Live Review: Lasers Lasers Birmingham

Alex’s Bar  Long Beach, CA



Players: Alex Owen, vocals, guitar; Dan Wistrom, pedal steel, guitar

Material: On a night of dusty country at Alex’s Bar in Long Beach (generally considered one of the best places to watch a punk rock show in Southern California, but more than adept at hosting other genres, too), Lasers Lasers Birmingham was the dustiest and countryiest of them all. While headliner Katie Jo and middle act Dillon Zanders both had some youthful energy about their authentic tales of woe, Lasers Lasers Birmingham (the stage persona of Alex Owen) looks like he’s lived every lyric. There’s nothing manufactured about the artist who, contrary to that name, is from Los Angeles. “I believe the job of the artist is to report on their time, place and experience,” he says on his website. “So, it would be inauthentic of me to attempt to sound exactly like my country music heroes.” So, he doesn’t. The songs, from his album Warning and EP Royal Blue, are both gloriously weird and comfortably traditional.

Musicianship: Owen and his musical partner meld so beautifully together, it would appear that they’ve been playing together for some time. In this case, it seems churlish to price them apart —the unit that the pair of them form is where the power is on songs such as the opening “Can You Believe My Luck,” “Heaven & Hell,” and the closing croon of “Hard Man to Please.”

Performance: Not a lot to report in terms of stage show. This is a country gig, and Lasers Lasers Birmingham looks the part in his Stetson and denim, practically scowling as he works his way through his set. Yet somehow you can’t take your eyes off of him. His “don’t give a damn” vibe is wonderfully compelling as he croons through a set of songs that share the sentiment. The artist is laying down the marker for Los Angeles country, a city not necessarily known for that genre. And he’s doing it in style.

Summary: On his website, Lasers Lasers Birmingham says that he is “walking a tight rope between honkytonk persona, real life and near death… With an album title [Warning] that is as much artistic statement as cautionary tale.” That sums him up perfectly. His songs and lyrics are life stories—allegories and legends. As will all of the very best country music, they sway between joy and heartbreak. And Owen is an utterly believable performer. It’ll be fascinating to see where his career goes from here.