Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Olms featuring Pete Yorn concert review: Santa Ana, Calif.

courtesy Harvest Records
A different version of my review originally appeared at

The Olms have a distinct retro-minded aesthetic. 

Comprised of Pete Yorn and relative newcomer J.D. King (a Norco native), the duo produced, mixed and played nearly two dozen instruments on their self-titled debut album.

The winsome collection came out on the just re-launched Harvest Records last June. It was recorded on analog tape and it touches upon earthy folk/rock and chamber pop sounds that could’ve appeared in 1966.

Performing to a small, yet enthusiastic crowd at the Constellation Room on Tuesday, the five-piece live band made the most of a potentially awkward situation. Upon arriving onstage, Yorn seemed surprised and said, “this is a tight little crew here.” 

“On the Line,” featuring King’s droll lead vocals and keyboard work, launched the 55-minute Santa Ana set on a jaunty note. The guys’ harmonies got a good spotlight during the bluegrass-tinged “A Bottle of Wine, etc.,” where King’s fragile vocal delivery recalled Harry Nilsson. 

Yorn switched from acoustic guitar to drums for a rousing take on “Mental Revenge,” Mel Tillis’ top 20 country hit from 1975. Here, lead guitarist (and regular Yorn band mate) Jonny Polonsky tore off a memorable solo. The Olms also previewed an in-progress second album by playing the promising, Glen Campbell-esque “Arkansas” for the second time live.

A yearning “Only One Way” was in a similar vein as Yorn’s introspective efforts. Following “Christmastime,” a mellow folk original sung by King, his musical partner delved into the past. The melancholy “Just Another,” off Yorn’s gold-selling 2001 debut CD musicforthemorningafter proved breathtaking.

Later, idyllic tune “Another Daydream” found King adding flute flourishes and Polonsky did subtle guitar lines; the murder ballad “She Said No” came across weirder in concert, with spastic ending (think: Soundtrack of Our Lives); the yearning gem “Someone Else’s Girl” provided the perfect example of one of Yorn’s specialties – sad lyrics with a glimmer of hope.

King was front and center for an easygoing cover of Barbara Mason’s 1965 pop and R&B hit “Yes, I’m Ready.” The Olms finished with a spirited Stones number, “The Last Time.” 

Opening the evening was Simon Petty, backed by Malcolm Cross. Each were members of the California-via-England roots rock outfit Minibar during the 2000s and have toured with Yorn in the past. 

Here in the Constellation, singer/guitarist Petty added musicians as his satisfactory half-hour set proceeded. Standouts among the earthy tunes (earmarked for an upcoming album) included “Highwire” and “Brand New Mistakes.”

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