The California sound is alive and well, even if it's mutated a bit since the golden age of the Byrds, the Beach Boys and Buffalo Springfield. Two California pop-rock bands, Beulah and Dios, gave solid accounts of their eclectic styles Tuesday night at the Black Cat. If neither group could reproduce the full range of its studio sound, each compensated with a looser, livelier approach.
Beulah is a San Francisco sextet that's often supplemented on disc by strings and horns. Onstage, singer-guitarist Bill Swan sometimes played trumpet, but the band's live sound was simpler and brisker than its recordings. Miles Kurosky, the band's other singer-guitarist and its principal songwriter, specializes in jaunty regrets, and in concert the jauntiness came on stronger than the regret. Beulah isn't a band to achieve full ecstatic abandon, but it delivered these brokenhearted directives with something approaching joy.
Dios is from Hawthorne, the Beach Boys' home town, and has clearly taken this coincidence to heart. On its self-titled debut, the quintet interjects the entire vocal bridge of the Boys' "You Still Believe in Me" into its own "Fifty Cents." At the Black Cat, singer-guitarist Joel Morales scaled back this homage, merely summoning an instrumental version of the musical phrase from a sampler he periodically employed. Dios handled its gentle, intricate material more harshly than on its album, ending nearly all of its numbers with noisy rave-ups. The rough-edged renditions didn't banish the songs' melodic appeal, but they eventually became monotonous.
-- Mark Jenkins