Yoni & Geti's Testarossa project is one of the most refreshing albums of the year, full stop. It brings two repeat collaborators together for a project that plays into each of their strengths with twice the strength and precision of any previous joint efforts by a mile. Furthermore, it's a largely story-driven endeavor. Testarossa finds its two sages narrating a rock and roll love story, where Dave goes on tour with his low profile band and attempts to live the dream while his relationship with his wife and his presence in his daughter's life both suffer. By the end of the story, everybody learns something. But in the middle, we get a lot of great thoughts and commentary on aspiration versus reality from two of the indie scene's best storytellers. For the sake of the resulting tour, it helps that Testarossa is a meta-narrative of a band on tour played by a band on tour. To no one's surprise, Yoni & Geti navigate the complicated context sensitivity of the project with ease on stage. With subtle nods, Serengeti embodies Dave (of the story) on stage, adding a theatrical flair to each tune. With the help of electronic act Go Dark and opening support from Special Explosion, tonight's Testarossa was no model - nope, this was the real deal.Opening up the evening was local indie rock act Special Explosion. The Seattle quartet has made some waves following their 2014 EP The Art of Mothering, touring with the likes of Alex G and Porches, and gaining plenty of traction here at home too. The band's sound finds itself riding a modern curve out from the Pacific Northwest late 90s apex of Built to Spill and Death Cab for Cutie. Where they branch out into the unknown, the band plays with math rock accents proportionally to their influences, but in much proggier directions. The songs of The Art of Mothering are some of the band's best, and that's saying something - this young band has some excellent songwriters at the helm. Special Explosion kicked off the night tonight with a solid set, letting familiars and unfamliars alike know that they have a lot coming down the pipeline. This was a lovely way to start the evening.
Touring the west coast with Yoni & Geti are Oakland electronic band Go Dark. Go Dark is the new project of Anticon founder Adam Drucker (a.k.a. Doseone) and newcomer Ash. Drucker and Yoni & Geti go way back of course, as both WHY? and Serengeti have Anticon ties going back as far as 2003. Go Dark only seems a natural pairing for the last stage of the band's tour off this collaboration. Online and around the media circuit, Go Dark obviously prefers a bit of mystery. Instead of pointing you to a Soundcloud page, they'd rather send you to play their spacey alien-blasting video game to win free songs (you could also go to their Bandcamp if you really prefer that). Their stage setup finds a neon-soaked happy place between Tune-Yards and Sufjan Stevens' prolific Age of Adz tour, rocking out blistering, infectious synth rock for the masses. They've released two EPs thus far, both on Halloween in subsequent years, and based on their abrasive and discombobulating stage mixture of singing, screaming, and vocal manipulation, there's no doubt they like to keep things spooky. For a project so fresh to the scene, it's fun to see Go Dark go all in with their multimedia production. Much like Yoni Wolf and Serengeti to follow, Drucker is no novice, and it's obvious that he has stage presence in droves. But that being said, it's still difficult to bring a brand new project to the stage for an unfamiliar audience and put it on like it's a stadium reunion tour, and that's exactly what they did. Go Dark kept the energy rising with chaotic and lively electro-pop fun.
As the band branch out onto the stage, it's clear that from moment 1 this is going to be a very cinematic indie rock experience for all present. Yoni & Geti make it subtle enough for those that have no love for rock opera, but for those paying attention, the carefully crafted setlist is a love letter to the attentive fan. After rocking the opening banger of "Lunchline" free of any context other than a dance party, Yoni & Geti back up to the beginning, playing through the album's first three tracks straight through and getting into character. By the time we get to "Frank" (the one where Dave starts to forget the lessons he's learned on previous outings and falling too hard for the dream), Geti is stumbling around the stage, rapping through one reminder after another with a forced stammer, like he's wracking his brain to get every single one. After Serengeti's run of albums under the character Kenny Dennis (including one totally bangin' dance album by Kenny Dennis's fake pop band Perfecto - that's two layers deep of fictional bands), it's clear that he enjoys getting into a more complex stage role. When Yoni & Geti branch out from their record into others of their respective repertoire, Geti still prefers the most theatrical of his catalog. Both "Tracks" and "Long Ears" appear from his album Friends & Family (which Yoni Wolf produced), as does Kenny Dennis track "Dennehy". Of course, when the shtick drops, Geti is still a furious emcee, spitting line after line with insane precision and conviction, even more so when he gets to bounce off of Yoni Wolf's lush vocals. Speaking of Yoni, the audience got to hear a couple classic WHY? tracks as well, including the irreplaceable "Rubber Traits". Hearing Yoni & Geti on stage together, widening the scope of their project together, and surrounding it with the cloud of witnesses that is their mass combined back catalog, it's a project with near-endless ambition (certainly one that is a blessing to be heard at a venue as intimate as the Crocodile). It's a great mixture that puts the whole experience of Testarossa into a larger, even more inclusive picture.
Yoni & Geti:
Testarossa is out now on Joyful Noise.
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