The Writer’s Telescope on Luna’s Success
J. Gordon
7/14/2002 9:00:16 PM

Underground’s best-kept secret, Luna, may not be such a secret for long, based upon the raves of their most recent CD, Romantica [jetset records], and the band’s ability to sell out the hipper clubs across the nation. On the night of June 18th in St. Louis they did just that—demonstrating their skill of simultaneously entrancing and exciting an audience to universal magnitude.

Maybe it has something to do with the attitude: they’re your classic indie-artists: always looking a bit bored, unimpressed, and too busy to brush their hair.

Maybe it has something to do with their look: you’ve got Dean Wareham, the disheveledly-cute frontman/guitarist, wearing your Dad’s bad perma-press clothes from the 1970s (and they’ve somehow lost their press). You’ve got Britta Phillips, who looks like Michelle Pfeifer’s little sister on bass, in a casual shirtdress revealing a not-so-casual fishnet bodystocking and 4” black high heel boots. You’ve got Lee Wall, the hip, bald and quiet drummer, and we can’t forget the tall, dark and energetic lead guitarist, Sean Eden, who leaves the rock star posturing to the Top 40 idiots and instead just gets down to business.

It’s definitely got something to do with their sound: Luna is psychedelic pop that’s caught up with the times. They’re a garage band that’s left the garage and gone out to play in the traffic. Wareham’s capable vocals are teamed with Phillips’ sweet and seductive harmonies on most songs, but occasionally they trade-off on the leads. With Britta Phillips’ looks and strong vocals, she could easily front a band on her own, but Luna seems both too integrated and too laid back to jump on that ego train.

Luna’s percussion is tight—Wall is one of the most skillful, efficient drummers to come this way since the days of Mitch Mitchell (of the Jimi Hendrix Experience). And like Mitchell, he knows how to use the drums to complement and build the song, instead of swallowing it up in some grand, bombastic display. Wall elegantly hushes it up when the time calls for it, leaving only the smallest quiver of cymbal, and then he also knows when to beat the crap out of it, such as in the song, “Chinatown” and "1995".

Eden’s lead guitar shone throughout the show like swirling galaxies of stars in a dark night. An exemplary guitarist, he knows that unteachable gift of holding a note for just the right length of time and mixing it with enough emotion to speak to the heart of the listener.

The St. Louis audience fell all over them. Literally. They worked the Duck Room into a frenzy, dancing and singing to hits like “Tiger Lily” --so much so that some were majorly losing control. The band toned things down a bit (but not too much) with the spacey jam in “Freakin and Peakin,” and then sailed into the new and mesmerizing “Mermaid Eyes,” which really showcases Phillips’ vocal talents. We had fun with the retro wah-wah of “Pup Tent” which took us into the psychedelic daydream that is the heart of Luna. “Double Feature” was a hypnotic swim in distortion that bled gently into the new “Moon Palace,” followed by the favorite, “Bonnie and Clyde.”

The band did two encores, the first being “Bewitched” and the primitive-mod, “23 Minutes in Brussels” that blew everyone’s mind. After a quick break they resurfaced for one more: their killer cover of Donavan’s “Season of the Witch.” After the release of Romantica, if this isn’t Luna’s season to dominate the stars, I don’t know when will be.


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