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SKYSAW at the Echo on Monday March 28th, 2011

 On Monday night, the new band SKYSAW made its debut at the Echo in Los Angeles and they were a lot of anticipation as ex-Smashing Pumpkins’ Jimmy Chamberlin was at the drums: you could see right away, hipsters pressing themselves against the stage to get a better view of the guy who was playing in such a small venue. Well, there’s a 'Hipsters United' site, a blog about the Smashing Pumpkins, so it is not as if I was calling them by a name they don’t want to be called with!

When the quintet was setting up the material, everyone was taking pictures of the impressive and quite ridiculous amount of guitar pedals on stage, at least 3 boards and way more than I usually see at this place.
The music was new, for everyone, and it does not happen that often I guess. They opened the show with ‘No one can tell’, the only known song since offered a little earlier as a free download, and the band, which hasn’t released any material yet, performed live these new songs for the first time.

In fact, there has been some confusion with the beginning of SKYSAW: they first released a 6-track album, 'Great Civilizations', on Amazon and iTunes last November under another moniker, ‘THIS’, and it may not have been the best move (well try to google it!) as the downloads were removed because of some confusion over the band’s name. Under this new name SKYSAW they are planning to release a full-length LP on Dangerbird Records in June, and the fact that Dangerbird headquarters are located very close by, may explain why they had decided to debut the band at the Echo.

On the small club stage, Mike Reina’s keyboard was taking the central place and during the show, he alternatively played electric guitar and keyboard, whereas Anthony Pirog, on lead guitar, stayed in the left corner. I could not see very well the two other members Paul Wood and Boris Skalsky (of Dead Heart Bloom’s fame) placed on the other side of the piano, but had quite a good view of Jimmy Chamberlin and could admire his renowned drum expertise. I am not qualified to judge if he was using his jazz drummer training during the show, but he visibly seemed to be in a good mood, smiling and enjoying the whole experience.

The progressive rock of the free download may have been a little misleading of the band’s sound, as many of the song were keyboard driven, and were having a much more mellow side than the somewhat explosive ‘No One can Tell’, rather installing very quiet moments infused of jazzy solo guitars, high-pitched vocals, and complex melodies hard to figure out at the first listening.

I must say I found some sameness in these piano songs, not especially uplifting or dark, without any particularly originality, like light-pop piano songs, sometimes departing into long layered piano-guitar-drums jams. They were playing the songs one after another, without announcing the title and working with no set list so it’s difficult for me to know what they played but they probably did the 5 other songs off the THIS’ EP, ‘Capsized Jackknifed Crisis’, ‘Tightrope Situation’, ‘Great Civilizations’, ‘All I Hear Is Snow’, ‘Sad Reasons’ as well as a few other ones.

When Reina was going back to the guitar, the sound and vocals were at times a bit more menacing and aggressive, but it was only the last song, a dark atmospheric-moody number alternating between melancholic-mournful vocals and storming jamming parts with a memorable psychedelic-explosive final, that the band showed what they were really capable to do.

You just have to wonder whether all these people would have been there if it were not for Jimmy Chamberlin? Probably not, his driven drumbeat was the star even though he had the back seat on stage.

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