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Gooch Palms, Death Valley Girls, Walter TV And Wand At The Echo, Friday March 13th 2015

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Last Friday was celebrated at the Echo as ‘Friday the 13th 2-Room Spooktacular’, with once again too many bands I could handle in one night… I found out that my ticket allowed me to go downstairs to check out what was going on at the Echoplex (the large room was hosting ‘Burger & Onward Indian SXSW Caravan Tour 2015′), but since most of the time sets were overlapping, it got a bit difficult to see everyone. I concentrated on the Echo where I got to see the entire sets of The Gooch Palms, Death Valley Girls, Walter TV and Wand, and ventured downstairs between the sets to catch a few songs from Pearl Charles – I had already seen her opening for Harper Simon but this time she was playing a full-band set with a sort of Fleetwood Mac vibe – Gal Pals – a frenetic drums-guitar girl-duo from Austin, Texas singing in unison 50’s-inspired harmonies buried in lots of swagger and determination – and Sarah Bethe Nelson – a romantic country singer with some interesting bluesy road trip explorations – but there were also some bands playing on the patio that i totally missed. Seriously, I needed a full day to see all this!

Gooch Palms was a crazy duo from Newcastle Australia, but recently re-located in Los Angeles, like so many other bands which want to conquer the world! ‘I live in LA now, get used to me!’ announced frontman Leroy Macqueen mid-set. They had the right attitude and they were a lot of fun to watch, Kat Friend was getting weird on drums and the tall guy had a sort of Iggy Pop’s physical appearance with some of his stage-antic envies… They were very excited all set long, doing some fast punk numbers almost hiding a real sweetness behind the goofiness, the loud guitars, the mullet and their not-so classy-outfits. Dressed up as if they were auditioning for Olivia Newton John’s new aerobic class, they brought a bit of the Ramones, some doo-woop-y or at least 60’s-infused vocals, and lots of oooouii-oooouiii boy-girl harmonies. They call their genre ‘shit-pop’ but evoke GG Allin and Roy Orbison as equal parts of inspiration. They sure were making a lot of noise for two people with just two instruments and their garage rock seemed to be a collage of pop culture.

Death Valley Girls were such a good surprise, another Burger surprise (their debut LP ‘Street Venom’ was released on Burger Records) as a bunch of girls and boys expressing their rage with rawness and swagger, over a ferocious mix of bluesy psychedelia, reverb guitars and girlie war chants. Fronted by Betty-Boop-voiced Bonnie Bloomgarden, they played a thunderous set, building a monster sound animated by feisty female voices as if they were Led Zeppelin-meets-Black-Rebel-Motorcycle-Club fronted by Sleater Kinney. Listen to ‘Electric High’, ‘Getting Hard’, or Arrow, the sound will blow your head off. It was all fuzz and voices, all rebellion and punk rock and while another girl was helping Bloomgarden at the vocals, Larry Schemel was playing a tremendous and fuzzy guitar, venturing in doom-boogie territories. They hardly slowed down, keeping their badass attitude and the same level of pumped-up energy till the end in the most epic way… Should I say that Hole’s Patty Schemel formed the band with her brother Larry? I guess she is playing with them at times, but on Friday it was Laura Kelsey (formerly of The Flytraps) who was pounding on drums.

For the next band, a lot of young guys had gathered in front of the stage, and some were even wearing Walter TV shirts… wow this band is that famous? I got a strong Mac DeMarco vibe (easy, one of the guy in the crowd was also wearing a DeMarco shirt!) as they played with a sort of upbeat punk nonchalance habited by vocals sung as if they were coming through a column of water… Walter TV is in fact DeMarco’s other band (he wasn’t there), featuring Pierce McGarry and Joe McMurray who also back up the famous indie singer on tour. But I didn’t know this at the time and was surprised – well, not really, this happens all the time – to see that people knew all the songs, even throwing a few requests. In front of a drumset marked ‘Abolish the prison system’, they played a fast bouncing music, with a frenetic tempo and high-pitched voices, bringing an exotic shade coming from an unidentifiable country and a few punk ooo-ooos harmonies à la Fidlar. Without any warning, kids began moshing on this rather sweet music and it got quite rowdy! The band didn’t get too excited though, probably used to the scene… they come from the cold Montreal but they sure would fit in the Burger family.

When the next band, Wand, was installing their material on stage, I got excited when I noticed that Ty Segall was just standing next to me, chatting with another guy. Cool, I am at the right place, I thought! Okay it wasn’t that surprising, Wand toured extensively with Segall last year and they revealed themselves as some guitar masters producing a massive sound with a neck-spraining headbanger potential, the aggression of punk rock and the drone of heavy metal. They were extraordinary loud, arena-rock loud, and they released a nervous energy, with formidable distortion, bombastic accelerations and poppy melodies served by frontman Cory Thomas Hanson‘s dreamy voice, vanishing in psychedelic soundscapes. Their music was strangely euphoric, with complex and layered structures, opening in every new direction, suddenly quiet and dreamy, suddenly metallic and sludgy, packing more layers of 60’s acid trip, with even some shades of Krautrock,… I was truly enjoying their set, as were all the guys around me, moshing once again. Actually listening to their album online doesn’t make any justice to the super energy they were capable of live, as they were blowing up their distortion and shredding into new levels, often holding their spiraling pop in suspense, before hitting back like a bomb or a train wreck. When I turned around, a young guy was asking Ty Segall for a selfie, and I rolled my eyes,… No wonder that Segall signed Wand to his Drag City imprint God?, these guys were real gods, the true gods of the monster sound.

A few pictures here.

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