Friday, November 17

Live: The Velvet Teen 11/9/06

I can’t say enough good things about The Velvet Teen. After losing the very awesome and very talented Logan Whitehurst on the drums, they picked up the amazing Casey Deitz. Not only that, but the Judah Nagler’s vocals and Josh Staples bass playing have continued to improve and grow more solid with each record. And to top it off, they have made one of the best albums of the year, “Cum Laude”.

Too bad they were not headlining the El Rey last Friday night. Instead, Minus the Bear was headlining while The Velvet Teen and two other group all took turns opening. That didn’t spoil my fun though—in fact, I knew that this may have been the perfect opportunity to see them. With them opening, that meant the guys were probably going to focus pretty much all of their set promoting the new album. How cool is that?

And promote the new album they did. Judah, Casey, and Josh came on stage and opened strong with “333,” the opening track of Cum Laude. At this point I started to realize and wonder exactly how Casey would play all his drum parts to these songs. On the album, it all sounds pretty stream-of-conscious, thus making it a very difficult challenge to re-create it note for note or even something fairly close. Instead, Casey just played his normal free-form style while just trying to keep the main ideas of the rhythms and accents similar. The result is pretty neat, since you kind of end up with your own little unique version of the song.

The band then continued right on playing through their new album with “Flicking Clint.” Instead of that brilliant little syncopated snare/hi-hat fill before the bass enters in, Casey opted for a triplet-figure over the whole drumset. Still very cool, but I still think that snare fill is exactly what’s needed. Then, on this song another thing came to mind. Though Judah’s vocals were already being slightly distorted, it felt like something was still missing. It turns out it was a megaphone, as Judah pulled one out during the song and began to sing and yell into it pointed at the mic. Not only did it just look so incredibly bad ass, but it sounded awesome as well.

In the middle of the set, the guys decided to throw in a little song from the past to mix things up a bit. They chose to play “Caspian Can Wait” from their first full length, “Out of the Fierce Parade”. It was pretty interesting to see them perform the song, mostly because Casey didn’t help make this song. In the back of my mind, I was kind of hoping Casey would turn the song up-side down with his drumming, throwing in crazy rhythms and syncopated figures. He instead chose the wiser path, not straying too far from Logan Whitehurst’s original idea. It was great to hear them play the song nonetheless, as it was one of my favorites from that particular album, and they performed it very well.

After that little diversion, they continued running through most of their new album, all the while keeping up all the energy and intensity. By the third or fourth song, I could already hear people around me say, “Wow, these guys are pretty sweet,” or “The drummer is amazing.” Even with the lack of heavy-guitar usage and completely out of left field drumming, they were clicking with the crowd.

To end it all, what better song to play then “Gyzmkid”? The final chorus of the song was easily the high point of the entire night, as the band just nailed everything. Vocals, drums, and bass; everything was just right on and in key. Not only that, but I finally answered a near 7-month old question of how Casey plays that verse drum riff. On the album, it sounds like a lot of double-bass, but it turns out it’s a mix of the bass drum and floor tom. It still looks very hard to play. And after Casey had already beat his way through the majority of the album, he looked physically drained midway through the final song. But it didn’t stop him or the others from rocking out as hard as they could in the end.

Needless to say, I really should’ve just left the El Rey after The Velvet Teen was over. Though Minus the Bear were the headliners, a lot of factors ruined their performance for me. Their set was plagued with a bad mixing job, weak-sounding instruments, and out-of-tune vocals here and there. Not only that, but their energy on stage could not even compare to energy The Velvet Teen brought. The Velvet Teen might be a small three-piece band, but they have the energy of a big five-piece group. And they also have an amazing album out; get it now if you haven’t already.

1. 333
2. Flicking Clint
3. Tokyoto
4. Noi Boi
5. Caspian Can Wait
6. Building a Whale
7. Spin the Wink
8. Gyzmkid

The Velvet Teen - 333
The Velvet Teen - Caspian Can Wait
The Velvet Teen - Spin the Wink

- John Higgins -

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