[17 July 2002]
It’s been over a year since the official release of Lift to Experience’s debut album, but most people hardly know they exist. I, for one, who consider myself a fairly attentive LTE fan, wasn’t even aware of this tour until 48 hours before they descended upon Los Angeles. And if I hadn’t skimmed the New Times, I would have surely missed them. Their album was actually released domestically through their European-based label, Bella Union, a few months or so after its European debut, but there’s been nary a peep from the media since its arrival. Not surprisingly, their tour has been similarly under the radar. (Try looking up the dates on pollstar.com, a widely used tour schedule encyclopedia.) According to one anonymous source at the venue, all complaints should be directed to Bella Union for the lack of press coverage as they stand nothing to gain, financially, from the present US tour.
But as the illuminated sign overhead declared, this was an evening for “salvation,” not airing grievances. Our three heroes from Denton, Texas had come to lead us to Promised Land—or at least as close as we could get to it from Los Angeles. Pearson, Josh “The Bear” Browning, and Andy “The Boy” Young took the stage with little fanfare, bidding us a casual hello. Pearson was nearly unrecognizable, his face mostly obscured by facial hair. (He must have started growing it almost immediately after completing the cover art for the LP, on which he appeared clean-shaven, because he now looks like Santa Claus’s younger, svelter brother.) But the band’s rather unassuming, bedraggled look and presence belied their musical agenda, which became apparent soon enough. It began with an ode to the familiar as Pearson and Co. appropriated Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”. Predictably, this was met with frenzied applause. But then things went completely haywire. Pearson slowly let the chords unravel until there was nothing left but echo and reverb. For at least ten minutes, this went on. Pearson never came within several feet of the microphone. He moved toward the back of stage and watched as the audience stared blankly. If there had been an earthquake, none of us would have been the wiser. LTE were busy delivering the apocalypse.
But just as everyone was about to give up hope of melody, the torrential downpour calmed to a drizzle. And as if the clouds had parted overhead, Pearson stepped forward and delivered the evening’s first words in his best Buckley falsetto. LTE hit their stride almost immediately, reeling one “song about the end of the world where Texas is the Promised Land” after another. (Yes, they have a double-album’s worth of them.) The Bear and Boy provided solid rhythmic anchoring for Pearson’s flights of fancy, that is until the bass’s connector gave out right in the middle of their “hit song,” “These Are the Days”. After some unsuccessful fiddling with the outlet on the bass, Pearson quipped, “The problem’s not on the outside. It’s on the inside, just like with all of us.” Bear finally accepted Pearson’s diagnosis, exchanging his instrument for another. The minor inconvenience aside (although hearing “These Are the Days” one and a half times was hardly a nuisance), LTE put on a terrific show. They didn’t so much play music as wage war, and they if they keep putting on displays like this across the country, this is one campaign Lift to Experience is bound to win—even if their label could give a shit.