Back on October 8, 2005, Particle returned home to Los Angeles to close out their Calilicous tour and celebrate their fifth-year anniversary at the House of Blues Sunset Strip. Fumo Verde and I were there to greet them. It was my third Particle concert in 53 weeks. The two previous times were the fourth-year anniversary show at the same venue with Ladron de Tebeos on October 2, 2004 and down in San Diego over the holidays on December 29, 2004 with Fumo and some friends at 4th & B.
The fifth-year anniversary was a fun time, but something was missing. The openers, Animal Liberation Orchestra from Santa Barbara, had a great sound and the smoking section during the sets was in full force. Fumo really enjoyed the show, but for me the vibe, energy, what-have-you just didn’t feel right. A few weeks later I read a press release online that made clear what I had trouble putting my finger on: guitarist Charlie Hitchcock would no longer be with the group. Here’s an excerpt:
After five years and seven hundred shows across the world, Particle is ready for their first extended break heading into the winter holidays. The next phase will be a time of change for the band as we part ways with our longtime friend and guitarist, Charlie Hitchcock. Simply put, we found ourselves moving in different directions musically and we felt it was necessary for everyone involved to make this change.
That sounded generically pleasant, so I wasn’t surprised to read Charlie’s side of the story.
Then word got out that Particle 2.0, my designation for them, would appear at the Henry Fonda Theatre in a show dubbed Transformations. I was certainly curious to see what was going to happen as rumors surfaced about the addition of a singer being the new direction the band wanted to head in.
I attended with mi amigo, A.C., and we learned two things before entering: the concert was going to be recorded for a DVD release, and there was a pretty good pat-down by security, foreshadowed by a young man running back to his car, warning everyone to “hide your shit.”
The concert began uneventfully as DJ Logic came out to his turntables and played an eclectic mix ranging from Aretha Franklin, something that closely resembled Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, and the Knight Rider theme to a near-empty house. He picked a nice selection, but didn’t seem to be any better or worse than your friend and his record collection could do.
Two pairs of actors performed in antechambers that bracketed the stage. They were called Lucent Dossier, described as vaudeville cirque. A man and woman sat at a tea party that turned into a weird seduction/wrestling match, and on the other side one woman slowly undressed and spanked another. The costumes looked fantastic, like something out of Dangerous Liaisons. They grabbed your attention, but after taking them in, the actors did nothing to keep your interest. They must have been performing improvisation because the routines were so haphazard that I couldn’t imagine they were rehearsed. The young blonde who undressed was the only one able to garner attention of any length.
The stage had a lot of mikes so the rumors about vocals must have been accurate. The band walked out to a packed house and there were two new faces, who picked up guitars. I later found out they were Scott Metzger from the band Rana out of New York and Ben Combe from Bad Shoe out of Arizona.
The first song made the new direction immediately evident. They opened up with a number that had a group vocal with a rising chant. Big, long stretches of the entire band singing, “Ahhh”. It was very catchy and had a great hook because everyone could join in.
Next, they played a few of their old songs and Charlie’s absence was immediately apparent. The new guitarists were good but not near his level. There were fewer fireworks, which might be part of the new direction as well. The focus of the music became much more keyboard-centric, which works because Steve is a brilliant player, but as a fan of the band’s previous work, the sound was lop-sided without Charlie creating a balance to Steve.
Robbie Krieger came out to join them on “Metropolis.” He wore a black The Doors shirt that only had Jim Morrison’s face on it, which I found odd. Now, Kreiger might not think any of the kids in the audience know who he is, but Morrison never liked being singled out. Everything I ever read made it clear he always saw himself as just one equal part of the band and he hated the way the media and others tried to inflate his status, so I was surprised that Kreiger, who knew him, would make the same faux pas like some dopey, 18-year-old stoner. Who knows, maybe he didn’t want to draw any attention to that spoilsport John Densmore?
The music wasn’t that captivating, so A.C. and I headed to the bar where I was surprised to see so many people in line considering the band had only been playing about 30 minutes. I guess I wasn’t the only one not completely wowed. We filled our fists with drinks because it was the only way A.C. could use his credit card.
We returned to the floor as Krieger launched into the opening guitar riff of “L.A. Woman.” The crowd went certifiably wild, myself included. The whole band sounded great as Metzger belted out the vocals with the audience. Though they blew the roof clean off, I later questioned the song’s placement in the set list because the band’s intensity and the audience’s enthusiasm were never matched the rest of the night. The set closed out anticlimactically with Combe’s “The Sweeper” and “Eye of the Storm.”
During the break, it was apparent that the sound guy must have been a huge Talking Heads fan who just purchased the recently released DualDiscs because he played “Once in a Lifetime” three times in a row. Due to a combination of our age and lack of stimulants, A.C. and I went up to the balcony and grabbed a seat.
Particle opened the second set with a new original penned by Metzger, “It’s So Hard (Believe Me)”. After “Elevator,” they backed Blackalicious on “Excellent” followed by a cover of Beck’s “E-Pro.” Gift of Gab’s vocals were hard to make out in the mix, making almost everything he said sound exactly the same, but he got the crowd jumping.
DJ Logic and guitar ace Joe Satriani joined the band for “W”. The sound engineer receives another demerit because Satriani’s guitar was lost in the mix. This struck me as very odd considering he’s such a virtuoso and because Krieger’s guitar previously sounded absolutely phenomenal. I could understand if there wasn’t time to set the levels before the show, but there were no adjustments made on the fly.
The band closed the second set with a reprise of “Give”. A.C. and I started to head out, but as we walked by the sound booth, the set list showed an encore of “Lucky Man” and then “Superstition” by the whole group, so we decided to wait. Metzger and Combe came out alone and I was quickly disappointed because they weren’t covering Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, which would be perfect for Particle, but rather a song I didn’t know by The Verve. Everyone then delivered a raucous version of Stevie Wonder’s classic.
Particle is starting anew and this evening they felt like it. As a quartet with Charlie, I used to enjoy the journey the long jams would take, but tonight they lacked purposefulness in direction, coming off unfocused as they meandered to the finish. Since they are talented musicians, I’m sure that comes from the incorporation of the new members into the fold as adjustments are made to their combined strengths and weaknesses. This was there first public show together, so it is understandable. I’m definitely curious to see how things will turn out and what music and songs they create. I would see them again, but with a slight hesitancy until they get more work together under their belts.
Debut Show With New Lineup:
Steve Molitz – Keyboards
Darren Pujalet – Drums
Eric Gould – Bass
Scott Metzger – Guitar
Ben Combe – Guitar
7 Minutes Till Radio Darkness Part 2
Eye Of The Storm
Set 2: It’s So Hard (Believe Me)*>
Sun Mar 11>
*new original; 1st time played
** w/ Robbie Krieger on guitar
*** w/ Blackalicious
^ Doors cover
^^ Blackalicious cover
^^^ Beck Cover
% w/Joe Satriani on guitar
# w/DJ Logic on turntables
@The Verve cover; Ben (acoustic guitar) and Scott only
@@ w/ All guests