Teen Daze, Candy Claws, Desert Noises, and Aan at The Vera Project

Sean Palmer / August 15, 2011

It’s really a shame that 21+ crowds typically avoid The Vera Project. Not only is it a beautiful, community-driven venue, but it’s also extremely spacious. As the concert was about to begin, it was clear that there would be a lot of empty space (dotted here and there with a mostly underage audience). If it were a hip-hop show, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see some breakers practicing. Alas, it was quickly apparent that this was not an energetic crowd.

Photo courtesy of Candy Claws

Once Portland’s Aan had assembled upon the stage, there was an awkward pause before the timid onlookers felt safe enough to creep inward from their seats around the room’s edges. Fortunately, Aan broke the ice with their indisputably catchy odd-pop rhythms and melodies. I didn’t fully turn around to see whether anyone else was dancing, but I could swear I saw some head-nodding action at the corners of my eyes. In any case, the small congregation’s enthusiastic applause made it clear that Aan had established themselves as much more than just “some opening act.”

After seeing them live, I’ll be shocked if Aan don’t end up headlining shows once their debut album drops. Every band member displayed a mastery of their trade, playing together in flawless harmony. Each song they played offered a refreshingly different aspect of Aan’s growing identity. And towards the end, they brought out a recently-added fourth member to play some material from their upcoming album, which I’m now certain will be amazing. They also performed both tracks from their latest 7″, Somewhere’s Sunshine, ending with “Haunted, Million Ways“, a personal favorite of mine and the first of the evenings many time warps (hint: pay attention to the second half of the song).

I must admit that after Aan’s eclectic set, I was skeptical of Desert Noises‘ ability to bridge the gap between avant-pop and haze-tronica with folk rock. But I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Photo courtesy of Candy Claws

Seeing Desert Noises for the first time reminded me a lot of when I saw Band of Horses at one of their early Neumos shows. At the time, I was astonished that so few people knew about them. Of course, it wasn’t too long before they were playing the main stage at Bumbershoot and topping music charts. And although there are some loose similarities between the two bands’ music, the main point I’m making here is that Desert Noises have a ton of potential.

Song by song, this young Utah band made a mockery of my initial doubts about them. It didn’t matter how different their music was from the other acts on the bill; nor did it matter how much empty space remained in the Vera. These guys played their hearts out with a raw passion that seemed to catch everyone off guard. They’re able to find the same delicate balance between alt-folk and indie-rock which has led the likes of Band of Horses and Fleet Foxes to glory.

Though I didn’t have a camera myself, Nikki stopped by the show with one and got a couple of clips from Desert Noises’ invigorating set, as well as an interview that you can see here.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfpMbj6H_DY

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avMryRDlVhU

For their last song, Desert Noises were joined onstage by the enthusiastic percussion and backup dancing of Candy Claws. The two bands have been on tour together (along with Aan), and the warmth of their alliance made me forget how empty the rest of the venue was. And the stage’s glow continued to fill the venue throughout the rest of the night.

Image* courtesy of Candy Claws

Once Candy Claws began their set, we entered Dreamland. The lights were dimmed as hazy footage of trees and water were layered across the stage in symbiotic balance with the music. Core duo Ryan Hover and Kay Bertholf were joined by three others, and their combined forces were mesmerizing. My life outside of Dreamland became a distant memory as Candy Claws guided us through their mystical home world. Along the journey, they wove in a shimmering cover of Starflyer 59‘s shoegaze classic “Do You Ever Feel That Way” which pretty much gave me chills. There were few pauses between the songs as each scene blended flawlessly into the next. I don’t know how long the trip lasted, but I felt as though I could have stayed in that realm forever.

Armed with only a laptop and MIDI controller, Teen Daze‘s set-up was quick and simple. Once everything was connected he tried to encourage the small audience to fill in the gaping radius between them and the stage; it worked, sort of. They approached cautiously but kept a safe distance from the platform’s edge. He also encouraged dancing—something which had been largely nonexistent all night. Would this shy, underage crowd be able to resist Teen Daze’s infinitely danceable music? I braced myself for either outcome.

Photo courtesy of Candy Claws

Have you ever seen/read Scott Pilgrim vs The World ? Teen Daze’s stage presence reminds me of the Katayanagi twins minus the elaborate set-up. As soon as he starts tapping those MIDI pads, it’s as if a wave of energy starts pulsing out from him. I could easily imagine some huge electric apparition bursting out from his Korg and roaring at the crowd. The first few songs were ‘mellow’ warm-up jams, just danceable enough to get some heads bobbing without overwhelming the timid onlookers. And let me just say – as a hardcore synth-head, this was pure bliss! Having seen several other excellent chillwave acts live (Neon Indian, Toro y Moi, Memory Tapes, MillionYoung, etc.), I can safely say that this has been my favorite thus far.

About halfway into his set, a sequence of surprising events occurred which mainly involved members of the other bands who had now drifted into the audience. In a nutshell, a dance floor revolution began. A conga line formed at the height of the rebellion and as soon as it disbanded, the floor exploded into a frenzy. Suddenly, it was the perfect dance party—and no one even had to get intoxicated to make it happen. The light show was excellent, Teen Daze’s now more upbeat set supplied a constant stream of energy, and everyone had plenty of space to completely let loose. And at the end came the evening’s most powerful time warp.

The revolution had reached peak success during Teen Daze’s rework of Earth, Wind, & Fire‘s “Let’s Groove” when suddenly everything ssssllllowwwwweddddd dddddowwwwwnnnnnn. Teen Daze stretched the end of the song like taffy, and everyone on the dance floor literally moved in coordinated slow-motion, grinning and laughing. It felt a bit like being in a chopped & screwed music video (sans the sizzurp). And so the journey ended.

Teen Daze’s setlist
Treten
Endless Summer
Waves
For Paulina
Driving Home From The Beach (The Feeling Of)
Our Parents
Shine On, You Crazy White Cap
Cold Sand
For Body and Kenzie
The New Balearic
Let’s Groove

Do yourself a favor and go see these acts the next time they’re in town! You won’t regret it.

*Please excuse the absence of a live Candy Claws photo. Due to my lack of a camera, Candy Claws have generously allowed me to use their photos. Unfortunately they weren't able to photograph themselves playing! Just watch some of their Dreamland videos to glimpse the experience!

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