Echoplex - December 11, 2008
Live Review by Joe Cortez
What is it that makes a band great? Is it the music, the clothes, the look, the attitude? Common sense would dictate that while fashion sense and an attractive physique add to a band's appeal, it all comes down to the music. But whereas a great set of songs can easily garner admiration for a struggling combo, it takes a whole lot more than a catchy number to endear a group to its fan base. Ever since bursting onto the scene in 2006 with its self-titled debut, CSS has fascinated me. Here is a band that clearly has no classically trained musicians among its membership, doesn't fit the stereotypical mold of a mainstream contemporary rock group and is fronted by a woman that seems determined to one-up herself with obscene getups and wild hairdos each time out. They seem to be a band made up of complete individuals each with very different tastes and yet somehow it all comes together to form what is one of the most exciting bands to emerge out of this or any decade.
As I entered LA.'s indie proving ground, the Echoplex, this past Thursday evening, I was met by a sublime butchering of The Cure's "Why Can't I Be You?" courtesy openers We Are The World. Following their set was Seattle based alterna-popsters Natalie Portman's Shaved Head, which delivered a fantastic, high energy show but whose members looked so young I almost felt as though I was watching a group of kids playing Guitar Hero rather than actually performing. That was neither here nor there, however, as both bands were terrific primers for the spectacle about to unfold. They almost seemed like flip sides to a coin, performing music ostensibly within the same genre but with a very different approach to the material.
The second the lights dimmed and the thundering bass drum intro to "Jager Yoga" kicked in, the house came alive and it became clear everyone in the packed atmosphere was here for one thing. Emerging from the back with a feathered headdress atop her crown, frontwoman Lovefoxxx quickly took to her role as hedonistic master of ceremonies to the moshing masses below. She bounded on the stage from left to right, never content with the confines of the parameters set by the venue. She is not just the lead singer of a band, but more like a conjurer, a shaman raising the spirits of those under her spell. Of course, I happen to be a fan so I may be biased in this respect but that she was able to convert this skeptic speaks volumes to her charisma and the band's ability.
The set consisted of a healthy dose of choice cuts from both the band's long players, including the latest, Donkey. Predictably, the songs that got the best reaction from the crowd also proved to be the most dance floor ready, "Music Is My Hot Hot Sex" and "Move." The Echoplex's P.A. system was barely capable of handling the band's epic sound, causing a bit of distortion throughout "Left Behind" but hardly anyone else could notice. This was not a show about nuance and dynamic range but pummeling the crowd with hard driving beats. Lovefoxxx and company also had fun playing with the audience when she threw a dozen balloons into the crowd, asked them to blow them up and "Throw them in the air like you just don't care." She also continued the trend of asking an audience member what his or her favorite drink was during "Alcohol."
When the time came for the last number of the night, the audience reacted as if they had just been told Santa Claus doesn't exist. There was nary a fan that would have minded had the set gone on for another three hours. Perhaps more than any other band this generation, CSS proves there are still some uncharted waters left for bands to traverse. They are as dangerous as they are fun to watch and that combination will always make for a thrilling evening. This is not a band to underestimate or short change. As Lovefoxxx herself sang, "We didn't come into the world to walk around/We came here to take you out."
CSS - Live - June 10, 2007
More by this writer:
Tegan and Sara - The Con
The 88 - Live - November 13, 2008
Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation [Deluxe Edition]
Nellie McKay - Live - July 12, 2007