Text & Photos by Matthew Grant Anson
Sundays are weird days for shows – they bring out a strange hodgepodge of people who either don’t have work or school the next day or do but don’t care. Combine that with King Dude’s already peculiar fanbase, and you had the perfect recipe of strangeness at Los Angeles’ The Echo Sunday, March 31st. King Dude, accompanied by Of The Wand & The Moon and A Story of Rats brought the tunes to match, together providing a unique and off-the-wall combination of neo-folk, drone, and everything in between.
A Story of Rats began the proceedings with ten lit candles, distorted vocals, driving drums, and bwwoooonnnggggg-ing bass feedback. This amounted to their entire set…they either played one long song or multiple songs with no breaks in between; it was hard to tell. The audience for the most part didn’t know what to make of the act, so far removed from King Dude’s sound they were. A Story of Rats had at least five build ups where it seemed as if the music was about to crescendo and transform into something, only to peter out into nothingness like a 4th of July bottle rocket that’s reached the apex of its flight. Drone music isn’t for the faint of heart, and it takes a particularly warped mind to appreciate the intricacies that are (probably, hopefully) hidden beneath the repetition and the feedback. Needless to say, that type of audience just wasn’t at The Echo that night.
Of The Wand & The Moon was much more up the audience’s alley, made up entirely of acoustic guitar, sorrowful vocals, and sparse drums. The ambient folk music of Denmark’s Kim Larsen brought something of a melancholic doom feel, the only draw back being a sound where songs sounded overly similar to those not familiar with the Dane’s work. Fortunately, most of the audience clearly was at home with the acoustic strumming and soft vocals, and gave Kim warm and deserved applause after each track.
But clearly, this show was about King Dude. The Seattle based TJ Cowgill project was by far the highlight of the night, as he brought the most varied version of neo-folk to The Echo’s stage, and some extremely amusing stage banter between songs, at least when he wasn’t taking long swigs from a bottle of Jim Beam. Cowgill’s voice – and this will sound strange – sounds something like the voice of one of those old, lifelong smoker ladies you see on anti-smoking PSAs on TV. And that’s in a good way. It adds something of a rustic, earthy appeal to his sound. Cowgill covered a lot of ground between songs; “This is the most people we’ve ever played in front of…there must be like 700 of you.” (there weren’t). “We’re recording a new record in the next few weeks, so we’re gonna play some new songs so you can just tell us now if we shouldn’t waste our time recording these.” The self deprecating humor, as well as his generosity with the Jim Beam to those up front, was the perfect match for the music, and this was hammered home even further when Cowgill brought out Chelsea Wolfe to the stage to sing a few songs with him, by far the highlight of the night.
The drone and folk of this Sunday would probably be a strange occurrence almost anywhere else in the world, but this was Los Angeles…this was The Echo. Nothing out of the ordinary here.