B- for Effort

with 16 Deluxe
The Starfish Room
Vancouver, B.C.
Thursday, September 25, 1997

Review by Michael O'Donahue
Photography by Rodney Gitzel

The Starfish Room, still hotter than Hell and still possessed of the world's stickiest floor, was recently the scene of much the anticipated return of Luna to our lonely outpost.

16 Deluxe First up, though, Austin, Texas' 16 Deluxe. Competently modern and slightly bland, the band started out nicely with lots of feedback and moody noise, but mined that same territory the whole set. Never quite catching fire, their tendency towards effects-pedal distraction -- constantly switching between their favourites -- served only to highlight the generic framework that all that noise and fussing was built around. Occasional moments were had and the noise, while mostly just monotonous, was sometimes interesting. But, after their set, I felt like I had just seen another band, coming away with nothing new to believe in.

Luna guitarist I like Luna a lot and was looking forward to seeing their set, but, as I'd never seen them play live, I knew little of what to expect. Once the roadies finished doing their flashlights and butt-cracks routine, the band wandered on stage and struck up their mid-tempo, neo-Velvet groove. Their music had a relaxed, melancholy vibe that I'm sure they are capable of wringing great things out of, but, after a few songs, I got the distinct impression that this set was not going to go anywhere. Play a song. Stop. Play a song. Stop.

For the first three quarters of the set, each song came across as having the same rhythm, same beat, same length. Near the end, there were a couple of songs which broke the mold a little bit, but not by much, and certainly not by enough to Luna's Dean Wareham save what was a pretty sterile and indifferent set. The Loaded-era Velvet Underground rhythm, tasteful lead guitars, fluid rhythm section and Dean Wareham's understated vocal delivery were all there, but somehow all the pieces never came together. There was never any real resonance, nor hint of feeling, to make this gig really matter.

I know the band has it in them, and I felt let down. Hopefully, this performance was an isolated incident and, next time Luna come to town, local fans, whose anticipation was obvious, will be treated to the band they paid to see, and not the one that showed up this time. (Also, if we're lucky, they will by then have expunged their cover of "Season of the Witch.") I'm crossing my fingers and waiting.

If I were writing a report card, it would say, "Had the ability, but chose to work below potential."

First published in Drop-D Magazine on October 3, 1997

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