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Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’ 50th Anniversary Tribute At The Echo, Sunday May 15th 2016


Dios with friends


It’s hard to believe that ‘Pet Sounds’, the 11th studio album by the legendary Beach Boys is 50 years old, the melodies are as fresh as ever and songs like ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ or ‘God Only Knows’ are part of our collective DNA. A collective of artists had decided to celebrate this anniversary of the album at the Echo, with a glorious Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’ 50th Anniversary Tribute, presented by the Echo and Claire McKeown, on Sunday night, the eve of the milestone anniversary.

Hosted by Domenic Priore, an expert on the Beach Boys – he wrote two books on the subject – the night was trying to be educative, entertaining and creative, may be too much at the same time, but the heart and spirit of all these people were certainly at the right place, dedicating the night to an American music giant, Brian Wilson. However, if you invite 16 bands to play 16 songs in their own unique way, using their own equipment and paraphernalia, automatically a lot of time will be spent to set up the stage, and since a Beach Boys song is never longer than 3 minutes, even reimagined by an Echo Park psychedelic garage band, this is the part that was not totally working. We spent as much time watching the bands setting up and doing the sound check than actually watching these same bands perform. But I am complaining  like an impatient millennial, the night offered a large diversity of interpreters and genres for this same reason, and kept us in suspense for 4 hours. If the show had something to show us, it was the versatility of the Beach Boys’ songs, which can be reviewed at infinity.

And who was there? Many local bands and artists as I said, no big celebrity, but talented people reinterpreting famous and less famous songs…The Bots, with the help of some of the Honey Child ladies gave us a stripped-down-all-sweet harmonies ‘Surfer Girl’, but the album tribute really started with the next band, Kolars, who played a dynamic ‘Wouldn’t it be nice?’ with Lauren Brown jumping at the top of her drum, accompanied by Joy Bishop on vocals. They looked very glam, 70’s disco and gave a nice personal touch to the old classic, then we switched to a country ambiance with The Lemon Tree, cow boy hats and banjo ,giving us a stripped down all-harmonies rendition of ‘You Still Believe in Me’. It was pure beauty and if the next performer, Eleni Mandel did avoid the bombast with an humble and sensible rendition of ‘That’s Not Me’ accompanied by a piano, Froth changed this in a big way, and fuzzed the hell out of ‘Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)’ or at least I assume it was the song, if they followed the tracklist of the album, because they layered up and buried the vocals as they do for their own music. Nic Hessler had a shy voice and ‘I’m Waiting for the day’ could have been a Chris Owens song performed this way, he and his band came back later for another song and more aggression.

Thee Commons gave us the instrumental interlude ‘Let’s Go Away for Awhile’ with sax and surf guitar, and it was as puzzling as the original, then the Henry Clay People punked things out with the fastest and loudest version of the very well-known earworm ‘Sloop John B’… and it totally worked. The vision of Honey Child, a large choir of women with violin and horn, fronted by Claire McKeown on piano, was just perfect for ’God Only Knows’, bringing beauty and Claire’s operatic vocals to the most poignant song of ‘Pet Sounds’. Feels treated ‘I know there’s an answer’ like one of their own, big and loud, with an aggressive psychedelia, layers of guitars and more fuzz than harmonies, while the next one by Sam Morrow was transformed with a country flair, violin and twang in the vocals, hardly recognizable as a Brian Wilson song. Aaron Embry had an unique way to highlight ‘I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times’ as the most pure, fragile, and melancholic jazzy piano ballad ever, then Joel Jerome and his horn sax section played the core of the album, ‘Pet Sounds’ with a great jazz feel, followed by Avi Buffalo and Sasami’s very atmospheric and serene version of ‘Caroline, No’… Joel Jerome with Dios brought some friends on stage for the final bonus song ‘Good Vibrations’ (featured on the Beach Boys’ next record ‘Smiley Smile’) and getting into a very personal interpretation.

At the end, it took 16 bands and 4 hours to reinterpret Brian Wilson’s masterpiece, a record about love, ‘to bring love to the world’ as Wilson himself wrote on his page on Monday. These songs are not easy to sing and reinterpret, they delicately express heartbreaks, nostalgia and depression under the warm sun with harmonies and surf-y instrumentals, but it is also a large sonic palette that musicians continue to explore 50 years later, with the same awe in their harmonies.


The Lemon Tree


Thee Commons


the Henry Clay People




Elena Mandel


Honey Child


Avi and Sasami




More pictures here.

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