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It's A Beautiful Day, Club Congress, Sept. 7



I discovered It's a Beautiful Day during a memorable mid-'80s weekend when a passing car nearly tore off my vehicle's door as I impulsively stepped into the street to buy flowers from a cart. That weekend also saw my virgin viewing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. At some point, I asked a friend what was on the radio, and she answered, "It's a Beautiful Day." That music was more than a decade old then, and the band had been defunct for years.

Today, the reconstituted band can fill Club Congress with fans, albeit in chairs, for their sing-able orchestral folk. That's a testament to the sheer size of the baby boom.

Band founder David LaFlamme dangled his glittering silver fiddle as he explained how he made it through: "I was in India six weeks in 1972, specifically to kick my cocaine habit. I went to an ashram to get clean, and I've been clean ever since."

Of the band members onstage, only drummer Val Fuentes knew him then, and has been with him since. Apart from the '90s, when LaFlamme worked "in pictures" and Fuentes was with the New Riders of the Purple Sage, they've made new music and played the old favorites around L.A. While the Congress show included golden hits such as "White Bird," "Bombay Calling" and "Time Is," it was primarily loaded with newer material.

LaFlamme introduced one of the new songs, "San Francisco Nights," with a story about how he met his wife of 39 years, Linda Baker LaFlamme, the band's deliverer of smooth but powerful vocals, at a show. She interrupted to say she had actually been there to see Booker T. and the MGs.

"Soapstone Mountain," with its primordial alt-country arrangement, was first recorded in 1970. And 1971's "The Grand Camel Suite" seemed prescient with the Middle Eastern flavor of its country twang.

After hearing this band's songs badly played by convention-hotel bands for 40 years, it was great to find their pre-punk, folk-jazz fusion put back right, live, and set in its historically colorful context. Surely they're ready for a close-up on Glee.

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