REVIEW: The Dandy Warhols @ 9:30 Club, 3/4

Words and photos by Leila McKiernan

Walking up to the 9:30 club on a rainy Monday, I couldn’t help but do a double take at the line of people extending from the bright blue doors of the building and wrapping around the block. Both me and the friend I was attending the Dandy Warhols concert with had been introduced to the band through their album Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia by our melomaniacal fathers. I first heard “Bohemian Like You” during a road trip (fitting, I know!); the vintage keyboard under lyrics with a hook in every line proved that it was their #1 song for good reason. My dad made an offhand comment about the band’s infamous rivalry with The Brian Jonestown Massacre, followed by their rapid rise to fame and equally fast disappearance into indie-rock obscurity. 

The stage is set!

The Dandy Warhols were not the flash-in-the-pan act I had thought them to be. The majority of the fans in line had clearly been followers since the band’s peak in the early 90s, but the excited chatter permeating the foggy, downtrodden atmosphere felt like it was coming from amped-up kids. That being said, there was no rush to barricade and, despite our showing up as the doors opened, we were still able to secure a spot on the front lines. 

The opener, Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor, kicked off the show with a confusing vibe. The lead singer had a raw and compelling voice, but at times his growling vocals clashed with the smooth psychedelic rock that the band was playing. The highlight of the performance was a song dedicated to the lead singer’s late father. The drummer and bassist had found the pocket while the rest of the band fully committed to long, winding solos that incorporated amp feedback and the highest parts of the fretboard to envelope the venue in a trippy, experimental soundscape. Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor was able to end their setlist on a high note, leaving the crowd amped up and significantly more intoxicated. 

Sean Morrow, lead singer of Sisters of your Sunshine Vapor, opening for the Dandy Warhols

The Dandy Warhols did not keep us waiting for long. At this point the audience was messy, their drunken state made clear when the concert hall broke into uproarious screams as the four-piece walked on stage. They appeared amidst intense white flashing lights that looked like the room was filled with shuttering cameras. The overwhelming but energizing effect popped up a few times throughout the show, a unique trick that made the Dandy Warhols seem like they were playing in stop-motion at some points. Singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor and drummer Brent Deboer stayed relatively stationary toward the back of the stage as they launched into their first song, “Ride.” Zia McCabe acted as the bassist, keyboardist, and percussionist, surrounded by different synths that she juggled while also doing the majority of the talking through the entire show. Other than a short anecdote from Taylor-Taylor about a duet he sang at the 9:30 Club with Bauhaus over a decade ago, the three men in the band were more than willing to let McCabe take the lead in engaging the crowd. She joked about messing up the beginning of a bass riff, profusely thanked the ride-or-die fans in the crowd, and ended the night as the last person on stage, serenading the audience with an intimate (albeit slightly shaky) acapella rendition of “Daisy on My Toe.” 

The multi-talented McCabe shows off her bass skills

DeBoer was another unexpected star of the night. Watching him smile vaguely at the audience through squinted eyes as he set up the drum set, I couldn’t help but wonder if DeBoer had just taken the strongest edible of his entire life. His mastery of the kit completely contradicted his stoner-esque mannerisms. DeBoer kept a rock-solid backbeat for the band throughout their entire setlist while also somehow supporting Taylor-Taylor with impressive harmonies in almost every song. 

How does he sing and drum like that for the entire concert?

Some of the setlist dragged, particularly the extended ending of “Be-In” which included at least three extra minutes of Taylor-Taylor using his guitar to create grating, alien-like noises. His expansive pedalboard sounding out over dissonant synth was complimented visually by flashing lights that were beginning to burn permanent marks into my eyes. These shortcomings were insignificant, however, when the highlights of the night were so, so high. As the first stop on the ROCKMAKER tour, the 9:30 club was The Dandy Warhols live debut of  their two new singles, “I’d Like To Help You With Your Problems” and “Danzig With Myself.” They executed both with tight instrumentals and Taylor-Taylor’s dependable vocals. I was pleasantly surprised by how receptive the veteran crowd was to the group’s new sound but the venue did come to life in a comically dramatic fashion upon hearing the opening riff to “Bohemian Like You.” The band laughed good-naturedly before diving into the beloved song and delivering a performance almost indistinguishable from the album version. 

In all, I thoroughly enjoyed the opening night of the ROCKMAKER tour. The Dandy Warhols have definitely evolved since their peak, but they are lucky to have a die-hard following who have supported them through the many genres they have experimented with. I look forward to seeing which direction ROCKMAKER takes them and their fans in next!

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