Following a commendable opening set from Dostoevsky-referencing Ivan & Alyosha, San Diego’s Heavy Guilt took the stage and showcased a bevy of absorbing new material. It was a sickeningly sweaty night at the Casbah that had the sextet, all sporting beards of varying thickness (with the exception of drummer Jenny Merullo), asking for water after their first song and wise patrons gravitating toward wall-mounted fans.
The transition from the soft-subtle melancholy of the Heavy Guilt’s debut Lift Us Up from This to the far-reaching experimental trajectory on tracks from the forthcoming third album is reminiscent of the shift from Wilco’s A.M. to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, fitting in that songwriter Al Howard often cites the band as an influence. The Guilt’s growth on instrumentation is mirrored by the vocals of Erik Canzona, whose gruff croon is unfolding in many rewarding directions these days. “The Cost” and its blistering breakdown, replete with Sean Martin’s electric fury and accompanying awkward facial expressions, highlighted the tight arrangements of a band beginning to fully recognize its potential.
Portland’s Y La Bamba took advantage of a Casbah sound system that is often friendlier to groups with less apocalyptic barrages of noise. Lead singer Luz Mendoza directed her old world orchestra beautifully, with bandmates providing the other half of a rich harmony on most tracks. The inclusion of the accordion is key to Y La Bamba’s airy sound, which meandered from an indie-folk realm to a Spanish spectrum as the set progressed. Audience members dutifully clapped along to the beat of encore “Michoacan,” as Luz and company gracefully punctuated a remarkable evening from three West Coast bands clearly on the rise.
Concert: Y La Bamba, Heavy Guilt, Ivan & Alyosha
Date: August 17