By Seanan Maher
It’s a tough gig, playing a show in Santa Cruz on 4/20. I’ve seen amazing bands fail to get the energy of a crowd up even on days where the whole audience hadn’t been inhaling the Devil’s Lettuce all day.
It was no small task before Snail Mail, and their intrepid openers Dazy and Water From Your Eyes, on that Thursday night at the Rio Theater. Witnesses say even those in attendance who had not partaken any of that Primo Kush were getting contact highs just by bumping elbows with those standing around them.
So, when alt-rockers Dazy took the stage, they were faced with what was metaphorically an uphill battle of Sisyphean proportions, but what was literally just a lot of people who were kinda sleepy and incoherent. Would their MAXIMUMBLASTSUPERLOUD energy be enough to break through the Drop-Out Brussel’s Sprout haze?
The group, which is mainly the project of musician James Goodson, is a high-energy fuzz rock quartet whose songs often don’t break the 2 minute mark. Their music is fast, loud, and driven by catchy lead guitar riffs which feel familiar but still fresh.
Highlights of the set included the opening “The Perfect Crime”, the bouncy and fun “Split”, and the almost uncharacteristically laid back “Rollercoaster Ride”. While it wasn’t enough to completely free the audience from the grip of Mary Jane, it was certainly a start. The band set the show off to a racing start, and did a superb job of maintaining their momentum even when the crowd couldn’t provide the necessary fuel.
Dazy’s latest album OTHERBODY is out now from Lame-O Records.
Following Dazy close behind was the next opening act Water From Your Eyes. If Dazy was an aggressive distorted wake-up call, WFYE was the following warm cup of coffee. They were still there to get the audience moving and ready for the main event, but also had plenty of moments which were more conducive to the vibe of the night.
Calling the band experimental rock, while perhaps technically correct, feels like doing the band a disservice. WFYE is duo Nate Amos and Rachel Brown, built of strange samples and janky guitar riffs. For that night’s show they were joined by an additional guitarist, who’s entirely sparkle-based attire only adds to the mysterious fact that I can’t find their name anywhere.
It wasn’t long before the band had completely enveloped us all in a tidal wave of sound. The immaculately constructed backing tracks meshing wonderfully with Amos and the mystery player’s guitar work. Brown’s vocals floated somewhere in the middle of the concoction, somehow both ethereal and extremely punk rock.
Even more enjoyable than the bands eclectic mix of sounds was their sense of humor, showcased best by Brown’s banter with themself in between several of the bands songs. At one point they remarked:
“Thank you to Snail Mail for having us. Thank you to you all for being here. Thank you to your parents for having you. *pause* Unless you don’t want to thank them. Then pretend I didn’t say anything. I don’t know how you feel. There’s a lot of stuff I don’t know.”
Wood then laughed and shrugged, before launching into the bands next song.
Water From Your Eyes upcoming album Everyone’s Crushed will be out May 26 from Matador Records.
Then The Snail finally emerged. The crowd was ready now, rocked awake by Dazy and then lifted up by Water From Your Eyes. Lindsey Jordan and her band immediately launched into “Heat Wave” off of the 2018 album Lush. By this point it seemed the effects of today’s featured substance had relaxed its hold over the audience, as soon as the drums kicked in everyone in the audience was moving. Whether it was the dudes towards the front casually bobbing or the people over on the right side of the stage dancing and twirling, everyone was feeling it in their own way.
Jordan has only been growing in success and popularity since their EP Habit came out in 2016 from Matador Records. From there, she’s continued to perfect her sound, releasing two critically acclaimed albums, the first being Lush, and the most recent being 2021’s Valentine. The music blends the sounds of classic bands like Dinosaur Jr. and My Bloody Valentine with more modern acts like Paramore and Liz Phair into a style completely her own.
Snail Mail live is a sight to behold. First of all, Lindsey Jordan is a guitar god, easily gliding between complex riffs and heavenly chords. Second of all, her onstage persona is a delight. Jordan comes across effortlessly cool and affable. When she talks to the audience, you feel like she’s your best friend, and when she sings, oh man when she sings, you feel like she’s speaking directly to you.
Snail Mail is heartbreak music, new love music, just hanging out music, and yes, even getting stoned music. Snail Mail is everything for all time forever, and getting to see them live was an absolute gift. Few acts can wake a completed zooted week-night Santa Cruz crowd from their stupor, but the three acts which took the stage at Rio Theater on that Thursday night pulled it off like it was nothing.
Thank you Dazy. Thank you Water From Your Eyes. Thank you Snail Mail. Thank you Alice B. Toklas.