The Warbly Jets With Blackpaw, Collapsing Scenery At The Echo, Friday January 11th 2019
The Warbly Jets have already opened for Liam Gallagher and the Dandy Warhols among others, and have sold out quite a few shows. I remember seeing them during a residency at the Satellite a few years ago, but the young band’s success has thrived and the quartet has just started another tour, with a new 3-song EP out. On Friday night, they had their first stop at the Echo in Los Angeles, and this certainly was a good enough reason to go out to launch the weekend.
Blackpaw started the night with a dark post-punk pop scene and an infectious funky tempo, which was especially shining during their first song, ‘Love Hard’. With a few icy synth lines habited by Adrian Rodriguez’s deep vocals, the set was moody but always dance-y, with a touch of dreamy soundscapes and a few guitars kicking on the side. Blackpaw is actually the solo project of Rodriguez, who has played with the Airborne Toxic Event, Avid Dancer and Hanni El Khabib, and was left bedridden after a motorcycle accident, forcing him to compose new music. The songs could venture into a rock-jazz style, drenched in an ‘80s synth dancefloor while revealing a constant vulnerability in Rodriguez’s melancholic croon. Their last song, the single ‘Defenseless’, which was recorded with producer George Lewis Jr. of Twin Shadow, had a more vindictive or even triumphant tone, but the vibe stayed dark till the end.
It was a first for the Echo, as the following band, Collapsing Scenery, had arranged their set off stage, maybe because it would have taken too much time to set up their electronic gear on stage, maybe because they wanted something special, a scenery wrapped by a white sheet all around their improvised stage, used for laser and visual projections. The noise-rock-electronic band produced a very crowded sound and a mixed-media spectacle filled with futuristic weirdness, experimental electronica, dissonant synths and parts borrowed to post-punk, electronic-industrial, synth hip hop, and gothic techno. The result has to be experienced and failed at being described, it was a chaotic amalgam, as the samplers were competing with the lasers and their real drummer was racing against their drum machines. The loud and harsh collage of aggressive sounds and images was directed by Don Devore’s incredible multi-tasking and Reggie Debris’ hardcore theatrics and twisted body contortions. Standing on a step, and getting to the crowd a few times, his hollering vocals were part anger and part angst, and even if I didn’t get anything live, the lyrics are said to be deeply critical of American society and the political system. Devore had been in numerous bands (Ink & Dagger, The Icarus Line, Lilys, Amazing Baby…) and Reggie Debris is actually the alter ego for Maroon 5’s bassist Mickey Madden. Dissonance and experimentation reigned for more than 45 minutes, with samplers of exotic melodies and floating moments escaping the grit and the industrial noise, bringing a result landing between an artsy punk project and an apocalyptic announcement.
Like true rock stars, the Warbly Jets took the stage after 11:30 pm, starting with their song ‘Propaganda’ off their new EP, and owning the stage with rocking energy and the natural swagger of their frontman Samuel Shea. With their black leather jackets, piles of synth and noise-rock sound, the band stand out the LA scene, maybe because they are not really from LA in the first place (Samuel Shea and keyboardist Julien O’Neill are recent transplants from New York) but also because they bring a sort of Brit flavor in their mean guitars, which earned them comparisons to UK bands from Primal Scream, Blur or Oasis,…obviously!
They were loud and had presence, they had a look and a glamorous supersonic name, and with a sort of fuck you/anger in the vocals, that seems to justify their opening set for Liam Gallagher, Shea looked like the perfect frontman: easy on the eyes, tall and dynamic, he was commanding the stage while the rest of the band, Dan Gerbang on bass, Julien O’Neill on keyboard and Justin Goings on drums , never wasted a minute to build the rock scene, hitting hard in that British pool, with great energy and a sonic familiarity, going from the Verve (‘4th Coming Bomb’) to even the Stones (‘Fast Change’)
If they earned a large fan base following the release of their debut and self-titled album in 2017, their new material is a bit of a departure from their brand of sexy rock ‘n’ roll, as the new songs have a more electronic sound, and ‘no particular stylistic boundaries’ as Shea said in an interview. Gone the guitars for a little while, gone the gospel-vibe of the first concerts and the participation of soul singer Camille Lord-Wyatt for a song… it was more experimental and fragmented, as the songs were sampling bits like hip hop tracks, with a fist-raising chorus ‘Kill Kill Kill’ during ‘Cool Kill Machine’.
Introducing more samplers and at least one new song ‘1000 Pounds’, they also did ‘Chain Gang’, ‘Between the lines’, ‘Destruction FM’ — at least these songs do not figure on their streaming Spotify — they went all the way with a trashy and unapologetic tone, and ended with the aggressive and rebellious anthem ‘The Lowdown’ and its wall of thick guitars that made them famous. Surprisingly, the foursome has already toured China, and they will be back in the Far East country in May after touring the US, and that’s a direction you don’t see many Indie bands taking to my knowledge, but the Warbly Jets seem to know exactly where they are going.
Cool Kill Machine
Between the lines
4th Coming Bomb
No Allegiance to the Game