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POW! With Foot Controllers, Oozelles, Automatic At The Echo, Friday May 17th 2019

POW!

 

Products of our times, POW! are weird and distorted, but they play unexpected cybernetic punk music, that always remains rewarding because of its original detours and very catchy riffs. On Friday night, they had a release party at the Echo for their new album ‘Shift’ out on John Dwyer’s Castle Face Records, and it was a good reason to go out.

Three bands opened the show, Foot Controllers, Oozelles and Automatic, each one bringing an element of experimental weirdness, and plenty of variations on the garage-rock-punk-synth theme.

Foot Controllers started with a steel guitar with strong Hawaiian vibes and an instrumental becoming more and more fuzzy and kaleidoscopic, slowly transforming an early island ambiance into experimental noise beaten by cascading drumming and ringing guitars. They were improvising and soon deconstructing what they had patiently built, floating in space at the edge of a black hole.

Oozelles were a large ensemble with members of Jail Wedding, Dante vs Zombies, Warpaint, Ivory Deville,… playing on the weird side of punk rock, soul-R&B (they had a sax) and exotic pop ballrooms (they had bongos). They have released a 7” on Jack White’s Third Man Records, and their bizarro sonic world was accompanied by their frontman’s crazy theatrics — he once fought with a bongo on the floor. A few songs could have been reminiscent of L.A.’s own, the Growlers, while their distorted and extremely busy dancefloors were becoming more and more chaotic.

Automatic, an all-girl band, had this familiar synth-gothic-post-punk going on, playing with mechanical precision and exploring the dark side of the new wave with monochord krautrock-y vocals. Izzy Glaudini on synth was sharing vocals with Halle Saxon Gaines on bass and Lola Dompè on drums who even took the lead for a few songs, getting on the front with a drum. The synth-bass driven trio had a few Casio-like peaks and plenty of somber synth swirls, it was either dance-y-bouncy with a few punk accelerations or retro-poppy with plenty of harmonies, and the three girls, bathing under very hot red lighting, definitively charmed the crowd.

Even though I have seen POW! a few times, their music is still surprising, chopped or propulsive, headbanging or toe-tapping with Byron Blum’ s weapon guitar and thick eye-shadow Melissa Blue playing an oscillating synth with a cybernetic coolness and the impeccable distinction of a retro movie star of the ’50s. Wearing poker white-face make-up and green outfit to match the cover of their new album ‘Shift’, they looked mysterious and fascinating at the same time, with Melissa’s calm demeanor opposing Byron’s agitated dance against the amps and shaky vocals vibrating over the chaos, without forgetting Cameron Allen’s metronomic hammered drumming.

Hitting a note in a weird and unexpected way seemed to be one of their goals, building some semi-improvised distortion to reach that chainsaw guitar riff drilling through people’s eardrums was done in repeat, while their songs had menacing vibes echoing a dystopian future. Let’s not forget their 2014 ‘High Tech Boom’ was called by John Dwyer ‘a punk eulogy’ to San Francisco, or a sort of allergic reaction to the technology ‘graveyard’ that the city had become. Just like Dwyer, POW! have left behind their hometown, chased by the current tech boom and overpriced gentrification, and the assaults launched during ‘Disobey’, the single of the new record, could become the anthem of the near revolution. Loud and proud, with an angular fuzz attacked by a UFO synth, they were fighting hard, and if the noisy static was vibrating boisterously against the angry guitars, it’s because the battle is still going on.

 

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