03 AUGUST, 2013Laura Stevenson held the stage of the Troubadour in LA, armed only with an acoustic guitar and a clutch of songs. The ace in the hole was that a fair number of those songs came from her latest effort, Wheel, out on Don Giovanni, one of the year's sleeper records. Stevenson cut to the essence of the songs, and kept the crowd spellbound with her nimble voice. Her dynamics were unerring, and when she cut loose, it was unforgettable. "L-Dopa" was the high water-mark, all the crowd-talking and clanking of beer bottles disappearing into the void for five minutes of pure bliss. Also notable was "Fire", a brand new song that she had only played a few times before, and "Nervous Rex", reaching back to her debut A Record. Showing a sly humor, Stevenson engaged with the crowd, riffing on her new haircut, and providing valuable insight into songs, such as how TCBY impacted "Journey To The Center Of The Earth". All told, a commanding set from an artist coming into her own. In October, she'll be back with her regular unit The Cans.
Dresses, from Portland, opened the evening with a charming set that ranged from acoustic laments to full throttle spunky pop. While usually I side with Ed Asner on all things spunky, the combination of engaging vocalists and crack rhythm section won me over. At time the bass and drums threatened to overwhelm the proceedings, but when everything melded, it was a delight. "Friends Are Dead" was the keeper track, lodged in the brain long after they finished. Their new EP Sun Shy is out now.