The ever-charming Dan Boeckner brought his band Operators, as well as his own special brand of wild-child style to NYC for an intimate late-night performance at Mercury Lounge. Boeckner is best known as the guitarist and vocalist of Wolf Parade, one of the biggest bands of present day indie rock. But while that band had been on hiatus for several years, he has had numerous side projects in the meantime, like Handsome Furs, as well as the Divine Fits he formed with Spoon frontman Britt Daniel. However, just recently, Wolf Parade blew through town on a massive reunion tour and even has many festival dates planned for this summer. Still, Boeckner isn’t standing still for a moment and has forged forward with his far more personal project that’s more along the lines of gloomy, synthy 80’s new wave, which proves to be more his own high-octane speed.
Opening the show was one of the most boundlessly energetic and effortlessly talented bands on the local NYC scene known as Charly Bliss. They are the sweetest bubblegrunge hot-sauce you’ve ever tasted, and to witness them wildly bouncing about a stage is like watching Tigger on massive amounts of molly and stealing all of Pooh’s sweetest honey. They never cease to woo me, like a siren calling the boats into the rocks. I’ve seen these crazy cats open for the likes of Sleater-Kinney, Tokyo Police Club, and Veruca Salt, as well as ruling many shows of their own with their tasty blend of pop and rock.
This rad band is helmed by the magical sprite-like Eva Hendricks, who takes her vocal domination from super cutesy baby talk squeaking, to deeply raspy pre-teen angst, and even to booming shrieks and howls of unbridled hormonal passion, all often trespassed in a single song. They harken back to a bouillabaisse of many other artists from the 80’s and 90’s; from the youthful swelling of Letters To Cleo, to the sweeping emotions of Tanya Donelly and Belly, to the gritty bluster of The Breeders, with some vocal queues from the likes of Cyndi Lauper and The Bangles. Still, they manage to come out the other side effortlessly and sounding like they’re just having fun being themselves. The band consists of her brother Sam Hendricks on drums, Spencer Fox on lead guitar, and also some fronting vocals as well, and Dan Shure on bass. When they all take the stage, they never seem to skip a beat or miss a note. It’s hard not to get mesmerized by Eva’s awe-striking stage presence as she swings around with reckless abandon. Their first full-length album Guppy is out on April 21st, and personally I can’t wait.
“Most of these songs are about growing up depressed in a poor little town in the middle of nowhere in British Columbia, and me working through all of that. I hope you all enjoy,” said Dan Boeckner about his new songs that come to life via Operators. Honestly, after all of the aggressive howls of Wolf Parade, the bleakish synthy soundscapes with his ex-wife in Handsome Furs, and the dark break-up music of Divine Fits, his latest project sounds like a warm ray of sunshine in comparison. Despite references to hard drugs and depression, this new music conveys a child-like joyfulness that really makes you want to get up, dance, and shake that despair straight out of your head.
Their first LP Blue Wave has just been released via Last Gang Records, and there’s a lot of up-tempo, peppy synth cream to break up that sinister moody brew. As I mentioned, there is a whole lot of the bluer 80’s new wave by the likes of Depeche Mode, Cure, and New Order in this music; often cresting over to that point when that genre began to transform into the 90’s industrial scene with bands like KMFDM, NIN, and Aphex Twin. Profound hooks keep you jiving as Dan bounds around the stage in a frenzied daze of multicolored vibes that he spills about the stage. The music is dynamically propelled forward by the absolutely electrifying drumming of Sam Brown, who was also in the New Bomb Turks, as well as their previous project together, Divine Fits. However, this outfit is made even more enthusiastically unique by the bewitching presence of the Macedonian synth goddess Devojka behind an impressive array of electronics and soundboards. The setlist seemed to pretty much be the new album in its entirety, with an encore of a couple earlier tracks. Seeing Operators perform is an immersive event that you just have to experience by plunging in head-first and hoping you don’t drown in its darkly seductive allure.
Article: Dean Keim
Photos: Omar Kasrawi – additional images by Dean Keim