It’s been a minute since Now, Now has toured, but the heartbreaking indie pop group traversed some U.S. territory recently for a rare smattering of headlining dates amid announcing a (somewhat expected) lineup change and dropping a new single.
The opener they brought out was Dem Yuut, fronted by Now, Now touring member Danny O’Brien. They did an electronic-heavy modern R&B style that was decidedly not my thing, but they seemed to play well-rehearsed and tightly enough, and the songs were pretty structurally sound. It felt like it stylistically landed somewhere between mid-2000s Justin Timberlake and Frank Ocean. People were kinda into it, swaying along and giving warm applause.
But this was far and away Now, Now’s crowd, who sold out this fairly new 320-cap venue, Sonia (formerly T.T. the Bear’s, but fully renovated and rearranged top to bottom). They began with the low-key intro of “The Pull”, the opener from 2012’s Threads, with frontwoman KC adding an extra layer of roboticism to her vocals, and then transitioning cleanly into the chugging “Prehistoric”. They played all but one track off that album, actually (“School Friends”), making this a bit of an inadvertent, nearly complete five-year anniversary album tour, and while I would have loved to hear a few select older cuts (“Not One, But Two” for sure), Threads is the undisputed peak of their recorded output thus far, so it’s tough to complain. It all sounded good, too, which might be a given after the thorough massage they gave the songs when they toured hard after the album dropped in 2012 (one with Kevin Devine, a few dates with Bob Mould, the Heavy & Light acoustic run, a support slot for that giant Circa Survive / Minus the Bear co-headliner, their first UK trip, etc.); but they have been away for a bit. KC did forget some of the words during a surprisingly more ~rawk~ “Thread”, but laughed it off quickly. Former co-vocalist and guitarist Jess Abbott is likely missed by fans a bit, but it was hard to notice a grand difference in their approach besides that added female vocal presence and, presently, a definite increase of synthesized effects.
The first of a few new songs was an easygoing one with an acoustic guitar-and-electric drum combo, which quickly picks up with real drums and offers a catchy, breezy refrain about going back to Arizona where it started in the summer (I might be flubbing this line a touch). The second was really just a straight-up, low-key electro-pop song. The last was recently released single “SGL”. Based on all of it, which sounds less tense and more radio-friendly than Threads, it actually reminds me of Lydia’s path over the last few albums--less “emo” and a little more “car commercial” and synthetic (the latter of something they’ve hinted at on Threads and its companion remix album), but it ain’t bad by any means. I prefer the more melancholic stuff like “Wolf” and “Magnet”, to be sure, but it’s probably expected of them to explore new vibes and angles after a major member change and at least five years between LPs. And at the very least, it should probably fully shed any lingering Eisley or Death Cab for Cutie comparisons.
They were extraordinarily amiable and charming throughout the set, with lots of jokes (many inside, granted) and constant poking fun at one another--Shameless Rob became an instant fictional character after a communication breakdown between, if I remember correctly, KC and an audience member. They could have ignored some of the more inane things shouted at them but they used it to fuel conversation and talk about everything from RuPaul’s Drag Race to drummer Brad Hale’s odd head-resting-on-hand pose, while confidently donning a few large-scale live tropes throughout the actual performance and encouraging everyone to sing along (to success, of course).
Set list (8:48-9:44):
- The Pull
- Lucie, Too
- new song
- But I Do
- Separate Rooms
- Dead Oaks [KC solo]
- Oh. Hi