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Bleached @ The Troubadour

  • By BC Gibson Author Avatar
  • 2 June 2013
Bleached @ The Troubadour
     The word “fun” gets tossed around a lot, to the point that the meaning of the word has become ambiguous.  Taken alone, the word is sometimes seen as subtle sarcasm, something you might say when what you’re describing was, in truth, underwhelming.  Much like how you’d describe hanging out with your significant others parents, when your significant other was the one asking for a description.  You wouldn’t say, “Yeah honey, lunch with your parents was incredibly fun!”  Just sounds odd, creepy almost.     
     For sincere purposes, the word fun often obliges a clarifying adverb, to really, really hammer home the point to a reader’s jaded attentions.  If a friend asked about a surf trip, for example, you might say that it was “ridiculously fun”, thus leaving no room for doubt as to the quantity of fun that was had.  Like a great surf trip, Bleached’s show at the Troubadour calls for as unambiguous a description as possible; it certainly was (insert emphatic adverb) fun. 
     And that would be a fitting description for their music generally.  Bleached makes clean, easily palatable pop songs.  Their music doesn’t make you think too much, and sometimes that’s exactly what good music is supposed to do.  I would recommend waking up to Bleached, programming them to play on your alarm.  I can attest, doing so engenders right-thinking, providing the perfect pep for waking up positively.  
     Bleached were formed in 2010, released their first singles (Download "Think of You") in 2011, but only this year released their first full length.  It’s been time well spent, as the band has improved over the last few years, refining their sound, and becoming better songwriters.  Their earlier releases, while enjoyable, were somewhat relentless, with little variation, so that by the third minute I often found myself skipping forward to the next song.  Still, those early singles indicated a clear potential, potential which their first LP, Ride Your Heart, goes some of the way towards fulfilling.
     The songs on the album are more meticulous, their melodies more finely layered.  “Dead In Your Head” is the standout track.  Here, singer Jennifer Clavin voices what are undoubtedly Bleach’s gloomiest lyrics, “When you lie alone at night, do you start to dream about all the things, all the things dead in your head?”  Written out, that question is rather morose, but it’s sung in a way that makes the possible answer seem trivial or inessential.  Like, “Do I think about all the things that are dead in my head?  Eh…not really.”   Maybe you didn’t need them anyway. 
     A Wednesday night in May, and the famous Troubadour was filled up to see Bleached.  With a capacity of 400, the Troubadour is a small venue.  Stepping off of Sunset, the only doorway leads into the rectangular room.  The stage is to the right, perpendicular to the street outside, and occupying almost as much space as the floor itself.  Stairs lead up to a mezzanine where there are 5 rows of wooden bleachers, each row with its own 15’ length of wooden countertop.  You can order food there, but few do.  And while it is nice to be able to set your drink down, the seats themselves are exceedingly uncomfortable.  Just as well, because it wouldn’t be a show for sitting.  
     Bleached started with one of the slower tracks from the new album, “Dreaming Without You”;  but before the first chorus was finished, that song suddenly morphed into another, “Waiting by the Telephone”, a far more lively track.  The two songs are an interesting mash-up; the first is about moving on from a relationship, the second is about moving into one, or wanting to.  Of course, it’s a romance from 1995, because no one waits by the telephone anymore.  Though admittedly, “Waiting For You to Text” doesn’t have the same ring.        
     With the upturn of sentiment and tempo, the crowd began to move, jumping and jostling with an energy to match.  The rambunctious center (centre?) of the crowd was, unsurprisingly, a younger sort, none of whom I’m guessing have ever waited by a telephone before, at least not by a land line.  As an older (not old, older) sort standing off to the side, I would guess that. 
     The rabid youngsters kept it up for the entire show, their exuberance often spilling onto the stage.  In the fourth song, “Searching Through the Past”, two short Asian girls jumped onstage, each taking successive turns planting a kiss on the singer’s face.  The first girl was skinny and had tattoos, the second one was round and had a bob.   Neither of them gave a subtle peck, and with both kisses the love rendered was forceful enough to prevent the singer from voicing part of the chorus to "Searching Through the Past"(Download).  The girl with the tattoos then proceeded to crowd surf, while the girl with the bob wisely chose to trust her own feet.  Maybe she was pacing herself, because while I didn’t see the girl with the tattoos on stage again, I lost track of how many times the second girl was up there.  Her bob bounced around on the stage almost as much as Jennifer Clavin’s ponytail.   
     Climbing out of the crowd next was a Latina brunette, wearing a red flannel top and a tight, black skirt over ripped, black leggings.  The brunette only danced around the singer before launching herself off the stage.  This girl wasn’t unattractive, and her dive got me thinking about crowd-surfing etiquette, if there is any.  When a girl jumps, has she already accepted that she might get felt-up before she finds terra-firma?  Maybe it’s a non-issue, but I’m sure it happens sometimes, if only by accident.  Anyway, the brunette was a repeat customer, so she was obviously ok with whatever happened. 
     After myriad sojourns, bob-girl was escorted from the stage.  Seeing this, singer Clavin (not to be confused with her sister Jessica, who plays guitar) asked that the girl not be removed.  Then Clavin made a comment about the bouncer, saying that he’d been the same one who’d escorted her, Clavin, from the stage, when she was younger and attending shows at the Troubadour.  At a certain point this same bouncer became a gargoyle on the stage, crouching there to deter any jumpers.  I’ll give the bouncer credit though, because after the lead singer called him out, he made it his mission to be a cheerleader.  He was a burly black man, and I could imagine him thinking, “Let me see if I can get all these people to raise their arms…Let me see if I can get all these people to dance!”  And the answer was yes, he could.  
     The male foil to the bob-girl, a short dude with a bowl cut, was also on stage many times, and near the end, bowl-guy hugged the bouncer.  After their hug, the two of them then had a short conversation, after which bowl cut looked to be going off quietly, towards the stairs.  But then he suddenly double backed, cutting behind the singer and away from the bouncers grasp, before diving headlong into the crowd.  As he rode over the up-stretched arms, the bouncer looked on, shaking his head severely.
     It didn’t seem like Bleached planned on an encore, as they’d played all the well-known numbers by the time their set was over.  Some people were leaving while others were cheering for the encore.  For a moment, it seemed like there wouldn’t be one, but then the bouncer decided that there should be, going to the microphone and entreating the crowd to cheer.  The man seemed steadfastly determined to make up for any past encounters he’d had with the girls of Bleached.  Now it was, “Let me see if I can get these people to cheer.”  
     The crowd duly obliged, and the band came back out for two more songs.  The first, “Outta My Mind“, was described beforehand as a slow dance, Jennifer Clavin informing the audience that they could--and should--pretend that they were at a middle school dance.  And then some did go hands-on-shoulders, hands-on-hips, because after all, for many in the audience, middle school wasn’t all that long ago.  
     For the final song, Clavin asked that there be a “central pit”.  Used to taking orders, the crowd instantly formed one.  Two hipsters enter, one hipster leaves!  Or they both leave probably.  In any case, it became a real scrum for the ensuing song, a Ramones’ cover, “Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World“.  Having earned the love of the crowd that night, physical love even, Bleached would dream of a buoyant future, one in which I’ll get to see them play again.