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Brook Lee Catastrophe at Fitzgerald's Pub

  08/31/10 00:39, by , Categories: Music News, Bands, Review, Featured Artist , Tags: brook lee catastrophe, free download, huntington beach

Review by Greg Adkins
Photos by Chris Fowler

Well, look: a bar is always going to be a lousy place to see a band play live. Best-case scenario, the acoustics are merely fair, the mix is only adequate, at least a good third of the crowd are shouting their private conversations over the music, and the drinks are always (always) over-priced. Add in a row of pool tables at the back and even your loudest acts are going to be fighting a mean battle with an unfavorable signal-to-noise ratio.

Click through for more, and listen to some tunes from their CDs…

So it says something when a band can run headlong into the inherent issues of a given venue and still manage to rock the ass off the place. Playing Fitzgerald’s Pub in Huntington Beach last Friday night, The Brook Lee Catastrophe stepped up to do just that.

Starting their set with “It’s a Sin”, an up-tempo rock number whose driving energy belies the darker heart of its lyrics (“ ‘I don’t care anymore,’ she says / ‘I don’t care anymore where you go / what you do / or who’s doing it with you’ ” goes the sing-along chorus), the Catastrophe laid their plans out bare. They had come to put on a show.

Like a lot of independent bands these days, The Brook Lee Catastrophe’s breadth of influences can prove a bit vexing when it comes to trying to provide a quick sonic pen-portrait. Their latest album, American Hotel, contains plenty of the strong folk-influenced rock that serves as the band’s bread and butter, and then takes a couple of surprisingly good stabs at whatever’s left of mainstream chart singledom before ultimately veering into darker, more introspective territory toward the end of the disc.

The Catastrophe’s songs tend to concern themselves with broken relationships, half-lived dreams, notions of identity filtered by expectation or derailed by revelation or defiantly picked up and carried on. They’re narratives in miniature, operating in the same basic territory as Wilco or The Decemberists or Elliott Smith while carving out a sonic territory distinctly their own.

What surprises, though, is how well these tunes can get a crowd up and moving. A plaintively hopeful track like “Buried, Like a Dream” is beautifully rendered on the album, but becomes undeniably muscular – even downright danceable – when played live.

”Buried, Like a Dream”

There were technical issues with the venue, of course. The vocals were mixed way down. No monitors for the band. Paul Mitchell’s soaring violin, a crucial component of the Catastrophe’s sound, dropped out of the mix entirely for a song and a half. Well, no matter. The band expects to have to deal with these sorts of things. It’s right there in their name.

But the plus side of the bar-gig experience is audience interaction. Come time for the encore, and a small woman up front ran to the stage and shouted a request into the titular Brook Lee’s ear. A few seconds later, and the band started in on the unexpectedly down tempo “The Truth Unties.”

The best song off their first album, “Unties” is a haunting track, fragile and spartan, about the effects of long-kept family secrets inevitably rising to the surface. “The truth unties from all that it’s not,” repeats the final line with unexpected beauty.

Hardly the end-on-a-high-note show capper you’d expect for a bar-band encore. But no less appropriate for that.

“The Truth Unties”

Afterward there were pleas for a second encore, maybe a bit of an up-tempo number so all the dancers in the crowd could get one last groove on, but the decision wasn’t one for the band to make. The bar lights were pointedly returned to their full levels, the room’s stereo system kicked back in with an incongruous blend of 80s new wave hits, and the front doors were opened wide in unsubtle invitation. And that, of course, was that.

Well. You know how it goes.

The Brook Lee Catastrophe’s new album, American Hotel,
can be downloaded for free here

Click to find more about The Brook Lee Catastrophe
on their website and on Facebook

This entry was posted by and is filed under Music News, Bands, Review, Featured Artist. Tags: brook lee catastrophe, free download, huntington beach

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Had a chance to catch the band in Anaapolis, MD just over a year ago. Amazing show just hope thay make there way back to the East Coast soon!

09/02/10 @ 04:43

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