Sunday night, patrons at The Regency Center were engaged in a ballroom dance soiree downstairs. It was a wonder those aristocrats waltzed along, oblivious to the tripped-out rock sabbatical above them.
Upstairs, Julian Casablancas+The Voidz were conducting a séance. The Voidz have been performing with a roster of experimental indie groups throughout their North American tour, such as Ariel Pink and Team Spirit. This time, psychedelic New Zealander Connan Mockasin and his backing band floated on stage. Dressed as a blonde scarecrow, he slid along his guitar like something out of a prog blues fetish club.
A long torturous while later, The Voidz bloomed into the blue light, full force. Thirty seconds into “Xerox,” Julian Casablancas sprinted out from backstage to join in. The united rock machine gently beckoned “Father Electricity,” arguably one of the more magnificent tracks on the album. If it truly was a work of world beat, Casablancas grabbed hold of the genre and bit down. Fans could barely make out the frontman’s ’80s jean punk attire — he was the only band member in the dark; meanwhile, keyboardist Jeff Kite almost glowed on his instrument and this aptitude garnered him his own fan base at the forefront of the stage.
Casablancas saluted the audience, bantering as he often does. Latecomers had dissolved sadly into the hot side view, clambering around huge speakers at the perimeter trying to see the stage, and raising fists in frustration at muffled sound imbalances. Like a shadow of their anger, the theater filled with grimy distortion of hard punk gem “M.utually A.ssured D.estruction.” Casablancas twirled the mic stand nostalgically, proving Sunday night that behind this weird new musical invention of his he remains authentic.
The mosh pit belted every word of Grammy Award-winning Daft Punk collaboration “Instant Crush,” and guitarist Jeramy “Beardo” Gritter pumped out an altered solo that caught us by the heart on the end of a fish hook.
Promotional single “Where No Eagles Fly,” a heavy punk song birthed by bassist Jake Bercovici, became an indie hit boosted by Casablancas’ honorary ode to The Strokes, “Ize of the World,” one of The Strokes’ only political commentaries — the majority of which are nestled in First Impressions of Earth (2006), “Ize” included. It was a proper pairing for Tyranny (2014), a record steeped in ideological musings of the human condition. Casablancas’ sermon called on all the “young adults to modernize.”
Two heavy hitters rocked the Ballroom like a sinking vessel: “Business Dog” and “Crunch Punch.” Drummer Alex Carapetis worked like a propeller while Casablancas hung onto the microphone — his only life jacket. The Voidz were a sweaty, dirty, tired mass of pure art. Following “River of Brakelights,” off his self-demonized debut Phrazes for the Young (2009), we were greeted by Tyranny’s rolling opening track, “Take Me in Your Army.”
It was getting hot and people were getting weird — at one point, the crooning frontman was tossed a pair of Kanye frames, which he received and donned. Casablancas announced the last song to our gullible bodies. It was one that climaxed incredibly, leaving the best jitters: “Dare I Care.”
The inevitable encore began with an old Strokes demo called “I’ll Try Anything Once.” Diehards fell in love all over again, a difficult symptom to avoid with this soul squeezing ballad. It was an odd song to juxtapose with “Johan Von Bronx;” the pair felt like walking serenely across a beachfront before being swept up by an industrial tsunami. And then the band was gone again.
One feature of this live performance sets it apart from traditional art rock experiences: the Voidz performed each Tyranny song exactly how it had been recorded, down to each and every spastic blip. For those who’d listened to the record, there were no unexpected vocal acrobats or unwritten solo intricacies. The audience screamed for “Human Sadness” as if to say, “Prove it! Prove that your chaotic sound bites are honest, determined, and real. Make it happen.”
The Voidz did the impossible by recreating the random. Exactly ten minutes and fifty seven seconds later, the night was over and the room never felt so alive.
Article by Jade Theriault
Photos by Erika Castillo and Jimena Cuenca