L.A. band the Geraldine Fibbers have never been easily categorized, starting as a country-fried side project out of the ashes of Ethyl Meatplow. But after two complex and challenging albums for Virgin Records and a hefty load of stunning local shows, the Fibbers have begun to chart their own way through an industry they clearly have little in common with.
Throughout this 80-minute show, the band’s profound songs of emotional struggle and emptiness were treated like nourishing fodder in the hands of the forever-wounded and intensely expressive Carla Bozulich, who deftly balanced romantic desires and enraged explosions of hurt, sometimes in the same song. It makes for an utterly enticing and unpredictable live performance.
Her bandmates, including local guitar hero Nels Cline, who’s now a permanent Fibber, gave a rock-steady and uncommon performance at the nearly full El Rey, utilizing violins and bowed standup bass to give the songs an eerie and troubled constitution.
“Pick the flower, and it will wilt, to die in bliss, from a greedy lover’s kiss,” Bozulich defiantly sang during “California Tuffy,” the dramatic first single from the group’s current “Butch” album. But is she mourning or celebrating another of life’s romantic disasters? “I’ll be alone forever, you’ll never get my heart,” she sang in closing. Another day, another disappointment, eh?
Cline’s guitar work, including one tune played on table slide, was alternately precious and unbridled and set the show’s tone throughout the evening. Like their recorded work, the band’s live show is full of twists and turns and never settles into one comfortable zone. Instead, they constantly endeavored here to explore new avenues with their audience, who at this show it must be said, gave the local band a surprisingly rousing reception.
The Geraldine Fibbers isn’t about to save the pop world, but it arguably is the most challenging major-label act to come out of L.A. since Jane’s Addiction. And like that oft-misunderstood but supremely talented band, the Fibbers surely will have their day in the sun.