It's always memorable to see a band during a transitional phase, as was the case last night at Three Links in Deep Ellum, where La Luz played their first Dallas show. Incidentally, it will also be the last time we see the current incarnation of the band, what we will later refer to as their original lineup. Just this Tuesday, bassist Abbey Blackwell took to the Seattle-based, all girl, surf rock quartet's Facebook page to announce that after this brief stretch of tour dates, she will be leaving the band. Blackwell cited a distaste for tour life, as well as a desire to return to her orchestral background as her reasoning for moving on. Though a certain amount of tension between Blackwell and her band mates was palpable, it by no means put a damper on an otherwise incredibly fun live music experience.
A good sized crowd filled out the Elm Street venue nicely for such a cold and bitter evening. The sweater and flannel-clad arrived pretty early, leaving little doubt that a sizable portion of the audience was there to see openers Pure Bathing Culture. The Portland based duo was joined on stage by bassist Zach Tillman and drummer Brian Wright, who rounded out the live sound of their blissed-out pop ballads.
Lead singer and keyboardist Sarah Versprille is hard to take your eyes off of. The throaty quiver of her voice is one you won't soon forget. Pure Bathing Culture makes the kind of music that sounds like it was made for beach vacations, but is most often used on long lazy Sundays in bed. Versprille's vocals bring just the necessary amount of sincerity and authenticity to the band's slowed down, drawn out, and highly dramatized romance in the style of Sade instrumentals and John Hughes movies. Pure Bathing Culture is like a long hot shower, or blowing bubbles on your front porch: disarming, but not overly saccharine.
The crowd was ready to be livened up a little by the time La Luz took the stage. Starting off with a couple of hip swinging instrumental heavy songs, toes began tapping and heads began bobbing. Before she even purred a single lyric into the mic, guitarist and lead singer Shana Cleveland had the crowd in the palm of her hand. Her presence and energy is intense, yet she carries herself with an other-worldly sense of calm and serenity. A lightning bolt tattoo on her forearm flexes and stretches as she intently strummed through a solo-heavy hour long set.
Though she was still two-stepping in time along with Cleveland and harmonizing perfectly with the groups doo-wop influenced backup vocals, Blackwell seemed to exhibit a tangible sense of alienation from her band mates. While keyboardist Alice Sandahl and drummer Marian Li Pino both adorably exchanged quips and smiles throughout the night, Blackwell seemed intent to just get through the set. The tension was best illustrated when the four piece left the stage after a two song encore. While Cleveland, Li Pino, an Sandahl scurried backstage together, Blackwell beelined through the crowd toward the front door, alone.
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In spite of its pending change in personnel, La Luz put on an extremely entertaining live show. A surf rock soul train line got everyone's blood pumping before the group obliged with fan favorites like singles "Call Me In The Day", "It's Alive", and the impromptu twist contest inducing "Brainwash."
La Luz has seen a lot of success since their inception in 2012, and it's unlikely that this small lineup setback will be much of a roadblock for the swingin' Seattle seductresses. A serious tour van accident last November couldn't keep the quartet down long either, so it seems that La Luz is only on #2 of the band's nine lives. If you missed them this time around, don't fret. They're likely to be back soon.