Unusual things have happened at West Hollywood’s Troubadour nightclub, explained Sean Lennon, frontman of indie duo The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger.
“Elton John made his debut here … my dad [former Beatle John Lennon] got bounced out of here for heckling … and now The GOASTT has done a cowbell solo on this stage.”
Charlotte Kemp Muhl, the other half of GOASTT, agreed: “There’s so much history here … I think I saw Jim Morrison’s puke upstairs. Framed.”
With its dry wit and avant-garde songwriting, GOASTT made its own mark on the Troubadour Sunday night.
Fans ranged from gray-haired hippies to teenage hipsters, the former old enough to own the Beatles on vinyl and the latter young enough to first hear Abbey Road on iTunes.
Yet Lennon’s band moved beyond any Beatles-clone preconceptions and played its own brand of indie-folk.
When Lennon and Muhl took the stage with guest multi-instrumentalist CJ Collins, each member settled into a nest of microphones and instruments. Within the first five minutes Lennon was tap-dancing on kick drum and hi-hat pedals, harmonizing with Muhl and strumming his acoustic guitar.
Each song took the audience on a new sonic adventure, from the delicate guitar arpeggios of “The World Was Made for Men,” to the upbeat accordion swing of “Jardin du Luxembourg,” with Collins’ horns alternating between smooth melodies and sharp blasts.
Weaving Muhl’s breathy soprano with Lennon’s strident tenor, GOASTT managed to put beauty and emotion into eccentric lyrics like, “Now the peas speak Chinese/and the moon’s made of American cheese” (“Dark Matter”).
The music traversed equally eclectic ground, meandering into jazz chords and Middle Eastern scales without losing its pop sensibility. Lennon demonstrated a penchant for sonic experimentation–perhaps inherited from his mother Yoko Ono, with whom he has toured– and he even incorporated an accordion/guitar interpretation of Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” into his set.
The band rounded out its set with a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country,” simultaneously paying tribute to GOASTT’s folk roots while adding a glockenspiel twist.
Download a free song by The GOASTT here.
The Troubadour’s small, intimate setting served as a perfect venue for the duo as they traded jokes with fans and shared stories from their tour.
Lennon’s deadpan delivery complemented Muhl’s laughter as they described everything from their diets (“While I’m eating a sandwich, Charlotte says ‘Hold on!’ and looks for an animal to slaughter”) to their creative process (“This is the first song we wrote together, back when we made weird music in our pajamas … actually, it was one pajama that we shared”).
Just as their songs exuded a strange beauty, Lennon and Kemp exuded a peculiar friendliness. It was as if they were playing a house show instead of at a historic nightclub.
They even eschewed the typical exit-and-encore ritual of most musicians, saying, “We don’t need that pretending business… we’re glad to be here.”
As the concert ended and the crowd spilled onto the sidewalk, conversations buzzed with words like “surprising” and “not what I thought.” Those expecting a John Lennon tribute band were pleasantly surprised to find that The GOASTT pioneered its own musical trail.