Friday Night: Living Suns, Union Line, Steelwells, Rye Douglas Band at House of Blues

The Hype: Some of Orange County's most drooled-about bands come together in a high-profile venue. Who has been drooling over these bands? Plenty of fans and, well, us! We've spotlighted all these groups: Living Suns here, the Union Line here, the Steelwells here, the Rye Douglas Band here, and Moostache (which we sadly missed) here.  

The Show: I'm not sure if I should call Fullerton's Living Suns the headliner, but they were the last act. Headliner or not, they served as something of an ear-rending palette cleanser. The acts before them came with a touch of indie fussiness; the outstanding trait for the Suns, though, is a kind of psychedelic shagginess. The songs chug and wander and thrum, accented with violin, sitar and occasionally downshifting into a heavy guitar breakdown. Sometimes, all that chugging/wandering/thrumming got boring. Or at least, it must have gotten boring for the random greasers in the audience who decided halfway through the set to start hurling themselves into one another, the presence of fragile indie chicks nearby be damned. Mostly, though, the band hypnotized.

San Juan Capistrano's the Union Line told the Weekly a few months ago that their goal was to be on Conan before 2010. While it looks like they might not hit that target, they certainly seemed worthy of bigger things on Saturday. After all, Grizzly Bear's meteoric rise over the past year started with a Conan appearance–and if you squint a little, the Union Line sound a lot like Grizzly Bear. The harmonies aren't as pronounced, but they're present. The percussion toddles and swoons. The vocals are operatic, winding, a little old-time-y. It made for a dynamic, pretty performance. Their opening number, which featured the singer working a cowbell, sounded an awful lot like the Talking Heads. Yeah, the Union Line became downright danceable.

The Steelwells' got a little dancey too, which is sort of surprising given how quickly you can peg them once you hear Joseph Winter's emotive, yelpy delivery and the band's shimmery acoustic-electric sound. They're a lyrics band. But at House of Blues Anaheim, the percussion seemed to drive the show. It got heads moving. It's just too bad that Winters got a little lost in the mix.

As was the case last time. I walked in for the tail end of the Rye Douglas Band's set just in time to catch the group covering Radiohead's “Paranoid Android.” The four-piece's well-crafted, smartly atmospheric songs really benefit from a venue like House of Blues: Each sonic piece–from the placid organ tones to the big, high-voiced hooks–formed a winning synthesis.

The crowd: Pretty good turnout. The pit in front of the stage was packed for part of the night, and there was good circulation between the venue's strategically placed, criminally overpriced bars (seriously, $9 for a PBR tall boy!?). As with a lot of high-profile local shows, the crowd seemed diverse largely by virtue of the fact that each band probably brought a good number of friends and family. I saw a few balding dads and scarf-wearing moms in the audience. Mostly, though, the people there were what you'd expect: dudes in flannel, girls in boots, plastic eyeglasses abounding.

Overheard: “Come on, this isn't a hardcore show,” pleaded a guy trying to banish the surprisingly rowdy mosh pit that inexplicably started up during the Living Suns' set.

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