Last year, I attended over half a dozen concerts that were organized by Red Bull Sound Select for their month long “30 Days In L.A.” initiative, and I have to admit that each of the shows I attended was extremely well curated. With the new year, I’ve got new expectations, and since Red Bull Sound Select knocked it out of the park last year, and since Amoeba Music, the world’s largest independent record store, was curating the talent for the evening, my expectations were high.
The entertainment for the evening featured San Francisco-based, electronic artist, Mikey Maramag p/k/a “Blackbird Blackbird” and showcased the Los Angeles-based dream-pop duo of Skylar and Piper Kaplan p/k/a “Puro Instinct”. I knew nothing about the artists before the of the show. Apparently, I was the only one.
It was the first time I’d ever been to the Sayers Club, but as I approached the venue, I noticed that there was a line of at least 30 people waiting for the doors to open. It was 7:30. The doors opened at 8:15. And the line kept getting longer and longer.
The venue is very intimate. Dimly lit, with plush leather couches occupying most of the space in front of the stage, and a full bar lined in the back, I had a feeling that there would be little room to maneuver to photograph. I was right. Within half an hour, the venue seemed to reach capacity, with patrons standing shoulder to shoulder carefully navigating their beverages around others so not to spill a drop.
Shoegazy sounds with a classic, retro-rock vibe, Puro Instinct’s dreamy pop music seems to resonate Southern California. Having recorded their latest effort on a shoestring budget, their minimalist approach to their music gives their sound a certain naivety that reflects their youth. There is definitely room for growth and I think with the right producer and additional players to fill out their sound, they have the potential to create some truly intriguing music.
Their performance also reflected their youth. Aesthetically, they were fine. Their outfits matched the were cute and fitting, and Skylar’s pixie-like hair was definitely a hit with my female friends in attendance, but for me, performance highlights of their set were when the two harmonized with each other. Those harmonies were few and far between, and working on new arrangements to show how their voices blend with each other could do wonders.
Blackbird Blackbird has grown a sizable following with his electronic music efforts. His latest album, “Tangerine Sky”, has gotten some rave reviews with comparisons to other electronic, synthpop artists like M83 and Washed Out. The album is good. A very solid, atmospheric effort.
On the other end of the spectrum, I listened to some of the non-chill wave, club remixes he has posted to his Soundcloud account, and I was truly impressed with his exciting production decisions. But production ability doesn’t always translate to a good live show.
The music Blackbird Blackbird performed was already mellow and laid back to begin with. Without thrilling visuals to accompany the dreamy mood (like the ones employed by M83 and Tame Impala), the sound and mood of the performance can be a bit repetitive and heavy. It certainly didn’t help that Mike Maramag’s vocals sounded consistently flat through the set.
Perhaps it was just an off night … and that’s what I’ll chalk it up to. The music is there. The performance needs work. Between the music and the performance, the performance is the easiest to fix.