Tuesday, June 28, 2011
The Whisperlights are now two-for-two for hosting fun and exciting CD release parties. Almost a year ago to the date, the band released their debut EP, Wake Up Dead, at the Yucca Tap Room. To celebrate their first full-length album, Surfaces, the band went big this time around, both with their choice of venue and the line-up they selected to share their big night with.
The Duce feels like it came from the same family as the dearly departed Old Brickhouse. The venue is essentially an old warehouse full of boxing memorabilia, including a ring that serves as one of the stages, complimenting an impromptu stage set up in front of bleachers. The two stages drastically reduced set up time and kept the seven-band line up moving.
It was truly a night for friends and family, as the line up featured artists that often play with The Whisperlights, as well as bands that share members with the group. A wide range of genres were represented and no two bands sounded the same. The sparse similarities were limited to The Whisperlights and Sweetbleeders sharing a Rhodes piano, and the blues influences heard through What Laura Says and Black Carl's music.
Sweetbleeders kicked things off with a unique sound that is part bar band and part circus soundtrack. Their material is very rhythmic, right down to the slower, keyboard-heavy songs.
You know it's a party when Dry River Yacht Club is on the bill. They got the crowd moving early in spite of the triple digit temperatures outside. Drawing from the band's gypsy influence, leading lady Garnet might as well have been casting a spell on the audience that kept them moving all night. She didn't hog the spotlight; in fact, the rest of the band matched her energy and made use of the stage.
Underground Cities were epic -- proving that instrumental music doesn't always put you to sleep. Escalating rhythms and a xylophone/triangle player certainly keep things interesting.
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It's hard to imagine a band sounding fresh as many times as I've seen them, but with Whisperlights, no two shows are the same. With members living on both coasts, the band rarely plays as a full group, so their live sound varies depending on how many people are on stage.
It's always a treat when the full band plays because the sounds are richer and the harmonies blend together beautifully. The remaining members flew out for this show and the band's upcoming tour with Underground Cities. Singer/guitarist Illya Riske said, "We haven't played a lot of these songs for a while because some of us have to go make good life choices and go to school. Boo! Just kidding."
Henri Benard of Dry River Yacht Club shared percussion duties with Wasef El-Kharouf. Their drumming skills came in handy when the power was abruptly cut short during "Castanets." Drums were the only instruments that worked, so Wasef and Henri kept the beat going while Owen Marshall put down his guitar and picked up shakers. The audience cheered at the smooth recovery while multi-instrumentalist Dave Gironda, Jr. prompted the crowd to clap along. Once the power was restored, the band immediately resumed the song as if the extended drum solo was planned.
That was the only major technical difficulty of the evening, but it wasn't the only thing that didn't go as planned. Toward the end of "Ulna Habenaha", the audience was showered with graffiti and a balloon drop, but some of the balloons got stuck in the net. "The balloons were supposed to drop," El-Kharouf protested. "We spent two hours on those assholes. Drop, damn you!" The crowd didn't seem to mind; they seemed far more interested in having any balloons to play with.
"Death" was the climax of The Whisperlights' set as Dave jumped off the stage to play guitar in the audience. As the melodies built, the audience grew more and more energetic until they screamed the last lines of the song. They were lead by Henri, who periodically ran out from behind his kit to prompt the crowd to clap, matching the feverish pitch of the song.
The bliss felt during The Whisperlights' powerful finale was contagious, and most of the crowd stuck around to watch What Laura Says and Black Carl, two of the Valley's busiest bands. But while both bands put in solid sets, the night belonged to The Whisperlights.
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Last Night: Whisperlights CD Release Party at The Duce.
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The Crowd: Mostly twentysomethings getting their drink on.
Overheard in the Crowd: "You guys are the bees knees. When I grow up, I wanna be just like Emma [Pew]."
Personal Bias: I am pretty sure I've seen Whisperlights live more than any other band.
Random Notebook Dump: Wow, the Rhodes sounds great.