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Teen Idol Maker / Boca de Sandia / Velvet Chain, Martini Lounge, Los Angeles, 8/8/97

Teen Idol Maker - Maybe only cold-climate people can identify with this comparison, but think about when you put on a sweatshirt straight out of the dryer in the wintertime. Imagine if that warm, cozy feeling were a sound, and you'd have an idea of what Teen Idol Maker is about. They weren't breaking any new ground musically, but there's nothing wrong with playing something straightforward as long as you do a good job, and these guys were good. I'd go see them again.

Boca de Sandia - Sometimes, unfortunately, talented individuals do not a good band make. Although each of the members of the group (drums, guitar, bass, vocals, cello) seemed to be quite good at their own individual parts, the whole was not convincingly cohesive, but that's like playing really good pool except for the putting the ball in the pocket part. The lead singer also seemed to have this problem with twisting and bopping around in a strange, distracting manner. Shucks.

Velvet Chain - If music performance were measured by the quantity of goosebumps it generated, then this hour of music was hands down the best performance I have ever heard. I don't know what it was - perhaps Erika Amato's voice which held the audience motionless with its power one moment, then subtlely released the crowd with the careless caress of a butterfly's wing; perhaps it was Andre de Channes's guitar shifting deftly between percussive and enveloping drone; perhaps it was Jeff Stacey's funky explorations in the bassment; perhaps it was Sarah Josephs's sonic stylings on keyboard; or perhaps it was Craig Van Sant's rhythmic mastery on drums. Whatever it was, if there were ever an OPEC for goosebumps, I would have been Saudi Arabia this evening.

Yet this was not the Velvet Chain I had expected to see. The Velvet Chain I had heard on their soon-to-be-re-released album was solid but substantially mellow. Tonight's Velvet Chain was huge. Enormous. I almost felt that the club was too small to contain them (the stage very nearly was.). All for the price of a $5 admission, this Velvet Chain fused the rhythms and wall of sound of Sky Cries Mary, a bit of Ninja Tune hip hop, some scat, a song in perfectly-pronounced French, scat in French, some nifty boots and funky outfits, a speedy cover of Portishead's "Sour Times", and a presence that captured so much of your attention that sometimes you needed to remind yourself to start breathing again. Well, maybe that part was just me.

My point is that if you like to save money, go see Velvet Chain now because in a little while I bet you're going to have to pay a lot more than $5 to go see them.

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