I love Band of Skulls. I first met them during an acoustic performance and interview session at LP33.tv in July. They’ve actually been together for several years, morphing and evolving from one band into another until they arrived as Band of Skulls. Their name can be deceiving which is part of the “joke” they say. All 3 musicians contribute to the writing process which sometimes leaves Russell singing lyrics Emma wrote, from a woman’s perspective. Similarly, Emma may find herself singing about things written from a man’s perspective. The moral of the story – listen to the lyrics and take notice of who’s singing them. Russell and Emma switch off the lead on vocals, often at interesting lyrical moments.
The second time I saw Band of Skulls was at The Hotel Cafe. After witnessing an acoustic set at LP33.tv, and knowing that shows at The Hotel Cafe are often acoustic, I just assumed the band would be playing “unplugged”. Wrong. Thankfully, I was very, very wrong. Band of Skulls rocked a full electric show and played Hotel Cafe as if they were playing a much larger venue. I liked them when I first met them, but I fell in love with them at The Hotel Cafe.
Then, last night they played The El Rey, opening up for The Duke Spirit. The show was great and it was extremely well-attended for an “opening act”. The place was packed and the venue seemed to relax on their “no standing outside the taped lines” policy, so people were everywhere. They played a very short set (perhaps 25 minutes), but it was solid as usual. When they finished and the curtain closed the crowd tried to demand an encore and kept cheering for several minutes, until they were certain the band wasn’t going to appear again. The last time I saw this happen for an opener was when Joseph Arthur opened for David Gray eight or so years ago.
Billy Corgan and Spirits in The Sky
The Hotel Cafe, LA
August 31, 2009
"Fall into the grace of where you are. . ."
It’s not often a rock band plays The Hotel Cafe. I may have just pissed off some bands that play The Hotel Cafe. However, it is rare that a true, plugged-in rock show takes place at the small venue most often recognized as the home of outstanding singer-songwriters.
But, it has happened: Perry Farrell has made a couple guest appearances at The Hotel Cafe, including one time with his side project, Satellite Party; Billy Corgan has played there previously (although it was a mellow, acoustic, solo show); Pete Townshend has stepped foot on that stage a few times; Butch Walker had people standing on tables at one time; and Cypress Hill once turned the intimate room into a hip-hop club.
Yet, for the most part The Hotel Cafe is a place where people watch quietly as songwriters sing about break-ups and alcohol. The beginning of tonight’s show was in line with that vibe, although rather than droning on about heartbreak, Corgan sang melodically about love.
Navarro and Corgan during the electric part of the show
Corgan was joined on-stage by Dave Navarro, 19-year old Mike Byrne from Portland who was chosen to play drums in the band after Corgan placed an open-call for drummers online, Mark Weitz on keyboards, Kerry Brown on percussion, Ysanne Spevak on violin, Linda Strawberry on backing vocals, Kevin Dippold on flute and mandolin, and bassist Mark Tulin.
When the mellow set of songs about love, devotion, and dreams came to an end Corgan had a surprise for the audience. Well, it wasn’t a surprise to everyone, just to those of us who didn’t see his note on SmashingPumpkins.com today: “The tour ought to end with a bang though, as tonight marks the faux Halloween show! Everyone is expected to show up in costume and there will be a costume contest held during the show.”
Intermission: Costume Contest
Corgan said he only expected seven people to show up in costume. Instead, there were about 50 people dressed in costumes ranging from an elderly angel to a pregnant alien. While unnecessary, the costume contest was entertaining, especially with Corgan’s sarcastic banter.
Throughout the show there was “that one guy” who kept disturbing the peace by shouting out obnoxious comments. So when the guy belted out, “What’s your costume, Billy?” Corgan responded, “My costume is a guy who fuckin’ hates you. . . it’s a little subtle, but I hope you feel it. . .” That was the last we heard from “that guy.”
The costume contest wasn’t the only form of audience participation. Corgan also enlisted the crowd to sing along to one of the songs. He got everybody going, singing “oh, oh, oh” and then realized he may have asked the audience to sing too many rounds. “It seems I made a rare mistake,” Corgan admitted.
Navarro and Corgan
After the costume contest Spirits in The Sky turned on the rock show. Navarro and Corgan crushed it on electric guitars. At one point, Corgan requested the bow from Spevak’s violin – and I don’t use words like this lightly (or ever, actually) – shredded.
The band played for 2 hours. Or just under 2-hours when you factor in the costume contest. When the band exited the stage, the house music came on and the musicians all went back to the dressing room instead of staying at the side of the stage, behind the curtain. This is usually a sign that show has ended and at least half the audience left. But the loudest yellers remained and did not stop screaming or clapping until Spirits in The Sky returned for one more song.
“You asked for it. . . ” Corgan warned.
Corgan playing guitar with the bow of Spevak's violin