By Adam McGrath
Weekender is one of those Philly bands I’d been hearing about for a while, their name buzzing on tastemakers’ lips and tacked-up posters around town. I was happy to finally catch them in a headlining gig at Johnny Brenda’s Saturday night as they celebrated the release of six-track EP Floaty Feeling, Blue (PaperCup).
Weekender is at a critical stage in its evolution, as songwriter Derek Sheehan has surrounded himself with a solid lineup to perform this new crop of songs. The band’s current style is a careful mixture of electronically manipulated instrumentation with the occasional rock melody pushing stubbornly through.
Watching the five-piece band play together onstage, it’s clear that Sheehan has a vision of how he wants his music to be performed. As he toggled his striped-stocking feet from one pedal to another, each musician watched him attentively for the next cue. The scene reminded me of Alec Ounsworth conducting a Clap Your Hands show, and the cleverly edited video accompaniment showed me that Sheehan believes in putting on a fully realized artistic experience.
The 50-minute set was solid, with the new tracks sounding just as tight as songs from 2013’s Spanish Peaks. The best songs for me were title track “Floaty, Feeling Blue”, with its loopy, sparkly texture and “Loving/Hating” with the heaviest guitar sound of the night. I personally would like to hear more songs like that from Sheehan and company. Less echo, more distortion.
Disappointingly, the band did not return for an encore, though it’s unknown whether they had truly fired all their bullets or were just waiting for the insecure hipsters in the crowd to work up the courage to vocalize their appreciation. It’s okay to cheer for an encore, kids!
Speaking of trying too hard to be cool, Little Racer came down from New York to play the second set Saturday night. The group’s music was perfectly pleasant, nailing the pop-wave sound so popular these days, but no one song succeeded in raising my heart rate a tick. Lead singer Elliot Michaud reminded me a little of Shark Tape’s Stephen Lorek, which is certainly not a bad thing, but even with a timely cover of Bowie’s “Rebel, Rebel”, the temperature never rose above that of a San Diego sunset.
Weekender is back to opening duties on Thursday at The Foundry with Vacationer and Queen of Jeans for a Red Bull Sound Select show, but with the discipline and vision they demonstrated at JB’s, I won’t be surprised when they move to headlining full-time.