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Monday, July 23, 2007

The Lonely H, Dat’r, Velella Velella @ the Sunset

posted by on July 23 at 11:27 AM

Thanks to Abbey Simmons of Sound on the Sound for the photo of the Lonely H.

There’s a lot to talk about with the Lonely H. Here are four 18-year-old very recent high school grads from Port Angeles looking like Duane Allman and playing like Foreigner. They are an exciting anomaly. They prompted strong mixed feelings, from “Holy shit these guys are good” and “Holy shit these guys are young” to “What the hell are these guys doing?” and “Have these guys just invented post-emo classic rock?”

The band played around their age, keeping things nailed down with a great rhythm section and group interplay. Singer Mark Fredman has an impressively rich voice, which at times he let get away from him into the realm of melodrama. This is where visions of My Chem Rom snuck in—one song was a huge and sometimes disarrayed epic, sort of proggy and bluesy at the same time, too many separate parts to possibly keep on track. Their opening number, too, had the math-rock leanings of “Roundabout” by Yes.

Mostly, though, they stuck with the rock-rock, busting out a high-energy, appropriately rangy, and rather faithful cover of Thin Lizzy’s “The Cowboy Song:” “Lord I’m just thinking ‘bout a certain female.” Boys—there are never enough faithful covers of Thin Lizzy. Congrats on a ballsy move pulled off well.

The Lonely H’s set was nothing short of intruiging—unexpected and excited and exciting, leaving the whole room thirsty for more, leaving me with lingering questions of what classic rock was, is, and will be. It’ll be fun watching where these guys go.

Portland’s Dat’r played a set of YACHT-rock, not of the Hall & Oates variety but of the Jonah Bechtolt electro variety. There were two of them, one pogoing Jewfro-d beanpole and a dour, barely-there sidekick. Between the two of them only one seemed necessary, the beanpole guy who disarmingly engaged the crowd and really threw himself into the music. It was all smoke machine/disco ball modern dance jams with shouted chants and vocals, delivered through a jumbled homemade digital setup. Dudes used several different vintage joysticks to dial in weird 8-bit accents, at one point leaning into their laptop with the controllers in their hands, looking like they were locked in an intense game of Contra while they were making the music. Fun, funny stuff.

Velella Velella is my new favorite thing. I’ve been LOVING their debut album Bay of Biscay, playing it for out of town friends and bands and DJs getting universally positive responses. Opener “Do Not Fold/Do Not Bend” is one of my favorite tracks of the year so far, though the song name, like the band’s is inscrutable.

They played most of the album, but they played it up, out, around, bouncing through a ferociously upbeat performance. By the time they went on around midnight, the $2 Tallboy Effect had taken hold and the dancefloor was quickly transformed into a churning swirl of moving bodies. At this point I put down the pen and paper and just got swept up in the music, one of the surest signs of my unabashed affection for the music.

The quartet switched off on percussion throughout the set, handclaps and group vocals were in effect, an old-school Farfisa organ and vintage Rickenbacker bass kept the buffed a nice grit into the band’s shiny funk-pop. No drummer, all programmed beats—glitchy and funky and broken—but without relying too much on pre-recorded material. It’s exactly the kind of music I love the most, the kind that’s earnest but far from cheesy, that’s smart enough to be self-aware but playful enough to not be self-conscious. I’ve said it before: Funk is a tough route to navigate, because it can so easily veer into Poly Esters-style cornballing or fey whiteboy irony. Velella Velella barrels right down the middle, with a sound equal parts Midnight Vultures, Rjd2, and Curtis Mayfield. Yeah, they’re that good.

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velella velella is an amazing thing and they also have cool shirts and album art. i love that they sound old (funk)and new (digital flair; sample-based thought process) at the same time. and their un-ironic-ness cannot be stressed enough.

Posted by ndrwmtsn | July 23, 2007 1:52 PM

V. Vellella is awesome. Even though they have an annoying double-name (the new fad?), they had that name way before it was cool and their name actually means something. That was their best show i've ever seen.

What was up with Dat'R? Did anybody notice the backing vocal track playing behind them and how they were basically dancing around stage to mp3's of their songs? At times the fro-guy was ripping up the keyboard, and i think those video-game controls were actually making sounds, but aside from that, there was no musicianship. They were playing instruments that werent even mic'd up. Aside from all their stage antics (fro-guy was definitely loving his music) the songs themselves were vapid.

Also, smoke machines suck. nobody likes the smell of dry ice.

Posted by E | July 23, 2007 3:15 PM

when my band played w/ lonely h they got pumped and meditated to a song by boston before they went on stage. that's classic rock machizmo to the maxitude!

Posted by jon e. rock | July 23, 2007 3:44 PM

E@2--what does "velella velella" mean?

Posted by jz | July 23, 2007 3:56 PM

Velella Velella is a kind of jellyfish:

Posted by segal | July 23, 2007 8:04 PM

One of my favorite interviews I ever conducted -- they bought me pizza and let me type the damned thing up while we spoke. I love that band.

Posted by Chris Estey | July 24, 2007 12:07 PM

I see a lot of negative feedback about Dat'r here and I urge everyone to give them another chance. I didn't see the show, so I don't know if they were doing something different, but usually they rock! Their shows are super high energy, with both dudes totally present and involved. Great, weird, dance-y shows. Try try again y'all!

Posted by Jleec | July 26, 2007 9:05 AM

I gotta concur with jleec - first time I saw dat'r in portland they blew me away, and I (and many people I talked with) was totally into their performance at the Sunset. Theirs is some of the best live electronica I've seen.

Posted by datr fan | July 26, 2007 11:49 AM

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