The Antiques

The Red Room At Grill, Monday, Oct. 30

I didn't know a thing about The Antiques before this show; for better or worse, band cancellations and deadlines can take you to places to see bands you've never heard of, ones you probably wouldn't have considered seeing otherwise.

I'm glad I saw The Antiques, a quartet of shaggy dudes from Los Angeles, three of whom were previously in the Santa Barbara, Calif., band Budge in the late '90s. As I found out later while talking to bassist Ben Donaldson, the group tends to tailor its set according to the type of room they're playing. A normal club gig is "more ballsy" than the one I saw in The Red Room, which was relatively subdued--though I got a taste of the more rocking stuff toward the end of the set. (The band has released both a full-length album, Nicknames and Natives, and an acoustic EP, At the X, this year on Banter Records.)

The Antiques started out the night with singer-guitarist-harmonica player Joey Barro on acoustic guitar; Donaldson played a Rickenbacker bass; Josh Hertz alternated between electric guitar and lap steel; and Chris Good smacked the skins. The general sound of the band in this section was sort of a merger of the country-folk-rock of Gram Parsons and Neil Young (whose "Out on the Weekend" they covered), and of the Laurel Canyon singer-songwriters of the early '70s. Barro is a more than serviceable lyricist and melody writer, but the group's real ace in the hole is their harmonies. There were only two vocal mics at The Red Room, but everyone in the band was singing loudly enough that they could be heard in the intimate space, and the blending of their voices is of the sun-kissed sort that could only emerge from California.

Three-quarters into the set, Barro strapped on a Tele, and the energy level of the material kicked up considerably. A dirge was smartly paired with quickly sung lyrics along the lines of, "I'm gonna write down my dreams so I know what's up ahead in store," and a little shitkicker of a tune that used metaphor simply but effectively: "I'm a sailor, she's a safe harbor ... I'm overcast, she's a bright blue sky." By the last song, which reminded me of a time when the descriptor "cowpunk" was in heavy usage, The Antiques had worked up a good head of steam. Makes me wonder what those "more ballsy" shows are like.

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