By: Greg Caruso
Plants and Animals :: 03.12.09 :: Echo :: Los Angeles, CA
Listening to Parc Avenue by Montreal based Plants and Animals, you would think the rich cornucopia of sounds being produced would require, at bare minimum, a sextet. You could only imagine my shock at seeing a trio bound onto the stage at Echo. That's what happens when you choose to see an up and coming band blindly with only the music as your navigational tool. So from the start, pleasant surprises were afoot.
The openers for the evening were local L.A. acts Avi Buffalo and Castledoor. Only catching the last half of Castledoor, they seemed to be a pretty fun bunch if you're into the pop drenched indie rock scene that seems to be overflowing in the streets of Los Feliz and Silverlake lately. Songs like "Burn the Maps" and "Dumpster Diving" had some of the crowd singing, with the rest scratching their heads, as they played a truncated version of Kanye West's "Heartless."
Switching between multiple guitars all night, and taking on keyboard duties as well, it was clear that Plants and Animals' Nicolas Basque was the outfit's most deftly astute musician. Not that the others were slouches. Drummer Matthew Woodleys' technique is extremely decisive to each song, switching between maracas, brushes and sticks to achieve what he needs for each composition - on top of harmonizing with the rest of the band. Warren Spicers' vocal accomplishments in a live setting were quite astounding, especially his range on "New Kind of Love." At times throughout the number, he would step back from the mic while singing in order to get that fading feeling most vocalists leave behind in the studio. Range like that can be quite hard to find these days, especially live. And his lyrics are powerful, too: "Like a child, we get hungry and restless and wicked and wild."
Parc Avenue is an exceptionally prolific album full of layered textural sounds, instrumentation and amazing lyricism, but seeing Plants and Animals live and hearing how they can maintain their unique sound as a three-piece is truly remarkable. During the hypnotic rhythms of "Mercy" is where the band grasped hold of the half full Echo. Both Basque and Spicer exchanged dueling leads with Woodley keeping the frenetic pace throughout. A good portion of their songs, like the aforementioned "Mercy" as well as "Faerie Dance" and "Guru," have breakdowns where each member takes the song elsewhere entirely. With each tune their playing gets very exploratory. During "Guru" they paid homage to Nina Simone by interjecting the lyrics and riffs of "Sinnerman."
This was a special show, the rare variety where you simply don't know what to expect. Plants and Animals are a band to really keep a close eye on. Definitely catch them if they come around your area.
Plants and Animals tour dates available here.
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