Photo by JOSH PELTA-HELLER
Monday night marked the start of a month long residency at the Boot N’ Saddle for The Voidz, former Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas’ new project. The show kicked off with Promiseland, a one-man band of electronic distortion and screamed poetry. Known for his crowd interactions, he walked throughout the small room and worked the crowd like a good hype man should. Promiseland’s powerfully loud set combined with the seedy backroom ambiance of the western-themed bar and the loop of Pixies and Sonic Youth on the PA between acts should have been the perfect build-up for The Voidz. But to the dismay of the swarm of Julian Casablancas fans nearly foaming at the mouth to see him live, Monday night’s performance was a bit of a wet firecracker.
There are concerts where every second of sound overflows with an addicting euphoria that makes you forget yourself and all the petty bullshit gnawing at you, but last night was not one of them. Admittedly, barring a few technical errors, the execution of songs from The Voidz two extant albums, Virtue and Tyranny, was impressive. But The Voidz played a mere ten songs, leaving out fan favorites like “Human Sadness,” “Permanent High School,” and “All Wordz Are Made Up.”
However, in The Voidz’s defense, there seemed to be a larger proportion of cell phone videographers than usual, especially at the front of the crowd. Not only did they prevent others from forming any sort of mosh pit or collective dance to the pounding rock of songs like “Pyramid of Bones,” or “Where No Eagles Fly,” but there were times when they waved their phones so high in the air that they forced those unlucky enough to be standing directly behind them to watch the show through their phone screens. I’ll admit that I enjoy taking a couple of pictures or short videos of my favorite songs, but this was excessive and obnoxious.
That buzzkill might have been overcome by the band had they still attempted to bridge the audience-performer gap. Instead, they spoke mostly to each other, with Casablancas often muttering incoherently between songs. Still, there were glimmers of connection. Casablancas followed their performance of Virtue’s anthem, “ALieNNatioN,” with a quiet, “That song is about me.” And of course, the ever-energetic drummer Alex Carapetis moved with a crazed passion reminiscent of Animal from the Muppets with maracas taped to his drumsticks. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel that the band took the words of the opening song “Pointlessness” far too literally.
The only Void who seemed to be truly relishing the art of performance was the guitarist Jeramy “Beardo” Gritter. He often climbed to the edge of the stage, leaning precariously off of it to the delight of the aforementioned cell phone cinematographers. But with the several allegations of predatory #MeToo behavior circling the web, I was more repelled than enthralled by his attempts to charm the crowd.
By far, the biggest disappointment of the night was the lack of an encore. Perhaps the less-than enthusiastic crowd was to blame, but the majority of the room stood in confusion as the lights went up and technicians immediately tore down the stage. Rejection of cultural norms and tribal rituals is de rigueur for an edgy underground rock band, but last night it felt like apathy – or at the very least a slap in the face to the fans who sold out all four Philadelphia shows in less than an hour didn’t deserve. As much as I hate to admit it, the almost 20-year-old mantra from the Strokes’ debut entered my mind as I walked out into the cool June night: Is this it? — SOPHIE BURKHOLDER