August 15, 2006

Some Reassembly Required

With only a few original compositions to their name at the beginning, Honey White fleshed out their live sets in 2002 and 2003 with anything that fit. This included a few of Bryn’s solo instrumentals, some covers, and eight Mojo Wire songs, all re-worked to suit Honey White’s economy, speed and power. Some songs became more complete, a few still needed work, but each tune gained strength from the trial-by-fire exposure in myriad Honey White shows.

How Far Away: This swift surf-rocker had already gone through one upgrade in the Mojo Wire, when that band took the original folk-pop version from the Seaside Hamlet Skids album and beefed it up with Adam and Joe’s double-gain guitar attack and some more refined lyrics (and vocals) from Keir. “How Far Away” was the uptempo closer for the last series of Mojo shows in 2001, but when Honey White got ahold of it, they streamlined the tune into a leaner, more economical meld of the two Mojo versions. The song retained, even gained, speed under Billy’s propulsive drumming, and cruised along well anywhere it was placed into Honey White’s live sets. Later, it even developed into a fleet-footed preamble to Bryn’s stomping, epic “My Second Shipwreck” instrumental, which led into the homestretch of many a Honey White gig. Definitive Take: 9/27/02 in Isla Vista.

The Shivering Sand: Keir’s sleek bass line ensured that this song would keep its basic, surf-noir form no matter what, but “Shivering Sand” went through the same double rebirth as every Seaside song played by the Mojo Wire and Honey White. It gained a furious tom-tom intro from Billy and a full-stop break after the bridge, and was further punctuated by an immediate, screaming, dive-bomb guitar solo from Bryn. An old classic was made new again, and it survived in the set until early 2004. “Shivering Sand” hasn’t been heard live since then, but Honey White has been preparing a reggae version for a third rebirth. Definitive Take: 4/30/03 at the Wildcat.

I Fly Free: Bryn’s standout Seaside track didn’t fare well in the pulverizing Mojo Wire lineup of 2001, but Honey White’s more empathetic sonic approach suited it much better, even if that band admitted they still hadn’t nailed it perfectly. “I Fly Free” finally got something close to the performances it deserved in the Honey White live sets of 2002-3, first as a subtler variation on the speedy, stripped-down surf rock of the other Mojo songs, and then, using Brian’s heavily reverbed tones, as a gradual upper when segued from the mellower “Sandman.” Definitive Take: Closest is 1/30/03 at UCSB.

So Cold: Drastic changes happened to this Seaside song once Honey White got ahold of it. Originally a slow 6/8 waltz of Bryn’s, “So Cold” underwent a process of fusion with a furiously rampaging rocker called “Bleak” (also written by Bryn) which hadn’t made the cut for the final Mojo disc in 2001. Honey White cemented this fusion/rewrite in fall ‘02, and “So Cold” easily became the most blatantly, unabashedly loud fast rock song in their set. Live, it was the song most likely to clear a club, but during outdoor gigs (such as Del Playa) its intensity seemed entirely appropriate, especially when Bryn let fly a hyper-paced blues solo that reeled through an already speedy song. Definitive Take: 4/30/03 at the Wildcat.

Pisces Lullabye: This somnambulant ballad debuted Keir as a vocalist on Seaside, but failed badly when attempted by the Mojo Wire live, and Honey White didn’t try it until late 2002. By that time Keir had overhauled the lyric completely, reconstructing the entire melody to suit a tighter Honey White arrangement that Billy was able to coax out of the band in rehearsal. “Pisces” gained a chorus, sort of, a slinky slide riff from Bryn, and a dissonant ending on an unresolved F-sharp chord. Definitive Take: 4/22/03 on Musical CafĂ© TV.

Heart On A Platter: A major-key pop tune from You’re On Your Own, the final Mojo Wire disc, this song became even poppier for Honey White. After mastering it quickly, they used it as either the opener or second song in almost every show of 2002-03, playing it so fast that nearly sixty seconds was shaved from its original Mojo running time of three and a half minutes. Keir’s lead vocals got quickly shoved aside by Bryn’s jubilant, soaring solo, and before you could adjust to its arrival the song had finished. Of every Mojo Wire song appropriated by Honey White, this one made probably the most successful transition. Definitive Take: 1/30/03 at UCSB.

One Last Hallelujah: The Mojo Wire played “Hallelujah” like a demented twin of Neil Young’s Crazy Horse: loud, pounding, and out of control. Honey White didn’t exactly tame this beast, but they did allow it a nice big space to roam around in. “Hallelujah” sprang to life when they released it live, bouncing along as all the other old Mojo songs, swinging furiously beneath Keir’s shouting vocals before Brian’s and then Bryn’s solos took it off on divergent trails of sonic safari. Post-2003, “Hallelujah” was revised to an ambient, moodier arrangement that better complimented the How Far is the Fall material, but that version has only seen a few performances. Definitive Take: 11/16/02 on Del Playa.

Fatal Flaws: The second Mojo monster tackled by Honey White, “Fatal Flaws” was condensed from a six-minute freeform jam down to an armed-and-dangerous four-minute, twelve-bar based blast of wah-wah riffage that kept the energy level high at every HW appearance until 2004. More shouting, self-absorbed dementia from Keir was again ably countered by Bryn’s and Brian’s dueling axes and Billy’s sharp snare. As many songs do, it got faster and shorter at every show, but that progress was slowed by Keir throwing in snippets of other bands’ lyrics into the break, like BRMC’s “Spread Your Love,” U2’s “The Fly,” and (on several occasions) Wilco’s “Outta Mind, Outta Sight.” Definitive Take: 11/16/02 on Del Playa in Isla Vista.

Windward Mark: Bryn’s snarling emulation of Dick Dale kicked off his solo My Second Shipwreck album of instrumental demos, but it was never integrated into any Mojo Wire sets (which, over the years, had seen covers of “Wipeout,” “Miserlou,” and “Pipeline,” among other surf classics). Honey White gave “Windward Mark” a proper airing, placing it early and prominently in their live sets from day one (even once as an opener), and it quickly became one of the high-energy peaks of any Honey White performance. Definitive Take: 12/05/02 at Giovanni’s in Isla Vista.

My Second Shipwreck: Written and arranged by Bryn in a matter of hours for his solo disc, “Shipwreck” became Honey White’s own humongous live workhorse in their first year of shows, stretching out a surfy, epic instrumental waltz over six minutes of falling and rising intensity. What sounded like a jam was actually a controlled, fully-formed piece of music that often created a long coda when segued from “How Far Away,” but was just as much if not more powerful when unattached. That segue, though, often brought the right amount of energy when leading into the aforementioned home stretch of the show-stopping “Lightning Rod” and the cover of “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over.” Definitive Take: 10/31/02 in Goleta.

Lover, You Should’ve Come Over: When not closing a set with their cover of the traditional “Wayfaring Stranger,” Honey White often employed this Jeff Buckley composition to stately effect at the end of their shows. Bryn, a huge Buckley fan, already had this song at his command before teaching it to the rest of the band, who tied together a somewhat simplified and condensed version in rehearsal. Singer-songwriter Johanna Reed, a friend of the band, sealed the deal by insisting Honey White learn the song for their shows. They did this rapidly, and the cover made its Honey White live debut at their second-ever show in Isla Vista. Definitive Take: 10/31/02 in Goleta.

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