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Live Review: Sea Level Records Going Away Party @ Safari Sam's 06/22/07

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Friday night's "celebration" at Safari Sam's was testimony to the tremendous impact Sea Level Records has had upon the local Los Angeles music scene. As reported previously, the foremost indie record store decided to throw in the towel after their influential 5 1/2 year reign. So, party, celebration--any word used to connote remote contentment would simply be a misnomer. As friends of Sea Level sporadically graced the stage to eulogize, it became harder to truly enjoy. I felt conflicted as to whether or not I should enjoy myself at the demise of an Echo Park landmark. For this reason, the night will forever remain in my memory as a laudatory laying to rest.

The Switch opened the party with their fervent brand of intoxicated rock and roll. As they revved up with 'Tongue Tied', I could instantly discern the jangly piano-pop Golden Smog influence. Front man Aaron Kyle's tattered delivery reminded me of a more abrasive Okkervil River's Will Sheff. As multi-instumentalist Maria Deluca switched from trumpet to viola, the slow tempo, piano-based 'Crazy' served as a change of pace. The drastic contrast of Kyle's volatile crooning with that of DeLuca's calming back-ups provided for an incomparable sense of gratification. I'd recommend The Switch to anyone with a palate for boozy rock and roll.

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Division Day took stage next. I'd been anticipating seeing them perform live ever since my inadvertent discovery of their amazing forthcoming record 'Beartrap Island'. Their zestful set commenced with the 'Malachite' and 'Bad Black Moon'. The latter, which appears on their 2004 EP, was particularly enjoyable due in large part to Kevin Lenhart's phenomenal tom-heavy drumming. 'Catch Your Death' also displayed Lenhart's intent syncopation, which is central to a good majority of the songs on 'Beartrap Island'. 'Dayenu', my personal favorite, acted as the lull before the storm, calming the crowd out before the climactic finish. The enormously poppy 'Tap-Tap, Click-Click' concluded the set, leaving fans with an unforgettable tang of certainty. The raw emotion that comprises Division Day's live performance is redolent of the Silversun Pickups' sweet-sounding frenzy, which leaves me wondering why this band hasn't struck it big yet.

Sea Level Records was and always will be an integral part of our local music history. If Friday night's going away party is to be looked at as a funeral, then I'm glad that they left the sad obsequies to the music. Nothing heals better.

The Switch's Setlist:
'Tongue Tied'
'Pop'
'Crazy'
'Prist.'
'Country'
'Tell'
'Jealousy In Three'
'New Song'
'Smile'

Division Day's Setlist:
'Malachite'
'Bad Black Moon'
'Ricky'
'Catch Your Death'
'Hurricane'
'Reversible'
'Tigers'
'Dayenu'
'Tap-Tap, Click-Click'
encore song with The Switch

Pictures:

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