Badtalkers, The Years, JR Slayer, Holy Wars, Dancing Tongues At The Echo, Thursday January 3rd 2019
It’s FOMO week at the Echo, and five bands played last night, although I missed a large part of Badtalkers’ set, the opening band of the evening. The indie quartet played melodic and dynamic music, with noticeably a few elements of hip-hop here and there. I probably only caught 3 songs, but what I heard had a good sense of tension and drama, with a mention of ‘Failure’ in repeat during one of their last songs. ‘We find most of our inspiration from everyday struggles and things that try to keep us down’, has declared their frontman Richard Leon, ‘and we try to channel those emotions into our songs. We want to be a voice for those who have gone through the same things we do.’ They have cited The Smiths, NWA, the Beastie Boys, and the Pixies as influences, and if what I heard was much darker than anything from the Beastie Boys, their last tune truly jumped into a rapping part after a classic indie rock start, and this didn’t seem to be contrived at all.
All set-long, the Years had a little funky dancefloor going on, with even a more obvious disco tempo during a few songs. Behind the vulnerable vocal harmonies of Cecil Campanaro (on bass) and Brian Stanley (on guitar), they built a dance-y soundscape over intriguing sonic textures, often layered by a keyboard. Their relatively slow jams had sultry grooves, an overall electro-pop vibe, and a chill sound. LP (singer Laura Pergolizzi) was there, watching them discretely among the crowd, since the band has opened for her a few times, and most of them are actually her live band when she tours.
JR Slayer was another surprise with frontman and singer Cody Votolato’s bright and confident vocals over ambitious pop tunes which sounded nevertheless very personal and as confessional as a Bright Eyes song. Despite the bombast of the songs, mostly due to a large number of people present on stage, there was actually a vulnerable tone and a load of emotions on display, which hit me right away on a very familiar spot. Cody is actually the guitarist of the famous post-hardcore band The Blood Brothers, and also part of the super-group project Head Wound City (with Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zimmer), but he had actually formed his own supergroup last night, with Moonhoney’s Andrew Martin on guitar, Polartropica’s Ihui Cherise Wu on keyboard, and Warpaint’s Jenny Lee on backup vocals. Despite such a resume, I strangely found him sounding almost like a heartfelt version of Conor Oberst, however, the songs were diverse, with plenty of harmonies, layered experimentation and an obligatory dose of chaos, very much obvious during their last song, some true stage-to-floor mayhem…JR Slayer has an upcoming album set to be released on February 1st.
I have seen a great number of Holy Wars‘ shows, and every time, frontwoman Kat Leon emerges as the queen of the night, with her band playing a dark and explosive synth-dance wave, landing just in the middle of Nine Inch Nails and Garbage. Once again, the born-dark songstress danced her pain away and whipped their powerful synth-rock sound with her seductive and confident vocals. The result was a set as explosive and charismatic as ever, and a dancefloor transforming itself into a violent tempest. From ‘Orphan’ to ‘Warrior’, a Holy Wars show is always an exercise in darkness-exorcism, a ‘Are You-Ready for a Rebirth’ ceremony (the title of one of their songs) giving birth to a very emotionally-charged theatrical scenery, haunted by Leon’s ravaging to triumphant howl.
The trio Dancing Tongues closed the night with another dance of their own, and if their confident and driving sound is quite unique, they could have borrowed something from the 70s new-wave-punk scene, with a touch of Talking Heads, Jim Morrison’s swagger and a coldness accentuated by Alex Lavayen’s dark and furious baritone. Their set could have certainly kept anyone awake even after this music marathon, as a few songs had a level of energy you rarely encounter, with a determination-meets-anger combination. They were capable to trigger some real level of chaos and anarchy, like an icy version of the Clash, while the restless drumming combined with their great sense of urgency were revealing epic melodies filtering through the darkness and the anxiousness.