Concert review: New Wave / No Synths at Palladium Theater, St. Petersburg

A look back at Sunday's synthesizer-free tribute to the '80s

“So what is 'New Wave,' really?” Gina Vivinetto asked the crowd at the Palladium Side Door this past Sun., Oct. 26. Answers like “The Cure!” and “The Psychedelic Furs!” were inevitably spouted, but the definition itself was difficult to put a collective finger on. At New Wave/No Synths, hosted by Vivinetto, a handful of six local bands were asked to reinterpret the grooves of the experimental and indefinable New Wave movement using, well, no synthesizers.

First to the mic was Y Los Dos Pistoles, a four-piece indie garage group and our very own 2011 “Best Band to Drink Whiskey To,” and they opened the show with The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.” Their own spin did justice to the pop-rock hit, served with less pop and heavier doses of grunge rock. They covered other '80s big-bills such as Blondie and ‘Til Tuesday. After playing The Cars’ “Just What I Needed,” they playfully admitted, “We tried playing a cover song once a few years ago. We almost broke up.” But I was pretty grateful they stuck with it after hearing their rugged, metallic guitars and Shae Krispinsky’s sultry vocals tweak all the original pop bits.

Jeremy Gloff is an old friend of Vivinetto who jumped into his set with an acoustic revamp of “Hold Me Now” by The Thompson Twins (be still, my beating heart), which was quirkified with his playful vocals and drum tracks to back him up, giving the crowd a slight twist of folk. He confessed to being a Madonna enthusiast before covering her earlier cut “Angel,” where he even hit the low “Cher notes,” as he called them, and left the crowd — and the swing-dancing ushers — on a high note with “Metro” by Berlin. “Get up and dance, everyone!” Gloff said. “Or stay sitting down.”

St. Pete based garage rock four-piece Pretty Voices took to the stage matching in all red and black — skinny ties included, of course. Their gritty warbly voices gave an interesting kick to cuts like “Pump It Up” and they were soon joined on stage by “the glitter kitties,” two chicks from local rock group Doll Parts. The ensemble delivered a sludgier version of “Kids of America” and left the stage with a heartfelt “Meow meow thank you meow.”

And what New Wave gig could be deemed complete without big hair, bigger earrings and wacky fashions? Rebekah Pulley — adorned in a '80s a-la-mode bodysuit — hit the stage with the Reluctant Prophets, her voice, like warm honey, giving their set a Southern twang. “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me” by Culture Club and “Goody Two Shoes” by Adam Ant were just a few tracks from the set, and “Our House” by Madness was precluded by a story about Pulley wearing jelly bracelets and roller skates with her sister in the yester-years — very fitting for the homey, soul-food platter of vocal harmonizing and cello solos.

Skully jazzed up their New Wave re-imaginings with keyboards and big, bellowing vocals in “See How We Are” by X, “The Ghost in You” by the Psychedelic Furs and, of course, Cyndi Lauper's “Money Changes Everything.” But it was the Ditchflowers who made the greatest impression.

It started with a typewriter. That, as well as a harpsichord, a marxophone, and a few kitchen utensils were placed center stage as the band set up, and were all cleverly used to touch on the elements that were otherwise played on a synthesizer. The set was chock-full of '80s favorites by The Smiths, Psychedelic Furs and Depeche Mode. Jeremy Gloff even made a guest reappearance for the finale: a tossup of “Tainted Love” and “Good Thing.”

New Wave/No Synths successfully represented the breadth of the era — minus the asymmetrical hair and artsy forlornness. “It’s like putting New Wave through the indie machine,” Vivinetto commented.

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