When we first heard that the Brooklyn-based art rockers TV on the Radio were slated to perform at the U.S. Open of Surfing, there was an immediate sense of joy and confusion. One of indie-rock's boldest creative outfits playing a seaside show right in our very own sandbox? Fuck yeah! But was this really gonna be their crowd?
That question was answered rather deftly with a snarky disclaimer from guitarist Kyp Malone, who looked out onto a packed, rowdy sprawl of crowd-surfing beach folk shouting shit like "U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" and clamoring for the sight of titties.
"This next song is not about push-ups," said Malone through his thick, wooly beard before leading into the chugging opening bass notes of the song "Golden Age." As the song bloomed into a Prince-inflected melange of two-stepping rhythms and funk trombone, cheers and homemade bottle rockets fired out from the center of the crowd. Throughout TVoR's OC gig, these kind of high points managed to stifle a few comically over-the-top displays of crowd testosterone on the sandy shores of US Open. Before they'd even taken the stage after openers Toro Y Moi, security was already breaking up circle pits that were turning into full-on throwdowns. And we're willing to bet that it was rare for the band to have their music be the soundtrack of bros launching each other in the air (yes, literally airborne) in a crowded audience.
Opening with "Halfway Home" from 2008's Dear Science, lanky vocalist Tunde Adebimpe kicked off the tune with a a round of hand clapping and "ba ba ba ba ba" chants, paying a subtle homage to the Beach Boys before casting the band's sonic net of textured synth and cascading guitar.
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The band also detoured briefly into their early catalog with "Staring At the Sun" from the 2004 breakout effort Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes. Throughout the night, the interplay of Adebimpe and Malone's complementary falsettos and punk rock caterwauls were as on point as they've ever been. But the stronger and more forceful their sound gets over the years, the harder it gets to focus on Adebimpe's lyrics, which are usually tortured and cerebral enough to be read like slam poetry. Of course the electro-funk whiplash of "Red Dress" and driving set closer "Wolf Like Me" packed the right kind of spine-jolting charge that mirrored the reckless, dust-kicking, party rock chaos surrounding them. By show's end, TVoR's bizarre fling with the OC surf crowd looked passionate and fun, but we're pretty sure they were glad to empty the sand out of the sneakers and get back to New York.
Critical Bias: Return to Cookie Mountain is and will probably always be one of my absolute favorite records to listen to while driving at night.
The Crowd:The stoned and the shirtless.
Overheard: "Show your tits! Show your tits!"
Random Notebook Dump: If you were part of the security staff at this show, I definitely wouldn't have traded places with you. This crowd literally gave no fucks. Add sand and some sunscreen in your eye and you pretty much have the recipe for the worst job ever.