Don’t call it a satchel of sticky wickets. Santa Barbara’s Gardens & Villa came armed with a quiver of wooden flutes to show us northern Californians how to blow (literally!).
I haven’t been to an all ages show at Bottom of the Hill in a while so I was slightly taken aback by all the handholding, giggling and dancing going on—and this was before Gardens & Villa even took the stage. But I suppose going to shows is exciting, especially if it is way past your bedtime on a school night and people all around you are drinking the devil’s drink. (Note to girl going around asking everyone for a sip of his or her beer: This will remain classy and not awkward for years to come. Keep it up!)
Gardens & Villa look like a typical electro-pop indie band; a mustache here or there, short hair, tight pants, eyes, mouths—totally standard but for one thing…the quiver. Lead singer and guitar player Chris Lynch also happens to be the flautist, and what better way to carry your flutes than in a quiver? Well, actually, you could also just have them sitting beside you in a pouch, or in a bag on the ground, or displayed on a lovely metal stand. But not Lynch, he prefers his flutes to travel upon his back in a quiver. Distracting? Yes. Gimmicky? Totally. But, I digress.
Aside from me spending a few songs standing there trying to figure out what the heck was strapped to Lynch’s back and then the next few songs asking myself why the heck he would do that – Gardens & Villa has a surprisingly pleasant sound, something both soothingly reminiscent and mildly progressive.
The songs were cheery, the flute was featured, and it actually added a smoothness to the already rounded-out vibe of the set. The band spent the summer of 2010 camping behind Richard Swift’s studio, whom they recruited to record their album, and vowed to play every bit of the new album live. They added percussionist (and guest flautist on one song!) Dustin Ineman to help fill in the blanks with electronic beats, keys and claves. I credit Gardens & Villa for taking themselves so seriously, for not relying upon midi samples to re-create studio magic and instead recreate that magic live and in the flesh.
I also credit them for doing one of the most spot-on covers I have ever heard. They played “Cars” by Gary Numan and it was almost as if Mr. Newman himself stepped on stage to belt out the encore. Overall they were easy, light and tight as hell. If you put The Dirty Projectors in a bag with Rogue Wave, Wire and Tears For Fears, and shook it real hard, the result would be Gardens & Villa – bruised, bloody and sporting a fierce quiver.