Thursday, February 25, 2010

Vagabond Opera @ Radio Room at The Edison

I've been to The Edison a few times during happy hour and to Radio Room only once, and Tuesday night was the most crowded I have ever seen it. I saw a tweet from Dan Cox, who does PR for The Edison, that said "RADIO ROOM!! 500plus reservations! ARRIVE EARLY, KIDS!!!" I didn't even know the place could hold that many people! Guest bartenders (Joseph Brooke - Edison's new director of Spirits, Brian Miller from NYC's Death & Co, and Erick Castro from SF's Bourbon & Branch) and special cocktails were making an appearance for the night.

I hope some of the special cocktails become regulars on The Edison menu because I really enjoyed the Old Fashioned-like Porco Rosso, but I have to say my favs were the sweet flavors of Sancho's Lady and the bubbly Miss Behavin' (I'm talking about the drinks here. Get your minds out of the gutter!).

In a hidden away corner, shellfish specialist Christophe Happillion was plating British Columbian Fanny Bay oysters. He was kind enough to allow HC and I a taste of some of the best oysters I've ever had, something definitely worth coming back for.

Vagabond Opera
I was listening to some of their music on MySpace the day before the show and thought it fit in really well with Radio Room. I wonder how bands are selected to play there. Do bands ever contact The Edison? Or does someone actively seek out bands that would be perfect for Radio Room? Is there an audition process?

Vagabond Opera actually reminded me of the gypsy sounds of Fishtank Ensemble. Little did I know, the very same band had also opened for Vagabond Opera the night before Radio Room! What a great combination. I think Fishtank Ensemble would also be great for the next Radio Room. I can also picture The Squirrel Nut Zippers there. The Edison could draw in a lot of swing music fans, not that they need any help in that area.

The music I heard that night really fit their self-described brand of "1920’s European Cabaret! Vintage Americana! Balkan Belly Dance! Neo-Classical Opera! Old World Yiddish Theater!" Everything they played fit in with at least one of these descriptions if not all of them in one song! I loved their cover of the famous Quizas, Quizas (Perhaps, Perhaps). Great, sometimes operatic vocals, that somehow fit in perfectly with the song. GourmetPigs enjoyed their version of Scott Walker's Amsterdam. HC thought the band sounded like "a rambunctious fusion of big band, cabaret and Monty Python's Spamalot."

The six-piece band put on a fantastic stage show. At one point, two of the singers came down from the stage to dance with some obvious fans of the band. Later on, they threw playing cards into a cheering crowd as they sang. I love it when bands involve the audience.

I was really impressed when I saw a musical saw being used in one of their songs. It added an unexpected ghostlike melody to the music. Mattatouille said it had an oddly familiar sound to it. I think anyone who's a fan of sci-fi shows or movies would say that.

Some of the songs' story-telling features were akin to The Squirrel Nut Zippers' The Ghost of Stephen Foster.

I guess that's where their "Old World Yiddish Theater" classification comes into play, and I have to say I think it's a fantastic combination of theater and gypsy swing.

Songs by Vagabond Opera:

More reviews on this month's Radio Room from:
LA and OC Foodventures
Caroline on Crack
Gold Members

Monday, February 22, 2010

See Vagabond Opera @ The Edison - Radio Room

I'm very excited about getting invited to check out Vagabond Opera at The Edison tonight, Feb 23. So far, I'm digging the swingy operatic music on their MySpace page. If you're looking for something different to do, come to The Edison at 8pm and check out the Radio Room and enjoy some music and drinks specially made by bartenders from around the US.

Tickets sold online.

More info about and a cocktail list via Caroline on Crack.

I'm excited to try the Miss Behavin' because I've been looking everywhere for a bar that carries pear brandy.

The Idyllists Record Release Show, Freddy & Francine, The Passports @ Hotel Cafe

I went to Hotel Cafe to check out The Idyllists album release show upon HC's recommendation. We showed up a bit early after our dinner at Blue Palms Brewhouse (liked the variety of beers and awesome lobster mac n cheese w/ mushrooms. Didn't like the slow service: I admit the bar stools were packed and there was only ONE bartender, but the rest of the restaurant was barely half full and there were two waiters, one of whom kept taking our orders to the wrong table) and caught half of the set for

Freddy & Francine
Now I like some folk music, but what I can't stand is country; and what they play is folk that leans towards country. I enjoyed some of the folky parts of their songs, but as soon as they would hit anything remotely country, I felt myself die a little inside. HC thought some of it was catchy and Wing, guitarist of Near Death Photography Club, absolutely hated it. Every time I looked over at her, she looked like she wanted to puke. I thought the female vocalist sounded great; it's just such a shame to hear her talents wasted on this style of music.

The Idyllists
HC mentioned the entry fee would be $5, so we were a bit shocked when we were asked to pay $10. Then the shock instantly turned into excitement when we were told we could use our ticket to redeem the band's new self-titled album AND a button! Now this wasn't just a burned CD in a paper bag (you may think that sounds ridiculous, but I've actually received one of these before), it looked really well made and professional. I would have been happy with just the CD, but the addition of the button really made me feel like The Idyllists cared about their fans. I think a free CD with admittance fee is something bands should really consider doing. It makes the fans feel special. If a band charging $10 can do this, why can't a band charging over $100 do this?

Before the show, I had only listened to a few of the songs on their MySpace page. They played a catchy brand of Brit Pop. I thought Let's Fly Away was particularly addictive and even better live. I loved every single song. Head bobbing could not be prevented. Here was the set list for the night:

I love how much effort they put into set list, like the use of different kinds of font and shiny paper.

My favorite tracks were / are:
Let's Fly Away
Sweet Loretta
Empire State
Come On Home
The Dreamers

They sounded so 50s on some of their songs that I kept picturing them playing on stage at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance in Back to the Future where Marty McFly's parents hooked up.

The lead vocalist had a Buddy Holly look about him, while the piano playing of Matthew Barge reminded me of Jerry Lee Lewis. I loved the semi-matching blazers (but still keeping their own style) they wore on stage.

They really surprised me with how many band members they fit on stage and with how talented they all were. I don't think their style of music will see the light of day on mainstream radio. However, I can see their music vastly increase in popularity as soon as someone has the foresight to put them on a soundtrack for a future indie darling, such as (500) Days of Summer or Juno.

I have to say that it's been two weeks (I know, I know, I got behind on my blog posts), and I've been listening to their album almost EVERY day. It's ridiculously catchy and instantly puts a smile on my face even when sitting through traffic.

The Passports
I was told by a member of Siberian Summer Camp that The Passports sounded like a mix of The Beatles and The Beach Boys, and that's exactly what they sounded like. Nothing really stood out. Although, The Passports do harmonize well. The highlight of the show was when they decided to stop for Harmonica Time, where they broke out the harmonica and started dancing a wild jig. Although entertaining, I kind of lost interest because it seemed like they didn't really care that much about their music or performing in front of a crowd. I don't even know if it was just because they were on last or if they didn't bother rehearsing. I could tell that they liked having fun, but they came off as unprofessional and I couldn't really take their songs seriously.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Near Death Photography Club @ Hive Gallery

They were performing at the Hive Gallery as part of the Downtown LA Artwalk. The gallery was much bigger than it looked outside. It had a kind of lobby that led into a room with a small stage (where Near Death Photography Club played) that, in turn, lead into a long room. All the walls were covered in artwork. At the moment, the one I remember most was the piece of art with a disturbingly realistic sewn up mouth. Fortunately, there was a variety of art that was dissimilar to my previous description.

The last time I saw NDPC play was at Tribal Cafe and I wasn't actually able to see the performance, but I'm told it was similar to this night's. Xander's stage dramatics seemed to draw the crowd in even though he often didn't face the audience and seemed to be in his own world.

No one else seemed to notice, but I thought the singing was actually a bit lower and slower this time around, which I thought made the voice less distracting from the overall music. Even with a missing guitarist (Wing had to play his parts and create her own solos), the band didn't sound incomplete. The songs could form a good soundtrack to a dark and stormy night.

Low Note: Feedback from an amp was very apparent during quieter moments in the set. Not sure if it was due to the size of the small space NDPC was playing in.

High Note: Great to see people getting really into the music. Hostess and two other guys were dancing in front of the audience.

I love the above pic of Wing. She reminds me of this anime / manga character from FLCL.