Tommy Santee Klaws record release show in Los Angeles
The New Los Angeles Folk Festival proudly presented the record release show for Rakes at Historical Monument 157 on November 20, 2010. It was a cold night, a full moon. The backyard was closed because of rain fears so the show moved indoors. The living room quickly crowded with people, spiked cider, and chili.
Folks didn’t want to miss Amanda Jo Williams, who kicked things off in her horse-bitten peach princess dress, with Olentangy John guest-appearing on banjo. She interrupted her rollicking set of alien-transmitted love songs to wish Tommy “Happy Birthday doo doo doo to youuuuu” via her self-penned Happy Birthday song.
Next came El Dorado, which is Avi of Avi Buffalo, solo and experimental. He improvised adorable strangeness, exploring his vocal range from sweet, tender high to low, opera monster. He had a suitcase of effects pedals that wouldn’t open, so he pulled all his inner weirdness out with just a touch reverb.
The place was packed at this point so we moved outside to the front porch for Tommy Santee Klaws. They were loud, crackling, and magical. Rakes is a beautiful album. It’s the little things that move you when you see the songs live. For instance, when Tommy shouts the word “pull” or “God-damned” more emphatically during “Ooh Ooh Ooh” and butterflies just fly out of his mouth like bats. Or watching Donna rhythmically drop a giant metal chain on the old wood porch to add percussion. She bends down and picks it up again and again, as if she is reaching down for the outstretched hands of the weak and woeful. Lyrics about broken, dragging body parts and other melancholy imagery feel transcendent and uplifting when this family band looks to the sky and howls. Did I mention the full moon tonight?
Back inside, Soko banged a drum and reminded us that boys can be terrible creatures with her simple, direct way of using the word “shits” instead of “shit,” as in, “I feel like shits” or “He treats me like shits.” The part about a guy that’s all about free love but treats his woman bad (like “shits”) elicited many nods of agreement from other dabblers in bohemia who’ve been burned by freedom.
After being washed and sullied and purified and licking our wounds, The Petrojvic Blasting Co. brought out the Balkan dance party with all sorts of shiny brass. There were people everywhere, hanging off the stairwells, covering every inch of the HM157 compound, eating cupcakes with faces, and they were all quite different from each other (both the pastries and the peoples). This is what we like to see. We like to show people weird, wonderful music in a place and memory they’ll try to describe at the water cooler on Monday to peers who devoted 5 hours of their lives to Harry Potter this weekend.
HM157 woke up early Sunday morning and wrote us a sweet note. They described the Rakes release show as a “fantastic memory” we’ve added to the pages of L.A. freak folk history. We think they mean it was awesome and could feel the warm buzzy glow of extraordinary going on. We’d like to thank them back because they provide the place where the fantasy part of “fantastic” feels at home.
See more photos at lafolkfest.com