What a night was dealt to Dominant Legs and friends. In the 48 hours before their show at Cafe du Nord Tuesday, we went from mass euphoria over our local sports miracle to somewhere in between head scratching bewilderment and numbing dÃ©jÃ vu over events on the political landscape.
By showtime, many of those who have energy or inclination left to hear some music are over at the Democratic Party gathering at the Great American, which turned out not to be the wake we feared when California bucked the current trend.
Only a handful of the most refined heads cheered on LA’s Holy Shit, who deliver a generous set of jangly emotional rockers. Leader Matt Fishbeck has tales a’plenty to tell, if only I could understand the lyrics. . .
Dominant Legs’ single, “About My Girls,” slew me within eight bars when I first heard it back in August — a lush, multi-layered dance tune that gets you with the lyrics:
I like to think I’m a man of simple pleasures
It doesn’t take much for me to get caught up in a reverie
Such a tome for our times! It was one of four songs on their debut EP, Young at Love and Life, which pairs another dancey number with two introspective, acoustic guitar-driven odes to dysfunctional relationships and desperate emotions.
The sound — and singer Ryan Lynch’s dry delivery — recall The Human League in their prime; but instead of cold, generic top 40 cliches, Dominant Legs offer a far brainier, more vulnerable look in the mirror. And in place of the two nasal ex-groupies, we have local girl Hannah Hunt’s angelic supporting vocals and keyboards. The soundtrack to summer 2010 for me.
I’ve been curious to see how they adapt the programmed sound to the live setting, and with what material they round out a full set. My girls Bonnie and Megan have come along to shoot some pool, have some laughs and satisfy their own curiosity. And given how I am buffeted by the times, I am grateful indeed to have their company.
Dominant Legs open their set with the above-mentioned single, reproducing the studio sound with a live drummer and programmed percussion. At first it seems a little flat, and the gawky energy that makes the record so appealing seems perhaps too low for the task.
But Lynch is a master at banter, and he quickly turns the small crowd into an advantage. He tells stories about his new jeans and dedicates each song to a different hero from our championship team, welcoming the shouted responses and ripostes. The Cafe du Nord is Dominant Legs’ living room; the set is our private party.
The new material sounds, well, a lot like the stuff on the EP. But Lynch and Hilton are hitting their stride, riffing off of each other, or chiding each other for saying embarrassing things. The live sound comes into focus and the front third of the audience, comprised mostly of members of the first two bands, are grooving high.
In every sense, Dominant Legs are endearing. Their connection with each other and with the audience is real, which makes music that could be cold and artificial sound alive and touching.
Lynch announces towards the end of the set that this is the first anniversary of his membership in the band Girls. Frontman Christopher Owens joins them to sing one of his own compositions, one that Lynch requested on his first night with the band. It’s one of three quiet ballads in the set and I can’t lie: I had tears in my eyes for the last one.
And so, saddled with this almost imponderable and weighty moment in the life of their hometown, these two slight, tentative people create a great night.