Julian Casablancas kicked off his Showbox set Thursday night with an eleven minute experimental track about the corruption of the music industry and the doom of creativity called "Human Sadness". It is truly a new era for one of our generation's best songwriters, personally coming full circle with the highs and lows of indie rock fame and choosing to cast off the shackles of expectation and brave the progressive edge even if it means critical disdain. Julian Casablancas + the Voidz are brutal, biting, even standoffish at times. They blaze through one six minute track and head into the next without acknowledging the applause. They dominate incredible instrumentation without any expectation of thanks. And yet, somehow, it all works swimmingly. The gig is sold out and the massive mosh pit for "Where No Eagles Fly" screams along with every word. But good gig or bad gig the message is the same – this is Julian Casablancas 2014, and if you don't like it, leave. But really, why would you leave when the show is this good? Together with Mac DeMarco, the Voidz made a stellar first impression on Seattle and we can't wait to have them back.
Julian has done a pretty incredible job on this Voidz tour hand-picking opening acts each night. Last week in LA, Ariel Pink signed up to open only a matter of hours beforehand. In Vancouver, Seattle's own Shabazz Palaces joined Julian for a truly rapturous night of experimental music. But tonight, Seattle got a particularly fantastic bill for a single evening. Before Mac and Julian took the stage, the night began with a fantastic set from Connan Mockasin. The New Zealand psych act mixes Tame Impala-esque hallucinogenic mystery with mustachioed 70s funk, and the result is incredible. Decked out in all velvet with mustache thinner than copier paper, Connan was a sight to behold, as was the rest of his band (mostly all robes). The band's new record Caramel is a sugary delight, and much of it appeared in the setlist tonight, including the lead single "Do I Make You Fee Shy?". Connan got the vibes going in fantastic ways.
Mac DeMarco is one of those dudes you can just never pin down. The guy is goofy as all get out in person, writes incredible, painful songs about the troubles of growing up and becoming a man, smokes enough Viceroy cigarettes to keep the company afloat, has toured and hung out with Phoenix and Tyler the Creator, and the last couple times he's been in Seattle, he's played at least two shows in a single day. Tonight was no exception. As the hundreds of adoring, screeching fans piled forward, Mac burned through a short but sweet set of material from his two newest LPs Salad Days and 2, before heading up the hill to Chop Suey for a headlining show. Due to the time constraints, Mac was pretty light on the antics tonight, but that doesn't mean he didn't save time for one truly marvelous stage dive during "Still Together". As time goes on, his live group only gets tighter and the jokes only become more natural. Seems like things with our favorite blue boy are going just fine.
"And then he says with an incredible amount of sarcasm, this one is a cover song." As the Voidz pile into Strokes cut "Ize of the World", Julian Casablancas drops the microphone and feigns interest as the crowd explodes. The First Impressions track is tonight's first and only from Julian's other band, taken down a dirty back road with double the distortion here as a Voidz cut. As the band rips through the introduction, Julian has his back to the crowd, watching Alex Carapetis pound on the drums, nodding along, occasionally whipping up enough sarcasm to fake head bang before the lyrics start. But as soon as the mic is up to his face, Julian turns and is full focus, every line delivered in studio-ready fashion up to the bitter "iiiiiiiiiize" of the end. Mind you, this is after almost a full hour of screaming through cuts from the Voidz gritty, gripping debut record Tyranny. Julian Casablancas cares about one thing: throwing a no-bullshit killer of a performance. When it's not time to do that, there's not much padding around the corners to soften things. As Julian tools around the stage in between lines, disinterested and sarcastic if only to an audience of one, Jeramy "Beardo" Gritter does the lion's share of selling it to the crowd, ripping one murderous guitar line after another all with his mane of hair and handlebar mustache rippling in the wind.
But there's purpose to it all. From a long distance, hey look, there's Julian Casablancas and this band in all black with a punk-looking album cover that says "Tyranny". Look a little closer and, oh hey, there's some incredible instrumentation and prog-rock noodling. Look even closer and, turns out, all those lyrics buried in the mix are some of the most honest, poignant stuff Julian has ever written. It's almost like a contest to see who the first person to call him on it is. "Father Electricity" is laden with internal commentary, as if Julian is miming along the idiot journalist who refuses to try and understand what's next and isn't predictable. Meanwhile, Gritter and Amir Yaghmai rip through dueling guitars in spectacular fashion. As the teenage Strokes-heads beg for "I'll Try Anything Once" or "Instant Crush" (a few severely confused mention "11th Dimension" and are quickly quieted by those around them), the encore consolation is "Dare I Care", the six minute exegesis of all feelings to be described as apathy. That right there, that is a well-timed, well-executed encore for a guy who hasn't gotten a break from the "well it's not as good as..." in a decade.
Julian Casablancas + the Voidz:
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