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I came to the show on the basis of one single by Beach Fossils, the spectacular “Daydream.” The song has chiming guitar and winning vocals sounds like a perfectly summery cross between Factory legends the Wake and a Captured Tracks shoegaze band.  They’re playing with Craft Spells – also on Captured Tracks, though I had never heard of them.  A few friends started sending me mp3s earlier in the week, and I liked what I heard, but did not know what to expect live.

The newly revamped DC9 is the perfect venue for bands like this.  The sight-lines are perfect, the atmosphere is intimate, there’s booth seating on the perimeter, and it’s easy to traverse from the bar to the front, even in sold-out shows.

The show starts off with the impossibly young-looking Craft Spells.  Fronted by Justin Paul Vallesteros, they’ve been recording for just over a year in Stockton, California.  Live, they are a four-piece, and the guitar lines are gorgeous, spectral noise, weaving references to early U2, the Cure, and New Order, but more naïve, more echo-y and infused with a strong pop sensibility.  The next song comes on with an energetic drum line (the drummer also contributes vocals), and beautiful, emotional vocals – “when will I see you, please, if not tomorrow, when will it be?” I think it’s “For the Ages” next, with a Head on the Door-era opening, switching to chords reminiscent of “Love Vigilantes.” Great stuff, but the between-song banter needs a little work.  The next song is ridiculously upbeat, almost like a Black Kids song, with ridiculous “oooohs” over the top, making me grin like an idiot (or, more like an idiot than usual).


Next, Justin announces that this is a cover song – I’m not sure what it is, but they dedicated it to Mark Hoppus (of Blink-182) and asked him to send them a pink bass.  Regardless, the song is amazing, with the band adopting a classic shoegaze pose, staring at the floor, and the song galloping along with a loping “Friday, I’m in Love” feel.  Justin tries some more banter, exclaiming, “Damn, you guys are all so good looking!” before being ridiculed by the drummer for mentioning Twitter.  They play, “Given the Time,” and I’m a convert.  After some tuning issues, they play another Black Kids-esque song (with a bit of Abecedarians thrown if or good measure), with choral keyboards added to the mix.  The next song reminded me a bit of Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s “Heart in the Heartbreak,” and then the first static song of the set.  They close out with a song reminiscent of “Shut Your Eyes” by Shout Out Louds, building towards a frenetic, fun, bouncing end.  I chatted with Justin briefly – he seemed genuinely thrilled at the reception – and made a bee-line for the merch stand.  Good stuff.

Beach Fossils are on next, but I’m still buzzing from Craft Spells.  They thrash through their first song, sounding very surf rock, and look distinctive after the khaki shorts and polo shirts of Craft Spells.  The bassist is playing shoeless and the guitarist is cross-dressing in a floral dress.  The second song sounds just like the Wake, so I can forgive the sartorial excesses.  I notice the crowd has divided themselves, with girls on the left and boys to the right – but united in knowing almost all the words and singing along with every word.  I note that the band have put stickers with the names of their girlfriends on each instrument – Nika, Katie, Cheyenne, and Amelie on the guitars, bass and drum, respectively.  By the fourth song, the crowd is dancing en masse – even the bartenders and bar backs are dancing to this one – and it’s wistful and, brilliant and compelling.

The Fossils continue with beautiful song after beautiful song – gentle elements of Bark Psychosis guitar, like “A Street Scene,” only faster – and I find myself riveted by their performance.  The next song touches on the same territory as the Drums, and the whole crowd joins in on the “oohs” with the lead singer, all the while dancing their asses off.  They announce that normally, they’d walk off stage and do encores from here on, but with the layout of the club, that seems too difficult.  We all laugh, and they launch into a storming rendition of “Daydream.” The crowd dances like a rugby scrum and it’s become a madhouse.  The band thrash out the end, and as the crowd whoops and hollers, a solitary voice yells, “I LOVE YOU FOR REAL!” They finish with another crowd favorite, ending with lashes of beautiful, summery noise.  I am very pleased, pleasantly surprised, and buoyed by the fantastic spirit both bands showed.