Live Review: Basement Babies at The cAbin, By George!
WHO: Truman Peyote, Matthewdavid, Sun Araw, Basement Babies
WHERE: The cAbin, By George!
In September 1995, an MTV reporter caught Bjork backstage at England's massive Reading festival. A few months earlier, she'd released her second album Post -- a "musically promiscuous" collection of electronic pop, drum and bass breaks, orchestral ballads, and most notably, big band jazz on "It's Oh So Quiet" -- and the reporter wanted to know what inspired the variety.
"Well, I think all people are very different inside," she said. "They've got a silly side, a clever side, a sad side, a painful side, a happy side. And [different] musical styles are just something to make those emotions bigger."
Right on. The nineties are long gone, but that major label earnestness still appeals to a new generation of musicians and party people on Eagle Rock Boulevard. On a sunny Fourth of July weekend, only a couple blocks away from the late, great performance space Show Cave, Devin Gallagher and Jesse Moretti hosted a real potpourri of bands and DJs at The cAbin, By George!, featuring performances from Boston-based noiseniks Truman Peyote and local beat maven Matthewdavid, and a summer barbecue-inspired DJ set from Sun Araw.
Named first for its A-frame shape, and second for the mellow yellow neon light posted like a billboard in the front yard, The cAbin, By George! can be a sensual experience: Lose yourself in the mid-century modernist couches, grope a curiously shaped lighting fixture, admire Gallagher's extensive cassette collection, ponder the frequency of their use. And it makes for a great party house: big backyard, generous porch, and no neighbors to call the cops on those damn kids rocking next door. (The house is basically on top of the Glendale Freeway.)
In between sets from radio-friendly unit shifters Total Control, and the ratcheting call and response of Bakersfield guitar duo Righteous Acid, it was Echo Park-based Basement Babies who stole the show. If you believe in the power of emotional escapism ("I Heard") and learn Los Angeles through free jazz on the freeway ("Highway to the Moon"), this is your band.
They're doing something really cool. Not content to mimic the kind of earnest, nervy new wave pioneered by REM in the early '80s, or the heavy swells and sighs of Nirvana's Unplugged In New York, these songs really breathe, often unfolding into lengthy jams that end just as they began. If that sounds like a Krautrock mentality, it's intentional. "We're building this force that you get sucked into," says bassist Martin Roark, "and takes you to different places." It could have been the sun, it could have been the free-flowing keg, but for this too-brief set, the audience were not hipsters, they were not from Paso Robles, they were not graphic designers: They were in this thing that we will one day call our twenties. "I wanna get high," sang lead singer and keyboardist Kate Linthicum, "as we make our way to judgment day."
Basement Babies are currently working on a record with James Ferraro, a pop wizard who washes his dynamic melodies in a bath of outmoded technology. And while they've shared stages with Ferraro and fellow Ariel Pink acolytes Puro Instinct, Roark makes a crucial distinction: "We're more influenced by the Beat Generation than the Lite FM generation." Indeed, in the middle of their set, Linthicum lapsed into Allen Ginsburg's "America," an epic poem written at the dawn of the rock era.
"In the post-digital world, there's a whole new set of references, and we're compressing our lives into keys and screens," says Linthicum. "So more than ever, we need to hear singers and the beat of the drum. The power of rock and roll is still there, but can we be, like, not too embarrassed to fully embrace it? That power is still relevant."
The cAbin, By George! is located at 3625 Eagle Rock Blvd. Basement Babies play Lot 1 Cafe, 1533 W Sunset Blvd, on Friday July 15 with Pangea, Hosannas and Naked Kids.