Quick Concert Review: Veronica Falls

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Veronica Falls is well-known to the Weeping Elvii — we spoke with them last year — and the photogenic four from across the pond has returned to the liberated colonies in support of their recently released sophomore effort, Waiting For Something to Happen. The band has shifted their sonic assault a bit, brightening the palette of the tapestry while retaining an affinity for darkly emotive narrative. And it was with that accomplishment intact that they took to the stage at Washington, D.C.’s Black Cat in the wake of the much-over-hyped Snowquester.

The band’s current tack is recognizable to fans of ’90s hollow body janglepop and reminiscent of those records released by labels like Teenbeat and bands like Pavement, Lush, and more recently, La Sera. Reaching even further back, they frequently reference the minimalist guitar lines of the Velvet Underground. And amidst their shift in mood –one of greater subtlety than ex-girlfriends who shall remain nameless — they dip into discordance much as Versus did when riffing on Sonic Youth, effecting a build and a tension and relentlessly pushing forward towards the cathartic release a rock audience requires. So, while their new songs don’t retain the ghoulish quality of tracks like “Beachy Head,” they remain imbued with the shadowy darkness lurking amidst the minor chords.

They accomplish this by showcasing catchy melodies and hooky chords combined with the sort of harmonies only achievable with the contrast of the mellifluous and the cacophonous, the sweet and the sour, the effervescent hope of the ’50s and the disillusion of the late ’60s. There’s not a formula, per se, for this musical contraposition, but they’re kissing cousins in this aspect could include Best Coast and The Pacific Ocean. Which is to say, you might get more of a California vibe than you might expect from a London-based quartet. Of course, this is an era where Mumford and Sons exist, so, perhaps Veronica Falls is yet another nod to our increasingly globalized culture.

It was a visceral and energetic 43 minute set, one where songs were unleashed furiously and then ably dispensed with equally striking celerity. A mix of tracks from their two records buoyantly propelled the performance forward and kept the generationally diverse crowd kinetic. This could be characterized as a crowd likely to have Snowquestered themselves in day drinking,  and that accelerant was a welcome addition to the chemistry between the assembled and their muse. (Which party was which is not entirely clear). And it was a refreshing assembly in many ways, simultaneously respectful and reasonably boisterous. What a relief to not have difficulty zoning in on a band’s performance over a chit-chatty klatch of scenesters there for reasons that do not include listening.

Within the alacrity of their 52 minutes on stage, the band could have benefited at times from greater breath control in moments where vocal phrasing became chopped or patchy. There were times when they could have been a little tighter as a unit. But these quibbles are not overly significant. What is notable is their ability to learn lessons of the past while looking to the future. What will resonate is their tenacious pursuit of catharsis. And for that, those who remember the ascendancy of rock — true, blue, indie rock — have Veronica Falls to thank.

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Behrnsie has a love for music that dare not speak its name. He attends many shows and can often be found counting out the beats for no discernible reason. He played alto saxophone in his middle school jazz band, where he was best known for infuriating his instructor when it was revealed that he played everything by ear, and could not in fact read music. He takes great pride that this is the same talent/affliction that got Tori Amos kicked out of the Peabody Academy. He does not live in his parents’ basement….except during the holidays.