Live Last Night: Little Joy

LJLittle Joy: Out there having fun.

I've never been to Los Angeles, but I imagine being there is a bit like being at the Black Cat's backstage last night. It was a cold and blustery D.C. evening; the half a block walk from my car to the club was daunting. But once I made it to the Black Cat's downstairs performance space -- warmth. I was wearing at least two too many layers. There were lots of young, mostly attractive people in attendance. Nobody cared that the band went on half an hour late. Once Little Joy did hit the stage, they took their sweet time getting to the point. No urgency, just laidback. Singer/guitarist Rodrigo Aramante started off with a soothing tropicalia tune. Then Binki Shapiro took over vocals for "Unattainable," a gentle almost-lullaby that's a first cousin to the Velvet's "After Hours." The full touring quintet eventually emerged and we were treated to 45 minutes of superficially pleasing music that lacked any real substance. It jingled, it jangled, it shuffled, it was over.

Besides Aramante (of Brazilian rockers Los Hermanos) and Shapiro, the other main member of Little Joy is Fabrizio Moretti, drummer for the Strokes. He's the most famous member of the band, but he's clearly the sideman, at least in a live setting. He gets out from behind the drumkit to play guitar, but it's more of a Patti Scialfa in the E Street Band type of thing. One or two chords per song, some backing vocals, lots of smiling. Last night his main duties seem to be chugging Budweiser, making penis jokes and thanking/encouraging the audience. And a few different times he took a guitar pick and stuck it on his forehead and left it there for an entire song. I think maybe this dude's been hanging out with Devendra Banhart a little too much.

Moretti's involvement makes the Strokes an obvious reference point, even if Aramante seems like the band's main creative force. And Little Joy certainly does sound like the Strokes. That is, if you took away the youthful urban angst that defined the band's still-totally-awesome debut, "Is This It?" Also, take away that charming cockiness in Julian Casablancas's vocals. And also the "band of bros" image that helped give them an all-for-one, one-for-all feel. So what are you left with? Well, just some catchy, toe-tapping, sun-soaked songs. Nice place to visit, don't think I'd want to live there.

By David Malitz |  November 19, 2008; 11:33 AM ET Live Last Night
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