Material: The self-described “new-wop” group—imagine vintage doo-wop crossed with alternative pop—writes catchy songs that showcase powerful dynamics. Verses transition seamlessly to poppy choruses or staccato breakdowns that feature Charlotte Fontaine’s sultry voice. Songs like “Dustin Hoffman” or “Cate Blanchett” possess swinging rockabilly grooves, yet pack a modern punch with distorted chords. Since the band gets inspiration from older material, Hank Fontaine would do well to dial in a more assertive, twangy guitar tone for his solos to achieve a more vintage quality.
Musicianship: Charlotte Fontaine seduces the listener with her velvety vocals, especially her romantic falsetto. Hank Fontaine, while an energetic rhythm player, seems to lack the confidence and fret familiarity to be a lead soloist. DeMayo holds down the groove and fills out the low-end that the material calls for. Zimmerman plays a bit stiff, which occasionally prohibits him from locking in with DeMayo. Chaney plays his riffs straight up the middle with a visceral intensity that hypes the crowd in live performances.
Performance: From the moment The Fontaines took the stage and strummed the first chord of “Dusty Springfield,” they had total command over the audience. On-stage relationships immediately ignited, and the tiny stage didn’t affect the frenzied movements of DeMayo, Chaney or Hank Fontaine. Dynamic breakdowns, which consisted of tight stops, showed that the band was well rehearsed and no stranger to the stage. The audience responded most positively when Charlotte featured her gritty growl, which she should feature on more of the recorded material.
During a cover of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” which the band nailed in its own unique way, the rhythm section was finally firing on all cylinders. Zimmerman loosened up and asserted himself as a dominant rhythm player. The band closed the set with the rockabilly inspired “Paul Newman” that got the audience shaking like the old days of doo-wop.
Summary: The Fontaines have a commanding, energetic stage presence and generate a unique sound that compels people to dance. The band’s natural songwriting ability could permit them to contend with some of their more respected contemporaries. If Hank Fontaine becomes more adept at his guitar, his solos and the group's performances will only benefit.
The Players: Alen Khan, guitar, vocals; Natalie Grace Alford, keyboards, vocals; Greg Peerbolt, guitar; Stan Träger, bass; Tommy Mendoza, drums.
Venue: Harvard & Stone
City: Los Angeles, CA