The Trunk Space
Wednesday, April 27
Sometimes it doesn't take a packed room full of sweaty bodies to have a dance party.
Sometimes it just takes the right band and the right fans.
Santa Barbara band Gardens & Villa brought the funk to Trunk Space last night, with all the Native flutes, synths, and flanged bass the group displays on their upcoming self-titled debut.
The crowd was modest, to say the least, but more enthusiastic than their numbers suggested; a fact Gardens & Villa seemed keenly aware of as they repeatedly thanked the audience as they worked the dozen or so concertgoers into a frenzy.
The band were joined by locals Factories and Hello the Mind Control, and the members of both bands served as much of the crowd for the evening -- cheering, dancing, and at one point, smashing a cockroach.
I'm loathe to say that Factories reminded me of The Postal Service, but the comparison feels apt. Not only do they make the same kind of bleepy-bloopy pop that Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamberello made for that lone, ultra-lucrative record, but the boy/girl vocals had the same kind of terse interplay as Gibbard and Postal Service guest Jenny Lewis.
Thankfully, the group never reaches the same saccharine heights of that band, kicking in doses of post-rock drama as needed, sounding a little like a meaner, nastier Ratatat. The band's drum machine fueled tunes sounded best when all three members contributed vocals, especially keyboardist Audra, who's commanding voice was a serious plus for the band.
Gardens & Villa feel like a band that is bound for recognition, and their set proved the building buzz about them justified. Tracks like "Black Hills" and "Orange Blossom" came across heavier and more organic than the band's recordings, and even as tight as bassist Shane McKillop played off drummer Levi Hayden, the group felt loose and assured.
The band's cover of Little Dragon's "Runabout" was a stand-out. Sexier and more seductive than the hyper original; it gave the band a chance to stretch out and groove.
As expected, front man Chris Lynch did bust out the Native flute for a couple numbers. More surprisingly, he really knew how to play it; instantly recalling the Talking Heads' New Age-ier tendencies.
By the time Hello the Mind Control sorted out apparent equipment issues, the crowd had thinned to just a few stragglers. The band barely seemed to mind, ripping through a quick set of distorted twee pop. The songs were rough around the edges, but effervescent enough to keep the remaining few into it.
A Wednesday night gig can be rough, but no one phoned it in last night. Despite the fact that Gardens & Villa will probably play to triple the amount of folks next time they roll through town, it seemed like they were almost having as much fun as their faithful.
Last Night: Gardens & Villa, Factories and Hello the Mind Control
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Personal Bias: Gardens & Villa's debut is produced by one of my favorite current working musicians, Richard Swift (check out his tune "Atlantic Ocean" to catch my drift).
The Crowd: Family and friends. The young folks of Hello the Mind Control were dancing stars during Gardens' set.
Random Notebook dump: "Let's make it a sexy," a quote from Gardens and Villa.