It is nice to know that we live in a world where there will always be people who care about independent record labels. That there will always be people who will seek out new releases from these labels because they have given them great releases in the past. That there will always be kids who will run all over town hanging posters for these labels. That there will always be girls in House Martins album cover T- Shirts taking pictures at parties given by these labels. The fact that we do live in this world was evidenced to me by the turnout at the tenth anniversary party for Matinee Recordings. Of course, this party was in the form of a concert. It featured performances from Matinee artists: Tali White of The Lucksmiths/The Guild League, Math & Physics Club, and The Lucksmiths themselves. The only performance from a band not on the Matinee label came from Oxnard’s fantastic Maria.
My drive up to Santa Barbara for this event was lovely, and went by much more quickly than I was expecting. I felt immediately at home upon walking into Red’s Espresso and Wine Bar. I took in the décor (charming,) and watched as Maria tuned their instruments, then carefully arranged the stuffed animals at their merch stand.
Once it became clear that Maria were ready to start, I made my way to the center of the floor. This band was already high up on my list of newly discovered favorites. Lead singer Eric Bello began the show by telling us we should smile more. The music that followed made smiling seem less like an option, and more like an involuntary reaction. Maria play the kind of thoroughly clever and enjoyable indiepop that makes me think, “This must be what Honey Bunch sounded like live!” Gosh, I wish I could have seen Honey Bunch, but as long as bands like Maria continue to exist the pains of missed pop treasures past seem much more bearable.
While I waited for the next performance, I chatted with Eric Bello briefly about Maria’s noise band (!) past. Then Tali White took the stage armed only with an acoustic guitar. I had just seen the Lucksmiths for the first time the night before at El Cid. As I watched him gear up for this show I was immediately reminded of why, for the past seventeen hours, I had been convinced that Tali White was the most charming man in all of indiepop. He moved with suaveness and efficiency through his songs. He skipped a few segments of songs that would have required a full band. Everytime he did this it was with a clever remark. It was so nice to hear “Jet- Set…Go!” It was even nicer to hear “The Neatest Hand,” there is almost nothing better than a song that involves letter writing, except for one that contains the line, “Goddamn, I love your handwriting!” Toward the end of the set he employed the secret weapon that clever men and women with acoustic guitars have been employing since (seemingly) the beginning of time. The acoustic cover of a top 40 hit! He covered the Outkast’s “Hey Ya” in a new, and interesting way. The verses were straightforward, but in the chorus he took on a falsetto with a sort of Devendra Banhart-esque delivery. On what has always been my favorite line of that song, “Lend me some sugar… I am your neighbor,” he changed the exaggerated “I am,” to a simple, sweet, matter of fact “I’m.” It was a complete surprise, and it worked perfectly.
After the last ultra charming note had been sung, I went in search of a place to sit down. From this vantage point, I watched as a few of the kids in attendance explored the nifty furniture. I also watched the adults around them, including the Lucksmiths, try out ways to entertain them. This further cemented the fact that this day would likely go down in my personal history as the most charming day ever.
When I noticed that Math & Physics Club were about to play I began to look for a place to stand. I had missed at least half of their set the night before due to a parking misjudgment that involved running through the pouring rain in the wrong direction. This was to a venue located two blocks away from where I used to live. Pathetic. However, from what I heard at both shows they were worth running through the rain for. They create romantic, immediately familiar, perfectly arranged pop music. Running through the rain might even be just the thing to precede this band. Regardless, I was happy that I was at Saturday’s show from the beginning with no weather and/or parking hassles. They opened with “Look At Us Now,” which is one of my favorite songs from their self- titled full length, but I first became enamored with them due to the “Weekends Away” EP. Hearing the title track from that release live was certainly my biggest highlight, along with the fact that they closed with “Love, Again,” from the same EP.
At this point I decided to make my way outside for some fresh air. The tiny café was quite crowded by then as I expected it would be. I chatted with some new friends. In a perfect world every show that I attended would be like this one. Then, for the second time within 24 hours, the Lucksmiths! It’s not too often that Melbourne’s finest make it to the states so getting to see them twice in one weekend was a big deal. The songs sounded much more immediate, and rocked much harder live than they do on the records. There were many standouts, most notably; “Camera Shy,” “T- Shirt Weather,” and “Downside to the Upstairs!” If I'd only heard that song, the ninety minute drive up to Santa Barbara would still have been completely worthwhile. Fortunately they gave us one excellent song after another. They also gave us incredibly entertaining stage banter. Every band led the crowd in a round of applause for Matinee Recordings. However, the Lucksmiths were the only band to have beers brought to them on stage by the label’s owner. This resulted in the night’s best line, “Jimmy told us if you to sign to my label I’ll buy you a beer in a decade.”
But the best line that I have ever witnessed on stage, and may ever witness in my life came the night before in response to a man right behind me shouting for, “More electric guitar!” Without missing a beat Tali White spoke up with, “They may look twee, but they want to ROCK!” Yeah!
And we really should smile more.
Take a listen to these Lucksmiths mp3s for further proof that they do, in fact, rock.
The first is their lovely cover of my favorite Ladybug Transistor song:
The second shows just how amazing their own songs are: