LARGE MARGE, VENTURA, CA
04 JUNE, 2016
After a quick save dampening the vocal mic with a t-shirt to avoid random jolts from our friend electricity, La Sera opened up the night with a sharp and sassy set that did not hit the brakes, accounting for a fair chunk of their newest release, "Music For Listening To Music To", including a sparkling "High Notes" and guitarist Todd Wisenbaker stepping up for "I Need An Angel". And it turns out that Todd is originally from Ventura! A tight cover of "Whole Lotta Love" paved the way for the high point of the set, a savage take on "Losing To The Dark". La Sera finished off with the title track of their previous, "Hour Of The Dawn", and the jam at the coda showed just how far this former bedroom project has come.
Ironically, at roughly the same time, Jaime Hernandez, the artist who created the character Speedy Ortiz, was being honored in Pasadena with a Life Achievement Award, the band from Amherst, Mass that shares the same name was kicking off their set with a rough and ready version of "The Graduates", from last year's "Foil Deer" LP. With a brand new EP, "Foiled Again", out on Carpark Records, there was new grist for the mill since we caught up with them in Santa Cruz last year. Having both "My Dead Girl" and "Mr. Difficult" in that set made it almost too overwhelming, and their absence from the set list focused the vibe. "Dvrk Wvrld" and "Tiger Trap" were high notes for a continually evolving band. "Raising The Skate" and "Puffer" were crowd pleasers, while "Dot X" and "American Horror" upheld the emotional intensity. Half the fun of a Speedy gig is trying to balance the cacophony of words against the music, then within that, the interplay of the guitarists versus the elasticity of the most excellent rhythm section, whom I've blabbed about before, but my respect continues to deepen every time I see them. It's not unlike watching a high level tennis match, and it's easy to be thoroughly wrung out after their set.
Finally caught up with The Good Life, yet another side of Tim Kasher (Cursive). Their new album is due out this August on Saddle Creek, and this was the perfect preview. He was as engaging as always, and the new material struck a chord, and unveiled yet another catalogue of music ripe for exploration. All told, it was a fitting conclusion to an exceptional evening.
A quick word is in order for the fabulous venue, an anonymous structure tucked away on Garden St. In downtown Ventura. Behind the gates, Large Marge is revealed as a labor of love, set up to carefully accommodate a nice merch space, as well as a lounging area for guests, couches inside for that homey touch, and the crowning glory: Phyllis Diller's actual kitchen?! Believe it. Final programming note: I've seen the first two bands nearly ten times combined, and never have either sounded better. The sound person was working her butt off, and the effort and end result was appreciated.