Saturday night at the Bug Jar was a local music showcase, with five solid Rochester-based acts on the bill. The underground hip-hop outfit Tugboat was first up, and entertained with an — at times comical — yet impressive display of smooth rhymes, provocative samples, and engaging beats.
People Can Be More Awesome followed with what was apparently the group’s second-ever live performance. While the band was still tuning, the lead singer announced “We only have 17 minutes worth of material, so if we get jam-bandy, bear with us.” On the contrary, the six piece powered through a short set of synth-laden, ride-heavy rock that would probably fall somewhere between emo and post-hardcore. Despite PCBMA’s lack of stage experience, it acquitted itself pretty damn well.
Fowls produced about a half hour of reverb-soaked, calypso-esque indie rock, which at times sounded very akin to Vampire Weekend. The two vocalist/guitarists traded math-rock riffs and control of the microphone, but when it clicked on the distortion, and dropped into heavier chord progressions, the songs seemed to have a little more meat.
Headliners Joywave had heads nodding from note one, and it was easy to see why these guys have a nice little following. The group’s extremely danceable electronica roots were on display, as was its knack for throwing down some seriously catchy hooks. Daniel Armbruster’s breezy falsetto was the perfect accoutrement, as he willfully whispered some beautiful melodies on top of the sample-driven beats and reserved, but responsible, guitars. All in all, a very alluring performance.
But the highlight of the night was definitely the 20-minute explosion authored by The Branch Davidians. The four-piece took the stage rather unadorned: keyboard, no-frills drum kit, some digital toys, guitar, one loud amp, and a plan. The set raged with the sludgy gorgeousness reminiscent of early British shoegaze, but the driving, minimalist rhythms anchored some of the more “out-there” moments. “Right Time” was a great example of the quartet’s ability to drown the room in dense, textural sound. Although the vocal mix was a bit low, it worked, adding to the vulnerable-yet-affecting aesthetic. The pretty, muffled melodies of “Bridges of Madison County” had a psychedelic pop feel that was shattered with a wall of feedback that always seemed to land on its feet. Set closer “Blessed Water” was an exercise in how transcendent noise can be when there’s a concept behind it. Not sure what that concept was, but, well, the meditative waves of dissonance washed over me, and I was clean.