Easy as one 23

Pub date September 23, 2009
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features


MUSIC Brought together by the 23 enigma (and, more than likely, straight-up friendship), the two folks behind Rainbow Bridge get a bit elusively new age in discussing their musical partnership. After several minutes of semi-coded phone conversation from their Olympia, Wash., home base, touching on author and teacher José Arg?elles, the Mayan calendar, and the idea of "cultivating obscurity," it becomes increasingly clear that the band’s raison d’être is actually pretty simple: maximizing the two-piece drum and electric guitar format — "trying to see how much spirit we can cultivate with super-basic things" as drummer/co-vocalist (and sometimes keyboardist) Bridget O’Brien Smith puts it — for a shuffling, mesmerizing twang that really ought to reach ears well beyond the Pacific Northwest.

Guitarist-vocalist Adam Croce and O’Brien-Smith are in the process of intensive rehearsals and days spent recording a prospective LP. "Each time we’ve recorded, we’ve had a different set-up — getting a different ambience, the breath of the day," explains Croce, relieved to "exhale finally" after one such session.

Rainbow Bridge began playing together early last year in Olympia, where both members attended Evergreen College, and each thought up the name individually before — simultaneously, I guess — suggesting it to the other. This was a fortuitous early sign of what they describe as their "harmonic convergence," not unlike the Arg?elles-initiated 1987 event of the same name. While their band’s name might seem to allude to Jimi Hendrix’s 1970 Rainbow Bridge concert in Hawaii ("a different kind of harmonic convergence," Croce assures), it has more to do with Arg?elles, whose 2012 Circumpolar Rainbow Bridge meditation is said to be able to spiritually unify the planet.

There’s a definite spiritual connection between Rainbow Bridge and the Bay Area, where Croce grew up and played in a ton of bands, including the SPAM Records-affiliated Tommy Lasorda and Los Rabbis. I first heard his music on a self-titled album by Broken Strings, a solo work that circulated extensively on CD-R before its vinyl release on True Panther Sounds last year. It’s a weird, home-recorded rock revelation, peppered with Carl Sagan soundbites and crackling with a feverish energy reminiscent of Robert Pollard’s mid-1990s brilliant streak.

Broken Strings is over now, but Croce and O’Brien-Smith already appear set to considerably improve on that work, judging from both sides of Rainbow Bridge’s killer debut seven-inch, "Big Wave Rider/Birdcage" (True Panther Sounds), out this month. "Rider" is a knockout, small-scale anthem, a summery song of measured meter ("Hangin’ 10 /Gnarly session /Shootin’ the curl /Shootin’ the curl for the world! /For a surfer girl /Waves they unfurl!") and ecstatic delivery. The flip is a chugging, jilted blues, likewise remarkable.

Rainbow Bridge plays its first show outside Olympia in Seattle later this month, and hopes to tour the West Coast soon. Just be sure to understand their reasons for being: "We are connected by the 23 enigma," says O’Brien-Smith, while Croce adds, "And we don’t wanna be stigmatized for that."