Olin And The Moon & Or, The Whale Concert Review

by journojames on February 4, 2012

Originally published Mar. 15, 2011

LOS ANGELES – Alternative country rock bands Olin And The Moon and Or, The Whale sang about love and heartache on Mar. 13 at the Satellite in Silver Lake, offering bittersweet stories with gritty guitars and warm harmonies.

Lead singer David Lebrel, Photo courtesy of whenyouawake

“Let’s hang out and get weird,” lead singer David LeBrel of Olin And The Moon told the small crowd. He and the band then launched into “Terrible Town,” a foot-tapping country rocker with dirty-sounding guitars. The song sounded like it belonged in every small-town tavern jukebox.

The night didn’t get weird like LeBrel wanted, but it was somewhat odd and notable how often the baby-faced and undersized frontman — who was just a little bigger than his guitars — kept offering Olin And The Moon beer koozies that were for sale.

When he wasn’t a pitchman or chugging his own can of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, he was a solid performer who was backed by his ragged-looking but equally steady bandmates that included his brother Travis on lead guitar, drummer Marshall Vore, slide guitarist Brian McGinnis, and bassist Kyle Vicioso.

Lebrel, wearing a dark t-shirt with a mug shot of Lindsay Lohan that read “Retox,” strummed his acoustic guitar and cried about heartaches and loneliness during their nine-song set. The band concentrated on songs from their latest release “Footsteps.” It included a good mixture of moody, stripped down acoustic ballads like “Not in Love” and “Out of Here,” while still delivering catchy melodic tunes like “Say Goodbye.” They closed the night with a raucous electric jam called “Burro Blanco” with big, manly guitars that made the song sound like an ornery western.

Lebrel’s singing style was reminiscent of contemporary folk rock singer Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes, and the influences of Uncle Tupelo and Ryan Adams were unmistakable in the band’s rustic sound.

Olin And The Moon, Photo courtesy of the LA Weekly

The sparse crowd’s reaction was appreciative at best, but there wasn’t much evidence that the audience truly connected with the performers, except for the three or four young female fans near the stage that sang along with every song.

The up-and-coming band from Sun Valley, Idaho and Los Angeles has already found some success. The popular CW network television series “One Tree Hill” has been using the group’s version of “I Don’t Want to Be” as the show’s latest theme song. And, The Daily Beast recently recognized the group as one of 10 rising stars to watch in popular music.

Olin And The Moon may have been the headliner, but, from the audience’s reaction, the supporting act, Or, The Whale may have stolen the show.

The San Francisco-based seven-member band that got its name from the subtitle of Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick,” delighted the crowd with easy-going pop-country melodies and sweet harmonious vocals.

San Francisco band Or, The Whale, Photo courtesy of Last.fm

Bearded frontman Alex Robins, dressed in jeans and a comfortable-looking flannel shirt, and his bandmates: vocalist Lindsay Garfield, guitarist Matt Sartain, bassist Justin Fantl, keyboardist Julie Thomasson, drummer Jesse Hunt, and Tim Marcus on the glorious peddle steel guitar, kicked off with “No Love Blues,” a steady rock country number with plenty of rousing guitar noise.

The entire set was loose and well performed, with Robins and Garfield sharing most of the lead vocals. Their singing, at times, was reminiscent of Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. Songs like “Datura,” a catchy guitar-plucked ditty about hallucinating, and “Terrible Pain,” a moody, mellow but melodic tune, were prime examples of retro country rock. The group’s soaring harmonies were even more evident on “Montecito” a new song that combined an easy-going tempo, wailing steel guitars and vocal textures that sounded like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

“We can only do a couple more,” Robins told the audience towards the end of their short set. “No! More! More!” was the response from the crowd that included several members of keyboardist Thomasson’s family.

Or, The Whale performs, Photo courtesy of nowi'veheardeverything

The group closed its set, with a little help from Olin And The Moon, by doing a rousing rendition of their 2007 debut single “Call and Response,” a loud, chaotic, foot-stomping jam about New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina that thrilled the crowd.

Both bands will come back to the west coast next month after playing the South By Southwest (SXSW) conference and festival. Or, The Whale will perform in San Francisco on Apr. 8 and Olin and the Moon will be back in Los Angeles at the Bootleg Theater on Apr. 29.

Horde And The Harem, newcomers from Seattle, opened the show with their offering of friendly folk pop. The five-piece band offered an eclectic mix of light, upbeat tunes with harmonized vocals that pleased the audience. “Victor Song,” a tune with African music influences, was a highlight.


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