Dramatic entrances, underwhelming stage presence and the same band twice in one night:
DIIV — Lee’s Palace
The side-project of Beach Fossils’ Zachary Smith, DIIV (previously Dive), showed up at Lee’s as gangly figures in oversized sweaters. This seemingly young and impressionistic four-piece held their own as they poured out streams of chords to complement the lead’s buried vocals, sounding like a lighter new wave act with underground influences.
The guitar riffs didn’t sound as tight as the recorded material but they were very danceable nonetheless. The band’s latest single, “Doused,” proved to be the most magnetic as it enveloped the audience in lush sounds and psychedelic rhythms —DL
Phedre — Sneaky Dee’s
When planning to see Phedre, you should know that most people are in attendance for the theatrics alone; there’s is not a live performance that mirrors the recorded album. The band slowly emerged from the back of the venue resting on the shoulders of their bedazzled dance crew. Drawing inspiration from Greek mythology, the members were outfitted in gold masks and endless yards of jewelry.
But instead of building up these tales from the ancient world, Phedre brought mythic gods and heroes down to our level. The bands own faltering stage presence was a fitting accompaniment to songs about decaying lovers and their suspicions surrounding the ideals of beauty and romance. Standout track “Cold Sunday” saw fellow local artist Arowbe lend his rap skills to Phedre’s dizzying mix of jittery punk and 80s keys. —DL
The Makeout Videotape — NXNExperiment II, El Gordo’s Backyard
Mac DeMarco is the man of a million stacked showcases this NXNE. Even if you were going out of your way to avoid him, he’d still catch you as a surprise guest. The Makeout Videotape front man’s recorded material feels blurry, as though it’s been recorded on VHS. When performing live, the band abandons the Ariel Pink aesthetic for a straightforward pop approach.
The Makeout Videotape always seem to be having the most fun of anyone at each show. As each solo approaches, three members of the four-piece take a knee as they play, winking at each other as they finish; they spend half the set on the ground. The band ended their set with a jangly “Tea-For-Two-and-Two-For-Tea”-type ballad, with Mac climbing to the roof, before coming back down to dance with his sweetheart during the bridge. The band’s goofy antics are just as much fun as their upbeat songs. —NW
DIIV — NXNExperiment II, El Gordo’s Backyard
DIIV wear their Nirvana influence on their sleeves. Though their music is often associated with that of Beach Fossils (understandable, since guitarist Zachary Cole Smith is in both bands), the music of DIIV eschews the expected genial mood of music using bright surf guitar tones.
Though the songs have loads of reverb, they’re akin to shoegaze, particularly in mood. In a packed backyard in Kensington, the band played through tracks from its new album, Oshin. Asked for an encore after the set, Smith thought about it, and decided, “Nah.” —NW
John Maus — Lee’s Palace
John Maus is probably the biggest music nerd I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing live. He took to the stage with just a mic and a synthesizer settled on the floor in front of him. A controversial music junkie who openly declared his desire to stamp out the 90s altogether, Maus made a case for his music with a bold stage presence that included flailing limbs and intense fist pumps to his chest.
Maus’ electronic ballads are radically expressive and gradually build up into novel harmonies. The crowd beyond the first few manic rows stared in awe as his symphonic synth sequences reverberated through the room. The set ended with a loop left running as Maus fell to the side of the stage in complete exhaustion, ending his slot as compellingly as he began it. —DL
Bleached — Silver Dollar
After the breakup of Mika Miko, sisters Jennifer and Jessica Clavin have gone on to lead the L.A. band Bleached. They brought their infectious brand of power chord pop to the second of their three nights at the Silver Dollar. Making their influences explicit late in the set, Jennifer asked the crowd, “Misfits or Ramones?” to decide which band they’d cover.
There happened to be a bunch of Misfits fans in the front, so Misfits ended up the victor. Though that cover choice was fitting, Bleached arguably derive more influence from the Ramones; Bleached’s single “Searching Through the Past,” like the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated,” has a one-note solo. The band was so excited to play the Misfits cover that they forgot to play “Searching Through the Past.” That bothered no one since the cover provided a fun cap to the catchy midnight set. —NW