Saturday, January 21, 2012

NAMM - The Silent Comedy, Uh Huh Her impress on Friday

The Silent Comedy's Joshua Zimmerman (left) and Chad Lee rock out during the quartet's set at Taylor Guitars on Friday afternoon at the NAMM show in Anaheim.

So many people filled the Anaheim Convention Center to attend NAMM on Friday (Jan. 20, 2012), it was truly a challenge securing a good spot to take in some of the more anticipated performances staged throughout the event.

However, in the case of the smaller shows that I caught in the Fender and Taylor Guitars booths, braving the crushing crowds was well worth it.

There was the involving indie pop of Uh Huh Her (featuring Leisha Hailey and Camila Grey, seen on right) that started the day off on the right musical foot with a noontime show at Fender (click here to read George A. Paul's review of the show). But the highlight for this writer was a full-length set from San Diego's The Silent Comedy at Taylor a bit later in the afternoon.

Fusing the power of "Powderfinger"/"Like a Hurricane"-era Neil Young & Crazy Horse with the anthemic drive of Arcade Fire and reckless abandon of some of Trampled by Turtles' more rowdy bluegrass-on-steroids material, it's no wonder that the quartet is on fire. Last year saw the six-year-old band's fortunes rise big time thanks to appearances with the Dave Matthews Band, Cold War Kids, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Mumford & Sons.

"Our weirdness allows us to play with a lot of different people," singer-guitarist Joshua Zimmerman told me in a brief interview before the band took the stage. He founded the group with his brother, guitarist Jeremiah Zimmerman in 2006.

The Silent Comedy not only took the stage, but they crushed it. The first few songs showcased the troupe's folk side, with songs such as their own "49" and "Lyin" as well as a cover of Tennessee Ernie Ford's "Sixteen Tons" suggesting the quartet was a strong acoustic-styled act able to blend blues, country, gospel and bluegrass into the brew. But as the Silent Comedy played on their power grew. By the time they delivered "Gasoline," it was clear this was no mere retro-looking Americana outfit. In stages, the band masterfully shifted the song from a pretty acoustic guitar-anchored ballad to a roaring tour de force.

A subsequent "Moonshine" and cover of Neil Young's "Tonight's the Night" were likewise skillfully offered.

Throughout the set, the use of banjo and mandolin by Justin Buchanan to add depth to drums/bass/guitar was nice. Chad Lee powered the percussion side of things with a donkey jawbone in the beginning, and with a full drum kit as things picked up.

For more information on the Silent Comedy, visit the band's Web site.

Bigger isn't necessarily better.

While the two intimate performances I caught in the afternoon were exciting affairs, the Living Legends Jam that was the featured big concert event of the day simply tried to do too much to succeed.

With a lineup of more than two dozen well-known artists (including Richie Castellano of Blue Oyster Cult, seen on the left), there was something for everyone. Unfortunately, there was not enough sonic pay dirt to keep me there for the entire show. Despite a few highlights early on where Bob Berryhill (The Safaris) led a group through "Wipe Out" and Doug Rappoeport directed an ensemble through a funk-tinged version of the Edgar Winter Group's "Free Ride," the affair eventually dragged on without enough fire or focus. After 90 minutes and 17 songs (and still no sign of Alan White from Yes, Micky Dolenz of the Monkees or Joey Molland of Badfinger - the three artists I had most hoped to see perform), I decided to chart a course for home and get ready to tackle Saturday. Hope to see you there.

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