Monday, June 15, 2009

Through My Eyes: Hot Seconds

I decided to do something a bit different for this post. For this outing, I’m going to give an overview, an essay of sorts on a band through my eyes. Yes, everything here is through my eyes; I know. Anyway, I decided to kick this little thing off with a band I’ve seen several times in recent months and whom I’ve listened to frequently since I came across their record. I don’t think I’ve watched a band with such curiosity since a then unknown band called The Black Crowes released their debut record, Shake Your Money Maker. At any rate, it seems fitting that I should write about Hot Seconds. They were the first CD I spoke about here when I started my blog and my first Q&A. Now, they’re taking on another first here in my little online world. This is what I see. This is my journey…

Through My Eyes: Hot Seconds

In July 2008, New York band Hot Seconds released their self-titled debut record. In the event you haven’t experienced it yet, Hot Seconds is ten songs of well crafted danceable indie rock with Brit-pop leanings. It’s fun, biting and mischief. It’s cocky, jeering and charming. And, at times it’s insecure and vulnerable. That’s a lot of adjectives for one record but, they all fit.

When I happened upon Hot Seconds, it was a month or so after its July release. I randomly sampled it starting with “Pieces of You” and was instantly taken. That was all it took to make me dive head first into the album and float along the deep end with this pristinely produced DIY effort washing over me. From that moment on, I decided they were a band I had to watch.

It wasn’t long after that, that Hot Seconds were scheduled to perform. Perfect I thought. This is my opportunity to see live what had become a regular part of my listening habits. I went to the show. As I was waiting for it to start, I stood there hoping that a good record wouldn’t be ruined for me by a bad live show. It’s always a huge disappointment when something you like on record stinks up the place live. Thankfully, I didn’t suffer any disappointment.

What I got that first show was a band that played their songs well. It’s always nice when a band doesn’t mangle its own songs. I stood at that first show trying to take in everything all at once, letting the overall performance be an experience. The band as a whole, were low key playing pretty much spot on. Front man, rhythm guitarist and lyricist, James Love was the more animated one mixing nice guy next door charm with a bit of bad boy cheekiness. The show cemented my earlier notion that they were a band to watch. That show seems so long ago but, it was less than a year ago.

Jump ahead a couple of months to the New Year, January 2009. Having had my appetite whetted, I was excited to see the band perform again. This show was a whole new level of Hot Seconds. It was as if the New Year had sparked something in them. They rolled out new songs one of which is the terrifically fun, dance yourself into a hot sweaty frenzy, “When I Go.”

This was the show that drummer Ian Hudgins drummed me into submission and made me re-think my neglect of drummers. The band was on fire and deliciously decadent. Prisoners were taken that night; they were taken for a roller coaster ride of unrepentant fun. This was a band that was tight and bordering on dangerous. They were, quiet simply, breathtaking.

A month later brought about the third Hot Seconds show I witnessed. Another new song was rolled out. This new dirty groove, “Pink Caesar,” has keyboardist and band video director, Marcel Simoneau strapping on a guitar and making a front line appearance. After mostly only seeing occasional bobs of his head from the positions I’d been standing in during shows, it was a bit odd for me seeing a full-bodied Simoneau up front doing his thing. I’ve since gotten used to seeing him with the guitar and the last couple of shows he has seemed more comfortable, more relaxed while playing.

It was a good show but something felt off. It seemed they had lost some of their energy. The fire they had displayed a month earlier seemed to have dimmed some. I have wondered if perhaps it was just me. Was the previous show still so fresh in my mind that this one couldn’t compete? Or perhaps, they just had an off night as everyone does at some point. If that is the case, I must say, their off night is better than many good nights by other bands.

After that show, there was a two month Hot Seconds drought. They came back in May with two shows. One I missed, one I witnessed. In their two month absence, it seems someone re-lit their fire. The two months, it seems, did them good. They came back refreshed and loose. They overall seemed to be a more relaxed group. Everyone smiled more.

Something happened over on stage right though. Guitarist and band producer, Eran Westwood, he of the quiet charm, somewhat broody stage persona and intense aura seemed more relaxed, contented, like grey clouds had lifted allowing the sun to shine down on that side of the stage. He was more animated. This was a whole new Westwood for me. This version appeared to be dipping his toe in the deity waters to see how it felt. Apparently, it felt good as it carried over to their next show where he outright and unapologetically channeled his inner guitar god and looked to be having a damn good time doing so.

Like Westwood, Love too seems more relaxed. Somewhere along the line, between that first show I experienced and one seven months later, Love has come into his own. While he never really seemed to lack confidence, he now seems to have found his comfort zone. It was at this show that I could see Love’s rock star wings start to flutter. If he were a rooster, I’d say the cock has found his strut. Just like the guitar god, the rock star carried over to their next show too. This version of Love took command of the stage, comfortable in his rock star skin and letting his wings flutter proudly.

Now some eight months after my first show, June rolled around and I took in another Hot Seconds show. There has been one thing that has remained unwavering and flawlessly consistent. That one thing, one person, is the quiet guy in the background, bassist Bob Toria. Toria seems to be a sort of rhythmic glue content in the background providing, along with Hudgins, a solid foundation for everything else to spring from.

Hot Seconds has jelled. This band has shown that even on an off night, they’re a more than capable band. I hope the stars align and light the way to great success for these guys. They have reached that place where they look and sound comfortable and fearless. They appear to be enjoying themselves as much, if not more, than when I first saw them.

The creative juices seem to be flowing strong for Hot Seconds. The new songs they’ve rolled out seem heavier, more rhythmic. My expectations are high for a new recorded effort. It has been interesting watching their journey from then to now. I am still married to the notion they are a band to watch. I look forward to more shows and seeing where the path they’re on leads.

L. R. Adams
June 2009

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