Not one to gush optimistic without reason, the caliber of bands on the OCMA’s Night Three showcase roster were so phenomenal that I was beyond excited to see The Gromble, Strange Birds, May McDonough & Co., Kiev, and California Condors.
I wasn’t pleasantly surprised because every band was just as awesome as I expected them to be. The Gypsy Lounge in Lake Forest was alive with pumped up jams, positive energy, popchips, and the sound of $3 bottles of Bud Light getting pounded.
The Gypsy Lounge is my kind of weeknight haunt complete with cheap, strong drinks, a built-in local scene, and those retro pictures of bare-bosom brunettes that you see in any dive-bar that has seen it’s fair share of debauchery.
I recognized a lot of people from earlier showcases, plus other bands that were competing. In a way unseen in many Los Angeles music scenes, bands in Orange County definitely support their musical brethren. I talked to Cassie from Semi Sweet outside (who has been to every showcase) and she said something to the effect of, “I am always down to see a great band. I don’t care if I am competing with them.”
Even though the band members of The Gromble dislike the word “epic,” they really are “epic” in the modern, slang sense of the word. Lead singer, Spencer Askin, started off the set saying “We’re The Gromble. We’re here to destroy you. See you later.”
What ensued was complete sonic obliteration which started with Askin’s loud, guttural belt, boisterous horns, and enough performative energy to fuel a medium-sized city. Although the stage was small, bassist Trevin Eck and guitarist Steven Lindenfelser filled the space with raw power and the aforementioned hip-thrusts.
The Gromble may be a fledgling band, but they already have a professional pop-rock sound that rivals many major label signed bands. They opened the night as relative unknowns and closed their set with echoing whispers of, “That will be a tough act to follow.”
Luckily, Strange Birds was able to soar through their set with the same intensity of power as The Gromble, but with inverse tactics. Part of Strange Birds’ power exists in their fuzzy-buzzy chilled-out shoegaze and the afterglow of their guitar reverbs. Aidin Sadeghi’s voice lulls you into a melodic trance, introspective and multi-layered. While their recordings are considerably more lo-fi, Strange Birds shines on stage where they wield a stronger, more rock centric presence without giving up the essence of who they are.
Bluesy, gritty May McDonough and her talented band took the stage with one of the most interesting percussion set-ups the audience had ever seen. It included chimes, bells, and an upside down bicycle. Someone next to me asked, “What are they pouring into that bicycle? And is that a propane tank?” Half expecting pyrotechnics, the audience were treated to McDonough’s sultry, yet sweet vocal stylings–a rare dichotomy that not many can capture with ease.
McDonough also has a dominating stage presence and a wry personality that she calls “rusty whiskey lips humor.”
When Kiev took the stage, the bar was packed with patrons eager to see these elusive music nerds. Weaving their futuristic-organic instrumentation which includes horns, killer keyboard, and computerized experimentation, Kiev has a huge sound that permeates everything in the room. Bar patrons stood in rapt silence for the first time that night. Both the sheer loudness and the outright ingenuity of the band doesn’t remotely sound local; Kiev sounds like they’ve toured the country and played arena shows for years.
While every single band that played at Night Three has massive amounts of potential, with a Cinespace residency coming up in February, I predict that Kiev is the break-out band to watch.
Winding down the night, California Condors came on stage in their current 3-piece formation and were the smallest band of the night. It was impossible to tell any component of the band was missing; Reza Asgari, Joe Allen, and Kenn Shane share the songwriting/singing duties and it works perfectly.
California Condors has a similar sonic quality to many classic 60s and 70s rock favorites–they bring all the loudness a bigger band would bring without the overwrought cacophony that can occur when there are too many people trying to sculpt the space around them with their unique personality. Energetically they are on point, with witty lyrics and a mature, comfortable stage presence that makes you want to listen to them for hours.
And if I wasn’t biologically required to sleep or responsibly obligated to work, I would have done just that.
The 2011 Showcase Series runs every Tuesday night, January 4 –February 15 with stops at:
Five Showcase Series finalists in each live category will then move on to the Showcase Series Finals.
2011 Best Live Band winner will receive a performance slot on the four Southern California Vans Warped Tour stops!
Night Three of the OC Music Awards Showcase Series featured nominees for Best Live Band on Tuesday, January 18th at the The Gyspy Lounge.
READ MORE INTERVIEWS ON KROQ.COM FROM SHOWCASE NIGHT 3 BANDS:
Friday, January 14th-Strange Birds
Saturday, January 15th-California Condors
Sunday, January 16th-May McDonough
Monday, January 17th- Kiev
Tuesday, January 18th-The Gromble
You have the power to send one Showcase artist to the Best Live Acoustic Finals and Best Live Band Finals.
Cast your vote and enter to win a massive prize pack from the OC Music Awards partners (To be Announced). Voting will begin on December 27 and will be open through the last Showcase on February 15. The votes will be tallied and the band with highest score will automatically move on to their Series Finals! Click here to vote
LEARN MORE AT: OCMUSICAWARDS.COM