Graffiti 6, Eastern Conference Champions open 'Also I Like to Rock' series at the Hammer
According to pop music dogma, deploying a cover song at the height of a set can be a blessing or a curse. Surrounded by tree canopies, stage lights and balcony silhouettes of Westside urbanites, KCRW-FM darlings Graffiti 6 prepared to test that rule -- not with rock, but with R&B. Scanning a crowd of doting females at the inaugural night of the annual "And I Also Like to Rock" series at the Hammer Museum on Thursday night, green-eyed front man Jamie Scott hastily plucked a dark-haired admirer in a torn Beatles T-shirt and mini-dress from a growing crush of concertgoers. Her task: to hold up a lyrics sheet he’d barely memorized.
Luckily, as the band’s silk-shirted, fauxhawk-wearing bass player dropped a crawling bass line to Blackstreet’s “No Diggity,” the crowd of disciples quickly bought in. A swell of closed-mouthed “mm-hmmms” that begin this 1996 club banger rose from the audience like smoke drifting from a smattering of cigarettes.
Wandering through corridors of glass and white marble at the Westwood museum, free-spirited bohemians draped in flowing Coachella wear collided with off-duty college kids in UCLA Bruin garb. Families with fanny packs toted babies in strollers. Turntables manned by KCRW DJ Dan Wilcox emitted woofer-rattling electro and indie rock as a soundtrack to the crowd swell.
It wasn’t until Wilcox’s 8 p.m. introduction for L.A. three-piece Eastern Conference Champions that clusters of gossipers and wallflowers started crowding each other near the stage. After casually manning their battle stations, the band’s opening chords and percussion injected the much-needed shot of adrenaline into the affair.
Trembling distortion layered over the drums of songs like “Bull in the Wild” and “Atlas” from their newly released album “Speak-Ahh” offered peaks and valleys of shoe-stomping aggression with keyboard balladry. For those who hadn’t been privy to their pop savvy, Radiohead-inflected guitar rock, the Hammer was a loud introduction as they prepare two more free shows in L.A. this month at Downtown L.A.’s Bloomfest and Universal City Walk.
The energy Eastern Conference Champions managed to whip up didn’t wane as Graffiti 6 prepared to take the stage. In fact, the female ratio toward the front of the stage hit a spike. Based out of London, Scott, the band’s co-founder, has a reputation as a bit of a heartthrob. Backed by keyboards, drums, bass and guitar, his reverb-drenched vocals crooned out lyrics suitable for the band’s blue-eyed strain of glossy Northern Soul.
Three-part harmonies with co-founder and guitarist Tommy D and bassist Pete Cherry commingled with punchy snare snaps from drummer Leon Meade and sweeping keyboards from Joe Glossop that doused songs like "Free," "Annie You Save Me" and "This Man" with head-bobbing sex appeal, while hustling rhythms of “Stop Mary” hinted that, also, they like to rock.
-- Nate Jackson
Photo: Graffiti 6 at Hammer Museum during KCRW's "Also, I Like to Rock" concert series. Credit: Andrew Herrold / KCRW