Miami's endearing folkie duo Raffa and Rainer were first on tap, and the two were clearly appreciative to be on the same bill as the nationally touring Ralston and Postmarks. The duo played a sincere set of irreverent, Tin Pan Alley-sounding tunes, with Rainer Davies on electric guitar and Raffa Jo Harris on acoustic. Harris' vintage, sepia-tinged vocals are always a delight — girl's got some seriously luxurious pipes.
Bushy-bearded Lake Worth hero John Ralston took the stage next, promising material from a soon-to-be released new effort being recorded in New Orleans. But he also welcomed audience suggestions, he said. Instead of the textured sound most would expect to hear from Ralston, he took the stage with only his electric guitar, unveiling stripped-down, vulnerable renditions of songs from his past, present, and future. The top of the set began with a string of new, lovelorn ditties ("Bottom of Everything," "Gas and Matches," and "Bedroom Walls") that demonstrated that Ralston has embraced his emotive singer/songwriter troubadour side.
Later on, one audience member took Ralston up on his introductory offer, shouting for "Gone, Gone, Gone," a superb standout from his debut album, Needle Bed. Ralston lost his timing halfway though this one and had to stop, but that only added to the intimate, in- your-living-room feel of the performance.
Headlining the evening were the Postmarks, usually a trio but a quintet when performing live. After the chic promo pictures of the Postmarks that circulated on the web recently, it was comforting to see the band take the stage looking as a casual as ever. Lead vocalist Tim Yehezkely was in straight-up beach attire — sandals, shorts, and a cutoff T.
Similar to Ralston, the Postmarks' lead guitarist, Christopher Moll, also guaranteed a set filled with new material from the band's forthcoming LP, Memoirs at the End of the World. (It's due out August 25.) Moll did not, however, warn the crowd about the complete overhaul of the Postmarks' old orchestral indie-pop sound.
The first indication that the cinematic fairy tales were over was the ominous "For Better... or Worse?" that saw Moll pounding out some uniquely jarring riffs. "My Lucky Charm," yet another gritty number, had Yehezkely pounding the tambourine on her Twiggy-like figure, like a berserk Hare Krishna. "Go Jetsetter" did bring back a hint of the Postmarks' old mellifluousness, with keyboardist Jeff Wagner executing some dulcet theremin-sounding notes. "Don't Know Till You Try It" was a slithery, spooky tune with a fantastic backbeat that overtook Yehezkely's wispy vocals. It was hard to believe that all this was coming from a band that once idolized Burt Bacharach.
The new material was first-rate, no question, as were the covers the band performed of shoegaze classics like Ride's "OX4" and the Jesus and Mary Chain's "Nine Million Rainy Days." Overall, though, the Postmarks provided a surprisingly uptempo culmination to this evening of South Florida's melancholic rock all-stars. Those lucky enough to be in attendance were witness to the brilliance that can be created on our sunny shores.