By Lejla Subašić
In 1994, The Dandy Warhols, whose music has been categorized as neo-psychedelia, synth-pop, psych pop, and shoegaze, were birthed in Portland, Oregon, from the shades of the dusk years within the grunge milieu. The band launched a career that would see them release nine studio albums, two compilation albums and 27 singles. On Saturday night, they celebrated their 25 years of sardonic skepticism in a sold-out space at the Metro crammed with nostalgic glaze.
The Metro Theatre invited the long-time listeners with its soft disco-lit, baroque trimmed, crest embellished, proscenium stage, with a black hole of a ceiling edged with gold. The generous space is now smaller with the numerous Dandy Warhols devotees celebrating their long journey alongside the band, welcoming Courtney Taylor-Taylor, Peter Hallström, Zia McCabe, and Brent DeBoer in exuberant joy.
The band’s ‘80s goth-inspiring song, “Forever” off of their newest uncompromising album Why You So Crazy, salutes us with electronic sounds brewing beneath the scarce instrumentation and effect laden vocals from the mixed-genre album. Commenced with a crept upon swaying and slow rhythm swept from DeBoer, the bewitching gothic piano plucked in chord progressions of melancholic perfection sustained itself in 3 minutes. McCabe, plays from muscle memory, back mostly turned from her analog synth.
Followed by the hypnotic, “Holding Me Up”, the band takes a walk around the block with their entire back catalogue. “STYGGO” prances in, with its despondent hook in ramshackle, beaming of underground sonics and ideas. The audience is reciprocating, smiling abroad the energizing blue outsource lights, exchanging tidbits to each other about the band.
Nostalgia comes in many forms: restorative, a desire to relive, and reflective, aching with longing or loss. Jaw-chiseled Courtney Taylor-Taylor, the lead man, reminisces on a great era of music, in a time when their sound became well-defined. “We Used to Be Friends” percolates in a red-light disco. The pace of the night picks up.
A few songs later, McCabe gets her spotlight and shines through “Highlife”, a stumpy country tune with a distressed fuzz and a scathing piano line, a floor-filling country conglomeration, as her vocals pass through a filter of vintage radio. Taylor-Taylor shows off his range with “Plan A”, a groovy soft rock song, edging with melodies.
The grey-haired admirers still got their grooves, all sensible, lucid, and scaffolding one’s bones into a forceful soaring over the moon. The Dandy Warhols kept the audience at bay with their every second. Whistles of contentment pummel towards the stage. Building up, step by step into a triangle of melodrama in swirling impressiveness, into “Well They’re Gone”. McCabe, a charismatic multi-instrumentalist asset to the band, plants herself with her melodica apart from her usual brash and bouncing, yet intuitive movements. Stringy-haired, hat hiding Hallström, dictates declarative bass lines with intricate strokes of a pen, providing an atmosphere of a specific kind, which was nerve striking, knee-jerking, gut-wrenching, to the point of breathtaking woebegone lethargy.
A basic back beat from DeBoer unravels into “I Love You”. The guitar solo from Hallstrom, hyped with flashing lights, was not for the sensitive eyes or ears. The song transcended from a dry and heavy approach, to a scrappy style full of red-hot guitar vortices, compulsive synth patterns disguised as shadowy, and arty. The post-punk feedback craze and disorderly grain onto the shavings of experimental dream pop was an aural treat.
“I’ve wandered across the sea awhile.” Taylor-Taylor announces. The swallowing placebo of red and blue lights suddenly made sense. “Mohammed” moans in dark lonely harmonies, with burners all on high, embellishing touches of a shrewd sadness. Just as the night seemed to slowdown, after “Godless”, their all-time hit “Bohemian Like You” raged.
An explosion of balloons descended from the ceiling into “Every Day Should Be a Holiday”. The evening that started off accompanied by a robotic ballad from their new album, The Dandy Warhols, eclipsed the evening with a lustful and hedonistic fun, showcasing all of their 25 years in continuously innovative compositions, as fans slipped back into time, reliving their jejunity.
2. Holding Me Up
4. We Used to Be Friends
5. Crack Cocaine Rager
6. Small Town Girls
7. Get Off
9. Plan A
10. You Were the Last High
11. Well They’re Gone
12. I Love You
13. Be Alright
16. Bohemian Like You
17. Every Day Should Be a Holiday
18. Pete International Airport
19. Boys Better
20. Zia Outro
BIOGRAPHY: In 1994 The Dandy Warhols were formed in Portland, Oregon, in the shadow of the twilight years of the grunge scene. With Brit-pop reigning supreme on the other side of the pond, and influences ranging from 1960s garage rock to 80s/90s shoegaze, The Dandy Warhols began a career that would see them release nine studio albums, two compilation albums and 27 singles over a 25 year period.
“Holy cow, 25 years?!” says keyboardist Zia McCabe “I guess it has to have been that long since it feels like I’ve been doing this my entire life. Oh right, I have been doing this my entire adult life, ha. Time flies don’t it? So much history, so much music, so many memories and so much of it haaaazy, wow, just wow.”
Since their inception, The Dandy Warhols have sailed through, and past, shifting musical climates by keeping their art unfiltered and presenting thoughts un-mired by censorship. The band – Courtney Taylor-Taylor (vocals, guitar), McCabe (keyboards), Peter Holmstrom (guitar), and Brent DeBoer (drums) – have gone on world tours, had hit singles, and even taken to the stage during the Greek riots. They’ve weathered shifts from vinyl and tape to CD, CD to digital, and back to vinyl again. They moved from paper fliers to social media, toiled with major labels, and throughout it all have remained a pure, synergistic unit.
The band’s live presence – frequently filled with nudity early in their career – was enough that, at their first gig in 1994, they were approached by the independent record label Tim/Kerr who offered to pay for the recording of an album. The result was their debut, 1995’s Dandys Rule OK, an album that impressed major label Capitol Records enough to sign the band.
The band’s difficult second album, …The Dandy Warhols Come Down, was released in 1997 and spawned three Top 40 singles including ‘Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth’ (more commonly known as Heroin is so Passé). But it was with the release of 2000’s Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia that the band hit the public consciousness with full force. The mega hit ‘Bohemian Like You’ landed in the cultural sphere like a freight train and has yet to leave it.
Touring the world , the band built on their popularity to gain international acclaim. Their performance at the Glastonbury Festival in 2000 so inspired David Bowie that he not only curated them to perform at Meltdown 2002 but came out to duet with them on The Velvet Underground’s ‘White Light / White Heat’ as part of the encore on July 29th.
Not content to sit back on their laurels, the band released Welcome to the Monkey House in 2003 featuring their next zeitgeist catching single ‘We Used To Be Friends’ which became the theme song for the cult TV series Veronica Mars.
Throughout the 2000s the band continued to release albums – Odditorium or Warlords of Mars (2005), …Earth to the Dandy Warhols… (2008), The Dandy Warhols Are Sound (2009) This Machine (2012) and, most recently Distortland (2016).
2019 sees The Dandy Warhols kick off the celebrations for their 25th Anniversary by touring Europe. “The weirdest thing about it being our 25th anniversary is it doesn’t feel like 25 years. Feels like about six. Or five,” muses Taylor-Taylor.
McCabe can’t help but wonder about the complications of building a set list around an entire career as opposed to an individual album; “Oh man, how are we going to fit something from each album into our set? Don’t worry we’ll figure it out and it will be legendary. Get ready for a massive concussion of rock and roll that’s been a quarter of a century in the making.”
Never a band to passively let life happen, The Dandy Warhols will be using 2019 and their 25th Anniversary as a time to not only celebrate the past, but also look into their future. They will begin the next phase of their trajectory with a continuation of their unfiltered creative streak – the release of their 10th studio album Why You So Crazy (Dine Alone Records).
The album will see The Dandy Warhols return in singularly freewheeling fashion, careening through classically off-kilter psych-pop (‘Be Alright’), country-fried Americana (‘Motor City Steel’), and gothic piano-propelled rumbas (‘Forever’). Packing in references as far flung as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Don MacLean’s Chevy, and the church of Bowie’s ‘Modern Love,’ these 12 songs reflect the band’s surrealist visions of an alternate reality. Offering an escape from a culture driven to the brink, The Dandy Warhols are progressing into the next chapter of their self-described “25 year act of sonic rebellion.”
“We’ve always been driven to create art with emotional clarity,” concludes Taylor-Taylor. “That’s what the world needs more than ever right now. I’ve never felt so strongly that people are losing their minds, and it’s more of them than ever before. Local politics, international politics, news programs, sitcoms, and our president all feel like the heat got turned up. It doesn’t feel like a natural progression of insanity, it just happened. Most people are behaving in a manner that can only be described as batshit crazy.”
With the future stretching out ahead of them, and an impressive back catalogue behind them, 2019 promises to be both a celebration of the past and a glimpse into the unknown of what’s yet to come.