Drab Majesty - live in Cambridge (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Drab Majesty

live in Cambridge (2019)

live show

Some of the nightclubs around here occasionally run a goth night, full of great ‘80s tunes from the kinds of new wave/synthpop/post-punk/etc. acts that you’d expect. Certainly, this is not unique to my resident city, and is probably common enough in all urban (and maybe even suburban?) areas that most readers would know what I’m referring to. With the wonderful gothy synth-pop duo Drab Majesty taking out a pair of other duos that fit in nicely with them, it was much like one of these nights.

Up first was Tempe, Arizona’s Body of Light, a pretty accessible and enjoyable sibling pair doing the type of synthpop that was right in Drab’s lane. Their singer, Alex Jarson kinda looked like a skinny Casey Affleck and wore those oversized, bulky leather gloves as he danced confidently on stage while singing and his brother/bandmate/synth op, Andrew, handled the beats. You could tell they were a veteran act. Every band had some sort of projection screen backdrop, and for Body of Light, it seemed like ‘90s-era PC graphics. The set was real solid and remained compelling for their full half-hour, getting the crowd in a light groove to kick things off. The highlight was definitely the opening title track from their recently released album, Time to Kill.

They were probably a bit more analogous in sound to Drab Majesty than the next act, Brooklyn’s Xeno & Oaklander (whose name and aesthetic I’d expect more from an upscale clothing boutique). While all three acts playing this night obviously have some heavy electronic use or influence, X&O certainly relied it on the most. They were more or less synthpop too, but leaned into the more experimental minimal synth genre, with a flood of synthesizer and drum machines making up their sound. It was certainly just as dancey, though, just in a lower-key way than Body of Light. Their vocals actually reminded me a little bit of Blonde Redhead, which was cool; that singer in question, Liz Wendelbo, would amusingly get into the dance groove hard for about two seconds in between vocal lines only to completely stop to focus on her delivery when she had to sing again. Their video backdrop was pretty much just footage from a GoPro-ish camera of their main synth op, Sean McBride, handling that stuff and the crazy mess of patch cables in it that ran every which way.

Then it was the set everyone was waiting for: Drab Majesty, and their brand of shimmering, ultra-satisfying and deeply enjoyable synthpop/post-punk. The duo took a loooooong time to come out, about 20 minutes past their scheduled set time, but just about made it worth the wait. They came out in their signature garb, with silver wigs, oversized sunshades and the glittery suits (vocalist/synth op Mona D even had a cape). They played for close to a whopping hour and 40 minutes and sounded great. I actually think the vocals were a bit too reverbed-out, if that’s even possible, but it was still great. The crowd was loving it and extremely warm and receptive throughout, obviously.

They played all but one track from their latest album, Modern Mirror, and the songs really hit their respective marks live, from the poppier “The Other Side” to the wonderfully aching “Long Division” and energetic “Ellipsis”. They certainly didn’t skimp on the older stuff, though, including about a third of their career highlight, 2017’s The Demonstration. Their chemistry was good, too, keeping that deadpan vibe in spite of the rather emotive quality of the songs. Vocalist/guitarist Deb Demure even gave Mona a kiss on the back of the head after “39 by Design”.

Set list (10:19-11:41):

1. A Dialogue

2. The Other Side

3. Oxytocin

4. Dot in the Sky

5. Ellipsis

6. Long Division

7. Everything Is Sentimental

8. Noise of the Void

9. Cold Souls


10. 39 by Design

11. Out of Sequence

Encore (11:43-11:57):

12. Kissing the Ground

13. Too Soon to Tell