Last Night: Pop Noir at Detroit Bar, Costa Mesa

Orange County dance rock trio Pop Noir closed their November residency at Detroit Bar with a gripping, good times performance that transformed this first-time attendee into a full-fledged fan. Singer/bassist/keyboardist Luke McGarry and twin brother guitarist Joe McGarry played precise, guitar pop while striking mighty rock god poses, strutting through the audience like posh peacocks and offering humorous in-between song banter. The band concluded their set by carpet-bombing the giddy crowd with a series of killer covers. It's highly doubtful anyone went home disappointed.

It might read like gimmickry but in person the young band's devotion to throwing a genuine rock party felt as sincere as a prayer service. The McGarry boys grew up in the music rich city of Manchester where their famous father (and band manager), cartoonist Steve McGarry, designed jacket sleeves for seminal English groups Joy Division and Slaughter N The Dogs, among others. His sons were raised around rock royalty and have showmanship coursing through their veins.
But they're not just a couple shaggy-haired kids with looks and connections. Pop Noir delivers. Augmenting their guitars and drum attack with smartly programmed computer and keyboard flourishes, the trio achieves a sleek, driving thrust clearly designed for getting asses shaking — something rarely accomplished by a rock band. 


Last night, though, the beaming audience members drank up and dropped their inhibitions. What began as mellow head bobbing eventually morphed into full-body gyrating. The physical manifestation of joy scenesters  and such often shy away from became contagious.
Pop Noir started their set with rousing originals including “Santa Ana” (my personal favorite) and “DIY” (another ace number). Around midnight the band threatened to end their winning performance but after an energized round of protests the trio served up a fiery set of covers. First, came a wicked, revved-up rendition of the Rolling Stones' “Paint it Black,” followed by a wonderfully faithful reading of New Order's propulsive masterstroke “Temptation.” Pop Noir closed with another number off the Trainspotting soundtrack, the superb chill-out song “Born Slippy” by Underworld.
The McGarry brothers are aspiring rock stars, unfettered by false modesty or the tired indie ethos of navel gazing nonchalance. I find Pop Noir's quest for global domination refreshing and smiled when Joe McGarry announced, from stage, “We're going to be the best band in Orange County, and then the world!” 

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