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Astra Heights, Von Iva, The Blacks, The Bruises @ BOTH, 5/23/08

May 24, 2008

It was the beginning of a 3 day weekend, and Bottom of the Hill was percolating with the local hip crowd ready to kick it off right. The eclectic but well balanced lineup was ready to deliver: 3 locals, 1 LA neighbor, lots of chicks and a few dudes, some rock, some electro, and a lot of tambourine.

The night began with Astra Heights, from LA, who I have been trying to see for what seems like a year now. This always worries me because I’ve built up expectations listening to the album, and I’ve often been let down. I was floored to discover that this was not the case. Normally when bands try to pull from a wide variety of influences, it works against them, but Astra Heights pulls it off. You can hear that these guys grew up on Queen, Zeppelin, Santana, The Beatles, and perhaps a little grunge era hits here and there. But these influences were just a jumping off point for their own distinct sound. Their substance is backed by a great rock n roll style presentation- they’ve got the right ‘look’ without seeming like they are trying too hard, and they make the most of moving around the little stage; they are fun to watch. Mark’s vocals have an impressive range; the live version is just as good as the recorded version, something that many bands have problems with. The highlight of the set was ‘The Whole World Changes’, a great love song that transcends being sappy.



Next up was The Bruises, which sounded good ‘on paper’ but came across way too whiny emo estrogen-y for me. I did like their Lite Brite setup at the merch booth.

After this set, we were handed tambourines. Apparently, there would be audience participation in this next set. Some classic Snoop Dogg toons started blaring, and who knew that the tambourine went so well with Gin and Juice. When The Blacks hit the stage, there was a tambourine explosion headed by Mr. Tambourine Man, dressed in white on stage. Seriously, all he did was wildly play the tambourine- on the stage, on the floor, on the drums, everywhere. He was a living breathing gimmick for this band, and I’ve have to say, I think it worked. The minimalist rock sound was way, way too close to the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, especially when paired with the singer, who looked like Karen O’s slightly older doppleganger, dressed in fishnets, hot pants, and a shirt that said MC Gee. It was interesting…



Last but not least, Von Iva brought the electro to the stage. The lead singer has an amazing voice, but her stage presence needs a little work. The major mistake was forgetting the words to one of their new songs. Then she tried to swing the mic and it hit the ceiling. They also has some problems with crunchy sound which was cutting out the vocals. They have some catchy songs, but ‘Not Hot to Trot’ sounds decidedly The Faint-ish. It’s fun if you’re drunk music, but I thought that they were slightly overhyped.

OVERALL: 7.5/10
Von Iva performance: 6.5/10
The Blacks performance: 7.5/10
The Bruises performance: 5/10
Astra Heights performance: 8/10
venue (Bottom of the Hill): 8.5/10
crowd/scene: 8/10
value ($10.00/ticket): 9/10
memorable: 7.5/10

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