Harvard & Stone Los Angeles
Players: Beck Black, vocals, bass, keyboards; Mo Matatquin, guitar; Adam Alt, drums
Material: North Carolina native Beck Black moved to Los Angeles years ago, in search of the Hollywood glamor that she had become so enamored with from afar. She found it, and so much more. Her music is oftentimes a reflection of that journey—east to west—her southern drawl blending beautifully with an attitude that is all City of Angels. The songs at this show in L.A. are fantastic; Beck Black (which, incidentally, is the name of the band as well as the frontwoman) switches between near-gothic post-punk and hard rock, with dashes of power-pop and ‘90s alt. There are covers of Joy Division (“Transmission”) and Stooges (“I Wanna Be Your Dog”) songs, betraying a couple of Black’s influences, but you’ll also hear some Siouxsie in there. A dash of Jane’s Addiction maybe? It’s impossible to separate it all, but it works.
Musicianship: The Beck Black band is comprised of three quite brilliant musicians. Guitarist Mo Matatquin is able to simultaneously frame everything, while also adding flourishes. He’s playing lead and rhythm, and excelling at both. Drummer Adam Alt is equally impressive, which is no small feat when considering the fact that drums on Beck’s recent “Who’s Gonna Save Rock & Roll” single were provided by none other than Ringo bloody Starr! But hey, who needs a Beatle. Alt is superb. Black is a gifted keys player, though the band sounds more dense when she picks up her bass. That switch in instruments plays a part in aiding the schizophrenic, unpredictable nature of the show. No bad thing.
Performance: Black is a mesmerizing singer, throwing in glorious whoops and shrieks between a deadpan croon. She’s both passionate and punk-cynical. She grins then sneers, a la Lydia Lunch. It’s a wonderful thing to witness. She sways behind her keys, then gyrates with her bass. She throws herself to the floor like Iggy Pop, then bends a leg and poses like Madonna. All eyes are on her, and she doesn’t disappoint.
Summary: Beck Black performs new single “Hollywood Blvd” towards the end of her set, which is fitting because the venue (one of the most underrated in L.A., by the way) is located on that very street. Her album, due in September, has the same name. Be sure to get hip to this superb artist and band, because her cross-country journey has resulted in some genre-defying, infectious and entertaining music.