Photo by yesterdayjuice
Seeing a show headlined by a band called Fun. leads you to go into it with a certain set of expectations — primarily that there’s going to be some dancing. While dancing certainly did occur, I can vouch for that, it only started at the end of the night, when the most fun band of the evening took the stage. Before that happened, the bill was filled with two wildly different Bay Area bands that led to an enjoyable, if not disjointed show.
I only caught the very end of opener Heartsounds’s set but the first thing I thought upon walking in the door was, “Hey, an emo band!” No, wait, come back. It was actually good. Don’t think emo in a Dashboard Confessional, dudes with eyeliner and nasally voices whining about their problems until some good Samaritan punches them in the face kind of way. Think more like Minor Threat-level instrumental intensity combined with third wave pop-punk vocals. The last song, which happened to be the only one I caught in its entirety, was a bouncy major key singalong with impassioned boy-girl harmonies and thunderous snare rolls. From what I could tell, Heartsounds aren’t especially concerned with breaking or even really bending the established tropes of their genre, rather inhabiting them with an all-convincing youthful intensity.Â
The transition from Heartsounds to the next band, Audrye Sessions, was jarring. The first thing you notice about the Oakland-grown Audrye Sessions is its size. An eight-piece with three string players, even without playing a note these guys give the impression that they can put out a whole lot of sound when they want to — and they did not disappoint.
Their first song started with dreamy ambiance that gradually developed into Explosions in the Sky-style post-rock, everything dripping with just enough reverb to make Slim’s sound like a big empty church. The soaring swells were soon anchored by a bass-led groove with a confident rhythmic lilt with singer Ryan Karazija, belting haunting, legato vocal lines in his best Thom Yorke impression.
The band’s whip-smart arrangements allow certain instruments to poke out of the swirl, briefly draw attention to themselves and them fall back again. Occasionally they jump out too far, awkwardly leaving the rest of the band in the dust. This doesn’t happen often but it’s really noticeable when it does because their other arrangements are uniformly effortless. So when it occurs it’s like “where the fuck did that trumpet come from?”.
The Radiohead influence is really strong here and, at first, it was awesome. They’re most like OK Computer-era Radiohead, which is perfect because Radiohead quickly outgrew that phase and Muse has made career out of taking endless variations on “Just” into stadiums so big they haven’t even been built yet. That being said, if Audrye Sessions wants to fill the gap, there shouldn’t be many complaints. But after a while, the band’s aping of Oxford’s finest began to grate a bit. By the end of the set you could play a game where you listen to the first few measures of a song and then say which Radiohead song it sounds the most like (“It’s ‘There There’, no its ‘Reckoner'”). It’s frustrating because the band is, as they say ’round these parts, “hella tight” and have mountains of talent to spare so it would have been nice to hear them stretch their wings stylistically more than they did.
Then, of course, it was time for Fun.. Let’s just get it out of the way that Fun. is pretty much the best band name ever. And yes, its accurate. Fun. makes easy to love, clean, bouncy power-pop.
Broad, open arrangements give their rock-solid melodies more than enough space to shine. Much like lock pop maven Josh Fix, everything from their rhythm section breakdowns to the shout-along choruses are scientifically tuned for maximum sugary pleasure. You can clap along with virtually every beat of virtually every song. This is kind of because they only really have one song but you can’t fault them for that too much because, honestly, its a really good song.
The band have been on tour opening for Paramore for about three months and seemed to be happy out that band’s giant, mall-shaped shadow. The crowd agreed and welcomed them like conquering heroes, singingÂ along like all their songs had been beaming down from Live 105s tower for years — especially on their standout single “All the Pretty Girls”.
While Fun. was the most fun band of the night, even the non-Fun. parts were on the whole pretty fun. Sorry. Okay, maybe I take it back — Fun. might not be the best band name ever.