to the best of the early 1970s. With respect and admiration, I say, "I admire your work. Keep on Truckin'!"