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Duke Spirit Leila
Duke Spirit ~ Live Tonight ~ Spaceland ~ Duke Spirit mp3

When I first heard the Duke Spirit in the summer of '03, in the days before MySpace and MP3 blogs, I felt it my duty to tell everyone I knew about the group. The music was dramatic and powerful, the lyrics were arresting and unique, and even their website then was cryptic and original. But what separated them - and still does, unfortunately - is that their lead singer doesn't have testicles (at least as far as I can tell). When I first started listening to contemporary music, female-fronted groups like Lush and PJ Harvey and Elastica were on the radio and in my head, but the last ten years of rock has felt like Augusta National to me. Sure, there's the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Gossip, Electrelane, and the Kills, but that's about it. Look at the line-up for KROQ's recent Weenie Roast and you find only one woman musician - the bassist in the Silversun Pickups - on the entire schedule.

So while the Duke Spirit whip out a ferocious and driving sound, it's singer Leila Moss that is the group's magnet, her voice a thick shake of sex and danger. Last June the band finally made their LA debut, doing a show at Spaceland that friends still talk about. Moss is staggering to watch, and when the band launched into the monster "Red Weather," it was probably the first time since the two White Stripes shows in 2001 that a Silver Lake crowd headbanged. Lots of group are tight musically, but it's another thing to see an outfit like the Duke Spirit that are so instrumentally connected that it seems like its members couldn't exist without performing.

Last summer when I finally broke down and joined MySpace, one of the first people I added were the Duke Spirit. This has paid off handsomely twice: last fall, when I read a bulletin announcing a limited edition 45 with covers of Desmond Dekker and Love (which is excellent); and last month, when they announced that they'd be playing (for free!) at the lovely Pappy & Harriet's in Pioneertown.

Duke Spirit Leila 2

A Corolla of us drove out to the desert for that gig, and in the middle of a set packed with classics from their catalog, the Duke Spirit played a new song called "Bottom of the Sea" that was massive; it's probably the group's finest (and catchiest) song to date. The band remains mesmerizing in concert, but Moss had transformed from a bangs-in-the-eye, t-shirt wearing indie girl to a ravishing, late-'70s British Airways stewardess. She was impossible not to focus on, and the rest of the band seemed to play up to this, wearing all black and rarely making eye contact with the crowd.

After their set, their bassist (Owen, Liam, Charlie... Toby!) mentioned to me that the band was recording their new album out in Joshua Tree, but that they'd be doing one last LA show before they head home, and that's tonight at Spaceland. La Habra natives Coco B's open. DO NOT MISS THIS CONCERT.

*Before I forget, the excellent magazine The Fader is having their Issue 46 release party at Grace E. Simmons Lodge with sets from The Smell stars No Age and ex-Black Dicer and one-man-band Soft Circle; RSVP here.

The first time I went to the lodge was my first winter back home in California, and after downing a hobo omelet at LAPRAAC Cafe, I was pigeon toeing around Griffith Park when I saw several buses cough past me. The temperature was well into the 80s, but Ed Reyes' office had trucked in a mountain of snow for Solano Avenue kids to play in. With a trickle of a stream and lush flora everywhere, it was and still is a surreal place to go, but I'd recommend coming drunk to the Fader fete, as I think the only syrup they'll offer is Bud Select.

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