The Constellation Room
Distorted guitar cut through the fog of anticipation just a few minutes after 10 p.m. on Wednesday, turning silence and teenage baited breath into a punctual punky pop dance party fueled equally by catchy hooks, glitter, and some light feminist fury. Seattle-based Tacocat clearly came to party, and did not disappoint at their OC debut.
The Observatory was a packed house, hosting Coachella artists Tacocat in the Constellation room and the Spanish indie band Hinds in the main room, piecing together Southern California shows in the slump between Weekend One and Weekend Two. Parking was packed by the time I got there around 9:30 and there were lines around the block for a late night Nav show in the Constellation Room scheduled for 11 that rumor suggests sold out within 5 minutes. But fortunately, I made it from parking to venue in a little under 15 minutes, despite the slow moving drunk dude in his early twenties spending an awful lot of time gazing at his own reflection in the passenger window of his black Mazda who made it really fucking hard for me to park in the only space the parking attendant was aggressively funneling me into.
If you couldn’t guess from the name of the band, Wednesday’s show was an adorable affair, probably the most adorable show I’ve ever been to. Not because of some weird infantilizing ‘music writer sees other women on stage bullshit,’ but because of the energy brought by the crowd comprised of mostly teen girls who rolled out to the show in mobs of (you guessed it) other teen girls, hanging on to every pre-song speech by vocalist Emily Nokes, dancing, singing along, jeering, and snapchatting the night away. Other people were there too: adult Tacocat super fans, marginally interested boyfriends, Coachella fans, pop punk fans, patient dads, and a few creeps, but it was clear who was in charge.
Tacocat fired off electric, poppy dance punk songs one after another. During the show I found myself thinking, “GODDAMN I did not realize Tacocat has so many hits!” Their entire set felt like a smattering of hits, which is possible since Tacocat has been around for about a decade. In addition to their catalog of bangers, Tacocat puts on a great show. Nokes is probably the best front person turned tambourine player I’ve ever seen, blending syncopated tambourine hits with dance moves that serve some hybrid punky sloth meets ’60s girl group realness. I rarely write about a bands clothes but Tacocat was serving up some serious looks, blending hair pom poms, money sign tights, Spice Girls influenced platform sneakers, and an opal velour hoodie dress, with matching full glitter jackets, except for guitarist Eric Randall who looked like he rolled off a couch at 11:45 ready to go to the beach in board shorts and a red High Times hat, but when you’re from the Pacific North West you basically get a pass to wear beach clothes the entire time you are in So Cal, no judgment.
The banter between crowd members was really what made this a memorable show. When Tacocat ripped into “Horse Grrls,” a loveletter to teenage girls who ride horses with a chant punk chorus a-la Circle Jerks meets The Descendents meets a bowl of skittles, a group of teens near me exclaimed with joy, talking among themselves about how they love horses and so many girls in OC could identify with the song because of their exhaustive knowledge of all things equestrian and love for pop punk and friends. When bassist Bree McKenna announced that her mom was at the show and dedicated their X-Files inspired jam “Diane Katherine Scully” to her, teen girls started speculating loudly about which woman in the room over the age of 30 she could possibly be. When Nokes talked about mansplaning and explained the meaning behind “Men Explain Things to Me” a bunch of teen girls relentlessly snapped in agreement, yelling out “fuck that shit!” as older men shifted uncomfortably around them.
The most ironic moment of the night was probably just before they played Hey Girl, a song about how ridiculous it is that casual street harassment is still part of the lexicon of the American man/boy experience. After Nokes went on a tangent, asking men to never tell girls or women to smile, and damning the whole experience of being yelled at by strangers on the street, a teen girl screamed from the back of the room “YOU’RE HOT!” I’m glad she felt safe enough to proclaim queer love for Nokes at a punk show in OC, clearly a moment I’m really invested in, but guurl seemed to have really missed the point. The song ended in an enraged and snarky scream along set to Lelah Maupin’s dynamic floor tom builds and punctuation, yelling back to all those construction workers, passers by, and business dads who’ve hurled sexually charged darts disguised as greetings at Tacocat, and so many of the people in the crowd.
The end of their set was clearly dedicated to periods and the working class, two things I am also really invested in. People danced along to “You Can’t Fire Me I Quit,” “Crimson Wave,” and “I Hate The Weekend.” The show closed with a Tacocat oldie called Urinary Tract Infection, ending in a chorus scream along: “I thought I had to pee but that was a lie, UTI! UTI! My vagina is infected!”
Maybe Tacocat isn’t serving the same radicalism that Bikini Kill was in the ’90s, but this show made it clear that their music has been a revelation for so many teens the same way riot grrrl and political punk was for old millennials like me. Tacocat is able to tackle serious shit with humor and get a bunch of young girls to embrace femmeness, horses, and telling men to stop being dicks, all on a Wednesday night before 11PM, what’s more revolutionary than that?