TED LEO + PHARMACISTS
Galaxy Theater, Santa Ana, CA
It was a dark and stormy night, unusual for Orange County, even during the winter. The recent, sporadically torrential, rainstorms had had a daunting effect on the locals. Most stayed home, safe from the elements, tuned to the local channels for the latest installment of StormWatch 2005 to see intrepid reporters near the latest washed-out road or mud-damaged structure inform viewers what city would be next be bestowed with warnings of floods and tornados.
The unusual weather resulted in a smaller-than-usual crowd for the Galaxy Theater on a Friday. My friend and I walked in at about 9:45pm, which is 20 minutes after the time people show up who are trying to look cool by being fashionably late. Some unknown band flailed away on stage to the delight of one of the band member’s parents who didn’t have to deal with that racket coming out of the garage. By 10pm-ish when Leo took the stage, the dance floor was only half-full and scattered throughout there were maybe three or four Leo t-shirts.
The first thing you initially notice when seeing the Pharmacists appear on stage is how hairy they are. The drummer has a bushy, unkempt beard. The bassist’s entire face was covered with curly locks and a wooly beard. You could only see a small patch of skin where his eyes peered out, making him resemble an Ewok.
I appreciate the sincerity with which they played, but the songs and performance this evening were just average. Each song would start off with promise by sounding musically interesting, but would quickly devolve into a very routine pop song. The lyrics were straightforward and at times hard to make out through the speakers. The songs seemed to be aimed at the emotional level of someone in their twenties, which was the core age of the audience, a fact that seemed to affect Ted.
He had an air of hostility and condescension as he addressed the crowd, as if he was angry that at his age and with his music, he was playing to such a small room of people who didn’t understand him. The crowd didn’t get his jokes, like the time he told them “we haven’t played this next song in a while, ‘so sue me if I go astray.’” As I looked around no one but my friend and I seemed to get the reference to Prince’s 1999, but to be fair most of the audience were toddlers when that song came out.
The crowd also had its share of young men discovering the loss of inhibitions to legally bought alcohol and whatever they quickly injested in the car. They thrashed around yelling at the wrong times, excited more by being wasted than being at a concert, which has to be frustrating for a performer.
The best part of the evening was the drummer whose playing was fantastic but overpowering. I am a big fan of percussion, but he was too much for each song. He was supposed to back-up Ted, but his drumming dominated, not fitting the context of the songs or the band. I wouldn’t be surprised if he moved on to bigger and better things and is something I would recommend since I couldn’t find the man’s name on the band’s website.
While this performance wasn’t that good I don’t think it was a representative performance of the band. I know Ted can sound better. I heard songs from his latest release at his website that I enjoyed. Also, you can see him perform three acoustic numbers at Underground Online and they are all vast improvements over everything I saw him play live. I would give him another chance for the right price and if another band I wanted to see was on the bill.