My God . . . It's Full of Stars

Alex Body, Rene Hell, Peaking Lights, Pocahaunted

Gabe’s, Tuesday March 29th

Last night was the first glimpse of the new Gabe’s for many people, the return to an old true name after years of awkwardly calling the space the Picador.  We’ll never get back the pricelessly skuzzy biker/hipster conjunction of yore, but I like some of the things the new owners have done.  The combination of fiber-optic wires netting the ceiling and two intense blacklights over the stage made a totally appropriate vibe for last night’s lineup of blown-out, hazy jams.  After Alex Body, Rene Hell deployed the same payload that, as main man Jeff Witscher put it, he’d been playing “for two weeks straight.”  I had to laugh at how bored he seemed with the very idea of such extremes of repetition. The man is like a shark, he’s just got to keep grooving.

I’ve seen Peaking Lights two or three times in town over the years, as they evolved more and more from straight psych into a rhythmic band of mystery.  “Imaginary Falcons,” put out last year by Night People and Not Not Fun, has been on my jams list lo these many months, driven by loping, hypnotic beats and Indra Dunis’ monotonic detached crooning.  After all these years, though, this has gotta be the first time I’ve seen anyone in Iowa City full-on dancing at a Peaking Lights show.  There were new faces there in droves, people who didn’t look quite like they ‘belonged,’ but were clearly stoked.  So kudos to Mission Creek for this from the jump – breaking some great bands out of the basement and putting them in front of crowds who aren’t going to hide their enjoyment for music under a fashionable bushel (no!).

I’ll admit I’m a latecomer to the Pocahaunted party, but I absolutely was not expecting to hear Afrobeat from this gang of face-painted, whooping spastics.  Their nasty one-drop rhythms and slinky, shiny guitar lines may seem familiar via Vampire Weekend, but I’ll take unpolished bare feet and high lonesome girl-wailing anyday, a mix of mystery, theatre, smiles, and enthusiasm that got the whole place on some voodoo trance bizness.  I mean, there was dancing for Peaking Lights, but Pocahaunted moved spirits.  What they reminded me of most was Acid Mothers’ Temple, who are playing the Yacht Club on Thursday – Pocahaunted bring a different brand of bled-out psych, and aren’t quite as developed or hair-frying yet, but they and the Japanese collective put out gestures of freaky invitation pointed in just the same direction.

Video Matt Steele for Little Village

Video Matt Steele for Little Village

Video Matt Steele for Little Village

Video Drew Bulman for Little Village

Video Drew Bulman for Little Village

Video Drew Bulman for Little Village

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