Chief Amongst Us–But Heading in Your Musical Direction

Jun 15th, 2010 in Music

After driving home from deep Los Angeles last night, we meandered down to Muddy Waters for the seemingly daily dosage of Club Mercy.  Have Mercy!

We were chiefly there to see Chief, the opener for Brooklyn-resident April Smith and the Great Picture Show.  Having seen Chief open for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros in March (see March 14th post), we were clammoring to catch them again.  At Muddy Waters they confirmed that if musical justice can be found in this great land, they will be breaking onto iPods and airwaves everywhere this summer and after.

Comprised of singer/guitarist Evan Koga (above right), siblings Danny (2nd from right; guitar/vocals) and Michael Fujikawa (2nd from left; drums/vocals), and Mike Moonves (on left; bass/vocals), Chief took the floor at the Muddy and held sway for a stunning set of well-crafted and delivered songs.   What struck us for the second time were the four-part harmonies and forceful, driving sound of the cohesive ensemble that at times recalls (but updates and is distinguished from) The Band, CSN&Y, Love, and other great 70’s bands.  Koga sings lead vocals on a majority of the songs and his delivery laudably limns Dylan and Petty.  Danny is the other main voice of Chief and his comparatively understated, but choice vocals perfectly bookend Koga’s, while delivering chiming guitar flourishes via his ES-137 hollowbody Gibson.  Mike Moonves plays virtuosic bass and provides signature harmony vocals.  And Michael provides alternately driving and deft drums while supplying an emphatic fourth voice.   As always, a band’s songs are where the proverbial rubber meets the road, and Chief’s songs are multi-melodic, filled with passionate ensemble musicianship, with laden and lifting lyrics and tales worth telling.

We spoke with Danny and Michael before their set and were struck by their engaging intellect (they formed while all attending New York University) and graciousness.  They could not hide their excitement to be headlining the next night at the Troubadour and to head out on a summer tour of European festivals before returning to the States

Owing perhaps to the Lakers/Chowderheads game and the other pulls of Sunday, the Muddy housed a smaller, more intimate crowd on Sunday.  Despite its size, the audience was vocal and enraptured throughout Chief’s set and at end stomped, cheered and demanded an encore from these openers (a great song off of their phenomenal first EP, “The Castle is Gone”).

At the end, Chief proudly announced that their first longplayer, “Modern Rituals,” will be released by Domino Records on August 17th.  Be ready to buy it and enjoy.

We gave headliners, April Smith and the Great Picture Show a good listen, but they weren’t our cup of tea (we’ll give April her incredible vocals and the band its able accompaniment).  For the first time so far the Brooklyn spell was broken.

Once again we observed major headliner/opener dyslexia.   We predict Chief will be headlining to good crowds the next time they come to town.

Check ’em out.

Chief–Your Direction

[audio:|titles=01 Your Direction]

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