Concert Review: Vacations at the House of Blues

Vacations and opener, Harmless, shared a blissful and lively night with the crowd at the House of Blues on Mar. 4, 2022.

Last Friday (3/4), I had the opportunity to go see Vacations at the Voodoo Room in the House of Blues. After waiting almost two years to tour, Vacations kicked off their first U.S. tour in Los Angeles and then made their way down to San Diego for their third show. This Australia-based indie-pop/rock band was a staple in my early high school years, specifically during 2018-2019, so I was excited to see them live and experience some nostalgia. 

The venue completely took me by surprise; the inside was highly decorated with detailed beaded walls and paintings from local artists, which gave off a fancy but rustic feel. Doors opened at 7:00 and even though my friend and I got there around 6, we were just a row behind the barricade. Side note: I’m from the Bay Area, and one thing that always catches me by surprise down here in San Diego is how late everyone arrives at concerts! In San Francisco, people are lining up at 4:00 for an 8:00 show. 

Harmless photographed by: Sofia Dell’Aquila

Opening for Vacations was indie-pop artist Harmless who was not only talented but super entertaining. He was cracking jokes, referencing popular memes, and even whipped out some choreographed dances with his guitarist in the middle of songs. Because of his interaction with the crowd throughout the entire show, you felt like you knew him personally by the end of the set! I had never previously heard of his band, but I knew the last song that he played, “Swing Lynn,” which went viral on the internet a couple of months ago. 

Vacations photographed by: Sofia Dell’Aquila

Vacations came on promptly at 9:00 and opened with their song “Moving Out” from their sophomore album Changes. Their romantic and melancholy lyrics mixed with whimsical instrumentals had the whole room dancing and swaying. The room swirled with soft pinks and blues, perfectly corresponding to the playful and lighthearted aura that their music gives off. Later, they played some songs from their 2016 album Vibes and their 2020 album Forever in Bloom, such as “Home” and “Lavender”. Though there were a lot of technical difficulties, the band made the most out of their spare time by talking with fans in the crowd and expressing their excitement to be touring again, and in a new country nonetheless. They even passed some time by playing the “Cowboy Bebop” theme song and the “Neon Genesis Evangelion” closing song, which totally caught my friend and me off-guard because we love those shows. After getting a new guitar, they continued and played my favorite song “Telephones” with dimmed lights, further amplifying the intimacy that the song already projected. 

Vacations photographed by: Sofia Dell’Aquila

Reading the excitement of the room, the band decided to skip the encore pause and just go straight into their last songs. They ended the night with their hit song “Relax” and then took a big audience photo for the art project that they were working on while on tour. Overall, the energy throughout the entire night was amazing, and seeing Vacations live was a great way to revisit some positive memories from my younger teen years.

Written by: Sofia Dell’Aquila

Last Dinosaurs: Yumeno Garden Album Review

On October 5, 2018, Last Dinosaurs released their new album, Yumeno Garden, which is a ten-track record with a completely revamped, refreshing sound. Each track is different yet embodies the mix of pop-synth and indie rock that Last Dinosaurs is known for.

The band has only recently started touring around the United States among other countries but has made big hits all over the globe — showcasing their talent at many major cities. They recently played in Chile, Brazil, Peru, and Mexico and are now on a tour around the United States. The band made an appearance in San Diego last month at SOMA, on October 29. This will be their first time in San Diego!

Yumeno Garden was the Brisbane trio’s first release since Wellness, their second album, in 2015. It was anticipated by fans all around the world and definitely has a different but great shift in sound. This new record is a lot more punchy, in the face, and clean but in the best way. The band definitely mixed things up when putting these new songs together. There is an experimental feel to it, yet still maintains the backbone of sound that Last Dinosaurs established in their first two albums.

After their first two, successful albums, In A Million Years and Wellness, the band established themselves in the music community, especially in the indie rock and pop areas. Old tracks such as “Zoom” and “Honolulu” are well known among indie listeners. The last two albums were guitar and synth riff-centered, their new music sounds very full and more lively. The drums, bass, and overall production is boosted and shows a growth within the bands sound and a newly developed sense of maturity. It is a lot less indie rock and a bit more psychedelic and progressive.

Last Dinosaurs via Instagram
Photograph by Nicole J. Stephens

I would best describe the genres of this album as a mix of indie rock, disco and a bit of psychedelic pop. There is definitely more synth and a grittier sound with more distortion on the guitar and vocals than before. Each track has its own unique progression and solo with great lyrical hooks and meanings. Yumeno Garden is a positive and catchy album and is one I never get sick of listening to it.

The album starts out more upbeat, with “Eleven,” “Dominoes,” “Bass God,” and “Sense.” These songs evoke an indie rock tribute, being primarily catchy electric guitar and synth riffs with a faster-paced rhythm section behind them. The second half of the LP sounds more 80s inspired, with slower yet groovy tempos and feelings.

One of my favorite tracks has to be “Shallow Boy.” The song is built up to the choruses, which are distinctive and melancholy with different synth leads overpowering each other and various stops. The verses in this song sound like they are riding a wave accompanied by funky guitar strums and hard hi-hat and snare hits.

The band has recently released a new single, “FMU,” an upbeat funk indie-pop song that has great build-ups made by catchy guitar chord progressions and descending melody line. The bridge slows down and gradually brings the song back into place through great drum fills and bass lines that move so smoothly they’re hardly audible. We can see from this new single that Last Dinosaurs is definitely headed in a new direction, adopting changes around their previously rooted sound. I, for one, am excited to see where they are headed next.

Written by: Jesse Miller

Cavetown at the Music Box

Robin Skinner, better known as Cavetown, released his breakout album, Lemon Boy, in 2018. On Tuesday, October 22, he played an emotionally evocative set at the Music Box

Opening with “Hug All Ur Friends,” Cavetown exhibited a playfully nervous demeanor, similar to what is exhibited on his YouTube channel and across his collection of music videos. His passionate fanbase eats it up. Between each song, people exclaimed their love and admiration for the singer, with some even proclaiming, “You’re precious!” His response to this remark was simply, “Thanks friends!”. Friends is an accurate attribution to this devoted group of fans. The energy of the show was intimate but still larger than life.

Videos of Skinner’s hairless cat, Fig, looped on the television screen to his right for the duration of his show, which he endearingly explained early in the set. Not to mention, the bumper music played between the opening and headlining sets was entirely from Spongebob Squarepants. 

I found that the concert brought out an innate sense of nostalgia within me. Cavetown’s music has always held a special place in my heart, as it details the struggles of introversion in a whimsical, digestible manner. At the midpoint of the set, the audience was treated to Skinner’s most popular track, “This Is Home.” The live version of the song well exercises live instrumentation, without relying much (if at all) on the prerecorded track. As someone with a special connection to the song, I can surely say that the image of flashlights in the air as the words “I’ll cut my hair to make you stare” filled the room is not one that I will soon forget.

San Diego was lucky enough to be treated to some unreleased music as well! “Things That Make It Warm,” which may be available by the time this post goes live, is a warm, acoustic song that Skinner described as being “about some birds building a nest together.” It is yet another instance of the singer’s deceptive songwriting, having a message far deeper than its “manifest content” if you will.

After closing his set with “Boys Will Be Bugs,” Cavetown was cheered back to the stage, playing “Fool” as his encore. With live drums and an electrifying guitar solo, the song was a satisfying conclusion to a fantastic experience. If the chance presents itself, be sure to catch Cavetown on tour in the coming months.

Check out Cavetown’s music here.

Written by: Grant Jordan
Photos by: Grant Jordan

Surf Curse at The Observatory North Park

Surf rock has become largely oversaturated in Southern California, but bands like Surf Curse have created a refreshing sound that is unique to Socal’s music scene.

I had the opportunity to see Surf Curse at The Observatory in North Park on Wednesday, October 16. While waiting to enter the venue, I witnessed a security guard’s interaction with a group of young girls (who were intoxicated and attempted to bring alcohol into the show). Seeing this altercation, I knew what type of concert this was going to be, and I mean that in the most positive way possible.

The whole experience felt like a scene from a teen-indie film.

The band’s production was minimal, and their show intimate. Each musician had something distinctive about them. Nick Rattigan sang lead vocals and played drums simultaneously, which I found extremely impressive. Jacob Rubeck largely kept to himself as he played his mahogany and black Stratocaster. His business-like demeanor and crisp technique were fascinating to watch.

Although Rattigan and Rubeck are the “main” members of the band, their touring musicians more than carried their weight. The guitarist and bassist had great chemistry and played passionately. In fact, the guitarist played so passionately that he broke two strings throughout the show. Additionally, their synth player’s nonchalant body language led my girlfriend to ask me, “Is she even playing anything?” I laughed. You know you’re doing something right when you play your instrument so well that people can’t even tell you’re playing it. 

Most of their set came from their latest record, Heaven Surrounds You, but they did not neglect to include hits such as “Freaks” and “Forever Dumb” in their encore. Although I did not know every song, each track gave me a similar visceral feeling of nostalgia, which was completely exhilarating.

All in all, Surf Curse gave a great performance. People moshed, crowd surfed, and will certainly remember the night.

Check out Surf Curse’s music here.

Written by: Grant Jordan
Photos by: Grant Jordan