Monday, June 18, 2018

Sunday Light, Summer Night

Electronica was the cherry on top of my Father's Day sundae.

Don't get me wrong, I got up early, grabbed lunch for all at Nate's Bagels and was in the Northern Neck to see Dad an hour before noon. It was a hot river day with only the occasional breeze and a fine haze still burning off the Rappahannock when I joined Sister #2 on the screened porch. Sister #3 arrived not long after and the time was passed with nothing more strenuous than conversation.

Even better, I came back with leftover crabs, meaning my first priority once back in Richmond was covering the outdoor table in newspapers and going to town on crustaceans in my shaded but still sticky-hot backyard.

Don't let the weather whining fool you, I was in heaven because they were outstanding - large and meaty - and I was happily reveling in a day that included two of my very favorite food groups: Nate's bagels and crabs.

But also music. And not just any music, but electronica, a genre I love but see live far too infrequently.

After a post-crabs heat nap, I woke up half an hour before showtime and made it to the Broadberry not long after Salt Lake City's Choirboy had started their dark pop set. Everything about their sound spoke to me, from singer Adam's incredible vocal range (a blend of Tears for Fears' Roland Orzabal and ABC's Martin Fry) to bass lines that owed their existence to the Cure to synth stylings reminiscent of Depeche Mode. Sigh.

I was immediately sorry I'd missed any of their set, given blond Adam's charismatic delivery and killer voice.

During the break, I scanned the crowd for familiar faces, even knowing that plenty of music friends wouldn't bother with a Sunday night show, and saw not a single one. What I did see plenty of was what I have decided is the electronica male stereotype: tall, skinny and with long hair and by long, I mean past their shoulders. That's not some random generalization, either, that's pure observation.

To give you some idea, there were dozens of guys in front of the stage who fit that description and there were only 300-some people at the entire show. Electronica = lotta long, tall drinks of water with serious hair.

Scanning the crowd, it occurred to me that standing at the Broadberry for three hours watching three bands was as good as it gets tonight and just exactly what I needed after three hours sitting in a hot car today.

Next up was L.A. band Black Marble (guitar and bass over drum tracks) and their post-punk sound reminded me why I'd fallen hard for Interpol 15 years ago and why I'll never tire of hearing young bands find their own interpretation of post-punk. Singer Chris Stewart's voice seduced my ears while the relentless beats and bass lines spoke to other body parts.

Both opening bands had delivered such strong sets that I could have gone home happy and felt I'd gotten my money's worth and the headliner hadn't even appeared yet.

When I saw Cold Cave last it was January 2017 and that show had been sold out, and while the weather outside had been frightfully cold, as usual it had been miserably hot inside Strange Matter. The Broadberry followed suit tonight, the temperature rising to an uncomfortable, stifling level and then the a/c kicking on just long enough to make you feel like you weren't going to pass out after all.

I'm not complaining, I'm just acknowledging that music and sweat go hand in hand.

It was the kind of heat that made you want to move as little as possible, while the bands tonight were relentlessly ensuring that you couldn't possibly stay still. We electronic fans are a bunch of dancing fools, temperatures be damned, and it wasn't long before I could feel my hair getting damp at the roots as my body looked to cool off any way possible.

Cold Cave never disappoints visually and tonight's set featured an elaborate light show (black an white pinwheels, fields of black and white sunflowers), strobe lights, songs sung in darkness while the lights were focused on the crowd and as much fog as you'd expect from a project so devoted to the darkwave synth-pop tradition.

That era was also mirrored in all the high-waisted jeans and shorts I saw on so many young women tonight, a style some of us were rocking in the '80s, first time around. Just like the music I'd come for.

And don't even get me started on how many Father's Days Dad and I have celebrated together at this point. It's like the number of crabs I've eaten since the Reagan years (you know, back when he was trying to make ketchup a vegetable in school lunches).

More than I care to count, but each a pleasure. Like dancing and sweating to electronica.

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