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Monday, April 1, 2013

Oakland's Date Palms Meld Universes at Hemlock Tavern, 3/31/13

Posted By on Mon, Apr 1, 2013 at 10:29 AM

Date Palms at Hemlock Tavern. Photos by the author.
  • Date Palms at Hemlock Tavern. Photos by the author.

Date Palms

Danny Paul Grody

Chuck Johnson

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hemlock Tavern

Better than: Any number of resurrections


This Easter Sunday, the real blessing comes in the form of an early 
show featuring a handful of local cinematic instrumentalists inviting 
the mind to unwind. The bill follows a thoughtful arc that begins 
with the melancholy acoustic architecture of Chuck Johnson, followed
 by the lush guitar loops of Danny Paul Grody, and closes with the 
gentle power of kraut/world/post-rock ensemble (and recent Thrill
 Jockey signees) Date Palms.

Johnson started at 6:30 p.m., articulating his dulcet yet Byzantine
 fingerstyle on acoustic 12-string guitar. As some may recall, there
 was a revival of fingerstyle guitar in the Bay around 2004-05. Many
 young acolytes of John Fahey, Sandy Bull, and Robbie Basho were 
unplugging and doing lovely, if unoriginal impressions of their 
forebears. Originally working in electronic music, Chuck Johnson was 
late to this game, but now that the dust has settled on that trend,
 it's clear he was sparing those aforementioned young acolytes some 
embarrassment. His approach is personal, his technique impeccable, and 
his compositions devastatingly emotional, retaining every ounce of 
lush detail when he moves on to six strings. His peaceful performance
 sets a high bar for the evening.

Chuck Johnson
  • Chuck Johnson

Danny Grody's music is like a one-man take on post-rock quartet
 Explosions in the Sky. Instead of attempting that ensemble's 
triumphant climaxes, he takes a more staid approach, plateauing early
 and exploring the vista with deceptively simple layers. Tonight his 
sound is decidedly mellower and tinged with Eastern accents, 
beginning with open-tuned acoustic in a profoundly gentle mode before
 switching to his traditional electric looping format. His melodies are 
lovely, if a tad frictionless at times. Yet the landscapes he suggests 
are so well-wrought, one can't help but get lost in the synaesthetic 
spaces they conjure.

After two solo performances, the Date Palms quintet are a veritable 
orchestra. Their buoyant thrum recalls the droney, psych vistas of
 Werner Herzog's longtime collaborator, Popol Vuh. An unlikely ensemble 
featuring electric guitar, bass, keyboards, violin, and the 
celestial drone of Indian tambura, Date Palms create a lushness where 
foundation and melodic drive are virtually indistinguishable -- every 
instrument glides along the foreground and supports the others in
equal measure. When they introduce beats, it's as if they're melding trip-hop with Miles Davis' Bitches Brew.

One criticism: Date Palms make an excellent backing 
band, but want for a lead voice. The textures they create are so
 captivating, there is a persistent expectation for one member of this 
capable ensemble to take flight atop these gorgeous foundations. Still, Date Palms are in a very exciting place, having
 grown from a more low-key duo into an ensemble with tremendous 
potential. They shift effortlessly from pseudo-Eastern mono rock to modal psych-jazz.

 The gig concludes, and the patrons of the Hemlock exit to damp streets
 kissed by a light rain. Happy Easter -- all is well.

Critic's Notebook

The door guy politely requested that people not sit on the floor, so as
 to make more room for other patrons.

 All in attendance grumbled after he left.

Early gigs, FTW: Three bands down and it's barely after nine? Take
note, local bands -- this is how you win the crowd.

-- @AOKarim

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Alee Karim


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