There has been a gaping, Rilo Kiley-sized hole in my heart since 2007 (officially, since 2011) and Wednesday night it grew just a bit smaller. In the bowels of a former beaten down old bra warehouse, The Bootleg theater, which now plays host to strapping young bands, was the scene for this momentous occasion. Essentially born in The Bootleg’s backyard of Echo Park, is In The Valley Below an unassuming, if not enthralling band. Similarly unafraid, like Rilo Kiley, to explore seedier subject matter, they also share the ability to intricately meld the melancholy with a quietly building bravado. And though it is in the storytelling where these two bands depart, it is the familiar chords and style that make me eager to see what else In The Valley Below can deliver.
An old timey aesthetic has the chaps sporting suspenders, button-downs, and boots, while the lone lass, Angie Mattson, presents an angelic yet parochial floor length ensemble. A seemingly delicate young woman whose gossamer appearance belies a brooding Dahlia face which hints at so much more. She and co-frontman Jeff Mendel are an adorable duo that unleashed a haunting brand of goosebump-inducing music Wednesday night. From their somber entrance onto the stage, came forth a rumbling deluge of percussion that would carry the band’s performance through the evening.
Made up essentially of just three pieces (Angie’s voice the fourth piece), the group delivered a rich and stirring sound with a deep, gritty guitar rivaling the Black Keys. Mendel and Mattson present a united musical front, delivering layered vocals and a magnetic chemistry that is palpable off stage. From their opening number, Mattson sung at Mendel with an unflappable stare – and complete lack of understanding of personal space – as she heartrendingly pronounced at him, “I’ve been looking for a friend.” While I find this intensity to have ultimately served her and the band well, it also had me momentarily wondering if she had just spent time in Europe or something?
As a sparse audience soon filled in, the band truly hit its stride. A tight, calculated persona and sound had the room rocking out. A little bit ’70s alt bluesy rock, a little bit ’00s folk revivial; In The Valley Below is unmistakeably grounded and solid in structure and delivery. Like the heavy chains Mattson herself used that night to clank along to the beat, their songs are weighty, occasionally knee-jerking, and will not ever skulk easily away; they are emotional shackle of the best kind attaching itself not only to your ears, but to your soul as well. The music of In The Valley Below contains the elements to be truly inescapable.
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