Fountains of Wayne
Troubadour Club, West Hollywood, CA • July 24, 1999
What I like about shows at legendary Troubadour Club on Santa Monica Blvd. in Los Angeles, is that anyone looking for a way to pick up dates or to get smashed — letting the music act as background and an excuse to go out to a venue — will sorely be disappointed. As a no-smoking club, everyone who comes to the Troubadour is guaranteed to be a die-hard fan of the act on stage, and with that there is a kinship among the strangers in the house that is rarely seen or felt elsewhere. On, July 24th, two bands, Owsley and Fountains of Wayne, attracted an intellectual pop/rock lovin’ crowd of mostly 18-25 year olds who knew how to display their affection to their idols through singalongs and bopalongs without disrespecting the space of the other fans.
Picture a frontman with an electric guitar leaping with Pete Townsend flair, playing songs reminiscent of the high school hi-jinks pop of the 1960’s/70’s British Invasion. Owsley, using inventive arrangements of keyboards, guitar and choral-esque vocal harmonies, got the sold-out crowd at the Troubadour pumped from the get-go. Using multi-vocal melodic balladry and harmonic outros reflective of the primordial godfathers of anything modern rockers call inventive, the Beatles, Owsley paid patronage to his idols’ radio-friendly single, “Coming Up Roses.”
The key to Will Owlsey’s connection with the audience is in his ability to fixate their eyes on his electrifying guitar solos, which opened and closed the show in five minute jams. In “Oh No the Radio,” the crafty use of tempo changes and purposeful incorporation of catchy phrases kept the people bopping along, even if they didn’t know all the lyrics. In the pop ballad “Class Clown,” Owsley cleverly used organ melodies, an instrument some churches consider alternative, and mixed it with funk style percussion. All of the members of Owsley looked like they were having fun on stage, represented by their body language and facial expressions playing their instruments as well as their respectful bows to the audience after each applause.
The headlining act was Fountains of Wayne. Incorporating remnants of Ben Folds Five’s power-pop piano driven melodies, Weezer’s heavy guitar meshed with sweet vocals — and both bands’ off-kilter harmonies that somehow fit perfectly, the band played tracks off their latest CD, Utopia Parkway . With a touch of what was left behind in 1950’s and 60’s rock ballads, including doo-wop harmonies and songs about proms, school-girl crushes, and summer, the band had an immense amount of physical energy and interaction with the crowd of mostly teen-somethings.
Harmonic vocal fills like “sha la la la la la la,” intelligently overlaid in the melody of “Denise” would have been an ultimate sing along had it not been for bassist Adam Schlesigner’s obvious disgust at how the soundmen muted his vocals. Frustrated yet with impeccable charm, Schlesinger, at the close of the song, held both hands over the microphone and slammed them together to force feedback to the sound booth. The crowd felt his pain and cheered him on ever the more. The most interesting aspect to the show was the incorporation of 80s cover songs during the bridge of their hit single off their first, self-titled album, “Radiation Vibe.” Only at a Fountains of Wayne performance could one hear Tom Petty’s “The Waiting,” and Steve Perry’s “Oh Sherry” within the same five minutes. As an encore, an upbeat revival of Ricky Nelson’s “Travelin’ Man” concluded an exciting show featuring two bands that have revived the good reputation of the melodic pop rock genre for the next millennium.