Thursday, July 23, 2009

Live: Lovvers, Stupid Party, Darlings

When: July 16
Where: Cake Shop

A week ago, I headed to Cake Shop to catch Lovvers, a top-notch punk band from the UK whom I had yet to hear live but whose tunes have been in pretty frequent rotation on my iPod.

First up, though, was a band called Stupid Party. I should have known from that name that they would be awesome, but I hadn't really braced myself to see something really exciting.

Stupid Party are one of those bands who seem to not give a fuck at all about what people think of them. They definitely make an effort to play a good show, but without pandering or compromising. Here's the bold, determined independence rock music needs - kids are having fun and playing loud and anyone who doesn't like it can kindly piss off.

Stupid Party (photo from
Stupid Party (photo from MySpace)

The band's punky, DIY songs seemed to be written for a band just beyond their own level of technical ability - the drummer was stomping out the beats as though they were cockroaches trying to crawl away. The guitarist seemed to only remember the notes a fraction of a second before he was due to play them. Yet everything came together, a perfect balance of hooks and noise. This band is definitely a new favorite. [MySpace]

Lovvers came to my attention when San Diego's Wavves proved that bands with a double "v" in the middle of their name and a frontman with a haircut halfway between a fauxhawk and a mullet might be the very best kind of bands to listen to. So far, "vv" mullethawk bands are two for two.*

A lot of punk bands tend to sound more poppy on record and more punky live, but Lovvers are just the opposite. While their recordings are aggressively lo-fi, their live show underlined the band's 1950's roots (1950's rock being the root of all punk). They sounded more like the Ramones than like any hardcore band. Like that's a bad thing!

Singer Shaun Hencher went and jumped around with the crowd, getting in the faces of the front row and even pausing the band for a minute in order to plant a kiss on one girl in the front row. Meanwhile, the rest of the band was rocking it. Guitarist Henry Withers pogoed around the small stage while the rhythm section laid it down, loud and fast.

The band's young energy, their attentiveness to their audience, their clear enjoyment of every note, made the set impossible not to enjoy. And if that weren't enough, there's consistently exceptional songwriting and arrangement that makes Lovvers one of the stand-out punk bands today. [MySpace]

By the time the final band, Darlings, took the stage, I was kind of wiped out. I can only really handle about two excellent sets a night. So it was much to my chagrin that I discovered the third band was also going to kick serious ass.

Darlings were fairly recently featured as one of L Magazine's however-many bands you need to hear (eight?), which list I ruthlessly mocked for striking a bullseye right in the center of mediocrity. But seeing Darlings live, I have to admit they got one right.

The music sounded like it was arranged by a genuine madman. At times, the band members seemed to be attempting to play over each other in different key signatures. At others, it would sound like they'd all forgotten their parts for a few bars (but you know they hadn't because it happened the same way every time, and then SLAM, they were back in the chorus).

Darlings (photo from
Darlings (photo from MySpace)

There were shrieks, there were lovely pop melodies, there were hooks, there were squalls of noise, there was pretty much everything you could want out of a band at some point or another during the set. Both frontman Peter Rynsky and synth-player/guitarist/back-up vocalist Maura Lynch seemed strangely calm amidst the music's rush, their deliberate performance only amplifying the music's oddities.

While ultimately my least favorite band of the night (only because the other two were so amazing), Darlings are certainly worthy of note. Their charming appearance of lacking self-awareness lead to an inconsistent but riveting performance, and one I definitely wouldn't mind repeating at their next show. [MySpace]

*I am honestly not making fun of their haircuts, I actually think they both look pretty rad.

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