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GospelbeacH At Amoeba, Tuesday October 20th 2015 Review

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‘Nobody was trying to make this happen, it just came into our lives and took over,’ says GospelBeacH’s lead vocalist and guitarist Brent Rademaker in an interview. GospelbeacH may be one of these indie new supergroups but they definitively keep the California sun right in their radar. ‘As I get older, I just want to connect with fans and people who listen to music the way I connected with music when I was younger,’ also said Rademaker. As the frontman of the psychedelic country band Beachwood Sparks, he was also later in the Tyde and Further, while his bandmates add a lot to the impressive resume of the band: drummer Tom Sanford was also in Beachwood Sparks, singer-guitarists Neal Casal played with Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood and Furthur, while Jason Soda played in Everest (a band hand-picked by Neil Young, no less) and also in the Watson Twins, just like bassist Kip Boardman.

On Tuesday, GospelbeacH were celebrating the release ‘Pacific Surf Line’, an album with a psychedelic cartoonish cover, with a free show at Amoeba. I immediately understood what Rademaker meant by ‘listen to music the way I connected with music when I was younger’, their set was filled with a Laurel Canyon 70’s vibe, Beatles-to Eagles harmonies, and layered guitars with splendid Harrison-guitar solos by Soda. Their breezy songs were a bit nostalgic but full of surprises, breaking the rules, as the complex music had multi-layered-harmonies, was multi-influenced and multi-faceted, obviously bringing a lot to mind at the same time, from California folk to peaceful Velvet Underground, reaching several levels of bliss in the same number… and I would even say some of their songs sounded post Beatles, Brion-esque and Aimee Mann circa Magnolia, while I thought about Lou Reed during ‘Out of My Mind’… However, all this complexity of arrangements looked effortlessly executed by the five members, probably because their diverse experiences could easily combine a hippie vibe with California sunshine while lurking to a change at the horizon,… The title of the album refers to the replacement of the steamer trains of the Santa Fe Railway by the modern Pacific Surfliner that now traverses the Southern California coastline.

So all this could be a modernized version of the Laurel-canyon famous sound, with more guitars, more harmonies and even a Latino flavor in the guitar-filled chorus of ‘Come Down, as if the Eagles had a child with Santana… a myriad of influences blending smoothly, while looking for something different from the past, proving it is still possible to take new paths under that legendary and timeless west coast sound,… a bit like Chris Owens did it during his first albums, except that these guys truly grew up with rock & roll and not isolated in a cult like Owens.

‘I listened to a lot of classic rock when we were making this album and I let it kind of influence us,’ said Rademaker in this same interview. ‘With this album the stuff I was listening to wasn’t telling me what to do, it was telling me what I could do. It’s the spirit of a band loving music from the past and just going in and celebrating it rather than getting all precious about it.’

As I expected ‘California Steamer’ was more buoyant and ‘Mick Jones’ was their more energized song, a bit of English beat in that upbeat sunshine.

Damsel in Distress
Your Freedom
Out of my Mind
Come Down
Southern Girl
California Steamer
Mick Jones

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