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Night Beats With Vanilla, C.G. Roxanne and the Nightmares, L.A. Witch At The Echoplex, Thursday September 1st 2016

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Night Beats

On October 14-15-16th, Joshua Tree will host Desert Daze, a 3-day music festival, and 2 out of the 4 bands I saw at the Echoplex on Thursday night (Night Beats and LA Witch) are part of the impressive line up, which also includes Washed Out, ????, The Sonics, Deerhunter, Primus, Godspeed you!, The Black Angels, Television, Brian Jonestown Massacre and so many other bands. You may have seen a theme, many of the bands have a druggy psychedelic sound that people will be able to fully appreciate far away from civilization, lost in the middle of the desert.

Thursday night was a night a fuzz and fun psychedelia, with a first band which has left no trace whatsoever on the internet, is this still possible these days? Vanilla, simply described as a two-piece pop band from Anaheim, CA, has no Facebook or Twitter account, and I failed to find anything about them. They were actually a trio with no drummer but a table full of electronics, producing a loud fuzz, which made the whole place vibrate. There was a certain poppiness showing its timid head behind this heavy and intense vibrating fog, digging into darkness, although they had a few glorious ones, soothing and tainted of a Brain Jonestown Massacre aura, with very few beats overall. But where do they come from? I lied a little bit as you can find some rare traces of Vanilla on the internet, it’s actually the solo project of Alex Ahmadi, from the band Cosmonauts.

I had seen C.G. Roxanne and the Nightmares before, and this young band keeps getting better live. Despite the fact that frontman Marlon Rabenreither struggled through his set with technical problems, first with his cord, then his amp, he barely stopped, fought tooth and claw through the whole thing like a warrior with a formidable energy and a gritty dirty sound that the Stooges would not deny. On their Facebook description, they simply wrote ‘rock & roll’, and hell, rock & roll it was, with punk abrupt riffs, a fast aggression and a motorcyclist’s badass attitude without the leather jacket. Rabenreither’s great showman display was comically contrasting with bassist Sam Thornton’s placid coolness, and it was a sweaty, wild and chaotic set, carried on by a death-or-life-sentence, a the-show-must-go-on determined spirit. They have an upcoming album entitled ‘Batards Au Paradis’, which seems to be a promising program.

The first time I saw the all-girl band L.A. Witch, they were playing a psych-festival headlined by the Warlocks, and, like these veteran kings of druggy psychedelia, these girls know how to descend into darkness with slow burns and a dense shoegazing. If there was not too much action on stage, their retro sound, slow but abrasive, built a haunting atmosphere with dark reverb, a splash of surf guitars, and frontwoman Sade Sanchez’s vocals lost in bluesy psychedelia. It was sometimes hard to believe that so much darkness could come out of her tiny persona, but her guitar was resonating like hell’s gates and their funeral marches were often shifting tempo and turning into a fast and aggressive rhythm, as if Johnny Cash was meeting psychedelia.

Then, it was time for headliners Night Beats and their own brand of bluesy psychedelia, spiking with plenty of distortion and reverb surf guitar. All set-long, I was admiring frontman Danny Lee Blackwell’s slick gesture and his magnetic stare, a bit seductive and mean at the same time, as he was executing his psych-rock numbers flawlessly but with plenty of attitude. Holding his guitar like a weapon, this guy could have killed with a simple sight or a few riffs, he didn’t wink one single time and with his cowboy hat, he looked like the tough hero of a Tarantino movie or some spaghetti western oldies. He and his bandmates were proudly riding the darkness of the acid-flash-back chaos they had created, bringing us back inside the 60’s summer of love in a Vietnam-war-haunted vortex of blues guitars. If they named themselves in honor of Sam Cooke’s 1963 album, they always cites The Thirteenth Floor Elevators as inspiration, and they also dedicated their song ‘Bad Love’ to Ronnie Spector, knowing very well their place in music history. However, they looked so tough and so in command of their own music, that their set had nothing to do with a nostalgic field trip in memory lane. At the beginning of this year, they released their album, ‘Who Sold My Generation’, their best to date, and if the Los Angeles scene doesn’t have a short supply of these psych-rock revival bands, Night Beats, the Seattle band via Texas with a LA sound (the record was recorded in Echo Park) seemed to show everyone how it is done, engulfing tons of influences into very personal bluesy jams, and ending the long week night in a glorious sweat-soaked kaleidoscopic trip.

More pictures here

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Vanilla

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C.G. Roxanne and the Nightmares

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L.A. Witch

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