Though the five acts that performed at Alive's annual Bands to Watch showcase at Skully's drew upon a variety of sounds and styles, the musicians still joined together to form something of a mutual admiration society.
In a December interview, Adam Smith of EYE noted the group, in spite of its space-rock tendencies and the members’ fondness for far-out jazz, was first and foremost a rock ’n’ roll band, and it sounded determined to prove as much here, forgoing airier passages in favor of heavy, thunderous guitar jams that hugged closely to terra firma. Smith, playing guitar rather than keyboard, shaded the songs with shrieking feedback, cat-scratch riffs and chunky bursts of knotted fuzz, while his bandmates moved with timber-clearing authority.
Though quieter, Dominque Larue projected similar force onstage, easing into verses that revealed both a supreme confidence (some version of the Cartman-approved phrase “I do what I want” wormed its way into a bulk of her songs) and a more playful, tongue-in-cheek side. “I’m about my dough/ But I’m not good at hard math,” she rhymed on one cut.
Damn the Witch Siren kicked off the evening with a booming set that leaned heavily on electrified dance beats and singer Bobbi Kitten’s shape-shifting vocals, which swung from fierce (“Pearls and Lace”) to ethereal, as she demonstrated on a moody, atmospheric number the duo debuted here.
All Dogs and the Sidekicks — two bands that have regularly paired as tour mates — closed out the evening, plowing through indie-rock songs inspired by everything from anxiety and loss to inertia. But where All Dogs’ songs moved confidently even in those moments when singer/guitarist Maryn Jones was at her most shattered, Sidekicks’ music frequently mirrored Ciolek’s tense mind state. “Don’t you wish you were a past you?” he sang atop restless guitars on one number, an unexpected admission from a band with such a bright future ahead.