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Pocahaunted and The Cave Singers @ Spaceland, 4/18/09

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Photos by Leslie Kalohi/LAist

Rather than face the blistering heat and ungodly, ruinous prices of Coachella, I found myself heading towards Spaceland last Friday night to participate in some local, cooler, cheaper musical entertainment. Ironically, the band I saw produced a sound that would provide a perfect soundtrack for a spiritual awakening in the desert (especially on hallucinogens). Soon after I arrived it appeared as if the stage had been taken over by wood nymphs. Two young ladies with wild hair and lost eyes took the stage dressed in plaid and sparkles accompanied by three awkward young men who looked embarrassed to be on stage. They didn't even look like they belonged in the same band. It was like two bands had been double booked and were forced to share the stage.

"It's freaky", said the man standing next to me. "It's as if they have one voice". He went on to inform me that this unlikely bunch was known as Pocahaunted, a local psychedelic band that is famous for their ability to harmonize. And he was right - it was freaky. Giant organs and fuzzy guitars looped and swirled over the Spaceland and I immediately saw what he meant. The bassist in sparkles and the lead singer, a tiny girl in a giant plaid hoodie, began singing without words, allowing their voices to blend together forming this otherworldly sound. Writhing and bending to the beat, the small woman in plaid appeared to be possessed by this shared voice that they had created.Completely unconcerned with the men in the group, these two sang for a crowd of two, themselves. Nothing else seemed to interest them in the slightest.

The guys in the band seemed content to stare at their instruments and pretend the crowd wasn't there. The lead guitarist played the whole set with his back to the crowd, facing the drummer for reassurance. The keyboardist watched his fingers in wonder, as if they belonged to someone else. The drummer meanwhile was content to focus on the cymbals. It was truly the most self conscious performance I've ever seen. Not only were these guys were perfectly content to allow the ladies to steal the spotlight, but they seemed horrified that there was any sort of spotlight at all.

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It is unclear why the Cave Singers were on the same bill as Pocahaunted. This trio from Seattle produced some of the most starkly lovely folk I've heard in awhile. Each member of the band had his own vital function, a drummer, a singer, and a guitar player. The sharp clarity of each instrument highlighted their skill and also did not allow for mistakes. Every wrong note would be clearly heard and blame swiftly assigned.

Dressed in plaid, moccasins, and a trucker cap Pete Quirk sang in a rough gravelly voice felt genuine and rough like the handshake of a carpenter. For most people, getting a voice that raw would involve smoking two packs of cigarettes a day and screaming constantly at their devilish brood of twelve children. I did not inquire if that was indeed Quirk's ritual, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was.

The unlikely star of the band was guitarist, Derek Fudesco, who rocked back in forth in a chair as if he was just about to get up and then thought better of it. Fudesco nimbly picked out complex, lovely melodies that highlighted the rasp of Quick's voice. It was like cream in a cup of expresso, killing the harshness, but not decreasing the potency. With Marty Lund, quietly keeping time behind them, the Cave Singers emanated beautiful, traditional alt-country folk through the Spaceland. It wasn't new; it wasn't exciting; but it sure was gorgeous to listen to.