|The Soft Moon @ Milk Bar, SF 2/10/11...photo by Sadie Mellerio|
The Soft Moon RAWK! Now, that may fly in the face of many reviews that characterize Luis Vasquez and his music as, "bleak", "monolithic", "claustrophobic", and "obtuse". While, these are accurate descriptors they tend to emphasize only the more darkened, atmospheric qualities of his music. But, live, The Soft Moon are a muscular, propulsive, and cathartic force. Further, they might even be described as eerily joyous betraying the Goth labels that so often are thrust upon them. The capacity crowd gathered in the back room of San Francisco's Milk Bar was awash in buzzy glee last Thursday night. The show was promoted by Nachtmusik and had the feel of a tight-knit scene ready to celebrate the coronation of a band and musician they held very dearly and knew would not be solely theirs for much longer. After garnering the indie stamp of approval from Pitchfork, receiving high praise for last November's self-titled debut (released on Brooklyn's, Captured Tracks) and the recent announcement of a tour with Southern California Godheads Autolux, Luis Vasquez is poised to be thrust into blog-o-sphere's spin cycle of hype.
|Luis Vasquez...photo by Sadie Mellerio|
The crowd in attendance seemed eager to witness one of only a handful of live performances by the nascent assemble. It's always a good sign and perhaps a little unnerving when the room begins to fill up just to watch you set up. Another telling harbinger of "it-ness" is when the rim of the stage is walled off with photographers, which was the case at Milk. From the opening plod of the programmed beats the audience's sway quickly gave way to - wait for it - DANCING!! These people were there to party, dance and celebrate; not mope in place in reverential despondency through the black forests of their minds. They clearly were taking their cues from Vasquez who proved to be a charismatic performer. From the opening number he - along with fellow band mates Justin Anastasi (bass) and Damon Way (synths) - seemed lost in their sonic creation. Lights and visuals provided by Ron Robinson gave the performance the feel of a Warholian art-party. The band took the throttle from the first song and really leaned into it. Audience and band were feeding off each other completing a circitory loop, that was truly electric in every sense of the word. The Soft Moon as a live entity produce the unifying quality of some of the best punk rock shows I've attended. While Way and Anastasi were fairly cemented in place, Vasquez oscillated in between them twiddling various nobs on effects boxes, swaying with his guitar. His vocals were more up front than on the record and his occasional yelps and screams cracked like a whip above the driving squall. The mix from the stage was excellent but was a bit more muddy further back in the house.
|Bassist Justin Anastasi of The Soft Moon...photo by Sadie Mellerio|
It would be very easy with a genre of music that is often marked by cold detachment to simply allow visual elements, fog machines, and mood lighting to stand in for performance, but, Luis Vasquez is himself a compelling visual presence on stage. He seems to have fun and relish the excitement his music generates. He is an engaging, confident musician and artist that will only benefit from continued touring. There was nothing precious or delicate in their approach to the live medium. Songs like "Breathe the Fire" (captured below by myself from the show) and "Circles" are the perfect balance of yesterday's dark wave musical touchstones, like Joy Division or Suicide, combined with the of-the-minute studio experimentation of an artist that is not as easy to characterize as some would like. Up next for The Soft Moon is a slot on Friday's Noise Pop Festival bill at the Cafe Du Nord. There they will be joined by Wax Idols, The Black Ryder, and Tamryn. Look for The Soft Moon and Luis Vasquez to continue to evolve his sound and songwriting into unexpected and different forms. It is still a thrill to go to see live music and have your expectations challenged, your body conscripted to dance and your mind blown. For more on The Soft Moon listen to "What Duvet Said...About Music" where Robert "Bob" Duvet sat down with Luis Vasquez for an entertaining and illuminating interview immediately following the above reviewed performance. The podcast will be linked on this blog and available on iTunes here Wednesday, February 16th!! Special thanks to Sadie Mellerio for the photographs that accompany this story and her work can be found here.
|The Fog Rolls in on the Milk Bar...photo by Sadie Mellerio|
|Breathe the Fire...photo by Sadie Mellerio|
|Lost in Sound...photo by Sadie Mellerio|