New World was surprisingly empty for a gig so hyped up, likely due to The Bricks of Ybor's anniversary party a block away. Nonetheless, the crowd that came out on Sat., July 21, was treated to a stellar night of music.
An opening set from post-punk dream-pop outfit, Eternal Summers started this warm summer evening off on a good note. Nicole Yun, the tiny Asian vocalist with a dramatic black bobbed haircut, belted out lyrics with much more intensity than on the recorded version, imbuing the songs with a much greater sense of energy to the live performance. Their amped-up bass and guitar distortion reminded me a bit of Mazzy Star meets Joy Division, with a good dose of Smashing Pumpkins thrown in for good measure. It's a pleasant mix; their moody sound and angsty lyrics were a perfect match for the outdoor venue, creating a sense of intimacy before the headliners took the stage.
All week I'd listened to Crocodiles' albums, wondering how their reverb-drenched sound would come across without the benefit of studio editing. I hadn't imagined their distorted fuzz-pop would be more awesomely raw, with a fresh garagey layer of fuzz. Opening with an energetic "Neon Jesus" from their first album, Summer of Hate, the band blasted through a set filled with songs from all three of their recorded efforts.
Both guitarists, Brandon Welchez and Charles Rowell, sang simultaneously on many songs, lending them the gorgeous echo effects from the band's albums. Welchez took on the majority of the vocal duties, however, pulling out some sexy preening moves at the mic, his wiry thin frame slinking across the standing-room stage as veins popped from his forehead with the intensity of his efforts.
Previously a twosome, Crocodiles grew into a fivesome over the past few years with the addition of live drums, bass, and keyboards; newer drummer Alianna Kalaba provided a particularly strong addition, with a strong punk simplicity to her style. It holds together the loose nature of the songs well as Welchez and Rowell's ability to improvise and take things into overdrive. Several songs had a particular surf-rock Surfer Blood vibe, with howls punctuating the choruses as the crowd bounced along.
Highlights of this dark yet danceable evening were the John Hughes-tinged "Endless Flowers," and "Sleep Forever," its Jesus and Mary Chain-intensity leaving a long-lasting impression.