This past Friday was the first Friday of the month, which means it was time for another edition of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles' First Friday concert series. Each first Friday of the month, the Museum hosts an evening of concerts, lectures from a variety of scientific experts on any number of subjects, drinks, and, of course, the opportunity to explore the museum freely. Performers of past First Fridays have included Atlas Sound, tUnE-yArDs, and Neon Indian. June 2011's offering was headlined by soft rock supergroup Gayngs and Vancouver lo-fi psychobilly act Dirty Beaches.
Gayngs, a group who consists of members such as Har Mar Superstar, The Rosebuds singer Ivan Howard, and all of folk rockers Megafaun, among others (occasional member Justin Vernon of Bon Iver was not part of the touring band this time around), were wrapping up an unexpected victory lap of sorts that was highlighted by a closing set at night one of Coachella and a victory in a lawsuit involving a van rental company who had ran off all of Gayngs' instruments, causing the band to miss their set at Austin City Limits last year. The band was awarded with more than $100,000 in damages thanks to winning the lawsuit.
The band was in noticeably high spirits (despite a faulty microphone that bugged Har Mar during the first half of Friday night's set) and seemed genuinely excited to play such a unique venue surrounded by animals who had apparently donated their bodies to science for the museum. Gayngs, who employ up to ten different musicians to play their songs live, come off as a sort of sexier, soft rock Arcade Fire. The band is represented by members who hail from places are far-ranging as Minneapolis, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Los Angeles. The great Ryan Olson, who is technically the bandleader but lets the rest of his MVPs in the band take center stage, is not only the mastermind behind Gayngs but also leads the mysterious experimental electronic troupe Marijuana Deathsquads, who blew away audiences earlier this year during a residency at Los Angeles venue The Satellite.
Gayngs' hour-long set was highlighted by a Sade cover (sung by the lovely Channy Moon-Casselle), the excellent cover of the 1985 Godley & Creme cut "Cry" which appears on Gayngs' 2010 LP Relayted, and other Relayted standouts such as "Faded High" (one of For Young Moderns' favorite tracks of 2010), "The Gaudy Side of Town", and closer "Last Prom on Earth".
(Gayngs' logo and 'Relayted' album cover)
Perhaps the true Most Valuable Player in all of Gayngs is saxophonist Michael Lewis. Gayngs would be a completely different band if it weren't for his skills with the brass instrument. The saxophone has had a weird history in rock music, as it can be utilized with brilliance as often as it is utilized with complete cheesiness. Lewis, however, brought all of these songs to vibrant life with his pitch-perfect wailing, especially on songs like "The Gaudy Side of Town". Check it out in the video below:
Gayngs will return to Los Angeles for one last prom dance the weekend of August 27 for the Sunset Junction festival. If you missed out on this amazing sexy slow dance party music this time around, don't miss them in August, as it will be the last Gayngs show supporting Relayted, according to Har Mar Superstar himself.
Vancouver lo-fi/psychobilly/garage rocker Dirty Beaches opened up the show with a one-man band performance, playing songs from recent EPs and LPs, including this year's Badlands. Taiwan-born sole member of Dirty Beaches A garage lex Zhang Hungtai relies mainly on prerecorded percussion but plays his heavily distorted guitar and his equally distorted vocals live, resulting in an intense, intimate performance.
Hungtai crooned his way through a strong set of his haunting rockabilly-influenced jams, including one from his softer side, the piano-sampling "Lord Knows Best":
Dirty Beaches' recent LP Badlands, full of songs that sound like they could have been included in any Quentin Tarantino film, can be purchased HERE at Insound.