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Forebear, Nick Greer, Hidden Charms, Barbarian At The Lyric Theater, Thursday February 19th 2015

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Forebear was the first band of the night organized by Balcony TV LA at the Lyric Theatre, and the quartet’s sound surprised me as it was going into many sonic directions at once. Fronted by Scott Goldbaum on guitar and Molly Rogers, who had double duty on violin and keyboard, their songs aspired at the epic, mixing genres and combining peace and drama. I know that there is already an indie band called Seasons in LA, but Forebear could have evoked all the seasons in one song, despite an overall mood as dramatic as an autumnal heavy rain or a winter hailstorm. Goldbaum’s vocals would go from dreamy to heavy with an always-emotional tone and a Jeff Buckley falsetto, marrying with Rogers’ vocals for girl-boy sulky harmonies, while the tempestuous and moody songs were carried away by emotional strings, a dynamic drumming by Mike Musselman and a lively bass playing by Nick Chamian. The crowd was enjoying the nervous agitation which inhabited Forebear’s cinematic and weather-y tunes, and if the music often started very peacefully and melancholically it would often blow up into an electric storm. Previously known as Wise Club, Forebear has released a debut EP with a song surprisingly called ‘North Korea and the five stages of grief’ and this is the song that I have recorded.

Nick Greer, an artist from Houston Texas, brought his G’s (the name of his backup band) for a powerhouse set sung with a sort of raucous voice. The guy was a true showman but also a piano man à la Billy Joel, with a Joe Cocker voice and way too much energy for a Thursday night! Yeah who has that kind of passion in the middle of the week? The big band, including bongo drums and percussion, was surrounding the central Yamaha keyboard, and the ambiance turned very jazzy, funky, old-school-R&B, like a Blues Brothers review fronted by a red-haired Randy Newman, infiltrated by Joe-Satriani-solo guitars on songs called ‘Tripping’ or ‘Respect’. Nick Greer really wanted to make everyone happy with his festive ambiance, and the best proof of this? He has a full box of red clown noses that he gave away with copies of his CD.

The crowd grew bigger for the next band and I understood why as soon as the quartet took the stage… How many times the UK are going to reinvent the Beatles? I don’t know, but Hidden Charms were totally awesome… and now comes the difficult task to describe why this English boy band with a retro sound, slick rhythm section and dreamy harmonies elevated my mood so much on Thursday night. After all there is no penury of bands with a strong 60s vibe, but may be English guys do it better, and Hidden Charms was doing it with a modern twist, piercing solo guitars, a soul-R&B-charged keyboard and a zest of surf psychedelia. Their infectious grooves were digging deep in memory of the pop British invasion, and all I wanted was to hear all the girls screaming! I guess, it is just a question time till this happen, because these guys have the attitude and the good looks, and even some truly rocking numbers as one of their songs sounded like the Kinks jamming with Jimi Hendrix. Ha, when youth has the magic power to make something this old sounds so fresh, it’s called the real thing and Hidden Charms won’t stay hidden for very long.

Barbarian, a band from San Diego closed the night, but they were no barbarians at all, as they were dressed up in sharp suits like the Interpol crew with a vibe coming from a more upbeat angle of the National. The music was explosive to bombastic with a dose of distortion and their big sprawling sound, served by layered vibrating guitars, a Korg organ and Andrew Mills’ deep vocals, had a very muscular foot-tapping side. They were going from dark anthems with steady drumming and ascending repeats to post-punk dance-floor numbers, installing a powerful mood… and this dance-y atmosphere persisted all set-long, more and more triumphant, confident and bold, culminating during their last song. if the music is always difficult to describe, the more the bands fusion sounds and genres, the more it becomes an impossible task! And Barbarian’s sound seemed to be one of these mosaics, an unclassifiable gothic-surf-post-punk-disco party for the late night hours.

Pictures of the show here.

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