People who bitch about “kids these days” and the post-Millennials or whatever they’re called and their fast texting and no rock and roll obviously don’t go to house shows. Neither do I, if I can avoid, but the kids are killing it. I’ve gone on at some length before about my general discomfort at being the oldest dude in the room in a basement. Hard not to feel like an invader, like I’m somewhere I shouldn’t be, even though the kid at the door who took my $5 donation for the out-of-town acts was polite in that “I helped an old person today” kind of way. “First time here?” Yeah man, it is.
The Womb — oddly well promoted for a secret location — has come up in Allston in part I suspect because of that neighborhood’s lacking club scene. With the extra gloss of cool added to a basement show, there’s really no need for undergrad-age rockers to even try to get into a bar, and I won’t bother to name names, but a few of the venues around aren’t offering a much better product than a basement to start with, so why the hell not? There were four bands on the bill — Creaturos, Midriffs, Black Beach and Sun Voyager — but I knew that if I was going to be stretching the limits of personal awkwardness to be there at all (something on me, not The Womb itself), I’d mostly want to catch who I was there to see and then skip out.
That was Sun Voyager, incidentally. The Orange County, New York, four-piece have been high on my gotta-see list for a while now, and since I missed them the last time they rolled through the area, it seemed like The Womb was the place to be. They’d played Brooklyn on Friday, in another basement, and were well at home in the packed-out downstairs of The Womb, the walls of the staircase lined with sundry objectifications sexual and material, men, women and products in various states of vintage undress, while the walls of the basement itself were painted with various designs. Speakers hung from the ceiling by the A/C duct, a PA was set up on either side of the corner where the bands played. Sun Voyager weren’t on when I got there, but it wasn’t too long before they set up and were ready to roll.
A double-guitar four-piece with Carlos Francisco on stage right, bassist Stefan Mersch in the middle with drummer Kyle Beach behind and chapeaued lead guitarist Steve Friedman on stage left, his slide at the ready, they mostly played material from two recent King Pizza Records tapes, a split with Greasy Hearts and their standalone EP, Lazy Daze (review here). I dug the hell out of the EP — bought the split off Mersch after their set was done — and the prior 2013 demo, Mecca (review here), and I was there in large part to hear how the material translated live. “God is Dead” and “Gypsy Hill” were immediately identifiable in the set, the former for its oft-repeated title-line hook and the latter for its slower, more pastoral rollout.
Something of a surprise in itself that “Gypsy Hill” would be such a standout, since the easier flow with which Sun Voyager play off their more forward garage rock motion of some of their other material is so much a part of what they do on their studio material, but it was nonetheless the set’s most fervent nod, children behind me jumping up and down in sub-mosh form. I laughed as this or that one bounced off or got in a good shove and proceeded to fall here and there into the others in The Womb, which started off and remained packed for the duration of my time there. Good clean fun, not so much violent intent as general excitement brought to physical swirl. Sun Voyager had a couple new songs in tow — didn’t catch titles if they were given — but that stuff too had a faster garage edge, giving me a new appreciation for the tension in Beach‘s snare work and Francisco‘s overlaying echoes, which were thankfully preserved even in the raw, basement mix.
More of a concern was how Mersch‘s bass tone would carry over, since it’s such a pivotal aspect of their recorded sound, but it came across well enough and loud, with Friedman‘s leads cutting through on the high end of the shuffling “Black Angel,” the overarching vibe post-grunge and like active shoegaze as if such a thing might exist, a brand of heavy psych waiting for some clever jerk to give it a name and thus define it. Whatever it was, the swirl was righteous regardless of the pace of its churn and Sun Voyager carried it well through the end of their set, which found them, like their studio work, moving away somewhat from the jammier reaches of their beginnings but still carrying that swing with them as they move forward. They’ll continue to grow — they’re fortunate to have a place like The Womb to do so — and refine their processes, but I’m glad I braved the weirdness of being the oldest dude in the room to see them now, since the molten, in-progress nature of their creativity made their set all the more exciting.
I hauled ass out of there pretty quick when they were done — again, nothing against The Womb, or Black Beach or Midriffs or Creaturos; it’s not you it’s me — and chuckled as I walked by a dance-club-cum-sports-bar (Hello, Boston) on Mass Ave. that seemed to be hosting a sing-along to ’90s boyband fare that those singing along to it were probably in grade school, if that, when it came out. The perfect target demo on the come-back-around. So odd, so drunk. And me, covered in kid sweat and volume, hobbling my ass back to the car with The Patient Mrs., whose coming along had made the entire thing possible to take, to drive back home with a new tape in my pocket. What year is it again? How do we mash time and place into one strange, market-value nostalgia even as we grope so readily for whatever the next thing might be? Which turn takes me to the highway? Right on.