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all words & photos: Julian Vu
Gordon Voidwell

While waiting to enter the Black Cat’s main room, I thought I heard a DJ spinning vaguely familiar but still obscure 80’s funk jams. Upon entering, I saw that it was not a dj, but actually the first band, Gordon Voidwell performing their set.

Gordon Voidwell is an ambitious youngster from the Bronx who does not write songs, he writes jams. Like their New York counterparts Chromeo, Gordon Voidwell have crafted a sound very akin to 1980’s funk along the lines of bands like Cameo or Shalamar. The funk synth lines are FILTHY, and that alone warrants my respect for them. There is however, so much more going on, and it’s a shame that the crowd wasn’t as into them. Though the drummer used a mostly digital drumset, the samples were straight out of a Oberheim DMX or Roland Compurhythm; in other words the sounds were distinctively 80’s, and not in a cheesy way. Though his drumming and patterns began to develop a sort of predictability, his lack of a shirt adorned by only a leather jacket kept the drumming fresh. Gordon Voidwell brings tons of energy to the stage, especially for an opener. Though you may think that this is just an ironic 1980’s kitsch band, there’s a subtle seriousness to Gordon’s songwriting. Whether it’s the faster Madonna/Jellybean-like songs, or whether it’s the slower Friday-night-at-the-skating-rink type jams, Gordon Voidwell has put a lot of hard work into writing music, and you can tell that these guys are legitimately fans of 1980s funk.

Gordon Voidwell
The Heavy
Seriously, where the hell did all this crowd support come from? The Heavy had a dirty sound, and I’m sure some find it conceptual, but I found their mix of soul, heavy rock, and ska to be utterly boring. At one point, someone had the gusto to say “You guys sound like the Clash” (which they didn’t). The music was just plain awful, and I would even say borderline hard rock. To add insult to injury, most of the crowd seemed to like this band. There was even a “put your devil horns in the air and and headbang along” type of moment where a signifcant amount of the crowd actually participated.
It’s clear that a lot of the fans came into the Heavy through the Kia Sorrento commercial in which Muno (from Yo Gabba Gabba), along with other stuffed animals go merrymaking. You’ve probably heard it, it’s the one whose lyrics are “how you like me now?”. The song is admittedly catchy, and shows potential of a decent band. The band that I saw however, was not the same at all, and even their live version of “how do you like me now” feel just as flat as the rest of their set did.
Mayer Hawthorne
Mayer Hawthorne
Mayer Hawthorne is not a great singer. He is however, a showman who has written great soul songs that recreate the sounds of 1960’s and 70’s Detroit. The man knows his stuff; just listen to his Soul With a Hole compilation whereby he hand selects some of his favorite and most obscure soul 45’s, and you can tell this guy knows his stuff. Pure and simple, Mayer’s music is just damned catchy. Mayer does a great job of transforming his songs into great live pieces that everyone in the audience can enjoy. Add to all that a phenomenal backing band who had no trouble getting the crowd moving at all. Not only was the crowd moving, but there were even girls swooning over Mayer Hawthorne and acting like mega fangirls. This is clearly something I have never seen happen at the Black Cat. Say what you will about the guy, he’s a smooth operator. Truth be told however, he has a sort of goofy demure that makes it easy to not take him too seriously, and I think it makes it easy for the crowd to invest their attention in Mayer Hawthorne and as a result dance along.
Mayer Hawthorne
Mayer’s set hit most of the songs off of his album “A Strange Arrangement.” On top of this, he debuted a few new songs, which sound just as catchy as the older ones if not more upbeat. The créme de la créme however, were his covers which he did more than just justice to; Mayer and the County killed it with the covers. There was never a lull in the show. In fact, Mayer started out the show by saying that it was a show, and not a concert, and that everyone is going to have a good time and be entertained; a promise which Mayer made good on. The one slow moment in the show came during the encore when Mayer did a stripped down version of “A strange arrangement”, which had the entire room’s undivided attention. This is all further proof that Mayer Hawthorne puts on a good show, even if it happens to have been sponsored by a car company and Mayer may have had a few positive mentions (or “posmens” a la Jack Donaghy) for the Mazda 2 during the show. It doesn’t matter because he and the county killed it, and won everyone’s hearts over.
Mayer Hawthorne
Setlist
  1. Your easy loving
  2. Make her mine
    (Toby McGuire story)
  3. Maybe so, maybe no
  4. Gangsta Luv (Snoop Dogg original)
  5. I need you (Otis Leaville cover)
  6. I wish it would rain
  7. Ruthless (Guitarist Topher Mohr’s song)
  8. No Strings (new song)
  9. Beautiful – (Pharrell Cover)
  10. “Gonna take a long time (New Song)”
  11. What a Fool Believes (Michael McDonald Cover)
  12. Green Eyed Love
  13. Green Eyed Love pt II
  14. Just ain’t workin out
  15. Just ain’t workin out (remix)
  16. The Ills
Encore
1. A strange arrangement
2. Work to Do (Isley Brothers Cover)
The Heavy The Heavy Gordon Voidwell Gordon Voidwell Gordon Voidwell The Heavy Mayer Hawthorne Mayer Hawthorne Mayer Hawthorne Mayer Hawthorne
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