Last Night: The Bird and the Bee, Melanoid, Stacy Clark at the Yost Theatre, Santa Ana, Feb. 26, 2009.
Better than: Breaking into the Yost during its dormant period and attempting to put on your own show. Folks, that's illegal, and also pretty weird.
Best fashion choice: The bow on Bird and the Bee singer Inara George's retro-chic black and white dress.
Aside from a few–well, quite a few–snags with the sound during the Bird and the Bee's headlining set, the first show at the historic Yost Theatre (they might as well just add the word “historic” to the name so it always appears before it in print) in downtown Santa Ana since November's Sound Downtown was successful by any reasonable definition: good tunes, healthy attendance and a general pleased feeling over what Dennis Lluy's Koo's Inc. has done with the nearly century-old theater.
Lluy took control of the theater back in October (more details are here), and even since Sound Downtown, the place has improved–the lighting on the stage gives a “big concert feel,” and several rows of seats have been taken out to allow more room for standing, officially making it more of a live music venue than a “theater.” Seeing locals like Melanoid on their stage gave them a larger-than-life type of presence that these acts aren't often afforded. More improvements are to come, too, like improving the lighting of the venue's lobby.
It's pretty novel that such an old space has so much exciting potential. Some have groused that it spells gentrification for downtown Santa Ana, but giving the area music and culture really cannot be a bad thing, and it's quite a refreshing feeling to see a show at an actual downtown area rather than a strip mall. It would be cool, though, if more nearby restaurants and businesses were open late at night on the days of shows-there were a lot of people standing around outside after the show that didn't seem to know what to do with themselves.
And there were a good number of people there, shiftless or not. It's a large venue, so there were a lot of empty seats and space to move around, but still an encouraging turn out for the first show at the Yost in months.
As far as the actual music goes (fairly important, I suppose), Fullerton's Melanoid was celebrating a milestone of their own, as this was the album release show for their Asleep in the Wake. The band, in reality a solo project from singer/songwriter John Hanson, sounded rich and full, gifting the big room with heartfelt vocals. Don't sleep on the rest of his crew, including a bass player that utilized an upright (upright bass used in a non-rockabilly band = always a treat).
LA's space pop dup The Bird and the Bee headlined (kind of weird for an album release show to be an opening gig, but whatev), and singer/sometime guitarist George remained her usual charming self, either when encouraging fans to do the Electric Slide or going back and forth with the sound guy as to why her guitar wasn't making any noise (y'know, with musical instruments, making noise is pretty important). But she was most impressed by the knowledge of the fans in attendance, who sang along and threw out names of tracks they wanted to hear next.
“It's fun to have people know your lyrics,” she said. Greg Kurstin–the titular “bee” and multi-instrumentalist–didn't really have much to say, but held up his end of the bird and the bee equation.
Songs like “Fucking Boyfriend,” from their 2007 self-titled full-length debut, and the absolutely joyous “Love Letter to Japan,” from last month's follow-up Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future highlighted their set, before closing things out with “I'm a Broken Heart” and their cover of the Bee Gees standard “How Deep Is Your Love.”
Personal Bias: I've thought the Bird and the Bee were pretty keen ever since George tried to help my friend find a better place to see the stage while they were opening up for Rilo Kiley in fall 2007, at a venue with no disabled seating.
Random Detail: A lot of the wooden arm rests on the seats seemed to be randomly missing. One set of two was actually sitting on its chair. But splinters are pretty good motivation to get up and move around during a show, so it all works out.
By the Way: Check out the Yost's schedule here.