Saturday, August 29, 2015

La Luz at the Bowery Ballroom

Shana Cleveland
A native of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Shana Cleveland relocated to Los Angeles, California, where she developed the intricate finger-picking guitar style she would employ in 2009 with the indie-folk Shana Cleveland & the Sandcastles. After recording two albums in the Curious Mystery, the vocalist/guitarist formed the all-woman quartet La Luz in 2012 in Seattle, Washington. Adopting the name La Luz (Spanish for "the light"), the new group released a four-song EP before the year ended, and in 2013 issued its first full-length album. La Luz's second album, Weirdo Shrine, was released on August 7, 2015. La Luz presently consists of Cleveland, keyboardist Alice Sandahl, bassist Lena Simon, and drummer Marian Li-Pino, with all four sharing vocals.

At the Bowery Ballroom tonight, La Luz performed rock music that uniquely sourced girl-group harmonies, surf guitar and garage rhythms. Despite the vintage origins of these sounds, some 50 years passed before a youthful band to twist the classic sounds into this indie reinvention. While La Luz's attempt at eloping the sounds was sometimes fractured, it was consistently intriguing. A listener may have desired less sugar-sweetened vocals or more guitar reverb, but the band was finding its way to make the marriage work. Cleveland sometimes heightened the fuzz on her guitar twangs for a captivating "surf noir" sound. Sandahl followed with poppy keyboard leads. At times the fusion was vibrantly spellbinding, at other times it was trance inducing. Halfway through the set, La Luz added to the lively spirit of the music by requesting an audience "surf train," similar to a Soul Train dance lineup but for crowdsurfers. The center lane of the crowd moved more than a dozen bodies, mostly female, over their heads from the back of the room to the stage. La Luz stood out as a highly original band.