Concert Review: Veronica Falls at the Bootleg Theater

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Veronica Falls’ sound could be defined as:

A. 60’s surf rock

B. 70’s punk

C. 80’s goth

D. 90’s indie rock

E. All of the above

F. None of the above

G. The Magna Carta

If you answered anywhere from A through F, technically, you’d be right (If you answered G, well, then this is for you).

Their songs are anchored by uptempo, rapid-fire guitar chords and flowing three-part harmonies. The orchestration is purposely simple and minimalist. The lyrics are melancholy and forlorn, and they are delivered with the gritty, DIY vibe of two jangly guitars, a machine-gun bass line and crashing drums. Despite the fact that Veronica Falls is all of these things together, it is that same simultaneous juxtaposition that makes them impossible to define. One influence both cancels out and somehow bolsters another. Goth would never be so upbeat and simple, but rock would not be so dramatic. There are exactly zero instances of sweet harmonies in punk, but using them while singing about dark, dark things is decidedly tongue-in-cheek and falls well within punk’s genre-rebelling ethic. This harmoniously contradictory nature of the band could be considered their one unifying theme. That and their songs are catchy as hell.

In support of their critically acclaimed, self-titled debut album, Veronica Falls played The Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles, a city that also cannot be defined or categorized by all the things that it is, on Saturday (read their Weeping Elvis interview here).

Formed in 2009, this London quartet (by way of Glasgow) first ignited their career by releasing singles that caught the ears of influential indie labels in the UK, got them on coveted compilation albums, and eventually led to their Slumberland (US) and Bella Union (EU) label signings, so it is no surprise that the album is completely devoid of any weak songs. This makes their live performances that much more great.

The set played like a series of speed intervals. The first kinetic, three minute sprint was the psychedelic “Right Side Of My Brain,” leading into the airy, poppy, Mamas and the Papas-meets-Rocky Horror “Stephen,” and then the surf rock, Breeders-esque “Beachy Head,” a song about a famed suicide spot in the UK, sung from the perspective of the apologetic cliff.

Veronica Falls’ deliberate combination of dark lyrics with upbeat melodies reveals not only a flair for the dramatic, but also a deliciously twisted sense of humor, with a firm grasp of the importance of context. Something is most insane when it is costumed in normalcy. Lead singer Roxanne Clifford’s lilting, pixie-like vocals are the perfect messenger for this construct. The sweeter her harmonies with James Hoare and Patrick Doyle, the campier and darker those songs become.

These are sad songs you can dance to. They are morosely upbeat, solemnly energetic. This is the band Willy Wonka would get to play his birthday party. The band who could write the theme song to the city of Oz. The band who would headline any festival in Wonderland.

With guitarist/vocalist James Hoare front and center on the stage, flanked by bassist Marion Herbain to his left, guitarist/vocalist Roxanne Clifford to his right, and drummer Patrick Doyle behind him, they had no problem filling the cavernous Bootleg Theater space with their reverb guitar-heavy sound. The audience was treated to the surf-rocky “Bad Feeling.”

“Found Love In A Graveyard,” and “Wedding Day,” a song Morrissey could have done if he wasn’t so full of himself.

One of the great things about Veronica Falls is that they are so steeped in their do-it-yourself ethic that they recorded their album the same way that they play their live shows, with all of the instrumentation in the same take, so musically, they sound live, just as good as they do on their album.

The band incorporated a few brand new songs into this set list showcasing the direction they are heading for their next album. These songs sounded a little fuller musically, with the guitar taking a more varied melodic lead and more aggressive vocals. The new entries  definitely whetting the appetite for a much anticipated follow-up.

Veronica Falls head back to the UK this week for the European leg of their tour. Make sure you see them the next time they come back stateside, be it at a concert or festival. Missing seeing them during their next tour of the U.S. would be something sad enough for the band to write about and sing over buoyant melodies.






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