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Quitapenas, Isaac Rother & The Phantoms And Fool’s Gold At The Echoplex, Thursday August 27th 2015 Review

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Fool’s Gold


Red Bull was having one of its Sound Select show at the Echoplex, and it is always a cheap way to spend a night of music, while discovering 3 bands… so why not going? Because it is general held on a weekday,… but who cares, it’s almost the weekend anyway. The whole show was colorful and on the ethnic side, something always pleasant and prompt to remind you that summer is not over yet.

The first band, Quitapenas, had that true vibe of an exotic island you want to relax on, feet in water, hands on a glass of margarita, with infectious tropical rhythms that could go from pure Latino to Afro-beats. Many of their songs had a sort of Cuban sound with many percussion and a crowd at their feet, dancing their heart out. It sure was very difficult to stay still, and the crowd immediately loved them, although I am certain many people were already familiar with the band. Their sound was very acoustic and organic with repetitive Afro guitars, which mixed with the beats would go into a circular trance dance that would almost never end. There was a time when Buena Vista Social Club was a regular spin in my car, and although they are from Riverside, CA and not Cuba these guys had absolutely absorbed a bit of Cuba, a place where many cultures collide. Each of their songs was brushing a lot of history and countries from Colombia to Brazil, and their sound was encapsulating decades of music. So their set was a hot dance party from start to finish, with a guitar virtuoso, harmonized chants and a very sunny sound, making happiness look so easy to achieve,… after all their moniker means ‘to remove worries.’

Isaac Rother & The Phantoms was a complete different affair, a sort of blues review fronted by an eccentric guy singing like Screaming Jay Hawkins with an Elvis complex. The whole show sounded as if they wanted to reinstall a ritual and some mystic value into rock & roll, reviving the glorious sound of the rock of the 50’s-60’s, with a phantom of the opera cape and a magic voodoo bone collar around the neck. This was quite a vision, Isaac Rother was also surrounded by 2 phantom-ettes, 2 female backup singers/dancers, accompanying him with sexy moves, and two brilliant musicians on his left, who where dancing like the Blues Brothers. They were going for the full show, the big spectacle which has been long forgotten and dismissed, and this could have looked like a joke – they cites Bo Diddley and Scooby Doo as their main influences – if they hadn’t sounded so good. I first thought Isaac was black, he certainly had the afro but beside this, I am not sure. The music, all original material, was very bluesy, some old-school blues with a twist toward craziness and excitement, alternating with 50’s rock bullet songs, executed with passion and a lot of horror-humor. They wanted to bring back something from the past, but they were not doing it without wrapping it around a lot of mystic and danger, with an impeccable respect for it.

I have seen Fool’s Gold a few times in the past and I have always enjoyed their exotic grooves. They were the headlining band and they closed the night with more great music. Their sound navigates between several countries and if songwriter and singer Luke Top has penned a few songs in Hebrew in the past, their adventurous sound marries African guitars with a Touareg-desert ambiance, or Krautrock-y long jams, while other tunes have infectious tempos and are real dancers. Plus there is something very nostalgic in Top’s high-pitched howls, which almost gives to the song a 80’s pop vibe (think about the Smiths) trapped inside their very ethnic package.

Last time I saw them, they came with a larger team on stage with saxo and more drums, and this may be the reason why they brought back Quitapenas on stage for a song, adding more percussion to their glorious jams. I already knew a few songs, their hits such as ‘Taalumah’, or the Arabic-inspired ‘Nadine, or the bouncy-happy ‘The Dive’ (the one which makes me think about the Smiths!) but they also played new ones from their new album ‘Flying Lessons’, released earlier this year. Of this new album, lead singer Luke Top said in an interview: ‘The release of Flying Lessons is a huge deal for us. It encompasses everything we’ve been about for the last 7+ years, both musically and emotionally. It is the culmination of countless hours of travel, gigs, success, failure, darkness, joy, and the stubborn insistence to move forward and create our best work to date.’ The new songs had these same infectious tempos everyone love about Fool’s Gold, while Lewis Pesacov’s lead guitar still had this strong African accent turning ineluctably into languid jams.

Only $3 for 3 great bands, this is not bad for a night, and we only were Thursday, but I don’t think I can top this deal this weekend.

Fool’s Gold’s Setlist
Another Sun
I’m in Love
Flying Lessons
Break the Cycle


More pictures of the show here.

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