Better Than: Being at the RNC Download: The song "Ageless" on www.myspace.com/freemoralagents
As I walked into the balmy darkness of this hallowed Long Beach hangout, the crowd seemed even more cramped than usual. Sure, a late night set by freestyle jam junkies The Free Moral Agents probably had something to do with that. Or it could have been the shitload of drunken locals who had just stepped off The Long Beach Loop, last night's dry land booze cruise. Either way, the air was thick with laughter, shouting and the fragrance of firewater as I shuffled toward the stage.
Around 11:30 p.m. or so, keyboardist/beatsmith/tireless musician Ikey Owens had pretty much gotten all the Agents assembled for an intimate set. The green floodlights on stage revealed all the usual suspects of The Free Moral Agent roster, including one of the bartenders, Reid Kinnet, who injected some sonic background haze and synth work to the mix. Sounds like a pretty sweet gig right? Bar tender by night, rocker by late night.
As the crowd pushed up to the lip of the small stage, the band launched into their rhythm-heavy brand of jazz injected jams. Vocalist Mendee Ichikawa's meandering spook sounds and reckless screams spread over the top like a watery glue that dried slowly and held everything together.
To my disappointment, I don't think I heard anything from the band's debut disc Everybody's Favorite Weapon. Even so, newer songs like "Dragon Prow" and "Aravand" sounded amazing live with just the right amount of insanity booming from Ryan Reiffs drum kit. Bassist Dennis Owens, guitarist Jesse Cazerello and Owens synched up the funk tighter than a James Brown tribute band.
One thing that never fails about this band is their ability to build up the ambiance of a song until you almost pee in your pants waiting for the bass and drums to kick in and then SLAM! they hit you with it. A prime example of this was the song "When I Smile" one of the songs the band used to cap off their well received set. The sonic jangle of Carzello's guitar gives way to the soft vocals of Ichikawa and Owens just before you get slapped with a fat futuristic beat right across the cheek.
By the time the set ended, most of the passengers on The Long Beach Loop had cleared out, re-boarding the bus to go terrorize Alex's Bar or something. And while the prospect of having a bus carry me around drunk all over Long Beach sounds like fun and probably was, I'm glad I got to see Owens and company in action for the whole set.
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Random Detail: Did I mention the bartender at The Prospector was in the band?
Personal Bias: I like loud music and liquor shoved in my face simultaneously
By the Way: Checkout another one of Ikey Owens' projects, Look Daggers, at The We The People Festival coming up Sept. 27