Boyracer, Kanda, and Astropop 3 at
Boyracer, Kanda, and Astropop 3 at
Maybe its because its where I grew up, but I have always dismissed the idea of any kind of notable independent local music scene in Hampton Roads, VA. Particularly with the recent closing of the infamous Cogans in Norfolk, things seemed especially bleak for small bands stopping through the area finding a place to play. Yet somehow, when good music is there to be heard, it always seems to find a home; and the latest home for it in Norfolk appears to be a tiny, open-spaced dive in the industrial area of Ghent a dingy little bar called Cruzers.
Its no wonder that this place is becoming Norfolks safe haven for indie music. When you walk in, youre not greeted with the latest Top 40 schlop or that months trendy music like at so many other area bars. Rather the sound system seemed to be sporting a Best of the 80s Brit-pop/Shoegaze theme that night, greeting the clientele with The Smiths, Joy Division, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and My Bloody Valentine perhaps to psych up the audience for the brit-pop they would be taking in later that night in the form of Boyracer.
The show got off to a late start, not beginning until around 11 when a male-female duo called Kanda kicked things off. Kanda are labelmates of Boyracer on 555 Recordings and have been on an ambitious, almost non-stop 3-month tour with them. The two of them looked unfazed by the road in their performance, though it could have been that the music they played projected a fun, happy-go-lucky, and carefree aura. This was as twee as synth-pop gets, with the iMac, Casio, drum machine, and various other cute instruments (that looked like so much fun to play) handy. The duo performed several songs from their new release, Its a Good Name for You, including V.P.L., where the two swung their hips in unison to the computer-generated bass beats; the totally retro Dirty Talker, which had Akina (the girl) tapping on her toy xylophone as she balanced it on her shoulder like a violin; and the way too cute Turtle, that showed off their adorable harmonizing vocals singing a fairy-tale-ish song. When Kanda finished, they left me wanting to hear more. Theirs was the most memorable performance of the night.
Next was Boyracer, and it seemed odd for them not to play last, but looking at their tour schedule, its likely they were heading up to DC for a show the next day right after playing that night. Boyracers performance was just as noisy, loud, and raucous, yet poppy, melodic, and poignant as I had hoped and expected it to be. With songs that rarely go over two and a half minutes when recorded, the live versions seemed to rarely go over a minute and a half. While this made their overall performance on the choppy side, it allowed the band to squeeze a lot more songs into their set, so Im not complainin. For most bands, playing live produces a more raw sound than on recordings. With Boyracer, this seemed to be the opposite. Recorded Boyracer seems so full of heavy distortion and feedback, as well as various noisy lo-fi production tricks that are difficult to recreate in a live setting, in which the bands sound was, ironically, much cleaner. Missing from the set were Jen Turrells vocals. (She was there playing bass; Im not sure why she didnt sing.) However, the crowd was treated to a guitar & vox / drums change-up between Stewart Anderson and Ara, who showed off his cool mod-like vocals. Overall, Boyracer played an impressive set, showing off some of their newer material, including Sarah and Sarah and Theyre Making Money Off Of You from last years To Get a Better Hold, Youve Got to Loosen Yr Grip.
Astropop 3 was last to perform, and the Virginia Beach band seemed quite comfortable in their local environment. Several fans/friends had showed up to see them play, and the trio delivered a set of dreamy, almost jammy pop music. The band managed to create a pretty thick sound for only having 3 members. Wendell Nichols is an impressive drummer that was playing what looked to be a super-expensive drumset. I picked up a copy of Astropop 3s second full-length, Eclipsing Binary Star, which, with its female vocals, straight-ahead pop, and acoustic numbers, is more stylistically eclectic than the bands live show. Nevertheless, Astropop 3 played what they played well, and put on quite a show to finish the night.