Last Night: Azure Ray, Tim Kasher, Janu and the Whalesharks at the Glass House, Pomona; July 18, 2009.
Better than: The quesadilla at nearby Juan Pollo (seriously, it's not very good).
Snubbed song: "New Resolution," from Azure Ray's 2003 record Hold On Love.
Brought back to life after nearly six years of multiple solo projects and collaborations (see Doug Wallen's article from last week's Weekly), LA-by-way-of-Omaha-by-way-of-Athens dream-pop duo Azure Ray returned to Southern California Saturday night in fine form, even if not a lot of people were around to see it.
Despite an exceptional lineup that also included a solo acoustic set from Cursive/the Good Life frontman Tim Kasher and Orange County's Janu and the Whalesharks, the show filled just about a third of the 800-capacity Glass House. A couple of conclusions can be reached from that: fans had forgotten about Azure Ray (unlikely, given the prodigious output of both Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink in the interim years), Azure Ray never had a Glass House-sized fanbase in this area anyway (possibly?) or that folks already got their reunion fix at the November 30 show last fall at the Troubadour (if true, lame).
But the distinguished group that did show up Saturday were informed that despite the (amicable) time apart, Taylor and Fink have seamlessly returned to collective mode. Drawing nearly entirely from 2001's Azure Ray and 2003's Hold On Love (2002's Burn and Shiver was conspicuously skipped) the smaller crowd led an immediacy to already intimate songs like opener "Sleep" (sung primarily by Taylor and later used on the soundtrack of The Devil Wears Prada) and the clearly remorseful "The Drinks We Drank Last Night."
Of course, seeing Azure Ray perform is a very peaceful experience. The band went without drums for their first four songs, until the bouncy (by their standards) "If You Fall." Matching their music, Taylor and Fink showed a remarkable calm and stillness on stage, dispensing polite "thank yous" and some brief, occasional small talk, but only really coming to life early in the set when Fink's MacBook, providing some computer-generated sonic accompaniment, fell off the speaker it was resting on.
Azure Ray's live band was pretty much a Saddle Creek all-star team, with every member having strong ties to the vaunted indie label: Taylor and Fink, sure, but also keyboard player Nick White, from Tilly and the Wall, who are on Team Love, a label owned by Saddle Creek poster boy and founder Conor Oberst (Nick White has also toured with Bright Eyes); bassist Tod Wisenberger of Whispertown 2000 (yep, they've toured with Bright Eyes, and Taylor herself); and Now It's Overhead frontman/recent Perez Hilton subject Andy LeMaster. The encore began with a cover of a Now It's Overhead song, "Blackout Curtain" from the band's 2001, self-titled debut.
Tim Kasher was perhaps the biggest Saddle Creek star of the evening, given his two bands are both on the label--one of which, Cursive, has been on the imprint since 1998. Saturday, though, Kasher was all by himself and his acoustic guitar, doing tunes like "A New Friend" by the Good Life, and trying out new material, one of which contained the line "the world don't revolve around your prick." (Kasher shared that he's thinking about calling that one "Is It Something I Lost").
South County's Janu and the Whalesharks opened; read our recent Locals Only on them here.
Personal bias: It wasn't until the fourth song that I realized it was pretty weird for a dude (me) to be as pumped for this show as I was.
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Random detail: Taylor and Fink both wore dresses from the Geronimo collection by Jenny Reyes, who was in attendance at the show.
By the way: Before Azure Ray's reunion show at the Troubadour, they performed on one of Nic Harcourt's last Morning Becomes Eclectic shows.
Azure Ray set list:
"Safe & Sound"
"The Drinks We Drank Last Night"
"If You Fall"
"Beautiful Things Can Come From the Dark"
"These White Lights Will Bend to Make Blue"
"Don't Make a Sound"
"Hold On Love"
"Blackout Curtain" (Now It's Overhead)
New song (Taylor singing lead, containing lyrics "underneath a quilted sky")
New song (Fink singing lead, containing lyrics "always know the touch of your hand")