By: Lindsay Colip
West Indian Girl :: 01.31.09 :: Bottom of the Hill :: San Francisco, CA
"Let the music go through your bones" suggests Robert James as he stands alone on stage, strumming his guitar, inspecting the crowd in front of him. Gray topped and bearded, the lead singer-guitarist of Los Angeles-based band West Indian Girl looks like he belongs with The Who or The Rolling Stones and not necessarily with the bandmates who will soon be joining him on stage. The other five members are an eclectic mix, including co-founder bassist Francis Ten, sultry vocalist Mariqueen Maandig, drummer Mark Lewis and keys players Nathan Van Hala and Amy White. These musicians all have a distinct look and feel, not necessarily making sense as a visual whole, but upon hearing the first song it becomes obvious that this is a family in perfect harmony. A family Sophia Coppola or Wes Anderson would covet.
From start to finish, their San Francisco performance felt like an epic journey impossible to ignore. It was like they opened up their 1973 VW sliding van door and invited the audience along for an incredible trip of reflection and feeling - a trip that thoughtfully ebbed and flowed, with compelling drums and convincing synthesizers, demanding our absorption and then letting us sit quietly in the post orgasm afterthought of it all. With a perfect mix of catchy lyrics, spotless harmonies, strong rhythms, and plenty of heart, West Indian Girl left everyone in the audience wanting more. And even though Maandig's voice was suffering from a cold, she still hit goosebump-producing notes with intensity and fury.
Watching them belt out each song felt like witnessing the life of a relationship, from inception to demise to reconciliation. At times they seemed completely enamored with each other, at other moments like they were fighting a deep and painful battle, and still during other segments they seemed beautifully indifferent. The end result was exhaustion infused with love; they truly poured it out for their fans. The songs they played from the newer album, 4th & Wall, ranged from poppy dance hits to driving ballads, but were all accompanied by the familiar lilting voices and hallucinatory keys that their self-titled debut album delivered. By the end of their emotional and engaging set, it looked as if the audience took Robert James' suggestion, as if they had a choice.
Here's the video for "To Die In L.A." off their most recent release.
West Indian Girl - To Die In L.A. from milan records on Vimeo.
JamBase | The Bay
Go See Live Music!