Live: Lavola EP Release at Propaganda Friday, February 11

Lavola With Filthy Animals and the Howling WindsPropaganda, Lake WorthFriday, February 11, 2010Better Than: Sitting at home couch-surfing on a Friday night, only to find out from friends of the sonic fury you had missed out on  come Monday. It was prosperous evening for the three gents of West Palm Beach...
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With Filthy Animals and the Howling Winds
Propaganda, Lake Worth
Friday, February 11, 2010

Better Than: Sitting at home couch-surfing on a Friday night, only to find out from friends of the sonic fury you had missed out on  come Monday.

It was prosperous evening for the three gents of West Palm Beach trio Lavola Friday night. The occasion was the album release party for Leaving Paris, its voluminous self-released second studio effort. Everything went off without a hitch with what felt like hundreds squished like sardines inside Lake Worth indie hub, Propaganda, reveling in the band's glory. In addition, the handpicked openers, Filthy Animals and the Howling Winds, brought entirely distinctive flavors to the evening that served to compound the fervor of Lavola's dynamic finale of a set.

Led by frontman Cameron Stiles' Southern rock guitar strokes, Jupiter-based duo (and veritable Black Keys understudies) Filthy Animals filled the room with a down-home Dixie vibe. Even as a scrawny, suburban, 20-something, Stiles possesses the pipes of a husky veteran bluesman from the Mississippi Delta, and hooted and hollered as only Howlin' Wolf could on the group's three minute scuzz-fuzz-blitz of a number "Like You." Stiles does come more raw and unpolished, dishing out the enigmatic chorus "who put that whiskey in my cup?" Drummer Patrick Walsh did a stellar job backing Stiles up with bashing cymbals work on these Allman Brothers-meets-MC5 ditties.

The cliché "don't judge a book by its cover" couldn't have been more appropriate for Greenacres quartet Howling Winds, who came on stage next with matching white T-shirts tucked under suspenders -- yet another swamp-punk outfit was the predominate thought here. Much to our surprise, the four-piece dished out a set of harmonic anthems set to folky inflections with hints of barbershop bubblegum pop. Jangly guitars and peppy drums dominated the first two sing-a-long numbers, which featured dual choruses from guitarist Jorge Rocha, and bassist Rich Vasta. Rocha, though, is the group's primary vocalist, and on "Oh Mary" and "Say, You Say," we picked out that he had a mid-range, rather emotive cadence -- in the vein of Dashboard Confessional's Chris Carrabba. This was rockabilly with a sensitive side indeed.

Then it was onwards to the evening's main event: the tempo-shifting, minor key-loving, savage music bridge-filled world of Lavola. The guys brought a focus and intensity this evening never quite heard before. They began matters with "The Queen is Dead." Frontman Julian Cires wasted no time here in dishing out huge riffs while reaching for insanely cathartic highs at the tip-top of his register. About four minutes in, Cires and bassist Matt Hanser went on an epic free-form interlude that ventured for interstellar meanderings while drummer Brian Weinthal kept them grounded, holding down the tempo superbly.

Lingering foot-pedal hiss melded that song into "Masochist" -- another track off of the evening's new EP. The rhythmically unyielding track highlighted Cires' dexterous vocals -- ranging from scathing howls one minute to androgynous coos the next.

Local musician Gene Pandolfi -- formerly of Kill Now?! and now with Heavy Boots -- joined the boys for "Woman Gives Birth to Chair," a track off the group's first release, Black Sea of Trees, adding an entrancing Egyptian/Mediterranean-flair to the band's big bang.

Following that, "I'm Leaving Paris" was unveiled and given an ambitious treatment. Cires wore his admiration for Thom Yorke's pipes proudly, warbling through the bulk of the tune's beginning verses until the number detonated into a grand jolting climax. In the Pixies tradition, it is the anticipation for that upcoming boom that makes Lavola songs so successful. Listeners hope that at the turn of each tender moment, a rewarding disemboweling guitar chug and smashing snare roll will follow.

The shuddering money shot came quickly on "Healing Eye," with the Lavola boys getting to the nitty-gritty here rather quickly. Hanser plucking the higher frets with such intensity on this one that it looked like he was trying to choke the life out of his bass, all the while Weinthal nailed the skins with striking perfection.

Propaganda's stellar sound system complimented the trio well on this night. It was certainly the tightest and most colossal-sounding we have ever heard the trio play in its short career. There is no denying what AEG Live reps saw in this fresh-face trio last June. We hope that the three-piece only continues with its sonic momentum heard this night.

Critic's Notebook

The Crowd: Discerning hipsters mingling with straight-up rock fans and backpack hip-hoppers.

Random detail: All three bands heard on this night reside in Northern Palm Beach County.

By the way: In Radiohead fashion, Lavola has made Leaving Paris available for download at a "name your own price" on its bandcamp page to fans.

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