A Spoiled Few of Us Were Treated to One of the Best Shows of the Year So Far: AM & Shawn Lee, Last Night at the Sunset

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AM & Shawn Lee, Aldea

Sunset Tavern

Tuesday, 13

For the past few weeks, I had feared this show--with its promised stageful of world-class musicians--would

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A Spoiled Few of Us Were Treated to One of the Best Shows of the Year So Far: AM & Shawn Lee, Last Night at the Sunset

  • A Spoiled Few of Us Were Treated to One of the Best Shows of the Year So Far: AM & Shawn Lee, Last Night at the Sunset

  • ">

    AM & Shawn Lee, Aldea

    Sunset Tavern

    Tuesday, 13

    For the past few weeks, I had feared this show--with its promised stageful of world-class musicians--would be sold out, so I had contacted the band's promoter and reserved a spot on the door list just in case. How out of touch it seems I am with the popular mindset. Perhaps it's that I work such odd hours, and wasn't scared into bed at the mere thought of a midweek show at the 'Set, or maybe it was that the vast majority of people don't like the same shit that I do. Either way, a slim 40-ish audience members and I had AM, Shawn Lee, drummer Pete McNeal, and keyboardist (more like keyboardS-ist--he was playing three: a Korg, something generic, and a two-in-one sampler with a Macbook running a sequencing program) Brett Bixby to ourselves, and we readily took advantage of it:

    ^If you can make it out in the video, this gentleman was in fine form, clearly intimidating his half-dancing neighbors and owning the dance floor with his heel-toe hailstorm for most of the set; he was a true showman. The band was equally professional: The two touring musicians along side AM & SL were slick as hell, and the two stars sounded as money as they do on record. As I mentioned before, their songs have some serious layers, and while they didn't have a whole hell of a lot of material from which to springboard (they've only just released their debut Celestial Electric this week), they trained the audience to their sound, even teaching us the words to a couple of their songs beforehand so we could sing along (which I would have thought was boring if they wouldn't have sounded so great).

    The AM & Shawn Lee experience is a primarily happy, '70s, rhythm-and-groove deal, with all the benefits of 2000s-era recording techniques and effects pedals. The group is so proficient, and looks so natural with their long hair (Lee) and mustache (AM) accoutrements, that by the time they got around to playing their cover of "Jackie Blue" (which they've released as a single), word to the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, but these guys could have written the song them-damn-selves with enough time.

    The show was over by 11:30, and I took home a wicked Shawn Lee sampler (which said "for Record Store Day" on it) and an extra-fly AM T-shirt. What made this such a good show for me was the coolness of the musicians: a self-assuredness that glided over their myriad pedal-clicks and instrument switches (AM & SL swapped bass-for-guitar almost every song, and Lee hopped on the drums once), every note flicked effortlessly out of whatever instrument happened to be at hand; the never-more-appropriate disco ball that dangled over the audience; and of course, the buttery sounds coming out of the speakers--AM's angelic falsetto especially. I couldn't help but think (as I danced at this show that I showed up to by myself) that it would have been nearly impossible not to have fun at this concert--just as I dare you to dislike Celestial Electric--and how spoiled the few of us were that showed up.

    Local band Aldea (presumably named after frontman Alex Aldea [investigative journalism NBD]) opened. They performed as a quartet, with drums and keyboard filling out the guitarist/vocalist's stage. Aldea reminded me off the bat of David Bazan with a touch less body behind his voice, but his compositions were interesting, also Bazan-like in their midlevel rockiness. I bought his CD for $5 after his set, and actually wasn't too disappointed with the first spin when I got home. Perhaps more later...

    Talking with Shawn Lee after the show, I learned that there was new Clutchy Hopkins material laying in wait somewhere (how he knew he wouldn't tell, even when I flat out asked him if he was CH), but "the element of surprise" prohibited him from telling exactly when it would be released. Intriguing.

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