Photo by Matt OttoGerald Clayton
Steamers Caf, Fullerton
Friday, Dec. 5
During our many years on this beat, we've never, ever used the words "teenage" and "genius" in the same sentence (we know—we've Googled ourselves). To find true youthful genius, we're forced to genre-hop over to jazz, where we've heard many great things about Gerald Clayton, a 19-year-old phenom pianist, and goddamn if that ain't spot-on. Dreadlocked and dapper-suited, Clayton's fantastically spastic fingers danced all over the keyboard, bounding through New Orleans-laced boogie runs and souped-up-Ferrari-quick solos. His digits flew so fast that, were he handling a guitar and playing Chain Reaction instead of Steamers, he'd probably be playing in a speed-punk band (and he'd be its most talented, classiest member, natch). The real fun, though, was watching Clayton's face, consistently glowing throughout his first set with a huge, open-mouthed grin, as if even he couldn't quite believe his own kick-ass abilities. He threw himself fully into the music, bopping up and down on the piano stool, shaking his dreads in time, and, during a particularly transcendent passage of his self-penned "Simply Stated," banging out rolling-thunder sounds seemingly designed to get the crowd screaming (it worked, too; Clayton doesn't think much of jazz audiences who want to sit silently and listen). But while Clayton has a delicious penchant for zippy arrangements, his down-tempo moments are just as rewarding. After dismissing his trio, he laid down a heart-stoppingly eloquent solo that was like a lullaby wrapped inside a dream—absolutely flooring. We kinda sorta hate Clayton for being so damn young and gifted, but ultimately, we're really glad we could catch him in a smallish room like Steamers now, because he won't be working the club circuit for long. And, Buddha willing, he'll certainly never be reduced to providing background music for Nordstrom shoppers.
Over the Counter Intelligence/Bullet Train To Vegas/Isadora Crane
El Centro Cultural De Mexico, Santa Ana
Saturday, Dec. 6
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Despite a 6 p.m. start time and unforeseen circumstances that caused us to be tardy—it wasn't our fault, and the police report will prove it!—everything worked out because this Food Not Bombs benefit show didn't get going till close to 7 anyway (shoulda known; anarchists are never punctual). Seemed that everyone was waiting around for a drum kit, so we took note of the tiny-but-functional room festooned with leftover Day of the Dead decorations; the FNB info table loaded with beautifully-printed anti-corporate literature; the Black Panther videos spinning on the TV screen; the able DJ who made the lag time pass much quicker; and the 60 or so kids who came out for the gig. With the old building's musty aroma and the flaming cocktail of politics and punk, all we had to do was close our eyes, and it was like being in Koo's.
And nothing was more vintage-Koo's than the screamo supremo talents of Isadora Crane. More performance art than band, their string-bean lead shrieker went off like an irrepressible car alarm, running up to people and grabbing their heads and pulling them to within French-kiss distance and launching a big ol' WAAAAAAHHH!!!! right in their faces—and this was just in the first 30 seconds! Then he'd grab folding chairs and slam them to the ground and fall over himself, and it was messy and uncouth and idiotic and beautiful—music/art strictly for the sake of making a big noise and being heard. And nobody cared that none of the musicians faced the crowd or that their seemingly lyric-less songs had titles like "Shit Happens When You Party Naked." It was only the sweet, cathartic, throat-shredding moment that mattered. God, they were awful; God, they were brilliant.
We've been ambivalent about Bullet Train To Vegas before, but something about them clicked this night. Was it the one-two sonic punch of hooky melodies and thrashy, eardrum-crunching rhythms? Was it the afterglow of Isadora Crane? Was it the post-gig confirmation of the rumor we'd heard that one of their members was the guy who famously pelted Arnold Schwarzenegger with an egg a couple months ago? Yes, that was it! Well, only partly—the music was pretty good, even if their lead singer told us they had an off night.
Good thing we finally caught the much-loved Over the Counter Intelligence, because this was their last show ever—expect them to resurface with a new name soon, possibly as a funk band. This Counter was only three-fourths full, as their guitarist was MIA, but we still picked up enough vim and vitriol to properly pronounce their set as a perfectly lovely exit. (Rich Kane)