Saturday, February 17, 2007

Astra, Earthless, and Red Sparowes at the Casbah, San Diego February 16, 2007

It's midway through February and finally went to my first gig of the year. On the bill was Astra, Earthless with headliners Red Sparowes. I had never heard of Astra prior to that night but apparently they used to go by Silver Sunshine until their lineup and sound changed. Both them and Earthless are bands local to San Diego with Red Sparowes up the road in L.A.

The previous times I've been to the Casbah there was a line out front waiting for the doors to open but this time there wasn't one. I though there might be a low turnout but eventually folks showed up. They started about 30-40 minutes late with Astra taking the stage first.

Astra reminded me a bit of less instense/noisey version of Comets On Fire with huge influence on psychedelic and progressive rock bands like King Crimson, Pink Floyd and Hawkwind. The dummer was impressive on the kit and also doubled on flute (sometimes going through an effects box with it, hence the Hawkwind comparison). Along with a bassist and guitarist/singer was a keyboard player (Moog and mellotron) who also did backing vocals and played lead guitar. I enjoyed their ~50 minute set and am looking forward to their debut album. Nice to see there are some decent bands in San Diego these days.

Next up was Earthless, another band from San Diego. This was my second time seeing them (and certainly not the last) and they are loud power trio that played a ~45 minute set that contained all of one "song". With a some fuzzy, Geezer Butler-esque bass playing, manic drumming and some lead guitar playing that's a mix between Hendrix and Makoto Kawabata, it was nice to hear some new material from them. There was a bit less guitar soloing than the previous gig but the bass playing was more varied.

About ten till midnight Red Sparowes finally hit the stage with their three guitarists, bassist/pedal steel guitar player and dummer. Perhaps the because its such a small venue or the equipment isn't great, but the with all those guitars the sound was very muddy. While the wall of guitars was great and the bass thudding against your chest, the beautiful melodies they create were sometimes lost in the mix. I would have like to see more pedal steel playing and less of the three guitar attack. But as the set progressed the band really started clicking and had some very hypnotic and powerful moments of brilliance.

It was a nice gig overall despite running later than I'm used to and the fact that I forgot to bring ear plugs and I'm still paying the price with ringing in my ears a day later.

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