LAST night i saw radar bros. open for lambchop at club largo, the legendary (and newly relocated) venue that helped establish acts like aimee mann, grant lee phillips, master of ceremonies jon brion, and a whole wave of alternative comedy acts that i dont know as well. the old fairfax location, across from canter's deli, was a place you could, if you got the word in time, count on catching a seat-of-the-pants, small-room set by, say, elliott smith (as i did a few weeks after moving to LA in 97.) or, a truly astounding set by the jazz pianist brad mehldau, who i've seen in two or three other settings but never quite as startling and powerful as in the old club largo space.
so i'm glad to report that the new space is really wonderful, even to those like me who miss the old one. medium size theater with real seats makes up the main space, with a smaller spot -- tiny tables with candles on them, grotto-like space -- that recalls what was best about the old room, in an even more intimate setting. brion was standing by the door in an outlandish suit and broad smile -- felt like the old days.
the radar bros. are one of the great undersung treasures of LA rock -- in the 90s they were part of a triumvirate of "slowcore" bands that also included actetone and spain... the joke was that the radars were the only band in history who played SLOWER live than on record. last night the hall's acoustics, the gentle melodies and the weird guitar voicings put me in an almost narcotic place, much like the third VU record. it was the effect i've always craved, and never received, from their live shows.
lambchop have come into their own the last few years, and i've loved their last two records despite not really getting what the whole lambchop thing is all about. they're from nashville, so they're alt-country, kind of, by way of burt bacharach, jimmy webb, and early curtis mayfield -- i think. whatever it is, they were in good form at largo, as a six piece... with the pianist offering the strangest between-song banter i've ever heard. he could make robyn hitchcock sounds like a documentary realist.
here is a solo acoustic rendition of my favorite song from the new LP, "ohio,"
kurt wagner's voice is one of the most distinctive in rock -- every bit as southern-weird as michael stipe's. and here is wagner solo again, covering dylan's "you're a big girl now."
any thoughts on these two very distinctive bands or this very transformed LA institution?
Photo credit: Merge Records and Radar Bros.