There are those that say youth is wasted on the young, but then those armchair philosophers obviously don’t get it. They certainly aren’t the types who would be showing up on a Thursday night in Bushwick to see three upstart bands—and that is surely their loss.
First up, Kevin Hairs celebrated the release of his new cassette album, Freak in the Streets, playing a short set of power-popped nuggets. After introducing each song, he remarked that it mattered little if we knew the names as they would be lost to us. The charming nature of his stage banter extended to his songwriting, combining a certain amount of poignancy with wit and catchy hooks that should prove to have more staying power than the credit he was giving them.
Hairs was followed by Future Punx (pictured below), a four-piece who, as indicated by their moniker, mesh Devo-esque electronics with rockish histrionics. Live, they’re a lot of fun, the quirky, herky-jerky pop combining with enough stage lighting to create a performance that transcends its seeming limitations. They’ve eschewed some synths in favor of more guitars since the last time I saw them (admittedly a couple years ago), shedding some of their idiosyncrasies in the process, but there’s still something very unique about the New York band’s retro-modernism.
Headliners The Goon Sax (pictured top) hailed from much further afield: Brisbane, Australia, to be exact. The band features Louis Forster, the son of Robert Forster of the Go-Betweens, and it would be easy to liken Louis’ band to that of his father. But if you weren’t aware of his lineage, you might not make that comparison, though admittedly Louis does resemble dad physically and vocally. The band, which is rounded out by James Harrison and Riley Jones (everyone swaps instruments, although Jones primarily sat behind the drum kit), has put out two quality albums of frenetic sounds, the most recent being We’re Not Talking, a half-hour’s worth of scrappy, yet catchy, paeans to love and love lost. More apt comparisons could be made to nearby Kiwi luminaries from the Flying Nun roster or even American bands like the Silver Jews, however, the band’s youthful spirit is more joie de vivre than woe-is-me, especially live.
The Goon Sax began slowly with “Sweaty Hands” from its debut, Up to Anything, but quickly picked up steam. The songs from the new record stood out, especially “A Few Times Too Many,” which buoyed by jangled riffs and Harrison’s questioning lyrics marked a shift in energy level. “Sleep EZ” was another standout, Forster this time handling the vocals and refrains of “Yes, I’m cruel but I’m not cold.” Best, though, was “Make Time 4 Love,” a tilt-a-whirl of emotion and knock-kneed hooks held together by its chorus: “I’m try to make time for love.”
Finishing off full-tilt with “She Knows” from Talking, the band’s set was on the brief side, but didn’t want for it. In just 40 (give or take) minutes, they delivered a set filled with all that youthful impetuousness scorned as “wasted” by some, but here was anything but.