So, this was a fun night - last evening, Santa Monica's Cayucas played a steamy and humid Purgatory Room at the godforsaken Masquerade. The band Brazos opened.
I didn't know these guys, but according to the indefatigable Wikipedia, Brazos began as the solo recording project of songwriter and frontman Martin Crane. In its original incarnation, Brazos has opened for Grizzly Bear, Shearwater, Vampire Weekend, The National, Iron & Wine, Wye Oak, and Bowerbirds, as well as a national tour with Austin's White Denim. Their album Phosphorescent Blues was released in 2009 to positive reviews but touring took its toll, and Crane "packed everything he owned into a 1990 Honda Civic station wagon that he'd had since he was 15 and moved to New York," signing to label Dead Oceans. With new bandmates Spencer Zahn (bass) (who moonlights in Empress Of's band) and Ian Chang (drums), the band released its Dead Oceans debut, Saltwater, on May 28, 2013.
I'm a little surprised to learn they've been around that long, and with that much experience. They played a handful of catchy pop songs, especially toward the end of their set, but the first half of their set featured several long, droney songs that although I'm confident would reward a careful listen, didn't have enough hooks in them to hold the audience's attention. I was under the impression that they were a new band with a lot of potential and a handful of good songs, padding their set out with some literate songwriting more appropriate for a coffeehouse than for opening for a pop band. But singer Martin Crane came across as immensely likable, and there's nothing wrong with the longer songs that a little harmony and some tambourine couldn't fix.
Cayucas took the stage a little after 9 am, and after their opening song, launched into their signature song, the eponymous Cayucas. Previously known as Oregon Bike Trails, Cayucas are from Santa Monica, which is evident in the summery, sprightly sound. The group is fronted by singer/guitarist Zach Yudin, and includes his twin brother Ben Yudin on bass, Casey Wojtalewicz on drums, and Christian Koons on guitar (I'm back at Wikipedia, again). Their debut album, Bigfoot, was produced by Richard Swift (Damien Jurado, The Mynabirds, Foxygen, The Shins, etc., etc.).
There's no shortage of hooks, harmonies, and tambourine (and even a little maracas) in their music, which can be called "indie rock" (whatever that means nowadays) but is a little hard to classify beyond that. You can hear traces of long-forgotten Beach Boys melodies, an almost calypso rhythm at times, and even a little Alt-J quirkiness. "Party music" might be the best name for it, and they had the audience dancing for most of their set, despite the sweltering heat in the room.
They wrapped their set up before 10 pm, and the audience called for an encore, chanting their name, "Cay-u-cas!" However, Ben Yudin had to come on stage to sheepishly announce that they had already played "literally every song we know." While I would have been fine with a reprisal of High School Lover or Bigfoot, the audience demurred and let them go. On the positive side, after all those recent late-night shows at 529, it was nice getting home from a concert before 11 pm for once.
As usual, more pics are posted over at Flickr.