Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Dark Oz and The Moody Lyons Rock the Retox Lounge

Dark Oz: Lady Layne and Brain Scarecrow take the stage.

Arriving at the Retox Lounge last Thursday, January 29, I was struck with some deja' vu. I had been here once before a little over a year ago to see my friend Ryan play a show with his band. The basement where musicians perform has a very distinct look with the design of airline windows and flight seats, as well as a large Jimi Hendrix poster.

The opening band that night was Dark Oz, who I hadn't even planned to film, but once I heard this two-piece band there was no way I could pass. Dark Oz, consists of two members, vocalist/guitarist/harmonica/mandolin player Brain Scarecrow and Lady Layne who plays the tambourine, xylophonics, and keyboards. Dark Oz list their main influences as Led Zeppelin and Jefferson Airplane on their myspace page, but you would never guess that with their slow, accoustic guitar driven sound. Their music is very laid back, and maybe you can hear a trace of Led Zeppelin III with a song like "Scarecrow" when the harmonica comes in with a bit of folk rock/bluesy feel to it. The way the band describes their music as a phychic explosion, I can see in their music with songs like "Crystal Ship," or even the more electric "Stripper Song". Comparing them to Jefferson Airplane though, seems a bit far out especially after the Airplane's first album when they almost completely abandoned their folk roots to become an all out psychedelic/acid rock band.

Dark Oz opened their set with the spacy accoustic guitar jam of "Crystal Ship," with the xylophone bringing in a in a high pitch of clarity. The lyrics to this song were so beautiful to listen to especially in quiet but distinct voice Brain Scarecrow uses. The song begins "Stars are falling, voices calling you. Time for leaving there must be something that you never knew." The lyrics get even better as the song goes into the chorus as Brain sings, "I was on a crystal ship that crashed into the mist. She was waiting on the shore where the sand the waves kissed." The lyrics continue to get more psychedelic as the song goes on, "Blanket memories that hold on tightly can you break free. When you're looking out the window can you even sometimes see emerald towers in the early hours of the afternoon. Blue moon rising, your sign is coming soon." This might be the best song Dark Oz has in their catalog right now, bringing fourth a bridge between human memory and illusion, and is probably the direction they want their music to head in as they progress in the future. The yellow brick road the band is on will only continue to grow beyond the reaches of the Golden Gate Bridge as Dark Oz have already been added to i tunes and have started to gain a nice following. As the i tunes review of Dark Oz states on their myspace page, "The songs are as diverse as the megaflora in this strange land, ranging from poppies to lollipops, talking trees to mushroom houses. Brain Scarecrow, your multi-instrumental visionary songwriter guide on this amazing journey, leads you through a dream of technicolor textures that is playful one minute and alarmingly surreal the next."

"How do the vocals sound, did you guys here 'em'?" asked Brain after "Crystal Ship." The crowd cheered. With that, Brain, who was in stage costume with a Scarecrow outfit including yellow scarecrow straw hair, launched into a song that is not on their CD Blowin Breeze Through Talkin Trees and according to him,"we never play live." The song has a similar feel to "Crystal Ship," but with a slightly more rocking feel to it. Still the lyrics are so innovative, and remind me of nothing coming out right now "I started dreaming beside that flower field. Seasons stole my heart and my desperation was revealed. I started sleeping beneath that blanket sun that burned straight through my eyelids and I knew my time was done. I've been out walking where the brick road meets the sand. Washed up and broken like shells from foreign lands." If this song had made it onto Blowin Breeze Through Talkin Trees it would easily be in the top three of best songs to listen to.

Brain Scarecrow dressed up as a pirate at a previous show

Matt Harman of The Moody Lyons in the zone with his electric guitar

The Moody Lyons played a heavy and heartfilled long set that featured all their best known songs, including some newer ones that nobody had heard perfomed live before. Before the set even started everyone was singing a drunken happy birthday to Eric Olson who just turned 21. The lights were dimmed and then Matt Harman whacked the opening chords of "Broke Busted and Disgusted," which had a New York Dolls sound to it. The band played hard despite feedback, getting the crowd into it as Aaron shoved the mic into the crowds face during the chorus. The song ended with Harman and Matthew Kelly battling back and fourth with heavy guitar and drum playing showcasing their skills.

The excitement of the show reached one of its peak levels when The Moody Lyons transititoned their melodic love song "She's So Fine," into their Ramones meets The Stooges inspired "Sometimes I Just Want To Sit." The whole crowd began chanting along to Harmon's vocals and the band slashed through some of their heaviest and most punk rock material. Harmon looking like a true rock star with a striped black and white shirt, shoulder-length hair, goatee, and big sunglasses, headbanging along as he sang about "tales from the crypt on Halloween". This may have been the highlight song fof The Moody Lyons all night as their sound was its most pure and there was hardly any of the guitar feedback that plagued their PA system. Kelly bashed out a killer drum solo seconds before the song came to a dramatic close.

The Moody Lyons best song and the one I was looking forward to most "Lyons Lament" came a few songs later. Harmon introduced the song by saying, "Sometimes a lion has to lament and by lament we mean masturbating or taking shit or working some hard ass job that nobody else wants to do but us." Robert Serviss added, "This song is about a lion, it's about a lion that's past his prime. This song goes out to all you lions out there because you got to fucking roar." With that Eric Olson launched into his beautiful keyboard introduction, which led into Harmon's most psychedelic sounding guitar soloing. The lyrics did not sound as loud as they do on the Ep but that didn't matter as the soloing by Matt Harmon was phenomenally on key, while the rest of the band absolutely pounded their instruments. Matthew Kelly led another strong breakdown with his drums and soon Olson's keys could be heard above the rhythm section as he traded solos with Harmon. Soon were both were soloing at the same time building into a crescendo of somber reflection that the song portrays.

Many may have thought this to be a suitable closer to The Moody Lyons set but the band wasn't quite ready to end things at The Retox. The Lyons launched into a series of covers by The Meters, J.J Jackson, and The Yardbirds. The most compelling of all was the cover of rock's first psychedelic sounding British Invasion band The Yardbirds "For Your Love." The song which is included on the Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas soundtrack was actually the original reason Eric Clapton quit The Yardbirds because he thought they were getting too commercial. Clapton must have been crazy, as this is definitley one of the best songs written by a British band in the 1960s. The excitement reached another high during "For Your Love," as a random fan of the Lyons jumped onstage and occompanied Harmon, and rhythm guitarist Aaron chanting lines like "For your love, I'll give you everything and more and that's for sure. For your love, I'll bring you diamond rings and things right to your door. To thrill you with delight I''ll bring you diamonds bright. Lovely things that will excite to make you dream of me at night. For your love I would give the stars above." After the song was over the rude owner of the Retox shouted "Where is the funk dude?" which silenced the crowd who were actually quite happy hearing the Moody Lyons interpretation of "For Your Love.". After the show was over the owner continued to belligerently harass the band about their sound as I tried to interview them for this article. He not only gave unconstructive critcism but also prevented me from producing a solid interview. Overall though if the owner was angry at the sound of the band he only had himself to blame as he was also handling their pa equipment. I thought it was a solid performance and was glad The Lyons could expand their set to their liking and not be forced to play only a few numbers as they had in the past.

The Moody Lyons will be sharing the bill again with Dark Oz at The Rockit Room in San Francisco on February 12.

Dark Oz also has two more shows scheduled for this month on February 14 and February 28 both at Java Beach in San Francisco.

Lady Layne of Dark Oz

Eric Olson, keyboardist of The Moody Lyons

Moody Lyons Setlist
1.Broke Busted and Disgusted
2.Lyons Theme Song
3.Cold As Hell
4.She's So Fine
5.Sometimes I Want To Sit
6.Cissy Strut
7.Paint The White House Black
8.Lyons Lament
9.Six Foot Strut (cover originally written by The Meters)
10.It's Alright (cover originally written by J.J. Jackson)
11.For Your Love (originally written by The Yardbirds)


  1. Roberto, this was interesting and thorough. What's your next topic? I'm always eager to see what you choose next. gs