The Love Me Nots' The Demon & the Devotee Release Show Last Night at Yucca Tap Room

It's been a wild year for The Love Me Nots. Not only did the band take time off for lead singer/organist Nicole Laurenne to beat breast cancer -- which she has, we're happy to report --but the band has reunited with original drummer Jay Lien, and recorded a new record, The Demon and the Devotee, with Detroit rocker Jim Diamond handling production.

The group debuted the album (here in the States, at least) last night at the Yucca, bringing in friends from out of town and a few locals to help them out. The vibe was one of celebration, and given the whirlwind year the band has experienced, it felt well deserved and hard-earned.  

As far as garage rock goes, The Love Me Nots rest firmly on the glittery, showier side of the genre's spectrum and, fittingly, the bands that opened for them did, too.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang came out from L.A., and they shared a ramped-up, strutting sensibility with The Love Me Nots. Sometimes you can just tell you're watching an L.A. band; it was just obvious that singer Devon had done some time on the runway.

She sold the band harder than anyone else, rocking a mod-style dress and peppering songs like "Drink All Night" with sultry charm. She wasn't the only fashion-conscious member of the band: Organist Laura is the head stylist at Manic Panic Salon in Highland Park, and her melodic lead lines matched bassist Speedie John, formerly of The Fuzztones and Speedies, as the most interesting thing happening musically.

The City of Angels trend continued with Don Juan y Los Blancos, who rolled on stage looking particularly dapper. The band was no stranger to the Yucca, playing the band's release show for Upsidedown Insideout back in 2009. While all the band's rocked a retro vibe, Don Juan and co. were the most straight forward, hiccuping Eddie Cochran-style rockabilly with a soul edge.

"Backup" singer Becky Blanca practically stole the show from Don -- jitterbugging manically around the stage and singing with the kind of authority that comes from a couple of slammed beers.

The crowd enjoyed the openers, but it was clear who they were there for. The Love Me Nots draw an interesting mix of people. There were plenty of standard show going youngsters, but the band packed the house with the kind of people who only go out to shows a couple of times a year. The place was wall-to-wall, too, bristling with energy as The Love Me Nots took the stage.

While The Demon and the Devotee shakes up The Love Me Nots' status quo with a few forays into New Wave and Byrds-style jangle, the band played to their rock 'n' roll strengths, blasting out three-minute rockers -- like "You Don't Know a Thing About Me" and "Voices in My Head."

Laurenne seemed healthier than ever, owning the crowd and playing her Farfisa organ maniacally with one hand. When the band played "The End of the Line" from the new record, one got the sense that she knew what she was singing about.

"Never ever be a guarantee, that the end will come an easy way," she sang, reflecting on mortality over grinding guitars courtesy of husband Michael Johnny Walker.

The band brought up a chorus of friends for "The Girl Lights Up," with Walker taking to 12 string to deliver the song, my favorite from the new album. Bassist Kyle Rose Stokes had a chance to shine on the song vocally, forgoing her bass to deliver girl-group vocals with Laurenne and guest Sophie O., who opened the band with her own grungy brand of pop-rock.

"You're Bringing Me Down" hit hardest, with the band riding the song's monster riff in tandem. The song was played with such infectious joy. In fact, the entire set felt like a celebration of beating the odds, it wasn't lost on the crowd or the band. Laurenne smiled broadly as the band finished up its set with a slow-burning blues number, giving Walker a chance to show off his chops.

The crowd was spellbound by the band, which made the fact that Phoenix rockers The Father Figures followed the band's set pretty damn strange. Not that Father Figures weren't worth sticking around for.

"We may not be as sexy [as the Love Me Nots], but we'll try and bring some rock & roll," guitarist Michael Cornelius laughed.

The band's jerky, post-punk sound was fantastic. It was no wonder that our own Michael Lopez, a man of discerning taste, took to the band. The band took his advice about opening with "She Does Gymnastics," which showcased the terse interplay between Cornelius' guitarwork, Bobby Lerma's near math-rock precise drums and bassist Tom Reardon's growling lines.

The band was just as good as The Love Me Nots, but it felt strange to have them follow the band of the evening. It didn't end up mattering much, the Figures held up on their promise about the rock 'n' roll, even if it felt like the night belonged to the sexy.

Critic's Notebook

Last Night:
The Love Me Nots, Sophie O., Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Don Juan y Los Blancos, and The Father Figures at Yucca Tap Room.

The Crowd: Much older than the typical Saturday evening crowd at the Yucca, which I don't mind. If you can get folks in their late 40s out, you're doing something right.

Personal Bias: I like my garage rock more dingy, and a lot less polished. I went in thinking The Love Me Nots were going to be too lightweight for my tastes, but they pull off the pop-garage thing too well to not be impressed.

Random Notebook Dump: "This riff is straight out of 'Have Love, Will Travel' the Black Keys version.'"  

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.