The Brooklyn mood-rockers Veda Rays kicked off their month-long residency of the East Williamsburg venue Sunnyvale with a bombastic line-up of local favorite bands and some very artsy ballyhoo. A good musical performance is all about how it flows through a venue, echoes off its walls, and burrows into your soul, and of course, burn in to your memory, and this show had everything necessary to properly get the hair on your arms to stand at attention and spark that excitement in the back of your mind that warps you back to those very first musical exposures that still produce waves of sublime shivers down your spine. Sunnyvale still proves to be one of my favorite venues around town, with its vast interior, well-stocked and reasonably priced bar, and an attentive and fun staff, they prove to have all the best aspects of the small and rustic DIY music pads that many of us local music lovers adore (and that have rapidly disappearing from the NYC landscape) as well as the more put-together and professional large-ticket venues.
The shindig featured a great photography exhibition by Black And White Night (aka Andrew Ellzey) and slammin’ DJ sets by Brian Blackout (aka Feeling Gloomy, aka Brian Pennington). Singer and guitarist aficionado Sam Yield started it off with a brilliant acoustic one-man show. You may know of him from his breakneck bass work in the local firebrand rock band Heybaby, but if you didn’t know, he is actually also a gorgeously nimble-fingered guitarist as well, mixing classical guitar fretboard hopscotch virtuosi, mellow and folkish noodling, and quietly pensive and deeply penetrating vocals that really stop you dead-serious in your tear-stained tracks. He hasn’t released anything solo since 2015’s tear-jerking single “Julie,” but he has a new recording due out later this year, and it’s bound to woo you into another world.
Then there was the ruckus-causers known as Jangula, who slickly mixed snippets of everything from The Turtles to Metallica to Joy Division into a very original, lush, layered, and diverse sound of their own. These guys have been at it for a very long time, as I remember catching them for first time way back in 2010 at Webster Hall, so they definitely have some serious rock chops and some confident stones to go with a deeply satisfying sound. They do play things a little tongue-and-cheek at times with some flourishes of Spinal Tap type audaciousness, but in the end, they have a real mettle and heart in their compositions. Then there was the blessed Holy Tunics, another local band I’ve been following for ages, well since they formed a few years back, but time flies when you’ve been under a bewitching spell of enchantment. They spill out a sprawling and uplifting romantic jangle like no other band around, and often remind me of classic 90’s outfits like The Lemonheads, Built To Spill, Nada Surf, and Buffalo Tom, with drummer Brian Alvarez, bassist/vocalist Matt Billington, guitarist Bryan Thornton, and lead vocalist/guitarist Nick Rogers needling together a gorgeously smooth and silver spun yarn. Their first full-length album Butter Dish is due out in April, and I must say, I am already dying for another taste.
Veda Rays were up next, and they are also a band that kicks up many memories of awesome shows past, as I have also been following them for the last several years in complete awe of their talents. Back then, the band was a stripped-down duo of vocalist Jim Stark and drummer Jason Gates, but they have greatly expanded their core lineup since, with Maria Joanna Bohemia on keys, Gonzalo Tomé on guitar, and Renzo Vous on bass, all of whom are featured on their newest masterpiece EP Shadow Side. Stark has a certain distinctly shadowy echoing baritone, trembling like a vocal snowfall that gets blazed through like a scorching chariot by the blinding firestorm known as Gates’ drumlines, and then descended from heaven with some New Wave-styled and synthy angelical keyboards by Bohemia, all of which a witchy brew that often reminds me of indie pop greats like Jeff Buckley, Echo and the Bunnymen, Radiohead, Velvet Underground, The Dream Syndicate, and The Psychedelic Furs. They can remind my brain of so many great musical influences, but they melt into something wholly unique, as they create a magnificent dichotomy between heaven and hell, and find the perfect negative zones between angelic highs and devilish lows to paint a lush, darkly beguiling picture.
Finally, the experimental trio Dumb Wolves came out to tear through the consciousness with their anxiety-laden mixture of jazz, funk, rockabilly, and alt rock that can bend your mind into twists you didn’t know was possible. Ben Jaffe’s big shiny sax screeches and squalls as it swallows the mic with an often thunderous effect, setting an off-putting, and yet, very mesmerizing tonal experiment of shrill tremors, quaking drums, and earth-splitting freak-outs.
Veda Rays will continue their Sunnyvale courtship residency on the 13th with a Pre-Valentine’s Disaster with Courtship Ritual, VeWinkie, Toyzanne, Spoken word performance by Heavy Birds’ Ryan Drag (punk poet or nothing monk), and a DJ Set by Noise Love, then on the 20th with Blank Neon, Secret Crush, D Jones, a DJ Set by Dead Leaf Echo, and a Film Showing by Simon Liu, and a big blast on the 27th with Big Bliss, (Brendon from BBoys), Gesserit (Lyzi from Fruit & Flowers), a DJ set by Gustaf & Tendryyl, and an art exhibit by Tarra & Natalie from Sharkmuffin. If you love good live music, don’t miss these bombastic blowout performances, as they are truly mind-bending experiences, and plus, they’re FREE! So get out to Sunnyvale and make some new music memories you’ll get chills from years from now.
Article: Dean Keim