Review by Todd Wanerman
Photos by: Charlie Homo

A modest but dedicated crowd turned up at the Rickshaw Stop Wednesday night to hear a solid set by some very fresh East Bay talent. First up were TV Mike and the Scarecrowes, coming off of several days on the road supporting their CD Spitting in Cursive. Originally out of Bloomington, Indiana but based in Oakland of late, The Scarecrowes traffic in straight-ahead country-tinged pop. They work up a nice head of steam with Toby Oler’s propulsive banjo and guitarist Matt Lundquist’s pedal steel leads adding flavor. The last half the set, particularly a cover of Lowell George’s classic “Willin’,” found them in a respectable groove, and co-lead singer De Delarosa’s voice emerged from the somewhat busy mix. TV Mike and company come off as affable oddballs. The affable part has found its way into the music. Now maybe a little more oddball…

[audio:] TV Mike and the Scarecrowes – “Paint the Town”

Ash Reiter, a young singer celebrating the release of her new CD, Paper Diamonds, anchored down the middle spot in the lineup and handily took top honors for the night. She had assembled an expanded backup group for the occasion, featuring guitarist Nich Pak, percussionist Alex Curran from the band Wave Array and guitarist/keyboardist Matt Adams from The Blank Tapes. The group was still mastering the material, but they brought a nonchalant enthusiasm –- not to mention solid musical skill — to the task. Drummer Will Halsey, Reiter’s main musical collaborator, held everything together with an adept sense of dynamics and some effective harmony vocals.

[audio:] Ash Reiter – La Bahia (from Daytrotter Session)

Ms. Reiter is a delightful young talent with already well-developed songwriting skills. Her voice could be compared to any number of familiar names, Zooey Deschanel or Jolie Holland being the most readily available, but it is a sign of her gifts that she really doesn’t benefit from comparison to anyone. Behind her vintage, lipstick-red National, she drives familiar yet distinct pop songs in a voice that, if anything, is stronger live than on her recordings. In her smoky blend of retro pop and modernism, sincerity and ironic detachment, her music brought to mind Sondre Lerche at several points. The tuneful nature of her compositions and the balance of wit and honesty in her voice are thoroughly winning.

Reiter had virtually every member of the crowd up and dancing with the album’s title track, and we’re fortunate that she will be playing around the Bay frequently this spring, with dates already listed for El Rincon (Feb 25th), the Hemlock Tavern (March 4th), Rooz Café in Oakland (March 14), and Blue Six (March 19th). I say, do yourself a favor and catch her set. (The Blank Tapes play The Red Devil Lounge on March 3rd, while Wave Array appears at Red Rock coffee house in Mountain View on February 26th.)

<a href="">Galapagos by White Cloud</a>

White Cloud was the odd band out for the night. While the first two acts operate from the relative security of mainstream roots and pop music, the four lads in White Cloud offer a more probing, guitar-heavy sound. You could say a lot by placing them firmly at the intersection of Exploding Plastic-era Velvet Underground and Syd’s Pink Floyd. Their avowed Krautrock influences Can and Neu! are in evidence, but it’s really the early nexus of pop craft and pyschedelia that seems to occupy these boys’ affections. Like the Scarecrowes, they haven’t quite transcended their chosen genre, but they have a genuine feel for affecting songs, and they play very well, individually and together. Their live offerings were in fact a little more taught and pop-like than much of their recorded output. Some supporting vocals would strengthen their sound, but this band shows every sign of maturing into an exciting act.

Overall, this night could be filed under “great promise” – the most fully realized being Ash Reiter and band. Here’s hoping we get many chances to see all three of these groups continue to evolve at future shows around the Bay Area.