It’s too bad for that whole Wilco thing. Because chances are if that if John Stirrat and Pat Sansone didn’t have a day job in one of the greatest bands on earth, you’d probably know a lot more about their time moonlighting in Autumn Defense. Of course, these guys aren’t anonymous, several blogs have written nice things about their self-titled third album that came out in January, (see here, here, and here). But none of the major online music mags wrote reviews on it and only a smattering of places print or otherwise even bothered to write-up what would ostensibly be vanity project from two guys, forever famous as being two of the dudes in Wilco not named Jeff Tweedy.

But the few places that did review the Autumn Defense’s very solid album were almost uniformly praiseworthy and watching the band let loose a breezy, effortlessly pleasant set last Friday night at Spaceland, its hard to see how anyone could dislike this band. With surprising charisma, Stirrat and Sanson stood up front, energetically strumming golden, late summer chords, perfectly complementing the heat spell breezing through Los Angeles this winter. With a precise knack for harmony, both men effortlessly churned out hum along, foot tapping folk-pop melodies that sound like they were cooked up in a Laurel Canyon treehouse in 1971.

It’s fitting that The Autumn Defense turned in a very strong set tonight in LA, as their sound is heavily derived from those bands that the city of Angels seemed to effortlessly crank out from 1965-1971: Love, The Byrds, The Doors, Buffalo Springfield, CSNY, and the Eagles (even if the Eagles do kinda’ suck). But The Autumn Defense aren’t just mere psych-folk revivalists, the they definitely have a sound onto their own, adding layers of instrumentation onto an acoustic base. At times three violinists stood in the corner, firing off lazy gorgeous notes, while various types of percussionists shook in the other corner, turning the affair into a mellow celebration.

All Right Mr. Tweedy…I’m Ready for my Close-Up

If you like Wilco, I’m willing to bet you’ll really enjoy the Autumn Defense. And unless you’re going to Bonnaroo (and if you are, take me please), you probably won’t be seeing Wilco anytime soon. Meanwhile, the Autumn Defense will be on tour through the end of March. Their live show won’t blow your mind like Stirrat and Sansone’s day band, but you’ll still end up impressed. If nothing else, Wilco fans should check them out just to understand how the cosmic leap from A.M. to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot/A Ghost is Born wasn’t just all Jeff Tweedy’s maturaion. Indeed, Sansone and Stirrat are two outstanding musicians in their own right and their solo chops are two more arguments in favor of Wilco being one of the most talented bands in recent memory. Hell, even their bassist and “multi-instrumentionalist” can still take almost every band’s lead singer/songwriters.

MP3: The Autumn Defense-“Canyon Arrow” (
not to be confused with Canyanero)
MP3: The Autumn Defense-“This Will Fall Away”

Go To So Much Silence for another Autumn Defense MP3

The Parson Redheads Again? Ah yeah…Again and Again (to be said in the call-in voice from the intro to “Protect Ya’ Neck”)

Not trying to beat a Dead Horse (I actually only beat dead horses on Tuesday’s), but local fan-favorite The Parson Redhead’s delivered another impressive opening set for the Autumn Defense on Friday. I know I’ve mentioned them twice before, but last Friday’s 30 minute performance was another compelling reason why the Parson’s are one of the best new bands in Los Angeles.

When Parson Redhead lead singer Evan Way expressed interest in opening up for their folky kindred spirits The Autumn Defense, Spaceland’s bookers intimated their desire to keep things as mellow as possible, in theme with The Autumn Defense’s cozy hushed sound. Normally, the Parson’s balance their folky, country-tinged ballads with kinetic psychedelic electric guitars and danceable bass lines, but the other night, they played a stripped down, acoustic set. It was a bit strange to see the entire tribe of them standing still and calm, rather than in the full-on celebratory mode of their normal performances.

Yet stripped down to their most bare, Way’s songs retain all their charms and harmonious rhythms, evidencing the mark of good pop songcraft. The show might not have been as instantly impressive as their normally kinetic sets. But to the already converted, it was an interesting and excellent display of another side of The Parsons.

MP3: The Parson Redheads-“Full Moon”

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