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Monday, July 30, 2012

Show Review: Crystal Stilts, The Mantles & Heavy Hawaii

Show Review
Crystal Stilts
The Mantles
& Heavy Hawaii
@ The Casbah, San Diego, CA.

  The most notable aspect of this concert was this group or six or seven fans that showed up for The Mantles.   Attired in (nearly) matching button up Oxford shirts with neat haircuts and some proper looking eye glasses.  All male, from I could tell.  They spent the entire Mantles set dancing enthusiastically with one another right in front of the stage.  As I was leaving, some of them were performing "chin-ups" on the pedestrian crossing sign that is on the corner immediately outside The Casbah.  Like other bands I've watched in the past month (notably, The Babies and Foxygen) The Mantles come from a songwriting location outside the "mainstream" of the Pitchfork/blog taste circle, but squarely within the larger Audience tastes of "60s and 70s influenced rock music."

   I think the two most important Artistic influences for this group of bands is The Kinks and The Byrds, in the sense that those were both big Audience rock bands that also drew from some of the stylistic innovations of rock bands in the 60s without embodying those genres.   So, I can see what they are shooting for.  I think it bears observation that the natural location for all three of those bands is in Los Angeles, and that none of them are from/live in Los Angeles.

   Here is "how it happened" for The Byrds main man Roger McGuinn:

In 1957, he enrolled as a student at Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music, where he learned the five-string banjo and continued to improve his guitar skills. After graduation, McGuinn performed solo at various coffeehouses on the folk music circuit where he was hired as a sideman by folk music groups in the same vein as the Limeliters, the Chad Mitchell Trio, and Judy Collins. He also played guitar and sang backup harmonies forBobby Darin. Soon after, he relocated to the West Coast, eventually Los Angeles, where he eventually met the future members of The Byrds.

   It's rare to observe the kind of Audience reaction that the Mantles set received from their fans.  Compared to that rare occurrence, the Crystal Stilts headlining set was a predictable affair.  Crystal Stilts are going to be the Crystal Stilts and that does not include any undignified capering or mawkish antics.   You know "people" have told them to be more expressive and their just as clearly are not going to do that.  The songs are strong enough to hear multiple times live in concert.

    I think when a band establishes an Audience size over multiple releases, it's fair to say  that number is high or that number is low, relative to similar bands.  For Crystal Stilts, with 2.4 million last fm plays, you are talking about bands like Thee Oh Sees (also 2.4 million), Beach Fossils (3.7) Vivian Girls (3), Crocodiles (1.2), Blank Dogs (1.0), Ty Segall (2.3), Dirty Beaches (800k), Fresh and Only's (750k)-  you are talking about a group of indie rock bands with overlapping Audiences.  You can see there that the range runs from over 500 thousand plays to a pace towards 5 million, but no one above five million plays yet.

   Let's say you then compared the "similar acts" of Crystal Stilts to that of an Artist like Wavves (8 million).  Now you've got Best Coast (12 million), Jay Retard (3.7), No Age (6), Surfer Blood (4.8), Girls (10 million) as well as overlapping Artists like Beach Fossils and Ty Segall.  It's easy to see that many of the bands that are "similar" to each Artist over lap or share characteristics, but that Wavves similar Artists have more Audience plays then the similar Artists for Crystal Stilts.

  I think the audience that showed up on Saturday night was commensurate with the over-all size of their Audience, something short of a sell-out but more then 150 paid. 

  Opening act Heavy Hawaii was particularly strong.  They are ready to be unleashed upon the world like the "Kraken" in the 1980s version of The Clash of the Titans:

  Ok in the Clash of the Titans clip, Heavy Hawaii is the Kraken, and the Greek city is the Audience.

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