If anyone can raise my once-lively spirit from the dead, it’s Provo-native opener Baby Ghosts—a favorite of mine. They’re now altogether more visible, and even their clanging warmups sound like a sugar rush. They start up pretty quick, but run into technical issues right away, issues that will later reveal themselves to be persistent throughout the night. The mic went out the night before, when Portland band DTCV was playing, and the same appears to be happening now. However, the nature of Baby Ghosts seem to be something like those jump-rope chains people did in elementary school, where everyone linked hands or something and attempted to skip their ropes in unison. Baby Ghosts are like if that was professional sport, completely synced up in their fast and heavy pop-punk rumble in a way that leaves no room for stuttering to a stop. So if they did indeed notice the lack of audible vocals, they seemingly ignored it and played on. They do get the sound sorted, but still come off quiet for most of the set, and this, combined with front lady Karly Zobrist making some sorta sick-girl faces—suggesting that maybe she’s under the weather—makes for a quiet first half. The microphones are still low, leaving out the shouty energy of Zobrist’s and Katrina Rick’s vocals. Even though everyone plays flawlessly, something’s missing, compared to other performances of theirs I’ve seen. It seems that they really are tired because, halfway through, they express their shock that they’ve been playing less than fifteen minutes. From there, they kick it up with “Existing” and play the rest of their set grinning and shrugging at each other. They prove that they can stutter as they shakily attempt to play one of their so-called oldest songs, starting up a second time to deliver a nostalgic, purple-toned punk-colored song with bright and sassy “woohs!” A technical issue brings them back to square one and the song sputters down with the frightening and zealous friction of screeching tires. It’s rather symbolic of the whole set, up-and-down but still energetic at its core.
The second act to open for Peach Kelli Pop is Lowgrey, a two-piece from Flagstaff, AZ that delivers a somewhat shocking amount of post-rock noise for their minimalistic set-up. They dole out some diverse stuff, songs with ambient shrieks, songs with a warm, straightforward guitar that has the depth of two. At a point between songs, they express their “honor” to be playing with the lineup tonight, and though they’re not quite as close and cozy with the other, rather bratty punk bands, they do bring some variation to the table. Their best song by far is one that includes a brief introductory anecdote about the origin of the name. The song is called “Penis Graveyard.” Apparently, it’s about a lady called Baroness Elsa who, by their account, was part of the avant-garde movement but fell to the side due to effects of patriarchal systems. They quickly gloss over a history of the Baroness’ erotic love letters, her dick-shaped tombstone art, all to accurately describe the namesake of what turns out to be the best song of the set. Moody, swirling lyrics are indistinguishable, but if they really are writing about patriarchal crap, they’re certainly expressing the stress of such systems with their bashing instrumentals. The rest of the set has moments of shimmery minimalism peaking through the drum-heavy whole. It all makes for, like I said, a bit of a break from the fast-paced tunes of Baby Ghosts and the equally fast to come.
Third up is Tim Allen’s Forces, who give us a 30-second-long growly tease of a warmup-like song, or perhaps a song-like warmup. A local act I haven’t seen before, they initially confuse me, but later on win my affections with their spinny lo-fi garage rock, emulating the likes of Ty Segall in a loosened-up fashion. Their first song is called “Ghost,” and is comprised of mumbly, grumbly, groany vocals from the dead-eyed lead paired with fast and steady instrumental backing. It slows, the lead wobbling around, emitting high-pitched moans, and ends after accelerating again with chants of “ghost!” riding on top of a super fast tempo. The crowd whoops and claps, finally warmed up out of their earlier docility, and the band tells them to move up closer. With “Boomerang,” a song apparently about In-n-Out Burger, the reservations I had have melted and I’m really digging it, charmed enough to bounce on the balls of my feet and waggle my stuffy head. However, technical difficulties again strike, and minutes of silence pass, people start shuffling outside, cropping up into chat circles, until finally, they get back on track without warning for one last song. They disband, and we yield to another wait.
The wait for our headliner—the all-girl Peach Kelli Pop—turns out to be a long one. Technical difficulties again strike unease into our hearts, soon replaced by fear as time drags on. The people packing the space stand quietly, facing the muted panic of cords being plugged and unplugged up front amidst nervous laughter and shifty glances amongst the band members. I stand under that broken flickery light on the north wall, and this adds to my personal horror-movie sense of foreboding. The same question looms raincloud-like above all of us: “What if Peach Kelli Pop can’t play?” My muscles are tensed to cringe, but finally they greet us, gladly, with cheer that soothes the tension. They start off with a fast “doo-wop” number, the three pony-tailed (well, one had a ballerina bun) vocalists bobbing in fantastic unison. While the mics are still sketchily low, the girls play with grins. They make a somewhat ironic remark about how tonight’s sound set-up sounds better to them than their fancy professional set-up from their performance the night before. They do sound good though. Peach Kelli Pop pounds out perfect, high-energy, gritty-with-sugar punk numbers. It’s a gooey melting pot, the sparkly child of garage and pop. The crowd bubbles and twists to everything, wiggling like a sea, all the way to the back, especially to songs like “ABC,” a hardcore bubblegum piece of bouncing noise. Another favorite of mine is a cute, yet punkified ’50s dance hall bit with moments of new wave–ish guitar towards the end. They present two or three new songs which steal the show and represent well for their new album. Every song, old and new, is short, fast, loud and sugar-choked. A rollercoaster of sweet girl-band rock, Peach Kelli Pop’s music is even better performed with their pomp-filled charm. Not a moment flags or loses momentum, and the crowd sings gleefully along to the last sticky, gooey notes.
With the conclusion of such a solid set, tonight has proved to be pretty radical—worth fighting through those technical hitches, worth the quiet waits, worth my personal struggle to stand upright. I’m left yearning for nothing save one thing—another night of Peach Kelli Pop, hopefully very, very soon, and better—maybe at a time when my vertigo is mild enough for me to properly groove. I can’t help thinking that everyone who came out tonight feels the same way I do. We clog at the door as the dreary dripping April night leaks in, but it doesn’t dampen the feel-good residue of all those glittery noises built up and ditched (gladly) down on us from every band tonight.