The songs of Lewis Del Mar are an orchestrated jumble of pursuits and influences, of sounds, rhythms, melodies, dynamics and grooves that leap and lurch and bound around the music spectrum, often resolving themselves in unexpected places.
Thursday night, the duo, backed by a three-piece band, headlined a show at the Madrid Theater, the first of three headlining shows for the seventh annual Ink’s Middle of the Map Fest. They delivered the equivalent of a lively and memorable keynote address.
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Lewis Del Mar followed two opening acts, each significantly different from the other.
Anna Wise opened the evening with a 30-plus-minute solo set. Supported by backing tracks and various looped sounds, she showed off the voice that drew the attention of Kendrick Lamar after he encountered one of Wise’s YouTube performances and enlisted her to contribute to tracks on several of his albums. Among those songs was “These Walls,” which won a Grammy for best rap/sung collaboration at the February 2016 award ceremony.
Wise paid respects to Lamar and her career-changing collaborations by singing “Pride” a cappella. She also delivered hearty a rendition of “Go,” during which she hopped off-stage and danced among the crowd.
Zipper Club, a trio from Los Angeles, followed Wise’s set. Their music is an appealing blend of synth pop and rock with a touch of ‘80s new wave: melodic, groovy and percussive. They are led by bassist/guitarist and primary vocalist Lissie Trullie, who wore dazzling cherry-red leather pants with matching boots. At times, her voice recalled Martha Davis of the Motels. She was joined by guitarist Mason James, her vocal accomplice, drummer Damar Davis and some backing tracks that added beef to their sound. They’ve yet to release a recording (their debut, produced by former Smashing Pumpkin James Iha, is on the way), but they have released a few singles, including the hard-driving “Going the Distance,” which drew peals of recognition from many in the crowd before them.
Their set was marred by some sound issues: Vocals were often buried in the mix and there was a prevailing muddiness throughout.
By the time Lewis Del Mar took the stage, a crowd of 400-plus stood in waiting. It was their third show in our area in 10 months, including a show in October that nearly filled the RecordBar.
The band was founded a couple of years ago by childhood friends Danny Miller, the duo’s lead vocalist and guitarist, and drummer Max Harwood. Their music blends indie-rock with electronic flourishes and regular doses of deep-groove Latin rhythms and accents. At times, they sounded like an intriguing mix of Alt J and Vampire Weekend bathed in electronic effects and found sounds.
Their set included a flashy light show plus an array of videos and images cast upon a large screen above and behind their backup band, who remained obscured by shadows and fog through much of the set.
They’ve only one album and an EP in their discography, and they covered much of those in their 75-minute set: songs like the lively “Puerto Cabezas,” during which the video screen broadcast footage from a ’70s-era subtitled movie; “Memories,” in which Miller showed of his falsetto; “H.D.L.”; “Islands”; and “Live That Long,” which started as a dirge, then exploded into something brash and dynamic.
The sound improved for Lewis Del Mar, though there were moments when Miller’s voice was submerged by the sounds around him, like during the ecstatic “Tap Water Drinking.”
For the encore, Wise joined them for one song: a worthwhile cover of Kanye West’s “Runaway” that ignited the most widespread dancing of the evening. They followed that with the fetching hit that launched them into internet stardom and a major label deal “Loud(y),” a jittery electronic/rock anthem with a sinewy bass line and persistent acoustic guitar filigrees – noises and music orchestrated into a sound that is becoming Lewis Del Mar’s indelible signature.
ALSO THURSDAY NIGHT
Erica Joy at RecordBar
Erica Joy possesses an astounding voice. Her intriguing showcase at RecordBar indicated that the young artist from Springfield is still learning how to deploy her remarkable instrument. The exotic yodel Joy unfurled during an interpretation of “Happy Villain” was haunting, but her iridescent voice was often poorly served by the disappointingly monochromatic arrangements played by her four-piece backing band. Joy’s stage presence is similarly uncultivated. Rather than triumphantly celebrating at the conclusion of a strong selection, Joy offered an uncomfortable shrug.
The Uncouth at the Westport Saloon
The Uncouth revived the breakneck sound of the first wave of punk at the Westport Saloon. Only the lack of angry shoving among members of the audience prevented the bracing showcase by the Kansas City quartet from being an authentic replication of the spiteful restlessness associated with the knockabout punk bands of 1979. A jubilant version of “KC United” included the characteristic chant of “oi oi oi.” Bassist Steve Gardels introduced “Got Me Wrong” by suggesting that it’s “a song about punching Nazis in the… face.” The band dedicated a cover of the Ramones’ protest song “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg” to Donald Trump.
34 at the Riot Room
Four of the five members of the Kansas City band 34 donned masks of American presidents during a disquieting performance at the Riot Room. While the costumes elicited wide smiles, the group’s harrowing sound doesn’t require a gimmick. Concealed by his Ronald Reagan disguise, vocalist Brett Carter howled as if in agony while guitarists RL Brooks and Phil Wolf nimbly traded emergency-siren guitar riffs that were extremely heavy but never ponderous. A rambunctious fan contributed to the surrealistic showcase by proclaiming his allegiance to Richard Nixon between songs.
Jaenki at Californos
The series of sterling singles released by the Kansas City quartet Jaenki in the last year have established it as one of the most exciting contenders on the area’s indie-rock scene. The quartet’s erratic appearance on Thursday didn’t match the immaculate craftsmanship it has achieved in its recordings. The band was unable to satisfactorily reproduce the sleek perfection of songs including the intricate “Miracle Maze” on a small open air stage at Californos. Moments of sonic bliss were occasionally offset by discombobulated sounds. A rendition of the synth-pop gem “The Timing and the Spaces” was the only entirely winning selection.
Bill Brownlee, special to The Star