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Indie acts rock at the Echo

June 26, 2003|Steve Appleford | Special to The Times

Calvin Johnson is an old master of the do-it-yourself ethic, first as a member of post-punk act Beat Happening and then as founder of K Records, the Olympia, Wash., home to a long line of worthwhile indie-rock acts.

And that was Johnson on stage Tuesday at the Echo, singing and brooding and closing a full night of K acts to a nearly full house. The two-week tour of the West Coast is headlined by Johnson and singer-songwriter Mirah.

And it was Mirah who performed with the strongest voice of the night, picking and strumming her electric guitar, singing against a sound that was equal parts folk, underground pop and fraying, heartfelt rock: "I'm sorry about so much baby, but I know you'll understand."

For his own set, Johnson set his stream-of-consciousness rhymes to a sound that would have been right at home in the underground scene of 1979. He sang in an amiable growl, swinging his hips awkwardly to the raw beats and jagged guitar chords.

Earlier, singer-songwriter Rebecca Pearcy stood alone with her guitar for ballads and rough-hewn lullabies that were not well-served by a too-quiet sound mix and some chattering fans near the stage.

Pearcy was not the night's most powerful presence, but performed songs that were notably blunt and personal. When you could hear them.

Opening the show was Liarbird, a four-piece band that made raw, unassuming, indie-style folk, both forlorn and subtly cheerful, and was capable of small eruptions of guitar, violin, drums and feeling. Not unlike the dependably raw and important K Records itself.

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