December 6th, 2011
The music scene of L.A.’s famous Sunset Strip has long since been famously populated by legions of specters, spirits, and ethereal souls. But perhaps none so radiant, lovely and haunting as Melinda and Caitlin Dahl, who in a return engagement to the Viper Room with their eclectic band The Dahls, once again delighted a packed house with powerful songs of love and life, both lost and found.
Dressed to kill, and playing for keeps, Melinda and Caitlin roared into their first song, “Circus Freak”. Singing in their trademark two-part harmonies, and looking appropriately like an almost-matching pair of Bonnie Parkers, the Dahls transported all in attendance back to a time of traveling carnivals and dust-bowl outlaws with the tale of a pair of misfits whose only hope was that they had found each other, and whose only virtue was that they were “on their way” to a better place. Their promise seemed short-lived, however as the sisters then regaled the room with the mournful and fascinating despair of “Josephine”, the painful yearning of “Where Are You Going”, and the frustration, obsession and regret of “Why Can’t I Stop”. From there the mood was lightened with “Feathers In My Room”, as Melinda sweetly invoked all of us to “stay with me a while”. And yet once again we were reminded of the scope of all that love can bring, as an earnest promise of cups of tea is tempered with the very real threat that these beautiful creatures just might “steal our truck and go for a ride”. And before any of us fallen angels had time to catch our breath, or to check the room for lost feathers, the Dahls had us on the road again.
With drummer Ryan Carman thundering a storm from the distance, and bassist Brett Simons watching everyone’s back, Caitlin Dahl firmly took the wheel with a dynamic guitar intro to a surprising and cogent cover of Tom Waits’ “Jockey Full Of Bourbon”, and again the room was soaring. And just in case anyone dared to not heed their warning to “fly away home”, The Dahls then brought the drama and spectacle of their evening to a crescendo, with the grand and glorious “Dark Side”. With the timeless sigh of Emily Isacson’s mournful accordion wailing across the room, and as Jesse Siebenberg’s flawless lap steel seemed to conjure up the ghost of Hank Williams, Melinda and Caitlin reminded us all not to hide in the shadows, to fight though pain, and to once again face all the joy, the risk, the terror and the reward that life – and love – have to offer. At the height of it all – and just when we thought there couldn’t be any more surprises – the Dahls’ refrains were punctuated by soprano Katherine Giaquinto, whose other-worldly, operatic and siren stylings threatened to raise the roof, and brought an almost surreal and spectacular end to a compelling and truly amazing performance.
Then, just as quickly as they had arrived, The Dahls were once again on their way, leaving everyone in the room with a smile, with a sense of wonder, and the certainty that we would all be haunted for some time by the infectious melody, the compelling harmony and the vexing beauty, of Melinda and Caitlin Dahl.