Earlimart : Live

<img src="http://www.qromag.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/earlimartjuly31.jpg" alt=" " />A graceful touch came over Brooklyn as the Bear Republic’s Earlimart played on....

  The Sacramento-via-Los Angeles band (named after the town in between) has come to the Big Apple many times before, but even the heat of the summer can’t quite make the city home to a Californian.  Yet Aaron Espinoza and Ariana Murray made it their own in Union Hall on Thursday, July 31st.

Originally supposed to play Brooklyn Masonic Temple (QRO venue review), opening for Apples in Stereo (QRO album review), that show was mysteriously cancelled (seems like the work of The Illuminati – or at least The Stonecutters or No Homers…), but while Robert Schneider & co. could only leave fans with a show in Jersey the next day & an appearance on The Colbert Report the next week (QRO late night TV listings), Earlimart successfully shifted their set to Park Slope’s smaller, but always open Union Hall (QRO venue review), setting up a late show following the latest night of The Spinto Band’s (QRO photos) L.A.-like weekly residency.

The strange ‘grandparent’s basement’ feel of Union Hall was made even stranger by the band, which dimmed the lights so their combination of Christmas lights and projected backdrops over current drummer Davey Latter gave the night an artsy, but not unapproachable air.  Earlimart’s music is much the same way, with new record Hymn and Her (QRO review) a high, touching collection of interesting but intimate songs.  Even Espinoza & Murray come off that way, as artists still not lacking in common appeal – Espinoza remarked on his massive intake of beer and hamburger samplers earlier in the evening, and when he sheepishly admitted that his guitar had actually once belonged to actress Christina Ricci (Black Snake Moan, The Ice Storm), Murray could only jab jokingly, “You’re so L.A…”

Earlimart actually opened their show five years in the past, with “Big Ol’ Black” from 2003’s Everyone Down Here, probably because it let them set a restrained, haunting tone from the get-go, while they could still play soft, and utilize a duet of male-female vocals.  But from there, it was mostly Hymn, starting with the record’s hymnal “God Loves You the Best”; flowing and carrying, even in the choral reverb; the stand-out track from the album still has a catchy refrain.  This balance came up in a different way with the following “Song For”, thanks to its staccato beat, but ephemeral vocal effects.

Earlimart playing God Loves You the Best live at Union Hall, NY:

The band took a step back into last year’s Mentor Tormentor (QRO review), but it was with one of that record’s stand-outs, “Never Mind the Phone Calls”, which slid in nicely between Hymn’s opener “For” and second song “Face Down In the Right Town”.  “Face Down” shifted the evening into even a slower tempo, a beautiful grasp held up by the following alt-country-ish “For the Birds”.  Bassist/keyboardist Murray then got a chance to take the mike from guitarist Espinoza on the high and atmospheric “Before It Gets Better”.

Aaron Espinoza playing For the Birds two nights earlier live at Sound Fix Records, NY:

However, the evening was not just limited to a Hymnal.  With almost ten years of material, and an pace of output far higher than most bands (especially ‘artsy’ bands like them) – Hymn was twelve tracks long, while Mentor was an almost-double-album at fifteen – Earlimart have a warehouse of songs, a few of whom got to come out and play in the second half of the evening.  2004’s Treble & Tremble made an appearance with “The Hidden Track” (yes, that’s it’s actual name – and it’s the third of fourteen tracks on Treble…), with Espinoza’s soft vocals still piercing through.  But it was the previous year’s Avenues EP that got even bigger exposure, as two of its five songs were included in the set list.  The fuzzy “Susan’s Husband’s Gunshop” came out as a real rocker, while Avenues opener “Color Bars” played grand and meaningful, but not leaden or ominous.

Earlimart playing Color Bars live at Union Hall, NY:

In between the Avenues, Earlimart did return to the present, first with the toe-tapping-meets-air “Cigarettes and Kerosene”, then its Hymn predecessor, the slow and quiet “Great Heron Gates”, which really took a step up from the record.  And, to close things out, the band really summed things up with the Murray-sung Mentor piano-carry “Happy Alone”.

Earlimart playing Happy Alone live at Union Hall, NY:

The night wasn’t perfect, but most of the problems – the late switch, somewhat of a mismatch with the venue, tuning changes (“[Ariana] says, ‘Next album, every song, same tuning…’”), lack of an opener or being an opener (“I know we’re not ‘The Apples in Stereo’…” Espinoza joked at one point) – they all seemed to come from the outside, from outside the music.  On that score, Hym and Her are right on key.

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