Noise Pop 2012: Melted Toys @ Cafe du Nord 2/22/12

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The theme at Cafe Du Nord last night was shoegazey/dreamy pop. Oh, and ironic t-shirts.

Though there was a common theme to the bands, it got served up in a few different permutations. The Tambo Rays were by far the most dynamic performers of the night, bringing an energy and charisma that the other bands weren't even going for. They had what I'd call a "blue collar hipster" charm that really worked for them, and they just generally seemed to enjoy being on stage making their music.

Maybe because they announced that one of their songs was "about San Francisco," maybe because guitarist/singer Brian DaMert traded off on electric and acoustic guitar and sang in a bright, earnest yowl (in a good way!), but I kept expecting them to launch into epic, Springsteenian or Arcade Fire-ian jams. But they never really did. The music all pretty much felt spacey and blissful, with nimble, catchy bass lines and lots of reverbed-out guitar. They have plenty of free downloads up if you want to check 'em.

Melted Toys' music was also moved along by some real tasty bass lines with a wash of reverb-soaked guitars on top. And while their beats were a bit static and kinda sounded like the stock beats that come pre-programmed in a drum machine, I really dig that they're doing something different and triggering electronic drum loops through a Roland SP-404 instead of having a live drummer. It gives their music a much different feel, placing the emphasis on the bass and the interplay between the dual guitars. Whether by design or not, the vocals were all but lost in the mix, just another element in the wall of reverb, giving the songs an almost anti-pop feel.

The majority of Young Prisms' vocals were similarly lost in the mix, which was too bad because the one song where the vocals were clear and present was by far their best song (it was also the only song sung by their rhythm guitarist). That being said, there were a lot of things I liked about Young Prisms' set. They have a straight-up shoegaze sound, but at times it almost becomes a heavy, hard-driving shoegaze, which appeals to me as a recovered metal-head. At one point, they had some delayed guitar noise playing continually through about three songs, by my count, which appeals to the noise rock lover in me. Frequent flashes of feedback ripped through the songs. I like that they're not afraid to embrace the sheer noise.

But here's what really put me off: the lead singer sat on a stool with her legs crossed through the whole show, looking rather bored. I'm not saying everyone has to be David Lee Fucking Roth, but there's something to be said for showmanship. If you're not into your music, why should I be? The rest of the band seemed like they were into it, so I don't want to take anything away from them. They banged out a solid set of dense, swirling shoegaze noise rock. I just wish they'd encourage their singer to get up and get into it too.

And about those ironic t-shirts. Melted Toys had two strong contenders, with their Chewbacca head-shot and striped Guess? t-shirts. But Young Prisms won with the commemorative "The series that shook the Bay" t-shirt from the 1989 World Series. Honorable mention: The Tambo Rays for rocking the ripped up tank top.

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