A sizable crowd was already waiting outside the Echo when I arrived at 8:30. One can often forecast how good a show’s going to be based on the enthusiasm of the audience, and having 50 or so fans arrive prior to the doors opening (in the vicinity of Silver Lake, no less) is a very good omen. I spent the first part of my evening as a wallflower, inhaling the secondhand reefer smoke from a group of kids who were impressed that Billy Walsh from Entourage was outside, and gratefully borrowing a cellphone from an older couple who had gotten their tickets via KCRW after mine refused to work (another casualty of the earthquake).
The Echo is a fairly nondescript venue. The walls are black, there’s a few minimalist chandeliers with blue and green-filamented incandescent bulbs, seating is limited to a bench along the wall and stools at the bar. Shows at the Echo tend to be casual affairs, the space on stage is limited and there’s plenty of room for the crowd to spill out to one side, which prevents the area directly in front of the performers from ever getting too crowded.
The opening act was Robert Francis, an artist local to LA whose music seems to be grounded far beyond the boundaries of this metropolis. During his show there was a football perched on the edge of the stage, and the red lights hit one of the unused acoustic guitars standing on stage in a way that was reminiscent of a tequila sunrise. At first he seemed to be the perfect opening act, melodic but not particularly memorable, but after he had meandered through a few lengthy songs, I found myself becoming increasingly attentive, particularly during a performance of “Little Girl” that was just a bit more hard-edged than the version you’ll find on the MySpace page.
It’s pretty hard to come up with a description that does justice to the stage antics of Tim Fite. He plays with a single companion, the deejay Dr. Leisure, but the well-designed video projection that accompanies his show also includes a version of himself in triplicate singing together as accompaniment. When accompanied by magnificent crayon-drawn animations of sharp-toothed animals, Fite’s songs seem like children’s music — until a pair of cartoon animals named Jo-Jo and Bobby discuss their plans to “stab a motherfucker” while they share a sandwich. It’s hard to imagine how Fite’s show would go over against a hostile crowd, but even in too-cool-to-be-reasoned-with Los Angeles he was still a huge smash.
I’m not a fan of country music, but the Watson Twins make it easy to understand why some people are. Leigh and Chandra, a pair of larger-than-life identical twins from Louisville, Kentucky, have been located in Los Angeles for years and are most familiar in indie-music land for their collaboration with Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis in Rabbit Fur Coat (2006). I’d heard rumors that the show had sold out, though the overwhelming crowd I’d expected while waiting outside hadn’t seemed to have materialized. Everything about their show was incredibly professional; their setup was practically instantaneous, the transitions between songs as the girls traded a single guitar were flawless, and the accompaniment by their band was enhanced by a few nifty solos by the lead guitarist.