The Washington, that last Outpost before The Great Sheffield Wilderness, hosted on Thanksgiving day an Americana night with 4 bands, 2 on the velvet and gossamer side of fabric, the other couple on the denim and polyester side. Amidst the constant, Tapper-like flow of drinks, free turkey sandwiches were given and a hard-as-hell quiz was imposed (to the tune of Murder by Death‘s ‘Until morale improves, the beatings will continue’).
In the tradition of doing reviews in an offkilter way, the gig will be compared to the music that I would listen to in a roadtrip from Garrapata State Park to Tijuana.
First leg: Garrapata State Park to Big Sur.
From the easy going seaside views of this park, we jump into the car (late 70s muscle car, natch) and we listen to a band from Leeds called Mordrake. Slow, introspective Americana that sometimes delivers the emotional punch with the whitest of gloves. Two guitars and a drumkit, played in the lowest of volumes possible, with the nicest way to insult someone. Haven’t heard someone being called a ‘sad fucked up weirdo’ in such nice harmonies. Easy going, oral tradition sort of music that makes me grateful not to own any Ozric Tentacles cds.
Second leg: Big Sur to Pismo Beach.
With one of their singers being a proper trooper and managing to fight customs, rain and jet lag, Canyon Family took the stage with style (and the second biggest ankh I’ve ever seen in my life). With a double vocal harmony attack (well connected to the dreamiest shade of music), Canyon Family replaces bass with a the combined forces of a well-placed bass drum and the deep vocals of Robert Lee. The music is ethereal and one tambourine short of Mazzy Star‘s long lost sister. A cover of ‘Marcy’s Song’ was mesmerising and single-in-waiting ‘Films about horses’ could fuel quite a few walks in the labyrinthine paths of Big Sur‘s deep forests. It sure made me want to own a pick up truck.
Third leg: Pismo Beach to Los Angeles.
Time to turn the cassette over, from “high soaring eagle” to “diving hawk”. Coma Girls are the louder, fast paced drive over the well-laid concrete highways. We wave goodbye to the greener pastures and we hightail it to the concrete jungle. Coma Girls are punkish and loud; bombastic rock and roll with a dash of blues to keep those riffs tapping as fast as your feet. Like hittin’ a gridlock, there is a surprise in this set and it’s a cover of the theme tune of Cheers. One has to join in the sing along, of course. All in the memory of Coach.
Final stretch: Los Angeles to Tijuana.
After a quick stop at the In n Out near Amoeba Records, we once again jump into the highway, switching from the stagnant 405 to the wider (and more mental) highway 5. Riffs are getting heavier, the solos are longer and more grandiose. It’s Roaming Son and their high octane rock and roll, with fast paced songs (with ample space for solos) and a quiff that makes Brian Setzer smile. There’s even some surf-style reverb in a couple of tracks (35% sure they played ‘Trouble at mill’) but it’s always a 4th gear deal with these fellas.
And just like that, the trip was over. The two lingering smells in the atmosphere were the alcohol that still flowed and the sempiternal air freshener of The Washington that stays with you like a Gardenia-scented incense…
Words & Photos: Sam J. Valdés López
Canyon Family Soundcloud.