French Miami w/ Avi Buffalo – [Live]

Thursday, 25 December 2008

It was unusually cold for Long Beach. Normally, this is the kind of town where anything approaching raindrops is cause for doomsayers everywhere to break out the tinfoil headwear and prepare for the apocalypse, and the air had a certain unknowable charge to it that evening as I strode down the block to the Prospector.

The Prospector is an amazing little restaurant, covered in western-themed murals, that has been almost entirely absorbed by its bar section. The eatery section of the building is cordoned off with a set of glass doors and the kitchen staff almost seems surprised to see visitors, while tucked away in a small pocket of the bar is an area that has become home to some of the most fascinating bands ever to visit Long Beach. My fascination with the Prospector’s shows began long ago on a chance visit to see San Diego’s hypnotic art-punk maestros Kill Me Tomorrow, and my love for the gigs there has only increased since. Tonight we pulled up in time for Avi Buffalo with promise of French Miami afterward: the stars had aligned, it seemed.

Avi Buffalo is a Long Beach-based band that meanders through something folkish and sunny, sounding like Neil Young but younger or a lovely, dreaming Elliott Smith. I detected notes of Moldy Peaches but was quickly scolded for the comparison (It’s only the slightest hint of the Moldies). The background vocals of Rebecca Coleman remind of contemporary indie-folk luminaries like Newsom and Banhart, but it’s when the band really starts rolling on a tune that the magic happens. They can roll into long instrumentals with a passion rarely seen, and virtually unheard of in bands this young. Oh, did I mention they’re really young? (I didn’t; because when you write songs this well, nobody cares) They flooded the halls with cascades of guitar on a thin bed of keyboards and an even thinner skin of percussion, and the understatement proved a very powerful force in even that small venue, and a flock of starry gazes gathered in the direction of the stage with an intensity that proved almost cultish at times.

One of the bummers of the Prospector is the comparatively long band setup times (there’s only one door out of the stage area). Thankfully, they make some of the tastiest Cuba Libres in town (with a Cuba Liberal approach to the limes) and everyone at the bar is friendlier than I require. After a drink, the telltale plinking of guitar strings signaled the headliner for the night: French Miami.

French Miami was born in 2006 in San Francisco. Even before I had heard their album in its entirety, I knew I was in love with their sound. Made up of 3 dudes: one with a guitar and a keyboard, one with a bass and a keyboard, and the last with a drum kit (perhaps a hidden keyboard?), the form pseudo-mathematical polygrooves that urge the head to nod and the toe to tap in ways I’m not entirely comfortable with. The guitars are riff-heavy, but the majority of them are played in double-time as little fret-tapping gymnastic moves flying over dirty synth backgrounds. Live, the guys split the stage between them with their most obstructive instrument (keyboard, drum kit) and then fly around in their partitions like enraged zoo creatures. The ad-infinitum rhythms play tricks on the skull of the live audience, and I struggled to keep from going slack-jawed to the infectiously Troglodytic hooks. I had been a convert before they started playing, but afterwards I was fully prepared to drink any Kool-Aid and ride any comet that they might suggest.

French Miami:
Avi Buffalo:

"Goddamn Best" by French Miami – [mp3]
"S.F.O." by French Miami – [mp3]
"Science Fiction" by French Miami – [mp3]


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