Dhani Harrison‘s industrial/post-grunge set at The Belly Up Tavern proved the apple actually did fall a bit far from the tree.
After a Mezcal grapefruit margarita at a secret gem of a Mexican joint in Solana beach (hint: away from the beach and on a suburban hill), I was repeating the following mantra on the ride over: “Dhani is not George Harrison from The Beatles. Turn off your mind and float down stream.”
Opening the show was Mereki, a talented indie-pop songstress from Australia who channels KFlay meets Gaga meets early Madonna. The many vinyl rock aficionados in the audience could appreciate the sugary Top 40 hooks, but the lack of basic live elements (no drums, bass or keys) resulted in a lot of grumbling and confusion. Despite the stylistic curve ball, I actually ended up buying one of her CDs (cased in cardboard) and won’t be surprised if she makes one of NPR’s discovery lists next year.
Taking the stage next was Nikolai Fraiture’s (The Strokes) all-star cast of rock musicians, Summer Moon, featuring Stephen Perkins (Jane’s Addiction) and Noah Harmon (Airborne Toxic Event). You can tell Fraiture spent his youth entrenched in new wave and 80s punk. I can definitely see this band opening for another new wave supergroup, DREAMCAR (featuring members of No Doubt and AFI).
During the lengthy intermission before Dhani Harrison, I overheard a guy who looks like a spitting image of Beatles drummer Ringo Starr talk about his new band performing at the Harp in Ocean Beach: “that grungy pub on Newport?” says the 50-year-old rocker chick he was failing to impress. The audience felt like it was a mini Beatles convention attempting to keep the peace and love legacy alive. I still wonder if they had a mantra similar to mine of interpreting Dhani’s unique artistry at face value or rather expecting to see the 2004 Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
No chants for “Free Bird” here. Instead some veteran rocker from the balcony section yells out “Here comes the Sun.” (Perhaps he meant “Son”?)
Dhani is very talented and surrounds himself among top caliber musicians. Performing most of the tunes off his first solo release IN///PARALLEL, the audience was oscillating back and forth between industrial drones and crunchy guitar riffs. Dhani has that ethereal quality to his voice which calls forth a hopeful message of conscious catharsis and meditation set to a dark, brooding instrumental landscape. Overall, the style was a bit too 90s rock alternative and it would have been rad to have him take his music into more of a 60s psychedelic universe. Did I forget the mantra?