The headliners at the Empty Bottle wore black Sharpie X’s on their hands. They also donned blazers: one wore a tie, the other sported a turtleneck. The elder member of the duo songwriters resembled a young John Cale, and the younger, a Pete Townsend, right down to the long nose. These two songwriters are brothers. And they are the Lemon Twigs.
These two songwriters, joined live by Megan Zeankowski on bass and Danny Ayala on keyboards and vocals, played a sold out show last Thursday to a crowd who were not yet born for the Monterey Pop Festival in the ’60s or the Wings Over the World Tour in the ’70s.
The Lemon Twigs interpret bands and hits from a time of flowers and glitter through the lens of the present. It’s like they take fun songs from The Zombies and The Monkees and reimagine these works with the benefit of hindsight over the additional past four decades.
An energetic and confident “I Wanna Prove to You” from their fall debut Do Hollywood started and set the tone for their set. A few highlights included a cover of “I’ve Begun to Fall in Love” by R. Stevie Moore, and a quiet, contemplative performance of “How Lucky Am I?” with elder brother Brian on keys accompanied by his brother and Ayala who sang lush harmonies who shared one mic.
Chicago-rockers Glyders opened with what might be best described as low-key energy. Their lysergic-fueled country western tunes began the night with a stomp feel. The crowd nodded along, sipping on IPAs while taking in their open sound. The frontman played a harmonica to add color, the bassist played with no pick that added to their tight-but-loose texture, and their set got better as they went on. The lead guitar used a dollop too much reverb during their instrumental sections, as a more piercing tone could have shone a light as we waded through their sprawling, almost meditative jams.
Nashville band Savoy Motel blurred the lines between Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Stone Roses. But the key word here is blurred: their live sound felt uncommitted. The energy in the room lowered — in fact, the only people who were dancing were already at least a few drinks deep. Although their 8-bit blend of synthetic guitar tones and drum machines against the raw and chunky bass riffs and live drums were original, the band would benefit from going full-blown flowery psychedelia or muscular funk-rock. Skirting the lines between the two felt unfocused — at least in this live context — even though they performed with impressive musicianship.
The Lemon Twigs set could be easily divided between the ballads that Brian wrote and played guitar or keys to, and the energetic and loose numbers that the Pete Townsend-lookalike Michael performed. The midway point in their set was when the brothers switched between drums and center stage.
It might be too convenient to label the aesthetic and performative between the brothers as a Paul vs. John divide. But Michael’s guitar playing sounded raucous and dirty, whereas Brian’s tended to play more cleanly. Their musicianship sounded tight, just in different ways. During the encore, Brian said they have one more “sultry” song (by him) and one more rock song (by his brother).
The D’Addario brothers are young, but their music would still be impressive if they were decades older. The crowd sang along to hits like “These Words” and “As Long As We’re Together,” and, as an added delight, the band performed a few new songs for an upcoming EP. The Lemon Twigs play music so influenced by the past, but they write and perform with so much clarity that it can’t help but feel fresh and present.