In our coverage of Sasquatch, someone noted that all the reviews were overtly positive. This is best explained by the fact that the vast majority of concerts that writers attend are of bands or artists that are somewhat established. Its expected that they live up to a certain level of performance standards to make it in music professionally. There are the exceptions of a band getting big too fast or a major technical malfunction that can make for an awful show, though the biggest culprit comes in liquid, powders or pills. Well, Junip came to the neighborhood of Eagle Rock on Wednesday to play a show of mostly unheard new material to a group of fans who were primarily in attendance based on the quality (and dreeeeeeaminess) of singer Jose Gonzales‘ solo work.
Since 2005, Junip’s shows together include the prior week and, before that, only scattered appearances that you can count on one hand. But, though the show felt like a complete waste of time, the band sounded tight and I am pretty convinced the full length album will be pretty good when it’s released later this summer. “Rope and Summit”, their opening number, already places a pretty high bar, and the other new tunes offered arrangements that were global sounding without being inaccessible, and Gonzalez’ melodies are just what you’d expect, meaning they were strong and seemed like they would gain depth with further listening.
Now, I bet the reader must be saying “if the songs sounded good, how could the show be that bad?” Well, first of all, the songs didn’t sound that great; I could just tell they would probably sound good on record. Then there was the venue. The Eagle Rock Center for the Arts is located near Glendale in an artists district called Eagle Rock. In appearance, it is built like a mission. Now,because I have lived in California all my life, I forget that most people did not have to do a mission report in the third grade (mine was San Gabriel), but basically they look like old Taco Bells. Now, I had never been to this venue. Their website says they have a maximum capacity of 225, but this show was put on by The Echo, which is a bigger venue, so I guess this is a place to have shows with a unique vibe, where people order wine and discuss the gentrification of the area. And I also know that the venue’s seen its share of sold out shows. No Age played there last month, Yeasayer in January, and Dead Man’s Bones next week. But the acoustics are fair to poor, in that it gets really hollow and echo-ey, but it was not designed as a music venue, it was a library in 1914, the kind of place where you don’t want sound to travel well. The biggest drawback is that because Gonzalez sings with a bit of an accent, his lyrics were difficult and near impossible to decipher. But hard to make-out words are nothing new and I can only hold the acoustics responsible for so much. More of it was probably due to the fact that I couldn’t see the band, much less Gonzales’ lips.
Now, you wouldn’t expect that from a small venue. In a 225 person room, you’d expect everyone to be able to see. And I’m not just talking about having to move to see. I mean, there was no possible way for you to see the band. Now, I’m not going to rattle on about this and I’m sorry if it sounds harsh, I don’t like writing negative reviews but if a band isn’t going to give the crowd the proper respect to stand up when they play for them, so more than the 20 people in front and anyone standing over, well, I don’t really feel like wasting my time trying to justify why this happened. Was the band tired? A history of back problems? Either way, not until I saw the photos of Mr. Bloch did I discover what he looked like. No one could see the fucking band. How ridiculous is that? And how easy to fix. I didn’t stay for the encore I couldn’t see, but I heard that he acknowledged this problem then and waved his hand. So I would have gotten to see his hand. A few people were resourceful and climbed in the elevated window sills or sat on a narrow stairwell that went up to some offices, but a bunch of people just left.
If he was playing a lap-steel or the harp, it would be understandable, but even then, wouldn’t you make sure that the stage was high enough to be seen by everyone?
Even though a good amount did take off, I was amazed at how respectful and patient people were. Because I was pissed. I mean, people paying 20 bucks is one thing, but four hours, including the drive, is more valuable than that to me. So while I respect the music Jose Gonzalez has put out, I cannot really put any stamp of merit on this show. It was disrespectful to the audience and the people who work at various levels of promotion and media. So Junip, it’s not even our practice to give out stars or ratings for concerts, but I’m going to give you a half-star just to quantify how much this evening sucked. The half-star is for now knowing how to get to the venue, which will come in handy at least for next weeks Dead Mans Bones Show. Thanks Junip, you provided a good practice run for a later concert. That is all.
Photography by Jesse Bloch.