For most concertgoers I know, this weekend presented a lot of hard decisions — there was My Bloody Valentine on Friday, FYF in Los Angeles all weekend, the 20th Street Block Party on Saturday afternoon, and of course, the First City Festival in Monterey on Saturday and Sunday. I decided with splitting the difference; having gone to FYF last year, in addition to wanting to save my ear drums for other excursions, I went with staying in town on Saturday for the block party then heading to Monterey on Sunday, which conveniently meant that I could also catch Majical Cloudz at the Rickshaw Stop Saturday night.
I definitely felt as if I made the right choice. Devon Welsh has always deeply interested me — the only other time I had seen him perform was a few years ago in an Oakland living room, during his brief stint of living in the Bay Area. Then, he performed solo with everything synced up as much as possible, so that he could focus on holding the microphone in his hand and performing thoughtfully. Impersonator came out earlier this year, achieving such a mind-blowingly high level of production that it could only be executed in a two-person setup, at least. Enter Matthew Otto, who’s both his producer and accompaniment when Majical Cloudz performs live.
A one-word summary can completely serve to explain a Majical Cloudz performance: captivating. As serious and brutally silent as it feels being in the room with Welsh’s music, he is a rather sweet and sincere performer. At several breaks in his set, Welsh would repeat a Canadian “sorry” before asking kindly that the house lights function more as a static streetlight than a light show. To his defense, the change in stage lighting offered a much more appropriate environment for his set.
Before last night, to me Impersonator felt like a “headphones album,” one that needs to be experienced in the most intimate of ways, but Welsh surprisingly adds more to the songs live than in the studio. The tension in his voice grows deeper, sounds more on point, and makes it all the more shocking to know that he is a self-taught singer.
If this is your first time hearing Majical Cloudz, let it be “Childhood’s End” — and at the highest volume you can tolerate in your headphones:
Moon King occupied the middle spot, the project of longtime friends Daniel Benjamin and Maddy Wilde, but with little pizazz. Their set was loud, sure, but stylistically lacking any continuity, making it a challenge to stay focused. Perhaps they were just too loud overall to allow for the synthy, more shoegaze elements of their music to be audible. Instead, it felt like an spastic, glam indie rock band that I just couldn’t get into.
Opening the night, and setting the precedent of haunting vocals paired with dark electronica, was local duo Some Ember, laying down seriously heavy synthesizer landscapes and an omnipresent vocal performance from songwriter Dylan Travis. You can catch them again soon opening up for the reputable indie electro band Moving Units at the DNA Lounge on September 11.