The Dandy Warhols have spent twenty-two years creating music built off a foundation of shoegaze that at various times has incorporated heavy psychedelic rock, garage rock, and even the occasional foray into straight-ahead power pop. They are probably best known for their third studio album, Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia which was released in 2000, and included the massive single “Bohemian Like You” that was featured in a Vodafone commercial and the DreamWorks film “Flushed Away”. While subsequent albums may not have achieved the same level of mainstream and commercial success, they have been well received by a loyal and dedicated fanbase. Earlier this year saw the Dandys release their ninth album, Distortland. The album, with its title a playful nod to the band’s hometown of Portland, is both a look back over the shoulder and a fresh look forward. It certainly has a bit of the pop flavor and hooky charm that was evident on Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia, but retains some heavier psychedelic tones and even adds a bit of dance-infused party vibe. It would not be fair to consider the album a return to form for the Dandy’s, as their output has remained relatively consistent, it’s more of a fusion of their strengths, and has garnered positive reviews. The Dandy Warhols have been out on the road taking the new songs to the masses, and we caught up with the show at Cat’s Cradle just outside of Chapel Hill, NC.
With the stage bathed in darkness and the band illuminated by a faint blue backlight, the sound slowly builds with the swirling psychedelic tones of “Be-In,” from 1997’s …The Dandy Warhols Come Down. With hardly a pause, the band consisting of Courtney Taylor-Taylor on vocals and guitar, Zia McCabe on keyboards and bass, Peter Holmström on guitar, and Brent DeBoer on drums, launch into “Crack Cocaine Rager” from The Black Album. The one-two opening punch of heavy thudding bass and pounding drum lines propelling loud fuzzy distorted guitar and psychedelic keyboards sets the mood for the first half of the show. Even “Get Off” from Thirteen Tales has a heavier more ominous vibe. New songs “Pope Reverend Jim,” and “STYGGO” keep the psychedelic base, but add some pop melody and dance beats. The set is filled out with more of the songs from Distortland, like “Catcher In The Rye,” as well as tracks from their various releases throughout the years. The band remains tight and slightly aloof with Courtney Taylor-Taylor rarely moving from behind his microphone stand that is placed back from the front of the stage and is slightly behind and stage left of the drum kit. Rather than making lots of small talk with the audience between songs, the band funnel their energy into the songs themselves. While the between song banter may have been kept at a minimum, Zia often acknowledged the crowd and Courtney did take a bit of a break towards the middle of the show to address the many years that the Dandy’s have played Cat’s Cradle and tell a hilarious story about an early show at the Cradle that involved a Canadian band and the superstition of writing a band name on the green room wall.
Rather than engage in the typical encore, Taylor-Taylor explained that his band mates would be taking a short break, while he stayed on stage and performed solo. The band came back on stage to shift both the mood and the set by playing some lighter more pop influenced songs like “We Used To Be Friends” before building up to and culminating in the arrival of ‘the big hit’. From the intro of “Bohemian Like You,” the crowd exploded and proceeded to sing along at high volume. The set was closed out with “Boys Better.”
The Dandy Warhols played a tight set and put in a solid performance. Rather than slowing down and coasting on a wave of nostalgia like soo many other acts, their new songs remain fresh and their catalog is still relevant. If anything, they seem to be entering middle-age in a period of renaissance.
Opening the show at Cat’s Cradle was Nashville retro party band, Savoy Motel. The band consisting of members of Cheap Time and Heavy Cream played an infectious set of funky 70’s FM rock featuring wah wah guitar, off-kilter funk, and vocals that echo glam rock. Their sound felt fresh, but comfortingly familiar. They definitely put on a fun show and are worth checking out.