Vandyke Brown: Stop the 'Dyke
Search for Vandyke Brown on Google, and you'll discover that, in addition to a Charlottesville band, it's a relatively cheap printing method. In the Vandyke Brown technique, ferric salts, household chemicals, and ordinary scraps of paper are used to create beautiful rusty toned photographs. Mr. Wizard, meet Ansel Adams.
Unfortunately, at Orbit on Monday evening, the namesake was, for the most part, hard to listen to. I'd heard Vandyke Brown described as "Brit-pop" several times before. They were definitely not Brit-pop. The label's origins confounded me; other than possibly their choice of covers (the Smiths, e.g.), they had a light bar-alternarock feel, if anything. Their singer, George Lakis, seemed potentially soulful, but the volume of his voice and MTV waverability of his vowels (thankfully there was no Creedish frog in the throat) made it difficult to comprehend any songs of emotional portent.
The rhythm section often funked heavily with the beats; when placed in tandem with those too-prominent, over-miked vocals, the effect was jarring, especially during a rendition of Bjork's "State of Emergency." Sounds were competitive, not complementary.
One of the few redeeming aspects of the show was the lead guitarist, Phil Stavropoulos. The strict attention to harmony and detail in his intros and solos pulled together the weakest elements of the songs, in the moments when things threatened to flail and disintegrate. The warm tones of his Orange Amp (the old-school valve technology gives notes a mellow-retro sound) glowed reassuringly under Echo and the Bunnymen-style reverb, too, when not drowned out.
On their website (vandykebrown.com), you can read up on the ambitious musical efforts of these well-meaning, well-read, but somewhat misguided individuals.
Sitting up at the front, I knew the camera flash would eventually blow my cover. And it did. During the break, the bass player suspiciously accosted me, demanded to know my journalistic affiliations, and pressed me regarding Vandyke Brown's omission as a "local band worth checking out" from the Annual Manual– was it intentional or an egregious oversight on our part?
Band Professionalism, Rule #1: Dude, don't talk to your reviewer.