The night began with me anxiously racing a thunderstorm storm across I-70. The lightning show was amazing, and my timing even better as I entered the club just as the first heavy drops began to fall. I figured if the twister was going to take me, I should at least be at the venue " you know, that whole "died doing what he loved" thing.
At 8:10 a three-piece version of Florida's Karmic Wheels began its set. David Voss stood at the center of the small stage behind his keyboard sandwiched by bassist Augie Ruiz and guitarist Giovanni Scioscia. Behind them sat an empty drum kit belonging to the next band, but I liked to think of it as the band leaving an empty throne for Elijah. Without a touring drummer, percussion duties fell to prerecorded tracks that sometimes pushed big analog-sounding rock & roll, and other times burst forth with clean electronic pop. The band would walk that line throughout its 25-minute set.
Voss served as the band's frontman, offering comfortable banter and providing most of the vocals. His voice is clear and strong. Scioscia's turns on lead vocals were darker, rougher, and breathier. They mirrored the mystery that Scioscia himself presented, performing the set in a pashmina that obscured his head. Voss's keyboards generally offered the foundation for the band's songs, seldom climbing above shifting chords or attempting to command the melody. Instead, it was Scioscia's guitar that carried melodic leads and solos aided by effects pedals that gave each song a different flavor. Regardless of the guitar tone, pop/rock was always on the menu. Sometimes the band veered towards the alternative rock of INXS, other times toward the power pop of Big Star, and still others nestled into the jangly roots rock that dominated its early albums. There's a lot to explore in the band's vast discography, but I think I'm up for the challenge.
Between acts, I peered out at the storm. The wind had subsided, and the lightning was gone, but the rain was still moving through. This left everyone milling about indoors rather than escaping to the bar's patios. The patrons were mostly folks in their late 20s. An indie rock crowd more than a punk one. That made sense, though my curiosity was piqued by the Happy Mondays and Curve shirts I spotted in the crowd. What brought that crew out? Half of my question was answered moments later when the next band took the stage.
Get With This from Orlando hit the stage at 8:50 with new cut "Pretty City." Immediately the club was reborn with a buoyant Madchester vibe, exemplified by Luke Fernandez's voice. Fat and happy chords came from rhythm guitarist Matthew Miller while guitarist Giovanni Scioscia returned to the stage offering rock & roll leads, sculpted feedback, and glorious bending solos. The bass of Dylan Moore was active, often climbing high up the neck to push past the tight drumming and popping snare of Oliver Gale. The music should have turned Farewell into a sweaty, ecstasy-fueled Haçienda-styled party, but it didn't. Blame it on Sunday, blame it on the audience that watched duteously from six feet away, blame it on the small stage that restricted movement, blame it on Miller's equipment problems, blame it on the club's missing million-dollar light show, or blame it on frontman Fernandez who spent the set only hanging from his microphone stand, grasping the mic with both hands, but whatever the combination of reasons, we at least had the songs. Before the show I surveyed the band's discography, falling in love with the jangling guitars of power pop cut "Peggy Sue" from the band's first EP. That song made its appearance mid set, but the bulk of the ten songs played were defined instead by larger-than-life Brit-pop excess. Audiences heard plenty of songs owing to the brothers Gallagher, but then there were also darker blues elements that pushed the band toward Stone Roses. This was particularly true in finale, "Chaos Becomes Life" from the band's latest EP. This one closed out the 35-minute set with something awfully close to roadhouse bar rock. What a ride!
The night ended with Youth Pool from Kansas City. I'd seen the band a few times before, but not since 2018. Has it been dormant or has the band just been playing so far underground that even my moles in DIY scene haven't even been able to locate them for me? Either way, I felt lucky for the sighting.
Youth Pool is still led by David Chavez. He sings with a ton of reverb, plays a very metal guitar, and wears a Happy Mondays shirt. Gage Brock plays rhythm guitar " a Rickenbacker with just a bit of jangle " and wears a Curve shirt. Sam Michell's bass is big and round. You feel it. New drummer Alex Tunks (of Spine, Inner Altar and others) now plays drums. This was his first outing with the band, making the foursome's shockingly powerful set all that more impressive. When band's enormous sound washed over the room, it ushered in a palpable change that pulled fans up against the low stage.
Youth Pool is undeniably shoegaze, but not in any sort of twinkling 4AD way, but in a '90s stomp on that pedal and blow the doors off the joint way. The Curve shirt makes sense. A Catherine Wheel one might make even more with Chavez's elongated vocals calling out through the churn. Dynamics aren't key to the band's sound, but volume is " as is the wah-wah pedal Chavez uses to slice leads all through the band's songs.
The band short twenty-minute set ended with "Power" from its self-titled 2021 EP. Unlike most of the band's material, the song undulates around a bubbling guitar line that leaves space for Chavez's vocals. This one is an alternative rock song with a brit pop bounce that unexpectedly tied it back to the preceding act. I'm not sure what Youth Pool is up to, but I know it's important that I not lose track of them again.
After the show I stepped into a new world. Youth Pool had washed away my anxiety, and the storm took care of the extreme heat and humidity. I put the top down and drove home slowly on surface streets breathing easily. Not today death. Not today.