LEX (photo: Robert Alleyne)
I’ll start out with some honesty: I had no idea what to expect from this Brick & Mortar show last Saturday. Five bands strong, my first thought was that the lineup’s length seemed more like a SXSW or CMJ showcase rather than your typical Saturday night show. The only knowledge I had about the bands was that they were some of California’s finest up-and-comers: headliners Vela Eyes, Survival Guide, and The Y Axes from our local Bay Area scene; and LEX and Shadow the Wild from Los Angeles. The hype injection made me nervous whether anyone would live up to it, but the novelty and sheer unpredictability of the night reminded why it’s such a thrill just to walk into a club and catch whomever happens to be playing.
My first impression of the crowd started before I was even in the door: Vape smoke permeated along the brick wall of the venue as I fumbled inside my purse for my ID. The first band was slated to go on at 8:30, but they were already coming down with a case of punk time, even though the show itself was pretty far from the punk aesthetic otherwise. As I walked into the well-populated venue at around 9:40, the second band Shadow the Wild was still setting up. It gave me time to ruminate whether their “_ the _” name would say anything about what they were like as a band. Does it about anyone?
As I came to no real conclusion, the band tried to lessen the awkwardness of the long set change by addressing the crowd and letting out some insane wails while testing instruments. Finally, the band was ready to start, and they went at it with a “Check check, San Francisco!” After a couple songs, the singer announced that he was from the Bay Area, which gave them a bit of camaraderie with the crowd. Between the elements of hair metal revival and canned rock moves their set was providing, the diverse yet almost uniformly dressed-to-go-out audience, drinks in hand, were genuinely having a rock ‘n’ rolling great time. Shadow the Wild are the kind of band who are priming their way to hit the beer-soaked arena scene one day, and in that context, they absolutely delivered. It was a solid set, and the crowd was going wild. There are a lot of selfies floating around in cellular/cyber space to prove it, and I may be photo-bombing a lot of them.
“LEX is next” has a certain ring to it. When Shadow the Wild ended at 10:40, my East Bay BART/turn-into-a-pumpkin-at-midnight alarms were already going off, but I was intrigued by LEX from the moment they started setting up their equipment. The four members were donned head to toe in shiny black leather, wispy capes, and shimmery gold face paint, almost like a superhero costumes. The vibe alone they were giving off was making me super excited. “Let’s take you on a sci-fi journey,” was the phrase the lead singer used to start the set, and it was all kinds of an indication of what was to come.
A Korg, a Moog, and a Roland are what anchored the band’s setup, which was not unlike that of bands like Au Revoir Simone. But what made them stand out as a singular force was the full-fledged persona the band was eager to perform. Their sound, a mix of contemporary synth pop, ’80s R&B, ’70s disco, and dark spacey weirdness, was performed by members who embody a perfect mix of sci-fi weirdness without being gimmicky at all. The cornerstone of LEX’s performance is their frontwoman, who is such a treat to witness. There is so much control and restraint in her persona, yet she moves all over the stage with fluid, dirty moves. It was such a genuinely fun, all-encompassing performance from a band with a mystical and undeniable presence. Whatever it is, they have it and know how to work it. Understandably, we all asked for an encore. Two bands in, and I already had to dash to catch the proverbial last BART train.
Maybe the headline doesn’t paint the whole story of the show. After all, my night only had room for two-fifths of the lineup (Oh, BART) and maybe these other bands could have changed my life. But that’s what’s so great about living through a local scene: There’ll be a next time to see bands, and you or I could walk into those clubs and be completely surprised by the rest of these seemingly random but wonderfully curated lineups.
Photos by Robert Alleyne