Alvvays was coming to one of the local Santa Cruz venues, so it was a no-brainer, even though I had seen them last October at the Fillmore. I invited my neighbor Dennis, who is also a fan of Alvvays, thanks to my influence. This would be our first musical outing together, and I have to say it set a very high bar with three awesome exemplars of psychedelic shoegaze jangle goth goodness. It was, in retrospect, one of those special shows where not only was the entire lineup excellent, but it was in fact a rare opportunity to see these players perform together.
I decided we should get there early and go for a table up in the balcony so we could sit and rest our feet, since it was going to be a full evening of musical entertainment. This proved to be a good call. We got there at 7:00pm, and the doors opened around 7:25. We headed up the stairs to the balcony on the left side, and grabbed the first table closest to the stage.
Frankie Rose was the first band. They are a 3-piece band with Frankie on guitar and vocals, and two other musicians that I could not identify playing, bass, guitars and drum machine. I would characterize their sound as goth/shoegaze. The songs had a driving beat, lots of distortion, and echo-y lyrics that I (mostly) could not make out. The band stood in darkness the whole performance – if not literally gazing at their shoes they were certainly not making a lot of eye contact. Black and white movies of geomtric shapes played on a screen above them. Although I couldn’t make out many of the lyrics, Frankie does have pretty voice, and the band had a great sound. After an excellent but relatively short set they said farewall and seeped back into the darkness.
Next up were The Drums. The Drums were formed by Jonathan (Jonny) Pierce with his friend Jacob Graham in 2008. Graham left the band a year ago, but I’m pretty that was him playing guitar, so he must have rejoined for this tour? Long time member Connor Hanwick manned the drums, and Johnny Aries, looking like the goth Steve Reeves, played bass and guitar. I think this was the first night of their tour in support of the new album Abysmal Thoughts, which is pretty cool. Anyway, I liked this band a lot. They were kind of like bad-boy new wavers. Jonny was very appealing in his dark jumpsuit with Abysmal Thoughts plastered across the back. He had the blond puppy dog good looks of Rocky from Rocky Horror. He stalked the stage, turning in spirals and figure 8’s and dancing like he didn’t give a fuck. Their sound was heavy and hypnotic, and they put out 110%. After a decent set, The Drums waved goodbye and left the stage, only to return about a minute later. Jonny pointed to the clock and said “I realized we have time for a couple more songs!” The crowd, which was swelling and enthusiastic, roared their approval. After two more numbers The Drums made their farewall for the evening.
At last we were in the final countdown to Alvvays. By this time the balcony was packed with people, and Dennis and I were feeling pretty smug about our perch looking down on the stage. As I noted, I had seen Alvvays back in October at the Fillmore, but I was looking forward to seeing them again, and having the opportunity to observe additional nuances about the performance. Plus it was a lot more exciting to be able to see the performers so well in the relatively intimate setting of the Catalyst.
Alvvays are pretty restrained performers, but there was a more casual or looser feel to this performance than at the Fillmore. Even Molly’s sartorial choices – blue slacks and a black top – were more relaxed. Guitar players Alec O’Hanley and Brian Murphy are kinda serious, but good. Keyboard player Kerri MacLellan is zen-like and has sensible shoes. They all seemed to have sensible shoes, in fact. Must be a Canadian thing. But seriously MacLellan’s keyboards are a huge and excellent part of Alvvays’ sound, for which she deserves full credit.
Not My Baby
Saved by a waif
Forget about Life
Ones Who Love You
Atop a Cake
Next of Kin
They’re a very polished band, but they know how to rock and have a good time. Molly’s voice is sweet and pure, and many songs are punctuated with her signature “woo!”. New drummer Sheridan Riley, who joined in 2017, is an excellent addition to the lineup with her tasteful beats and excellent backing vocals. Sheridan is fun to watch with her cascading ringlets, too. I’m going to suggest for the next record that keyboard player Kerri McEllan and drummer Sheridan Riley should sing lead on a song or two if they like. Alvvays played most of the songs from their two albums, along with two I couldn’t identify which could have been covers, or perhaps new ones? In any case, Dennis and I left with smiles on our faces.