Crammed in a small hole in the wall just south of the Tenderloin, Gardens & Villa‘s performance at Rickshaw Stop on Thursday was a burgeoning band at its best. Still coveting a small, but devoted, following in the indie scene, the down-to-earth group is on the brink of stardom and notoriety with upcoming gigs to promote their eponymous debut all over the United States, including sets at both Coachella and Sasquatch!. The secret to their momentous rise through the music world? The fact that their sound and their attitude still possess all of the Californian idiosyncrasies that make these Santa Barbara natives the real fucking deal.
The band members are lead vocalist and guitarist Chris Lynch, vocalist and bassist Shane McKillop, Levi Hayden on drums, and Adam Rasmussen and Dusty Ineman on synths, percussions, piano, and background vocals. With an oath to always play all parts of their songs live, the sincerity and talent they each possess is only too apparent when performing. They have reincarnated the love and prevail of the live show, that magic that makes seeing a band live like a reawakening, a new understanding, of the album’s original intoxication.
“Black Hills” and “Orange Blossom” were performance highlights, with “Black Hills” creating all of the magnetism of the original. With Ineman’s shakers aloft and rhythmic, each member nodding to the captive beat, Lynch wailed the lyrics longingly into the microphone. Members of the crowd stood paralytic, hypnotized. “Orange Blossom” was an illustrative ending to the set, its live mix elaborately executed and packing far more funk and punch than the album. The song’s chorus, which features flute accompaniments along with the infamous “pheromones take me home” lyric line, made this a subtle, yet sexually charged, rendition.
Though Consequence of Sound writer Austin Trunick deemed the band’s debut effort as “a real snoozer” back in June 2011, Garden & Villa’s live performance translated their laid-back, melancholic sound into a resonating and invigorating experience. Understanding the band’s sound as something more akin to Beach House and even The Beatles, rather than as “forced abstract” or misguided indie, thus reveals the spirit and direction with which they’ve composed their music.
Personally, when I first heard Gardens & Villa’s album in November 2011, I predicted then that they would be one of the biggest bands of 2012. Last year’s chillwave was shallow, but Garden & Villa’s “flute folk” exhibits a whole new level of depth and complicated imagery. It is their flute solos, with that touch of mysticism and tribalism, of surfer rock and stoned sunsets, that gave soul to their show on Thursday, and I predict that they will be equally as charismatic at this year’s big festivals.