To the Mayan Theater, they came – the ubercool ‘all ages’ youth of Los Angeles. Fresh-faced and pouty teenagers donned their finest slouchery to hear some good and some less-good tunes in an evening curated by KCRW. The place looked like a modern-day sock hop on the set of Legends of the Hidden Temple.
Opening first was “not from California,” band California Wives: nice-lookin’ Chicago boys playing what sounded like the sountrack to a lost John Hughes movie. Although the songs have a slightly homogenized feel, this band is right on trend and ready to follow in the footsteps of Young the Giant or Vampire Weekend. In a couple of years, these clean-cut hepcats (and their bad boy drummer) will probably own Coachella and get a much bigger dance party going. Unfortunately, in a space so geek-chic, the crowd would do little more than bounce politely to tunes they didn’t know. The fellas closed their respectable set with “Blood Red Youth,” a song that packs as much promise as the band itself.
Next up was Diamond Rings – an ’80s-style glamour act known for his gender-bending antics. His backup band was decked out in matching outfits that were très Ashton Kutcher circa ’07, complete with trucker hats and mirror shades. Alas, despite a year of opening for pop dazzler Robyn, Diamond Rings’ performance was mostly form and no function. Sloppy keyboards and poor vocals prevailed, making the showmanship appear pasted on in place of good songs. “Day & Night” was the only tune to climb out of the weeds – a cool Casio-pop ditty, goofy and totally charming – concluding the set on an okay note.
Finally, the millenial bobby soxers were given their dessert: the very put-together indie-groovy Stars. Montrealers, as a rule, are super fucking fun people and this group is no exception. Their sound was impressively clean (or maybe just the right amount of dirty) and every song was beautifully lived in, through some amount of pantomime, dancing, or just emphatic expression. You’ll never see a tambourine beaten with the fervor that Torquil Campbell achieved that night, and Amy Millan’s vocals were as clear and crisp as new paper. Multiple disco balls got to spinning right away, so the room was appropriately coated in constellations as the crowd hopped and bobbed along to round after round of well-layered and driving spacey-pop. Highlights of the set were the fabulous, triple-harmonized chorus of “The North,” (plus a melodica solo), the totally cheeky “We Don’t Want Your Body,” and the awesome “Do You Want to Die Together,” led in by Campbell with some creepified Everly Brothers: “If ever I want you, all I have to do is die…”
Good times were had at the hop. Hopefully, per California Wives’ mid-set suggestion, a few kids found someone nice to make out with while Stars serenaded us all.