An opening band can often be a dicey proposition, both for the audience waiting for their favorites and for the band themselves, the big unknown being whether or not that headliner’s fans will appreciate what you’re doing — or if they’ll even arrive early enough to find out. Joining The Airborne Toxic Event on their current two month U.S. and Canadian tour is a fellow Eastside L.A. band, In The Valley Below.
They met while in a “fuzz-box rock band.” Guitarist Jeffrey Jacob is originally from Memphis and is quite the guitar wailer, as he amply demonstrated at the shows I attended. Angela Gail, from Michigan, is an ethereal figure who apparently found her muse while on a sailboat in the West Indies. They both have smooth-as-silk vocals that exquisitely weave together. Their musical moods range from Americana folk with a tinge of country to artsy pop to gritty Memphis guitar jams. Oh yes, they also have a kind of Southern Gothic thing going on as well.
A year ago, The Guardian described them as an “LA mixed-sex duo who dress like Quakers and sound like an electropop Buckingham-Nicks.” Hilarious and actually, not that far off the mark.
Their debut album, The Belt, came out last year. They wrote, produced and recorded in a home studio. They also mixed two of the tracks, while the others were overseen by a handful of different producers — John Congleton (David Byrne, St. Vincent), Dave Sardy (Band of Horses, Oasis), Lasse Marten (Lykke Li, Peter, Bjorn & John) and Pete Min. It’s slickly put together, bold and expansive, with Jacob’s and Gail’s vocals interweaving and engaged in a stunning dance. They complement each other beautifully, and the album’s production brings out their dramatic presentation, particularly on songs like “Hymnal” and “Searching for a Devil.” Other standout tracks for me are “Dove Season” and “Lover,” although “Peaches” (which has a more pop-ish, radio-friendly sound) is the first single and it seems to be gaining in popularity.
Having said all that, I find that in live performance, they’re far more effective. The chemistry of the couple doesn’t come across anywhere near as strongly as when you’re witnessing it in concert. They present a stunning visual portrait and I can’t imagine it would be possible to fully reproduce the sensuous interactions, subtle flirtations and furtive glances that bring their music fully to life and create an absolutely hypnotic performance. Unencumbered by all the studio production, their music truly soars. Everything feels closer and more immediate.
They still have a handful of shows left with Airborne. After Denver’s Ogden Theatre on November 7, they have a few more scheduled on their own. They’ll be at the Troubadour in Los Angeles on December 3 with Caught A Ghost, and in Portland on December 4 for a sold out show with Kongos for 94.7 FM’s A December to Remember. See their tour schedule. And if you can’t catch them in concert this time around, you might be able to get a taste of another project they’ve been working on. In addition to their band duties, they brew their own beer at their home in Echo Park, which may be available to the public in the near future.
Photos are from The Fillmore in San Francisco (10/19), Boston House of Blues (10/4), Terminal 5 in New York City (10/7) and Higher Ground in Burlington, Vermont (10/9)