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Live Review: The Gutter Twins, Los Angeles

Live Review: The Gutter Twins, Great Northern – Avalon – Los Angeles, CA – ARTISTdirect News
Though it started out as a joke when the affable, and mostly facetious, Afghan Whigs and Twilight Singers frontman, Greg Dulli, told a journalist that he and former Screaming Trees singer, Mark Lanegan, were going to start a band, they’re the ones who are laughing (maybe even cackling) now. So, here’s the punchline: The Gutter Twins. Get it? Climbing out of the bowels of their ’90s indie-rock star trauma, they bear the battle scars of the their heyday, only adding to the romantic and morose qualities of their voices and music. And to that effect, this pair are quite possibly one of the best side-projects in rock. The gregarious, multi-instrumentaling Dulli and the reticent, magnetic Langean have found in each other the sonic ying to the other’s yang.

Before the pair take stage, high profile Los Angeles band, Great Northern, took the stage. This show proved to be the biggest of their career thus far, as the band mostly plays to local devotees in much smaller clubs. But, that didn’t seem to phase the seasoned set of musicians, led by keyboardist and vocalist Rachel Stotle and guitarist and vocalist Solon Bixler, playing a handful of tracks off their new EP, cleverly titled Sleepy Eepy. On a bare stage, only adorned with bright red twinkling lights, the band shift between delicate slow-core intensity and bonafide indie-pop. Stotle, though donned in an awkward all-black outfit and somewhat pase fingerless gloves (this is Los Angeles, after all), has a lovely alto voice that commands attention no matter what tempo the song.

And, now for something completely different. Coming on stage, flanked by four other musicians (keyboardist, guitarist, bassist and drummer), Dulli and Lanegan take center stage, with Dulli on stage right barely containing his enthusiasm, addressing the audience with bravado and waving around his cigarette like a 4th of July sparkler, while Langean holds down stage left, rooting himself like a majestic, decaying Oak with both hands firmly planted on his mic stand.

With the lights dimmed to an eery cobalt blue glow, the sextet lured us into their just-above-subterranian world, mixing their indie rock background with elements of prog, metal and goth. Three songs in, the duo burst into “Idle Hands,” the first single off Saturnalia, which sees Mark Lanegan taking vocal lead. It’s near impossible to describe the warm, rich, yet hollow quality to Lanegan’s signature baritone, but on this chugging, metal-influenced track he sounds like the voice of Lucifer before falling from Heaven into his role of Satan; persuasively sweet and beautiful, but laced with an eminent danger.

Just as the album itself sweeps from morbid ballads into full-blown rockers, Dulli picks up the pace and shouts in between lulls, “Get your fucking hands in the air, Los Angeles,” and at his behest, the normally-blase crowd complies. Dulli continues playing emcee, as he introduces the rest of the band, and when he’s introduced everyone but himself, the audience gets a special treat: three words from the non-singing voice of Lanegan, “Mister Greg Dulli,” a feat which was acknowledge by raucous applause. Dulli then took a turn at the keyboards and lead vocals on tracks like, “Circle the Fringes” and finally closed with Dulli back on guitar with the lyrically prolific “Front Street.” Though the duo denied us an encore, the set was more enough, featuring mostly all of the album tracks as well as a Massive Attack cover (“Live With Me”) and one from Jose Gonzalez (“Down the Line”). It’s the sort of style and sound you’d expect from both of the musicians, given their past works, but tonight the whole is definitely equal to the sum of its parts.

—Danielle Allaire

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