In the heart of downtown Tucson, away from the heavily trodden sidewalks of 4th Avenue, a fistful of Cali bands made a pitstop Tuesday night to play a houseparty thrown by Molly Ragan of Split Leaf Promotions to further pulverize the fine dust of Barrio Viejo before continuing on to Austin, Texas for South by Southwest.
Los Angeles garage/surf punk rockers Whaja Dew kicked things off. Led by cherubic vocalist/guitarist Stephanie Loza, this trio formed a bit over a year ago. With the swagger of a more seasoned band they delivered a high-voltage set, bassist and drummer thundering, kicking out the jams, as it were, leaving the audience of twentysomethings with little alternative but to bounce and headbang to hilariously titled/themed songs like “Saved By The Smell.” Best sight: Loza fearlessly standing atop her amp flaying her Fender and long brown hair about. At set’s end she took to rolling about on the concrete floor, imbued with the almighty spirit of the punk-rock forebearers (Iggy come home!) that came before, unafraid to fuckshitup.
Whaja Dew's new single “Whaja Dewing”:
There's an innocence to singer/guitarist/songwriter Sophie Negrini’s lyrics that can transport the weary/jaded back to high school. Creating imagery through which the listener can once again see sweeping tiled, locker-lined hallways, cheerleaders and jocks prancing insouciantly about while the misfits, geeks and wallflowers look on awkwardly. One can almost smell the acne cream and feel the heartbreak of unrequited love and lust. This feeling was exemplified Tuesday night in “Killing Time,” a melodic, well-crafted pop gem full of endearing metaphor—having a sweet tooth and aching cavities—to express deep, masochistic yearning.
Negrini, before launching into “Dancing Queen,” announced from stage, “All of our songs are love songs,” “Our last song is by a palindrome—ABBA.” Adding teeth to the tune (and some things are sacred!), the L.A. quartet turned this stone cold disco-pop classic into a snarling, hard hitting anthem, yet with all of the consequential melody and hooks.
Janelane's Peaches and Cream
(cassette) is available:
Hailing from Pomona, California, guitarist/vocalist Michaela Rabina describes their sound as “poppy with an emo influence,” then explains the origin of the band's name (not to be confused with Tucson’s Katterwaul or ’80s international-lauded Phoenix combo Caterwaul). “We thought Caterwall meant a cry for victory ... but later found out it means a horny cat.” Rabina and guitarist Christian Garcia split vocal duties and add edgy texture with see-saw riffs to tunes like “For The Neighbors,” where they create a wall of jagged sonic fortified with delay, reverb and chorus reminiscent of early ’80s post-punk. Caterwall’s skinsman is a force; Hector Avilez pounds into songs like “In A Week’s Time” while the bassist dynamically weaves in and around and Rabina layers breathy vocals on top. Garcia’s trilling guitar work takes the song to repeated climaxes, so to speak.
Caterwall's In A Week’s Time
(digital album) is available:
The music came to an end. But, with the fervor of cloistered monks set free from the constraints of monastery walls for the first time ... partiers raged on.