Junius, Juarez, The Hundred Days

Plush, Friday, March 27

The Hundred Days, a soaring alterna-psych-pop outfit from San Francisco, are like a younger, not-so-gothed-out version of everyone's favorite British sad bastards, The Cure.

The comparison isn't made lightly. Vocalist/guitarist Jon Smith had a way of elongating and twisting certain notes à la Robert Smith (no, they aren't related), while Marcus Keenan's bass playing was the most obvious connection between the two bands. It was equal parts rhythm and melody, something far too few bands attempt—and even fewer master. Guitarist/keyboardist Jimmy Chen rounded out the sound with magnificent synth flourishes. (A friend and I were curious whether their name has anything to do with The Cure's "One Hundred Years." Hmm ...) What distinguished The Hundred Days was their exquisitely catchy melodies coupled with introspective lyrics, their complete lack of pretension and an unassuming stage presence.

The only downer? This band should've been the headliner.

Local metal/shoegaze noisemakers Juarez took things to a new level of loud. Vocalist/guitarist Dana Fehr, who runs sound at Plush when he's not tearing it up onstage, admitted his vox might not make it through the set following an intense schedule at South by Southwest. No matter; their intense (but not necessarily fast) bang-yer-head instrumentals had everyone doing just that, leading to squeals and grunts of joy from the many friends in attendance. Juarez formed less than a year ago and has played only a handful of live dates around town, but it's clear they mean business. Their closing number, "Old River Dry River," distinctly showcased their potential, with more intricate guitar work than anything else in their set. Be on the lookout for Juarez.

Junius, with their huge amp stacks and rock-star backlighting, reminded me of a tedious Interpol performance I witnessed a few years back. It was difficult to see what the musicians were doing, and every song bled into the next. These boys from Boston were initially captivating, but it didn't stick. While there's an obvious formula to the shoegaze/prog-rock genre, there's plenty of room for creativity, especially when it comes to live performances. Vocalist Joseph Martinez has a haunting beauty in his voice, but unfortunately, the voice and the guitar work sounded overly slick and far too safe. With a little willingness to break the mold, these guys could be dangerous.