Astro Motel
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Astro Motel

Monroe, LA | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Monroe, LA | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
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"Magnetism & Interpretations"

Astro Motel: Magnetism and Interpretations
---By April S. Kelley---

I never expect much from a Thursday night, but I found myself eagerly waiting to hear some band I had never heard at a bar I rarely go to.

The band was Astro Motel, who’s founding members hail from Delhi. I had no idea if they were good or even what kind of music they played. I went in completely oblivious, as this band had no soundcloud or reverb page to creep prior to the show. I would find out later that this was only the third show they had played as a full band, so they were very new.

I arrive just in time for soundcheck. I give the girls at the door my ID and tell them I’m on the list.

“There is no list,” they say.

“Well, make one,” I replied, as I shuffled passed them to the bar.

I ordered a Red Bull and Vodka and sat down at a table where I could see every square inch of the stage. While listening to their soundcheck, I realized I was already impressed. I knew right then that this would be a good show, or at the very least, good music.

With Blake Goodwin on lead guitar, Joel Jordan on vocals, guitar and the occasional harmonica, Martin Litwin on drums and Andrew Rice on bass, Astro Motel attracted a rather large crowd for a weeknight and filled the air with a spacey, folkie whimsy that I found intriguing.

Immediately before the set began, Jordan grabs a brown hat with feathers and puts it on. It was very reminiscent of Bob Dylan circa 1976. Think the Rolling Thunder Revue tour, minus the eyeliner.

Self-described as “spacebilly,” I wasn’t sure what to expect from Astro Motel. I couldn’t quite fathom how rockabilly could sound spacey in the least, until I heard it. As soon as the intro for the first song in the set,“Donna Lee,” began, I understood. I could feel the space, as weird as that sounds. It was cosmically hypnotizing from the outset.

When Jordan started belting out the lyrics, my heart fluttered as they were very Dylan-esque stylistically. It was bluesy and jazzy mixed with folkie lyrical stylings. It was as if Junior Kimbrough and Bob Dylan birthed a lovechild on stage. And then, when I didn’t think it could get better, Jordan’s vocals transformed into something more akin to Jeff Tweedy, the lead singer of Wilco. Backed by Rice’s bluesy bass lines, Goodwin’s jazzy guitar and Litwin’s constant, impenetrable rhythms, Astro Motel was truly something to behold. And this was the first song in the set.

For their version of Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927,” Rice gifted some vocals that felt soulful and comforting. A good singer is always important for any band. And if you have two, as Astro Motel has, well, you’ve got one up on most any other band.

“Rodeo Darlin’” threw me for a loop, as it felt almost like rockabilly mixed with punk, but with more complex guitar riffs. It was bizarre in a way I think Joey Ramone would approve.

My favorite song of the night was “Come Another Rain (Delhi).” This song was spectacular and epic in a Led Zeppelin kind of way. Goodwin’s riffs carried the song entirely by its bootstraps. It would shift from these intensely powerful vibrations to soft, wavelike melodies. It felt like the succession of those explosions and moments of calm that come with an epiphany.

In the midst of their original songs and classic interpretations, Astro Motel threw in a couple famous covers including Blind Melon’s “No Rain,” and Leadbelly’s “Where did you sleep last night?” “No Rain” was a solid cover, though not spectacular in its delivery.

“Where did you sleep last night?” however, was amazingly done. This song was most-famously covered by Nirvana on MTV Unplugged in 1993. Cobain and cardigan lovers kill me, but I actually preferred Astro Motel’s version over the Nirvana version. I know, I know, blasphemy or whatever. But honestly, it was just that good. Goodwin’s skills made this seemingly simple song more complicated in texture. It became encompassing and dare I say, enchanting, which is something I would never say about a Nirvana performance.

Jordan finally broke out the harmonica for “Repo Man,” whose lyrical content describes the plot of the film of the same name. The harmonica can make any song better, in my opinion, and Jordan’s abilities were quite impressive. Rice, who wrote the song, also contributes vocals to this track.

The whole set was ambient and ethereal. Astro Motel had restored my faith in local music. From their stage presence to their splendid material, they are a band with no shortage of passion and energy, combining the physics and mechanisms of it all into a prodigious art. - April S. Kelley, freelance writer & contributor to Bayoulife magazine & Ruston Dailey Leader


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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