Friday we flew to California to spend a weekend visiting my great-aunt and cousin, and to see my brother's band (The Out Crowd) play. They're opening for The Dandy Warhols on this leg of the Dandys' American tour. I was really looking forward to seeing my baby brother being a real rock star...
The show was at the Avalon, near the corner of Hollywood & Vine (which I'm told is something special). The club itself is nothing special from the outside, but the interior - even in the dim lights of a rock and roll show - is beautiful. It's apparently been re-done recently, and is an art deco wonderland. There's a huge medallion in the center of the ceiling, an arched effect over the stage, and the balcony is essentially an art installment. There are at least four bars around the perimeter of the main floor (because, really, who wants to walk more than ten feet for a beer?), and a grand central staircase leading to the balcony. It's really quite something.
(As an aside, it had taken us nearly 1.5 hours to drive to the show from our hotel in Marina del Rey - an inordinately long time for a relatively short distance. I managed to not get stressed out by the situation, however, by reminding myself that L.A.'s traffic is, arguably, one of the city's more famous "sights." I would have been disappointed had I not seen it.)
We bumped into brother Caleb out front as we were walking in, and again on the main floor before his band took the stage. He promised to come out after their set to see if he could get us backstage. We eased our way into the growing crowd to watch The Out Crowd perform.
The Out Crowd onstage
The band was fabulous - and I'm not just saying that because I'm the big sister. Really. I hadn't been overly thrilled with what I'd heard at Dante's the week before (and blamed it mostly on the unnecessary loudness), but this was an entirely different experience. The sound was incredible, the band was tight, and the songs were fantastic. The gathering crowd, clearly there for the Dandys, was really into the band by their fourth song. Caleb had said they were winning over every crowd they'd seen up to that point, and it's easy to see why. (For some better pictures of The Out Crowd live, check out these from the Seattle show on November 14th.)
Brother Caleb, a portrait in blue
After their set, we meandered back to wait for Caleb's reappearance and we watched the crowd get bigger. The place was sold out, and jam-packed. Caleb came out to find us just as the Dandys were starting their fourth song, and brought us backstage. The "backstage" there is actually to one side of the stage ("stage right" is as you're looking at the stage from the audience, right?), and is two stories - there's a balcony overlooking the stage, and that's where we watched the rest of the Dandys' fantastic show.
The Dandy Warhols, as seen from the backstage balcony. Drummer Brent was mostly hidden from our vantage point behind a curtain. Guitarist Pete was at the end closest to us, but was moving so much he's often a blur. Here, you can basically only see his feet. The trumpet player came and went, depending on the song.
When I was in a band in the mid-1990s, the Dandys had just gotten signed to Capitol Records. My band was at a Portland club one night when the whispers began, "Courtney's here!" We finally saw him, wearing a Capitol Records T-shirt. I swear, every time I saw him that year he was wearing that damned T-shirt. For that reason alone, I decided I didn't like him. I'd never met him, nor did I know anything about him, and I'd like to think his choice of wardrobe was nothing more than his way of showing his excitement. For a struggling band like ours, however, it felt like a nasty reminder of our lowly status.
I never bought a Dandys CD (though I always liked the songs I heard on the radio), and I'd never seen them live. Then brother Caleb got to know Courtney, and become good friends with him. And then this tour came up, and our trip to L.A. - and frankly, I was expecting to have a good time but to not be enthusiastic about the Dandys' show. Not only did I have a great time, I thoroughly enjoyed the Dandys' live show.
The Dandys, and some of their adoring fans.
After the show, we hung out on the balcony with brother Caleb while the Dandys got offstage. Then there were many introductions to be made. I was happy to finally meet The Out Crowd, and to see firsthand what Caleb has been saying - that they're all great friends. There was such intermingling of the two bands that it was hard to tell who was with who. After awhile, Caleb spotted Courtney walking through the crowd and called him over. Courtney, like most rock stars, has a walk - a strut, really - that is the physical manifestation of his rock star persona. He does the strut onstage, and I wasn't surprised to see him doing it backstage, either. I was, however, surprised by what came next.
Courtney strutted over to us, and Caleb said, "Courtney, this is my sister." Courtney's face absolutely lit up - there's no other way to describe it. He smiled a big, genuine smile, and shook my hand. We chatted about another mutual friend, a guy I went to high school with who's now a video editor working with the Dandys. It was a fleeting moment, a brief exchange, but so unexpectedly pleasant that I immediately took back every negative thing I'd ever said about him.
When it came time for the after-party to move to an off-site location, we gave Caleb, his keyboardist Sarah Jane, and the Dandys' Greek trumpet player Achilles (I'm completely serious) a ride. Achilles in particular was surprised that we weren't joining them at the after party. It was by this point about 1:30am on Saturday, and we'd gotten up at 5am Friday and hadn't gotten a nap in the afternoon, so we were pretty beat. We hesitated briefly about whether to stay, but ultimately decided that exhaustion won out. Besides, despite our best efforts to fit in, we felt pretty old and out of our element and neither of us were sure we wanted to prolong that feeling. I gave Caleb a huge hug goodbye, promised Achilles we would come to the Portland shows at the end of the tour, and drove away.
So, I hereby recommend that each and every one of you in the Portland Metro area buy a ticket to the Portland show (there are two, but only one of them also has The Out Crowd - I think it's December 13 at the Wonder Ballroom, but double check for yourself). These bands are great, and there's nothing like a hometown show. C'mon, Achilles will be pleased.