With their blood red logo projected high on the wall above the stage, The Voidz returned to the stage at Hollywood Forever Cemetery Masonic Lodge on the eve of the eve of the release of their new album, Virtue. The new LP channels a more focused chaos than that of the jewel-encrusted whore of 2014’s Tyranny. While some of the unruly noise of their first album lives on, half of the moniker under which they used to perform is gone: “Julian Casablancas + The Voidz” they are no more.
In the opening number “Leave It In My Dreams,” The Voidz flaunted double lead guitars to fortify the jangly, balls-out tune with the help of Amir Yaghmai’s Flying V, and Beardo’s unapologetic mullet. Casablancas, the well-worn front man, mimed gunshots to his head as he sang out, “Get up in the morning, it just hurts.”
A barrage of machine gun drumming from Alex Carapetis on “M.utually A.ssured D.estruction” followed, with Yaghmai squeezing notes from his guitar with the kind of wince of someone laboring to get a jar open. “Father Electricity” built from an island feel to the angular interplay of a demented version of the Talking Heads. The Masonic Lodge acoustics weren’t conceived for the rock bombast of a band like The Voidz, and so Casablancas’ vocals, which are already obscured on record, felt extra drowned out. There was a loose feel in the room, as inter-song banter included (multiple) shout outs to Kaiser Permanente, and other dialogue to buy time to iron out unfortunate production quirks.
Unreleased track “Coul As A Goul” broke out of the gate like a horse race. Bright white photo flashes bursting in the front few rows cast fleeting larger than life outlines of Casablancas upon the wall behind the stage. Carapetis laced “QYURRUS” with a wicked drum smack that gave the song a creepy strut. The song, one of the better cuts on Virtue, could stand-in for a paranoia-inducing reimagination of the Spy Hunter theme.
“Crunch Punch” was an ad hoc addition to the setlist. While it’s a screechy one, there are glimpses of triumph wedged in and among the Gameboy madness and subaqueous digitalism. Like many of their songs, the back and forth sonic identity crisis becomes dizzying – is this bonkers fun or am I going to puke? And before you knew it, the lights had come up. The Voidz appeared to be done.
The crowd, evidently a bit disappointed by the anemic less than 45-minute eight-song set, begged for more. After taking a break long enough to drive away most of the skeptics, the band did come back. Was Julian Casablancas feigning indifference? “One quick little song, then we got a lotta important stuff to do.”
But for their encore, they chose to unravel their epic mess (compliment) of “Human Sadness.” The song meandered (also mostly a compliment) from section to section, landing on one that sounded like a buzzy hymnal, with the frontman crouched down to sing. With its countless layers and sections, it felt like the Age of Adz on steroids.
When all was said and done, there was, well, a void of the new material. Merely three of the fifteen Virtue songs were brought to life at this kickoff/rear view performance, with at least one other being rendered unplayable by so-called technical difficulties.
Yet the merch stand was packed with posters, cut off t-shirts, branded cigarette lighters, and a lot more inventory that made the outer room look like a pop-up fashion store on Melrose. It begs the question that if all these clothes racks were in order, who forgot about the gear?
Leave It In My Dreams
M.utually A.ssured D.estruction
Coul As A Ghoul
Where No Eagles Fly
Photo Credit: Owen Ela