Going to a show doesn’t always yield a mind-explosion of an experience where creativity, passion, and talent is so apparently soaked within the musicians performing on stage. In fact this type of show experience is a rare jewel whether you are seeing a gigantic mainstream group or a local act like, I don’t know, lets say, Orange County’s Lowly Spects. I beheld a rare jewel, a diamond in the rough, if you will, last Thursday at Santa Ana’s Constellation Room where one of the strongest shows I’ve been to in a long time took place in celebration of the release of Lowly Spects’ new album, “The Hardest Man to Love.”
Secret Chief Culture, the standardly great production company who puts on the most relevant shows in Orange County, hosted the event and assembled some of the strongest acts from the local Orange County and LA underground music scenes. In a night dedicated to folk, rock, and indie, two bands specifically stood out for their amazing performances and incredibly smart, and fresh approaches to their art. Genre lines were bent and the music was alive as presented by both the Lonely Wild’s and Lowly Spects’ sets. They rampaged through the night with truly unforgettable performances and the audience at the Constellation Room was better for it.
Lonely Wild was third of four groups to play on this particular evening. This was my first time seeing them live however I had been hearing a lot of buzz about the group from locals who attended a Damien Rice show in LA where Lonely Wild opened. I was told that this was one of few shows that they had truly been impressed with for a long time, so I was genuinely looking forward to the set. To be frank, they did not disappoint; not even in the slightest. I went in with big expectations and they exceeded every last one of them. Their sound was hard to place, but immediately hypnotizing, as could be seen from the audience who went limp and immediately began swaying with the music upon first pluck of guitar string. They bore a resemblance to one of my favorite bands, the Veils (haven’t heard of them? You need to do it now, or may god have mercy on your soul) where they captured the darker side of indie rock which brings to mind visuals of ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ done in a western theme, where Jack Skelington is replaced with Mad Max… if that makes any sense.
Dual fronted by Andrew Carroll and Jessi Williams, the two trade off lead vocal sections complete with haunting melodies, sincerely honest lyrics, and passionate execution where pitch and range is not sacrificed for depth or feeling. The song structures are straightforward in regards to chord progressions however with lead guitarist Andrew Schneider on the team, they are able to reach new levels of complexity where layered guitar melodies help elevate the sound by highlighting hooks with lead vocals and providing ambient background and face melting solos wherever the right application fits. The Rhythm was nailed down by Dave Farina on drums and Ryan Ross, the predominant bass players, both flawlessly keeping the whole package railed. Also, every member of the band sang, and sang well. There were some REAL craftily constructed, complex harmonies throughout their set where there were hardly any moments of pitchiness among the 4 part harmonies.
Harmonies however, weren’t the only parts that could be traded amongst members. Now, earlier when I said Ryan Ross predominantly played bass, I meant that he, Jessi, and the Andrews all took turns swapping instruments. Cool, right? However, Ross and Williams did the most swapping for they had the ability to move from guitar, to bass, to keyboards, to vocals, and to…wait for it… TRUMPET! Rarely do you see a band have one player who plays a brass instrument let alone two! And if that isn’t enough, the two even decided to pick up brass at the same time and ended a song in their set with harmonizing lead brass sections. It was truly impressive, but what is even more impressive was there was no loss of volume or momentum because the other members could fill in the sound by wielding other instruments.
The last amazing thing the Lonely Wild did in their set that I will talk about to try to get you to go see them was a cover they decided to do. Now, I am all for covers. I think it is a good way to break things up in a set where people are hearing you for the first time, to provide something familiar to the audience. On this occasion I feel a cover wasn’t needed but their decision to play one here only improved my amazement of the Lonely Wild. What began as a driving song that could have easily been written by the band immediately became recognizable as the vocals came in and they sang the lyrics of “Personal Jesus.” Awesome in itself, the song was complete with 4 part harmonies and excellent driving force. But something spectacular happened when the band approached the bridge of the song. Another familiar sound was introduced as it unexpectedly came into the framework. Though I want to keep it a secret because it comes off as the biggest mind explosion when you hear it live, (Spoiler Alert, I’m going to tell you!!!) they go into the solo from “Money.” Yes, Pink Floyd’s, “Money.” They end the song doing a fusion of the two classics chanting “MONEY!!!! Your own personal jesus…”
I needed a cigarette and a damp rag after these guys played. My world exploded that night inside the Constellation Room and I sat there in silence in a sea of people as I rebuilt my mind from the rubble that it was after the Lonely Wild’s last song. Truly excellent display of creativity, passion, and musicianship all wrapped up in a package that is just waiting to be discovered.
The Lowly Spects had an unbelievable set as well. There won’t be much detail on it in this specific concert review, but stay tuned next week for a review of the new album and an in depth band review as well. What you need to know about them though, is that the band is full of naturally talented musicians and songwriters. I’ve raved about front man Ethan Hulse before and his universally captivating vocals, and how the band is able to blend, both musically and vocally, in a way that highlights the front man in subtly crucial ways. On the night of their release the band wielded their strongest attribute and that is, utilizing acoustics and relying less on electronics. During the performance they stepped off of the stage into the audience to sing and play away from the microphones. The only other band I have seen do this, AND pull it off is Yellow Red Sparks, and I can’t say that any other band could/should. It takes a lot of natural talent and band cohesion to be able to do this, and when it is done right, it creates an effortlessly flawless display of natural aesthetics.
I can also say this, the new album is a strong force to be reckoned within the folk community and it has remained in my CD player since the show. Keep an eye on the Lowly Spects in next week’s edition of Album Reviews. Thank you to all of the bands for an unforgettable night of music.