Urban Lounge undulated softly on a Saturday night to the mellow sounds of El Paso–born Greg Gonzalez and his three-man touring complement. Gonzalez, Phillip Tubbs (keys), Randy Miller (bass) and Jacob Tomsky (drums) form the flowing indie slowcore Cigarettes After Sex, a project that Gonzalez formed in 2008 at his alma mater. An initial EP titled I. gave Cigarettes its spark, followed some years later by a 2015 single and a strange yet sultry cover of REO Speedwagon’s behemoth, drippy megahit “Keep On Loving You.”
Urban strikes as a scant space for a band on the rise, and the room was properly packed for the sold-out evening. The venue was prepped with an abundance of smoky air and packed with a predominantly black-clad, mellow, age-variant modern beatnik crowd that swayed with satisfaction.
Spartan white backlighting and black curtains—the established aesthetic of this shoegazey noir-nostalgia ensemble—furnished the simple stage. Gonzalez slowly sauntered forth to the mic from the soupy haze with his unnervingly soft voice infusing the disco-ball-glittered room. His vocals ring true, with an uncanny live match to their studio sound. Equally stunning were the brief moments of dialogue sprinkled in the setlist, wherein his baritone speech seems to arise from a separate body than his singing voice. Gonzalez offers only brief descriptive punctuations and acknowledgments of the crowd, including terse comments such as “this one is about getting really wasted.” Similar to his music, Gonzalez is lilting and unadorned, reflecting nearly no showmanship yet holding the audience’s rapt attention purely via the hypnotic sexiness of his music.
Cigarettes songs embody a delightful combo of Leonard Cohen sensuality with Elliott Smith’s soft and dour vocals, evocative of slowly searching makeout sessions in echoey college library stairwells. Gonzalez genuinely makes a guitar gently weep, and his band plays to him with crystal pacing and gentle rhythms.
As if richly clad in soft, black leather and sprays of vintage lace, Cigarettes’ sound is sumptuous and luxuriant yet edgy and risqué. They are arguably the consummate soundtrack for tasteful sensuality and sophisticated eroticism. As their name rater cheekily suggests, their music may be best compared to the sonic equivalent of a post-coital afterglow, leaving the listener sated and subdued. The Urban Lounge audience reflected the soporific power of Cigarettes as numerous couples swayed in unison to the music, with the room gradually fusing bodies almost as though it were compulsory. Ringing guitar bridges and gentle snare drum decorate Cigarettes’ sonic personality across every track, with an almost indistinguishable barrier between tunes, perhaps all the more effectively maintaining the audience’s trance. The most beloved of their sleepy hits were on display, and the crowd softly chanted along with the them including “K.,” Cigarettes’ dulcet and visually flush anthem to bedroom bliss and its unexpected attachment results. Cigarettes’ blissful REO Speedwagon cover helped transition the night toward completion, concluded with “Conquerors” and a final two-song encore cheered on with class by the audience. It seemed clear that the majority of attendees to the show were solid fans of the band, as the gently lit up at moments when a beloved favorite began to play.
Cigarettes After Sex provide a beautiful soundtrack for a cultivated, classy yet ever-so-slightly racy date-night, as their Urban Lounge set proved. Whether imbibed in the background of private late-night moments or onstage with a sold-out crowd, Cigarettes make for a most luscious, velvety auditory torte.