Psapp, Juana Molina, and Jose Gonzalez
The El Rey Theatre
June 16, 2006
Before I went to this show, I looked up all three of the bands on MySpace. It’s one of the top ten most common things to do on the Internet nowadays, right alongside Googling your boss or changing your relationship status to “Single” when you’re mad at your boyfriend. Everybody does it. Now imagine my surprise when I visited www.myspace.com/psapp and saw that the band’s Top 8 was filled with pictures of…cats? And under the “About Us” section it read, “we quite like cats, also snakes, stickers, mess and bad puns.”
So I should’ve known what to expect when I saw them open for Jose Gonzalez at the El Rey last Friday night. I thought the Top 8 thing was just them trying to be cute so that more people would add them as a friend. But no. This band (and especially lead singer Galla Durant) is obsessed with felines. And toy instruments. No, I’m not talking about Jack White playing a Fisher Price guitar. I’m talking about actual toy instruments. It was like they had robbed a day care center.
Psapp is essentially a duet made up of singer/cat hand puppet/stuffed animal turkey/violinist Durant and acoustic/electric/toy guitarist Carim Clasmann. They were joined by three other musicians at Friday’s performance who manned the synthesizer/bass guitar, violin, and keyboards. In between random mentions of cats, the band played upbeat experimental rock with violin solos, synthesizer riffs, and the occasional solo from (I’m not kidding about this) toy animals that made noises when you squeezed them. And they all had names, which I unfortunately did not write down. Durant also informed the audience that it was their second show ever in LA and that “we just took pictures of our arses and stuck them all over Shakira posters!” Needless to say, the crowd loved them.
I got the impression that most of the audience was really there to see the next act, Argentinian singer Juana Molina. She wore a purple outfit with white polka dots and looked more like an elementary school teacher than a multi-talented musician. Her set-up consisted of an acoustic guitar, a synthesizer, a keyboard, and 4 gongs. The performance reminded me of Feist in that she would loop the sound of her voice and guitar through a delay pedal and then layer percussive beats straight from the keyboard. Sometimes she added so many layers that it sounded like there were 3 of her in the house, and it was amazing that one person could make all that noise. The only reason I ever wanted her set to end was so that the guy next to me would stop dancing and flailing his arms into my left side.
My friend and I managed to push our way to the front of the stage for Jose Gonzalez’ set and ended up standing next to some college guys who were trying to hit on a group of high school girls. I was thankful when Jose came on, not only because his music is good but because I didn’t have to listen to said college guy say things like “you look like the artistic type” anymore.
All of the songs lasted for 2 minutes or less so he only played for about a half hour. He played 7 songs from the recently re-released Veneer and closed with a new song that he called “Hot In LA,” a reference to the ridiculous amount of body heat in the theatre. He opened with the low chords of “Deadweight on Velveteen” and the audience was visibly into it by the time he got to his signature fingerpicking. He played a percussive groove by hitting the body of the acoustic guitar at the end of “All You Deliver” and it looked like his days as a bassist in a Swedish hardcore band were serving him well. The audience yelled “Jose!” and “I love you!” after almost every song but he seemed shy and unfazed by their reactions. Finally someone yelled “turn the vocals up!” before “Lovestain” and the vocals were turned way up, so that there was a good amount of reverb and echo for the rest of the set.
We all assumed that he would close with “Heartbeats” but he finished “Hot In LA,” stood up and thanked everyone with a friendly wave. He finally came back about two minutes later and played “Heartbeats” and another short new song. During the encore, I heard annoying-college-guy say to underage-high-school-girl, “This guy’s awesome!” And I couldn’t agree more.