Monday night did not suck this week for all who attended the Darwin Deez show at Crowbar in Ybor City. [Review by Nastasya; photos by Christian]
The “X”-marked hands of most of the attendees began flailing with quirky ecstasy as Darwin Deez and his signature Hasidic-meets-“Soul Glo” hairstyle — which has its own Facebook page, accessorized with an '80s-style head band — flowed fabulously onstage. Darwin, who resembles offspring that Rosie Perez and a Wayans brother might have produced, is from Asheville, N.C., but tours with a very talented and fortifying group of individuals from Brooklyn.
St. Pete-Clearwater locals Shaller opened the show with a fine effort for their first live performance together. Petite Jacqlyn Titus (RedFeather) on vocals and guitar promisingly fronts the three-piece ensemble whose sound wavers between Paramore-esque crunch and atmospheric melodies that Titus could own vocally if she cultivates the same sort of intensity bassist Brian Schanck and drummer Jason Cadwell display live. All three are clearly seasoned musicians and I believe their energies will be more precisely directed as they come into their own.
Toronto-based Hollerado was next on the roster, treating the audience to a very humorous and dancier set of songs from their 2009 release, Record in a Bag, along with what I believe is new material from their upcoming sophomore album available next year. Guitarists/vocalists Nixon and Menno hilariously engaged the crowd with horse “facts” in between indie pop songs that sometimes included spot-on four part harmonies and synchronized beer spitting. They captured my admiration when performing their rendition of Count Five’s “Psychotic Reaction,” but their catchy originals are definitely worthwhile, too, their sound appealing to fans of Vampire Weekend and Franz Ferdinand.
“DNA” from the 2010 self-titled Darwin Deez was first on deck for the headliner, whose mostly fluid 14-song set was so infectious, you had to be either dead inside not to enjoy the show — or the drummer, who was mostly stern in appearance throughout but supremely held his own.
The setlist was appropriately peppered with new songs slated for release next year; their titles kindly but purposely withheld by singer/songwriter and auspicious guitarist Darwin when I asked him about them after the show. Even so, a good portion of the new songs are an attractive progression for Deez and I look forward to hearing them in a studio environment.
This was Darwin Deez's fifth gig since the completion of the new effort and while a majority of the material did not have to be spoon-fed to the audience, you could tell the band is still feeling their way around the live translation. At one point, the keyboard stand collapsed, but backing guitarist/keyboardist Andrew Hoepfner unaffectedly flopped down to the floor, keeping on with the sturdy Korg — a gift to Darwin by his grandmother — without breaking stride.
Like Beck, Darwin Deez doesn’t adhere to one formula in any sense, but his well thought-out spacing continues in most of the newer tunes — along with a few surprises that jump into the 1980s dance pool a la “Paula Abdul and Huey Lewis,” a comparison Darwin made himself.
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