Smile Politely

No Joy and Psychic Twin: So much for the Champaign no-step

When I arrived at Cowboy Monkey this past Friday, Take Care were already in the midst of an impressive set. While it’s not always fun playing warm-up band, the group sounded energized and were instrumentally on fire. Their song-to-song segues were noticeably improved and they played quite a bit of new, mostly instrumental material that leaned away from their minimalistic side into full-on soaring post-rock mode. However, the band that I was really excited to see was the second act on the bill, Montreal shoegazers No Joy.

Without a word to the crowd, No Joy launched into a terrifically noisy blast of gloom, brutally loud feedback and — when they peeked through the wall of noise — surprisingly beautiful and poppy vocals. Throughout the course of their seven-song, 35 minute set, I was struck by the fact that they never said a word to the crowd between songs (indeed, most of the breaks were filled by deliberately-created feedback. By the time they ended their set with the eponymous track “No Joy” (and accompanying extended noise outro), the assault of that feedback was becoming comforting, and my only complaint was that they didn’t get a chance to perform an encore. Lest this appear to be a strictly doom-and-gloom affair, I discovered at the merch table that the band was uniformly young and personable (and slightly awkward), and I will admit that their hand-written plea for a place to stay (“Price…..???“) was also pretty endearing. They still some the all-too rare sense of opportunism about them.

Village’s spirited performance was a welcome shot in the arm after No Joy’s sonic assault. Their upbeat stage-presence catchy hooks jolted the crowd into dancing, where they remained for the rest of Village’s set and for Psychic Twin’s performance.

It was obvious that the majority of the crowd was there to see the new project perform it’s first show in Champaign proper. Aided by brother Adam on a variety of drum machines and synths and fellow Headlights Brett Sanderson and Tristan Wraight on guitars, extra percussion and effects and vocals, Erin Fein put on a confident, commanding and surprisingly dancy performance. While still definitely rooted in Headlights’ indie pop sound, the addition of some prominent, almost-hip hop beats had me thinking mostly of the Sunny Day in Glasgow show back in March. By the time the band closed with a lengthy tune featuring a soaring, sequencer-heavy section, the crowd had transformed into what had to be the most people I’ve ever seen dancing at an indie rock show. So much for the Champaign no-step, I suppose.

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