In retrospect, the apparent ignorance of the weather stemmed from each band’s lead singer’s ability to channel the crowd’s participation into their own sense of enjoyment. It was an participation-laden evening, between audience and band, and each vocal point per band seemed rife with enthusiasm and set the good vibrations loose on the crowd.
Brick + Mortar’s Brandon Asraf began the evening with audience-band banter that hinged on his unstoppable optimism. The cat just shined with happiness as he told the audience it was his “goal to get you to like me.” That honesty prevailed over speculative haters who Asraf was quick to invite closer to the stage and blast his Jamaican-flavored cadence into. An odd accent aside, Asraf’s sportive delivery and drummer John Tacon’s omnipresent samples beefed up the two-piece’s sound enough to give its backbeat and back vocal-laden power-punk a sextet’s aural bulk.
Even sans a bushel of pin-straight, bleached-blonde hair, Vacationer frontman/bassist Kenny Vasoli is still recognized for the band the Starting Line. His first foray into mainstream music media featured timeless pop songs for the scenester micro-cultures of high school. Vacationer is different. Really, the only thing the Starting Line and Vacationer have in common is its lead singer. Vasoli, a fucking button even after all these years, morphed into a hyper-affable presence who doused the audience last night with flirty banter and terms like “chillcopter.”
A chillcopter is what Vasoli would “rev up” prior to Vacationer loping into “In the Grass” off the upcoming “Relief.” Vacationer’s self-coined “nu-hula” sound is a compilation of Body Language’s Matthew Young and Grant Wheeler’s tropical synth patches, cinematic samples and a propulsive use of writing services guitar. Vacationer features the best examples of this sound on its “Wildlife” seven inch. Both “Wildlife” and “Warmer” have percussive synth and brisk drum parts that synchronize with Vasoli’s syrup-sweet vocals and marry the idea of African drum rhythms with an indie-rock key and guitar rubric. Vacationer’s kinetic songs and Vasoli’s ultraviolet disposition gave the night a bump of elation during the mellow affair.
Hellogoodbye divided its setlist between its 2012 records “Would It Kill You” and its latest, “Everything is Debatable.” The division demarcated the difference between both records. “Would It Kill You” is Hellogoodbye’s Forest Kline’s thinly veiled “Fuck, I love you so much” record for his wife. Its virile songwriting gives Hellogoodbye’s catalogue a polished shoe-gazing heft. All written on ukulele, “Would It Kill You” had the benefit of being born without the synth-pop and autotune of record’s past. It gave Kline freedom to explore the wilds of his emotions without electric clutter. Really, the only time the set sputtered was when Kline would grab the autotuned mic for throwback numbers like, “Here in Your Arms.” Kline is too good a singer (and songwriter) to suffocate his work under such dated gimmicks. Regardless of my own inability to enjoy those numbers, Kline, the rest of Hellogoodbye, and the crowd loved it.
Kline made it difficult not to enjoy what his band did outside of “Would It Kill You?” He asked for the lights to be cut so “no reviewer can see what I’m about to do,” and proceeded to take to the dance floor during “Just Don’t Let Go, Just Don’t” before our eyes could adjust to the darkness. He moved through the audience with such undiplomatic force that I thought he would steal my notebook and eat it. He barged through and found the middle of the crowd, got down on the ground and rolled around in the muck while singing-note-for-note. Later, he would crowd surf during the band’s final number, “Here (In Your Arms).” He did this only after converting the song’s first verse into a slow-burn, making it nearly unrecognizable before it exploded into Hellogoodbye’s patented synth-pop.