Words by: Justin Gillett | Images by: Eric Lawson
Fool's Gold :: 12.12.09 :: Great American Music :: San Francisco, CA
Trying to classify the Los Angles-based music collective Fool's Gold in any strict genre is nearly impossible. The group is somewhat of a rogue agent with genres, and it crisscrosses so many of them that it's almost unnecessary to apply any label to the band. At first listen, Fool's Gold can sound like a world music ensemble, because there's a significant amount of African rhythms and non-English vocals in many of the songs. But, at its core, Fool's Gold is a true-to-heart band that's intent on creating music void of any filter or inner critic.
The low profile band has largely spread its notoriety through word of mouth, as well as high-energy live shows and a recently released self-titled album. Helmed by bassist/vocalist Luke Top and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Lewis Pesacov (also of rock outfit Foreign Born), Fool's Gold has been gathering momentum on its home turf in Southern California as well as across the country with an impressive touring regime. Top was born in Israel to an Iraqi mother and Russian father – who moved the family to L.A. when Top was three - and Pesacov studied classical music theory under the avant-garde expatriate composers Mark Randal Osborn and Frank Cox in Berlin.
When Top and Pesacov started making music together a few years back they brought friends into their musical endeavors, starting a varied sounding collective of sorts. Since forming, the band has been honing its sound and employing a wide variety of unusual instruments including nut-rattles, axatse shell gourds, banana bells, ewe and other exotic sounding musical devices.
At Fool's Gold's recent performance in San Francisco at the Great American Music Hall the band demonstrated a level of uncontrived musical purity that's a rare find in many modern acts. The group opened up its show with the angelic sounding "Nadine," a song that brought to light the communal nature of the band immediately. Everyone onstage – especially the horn players – was locked in with one another and aware of what everyone was doing. From the tambourine shaker to Top, who was playing a bass and singing lead vocals, all the band members were very intent on contributing their part to the overarching music that was being created.
Some of the songs showcased Top's ability to sing in Hebrew, which seemed to add to the music's resignation. By singing in the native tongue of his birthplace, Top managed to perfectly express subtle themes in his music that might have gone unnoticed if he was performing them in English. Singing the songs with obvious heart in a language that's tied to a land full of tumultuous religious and social conflict, Top was able to touch on the tensions between cultural identity and the social mores surrounding it.
| Fool's Gold :: 12.12 :: San Francisco|
As the band played on it was clear that the group was not trying to unnecessarily impress anyone. Fool's Gold was playing great, but they were doing it for their own reasons. The band was not trying to fool anyone with faux musical stylings or gimmicky playing. The eight musicians onstage were in command of the music and were able to carry many of the songs into extended jams and trade around solos. Even though it can be said that Top is the defined frontman, he didn't draw a lot of attention to himself while the band played, which forced the audience to concentrate on the communal nature of the group instead of just a singular figure.
At one point the two drummers started battling it out. The percussion solo that followed was impressive, not because it was done by two of the band's drummers but because everyone in the band picked up something to bang on – be it cowbell, tambourine or whatever – and added to the collective rhythmic noise. This contribution, on behalf of everyone in the band, really added to the group's collective.
The group closed with the anthem-like "The World Is All There Is," a song that once again brought to light a band intent on working together for a singular musical intention. The last song was not instrument intensive in the least bit, but it did require a lot of vocal participation on behalf of everyone in the band. And everyone from the drummers to the horn players to Top and Pesacov lent their pipes to the communal howling - further adding to the group's mutual musical creation.
Fool's Gold tour dates available here.
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