A thrilling intensity filled the Casbah when Birdy Bardot and band took to the stage last month and unleashed their new material during the record release party for Birdy Bardot II. It was a festive night for the Redwoods and the SoCal music scene, as Birdy was supported by the revival of San Diego favorites The Heavy Guilt, Los Angeles indie rockers The Dead Ships, and label mates Dani Bell and the Tarantist. Everyone was in high spirits and the band was anxious to celebrate their efforts and share the results with the Casbah crowd, who were primed to graciously receive. As mentioned, Monofesto was lucky to team up with local photographer Kristy Walker who not only shared her knack for capturing the fabulous ladies of the Redwoods and especially Birdy’s increasingly dynamic stage presence but also chronicled the frenetic flow of the night perfectly (check out Walker’s photo slideshow of the night below).
There was no doubt that even in this talent rich evening, the star of the night was Birdy herself. From start to finish, she demanded that every eye in the house was fixed on center stage. Early in the set, when she ripped into the new album’s featured single “Fortune”, it felt like an arrival for Ms. Bardot, rising to a new echelon as a performer. Consistently animated since her days fronting San Diego’s New Kinetics and The Rosalyns, Birdy was now in complete control of the stage and crowd, matching her ferociously beautiful roars with sudden bursts of bodily force.
The band was happy to pick up on her momentum and bring their own personalized heightened antics to the performance. Oft-touted as a San Diego all-star line-up, each section proved worthy of the billing. Dillon Casey and Matt Molarius (guitars) ripped powerfully but more impressively filled every sonic space with tight fills, evenly balanced and partnered. Jake Najor on the drums was resoundingly awe-inspiring in his exacting perfection, and Jason Littlefield was equal to demonstrating his tight professionalism on bass. Daniel Schraer (keys) was fluid and nuanced in his accompaniment. Of course, Alfred Howard held it all together neatly with his bag of rhythmical tricks (his theremin-inspired manipulation of radio static on his old boombox a particular treat to behold) and limitless passion, seemingly picking up and channeling every rhythmic turn and beat through him simultaneously.
Birdy had the material from the new album noticeably surging, but she also brought a new welcomed edge to the self-titled freshman album cuts. The crowd was animated throughout, including a captivated crew of young San Diego men lining the front of the stage. Whether looking for a footing to climb the precariously tight Casbah sound rigging or whipping her head back to assault the looming ceiling, Birdy brought infectious life to every word and note. The night capping encore opened with a patient but building rendition of “Right Back” (Bardot II’s closing track) that highlighted Schraer’s moving ability to float Birdy’s vocals out over the heads of the crowd and into the night. They then returned to the first album to close the night with fire.
Ensuring that the high intensity never faltered was Redwoods ringleader and local legend in the making, Howard. Howard was especially demonstrative this evening in his percussive and explorative sound display, keeping the Birdy set pumping. Impressive considering his workload for the evening. By the time he took the stage with Birdy he was already on his 4th set of the night, as he not only opened the night bringing his longtime project The Heavy Guilt back to the scene but also bolting from main stage to the back Casbah lounge stage to fill every possible space with raucous rhythms with two Dani Bell and the Tarantist masked-sets between main stage sets.
Dani Bell played their role beautifully, supporting their label mate by keeping the night fresh and alive at every turn. They turned on the spectacle and magic with the flip of a switch like the seasoned and confident act they have worked to become over the past years. The stage connection between Bell and Howard is inescapable and somewhat enigmatic but nevertheless seamless at this point.
The Heavy Guilt opened the night with obvious excitement to be performing together and to be presenting new material. Eric Canoza and Howard are joined with a fresh and talented new line-up; Austin Burns (guitar) Aaron Hook (bass), and Peter Williams (drums). Canoza’s voice continues to melt wonderfully into the screaming wall of sound, creating an uplifting urgency. It was great to see the addition of Burns, fully showcasing his instrumental skills this time around, as North County San Diego has long enjoyed his vocal talents with the likes of Second Cousins.
Additionally, the Dead Ships definitely gave the night a boost with their poppy reverb laden grooves delivered with metal fierceness. The professional commitment to their sound and performance was evident, making them a fun band to experience in San Diego as they continue to play and spread their name along the West Coast.
One last striking thing about the evening was the civility effectively balanced with the raging power and emotion of the music and gathering. Part of Birdy Bardot and the Redwood’s appeal is undoubtably the talent housed in such a polite, gracious, and approachable group of musicians and the lovely, well-intentioned people they attract around them.