Review: Cresting guitars and wirey melodies
Amidst the tintamarre of a Chinese rock band and some skittering dragons at 10th and Arch Streets in Chinatown, we approached the evening with anxious anticipation for this Luna show. Our thoughts, myself and Win’s, both occupied with a recollection of their last show in Philly – almost a year prior on November 23, 2002. It was a grand show at the North Star Bar, where the music has no place to go but through you.
Making our way the security gauntlet, complete with handbag checks and rubdowns, we paid a visit to the downstairs bar. On the usual night, The Troc lower level teems with the under-legals and nonsmokers, but for this night the youngsters traded views and watched from the second floor balcony. For some reason, the club was quite empty for a Luna show, which could have been the combined result of nice weather and the Philadelphian fetish with the New Jersey shore. Surely, it was the loss of all not in attendance.
The one-time burlesque house pulled its curtains back for Matt Pond PA, who initiated the night’s jollity. Their quirky, disjointed material, complete with a string accompaniment, soothed and rattled as they pressed through unconventional tracks as well as proper ballads. Once snug in the environment, audience folk responded to the group’s melodies, with generous applause. The show seemed to be booked appropriately enough with Matt Pond PA providing the foreplay for Luna’s main course.
Split between the balcony and floor levels, the crowd held toe as Luna took the stage and waded slowly into Malibu Love Nest. Then like a thief returns to rob again, they slinked back to Lunapark for a miasmal version of Anesthesia, a treasure buried in the band’s counting house chest. Lovedust completed an opening trio of songs that address past, present, and future on the Luna timeline. Dean and Co. ignited the club with the first few notes of Sideshow by the Seashore, a track that always seems to get the audience hooked on the band’s brand of formula. Following Sideshow, Dean & Britta tossed a plug to Chris Dipinto for his guitar and her new bass.
Since the acoustics of the Trocodero are excellent for cresting guitars and wirey melodies, Hello Little One was an ideal song to reach the darkened, third level of the club before it’s melodic nuances sprinkled back down to everyone on the floor. It was a surprise to hear Bonnie and Clyde as a mid-set track, but it served as an hors d'oeuvre to Friendly Advice, which lit up the room. Following Pup Tent, Dean took jabs at Sean, claiming that he imbibed much of the vodka in the dressing room. These accusations of waywardness have revealed the band’s propensity to find humor at the expense of each other – at least for Dean and Sean. It’s even better that they share it with the crowd, as in Dean’s claim at Southpaw that Sean exhibited some type of infatuation with his Helmut Lang jeans while on tour last year.
Since people were requesting songs, R.J. Dempsey of Galaxie 500/Luna mailing list fame called for Season of the Witch, to which Dean replied, “We’ve already played Bewitched Sir.” Another person appealed for Romantica, also dashed by Dean who said that they didn’t really know it too well except for practice – that they hadn’t ever done it live. However, Luna did Romantica for the first time live at Southpaw in August 2002. That night, Britta had to ask two guys to quiet down their loud drunken conversation while the band winded into the song. However, much to the dismay of most Luna fans, gabbing girls and guys have become commonplace at shows.
The version of Black Postcards played at the Troc had to be the highlight with it’s pulsing guitars and wallowing rhythm that faded in/out for countless minutes. It nearly eclipsed 23 Minutes in Brussels in time, which followed up Bobby Peru in the first encore. A surprise second encore included Indian Summer, and to the amazement and delight of all in the club, the band returned (maybe not willingly but obligingly) for a third encore of Everybody’s Talkin’.
Two hours after the show had started, we bade farewell to some friends and departed Chinatown, which was now eerily quiet and deserted. We then spent the next hour or two regurgitating what we had just seen over cheap beers at the divine hangout, Ministry of Information.