After awkwardly wading through palpable waves of awkward intimacy during Black Francis’ way-too-sober show at The Hard to Find in Goleta, this writer was a little wary of another venue promising an ‘all-ages/no bar’ setup. Despite those ominous descriptors, and with the added benefit of good acoustics and a downtown location, Friday night saw Jensen’s Mainstage prove itself worthy of some great Pitchfork-approved tunes.
The show began with a set from The Spires, a trio of hard-working Venturans who sound like the Velvet Underground but look like Silversun Pickups. They’re also good; loud and passionate and all those things rock ‘n’ roll should be. But I’m really into chillwave.
Give me layers and layers of warm, fuzzy loops, sunny melodies, and distorted vocals slurring nostalgia for childhood summers and melting popsicle. Hipster Runoff, the almighty accidental creator of the term “chillwave” originally described the genre as sounding like “something that was playing in the background of an old VHS cassette that you found in your attic from the late ‘80s/early ‘90s.”
That’s about right. But that was also so last summer.
Baby-faced and bespectacled, Toro y Moi (a.k.a. Chaz Bundick) took chillwave and cooled it way, way down on Friday night. While safely hidden behind his Macbook, Bundick swayed and danced with the rhythm of his own expertly produced R&B beats, heartbreak flowing directly from his soul to the mic. Sometimes he picked up a guitar, adding some edge to his softer tracks, but this just provided visual evidence for what his Causers of This album already made clear: the man is a brilliant producer, not a live act. (Think more Avalanches, less Neon Indian.)
The Ruby Suns might be just the opposite. The New Zealand band crafts lovely music that flows along with the current watered-down Animal Collective sound so heavily favored by Hot Chip, Yeasayer, and Vampire Weekend. African beats + ‘80s keyboards = foolproof, dance-friendly, pseudo-world pop that made for a great live show, and only a pretty-good album listen.
Taking note of the at-first quiet audience, Suns frontman (and Ventura native) Ryan McPhun commented, “Oh I get it — no alcohol.” Maybe so, but a resourceful concertgoer can always grab a few well-made drinks at Jimboz Lounge, conveniently nestled just a block away at 2711 De la Vina St.
Jensen’s, I think we’ll get along just fine.