Chicago up and comers California Wives passed through the Ninth Ward Tuesday night on their way to meet up with Stars to open for the Toronto New Wavers on their upcoming North American tour (which does not include a date in Buffalo by the way). ESI was having a hell of a year bringing quality national indie acts to our fair city while charging a nice ticket price, and I for one was interested to see if their streak would continue because I love what they are doing for Buffalo, especially now that they are advertising in Artvoice and working the Interwebs. And yes, their streak continues.
Local boys Breckenwood started the show with their pleasing high energy Who inspired cock rock (without the negative connotations). Theirs was an earnest, shambolic, and unashamed set... so unashamed in fact that they even through in a Killers cover and closed with a Backstreet Boys ditty. The Killers song I could forgive, but that other was borderline unforgivable. Out of respect for their profoundly unpretentious rock that has just about all of the sonic virtues of cock rock without the hair, cheese, and misogyny, I'll cut them a break. Searching For Dinosaurs immediately time warped me back to the 90's for a tour of all of the music I studiously avoided during that mixed bag of a decade. Still, I can't hold it against them because looking around these last few years, the 90's are actually the good old days.
After a brief interlude, California Wives closed the night's entertainments with a nicely tight set, their rhythm section dead on and heavy on the grooves with pleasingly jangly guitar riffs that called to mind early R.E.M. (without early Michael Stipe mumble). Touring in support of their debut album Art History, California Wives returned to Buffalo with some blog buzz, and fortunately they did not disappoint the sparse crowd, especially when they veered into New Wave territory for a couple of numbers that were particularly satisfying, their "four indie dude attempt at a love song" and an "80's prom song." Lead vocalist Jayson Kramer was more than up to the task when he was called upon to get smooth and sensual, and the band took full advantage of the excellent acoustics at the Ninth Ward and laid down some lovely atmospherics that cumulatively embued them with a deserved, vaguely U2-esque grandeur. I also appreciated Kramer's "@#$% the haters!" comment during the obligatory Buffalove portion of the show; that was very nice of him to say, considering the crowd was completely already down with them.
By the time they wrapped up the show with a cover of Pavement's "Gold Soundz," California Wives had already lived up the modest buzz that preceded them, and they really showed why that buzz is around in the first place, and why they'll be opening for Stars this fall. That's going to be one hell of a show, and I for one am envious of the folks who will get to see it.