Beverly at The Cake Shop During New York Pop Fest, May 28, 2015 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Souvenir Stand, Wildhoney, Beverly

Beverly at The Cake Shop During New York Pop Fest, May 28, 2015, May 28th, 2015

Jun 01, 2015 Photography by Laura Studarus Wildhoney
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It would be more accurate if NYC Pop Fest were called NYC Guitar Pop Fest but that would be kind of dry and tedious and wouldn’t suit the four day celebration at all. Still, guitar pop in all its glorious manifestations, from the meekest twee pluckings to the most bombastic of power chords, is really what the festival is about. Synths and laptops being indie pop’s current weapons of choice, attending Popfest can feel a bit like time traveling, even if only back to 2009.

Pop fest mostly celebrates scenes and sounds that peaked in late ‘90s to early oughts, or earlier. We’re talking UK DIY, ‘70s power pop, ‘90s indie pop, C86 and all things K Records. And that’s what’s great about it, especially since a lot of those scenes worshipped the pop charts of the ‘60s. It’s an invitation to meditate on the way guitar pop never really gets taken seriously, but never quite goes away either. It just pops up in a new spot, under a catchy new name like “Britpop” or “the paisley underground.” You’d think that would mean its audience is limited, but the Go Sailor fans, secret and not so secret alike, come out from all over to celebrate this great feast of the egg-shaker cult. Respectably sized crowds fill up the city’s venues, often dressed (like the bands) in cute nautical stripes, one­inch pins and T­shirts for bands that either broke up awhile ago or should have. They’re drawn by old favorites and record store legends making rare appearances and, generally, the proposition of great, melodic music delivered with style.

The opening night at Cake Shop offered some great new bands fulfilling that proposition. The horribly cute Souvenir Stand kicked things off with Turtles­style pop songs glazed with southern charm by bandleader/keyboardist Stephanie Cupo. Her clear, strong vocals, employed with gooey country­pop affectation struck a necessary balance between nostalgia and real feeling. Toward the end of the set, they did “About a Girl,” the “poppy” song off Nirvana’s debut album Bleach, in the style of The Zombies, pointing out how poppy it really is.

Later on, Wildhoney presented very up­to­date noise pop. The went heavy on the noise, which half submerged the delicate vocals of frontwoman Lauren Shusterich. Delivering her lyrics with upturned eyes and half­distracted ennui, she barely seemed to notice the band as it threatened to overwhelm her voice. Rather than genuinely burying her, it focused attention on her thin haunting howl. It was the one element that was out of place, something lovely and strange and on the loose in their songs. It made for easily the most charming and enlivening set of the night. It’s easy to picture them playing a warehouse show outside of London with Joanna Gruesome or Pins, but they are from Baltimore.

Roaring guitars rendering tender melodies is an often repeated combination, and this is because it is one of the best ideas humans have ever come up with. It’s proven the be a hard idea to wear out and it’s one the magnificently named headliner Beverly finds a lot of variety in.

Serving a lot of Brigitte Bardot realness with a messy blond topknot, frontwoman and bassist Drew Citron played the role of effortlessly cool docent to the museum of guitar noise. This is a band she originally founded with Frankie Rose (Vivian Girls, Dum Dum Girls, Crystal Stilts) and it has some of the fuzzy, girl­group inspired vibe of those garage bands, but more souped up than any of them. Beverly is not drowning in reverb; it’s not especially noisy or fuzzy, just terrifically loud and sweet, with the odd back beat borrowed from The Shangri­Las. Within those parameters they ran a gamut of linked influences, as if each was a facet of a crystal. Sometimes you heard the bashy punk pop of Superchunk but with an Air or Magnetic Fields song fighting to get out. One song was straight manic energy set to a kraut rhythm; one sounded like a bar band interpreting The Smiths. As a singer, sometimes she tapped into the warm, dangerously seductive melancholy of Hope Sandoval in the Mazzy Star days, but with all the instruments coming through the PA at My Bloody Valentine volume. At other times she had the steady but dazed manner of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Jim Reid.

Beverly’s biggest strength as a guitar pop outfit is the ability to add seemingly unlimited amounts of volume without losing subtlety or emotional resonance. They closed the set with a new song that sounded a lot like Big Star after a couple of Red Bull and vodkas. Definitely look out for their new album and, if you can get past a little precious stage patter, and you happen to be in town, open your lonely heart to NYC Popfest.

(www.facebook.com/wearebeverly)

(www.facebook.com/nycpopfest)




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