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Meiko, Babes, EFG and Kera & The Lesbians At Chinatown Summer Nights, Saturday June 14th 2014

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EFG

Chinatown has launched its summer nights and it’s once again too much free music you can handle! I caught four bands on Saturday night although I knew there were more playing that same evening, which was curated by Kevin Bronson of Buzzbands.LA.

I arrived when Meiko was setting up before pleasing the crowd with her sweet pop tunes, and I realized afterward that her moniker is a sort of homage to her Japanese heritage (she is one-quarter Japanese). However, there was nothing in her music that could remind us anything about Japan, she sounded like many pop artists do, and her gentle pop tunes have been featured in various TV shows. Although I didn’t know her at all, she has 61K likes on Facebook, which is a real accomplishment. During her performance, I couldn’t pass the cuteness of everything about her, her smile, her hairdo, her breezy tunes sung with her thin and pleasant voice, it was sure catchy enough to hum her songs an hour or two after her performance but after a longer time there’s only a strong sugary overtone leftover. She said she would keep her songs clean because of the familial ambiance – there were indeed many children around, having fun and dancing like little devils around everyone – but I am still wondering whether she really had some dirty ones.

Next, was the pop quintet Babes and their interesting market strategy: they had ChapStick and underwear merchandize, which is not the first things that come to mind when you want to advertise a new pop band. They are a family affair, a brothers-sister story (siblings Sarah, Aaron and Zach Rayne and two friends Bryan Harris and Jeffrey Baird) trying to prove that LA can produce more of these sibling bands after La Belle Brigade and Haim. They were all about having fun with harmonies and firecrackers, and the crowd did follow each of their moves and eccentricities without an ounce of hesitation. They managed to combine interesting 60s sweet pop harmonies with a certain wild party atmosphere and the little girl behind me fell in love with them. ‘You guys are awesome’, she screamed. Of course, she was invited on stage later on and got to make singer/keyboardist Sarah Rayne sign the setlist for her. They were extremely friendly, they didn’t seem to take their music too seriously and were welcoming people on stage to play tambourine, while Sarah crawled on someone’s back in the middle of the crowd during a song. At the top of this, they have a Babes hotline, 470-Babes-77, that you can call when you need some uplift in your life I guess. Did I say I had a good time during their set? They sounded a bit retro pop, but in a good way, with hushed vocals and some surf guitars or solo keys, the whole thing was as soothing as it was fun and I can say that their song ATMO is a little pop gem. ‘We’re horny. And we’re sad.’ They wrote on their Facebook bio, which can sum up a lot of things in life.

The next band, called EFG, changed the dynamic, and it’s even possible that they even changed the neuron connections in people heads. They brought a monster sound on stage with a mountain of pedals and it was hard to believe that they were only three on stage. Of course, everyone was all eyes for guitarist Imaad Wasif, whom I had seen before – he played in Alaska!, The New Folk Implosion, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs among many other projects. Last time I saw him, he was participating in a Black Sabbath tribute show and he was excellent. Once again, his guitar playing was mind blowing, intense, trippy, channeling the greats of the rock ‘n’ roll pantheon, no joke! Seeing him on stage is a true psychedelic experience, and his performance with his new band Electric Flower Group (EFG) was no exception. He embodies the guitar-god type and has the look of the ultimate rock star as everyone should imagine it: thin as a blade, all legs and all hair, he was moving like an agile insect with his black locks covering his face, while producing a huge sound with the help of Josh Garza (Secret Machines) on drums and Tom Biller (Kate Nash, Warpaint, Karen O) on bass. The fuzzed-out-pulsing-beats sound was sure too big for the setting, it was a blow-the-amps-off engine, a deaf-turning-head-banging machine, reaching the mystic summits of psych-stoner-metal-rock, meeting Hendrix and Kyuss at the same time, getting to a new level of heavy complexity, and I could hear (no I couldn’t), I could imagine people next to me saying ‘Oh My God’ at each level reached by the distortion and the fuzz. It was quite an epic performance, keeping an overall dark atmospheric sound, and honestly, who needs drugs when you can listen to such trippy sound?

The last band of the night was one I have seen several times, but Kera & the Lesbians are always a fun time. However, their performance this time was not as smooth as usual since Kera was fighting with some technical problems. She first broke a guitar string then had some sound problems, but at the top of this, a very loud electronic dance DJ party had started at the other end of Chinatown. The party had probably started during EFG’s set but it wasn’t really a problem, however, it was getting in the way of Kera’s awesome and subtle sound. Still she managed to get people in the mood, as excited and exciting as ever, performing her unique brand of bipolar folk-gypsy-punk-cabaret songs with the same jittery dynamism and jumpy and abrupt dance, smiling and funny-face making though the whole performance despite all the difficulties, even throwing free t-shirts to the crowd. The contrast with the preceding band couldn’t have been bigger, but the agile and fast-as-a-cat Kera was as intense as them, and managed to capture the same attention from the audience.

Pictures of the night here




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