Cherry Glazerr, Lala Lala and Ian Sweet, The Social, March 27
Top to bottom, this diverse bill came with promise and left an impression of what "next" might look like.
L.A.'s Cherry Glazerr are moving fast. They were bright Burger Records garage prospects only a few years ago while in high school. Now, with their recent album on esteemed label Secretly Canadian (Apocalipstick), they've taken the plunge into a bigger rock ocean with a new, broader indie sound that draws from the wisdom of a panoply of greats – from Blondie to Sinéad O'Connor to the Breeders, and many other points between.
Live, they're powerful, with a major-league kick. As the performance proved, their feral punk heart still beats strong. Everything's just applied with more latitude and depth. Before, they had aesthetic – now, they have mission. This is a more pointed and biting thing altogether. And the whole evolution can be heard in frontwoman Clementine Creevy, whose stance and expression are shaping her into a new-generation female icon.
That's a considerable amount of growth for anyone. But remember we're talking about a fresh band that's already undergone a near-total overhaul and whose creative locomotive is still only 19 years old. Add all of that up and it looks like a bright new dawn on a wide-open horizon.
Also led by a visionary woman – Jilian Medford – the NYC trio Ian Sweet were the night's most art-minded act. Fuzzy, dreamy and oblique, this new Hardly Art band deals in conflicting forces – floats and jags, coos and bursts. While intense and complex rock patterns work underneath, gorgeous textures and swooning pop ether swirls above. But instead of an academic frenzy, the reaction is a brilliant wonder. It's a marvel of dynamics, tone and bliss that's unboxable.
Chicago's Lala Lala hit the spot by delivering downcast vibes and sonic brawn on tunes of irresistible precision. There's no show, just earnest substance. Yes, perfectly Midwestern. These ladies are looking to affect, not dazzle. Their music may not fire off the line, but this unexpected flower eventually blooms. By set's end, they were rumbling with impressive mass and melody.
Dinosaur Jr. and Easy Action, The Beacham, March 30
Though not exactly a prolific era, alternative-rock godfathers Dinosaur Jr. have managed to keep the wheels of their reunion on for the past dozen years. Given their conflicted history of deep artistic impact and famous schism, that's a fortunate accomplishment. It's good having these venerable, once-extinct beasts roaming the planet again. Even better, it's great to see that, instead of nice and easy, they're riding into legacy with a full tank of rocket fuel and the volume cranked to 11.
About that, here's an unpopular position: Dinosaur Jr. are too loud. Look, I'm no virgin to decibels. Swans, Jucifer, Holly Hunt? Yes, crank it till you blow me back like Marty McFly. But for what Dinosaur Jr. does, it's just a little gratuitous. I appreciate the slaying spirit, though. And once you take the thought-crushing edge off with a bar napkin stuffed in each ear, it's clear their playing is in exceptional shape even after more than three decades in.
But the more intriguing proposition of the night was opener Easy Action, the 2000s-era project led by Detroit punk legend John Brannon – famed for fronting also-reunited Midwest hardcore originals Negative Approach and blues-punk specters the Laughing Hyenas. Brannon's voice is supernatural in both fury and longevity. It's still so ferociously gripping today that it will make bloody lemonade of your guts. A thing of true malice, John Brannon's singing is one of the most deeply respected forces in underground music for good reason.
A more integrated combination of grease and rage, Easy Action rip hard rock & roll with noisy danger and raw punk blood. It's a sleazy roll where Brannon's inimitable menace rides dirty grooves like a fat, black motorcycle. Say what you will about the blunt force trauma of Negative Approach's hardcore, but there's nothing quite like being ravaged in slo-mo like the sound of Easy Action. It's one bad motherfucker.