Like many corners of old Los Angeles, the Bootleg Theater bore witness to an eclectic ride over the years. The girl tearing tickets, stamping hands, and checking the list reported that it was once a bra factory, built originally in the 1890s. More recent history points to a time when it was a proper theater, called the Evidence Room. Its website reports Bootleg hosts live theater, music, film, dance, and spoken word.
During my Saturday night excursion to hear Pratley, Mini Mansions, and Haim, a ramshackle, out of tune piano sat off in one corner of the room while Dustin Hoffman was seen projected the wall, in film The Graduate. Add that to the lofty high ceilings and lattice of rafters, peopled by the whitest young audience in Echo Park and the proverbial scene was set in giant hipster barn that was rocked to its flannel- and trapper hat-wearing core.
The music blog Quit Mumbling organized Saturday’s show and their musical-curatorial ear led me to expect semi-great to great things. Opening artist Pratley was a five-piece ska-ish ensemble replete with down-tempo bass-driven energy. Their lead singer’s vocals reminded these two ears of a younger Conor Oberst, but the look of the band was more akin to Vampire Weekend. Pratley’s lead singer brought the band’s energy down multiple notches played one song acoustic, un-mic’d, and for those few minutes, the standard LA background chatter hushed itself and bent an ear.
Next up was Mini Mansions whose harmonic blend was reminiscent of Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles anchored by a brilliant keyboardist; overall a very drum-centric sound and less psychedelic, more edginess. Their songs took some real chances, engaging in experimental structural departures a la Grizzly Bear and/or Built to Spill. Gutsy chops, easy to enjoy, yet slightly provocative, challenging the listener work for it a bit. I want to hear more from these three guys.
Last up were the headliners, Haim, three sisters, raised as professional musicians. By far the most sonically cohesive of the three acts, Haim draws upon years of touring and playing together, as well as that uncannily fluid sibling rapport whereby between songs they would occasionally finish each other’s sentences. They bled edge, right off the stage, all over the audience, who promptly lapped it up. One of the sisters, forgive this writer’s inspecificity, spoke a crass mic check: Syphilis. Syphilis. Syphilis. Haim’s sound proves that the flair for 80 revival remains alive in the sub-pop zeitgeist. Their’s was a manic energy that saw each sister sing and play at least one other instrument, in addition to their respective guitars.
It was difficult to believe that Saturday night was Haim’s first headlinging show, yet easy to understand that they’d been touring for two years. The Haim sisters brought their parents up on stage for a fairly epic, bass-heavy cover of Mustang Sally and roused the crowd with one final song before calling it a night.