Abby Travis - The Dragonfly - 2/27/12
Better Than . . . going to the circus.
Abby Travis sure knows how to throw a party. She's seemingly ubiquitous as an in-demand bassist, backing everyone from Masters of Reality, KMFDM and Vanessa Paradis to Beck, Eagles of Death Metal and Spinal Tap, but the Los Angeles native performs her own music so rarely that, when she does play, each concert feels more like an event than a gig.
Last night's show at the Dragonfly was no exception, as Travis celebrated her latest solo album IV with a barrage of visual and mental distractions and stimuli. Not the least of which was the ungainly but stunning frock of black feathers she sported when she first strutted onstage.
"It's a cool dress, but I can't see shit!" Travis told the crowd filling the dark dance floor. The monster feather boa threatened to swallow her up as she gamely belted out the opening tune, the glittery power-pop kiss-off "One Hit Wonder." The song's sugary melodies were countered by bittersweet lyrics and the sure-handed Freedom Rock drive of her ace backup band. New guitarist Fran Capitanelli effortlessly unspooled intricate curlicues of Brian May-style leads, while the local underground pop maven Probyn Gregory pumped up the exuberance with brassy trumpet exhortations.
Guitarist Fran Capitanelli, drummer Todd Philips and singer-bassist Abby Travis
Guest singer Kristi Callan, who used to front the '80s Paisley Underground band Wednesday Week and currently roots around with Dime Box Band, was initially unrecognizable in a long dark red wig and a makeup makeover by Travis, who slathered her with sparkling canary-yellow eye shadow and luridly ultra-thick black eyeliner. Callan's unerring harmonies added another layer of frosting to Travis' already-sumptuous arrangements.
"I don't think I can last one more song in this dress, which is embarrassing to say with my drag-queen friends here," Travis confessed. She shrugged off her swarm of feathers, revealing the formal floor-length black gown she was wearing underneath, as her band set up the stately intro to the glam-rock bonbon "Lulu." Travis' honeyed voice was rich and liquid-y and always strong, even as she simultaneously launched soaring bass lines and locked into tight rhythms with former Bullet LaVolta drummer Todd Philips.
"I'm going to break down and do some cabaret," Travis said a few songs later, dedicating the ballad "Toast to the Unappreciated" to the lighting person, her merch guy and her dad. Most of the group stepped away for a moment, leaving behind keyboardist Jebin Bruni (Public Image, Fiona Apple), who adorned Travis' spare words with smart, lovely embellishments.