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Angelo Spencer and Kimya Dawson 

Husband-and-wife musicians form a deconstructed family band

March 16

Sweet Home New Orleans Benefit feat. Kimya Dawson, Angelo Spencer and Emily McWilliams

7 p.m. Tuesday

Big Top Gallery, 1638 Clio St., 569-2700;

Tickets $5

click to enlarge Angelo Spencer recorded his latest release at Olympia, Wash.'s Dub Narcotic Studio. - PHOTO BY SARAH CASS
  • Photo by Sarah Cass
  • Angelo Spencer recorded his latest release at Olympia, Wash.'s Dub Narcotic Studio.

For Tuesday's Sweet Home New Orleans benefit at the Big Top Gallery, Angelo Spencer and Kimya Dawson, husband-and-wife singer/songwriters and K Records labelmates, will each perform their own material. But not together, Spencer says. Somebody has to be ready in case their roadie needs to use the potty.

  Panda, the couple's 3-year-old daughter, is a road-tested tour veteran, having accompanied them on circuits since she was an infant. Hence the separate sets: "We take turns watching the kid while someone plays."

  It's not the only reason. Despite the personal and professional connections, their musical signatures couldn't be more disparate. Dawson, with her defunct band the Moldy Peaches and now as a solo act, speak-sings honest, bare-bones acoustic nursery rhymes both for adults in touch with their inner child and kids with elevated taste. (Her simple love songs sweetened the score of 2007's Juno; her most recent album, released in 2008, is a punny collaboration with a chorus of youngsters called Alphabutt.)

  Spencer is a tougher nut to crack. Issued in February, the French native's latest, Angelo Spencer et les Hauts Sommets (in English, "and the High Summits"), feels like a spaghetti Western soundtrack without the film — an instrumental suite, sprawling in spite of its 30-minute runtime, that corrals the spare, tumbleweed arrangements of Ennio Morricone, the tribal rhythms of tripped-out 1970s krautrockers Can and the vintage Pacific Northwest pop/rock of K Records founder Calvin Johnson, whose Dub Narcotic Studio served as the album's womb.

  "There's no computer in there," Spencer says of the famed Olympia, Wash., recording space. "There's just tape, tracks and old vintage gear. It's really raw. The thing is, in that studio, the microphones are really good. It's old microphones from the '60s. It sounds great for some reason, different from the microphones of now."

  Fellow K folk-rocker Karl Blau engineered the LP, but Johnson's presence was felt all the same, Spencer says. "I just finished recording a new 7-inch with Calvin, actually. That was an interesting experience, to work with him. He don't take no shit at all. He does what he does, and he's not going to change — ever. He's a character."

  Though Spencer's been here twice before, they were as Panda's chaperone during Dawson's visits (the last coming in January 2008 for another Sweet Home New Orleans benefit). This will be his first time performing in the city. Naturally, he says, there's an innate kinship. "It's funny, because where I'm from (the French Alps), the accent is really thick; it's kind of the same as the Cajun accent. It's not the same slang and words, but the accent is the same. I talked to this (New Orleans) grandma once and I was using my thick accent, and we were able to talk to each other.

  "That was great," he adds, laughing. "I love the Cajun music."

  It could be the last trip they make as a deconstructed family band. No longer a cub, Panda, Spencer says, is growing restless on the road. "We don't really do it that often anymore. We used to do it a lot when she was younger. But now she's almost 4, so she wants to go home. She doesn't really like when we play shows. It's kind of boring for her. A boring life."


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