The Belle Brigade At The Echo
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By Erin Hanson
To say music runs in this family is an understatement for the Belle Brigade. Being the grandchildren of GRAMMY-winning composer John Williams and the son and daughter of songwriter/composer Jay Gruska may have given them an inherent talent, but Barbara and Ethan Gruska have claimed a presence all their own. While the siblings' harmonies rival the perfection of Simon And Garfunkel, their congruence goes far beyond their intonation. The Gruskas have a way of silently communicating from the stage that creates impeccable timing, flawless transitions and an undeniable chemistry that even infiltrates the non-Gruska musicians onstage.
The Belle Brigade's third show of their February residency at the Echo in Los Angeles on Feb. 18 saw many of the same faces in the audience from previous weeks, revealing a loyal hometown fan base. Songs from their upcoming sophomore release Just Because (due March 25) dominated the set, many of which were already familiar to the crowd. They opened with their new single "Ashes," which has already received significant local airplay and acclaim.
The duo also played more familiar tunes from their 2011 self-titled debut album, confidently changing things up with a tastefully slowed-down version of "My Goodness" and a high-energy performance of "Where Not To Look For Freedom," during which Ethan Gruska played guitar with his teeth.
Throughout the Belle Brigade's set it became clear that those in attendance weren't there for the drinks or to socialize, but for the music. This was also true for the Gruskas, who positioned themselves front row and center for Alex Lilly's opening set. The congeniality in the crowd was even more apparent onstage. The siblings clearly have the utmost respect for each other and what they are doing. My highlight of the night was watching extreme adoration emanate from Barbara Gruska for her little brother during his solo verses. This was further reinforced by her coy follow-up comment: "That's my brother."
They ended their set with "Rusted Wheel," leaving the audience screaming for one more song.
The night was magical with a perfect venue, crowd and overall atmosphere. But even with the absence of any of these factors, the sheer quality of the music would have prevailed.
The Belle Brigade will perform the final show of their residency at the Echo on Feb. 25. They will also perform at South by Southwest on March 12.
"Where Not To Look For Freedom"
"Likely To Use Something"
"Miss You In My Life"
"How I See It"
"Be Like Him"
"Everything For A Stone"
(Erin Hanson serves as the GRAMMY U Representative for The Recording Academy Los Angeles Chapter. She is a live music enthusiast and a proud USC Trojan. Follow her @erin__hanson.)