I was extremely excited for weeks prior to the concert date to see The Lemon Twigs play The Constellation Room at The Observatory in Santa Ana, CA on February 6, 2017. However, when the day of the show arrived my excitement had plummeted. Feel free to skip down another paragraph if you want to avoid my complaints or read on to see how one’s state of mind can affect the enjoyment of a show.
My son had a school function that evening that I needed to attend, so I was leaving for the show a lot later than I normal would like to for a general admission show. SoCal was experiencing another big rainstorm and I was not thrilled about driving the 30+ miles to the venue in the downpour. Plus, I was developing yet another cold (my fourth of the winter) and was just transitioning from the sore throat stage to the runny nose and sneezing stage. On arriving at the venue I was reminded of something I don’t like about the place, which is the over the top security, including separate entrance lines for men and women, bag search, a metal detector wand scan, and a pat down. I seriously do not like being treated like criminal when I am going out to enjoy an evening of music. Of course, being so late, by the time I was in the room the place was packed (I’ve gone to many shows rather early to wait in line to be at the front, so I can’t really begrudge people their positioning who got there before me). I made my way into the middle of the crowd, but was still behind people who were taller than me. That wouldn’t have been so bad if they hadn’t also been holding their phones over their heads to take photos and videos. The tallest guy just to the front left of me recorded almost the whole show with his phone above his head. Thanks, dude. Between the opener and The Lemon Twigs sets a guy with a big fro of hair decided to stand right in front of me to be next to his friends who had arrived earlier. So it is pretty amazing that I was able to take any shots of the band (when I take photos I put my camera up to my face so I am not further blocking people behind me). #RantOver
The opener was a band formed in 2014 and hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, Savoy Motel. I’d never heard of this band before so what follows is my initial reaction to them at the concert, with no experience of their recorded music. The band is comprised of four members playing funk-imbued rock, who each add their own skills to the group, yet I didn’t feel the sense of cohesion that is evident with more established bands. Mimi Galbierz on rhythm guitar was front and center and was a personable representative of the band while talking to the audience and introducing songs. On guitar she was the queen of barre chords, though her vocals seemed too soft and under powered for the music that was being played. I am not sure if that was due to her voice or the sound mix or both. When bass player Jeffrey Novak took over lead vocals, his sound was clearer, though still with a mellow style (see their song “Souvenir Shop Rock“). Drummer Jessica McFarland established a solid, steady beat throughout the night — her style of playing being fairly straightforward rock, with few changes of tempo or fills to embellish the songs and not much tempo variation among the set of songs. As her playing was fairly repetitive, she could have looped a few measures and sat out the rest of the song and it wouldn’t have sounded any different. Her voice sounded pleasing and unaffected and I wished she would have come to the front of the stage to sing at least one of the numbers. Lead guitarist Dillon Watson certainly knew his way around his instrument and was a fantastic player, providing some blistering solos and long jams to the songs, though at times I felt it was almost too much and he should have held back a little to let the songs breathe more. Their song “Good Enough to Eat” that they played at the show, seems pretty representative of their style. Overall there are many desirable components to this band, but I feel they could make a few minor adjustments, such as tightening up the vocals when they are all singing together, to take their music to the next level. And I might just be being extra picky with my constructive criticism because I was under the weather and feeling like if I was out then I wanted to see something extraordinary; some people around me commented that they thought the opener was really good when their set had finished.
On to The Lemon Twigs and I perked up a little when they came on stage as I was eager to see them, but I was starting to feel quite tired physically. I wrote about this band when I saw them in November (see “But How Lucky Am I?” for full details). I maintain what I wrote earlier about this band. “Here there are odes to past musical styles encompassing the 60s and 70s, glam rock and power pop, and all your favorite iconic bands synthesized and transformed into something wonderfully delectable and irresistible. Listening to The Lemon Twigs feels like you are somehow listening to both the past and the future simultaneously.” I’m still thoroughly enjoying their album Do Hollywood a few months on and I am itching to get some new recorded music into my ears.
The constant touring since I last saw The Lemon Twigs has improved the band’s on stage performance and the music seems tighter, especially when Brian is on lead vocals. When Michael steps up to the front of the stage I still get the feeling that anything can happen at any moment. I do so appreciate the richness and many shades of timbre Michael finds in his voice. My wish for him is that he would be careful that his performance tricks do not interfere with his delivery of a clean and in-tune vocal or send him off track on guitar. He feeds off the energy of the crowd and gives back what he is given and sometimes it feels like he is pushing his vocals too hard, and this makes me concerned as I don’t want him to damage his vocal cords (no nodules)! I’d like to see him find that happy medium, which I think Brian already has accomplished.
While still promoting their Do Hollywood album on this tour, it is clear the band is already looking to the future, with a few new songs, as well as covers being included in the set list. Supposedly an EP will be released in the summer containing some of these gems. Definitely much more fun to hear the band in concert now that I have listened to the album many times and am more familiar with those songs. I absolutely love what this band is doing musically and continue to be excited about what the future holds for them. Here is the set list from the show.
“I Wanna Prove to You” from Do Hollywood, Brian starting off on lead vocals and guitar with Michael on drums and backing vocals. Danny Ayala on the keyboard and backing vocals and Megan Zeankowski on bass. I’ve linked to my favorite live performance of this song, when they played on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
- “Haroomata” from Do Hollywood, link is from their previous show I saw at The Echo in November. I borrowed a line from this song for the title of this post.
- “Why Didn’t You Say That” unreleased song, link to a video someone took at this show
- “I’ve Begun to Fall in Love” a cover of an R Stevie Moore song. Michael’s monitor went out, so while that was being fixed, Brian sang this one and played it on his guitar by himself.
- “Frank” from Do Hollywood, Brian’s masterpiece. Amazing that they can capture the expansiveness of this song with just their four instruments and voices. This song begs to be played with a full orchestra.
- “Love Stepped Out” cover of a song by Brian and Michael’s dad, Ronnie D’Addario
- “These Words” from Do Hollywood, this one really got the crowd going and had the audience singing along
- “How Lucky Am I?” from Do Hollywood. After this song, Brian heads back to the drums and Michael goes to the front of the stage to sing lead vocals and play guitar
- “Night Song” unreleased song
- “Baby, Baby” from Do Hollywood
- “Everything I Am” a cover of a Box Tops/Alex Chilton song. No one has posted video of this on YouTube, so the link is to the original version.
- “As Long As We’re Together” from Do Hollywood
- “So Fine” unreleased song
- “A Great Snake” from Do Hollywood
- ENCORE “Queen of My School” unreleased song
I would have loved to stay after the show and have the band sign my album, but by this point I was so tired and I figured I didn’t want to risk passing the cold I had on to any of the band members. It looks like they are moving on to play some larger venues, so maybe my chance for this has completely passed. Check out tour dates for The Lemon Twigs, they are playing some big festivals in the next few months, including Coachella and Bonnaroo, and open for Phoenix at the historic Hollywood Bowl on June 15, 2017.
If you want to hear power pop/rock influenced music full of surprise elements and sudden tempo changes, challenging the idea of genre and categorization, check out The Lemon Twigs. iTunes thinks they are “Alternative,” what do you think?