I didn’t bring a raincoat when I set off into Oakland on Monday night, and I really should have; but since the rain was supposed to start at 4:00 and still hadn’t at 6:30, I figured it just wouldn’t happen. When I got off Bart at 7:15, it was misting a moderate amount, and when I made it inside of Starline Social Club at around 7:30, not much had changed. Before the show began, I could overhear people scattered across the room commenting on the quietness of it all, and that though they were expecting a “mellow vibe,” they were not expecting it to be “this mellow.” By 8:15, however, when Oakland-based experimental/electronic group Juche played the first few notes of “Interval Signal,” and pressed play on the projector that they had set up facing the adjacent wall, it was pouring.
Though still mellow, it was more alive. The crowd showed up shortly after the music started, and the room was soon filled with the sound of applause, light synths, assorted clicks, taps, samples from nature and movies, and the sound of rain beating against the side of the building. The two men sitting on the stage were blocked by stools, mic stands, and their projector, which displayed a mix of scenes from old films, nature documentaries, video games, and computer simulations. A computer-animated model of a human rotated behind a written message to “begin ur lust … Centaur style.” In general, the crowd was far more fascinated by what was happening on screen than by either member of the band.
Before Juche began to play, just sitting down and setting up their equipment on stage, I thought they were technicians who worked for the venue and were there to set up a projector for someone else. They did a good job of diverting attention from themselves and towards their music’s accompanying video. Both band members remained sitting down on the stage’s rug and spent much of their time watching the video themselves. The scene felt more like a mellow jam session in a bedroom than a live concert. The room was quiet, as far as live music goes, and it was cozy. Everyone in the crowd had enough room to sit down if they wanted to, and many people did. After about 45 minutes, Juche stood up for the first time since they had been on stage, picked up their computers and pedals, and walked off into the crowd.
Next, the stage was taken by Erik Phillips, who previously went by the name Cat be Damned. After a few songs, he explained that he now went by his name, Erik (with a K) Phillips, and not Cat be Damned, because it “sounded kinda dumb.” I liked Erik because he told the audience what all of his songs were about before he played them. One of the songs towards the end of his set was about living in a cockroach trap (“Daydreams in a Roach Motel”) and another one, the final one, was about his friend, Joey. I’m not sure what that song was called, because there aren’t any songs on his bandcamp with “Joey” in the title, and I don’t remember what it sounded like, so Erik, if you ever read this, please let me know the name of that song. It was really good.
After Joey’s song, the stage was cleared, and the two members of Elvis Depressedly (frontman Mathew Lee Cothran and keyboardist/background vocalist Delaney Mills) walked on about 5 minutes later. The space between acts was filled only by the sound of rain, which was still getting louder; the mood had not changed since Juche. There was still a melancholy, bedroom-feel in the room. Elvis Depressedly elevated the energy, but only slightly; it felt like a transition from a bedroom jam-session into a living-room one. It was still too quiet to feel like a garage. After Cothran introduced himself and Mills to the crowd, Phillips came back on stage to support them on bass. The trio led with “Angel Cum Clean,” played a few more songs, and then played “Inside You,” from the 2013 EP Holo Pleasures.
I was instantly transported back to sophomore year of high-school, when I would scroll through Tumblr listening to Holo Pleasures and reblogging memes about being sad. I confronted my past self and moved on. After a few more songs, Cothran began to speak to the crowd again. The band had been staying an hour away in Vacaville, he explained, which is coincidentally the hometown of hard-rock band Papa Roach. Cothran bragged to the crowd that he had met the singer of Papa Roach when they were both buying soda from a Vacaville vending machine, and their vending machine conversation eventually turned into a seven-hour jam session, which turned into the recording of an Elvis Depressedly/Papa Roach split 7” EP. Nobody seemed to be able to tell that he was joking until he mentioned an actual collaborative release.
Before they got a chance to hear the crowd’s laughter fade, the band broke into another series of songs, including “N.M.S.S.” and “Weird Honey.” Finally, Cothran took a second break to make fun of Shaquille O’Neal for coming out in support of the Flat-Earth Theory, and then referenced his earlier Papa Roach anecdote in order to introduce the last song of the night. “This one’s about drinking soda, which is what me and the singer of Papa Roach bonded over.” They ended things with a Tumblr-kid favorite “Pepsi/Coke Suicide,” and stayed to chat after the show. I ran back to Bart in the rain. It was a good night.
Written by Mateo Savala