THE LO DOWN: The Rescues, Garrison Starr, Heather Combs @ CafÃ© du Nord 6/20/10
Ah the joys of a singer-songwriter show, when one must buckle down, sway, and master the art of understated head-nods. I tend to experience shows of such variety by answering two simple questions: (1) Does every freakin’ song sound the same? And (2), does it matter? Lo and behold, Los Angeles supergroupÂ The Rescues surprised me on all accounts.
CafÃ© Du Nord made us wait for the goods on Sunday night, however, with two openers. I was on the fence about act one’s Heather Combs when she started her set with, “You can heckle, but I’m warning you that I have the mic and I will talk back.” Funny yes, and an icebreaker that the small Sunday crowd appreciated, but sh-t, you better deliver after that kind of statement. Luckily for Heather — or for us, really — she did. Playing solo with acoustic guitar, harmonica, and the ease of a seasoned performer, Heather owned the stage and sang like a champ. Her voice reminds me of Melissa Etheridge and an Indigo Girl (yes, just one – the raspier one), but her songs could be the pop hits of Avril Lavigne. Accessible lyrics and formulaic arrangements got a wee bit tired, but she won us over completely with a mid-set cover of Ginuwine’s “Ride That Pony.” Getting a Sunday evening swaybot crowd to belt, “My saddle’s waiting, come and, jump on it” ?! Score. So, did every song sound the same? Kinda, but there was enough rhythmic, tonal, and pony-ridin’ variety to keep me interested. Did it matter? Yes – Heather was the only local on the bill and she needed to represent. And she did. Fo’ sheeze.
Act two’s soloist,Â Garrison Starr,Â took the stage next after a generous introduction as the “Best singer-songwriter in the country”– by The Rescues’ Rob Giles, no less. Sigh. Oh, Rob. It’s not that Garrison wasn’t good. Really. But the Brooklyn transplant hit those first two strums on the guitar and I went into the singer-songwriter overdose coma likeÂ woah. A southern version of Nina Persson from The Cardigans, Garrison played delightfully… but just did not have the presence to top act one or Rob’s f-cked-from-the-get-go introduction. She seemed most comfortable when The Rescues jumped on stage in accompaniment towards the end of her set (insert rescue joke here) — and indeed, I needed a fix of new instrumentation so badly it didn’t matter what they played. I do, however, want to acknowledge an emotionally resonant set-closer for which she played awesomely and, you know, went there.Â And we went with her — I just kinda wish the train had left the station about 30 minutes earlier. Did every song sound the same? Mmmhmm. Did it matter? Three-dollar Budweisers!
Ready, set, Rescue. Are you following me? By act three we had experienced a solidÂ hour-and-forty-five minutes of strummy strum strum and singy sang song. Needless to say, The Rescues were going to have to hit hard. And — like a breath of fresh thank-bajeezus-this-has-a-beat air — the quartet barreled out of the gate with “Let Loose the Horses” and we didn’t look back.Â The equally-fronted foursome’s sound is like Coldplay meets Sheryl Crow meets The Eagles meets Fleetwood Mac — but with the volume turned up to, you know, 11. Gabriel Mann, Kyler England, Adrianne Gonzalez, and Rob Giles — each solo artists in their own rite — joined forces to form what looks like an indie superhero A-Team. I was skeptical too, friends, but when each member started switching between guitar, bass, ukulele, drums, keys, and percussion while also nailing harmonies both beautiful and ballsing difficult, I was sold. The strongest moments were in fact when one member could take the lead, powerfully supported by the rest — as on the quirky “Can’t Stand the Rain” and Kyler’s “Follow Me Into The Sun” (featuring Rob on drums with a surprisingly slappin’ break-beat).Â I was only slightly put off when they chose to trade verses (“You’re Not Listening”) as the sound started to lean too heavily on the side of ensemble-cast-musical… but the overall musicianship and power onstage was undeniable. All bets were off for the a cappella encore of “My Heart With You.” It’s the reason I went and saw them, and it’s the reason these folks are no joke — simply one of the most beautiful performances and haunting songs I have ever heard. Hands down. Handle it.
The Lo Down: The Rescues’ first full-length albumÂ Let Loose the Horses dropped yesterday (6/21/10) and “Break Me Out” is the featured single o’ the week on iTunes. (Of course, it’s not their strongest song by far, but leave it up to the execs to dumb sh-t down for the masses.) They’ve also been featured on several TV shows, including five songs onÂ Grey’s Anatomy — so apparently that show is still on AND everyone has died/fallen in love/died while falling in love to The Rescues!
As for my flawless singer-songwriter system: when it comes to The Rescues, every song sounds damn different and it completely matters. It actually almost “rocks.” But these cats are so good I’ve had to add a third question to the metric — namely, how do you measure up to the motherf-cking Rescues??
Photo credit: Bryan Rindfuss