Review: Alvvays brings its layered indie pop to the Hi-Fi Music Hall

Originally Posted on Emerald Media via UWIRE

The Canadian indie pop band Alvvays generated a lot of buzz last year with the release of its sophomore record “Antisocialites.” During a concert at the Hi-Fi Music Hall in Eugene this Sunday, a crowd of mostly hip twenty-somethings were able to see the band perform nearly every song from the album live. The night also featured an opening set from the Brooklyn-based recording artist Frankie Rose.

The show started around 9 p.m. as Frankie Rose took the stage of the half full venue. She mentioned at the beginning of her set that she had not been to Eugene in a long time, but that she had vague memories of playing a local show in someone’s basement. Her half-hour set found a solid middle ground between reverb-drenched dream pop and upbeat new-wave music.

The live band consisted of only three members on bass, synthesizer and guitar in addition to a drum machine that rounded out the sound. The lighting, set up towards the back of stage, silhouetted each member for the entirety of the set while hypnotic, computer-generated visual projections — sometimes even more interesting than the music — rotated on screen.

Alvvays began its performance at 10 p.m. after the venue had filled up significantly. Molly Rankin, the band’s principal songwriter and frontwoman, lead the set’s opening song “Hey” with a precise performance on both guitar and vocals.

Alvvays relies heavily on melancholic melodies and jangly instrumentals, but its live sound seemed equally informed by the punk music of bands like Blondie. This was most noticeable on the more fast-paced songs such as “Saved By A Waif” and “Plimsoll Punks” which mixed catchy hooks with driving guitars.

Lollipop (Ode to Jim)” also made its way into the setlist. Rankin made reference to Jim Reid of the noise pop band Jesus & Mary Chain in the song’s lyrics, another group that Alvvays is deeply indebted to sonically. Whether it was due to a conscious decision on the part of the band, or simply the show’s mixing, the noisier parts of Alvvays’ music seemed more pronounced during the live performance.

Those unfamiliar with Alvvays could have also interpreted the band’s calm demeanor throughout as disinterest. That would have been quickly dispelled, however, by Rankin’s genuine and appreciative thank-you’s in between songs.

During one break in the set, Rankin mentioned that she had asked the crowd at the band’s Portland show what Eugene was like since she had never been. Among the mixed responses, she said that the loud comment “Eugene is just fine” stood out to her the most.

Later on in the night, guitarist Alec O’Hanley asked the crowd if there were any college kids in the audience. There were only a handful of responses — it was a 21-and-over show. “Go Ducks,” he added afterwards.

A performance of the song “Archie, Marry Me,” a standout track from the band’s 2014 self-titled debut, was a crowd favorite as was the moody “Antisocialites” track “Dreams Tonite.” Parts of the performance were significantly looser than the tight production on the album, but the band’s excellent songwriting still managed to shine through.

Alvvays also revisited a number of other tracks from its debut LP including “Adult Diversion” and “Party Police,” the latter of which closed out the main set at just under an hour. It was a relatively short show, but it was hard to complain considering that there’s only two short albums in the current Alvvays discography.

The band came back for a brief encore, performing a cover of the Elastica song “Blue” — which was the most uptempo moment of the evening — and then finished off the night with one last track from the first album, the popular “Next of Kin.” Afterwards, the crowd made their way outside into the cool, spring night.

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