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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Astronauts, etc. Emerge at Rickshaw Stop

Posted By on Wed, Jul 1, 2015 at 11:27 AM

click to enlarge JUSTIN YEE
  • Justin Yee
Astronauts, etc.
O (formerly Black Cobra Vipers)
Chaz Bundick
(DJ Set)
Rickshaw Stop
Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Better Than: Jury Duty

My introduction to Anthony Ferraro's Astronauts, etc. project was that he's "Toro y Moi's touring keyboardist." But at last night's sold out Rickshaw Stop show, while Ferraro and a cadre of fine Oakland musicians churned through most of astronauts etc.'s Mind Out Wandering (due out in September), they emerged as not only Ferraro's fully formed vision for the band, but as one of the products of the Bay Area music scene that positively merit your attention. 

Ferraro, ever a calming presence, spent the night seated behind his keyboard and microphone, donning small-lensed wire rimmed glasses, a striped button-up shirt, and a tightly trimmed beard. His band is a collection of cross-pollinated members of other Oakland bands, and understanding its make-up is a crash course into a who's who of the best in Bay Area indie rock. Bass player Scott Brown also plays bass for Waterstrider, keyboardist/back-up vocalist Doug Stuart plays bass in Bells Atlas, and guitar player Derek Barber, also of Bells Atlas, fronts his own solo project Perhapsy. The band's composition was a reminder of how despite a cynical view some may share of our local music scene, there's creative talent finding each other in the East Bay. 

click to enlarge JUSTIN YEE
  • Justin Yee

Toro y Moi's Chaz Bundick opened the night with a DJ set and kept playing '70s funk and eclectic rock from bands like experimental German outfit Can. His presence was fitting as Astronauts, etc. will be joining Toro y Moi for a full U.S. tour this fall, following its own West Coast swing which began last night. 

Mind Out Wandering calls to mind the sound of the '70s when it was threatening to become the '80s. Ferraro has a Gibb brothers quality to his voice and the rhythms feel like he's spent his share of time studying the work of Steely Dan. It's an ambitiously arranged retro project that explores modern themes, that were largely enacted by Barber's standout work on the guitar. Can't say enough about how Barber and Ferraro truly displayed a notable symbiosis on stage. 

But it still felt like some of the edges of the new songs were being sharpened by the recently formed collective. On the evening's opening track, "If I Run," Ferraro and Stuart challenged themselves with a harmony that felt like it needed polishing. Yet the hiccups were few, and on the following track, "Place W: You," the two nailed a vocal trade-off that opened into a jam session where Brown, eyes closed, seemed to send himself into the same hypnotizing trance that he purveyed onto the crowd. Stuart went back and forth from keys to acoustic guitar, drummer Aaron's Gold's pacing facilitated brilliant guitar playing from Barber, and the stoic Ferraro sunk into a groove with a confident gaze in his eye. 

As they embarked on "Sadie," Ferraro joked that, "The roommate I had when I recorded this song in my bedroom is here." And this is bedroom music. It's what you want to put on for those lazy Saturday mornings, when you want to lay in bed and daydream it all away. It's what you play when you're relaxing in the evening with the lights down low. "Mystery Colors" was the zen moment of my day; A beautiful song that hit me right in the feels with it's woozy synths, dark bass, and Ferraro's soft vocals, that I've had on repeat since leaving the venue (embedded below.)

The crowd began to dissipate as the set neared the midnight hour. There were far more teenagers with the infamous under-21 X's on their hands than I ever expected, some of which showed an exuberance for the band's music that even they seemed surprised at. But maybe it's the teenagers that are an indicator that you've arrived? I laughed thinking of this idea as Ferraro and company closed with newest single "Eye To Eye" and an engaging encore cover-version of Elton John's "Rocketman."

This was an essential show for understanding where much of the momentum of the Bay Area indie scene is at. Take note. 


If I Run
Place W: You
I Know
Mystery Colors
Shake It Loose
Up For Grabs
See You
Upward Swing
Eye To Eye
Rocketman (Encore)

click to enlarge JUSTIN YEE
  • Justin Yee
click to enlarge JUSTIN YEE
  • Justin Yee

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About The Author

Adrian Spinelli

Adrian Spinelli

Hip hop and sandwiches.


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