The uncommon happened this past Saturday night, and Ms. Meg and i actually got together in person to partake of the wonders offered by Admiral Radley and opener Hooray for Earth at DC9. It’s OK, though, the Missus knew ahead of time. Expect her (Meg’s, not the Missus’) take on things in the next day or so. In the meantime, here’s how things went down from my perspective.
i knew nothing about the openers, Hooray for Earth, ahead of time, but i can say they put on an enjoyable, though brief, slot to get things started. The acoustics at DC9 leave a little something to be desired, so i honestly couldn’t make out a word the lead singer said, but i can say the boys are talented enough to keep the crowd humming for at least half an hour. Two things stuck out to me that had little to do with anything–the lead singer looked freakishly like Dent May, and i’m not sure if i’ve ever seen a more exuberant drummer; the guy literally looked like he might bounce off of his stool at any given moment, so into the beat was he. All in all, not a bad way to start the show, even if they did start nearly half an hour later than they were supposed to.
Sadly for the rest of you, by the time Admiral Radley took the stage at about 11:15, there still were only maybe 50 of us there to enjoy things. The show played almost like a backyard BBQ, with an easy camaraderie onstage and a lot of cheap beer flowing amongst performers and audience alike. Starting almost immediately after stepping on the riser that served as a stage, co-leads Jason Lytle and Aaron Espinoza were gabbing back and forth like a couple of high school buddies from back in the day. And let’s be honest, Admiral Radley is a continuation of the Grandaddy and Earlimart sounds, essentially lazy stoner skateboarder tunes. You might worry that as nobody in the band is a teenager anymore, perhaps the band has overstayed its welcome in the genre. Instead, their additional years seem to add a bit of wit and wisdom to the lyrics that almost transcend the material. Don’t get me wrong, “Sunburn Kids” and “Drunk on Beer” are two of my favorites on I Heart California, but even Lytle admitted the former was “silly.” Of course, one of the highlights of the evening came when Espinoza, possibly somewhat besotted himself, started muffing the lyrics to “Drunk on Beer,” claiming, however, that it was no problem, as he was, in fact, drunk on beer himself. Another high point clearly was Ariana Murray’s solo, “The Thread.” Any earlier complaints of bad mic-ing were gone for this song. Having a crowd quiet down, even partially, for the slow songs always is a Herculean task, but Ms. Murray kept the crowd enraptured with her straightforward performance. Of final note for me, Espinoza informed the crowd that for the encore, they’d be doing “kind of a cover” before launching into “Every Time I’m With You,” one of Lytle’s contributions to Dark Night of the Soul, and personally one of my two favorite tracks from that CD (the other being his second submission, “Jaykub”).
Overall, Admiral Radley benefits greatly from the vocals of both Lytle and Espinoza, each sounding pretty damn close to the consistency of slightly heated honey burbling out of the plastic bear and into your teacup. The fact that Lytle still projects old home movie footage, though on a far smaller screen than the last time he played the 9:30 Club with Grandaddy, adds a layer of depth and shading you wouldn’t expect at such a small location as DC9, which is nice. It would have been nice to hear more from Murray and perhaps at least an acknowledgement that Aaron Burtch was even on stage, steady on the skins all night, but they all seemed to be enjoying the hell out of the experience, so who am i to talk?
I’d like to note that for a band that’s apparently only been together a handful of months, they sounded like they’d been playing together for years and years. As concerts for “new” bands are supposed to accomplish, i’ve been listening to their debut album pretty much non-stop since Saturday night, a true testament to the talent on-stage that night. i think it’s pretty fair to say i heart Admiral Radley.