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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Chvrches Opened Every Eye Monday Night at the Fox Theater in Oakland

Posted By on Tue, Apr 19, 2016 at 2:59 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO: ZACK RUSKIN
  • Photo: Zack Ruskin

The floor was actually bending.

I’ve been to many shows at Oakland’s The Fox Theater, but Monday night was the first time I had to stop and consider the building’s structural integrity mid-concert. The culprit for the rattle beneath my feet was Chvrches, the Scottish electronic trio with two stellar records under their belt and a seemingly limitless supply of energy. The cause for their show was the (unfortunately titled) concept of “Baychella,” the week between Coachella festivals when bands on the bill get the hell out of Indio to play the Bay Area outside of their normal touring schedules.

“Baychella” is a gift that San Francisco has embraced even back when the festival was only one weekend – with venues like The Fillmore and The Fox serving as defacto warm-up gigs before bands take the big stage down in the desert. “Baychella” also affords the chance to create unique pairings on the bills. In this case, Chvrches took the opportunity to ask fellow Coachella act Wolf Alice to open their Oakland shows.

While lead woman Ellie Rowsell stayed center stage without much fanfare or theatrics, the sound she created with her three bandmates was a furious reminder to any unfamiliar with the band that Wolf Alice is on the way up. Channeling elements of grunge and folk, Wolf Alice spanned many facets of rock in its 40-minute set. If the theatrics were lacking, it only put more of an emphasis on the music, where blistering singles like “Fluffy” and “Moaning Lisa Smile” broadcasted an arena-level potency to the arriving crowd.

click to enlarge Wolf Alice - PHOTO: ZACK RUSKIN
  • Photo: Zack Ruskin
  • Wolf Alice

Wolf Alice has but one full-length to their name, 2015’s My Love is Cool, but endless potential. Already making waves back home in the UK, it seems like only a matter of a time before Wolf Alice will be plucking a lucky group to serve as their opener. On Monday, they seemed fully content to set the stage ablaze in welcoming tribute to the night’s main attraction.

Some may have worried that seeing Chvrches would invoke a case of déjà vu. After all, the group has toured relentlessly since the release of its first album, 2013’s The Bones of What You Believe, and there seemed to be no wait before the band was back on the road to promote 2015’s Every Eye Open. 

But that was not the case.

From the opening notes of “Never Ending Circles,” singer Lauren Mayberry proved that you pretty much can’t get too much of Chvrches. The songs are simply too catchy, the manic energy too irresistible. Bolstered by the walloping bass of Iain Cook and the frenetic synthesizers of Martin Doherty, it felt like only a few sweat-drenched minutes had passed before the band was waving good night. Prowling the stage and punctuating the siren’s song of her voice with twirls and stomps, Mayberry freed the crowd from the chains of a Monday night for 90 minutes of unadulterated fun.

click to enlarge PHOTO: ZACK RUSKIN
  • Photo: Zack Ruskin

Having had the pleasure of seeing Chvrches at Treasure Island last October, it is clear that while they do not wilt in the open air, their sound is best enjoyed under a roof that they can work relentlessly to blow off. More pristine too was the charm of Mayberry’s banter between songs, where she touched on topics ranging from the faux pas of blowing one’s nose into a cloth towel, her take on Kevin Bacon’s 2000 film Hollow Man, and the evil of Ted Cruz.

“Oh my God, we’re playing in Texas next week,” Mayberry exclaimed after expressing her distaste for Cruz. “What am I doing?!”

What she was doing – what the whole band was doing – was providing yet another reason why the endless cycle of male-dominated festival headliners is a glaring blight on the music scene. While Chvrches may not yet be ready to ascend to the top of the lineup at Coachella or Outside Lands, they have all the makings of a headliner act. They are sonically sharp and immensely entertaining. And, perhaps most importantly, they truly betray no weariness at striking up “The Mother We Share,” their biggest single, for the umpteenth time. Watching Mayberry thrash her head as the beat hits, or Doherty dance from behind his post of keyboards and sample pads, these are not world-weary artists going through the motions.

Indeed, there may be no motions for Chvrches other than the slight blip on the Richter scale that surely registered as the floor sunk lower and lower from pounding feet and dancing fans. On Monday night Chvrches gave life to Oakland, and we'd all do well to take in the majesty of their show at a place like the Fox while we still have time.

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About The Author

Zack Ruskin

Zack Ruskin

Zack was born in San Francisco and never found a reason to leave. He has written for Consequence of Sound, The Believer, The Millions, and The Rumpus. He is still in search of a Bort license plate.

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