Friday, July 20, four out-of-state bands who were touring made a special trip to our city for just one night. All of the bands came from Boise except for Cerulean, who hail from Denver. They all came without merchandise, to my dismay, basically to throw a party sponsored by our local friend, Lynden Williams, and his growing music blog Neighborhood Brains.
Cerulean opened and played no more than eight songs, but they were sonically mesmerizing. The band consists of a brother and sister, with Elliot Baker on production and Marilyn Baker on vocals. With Marilyn sick at the hotel, Elliot stood alone onstage behind his Mac and control unit pumping out beats in his throwback Denver Broncos hat, multi-colored hi-top Converse and unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt. The vocals and synths had a beautiful, ambient tone backed by drums that kick and, at times, hip hop beats. It’s a surreal combination, which had one kid dancing on the stage and others shouting out lyrics when a song dedicated to “gangster surfers” started playing. The track consisted of a “chopped and screwed” beat sample from Notorious B.I.G.’s “Goin Back To Cali” with some added synths and B.I.G. vocal loops. The song was a party starter and a gem in the arsenal that this Denver “duo” provided.
When Junior Rocket Scientist took the stage, they came with the most unique sound of the evening. There were three guitars, a drum kit, keyboard and an electric violin. The vocalist on violin shouted with veins bulging. With his voice and the fast-paced jam rhythms, the band played loud and often resembled the sound of Modest Mouse. For the last song, the amp cranked up, and drums to back, and they thrashed their guitar strings in union to close out their set.
After all this went down, it still seemed that no band had more fun that night than The Dirty Moogs. This band of three, all playing keyboards and synthesizers, loosened up the crowd more than anyone else of the evening, including myself. They were a perfect combination of humor and bouncy synth pop. For the first couple of songs, frontman Jason Graham spoke and sang with a German accent. All three band members looked over 30 and could easily play their instruments in space suits and come off as normal. They sounded like Zapp and Roger, at times and played a song that had to do with cosmonauts and prostitutes called “We’re Professionals.” The close of their set consisted of an extended “freak out” synth climax that was reminiscent of something Ratatat could produce, and had me whipping my head around while playing air guitar.
The headlining band of the evening played with only green neon lights to light up their dark stage. Shades, another band of three, carried a sort of dark wave, romantic vibe. The singer sang with heart and emotion adding an element to his band that called Soft Cell to mind. Everyone surrounded the stage for this one, and though no one danced, most bodies were swaying with heads tilted back. Overall the night played out as an ode to ’80s synth music and a rather promising sign of where electronic music is headed in our day. If you’re already bumming out that you missed this eclectic show, hurry over to soundcloud.com for these artists’ material, and count on Neighborhood Brains bringing more talent to our attention in the future.