Noise Pop: Friday at Cafe Du Nord

Post Author: Matt Kowal

Indie Americana celebration with Dame Satan, Afternoons, Odawas and Port O’Brien

The Cafe Du Nord played host to the finest in emerging indie-Americana bands from the grit to the daytime dreamers of California.

Dame Satan opened with moody alt-country or range life folk rock that would complement a reading session of some Cormac McCarthy rather well. The songs walked on the dark side of the dusty trail, spacious with echoing guitar howls like wolves in the distance.

Unlike other less focused folk rock outfits, Dame Satan seemed solidly committed to its style. Dame Satan did not play four lonesome cowboy songs, then switch into a rockabilly tune to make sure we kept paying attention. Dame Satan stayed in saloon squalor, sad as hell, face down in cheap whiskey.

The grim crawl of Dame Satan made the communal pop cheer of L.A.’s Afternoons all the merrier. Afternoons have mastered the pop strum and grandiose celebration of chorale choruses. It’s not quite Polyphonic Spree and it’s not quite The Arcade Fire. Afternoons is unassuming enough that I am not concerned with drinking the Kool-Aid only to be kidnapped, waking up in a forest community.

Seeing “Say Yes” performed live surprised me as I learned that the melody beneath the chorus was actually a woman singing in an opera falsetto and not from the keyboardist. She never played an integral role, but her vocal contributions filled out each song beyond her tambourine playing.

Afternoons wins because they are undeniably catchy — I still have the chorus to “Saturday Morning” stuck in my head. I doubt its going anywhere soon.

Poor Odawas. You would have been great to listen to in my bedroom, alone, with a book. I would have been so relaxed with your chamber folk songs. Instead I struggled to hear you over the white noise of a sold out crowd, using your mellow time slot as an opportunity to post up at the bar before the headliner. You got the shaft, my friend. I think you know it too and don’t seem to mind.

Port O’Brien is California’s answer to Band Of Horses, which confuses me, mostly the same way Band Of Horses fans trouble me. I don’t question the legitimacy of the band or its content, both are fronted by men clearly weathered by life. Each carries himself in a manner no hipster could imitate. For that, I admire Port O’Brien for having a good ole boy who wants to play in a rock band that doesn’t sound like Nickleback and is self-aware enough to speak of his boondocks belligerence with poetic license and not trite buffoonery.

The confusion comes from the hip people who love these bands. It’s as though rural life (or in this case harbor life) is the new thug life for white kids. I just wonder how city kids relate to the small town content these bands draw from. It’s just a bizarre fad to see kids in swanky leather jackets singing along to songs about growing up as a fisherman’s son and dying a fisherman’s son. Rant over.

Port O’Brien have developed a fun activity to close its set. Passing out pots and pans to the audience, it creates a “supper’s ready” racket as the band jams out one last time.