12 October 2016
The Echo (Los Angeles)
Poster Children / State to State / Batwings Catwings
Instrumentation used: two guitars, bass, drums (supplemented with drum machine) and vocals.
The first band, Batwings Catwings played simple 4/4 and 6/8 rhythms with a lot of barre chords and power. The guitars both played lead, sometimes taking turns doing solos, sometimes playing dual leads a la the Allman Brothers Band. Guitarists Ray Santillan III and Jeffrey Byron play Rickenbacker and Fender guitars with a distorted rock sound. Bassist Cindy Sukrattanawong played a Precision Bass, and she had a solid, clean sound. Drummer Clay Johnson, who formed the band in 2009, plays a standard acoustic kit of probably 7 pieces. The music was high-energy and precise. The vocals of lead singer Dana Poblete were less precise, but she sounded good for the music.
The second band of the night was local group State to State. They opened with a swirly, ambient sound that became the song Sad Robot. Singer Shea Stratton has an intensity that reminds me of Chris Reed of Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and a vocal tone that sometimes channels a Thom Yorke falsetto, other times a Bono wail, and a Rufus Wainwright vibrato and candor. Andrew Orvis’s guitar weaves a web of texture on the drive of Stratton’s rhythms. Patrick Morgan holds it down on the bass. Drummer Feudor Lokshin synchs to a drum machine, giving the music a solid beat. The band’s sound ranges from ambient and smooth to heavy and complex. Other titles included “My Little Phony” and “Pins and Needles” from their Motives EP, as well as the peppy “Jackrabbit” that was “about tripping on acid,” Stratton announced. The 6/8-time “Let Go” (also from the Motives EP) uses the line, “Buy the ticket, take the ride,” recalling Hunter Thompson’s famed Vegas adventure.
Poster Children are an indie, DIY, progressive punk group out of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois (whose 12 Inch Records label released Hum’s first album). Formed in 1987 by Rick Valentin of Penguin Dust, the band consists of Rick (guitar and lead vocals), Rose Marshack (bass guitar and backing vocals), Rick’s brother Jim Valentin (guitar) and Matt Friscia (drums).
The band is on their “25 or 6 Year Tour” (reminiscent of Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4”) celebrating 25 years since the release of their second album, Daisychain Reaction, which was recorded in 1990 (with producer/”engineer” Steve Albini) but not released until the following year (on the Frank Sinatra-founded Reprise label), thus the ambiguity in the anniversary.
The group played nearly 20 songs from their catalog, with a lot of favorites from Daisychain Reaction (1991), including “Love,” with its repeated ascending major scale and “B-section” coda, “Space Gun,” which is a contrasting verse-chorus with a calm 15-measure verse with a half-time beat (with snare on the 2) and heavy, loud 11-measure chorus, and “Want It,” with its melody that follows the octave note progression being played by the guitars, and the chorus which begins with a breakdown to just drums and muffled guitar behind the vocal. “Where We Live” begins with clean guitar strumming a folky rhythm in 4/4, and drums playing on tom toms, with Rick’s low-energy voice in the lower octave droning the verse. The chorus picks up to loud guitars and backbeat, while the vocal retains its low drone. Other songs from Daisychain Reaction were “If You See Kay” and “Water.” They played “Sick Of It All” from the Just Like You EP (1994), with its clean, harmonizing guitar intro that builds to a break which gives way to a complex distorted guitar riff of 14-beat measures. They treated us to favorites from Tool of the Man (1993) and Junior Citizen (1995), such as “Clock Street,” “New Boyfriend,” and "He's My Star," a ballad about David Hasselhoff. “Revolution Year Zero” (also from Junior Citizen) is a great one to get the crowd going. “Let’s get lost in the city tonight, drop everything & go for a ride.”
Rick and Jim often use a “wall of guitar” sound along the lines of Chevelle (but without the drop-tune to C#), distorted and strummed with full force. Rick plays a Telecaster Deluxe through a Hi-Watt 4/12 half-stack, and Jim plays a lefty Strat through Orange amplification.
Rose, a practitioner of the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira Angola, is very active on stage. She played a Travis Bean bass with an Ampeg rig with an 8/10 cabinet. When she’s not contributing the marvelous harmonies such as on “He’s My Star” or “Drug I Need” she’s twisting and jumping in an acrobatic display, engaging all areas of the stage.
The other half of the rhythm section, Matt Friscia, who has been in the band for 10 years, is the 7th drummer the band has had in 8 albums. Matt tried to join the band after Howie Kantoff (#6), about 15 years ago, but he was still in high school and the band didn’t want to derail his studies.
The energy was incredible, the crowd was excited but subdued, and the band sounded flawless. It was my third time seeing the group and I would definitely go out and see them again.