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Music Blogs

CHVRCHES @ The Echo

  • By BC Gibson Author Avatar
  • 12 April 2013

CHVRCHES @ The Echo

     Tickets for CHVRCHES’ second Los Angeles show, June 1st at The Troubadour, went on sale at 1 PM on March 29th.  I knew the time beforehand, and planned on buying tickets then, going so far as to set a reminder on my phone.  That alarm went off at 12:45, and eighteen minutes later at 1:03, I was on the website, clicking to purchase. 

     But I was already too late.  To my dismay, the website said “all tickets are currently in other carts.  These may become available, so please keep trying”.  And so I did, but to no avail.  Finally at 1:26 the response changed to, “This event is sold out.”  Indignant, I switched over to Stubhub, where I bought a ticket on the secondary market for double the price; exactly as I had prior to CHVRCHES first, sold-out LA show at The Echo on March 12th

     

      With their burgeoning popularity, it’s easy to forget that CHVRCHES has released two singles and one EP, and only been a band since 2011.  That being said, their sample size is small but striking.  For the bulk of musicians, songs as likeable as “The Mother We Share”, “Lies” and “Recover” come once per album, not as the very first three songs to be released.  Accordingly, CHVRCHES have set a high standard for themselves, but they seem likely to keep to it.  The best evidence for further success comes, not in those three banner tracks, but with the non ”Recover” half of their EP, the songs “Now Is Not The Time” and “ZVVL“.  These might be considered as average for them, but their mean is better than the best of many.  Indeed, electro-pop quality seems to come easily for CHVRCHES.  When the group’s three members, Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook, and Martin Doherty, first met in the studio, the ideas flowed.  By the release of their first song, “Lies”, they already had “8 or 9” others recorded, according to Cook.  They had no record label at that time, and had done all of their recording in Cook’s home studio.  By the beginning of 2013, months prior to the release of their first EP, those 8 or 9 had grown to 18. 

     One hopes they will remain as prolific, but the band is wary of a potential lag in creativity.  Quoting Doherty, “Do people only have a certain number of good songs in them?  Do you write them all in the first year and then you have none left?  I struggle with that!”  He poses an interesting question, one that can only answered in hindsight, and on a case to case basis.  Being familiar with only 4 of CHVRCHES songs beforehand, I was curious to see for myself if they had any more “good” ones when they played their first LA gig at The Echo.    

     I arrived early, a few minutes before 10, in time to see the second of the opening acts, Danish singer Karen Marie Orsted, alias MO.  She has been dubbed (by some idiot looking for something to say) as the new Grimes.  Saying anything is the new anything is only appropriate as a joke, but there are a few similarities.  Both artists are female, and both wear headphones in one of their music videos; though they figure less prominently in MO’s “Pilgrim”. 

                      

     This is a promising song, but the video is odd.  It’s mildly disconcerting to see Heath Ledger’s Joker, clapping throughout; and I’m also not keen on MO quadra-vision.  Similar footage featured prominently in her show; in every song, MO was backed up on screen by 4 digital doppelgangers.  Their performance styles were very different, however: while her doubles were subdued, in-the-flesh MO was exuberant.  It’s hard to fault her enthusiasm, but I’m going to: it seemed a bit over the top.  Especially so when compared to the more cerebral style of her video backups. 

     Before MO’s set was over, I went outside to smoke a cigarette, even though I don’t smoke cigarettes.  To get some fresh air then.  On one of the patio’s picnic benches, I found myself sitting next to a group of strangers having a loud conversation.  Hearing every word and unable to ignore them, it seemed weirder to sit there silently, so as earnestly as I could manage, I began participating in their conversation.  I don’t remember what they were talking about, but there were some girls in the group.  Alas, I didn’t wind up talking to any of the chicks, but to some dude.  “Where are you from” and “what do you do“ kind of stuff; polite LA conversation.  In the course of it I told him that I wrote, and that I found it ironic that I had moved to the city by accident, but had subsequently wound up being an LA cliché.  He’d told me that he was an actor, so of course he thought I was insinuating that he was a cliché.  The conversation lagged after that; and shortly I went inside and jostled myself into a central position for the show. 

     As the time drew near, Doherty appeared onstage, adjusting and tuning the equipment.  He was very attentive, and watching him I tried to think of previous concerts, where I had seen any headliner on stage beforehand, attending to their own equipment.  From the dozens of shows I’d seen at The Echo, I could only remember a few.  Far more often, I could recall bands that should have been paying more attention to their sound, but didn’t to their show’s detriment.  It was nice then to see the care with which Doherty approached the event, that he was dedicated to the quality of his live act. 

     The show began with the opening pulses of “Lies”.  CHVRCHES front-woman, Lauren Mayberry, then made her appearance, stepping gently up to the microphone, placing beside it two bottles of water and a tambourine.  Unlike what might be said of the opening act, Mayberry’s style is demure.  Some reviews have disparaged her for this, but I believe that demure suits her well: not every girl can be Alice Glass of Crystal Castles and thrash around, nor should they try to be. 

   "Lies” itself hits you immediately; easy to see why it was their first release and why it’s their live opener.  “We Sink” was next, a new track for me.  In the version I‘ve heard since, Doherty does the vocals, but it was Mayberry who sang the lead on this night.  I wonder at the reason for the switch.  I’m not sure whose version I like better, but with either that song is another gem.  Personally, I’d be happier thinking of Mayberry being “a thorn in my side…for always”.  Though admittedly I might have a bit of a crush on her; especially so after learning that, beyond her musical talents, she’s also a very good writer, as this rather readable piece about the hygienics of body piercing attests (see page 10).

     “We Sink“ was followed by “Lungs”, another immediately likeable track.  Here, the inflection of Mayberry’s voice sounds rather Celtic, and I would not be surprised if the inspiration for this track came from some old Highland ballad.  In a similar vein-- things Scottish--Mayberry’s accent seeps through on a number of songs, most notably in “Lies”; there she sings “I can feed your dirty mind”.  The accented way she says “dirty” certainly makes it sound all the more, well, dirtier. 

     As the show progressed, both Mayberry and Doherty were very jovial with the crowd in-between songs.  One story Doherty recounted was particularly amusing.  Apparently, he’d seen Morrissey at LAX, and seeing him there had tried to approach him.  But when he got close to the Pope of Mope, his body guard stopped him, putting a hand on Doherty’s chest, while behind Morrissey said, “Not today mate”.  Dejected, Doherty turned to walk away; and then for some reason, Morrissey laughed at him.  Yes that’s right, Morrissey laughed at him.  Hilarious.  Doherty appeared very amused by the experience, as I was by his account of it. 

     He also spoke about visiting an In N’ Out and having one of their famous burgers. “Do you just feel really guilty afterwards?” he asked the crowd.  A hush went over the room.  If there is one thing that is sure to draw an LA crowd’s ire, it’s saying a bad word about In N’ Out, because a love for that restaurant is universal here.  Latinos, gays, African Americans, hipsters, yuppies, celebrities; they all love In N’ Out.  Sensing the reaction he was getting, Doherty didn’t press his question further.  Then someone yelled out, “That shit’s healthy!”  Hearing that, both Mayberry and Doherty looked relieved, as if they had really been concerned about the healthiness of In N’ Out.  I’m guessing they don’t eat a lot of Haggis.     

     Near the end of the show, sandwiched in-between “Recover” and “The Mother We Share”, Doherty and Mayberry switched places for the song entitled “Tide”.  Doherty even had his own microphone, which he’d tuned and set aside before the show.  For me, “Tide” provided the most pleasant surprise of the evening.  Doherty was quite good in the lead.  Then, prior to “The Mother We Share”, Doherty stayed on the mic and thanked the crowd for dancing, saying that “UK dudes don’t do that”.  This is probably a good time to mention that there were a good number of gay men in the audience at The Echo, like half the crowd.  Nothing wrong with that of course; but, maybe there are fewer gay’s at CHVRCHES UK shows.  Doherty continued by saying something genuinely nice, and if I didn’t already like the band, I would have decided to like them after hearing how sincerely grateful he was.  “I really appreciate you guys coming to see our band; it means something to us.  Thank you, we’ll see you next time.” 

     Leaving the concert, I couldn’t help but think that the next time CHVRCHES played in LA, they’d be playing in a much larger venue.  It seems I was wrong however, because The Troubadour, the venue of the June 1st show, has the same capacity as The Echo, though the latter is less renowned.  I also wouldn’t have thought that they’d return again so soon, prior to even releasing a full length album.  The next, next time then.  Soon enough they’ll be selling out The Palladium like Crystal Castles.  It certainly looks as if they’ll have more than enough “good” songs to do so.  

 

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