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all words: William Alberque
all photos: Shauna Alexander

It was with great excitement that I found the Crocodiles heading DC-ward.  I love this band.  Their music has a thrilling mixture of shoegaze buzz and sex and danger and effortless cool that I love so well.  The Fresh and Onlys were a relative unknown to me – I only own one song by them, on a split single with the superb Golden Triangle, titled “Head of Steam,” and it’s fantastic. Young Prisms were a complete mystery.  All in the wonderful upstairs room at the Red Palace.  Happy Monday!

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Young Prisms took the stage first – the four piece hails from San Francisco, and is supporting their debut album, Friends for Now on Kanine Records.  They’re a bit of a buzz-band in the shoegaze world (see what I did there?), with records on Transparent (a split with Weekend), and an ep on Mexican Summer, as well as splits on Big Love and Atelier Ciseaux.  Live, the lead singer (I’m guessing that’s Stef? Glo?  Oh, I don’t know) kept her head down and hair in her face, as is the style of the genre.  The rest of the band – guitar, bass, drums, naturally – also stared resolutely at their shoes throughout the set.

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Young Prisms are good – just – with noisy gaze guitars, solid, strummed bass, and solid drums. The vocals are drowned into the mix, almost lost, but breaking the surface, used as an instrument rather than a conveyance of meaning.  It all reminds me a bit of second-wave shoegazers Amp – download “Remember” to hear what I mean.  The one misstep came late in the set, with a bit of a jarringly-up front vocal, repetitive, and a bit of a turn-off.  It will be interesting to see what they sound like in a year’s time, but I think they have just a bit more work to do – a little more engagement with the crowd, ironing out the set list, etc.

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Crocodiles came up next, and I was bouncing in anticipation.  They did not disappoint, despite their grueling tour schedule, playing some 40-odd shows across Europe and the UK since February.  Shocking, then, that Crocodiles were in such stellar form, channeling Spectrum and JAMC in perfect proportions and keeping us entertained with a wildly energetic performance.

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I didn’t see the setlist, but it featured “Summer of Hate,” and “I Wanna Kill” from their debut, Summer of Hate LP and “Sleep Forever” and “Hearts of Love,” from their latest (titled, Sleep Forever).  They did not play their towering cover/medley of “Groove Is in the Heart/California Girls,” which had me slightly sad, but hey, with a show like that, they can afford to leave the gimmicks aside.

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The band looked like an impossibly cool sextet, with drummer Alianna Kalaba, bassist Marco Gonzalez and keyboardist Robin Eisenberg providing the live backing to what is essentially a duo.

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Singer/songwriter Brandon Welchez, wearing a natty blazer and Never Mind the Bollocks t-shirt was a bundle of energy, jumping and dancing through the set, with co-songwriter Charles Rowell a bit more sedate on guitars.

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Fun fact: Brandon is married to Dee Dee of the Dum Dum Girls (SO HOT), and you can tell the music comes from a similar place, though the Spacemen 3 influence is to the fore here.

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My only complaint is that they weren’t headlining.  That honor when to the Fresh and Onlys, a five-piece, like YP, from San Francisco.

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Their sound was very aggressive, guitar neo-psychedelic shoegaze, with pounding drums and a bit of weirdness about them that made them compelling viewing.  Of course, they, too, are on all the right labels – Hozac, Woodsist, Hell Yes, and Sacred Bones (home of Zola Jesus, which played Red Palace the next night – YES!) – and they know how to put on quite a live show.  They didn’t play “Head of Steam,” (destined for disappointment, me), but I got the setlist.

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Here you go:

Invisible, Grey Eyed, Fascinated, Secret Walls, Waterfall, Known, Until the End, Wash over Us, Peacock, Euphoria, Destiny, Feelings <3.

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As I said, I would have been happy to have Crocodiles headline, but F&O impressed me enough to want to investigate more.  They were good enough live that by the next time they come around, I will be much happier to see them headline.  A good night out, and two, three more to go this week?  Whew.

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