Cattivo bar proves perfect for lo-fi genre bands

Courtesy of Joey Mueser
Who: Surf Rock is Dead, Hot Flash Heat Wave and No Vacation
Where: Cattivo
Date of Review: March 23, 2018

By Joey Mueser | Staff Writer

04/05/2018

Three bands gathered for an early show at Cattivo in Lawrenceville. The bar had an open space in the basement which proved to be a pleasant surprise, and the groups that played were equally as great as the venue which hosted them.

To kick off the music, the Brooklyn-based trio Surf Rock is Dead, began their set. The band has been putting out music since 2014 and has gathered a fairly decent following.  Even though its name is a play on the status of a seemingly-extinguished genre, its use of classic ‘surf rock’ bands as influences is a great revival of sorts. The sound they produce is traditionally West Coast noise, but Surf Rock is Dead seems to extend its audience well beyond the Pacific coast.

Surf Rock is Dead proved to be a nice mix of dreamy, lo-fi and beach rock and did not disappoint with a naturally flowing set.

Hot Flash Heat Wave took the stage next, putting its own two cents in on the West Coast vibe.  Some songs certainly had more of a heavy rock influence. “Gutter Girl,” a fan favorite, was composed of a driving baseline, a steady rock beat and a solo which balanced with the rest of the song and riled up the crowd.

Even though some of its songs were heavier in sound, Hot Flash Heat Wave showed off its versatility by switching gears to a more modern psychedelic rock.  This new direction for the band is certainly evident on its latest album, Soaked.  Groovy summer rock vibes collided with an excited Pittsburgh crowd which is typically drowned in the gray of the city. The night didn’t see the strongest turnout, but I think the attendance can be attributed to the venues in which the group plays.

Hot Flash Heat Wave is an easy listen, but are no simple band. Versatility was shown once again in the final song, “Blue,” when an accordion was brought out for a final jam.

But the fun doesn’t end there for Hot Flash Heat Wave. The band has an excellent set which was recorded at Audiotree, another recording coming out soon from its session at Daytrotter studios and are hard-working when not touring.

The headlining group, No Vacation, plays in a genre of its own. The band kicked off in 2015 with its hit single “Dræm Girl,” which explored dream-pop soundscapes with lo-fi rock and hooked the audience in the sound No Vacation produces.

Although the band’s breakout single had a sound rooted in rock, most of its music is more laid back. A little head-bob seems to provide a fitting accompaniment to its music. “Lovefool,” off No Vacation’s LP titled Amo XO, has a steady groove which is grounded by the buttery vocals of lead singer Sabrina Mai, the perfect cherry-on-top for a bedroom pop sound.  Its music seems to encompass a lazy day, but still holds more than enough energy to keep the listener entertained.

Bedroom pop is a genre which has been gaining a ton of popularity lately, and No Vacation is a prime example of it. The genre is just what it sounds like, young musicians recording with equipment in their bedroom. This genre is playing perfectly into the hands of young artists who clearly have talent but no connections to get a record label. Since the style itself is gaining traction in the music industry, bedroom pop is becoming a stepping stone for artists to move their way up the ranks.

Unfortunately, the bass in many bands goes underappreciated, but in No Vacation, the bass work does not go unnoticed. Although nowhere near as meticulous as some bassists’ melodies, Marisa Saunders holds the sound together for No Vacation. Her style on the bass has a happy medium of moving lines and technicality which seems to drive the sound group in the right direction.

No Vacation’s live performance inspired dancing, good vibes and a positive atmosphere.  With its two EPs, one album and the skills to put out more music for the future, No Vacation is certainly on track to produce more great things in the future. The group was impressive in delivering congruency between studio recordings and live performances and is certainly on its way to expansion nationally as a lo-fi staple.

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