Painted Palms Live @ Barboza
July 1, 2014
Just before they started playing, the bass player gave the sound guy a sample of his amplifier. It was loud and distorted. Um, this isn’t what I expected.
When I read that the debut full-length Forever by San Francisco-based Painted Palms was recorded by cousins Christopher Prudhomme and Reese Donohue largely while they were living thousands of miles apart, I wasn’t surprised. There’s a distance in the songs’ productions that’s not quite cold, but with a certain chilly-on-a-sunny-day feeling that evokes summer in the Bay Area. So when I saw the band live at Barboza recently (July 1), my expectations were for delicate, icy music – ebbing like gentle waves on the shore. What they gave the audience was much more a sustained crashing on the rocks below.
The music box-inspired keyboard melodies of “Here It Comes” suddenly had a downhill momentum given strength by fuzzed bass and strong acoustic drums mixed with the electronic drums that dominate the album.
“Soft Hammer”, a pretty summer song that will remind you of the Beach Boys, was only recognizable via Prudhomme’s strong and longing alto vocals swimming through pools of echo.
“Spinning Signs” went from bubbly electro brit pop not unlike something from 60s band the Zombies to a pounding dance floor filler with a raw disco edge.
Certainly, the terrific melodies of the album that got me hooked on Painted Palms were here, but rather than gentle electro pop, the live performance had an ominous weight. There’s a darkness live that was only hinted at on the album.
The first time I experienced something like this was seeing The Posies live for the first time, on campus at Pacific Lutheran University in South Tacoma back in the late 80s. I loved the jangle pop Beatles-influenced melodies on their album Failure, but here they were rocking their asses off – and it was great.
So this is what Painted Palms are doing live, and I love it. Take advantage and see them when they come to your town. And when you get your copy of Forever, every once in awhile, turn the volume WAY up! (headphones don’t count)
I was also impressed by opening band Brainstorm, though not by their name – too cheesy-80s-B-movie for this old man. But the reverb-drenched guitar and vocals from all three musicians, thick bass lines and acoustic-electronic drum combo got my attention. Their finale, “Maybe a Memory”, a jerky, sharp, uptempo dance pop tune earned the biggest cheer all night from the 60+ Tuesday night crowd.
I didn’t arrive early enough to catch Imperial Mammoth. My apologies to the band, but hey – cool name.
(Abe Beeson is the host of Evening Jazz weeknights from 7:30-midnight on 88.5fm KPLU. He’s infrequently also heard on fellow public radio station KEXP, where he hosted The Live Room live local show from 1993 to 2002.)