Buzz Halloweenie Roast: A mixed bag of musical treats

10/19/2013 11:36 PM

10/19/2013 11:36 PM

Young rock bands these days have more than just better technology at their disposal than their predecessors.

They also have more than five decades of music roots and influences to choose from as points of inspiration.

Thursday night at the Midland theater, a sold-out crowd spent nearly six hours listening to five post-millennial bands deliver a mixed bag of sounds and styles, each steeped in familiar music fashions.

The five bands were part of the Buzz Halloweenie Roast, the annual costume party thrown by radio station KRBZ (96.5 FM). Here’s a look at the final three sets of the night, which lasted about four hours.

The 1975:

This quartet of twenty-somethings hails from Manchester, England, a region with a long history of producing bands that love a sweet melody. Count this one among them. Its 40-minute set showcased its new self-titled debut album, which comprises 16 tracks, more than half of which sound like radio-ready singles. The style draws heavily from the electro-pop sounds of ’80s -- bands who found their ways onto John Hughes soundtracks. Matt Healey, the group’s lead singer and spokesman, led his mates through an energetic set of bright pop songs, most bathed in guitars and synths and buttered with nice harmonies. The setlist included the airy ballad “Robbers” plus groovy dance-pop tunes like “Settle Down,” “Heart Out” and “Chocolate,” its single, which prompted the kind of sing-along you hear for a song that has been around as long as these chaps have been alive.

Portugal the Man:

This troupe from Portland is touring on its latest album, “Evil Friends,” produced by Danger Mouse, a record filled with a wide mix of styles and influences. The band’s sound is hard to pin down not only from one track to the next but within a song itself. Tracks like “Evil Friends” shift from an ethereal electronic ballad to a galloping, groovy guitar rocker with a B-52s feel. And just when you think it’s safe to align them with folk/rock bands like Arcade Fire, Grouplove or Of Monsters and Men for jaunty gang-vocal folk-rockers like “So American,” they deliver songs like the soulful “Guns and Dogs” or the rocker “Atomic Man,” which rides a “My Sharona” groove, or the soulful and slightly psychedelic “Purple Yellow Red and Blue.” It all got a rousing response from a crowd that treated them like the headliner.

The Naked and the Famous:

By the time this five-piece from Auckland, New Zealand, hit the stage after 10:30 p.m., the crowd on the floor was still big but noticeably smaller than the throng that had just watched Portugal the Man, although its set did include a rousing Arrowhead/Chiefs chant (tomahawk chops included). They, too, are touring on a new album, “In Rolling Waves,” a title that implies what they sound like: big-sky electro-pop anthems, girded with hefty guitars, synthesizers and harmonies, courtesy of lead singer Alisa Xayalith and multi-instrumentalist Thom Powers.

Their hour-long set featured several tracks off the new album, including “Rolling Waves,” “To Move With a Purpose” and “Hearts Like Ours,” plus a few off its predecessors, including the jackhammer anthem “All of This,” the shimmering shoegazer “No Way” and the closer, “Young Blood,” which cops a very heavy MGMT vibe.

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