Concert review: Felsen at the Good Hurt (Venice, CA)
Posted by dlockeretz on July 1, 2012
If rock music can be saved, it will be because of bands such as Felsen.
Felsen is rock. No, seriously: the word Felsen actually means “rock” in German. But all linguistics aside, this quartet from Oakland means business. They are contemporary without being trendy; classic without being tired. Categories and labels don’t work with them. At times, their sound is heavy pop that resembles a more approachable version of Muse; they engage in wordplay that could come from They Might Be Giants; they navigate unpredictable chord progressions that are typical of the Beatles. Yet Felsen doesn’t sound like any of those bands.
I caught their show at the Good Hurt, the last on Felsen’s grueling (14 gigs in 14 days–including the Bay Area, Chicago, Wichita, and more) tour. If not for singer/guitarist Andrew Griffin’s confession that “we’re fucking tired”, nothing about the band’s performance would lead anyone to believe that they were suffering from any kind of fatigue. Lack of energy was not a problem. Founder Griffin has been through several lineups; the latest version of the band included drummer Art McConnell, L.A. area bassist Christian Fernandez, and lead guitarist Jules Leyhe. In his early 20s, Leyhe, like Griffin, is a graduate of Berklee College of Music (“He’s single and has $53,000 in debt, ladies,” as Griffin pointed out.)
The band opened with “Heroin” and “Karma”, two catchy, mid-tempo numbers from their album “Accidental Drowning.” Both were given a slightly heavier treatment than the keyboard-rich record version, but in both cases, the hooks and groove remained prominent. Other songs from “Accidental Drowning” included the whimsical “Self Medicate” and “Lay Kenneth Lay”, the wordplay in the title of the latter indicative of the song’s wry spirit. Songs from the new record, “Breaking Up With Loneliness” included “The Secret Life Of Guns” (inspired by Sarah Palin); and “Don’t Turn Your Back On Me Today”, during which the band invited audience members (including the author) to dance on stage with them.
It was a great ending to an ambitious tour. Felsen are road warriors; they are troubadours. These hard working guys have certainly earned some R&R in the wake of their tour–but I can only hope that it won’t be long before they’re back at it again.