On Saturday July 27, The Paper Crowns anointed The Vault Martini Bar in Redlands, California from approximately 9:30 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. For those not up on their assorted indie acts, The Paper Crowns are: Spiro Nicolopoulos (vocals, guitar, banjo, stomp drums and loops), Nicole Pond (vocals, guitar, harmonica, stomp tambourine and stomp drums) and Dan Hazard (standup bass and “the occasional shout”).
It was a hot summer night but no one offered her throat to the wolf with the red roses. (If you understood that reference you will earn a special mention in a future article.) Having arrived uncharacteristically early your often lone writer and his faithful non-Indian companion Miss Sparks were privy to a short soundcheck as The Paper Crowns prepared to perform in the oddly charming albeit minimalistic alleyway behind the (ahem) vaulted venue.
The opened the evening with an original song titled “My Best Feeling”. Little did anyone know that the understated outback would soon assume the air of a block party. As the band began to play one soon witnessed a gradual gathering of onlookers. There were peeps with tats and men in hats, swayers and players and howlers and prowlers. There were bi-racial dates and same-sex mates, lipstick lesbians and wannabe thespians, jokers, smokers and midnight . . . well, you see where this is going, right?
Now regular readers know that your all too reclusive reviewer resolved to ramble out and about in order to experience live music more regularly. So, as per usual, don’t expect an in-depth analysis or a perfect playlist. It’s all about the overall experience and not a detailed documentation. Just be happy to hear highlights, mmmkay?
Memorable musical moments included their own version of a song made famous by Linda Ronstadt—“You’re No Good” and the Stealers Wheel tune “Stuck in the Middle with You”. They also included original tunes such as their “Feel Good Song” and the fan favorite “O Death Where Is Thy Sting”. (There is something unique in combining Shakespeare with the banjo.)
Other highlights included “Start Wearing Purple” which is another original song complete with Russian riffs and a Bolshevik beat. Pond and Nicolopoulos even introduced their cover of Johnny Cash’s “Jackson” with news of their upcoming nuptials. Other noteworthy numbers that evening included their own “Twice A Child” and additional covers that included guest musicians Chad Patrick on maracas and bongo drum and Professor Steve (who is a real professor) on harp.
The band jammed until almost 1:00 a.m. playing both their own songs and energetic, “alt-roots”-injected adaptations. Once again, the wide variety of genres on The Paper Crowns’ playlist and personal vibe made for another entertaining evening.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.