Gabby La La. Say it out loud. Sounds kind of silly, doesn’t it?
Any festival that was anything special this year featured Gabby La La’s name displayed prominently on the showbill, and yet there was so much that I still had to discover. Where did she come from? Is Les Claypool really a mad scientist that cooked up Gabby in his small, bass-shaped laboratory? Who’s the real brains behind the operation? Is she like Buckethead with preprogrammed beats or does she have beats at all? There were WAY too many unanswered questions for me to miss the chance to catch her opening up for Particle at the Park West in Chicago this past Saturday night, so I jumped on it.
Arriving at the club pretty early, it was clear that the show was not going to sell out or even be that close to selling out. The box office was not swarmed at all. We got a spot near the front easily and waited patiently for the show to begin.
Gabby La La’s small and modest stage presence really doesn’t have to be like that, but it’s part of her shtick. She wants to be cute. Small. Petite. Giggly. Her set started with her blowing bubbles out into the crowd; how cute! Then, she picked up her ukelele and began tapping out a beat. Looped, it became her basis for Backpack. Too bad she stopped and asked for some more volume because “her beat was too quiet;” she continued on in the same manner. Backpack was great, even with the shotty crowd backup on “kick back!” She played Happy Birthday for one of her crew guys and ended up playing most everything that she could off of her recent release, Be Careful What You Wish For (including the title track cleverly lumped right after Happy Birthday)
Her set consisted of some very, very basic tap loops with some interesting instrumentation over the top; theramin, toy piano, toys, gnomes, fake sword, The Running Man—nothing was off limits. My only complaint, which is a major one, mind you, was that she just really didn’t seem like she was trying that hard. She’s really good, she just didn’t seem like she was that into it. Someone got onstage and got escorted off very quickly, and then his friends TRIED to play dumb in the stupidest way possible. “Woah, you’re not allowed to do that?” I guess it just shows (kinda) how seriously some of the crowd took her little warmup set, and unfortunately, I think she took it as seriously (if not less).
Particle was ready to rock about a good half hour after GLL’s set was done, and boy, it seemed like a long time coming. The opener: Are You Gonna Go My Way by Lenny Kravitz. I think Particle actually thinks that they can pull this off, but let me tell you, they can’t. That’s not to say that Particle isn’t good or they didn’t know how to play the song; it just didn’t sound good done Particle-style.
I was eager to see the Particle set but ended up leaving early. I had seen them at Summercamp earlier this year, and lately I just haven’t really been that impressed with their music. They’re coming up on their five-year anniversary, and they seem to sound nearly exactly identical to the way they sounded coming out. That’s not horrible, as I understand they’re trying to create and mold their own sound into whatever they want that sound to be. But truthfully, I haven’t seen a whole lot of musical innovation here. No new studio effort. No real surprise in the setlists. It just doesn’t peak my interest anymore.