Wednesday, August 9, 2006

My Ears Are Still Ringing!

Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. by Joe Popp (c)2006Myself, three other editors here (Gordon, Joe, Dan) and Joe's wife headed out to the International Pop Overthrow show at Spaceland Tuesday night. In short... It was fantastic.

The act we were there to see, of course, was Roger Joseph Manning Jr. (Jellyfish, Imperial Drag, Moog Cookbook, TV Eyes). But we got there early to ease our feet with scant coveted bar stools and got to see five acts ahead of Mr. Manning.

First up was a band that David Bash (IPO organizer) found on myspace, the Kite Flying Society from San Diego. They were really good - kind of a softer power pop with an emphasis on driving acoustic guitar, vocal harmonies and a violin. Their self-described influences include The Kinks, The Shins, Harry Nillson's "The Point", Brian Wilson and Fruit Bats. Had I more cash on me I would've bought the CD (too bad it was $15 instead of $10). I'll have to pick it up online sometime.

Next up was the completely out-of-place folk rock of Carolyn Edwards. I'm not going to diss her or her talent, but I thought she would've been more suited for playing a park in San Francisco. Look, I'm married with kids. On the rare occasion that I get out to a rock show, I don't want to sit around listening to some woman's melancholy bitching and whining. I'm sure she has an audience somewhere, but how bad is it when the performer has to ask her friends in the audience to leave the bar and come stand in the vast empty space at the front of the stage. And she's got a big giant broken image on her web site!

Next up was the promising, but seemingly inexperienced Let's Go Sailing. I was surprised to find that the News section of their web site goes back to Jan. 2004 referencing performances. These guys are another myspace find and we really thought this was one of their first performances in public. They had no stage presence at all... unless you count the corny jokes by leader Shana Levy about being turned up to 11, no wait - 12. The left-handed guitarist was in his own little world, the school librarian keyboard player was shaking (from nerves?) when she was left standing front and center with a tambourine so that Shana could play the keys, and a little asian girl was able to keep the rhythm on her bass but she moved around like a more subdued version of the Elaine dance from Seinfeld. And every single one of them spent almost the entire show looking down at their instruments while they were playing.

This was weird to see visually, because what I heard was actually good songcraft. I liked the songs and I liked Shana's voice. I hate to gripe more at the moment when I'm focusing on the positive, but the songs really would've benefitted from layering on some vocal harmonies (Shana was filling some in herself at the end of her lines). But none of the other bandmates had mics. Anyway, I liked the songs... kind of a mellower pop sound. I just think Ms. Levy might want to surround herself with more mature and dynamic musicians.

Then, all of a sudden, Kristian Hoffman came out and kicked all our asses. The songwriting genius behind the Mumps had a tight four piece outfit... and his band was pretty good, too. He's been rocking the joint since I was a kid and I hope he keeps going. His songs were expertly crafted power pop gems - the very definition of the genre. His set was a real highlight and a welcome blast of energy.

Next was another welcome surprise in Checkpoint Charley. With non-stop energy, the heaviest twin guitar attack I've heard in a non-metal show, and fantasticly catchy songs these guys had me bouncing my head and tapping my feet from start to finish. Think the Tories meets Jellyfish. Click on the link above and listen to at least the first three songs (which should be Cardiac Arrest, Free and Bellyfish). Thank me later. After the whole show was over, we went to the merchandise table to buy their CD, but the table was already empty. But as we were doing the slow cattle-herd-shuffle to the exit, I found myself right next to lead singer-guitarist Kevin Packard trying to sneak out with a box of CDs under his arm. After adulations and handshakes, we slapped him $20 for two CDs and Dan and I were happy campers. The CD's been stuck in my player all day.

But before that happened, I stopped to ask the DJ a question. I can't remember her name, but David Bash introduced her as the DJ for the night and this gal was spinning real geniuine 1970s vinyl records of some fantastic old school power pop. After I heard a fantastic cover of The Beatles' "It Won't Be Long" right before Roger J. Manning's set, I had to stop in and ask her who the band was. It was The Quick - one album in 1977 with a line-up that included Danny Wilde (Rembrandts) and Steve Hufsteader (Dickies). I wish I could get a copy of her playlist for the whole evening.

Ok, but before that, Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. came out and killed us all. When invited to play the IPO, Roger didn't have a band, so he quickly reunited with Imperial Drag's Erik Skodis on drums and picked up a killer bassist (Linus of Hollywood) and a virtual stranger on guitar (Aaron Kaplan who was introduced to Roger through Linus). Anyway, they opened with Queen's "Fat Bottom Girls" and rocked ridiculously hard throughout. Roger sprinkled five more covers in amongst selections from his forthcoming solo album ("The Land of Pure Imagination" due Sept. 12) including Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way", Edgar Winter Group's "Free Ride", Thomas Dolby's "Europa and the Pirate Twins", The Quick's "Pretty Please Me", and an insanely killer cover of Elton John's "Funeral For a Friend / Love Lies Bleeding". And, don't forget his new songs are fantastic. Get Roger's new album, it'll be just what you're hoping for from this incredible talent.

I wish I could go to all the IPO shows (sorry, Maple Mars, we'll miss you on Thurs. at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood)! Thanks David Bash for another awesome (and cheap) show!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for commenting, Carolyn, and you're right. I really couldn't follow all the lyrics. And, yes, the floor wasn't completely empty, but for about the first third of the space. For such a long show, I definitely wanted to keep my barstool the whole time until before Roger's set.