The Coachella Migration is in full effect here in Southern California, and one of the many musical caravans making tracks through S.B. belongs to multinational pop-rockers GROUPLOVE. Though their amped-up admixture of poppy songwriting, male-female harmonies, and electronic undertones may be best suited for a sunny polo field, a fine showing of young folks spilling into the aisles of the Lobero on Monday proved to be a viable alternative and a welcoming venue for the inaugural date of the band’s first headlining tour.
Sauntering on deck to the tune of Kanye West’s “Monster,” the five-piece declared their party-starting intentions almost immediately. Between three vocalists, GROUPLOVE’s songbook is as varied as the members’ backgrounds (two hail from L.A., two from New York City, and one from England). Up-tempo openers “Paper Cup” and “Itchin’ on a Photograph,” from their 2011 debut album Never Trust a Happy Song, showed a Pixies-like tendency for vocals that waver between tame melodies and unbridled screams. “Naked Kids,” on the other hand, proved a penchant for crafting folk harmonies between keyboardist Hannah Hooper and acoustic axeman Christian Zucconi, while bassist Sean Gadd showed off his classic rock pipes for “Chloe.”
In tempo, their set also ranged from dance-party mode to head-nodding crawl, the former of which naturally came to a climax with breakout single “Tongue Tied,” followed by “Colours” to close out the night. But while dance anthems are all well and good, GROUPLOVE may have shown the most promise in the slow jam department: “Gold Coast,” off their eponymous 2010 EP, is a climactic minor-key ballad combining electronic drums, soaring harmonies, and lyrics far more profound than one would expect after a listen to their radio singles. But where things got properly weird was with “Slow,” a highly experimental jam that saw percussionist Ryan Rabin take a break from the drum kit to pound on some electronic samples as Hooper followed with her best Björk impersonation on vocals. The result was a knee-buckling aberration that pulled the set back from the precipice of saccharine pop music, leaving one with the hope that GROUPLOVE will continue to experiment with such electronic weirdness in the future.