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On the Road With Free Energy and the Postelles: Los Angeles

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THE POSTELLES

The Postelles and Free Energy have been on tour together since playing The Double Door in Chicago on January 19. This is the third in a series of posts covering the West Coast leg of their tour, which includes Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The Postelles are huge fans of Gram Parsons, the country music mastermind behind The Byrds' 'Sweetheart of the Rodeo' and the Rolling Stones' "Country Honk." As we enter Los Angeles, inching along the 101 freeway, The Postelles' touring van is blasting "Still Feelin' Blue" from Parson's album 'GP': "And when you're gone the hours pass so slow / and now I'm still feeling blue" the band harmonizes along with the record, which emanates from crackly speakers.

The band fosters a keen penchant for rockabilly and Mr. Parsons is merely exhibit A. The last several nights of the tour the band has ripped their way through a blistering version of "Hound Dog" to an enthusiastic crowd. Though made famous by Elvis Presley, the song was originally a Big Mama Thornton recording, explains guitarist David Dargahi. In the hands of The Postelles, the tune is a lithe, supple number, jumping up like a spark plug with the foursome's bouncy presence.

You can find out a lot about one's listening habits while out on the road. "Driving Jams," as Free Energy drummer Nick Schuminsky calls them, afford a look into both individual taste and a band's ethos. Free Energy's road policy is that the driver is DJ, and they all take turns behind the wheel. On the other hand, The Postelles, who hail from New York City, share two driver's licenses between the four of them. "For a while the van was pretty heavy into Petty, everyone would play 'Full Moon Fever,'" reminisces Paul Sprangers, the singer of Free Energy. "Sometimes something will take hold and everybody plays it when they drive."

Recently the band has been playing a pitch perfect cover of "I Won't Back Down," the first single from 'Full Moon Fever,' Petty's 1989 solo debut. In Portland the band skipped the tune opting for a cover of disco classic "Funkytown" instead with the members of The Postelles sharing one mic and singing backups on the chorus. In Los Angeles the band will play the Petty cover, which Sprangers sings with steadfast earnestness. The lackadaisical stomp of "Funkytown" has been appropriated by Tom Petty's no-frills rock. Paul sings with his index finger touching his thumb, the rest of his fingers spread wide, gesturing as he enunciates each syllable. He lectures like a rock 'n roll guru "Gonna stand my ground / And I won't back down." When the chorus hits the crowd and band alike go airborne, pumping their fists and singing along: "Hey Baby! There ain't no easy way out!"

Backstage in Los Angeles is especially hectic. The Roxy's greenroom area is located upstairs and friends of the bands filter in and out drinking, smoking and making merry. In between sets it becomes especially crowded, with band members and friends exchanging enthusiastic accolades. Free Energy guitarist Scott Wells sits on the couch working through a cover of Third Eye Blind's "Never Let You Go," which he promised to play tonight on a dare. The ever-present pheasant feather bobs in the air, attached to the headstock of his swaying guitar.

When it comes time for Free Energy to take the stage, The Roxy is packed. The crowd waits with palpable eagerness. True to ritualistic form, the band is backstage stretching and howling vocal warm-ups at the top of their lungs. The bands have a long road ahead of them. After Los Angeles they will head to San Diego. From there the tour will take them across the American South and then up the Eastern Seaboard before they can finally sleep in their own beds.

Check out a video of Free Energy's "Dream City" live from Portland's Doug Fir Lounge below.

Dream City from Theo Spielberg on Vimeo.