“Can I get one ticket to The Strokes? Sorry, I mean The Voidz!” I overheard from a middle aged man at The Observatory’s will call window. What surprised me about his tone was his... sincerity. This was not one of your run-of-the-mill distasteful jokes made about The Strokes v. The Voidz that divide their fan base. This fleeting moment is reflective of the biggest challenge The Voidz face as having Julian Casablancas as their lead singer. Many of The Strokes’ listeners are unable to accept The Voidz as anything more than a side project -- but not because they don’t want to. They’re simply too attached to nostalgia.
And that’s a shame. The Voidz’s sophomore release Virtue, which celebrated its one year anniversary this March, is one of the best and most inventive records of 2018. According to the band’s keyboardist, Jeff Kite, the band is currently in the studio prepping to release what is to be “their most commercial” album yet. The Voidz’s mission statement is to bridge the gap between underground quality music and the mainstream -- a manifesto that not only exists in their music, but in how they arrange their tourmates.
Their past openers have included rising artists (and a comic) with fearless and unique styles (Starcrawler, Lee Camp, and Promiseland to name a few). For this Cinco de Mayo show, True Blue is no exception. True Blue is the solo endeavor of Maya Laner, bassist for Porches, who toured with The Voidz last year. A one woman band, she approaches the keyboard wearing opera length latex gloves and a graffiti print style dress. After the first song, she asks, “Can I get help with the lighting? It feels like a classroom in here.”
Ask and you shall receive. Blue and pink hues appear as she casts a spell on the audience via synth sounds and dancing. At one point, she goes to each corner of the stage and spits water onto the crowd. They giggle with surprise. Does the term “delicate punk rock” exist? That’s what True Blue feels like. Her aura is reminiscent of Grimes or Nicole Dollanganger, with a tinge of Stevie Nicks, but Laner holds her own as a musician who fills the entire stage with her confident presence. Her voice is ethereal, hypnotic, and made me ask the question, “How can a human’s voice sound so wonderfully buttery?”
As the venue transitions for The Voidz, the crowd awaits anxiously. All eyes are to the front... no one wants to miss the first moment they step on stage. The theme of the night is NEON; everything is darkness and light. A banner has neon splattered letters spelling out THE VOIDZ, and now I absolutely wish to see them collaborate with artist Lisa Schulte. When the band finally come out of the shadows like knights of neon, one-by-one, the screams get progressively louder until it lands on a full-on roar. Each band member’s blacklight-ready wardrobe appears to be carefully selected to compliment the lighting design, or, perhaps... they’re just effortlessly cool.
They open with a bite sized Kraftwerk cover, then thrust into “Father Electricity” from their first album, Tyranny . Throughout the night, Casablancas hits a range of highs and lows, his voice as crisp as ever, from the falsettos in Middle-Eastern vocoder inspired “QYURRYUS” (pronounced “curious”) to the demonic growls of “Don’t you ever listen to the white man’s LIES!” in “Pyramid of Bones.” The best moments arise when the band feed off each other’s energy, such as guitarists Amir Yaghmai and Beardo Gritter joining forces to shred shoulder-to-shoulder. Drummer Alex Carapetis is a monstrous ball of fire, comparable only to Animal from The Muppets , and I have a feeling I’m not the first one to use this parallel.
The Voidz have six members total, which presents a claustrophobic challenge on stage. Jake Bercovici (bass and synthesizers) is hidden behind an amp with an alien and American flag scribbled on it, and Jeff Kite is forced off to the far corner. Though it is near impossible to get a balanced view of all, it does not affect the experience of the music or their unified high energy performances.
Later in the night, an alternate version of “Dare I Care” is performed, which carries more of a tender haunting quality (à la the finale of Sufjan Stevens’ “Blue Bucket of Gold”) than the studio recording. The endless supply of stage fog adds to the ambience. Their encore is the crowd pleaser, “Human Sadness,” an eleven minute beauty and beast of a track that samples Mozart’s “Requiem in D Minor.” When the first few notes are played, the audience cannot contain themselves. They scream and sing-along so loudly that it almost drowns out Casablancas’ voice. Fists pump in the air and the sea of voices fuse together when he cries out in anguish, “FUCKDEPRESSION!”A tthispoint,it’sevidentthatthisisnolongerTheObservatoryinSanta Ana. We’re in the megachurch of The Voidz, and every worshipper here has surrendered to the melodic gospel.
In a culture with too many opinions and not enough solutions, The Voidz are a band who let the music speak for itself. There is very little banter or explanation in between the songs, save for a word of gratitude here and there. At the end of the night, Casablancas gives thanks and says, “Happy Cinco de Mayo. Let’s party. Come find us.” The band exits one-by-one, just as they came, away from the neon lights and back into the darkness of the backstage. If anyone came here tonight with uncertainty of what The Voidz are about, surely by now they have satisfied their qyurryosity.
Where No Eagles Fly
M.utually A.ssured D.estruction QYURRYUS
Leave It In My Dreams Pyramid of Bones
Dare I Care
— Xanthe Pajarillo, DJ