La Luz


As I make my way on foot with two out-of-town friends through the dark of the October evening for tonight’s live music, I detect a little uneasiness in my companions as Manchester’s bright lights fade into barely lit, industrial backstreets the closer we get to our destination, The Eagle Inn in Salford. My tourist friends being more accustomed to the arty boutiques and tea rooms of home than the eerie surroundings we now find ourselves in, I offer them words of encouragement along the lines of ‘don’t worry, we’re nearly there’. All is silent apart from a few distant passing cars as we approach the Inn, lit solely by a spooky, flickering streetlamp a few metres away from the pub’s front door.

Once inside, the tension evaporates into the warm glow of the bar, especially as we are greeted cordially by Silent Radio’s very own Brendan Downes. After getting the drinks in, we head into the performance area, and I’m mightily impressed. I’ve never attended a gig here before tonight, but I fall for its charms immediately. It’s a room perhaps roughly the size of The Castle in Manchester in terms of floor space but with a towering balcony that has three or four extra rows for standing. It feels a bit like being in a converted service lift such is the height of the ceiling, and the acoustics are brilliant.

Content that my ears are happy with the sound, my eyes and ears then tell my brain to tell my nose that it should be detecting the smell of pine in the air with La Luz in the room and up on stage playing their songs. Not that the US four-piece has spent the day lumberjacking, dragging in with them the lingering scents of the forest, but if David Lynch happened to be looking for a band to soundtrack the revival of Twin Peaks, La Luz would seem to fit the bill. The band hails from Seattle, Washington, so perhaps living in a city only a half-hour drive from many of the locations used in the early-1990s TV series has rubbed off on the band members. The music of La Luz has a dreamlike beauty to it on the surface that hides a darkness that only reveals itself on closer listening.

What’s also interesting to me about La Luz is how the band exhibits a quite intoxicating array of other influences that would seem to locate its roots away from the Pacific Northwest. The music played by Shana Cleveland (guitar, lead vocals), Alice Sandahl (keys, vocals), Lena Simon (bass, vocals) and Marian Li-Pino (drums, vocals) makes me think at times of Californian surf rock, the ooohs and aaahs of 60s girl groups in NYC and Spaghetti Western deserts and border towns.

La Luz

La Luz

Having formed in 2012 and now with an EP, Damp Face, and two LPs, It’s Alive and this year’s Weirdo Shrine, under their belts, tonight’s set gives us an overview of the band’s songwriting to date. Most of all, though, this is very danceable music, and the urge to have a bop feels difficult to quell. La Luz is certainly my number one choice right now for house band in my ultimate dream party.

For those choosing not to dance on this occasion, which is pretty much everyone, the band is an engaging and lively watch, too, not least Sandahl, who, the last time I saw the band live (at Manchester’s Gullivers in the early part of last year) got the crowd to divide into two to form a corridor down which she sashayed, swayed and twirled like a rock ballerina, encouraging audience members to follow suit. Tonight Sandahl takes her antics to a whole new level, literally. Stagediving into the crowd, she proceeds to be lifted up by several hands to the balcony, before scurrying down to take her place back at her keyboard on stage minus one of her hooped earrings. My friend points out that stagediving with hooped earrings is a health and safety no-no, and I have to agree. You’re awesome, Alice, but be careful with that jewellery, yeah? Ha!

Cries of ‘more’ mean that the audience doesn’t let the band leave the stage at the end of the main set, so Cleveland tells us they’ve got two more songs. She jokes that she’s not saying anything else now because a guy in the crowd she nicknames Banterman would inevitably heckle her in his own friendly way.

With the band having left the stage afterwards, a friend and I get ourselves to the front of what turns out to be a considerable queue at the merch stand. Cleveland signs my LP and, wandering back towards the bar, I then find myself helping support band Sprinters carry their gear to their vehicle. It’s now that I realise that Banterman is in fact the drummer in Sprinters, who I managed to arrive too late to see, for my sins. During the La Luz set, Banterman also briefly joined the band up on stage to introduce a couple of songs in his own low-key style, which I was quite taken with, so I want Banterman to sign my new LP as well, but alas no one has a pen.

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Steve Jones

Apart from about five years in total, I've always lived in Manchester. Shame about the weather and lack of beach, but I do like it here. My all-time favourite gig would have to be The National at the Academy in about 2010, although I did get Matt Berninger's mic cable wrapped around my neck (that was a close one). My guilty pleasures include the music of Bruce Springsteen, and I also felt a bit bad for feeling such joy at seeing Counting Crows live in the early 2000s. I recommend Lifter Puller, a rather obnoxious and unpleasant-sounding band that I can't seem to get enough of, even though they are long disbanded. Amongst my Silent Radio gigs, I was blown away by John Murry. I'll let you know if anything tops that one.