October 3rd, 2017 @ Paradise Rock Club
By: Robert Steiner
The Canadian dream-pop outfit kicked off their fall tour in Boston last week with a show that perfectly matched their music: Sweet, simple, and a whole lotta fun.
Last Tuesday night at the famous Paradise Rock Club, indie breakouts Alvvays accomplished possibly one of the hardest challenges a band could ever face: They made hipsters dance.
Put down your torches and herb scissors, hipsters, let me explain: In a certain subsection of the modern rock scene, it’s increasingly become the norm to go to a show and just stand there. No moving, no swaying, not even a nonchalant head-bob; just a bunch of people in flannel holding PBR cans and sulking. Maybe I’ve just had a recent streak of shows with shit crowds, but it always sucks to see a band giving it their all only to get 200-plus thousand-yard stares in return. Thank God that wasn’t the case for Alvvays, who easily made the sold-out Rock Club brim with energy and movement thanks to their packed set of dreamy, youthfully upbeat pop songs.
But before the band took the stage, hometown favorites Beeef kicked off the night with a quick set featuring their brand of jangly-yet-distorted post-punk. Just like the shows main act, the Allston quartet specializes in the reverb-y, guitar-driven type of indie rock that somehow feels both meticulously crafted and excitingly spontaneous at the same time. Songs like the floor-stomping ‘Tree’ and the cathartic ‘Dogshit Paradise’ provided plenty of catchy guitar riffs and witty lyricism, and proved the band’s skill at staying locked-in with each other even while tackling deceivingly difficult individual parts.
As someone who hadn’t actually heard of the band before the show, I was into it pretty much immediately, and I’m definitely keeping them on my radar from here on out. That said, even though I was into it, the crowd seemingly had an overall mixed reaction. While the band had a fair share of their devotees in the audience, namely the ones who screamed “BEEEEEEEEEEF” in between songs, a good portion of the crowd stuck to their stoic, stone-faced ways. Maybe it was because the band members themselves were pretty motionless, though in a “concentrating-on-playing” sort of way, but I have no idea how people didn’t get more airborne with music as fun as Beeef’s.
Soon after Beeef left the stage, Alvvays quickly took their places and launched into wonderfully frantic ‘Saved By A Waif.’ The Antisocialites track was a perfect opener to the night, because people immediately woke up and started jumping around and singing along to the song’s earworm chorus. From that point on, the crowd that was lifeless as a mannequin warehouse 30 minutes before was now tingling with bobbing heads and mini dance-parties, which is always a beautiful sight to see.
The band’s set was pretty much upbeat and high-energy the whole way through, though the mellow slow-burn ‘Forget About Life’ right at the halfway point offered a nice change of pace to let people catch their breath. Their brand-new sophomore album Antisocialites pretty much made up the first half of the show, with songs like the swirling and all-encompassing ‘In Undertow,’ the adorable ‘Lollipop (Ode to Jim),’ and the bright and jangly ‘Pimsoll Punks.’ Even with the warm production and heavily textured instrumentation on the record, the band pretty much nailed the tracks live, washing the crowd with waves of synths, reverb, and guitar feedback. Like all great rock frontwomen that have come before her, Molly Rankin enchanted the audience with her soft and disarming vocals, effortlessly going from bouncy and frantic on ‘Hey’ to heartbreakingly longing and melancholy on ‘Dreams Tonite.’
As great as this new record is, the crowd favorites still seem to be songs from the band’s 2014 self-titled debut, which makes sense considering how quickly that record caught fire among indie circles. The band seems to be aware of this too, because they saved most of the first record for the latter half of the show, with tracks like ‘Next Of Kin’ and ‘Party Police’ sending the crowd into a frenzy. Of course, the song that received the biggest response was the cutesy ode to young love, ‘Marry Me, Archie,’ with couples all over the venue hugging and cuddling as they swayed along to the song. No matter your opinion on marriage, there really was no way to hold back a smile as the whole venue erupted singing “HEY, HEEEEEEY,” during the song’s chorus.
If the crowd response was any indication, ‘Archie’ is still Alvvays’ biggest song, so it probably would’ve been better to save it for the encore rather than the third-to-last track. In fact, if there was anything to gripe about the show, it was that because the initial set was filled with so many crowd-pleasers, there was pretty much nothing left for the encore. While ‘The Agency’ was nice to hear, closing the night with a cover of ‘Trying To Be Kind’ by the Motorcycle Boy ended up feeling a bit anti-climactic, and the fact people in the balcony were chatting up a storm or straight-up leaving during the closer was pretty evident of that. Regardless, the night proved to be incredibly fun overall, with both Alvvays and Beeef offering plenty of riffs and hooks to get stuck in your head for days. Hell, a week-plus later, and I’m still humming the chorus to ‘Lollipop.’ But honestly, with songs as good as these, long-term earworms are totally cool with me.