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The Soft Moon @ The Echo

  • By BC Gibson Author Avatar
  • 20 March 2013

The Soft Moon @ The Echo

     On a Tuesday night in December, I went to see The Soft Moon at The Echo in Echo Park.  I arrived outside the venue at ten after eleven, where I qued up at the end of a short line that wasn’t moving.  Music was coming from inside, and rain was coming down outside, but the doorman was taking his time, milking his power.  Standing there in the rain, already late for the show, I might of become annoyed, had I not been distracted and entertained by someone else’s drama playing out on the sidewalk beside me.  Someone was a slim blonde with a blue top, who caught my eye as she darted out of the pizza parlor next door.  We have a fast mover, I thought: what’s this about?  I found out soon enough, as soon as she reached the curb, because that’s where she leaned over and puked onto the hood of a Prius.  
     Now, disregarding the vomiting, the blonde seemed very attractive; accordingly, I couldn’t help but pity her.  She handled it all pretty well too, holding her own hair back with her left hand, and steadying herself on the hood of the Prius with her right, only putting one of the fingers of that  hand in her own puke in the process.  Then it was over in a few seconds: it all came at once, and she was wiping her mouth with her forearm, ready to move on with her night.  Very composed for a puker.  Watching her walk away, I thought, shit, that girl is hot…I want a girl like her, I want a girl who looks good when she’s projectile-vomiting in the street.  But alas, I’d have to find another, because there was no time to make a play for this one, not tonight.  I was late for the Soft Moon, and I’d finally reached the front of the line. 
     A minute later I was stepping inside, where I saw the affirmation of what I’d overheard them saying through the ticket window: the place was packed with 396 people, more than I would have guessed could fit inside The Echo, and probably more than the fire marshal would have been comfortable with.  The size of the crowd was also a surprise, simply because The Soft Moon has a sound that does not readily appeal to the average ear.  Dark and unsettling, their music would make a very appropriate soundtrack for a Blade-esqe vampire rave, with or without the swordplay and blood.  Such a soundtrack would not appeal to most in the top 40 crowd, despite the number of Blade sequels. To those with a jaded ear, however, who are intrigued by some measure of darkness, that’s the soundtrack of a good night out.  For them, The Soft Moon satisfies a hunger.  
     Counting myself as one of the jaded, I’d come on a Tuesday night to get my fill, along with several hundred others.  Generally, as a fan, I was happy that The Soft Moon was able to sell so many tickets; but specifically, while I was pushing through the crowd, leading with my shoulder and trying desperately to get to the bar, I was not so happy.  As well, the crowd seemed to contain more dudes than ladies, a ratio that, ideally, I’d have preferred to have been reversed.  Not that that especially mattered, because I was there for the music, and after getting my drink, I found a spot in the middle of the floor where I could enjoy the show while also sipping my beverage comfortably, without fear of being bumped mid-sip.  The spot I’d found was next to a fella in a wheelchair.  I’d had never seen a wheelchair at the Echo before, but I was glad that this fan had made it out, because the space immediately around him was calm, like the space around a Hindu cow on a New Dehli street.  There and here, it was a great spot to stand.  Now I could let my thoughts melt into the scene.
     Genre wise, The Soft Moon is often categorized as dark-wave, or, according to one website, neo-post-punk, though, the latter genre seems difficult to timeline (which came first, neo or post?).  Better, I think, to describe them this way: If the evil computer Hal had a love child with Ian Curtis, and that child grew up to make music, that music would sound something like the Soft Moon‘s.  It’s dark in the manner of Joy Division, and with the same forlorn guitar, but with an added, machine-like quality.  That quality is augmented by the lack of discernable lyrics, and by the consistency with which The Soft Moon adheres to their aesthetic.  Indeed, perhaps it is better to think of The Soft Moon as an aesthetic first, and as makers of music, second.  Though The Soft Moon is ostensibly the solo project of Luis Vasquez, at the time of their 2010, self titled LP, a visual artist had actually been listed as a member of the band.  Prior to quitting to focus on his music, Vasquez himself had worked as a graphic artist, a background that has undoubtedly influenced his vision of The Soft Moon.  Always conscious of presentation, the same imagery is pervasive throughout the band’s art,  in their hypnotic music videos, and in their static-draped live shows.  Seeing one of those shows is a consuming experience; the ferocity of their sound, and the intensity of their visuals are easy to lose yourself in.  
     Standing there, next to my friend in the wheelchair, I’d been swallowed up by the first full song I heard, the rightly named, “Into the Depths”.  As the show progressed, The Soft Moon sprinkled in a few more standouts from their self-titled debut, including” Circles” and “Breathe the Fire”, and as two songs from their 2011 EP, “Total Decay.”  In their catalogue, the title track of that EP is a standout for me, as it was on the night.   “Total Decay” was one of the few songs with decipherable lyrics, if only just; Vasquez repeating the line, “see me decay”, his voice synthesized to near obscurity.  Otherwise, Vasquez preferred to think of his voice as another instrument.  He screamed or whispered, all the while turning the dials for the right effect.  Where the subtlety of these effects was off, The Soft Moon’s performance compensated with power.  The beat was relentless, coming up through the floor, pulsing along with the lights, the sound vibrating through my feet, and the light shining through my eyelids when I blinked.  On stage, Vasquez lurched back and forth in the strobe light, his static-covered figure appearing like the antagonist of a test-pattern nightmare. 
     Overall, it was a worthwhile show to see, but it was not without issue.  As sometimes happens at The Echo, the show was plagued by poor sound mixing.   In most cases which I‘ve experienced, such problems are remedied by the 3rd or 4th song; but for this show, there seemed to be a genuine failure to communicate.  There were hand gestures during a few songs, and a couple of asides in between, but none of these got the message across.  The person operating the sound booth seemed to be unfamiliar with the music being played; despite the promptings of Vasquez on stage, the guitars never found the right volume, and remained muffled throughout the entire show.  Before one of the last songs, Vasquez, who had barely talked at all, even commented about the sound to the crowd, saying dejectedly, “I hope it sounds better out there than it does up here”.  The response from the crowd was cheers and applause, but Vasquez’s disappointment was obvious.   
     The Soft Moon played only a one song encore, the appropriately entitled “Want“, in which the lyrics are spoken plainly, in a matter-of-fact tone: “I want it, can’t have it…”  A very appropriate refrain for the evening.  What Vasquez seemed to long for, and could not have, was a sound tech who knew what he was doing.     
     That song was still in my head as I stepped back onto the street, where I was reminded of that pretty blonde and her unfortunate circumstance.  Despite the rain, the evidence was still there, smeared across the hood of that Prius.  While I don’t think I’ll ever see her again, I will see The Soft Moon, the next time they visit Los Angeles.  I’ll just hope for better sound the next time and who knows, maybe a pretty girl, sans puke.