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Jesse Woods, La Luz, & Pure Bathing Culture At The Bootleg, Wednesday January 22nd 2014






At the last minute, I decided to go to the Bootleg on Wednesday night, and I got to see three interesting bands, and for once, they weren’t from Los Angeles. First was Jesse Woods from Austin Texas, bringing his brand of folk-country delicate songs for three nights in a two in Los Angeles. I would like to think he and his music may explode soon but Jesse Woods’ art is a lo-fi affair, both old fashioned and a bit experimental, both quiet and haunting with subtle echo in the vocals, it’s the intimate type, the secret love affair that you want to keep for yourself and listen with earphones while ignoring the world around you. His songs had a very familiar melancholy, but unexpected detours in the melodies, with those kinds of inflections in the voice that suddenly make the whole song for you. Just listen to ‘Cold Blood’, one of my favorites off his debut full-length album ‘Get your Burdens Lifted’, I personally got chills when he played that one! He is at search for beauty and purity through truly heartbreaking songs and it was difficult to really attach him to anything going on in current music, may be a more country version of Iron and Wine? Probably close to a Father John Misfit. However, he is on his own thing and whatever it was exactly, these delicate acoustic arrangements, twang in the guitars, lush dream-like melodies were totally working for me. I know what you are gonna think, acoustic folk? melancholic tunes? We have heard this a million times before! But he really does it to a new level, with this perfect combination of familiarity, rawness and surprising innovation, diversity in songs, a very precious combination of soothing music and metaphoric lyrics, a subtle balance with relaxed atmospheres changing into more upbeat soundscapes, suddenly introducing more stomping-feet drum beats. He was playing under this luminous Salvation sign stuck to the wall of the theater, and for good reasons it was fitting him so well. I had seen him before at Origami Vinyl, and at the time he had only released his first EP ‘Moonrocks’ and I must say that his addition on the bill was a large part of my decision to go to the Bootleg on Wednesday night, may be a good time and place to catch an artist before he blows up… catch him if you can as he will be in New York City early February.

La Luz, the second act playing the same night, was a complete different story, as they were an all-female band from Seattle, WA, which just started playing barely two years ago! The quartet was very at ease on stage and right away effortlessly played a series of doo-woppy surf guitar numbers, bringing an unique and retro sound inspired by the coolness of the 60s-surf bands and the girl group harmonies. These girls — Shana Cleveland on guitar, Marian Li Pino on drums, Abbey Blackwell on bass, and Alice Sandahl on keyboard — were all singing, even going very Ronettes, and were effectively gliding the wave very smoothly, there was nothing close to a crowd surfing episode there. Rather everything was slowed down and relaxed, all warped up by a dreamy reverb. At their fastest they sounded like a punk band in slow-motion, but they always stayed on the cool side of the wave, remaining quite mellow in their range of bubbly garage dream-pop. Since the Dick Dale’s days, I have rather assimilated this kind of music to guys, men, for some stupid reasons, but not only these girls have made it completely theirs, but they also made it very feminine, stylish, cute and girlie, in the good sense of the term. People in the crowd could not detach their eyes from guitarist Shana Cleveland and especially her long legs (she was wearing a cute short) when she was doing one of her smooth sideway sliding dance moves. They even managed to be a bit experimental on some more noisy tracks, and brought a full series of surprising developments in their songs with complete slow downs and galloping reprises. They will be back in LA soon, Shana said jokingly, ‘shake your social media!’ making the crowd very happy.

Pure Bathing Culture, the pop duo from Portland Oregon (via Brooklyn), was headlining the night at the Bootleg, and I knew nothing about them except that they had formerly been in the band Vetiver. At first, I had a sort of mix feeling while listening to their set, it was part ethereal, part synth-drum-machine, part jazzy-easy-listening soundscapes, part pop Laurel Canyon? They have a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’ (you can even listen to it on bandcamp) and it fits them like a shiny glove… But mostly, they could even have been very Beach House. It’s very logical that it was the first band name that came to my mind — I checked later and I was obviously not the only one, all the reviews drop this band name — since there was a guy, Daniel Hindman on guitar, and a girl, Sarah Versprille, who was  doing all the singing and keyboarding. They also were accompanied by a bass player and a drummer, and, in the middle of their set, I got a bit distracted by their dreamy pop with dance-y beats, sounding more like the 70s or the early 80s than anything composed later; it was the type of music that was definitively making my mind wander instead of focusing, not that there was anything wrong with this, but I wasn’t totally seduced though, it was a bit too drum-machine, too smooth easy-jazz, too pop-synth? Last year, they have released their debut album ‘Moon Tides’, and ‘Pendulum’, the first single off the album, was one of the songs that stood from the other ones. Still, I began to get a bit lost and bored despite the perfect execution of their music when the two last songs woke me up, they were dreamy, heavenly, and with a more distinctive catchy melodies, ‘Dream the Dare’ was shining like a Christmas song, and Sarah Versprille’ pristine and soulful vocals were flying high above our heads during ‘Ivory Coast’, transporting everyone in another country.

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