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The Strange Boys at the Echo on Tuesday March 22nd, 2011

On Tuesday night, I was taken by surprise, for a few minutes I wonder if it was 1964 again. Had the British invasion ever happened? The girls went crazy, everyone became crazy, people were pushing and erupting from everywhere, it was a riot with lots of crowd surfing… again? It seems to happen at almost any concert I go those days. But was there even crowd surfing in the 60s? I’m not sure…. Probably not. It was some kind of anachronism, or an update of what all these young people were craving to have witnessed, I thought I was seeing another arrival of the new Beatles in the US.

The Strange Boys were playing at the Echo, and changed the place in a single high-pitched guitar riff starting one of their heavy 60s-influenced-daring-garage-rock songs. How could they play so close to the originals without passing for a minute for a cover band? I’m not sure, but they did it with talent and tenacity!

With their cute-wide-eyed-young-boy look, they played an energetic set full of all-over-the-place-50-60s influences, fueled by a punk energy the public caught right away. Frontman Ryan Sambol on guitar, lead vocals, and sometimes harmonica, was singing with a howling whining nasal voice which was definitively reminding early Bob Dylan, so obvious on ‘They're Building the Death Camps’, or ‘This Girls Taught Me a Dance’, and not trying a second to get rid of the rawness and the raucousness.

There could be an endless name dropping game with their vintage tunes, which were not sounding as some rehashed old material, but were nevertheless carrying some early Kinks (‘MLKs’), some early Beatles (they even have a song named ‘Should Have Shot Paul’, what a joke!) or some early Rolling Stones (‘Woe is You and Me’), injected with some echoing, strident and determined 50s guitars, hybridizing tons of things, from doo-wop to delta blues, leading to a trashier, dirtier but bolder result than the originals.

It can be quite disarming, feeling the constant impression to be in a very familiar territory but having trouble to follow the exact territory of the moment, all blinded by the easiness and the confidence of the execution of some straightforward rock ‘n’ roll.

The Austin band sang many songs from their debut album ‘The Strange Boys and Girls Club’, which were generating a formidable energy from the crowd, and songs from their most recent one ‘Be Brave’, but also some announced as new songs, which sounded a little different.

Sure singer Ryan Sambol was the star of the night, but his brother Philip Sambol on bass, Greg Enlow on guitar, and Mike La Franchi on drums were following each of his moves, the quarter forming a perfect oiled machine, especially stunning on these long dusty-delta-bluesy numbers, transporting the LA club into some humid railway tracks in the deep south.

A few girls were pushed hard by the crowd’s waves and were finally forced to sit on the stage for the rest of the show, probably jubilating to be kneeling down just in front of these kids interpreting new classic rock incarnations.

It was way past midnight and Sambol was saying it was almost the end of the show; but they had to come back for an encore, as the crowd would not let them go. There is always something very special about shows when the audience is into the band to this point, you get the impression you are the privileged observer of the birth of some new thing…. But, crowd surfing on 60s vibe songs? Come on! What’s next? Moshing at an Elton John’s concert?

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