Julian Casablancas + The Voidz: influences from the past to create future sounds

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Going to concerts was the definition of my teen-hood. The feeling of complete freedom and chaos that comes with it is something that still tingles in my bones when I think about my concert-going days.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity to partake in that all-encompassing feeling as of the late, (besides Fattal Fest) — no thanks to my ongoing studies and serious lack of funds — so when a friend of mine invited me last minute to go see Julian Casablancas + The Voidz (admittedly not a name I’d heard of before), I just couldn’t reject my teen addiction and inner desire to lose total control in a transcendent mosh pit.

It was 8 p.m. by the time we got there, and the venue was pretty empty. Hoping that the venue would fill up, we ordered shots of tequila at the bar and claimed our spot on the floor, left side as usual (must be some weird ritual at this point). Between them, my friends discussed their excitement about the first band to be playing, an NYC punk band called Cerebral Ballzy. Punk bands always get me going so I downed a beer and waited in a semi-tipsy haze for the lights to go down.

Cerebral Ballzy’s act was a little bit off, but it did contain the magical punkiness I was expecting. First of all, the singer (who admitted on stage that he had a cold) seemed to be on some type of heavy sedative. He was wobbling around the stage and his voice was somewhat incomprehensible. From what I could hear, though, their set was pretty good. If I was in a small, tightly-packed venue somewhere in Brooklyn with unisex bathrooms and some bearded guy to my right handing me a joint, I probably would’ve enjoyed myself more. In all goodness, though, their catchy punk tunes made me want to jump around (and the guitarist had some sick headbanging abilities).

The second band that came on, Shabazz Palaces, are described as being an experimental hip-hop band from Seattle. I couldn’t tell if I was listening to African tribal music, Rastafarian rap or some type of dubstep. The two guys on stage stood behind a table that had an array of musical instruments set up, including a djembe, a synthesizer and a strange instrument that looked like a miniscule version of a guitar’s body. The music they produced gave off a trance-like feel with their echoing voices and the deep resonating bass.

When Julian Casablancas finally came on stage, the venue was packed. My friend and I decided to spare ourselves the agony of standing in place any longer and decided to sit upstairs. Julian Casablancas (or, shall I say, Julian Casablancas + The Voidz) is a side project created by Casablancas in 2013. Besides Casablancas, there were five other members on stage and a wide array of different TV sets with static on them.

Casablancas came on stage wearing a jean jacket and light-wash jeans, his hair cut in what looked like a mullet. “He looks like white trailer trash,” my friend said to me, and I had to agree. Decoration aside, Casablancas’ set blew me away. I had never heard his voice before, so I really had no idea what to expect, but for those who have, you know that the static effect on the TVs works quite well with the vocal effect he uses on his voice.

There aren’t many ways to describe Casablancas’ sound, as it is so versatile and his style switches from song to song. A blend of 80s psychedelic rock and indie, finally the crowd was moving in synchronicity. Julian’s uplifting spirit moved me through different eras — the first few songs had more of a 60s feel (the two guitar players sporting old, vintage-style guitars in yellow and blue respectively), bringing me into a wavy, beach-like feel. It was somehow upbeat enough to promote an energetic, letting-go-and-releasing type of vibe that resonated throughout the venue.

As Casablancas had brought a new, dynamic energy to the room, I couldn’t contain myself and soon rushed down to the floor to become one with all the happy, swaying bodies, smiling in unison. I was excited when I saw the guitarists reach for more rock-looking guitars and performed a song I would have to classify as alternative rock. It was heavy, a bit trashy and oh, so good. The people around me were falling to the left, like one big super organism, and my hair was starting to collect little beads of sweat. Casablancas’ static-y vocal effect allowed the crowd to feel caught somewhere between the 80s, the present and future. How he does that, I have no idea. To evoke so many feelings at the same time was exactly what I had been waiting for.

They played two Strokes songs, including “Ize Of The World” and “I’ll Try Anything Once” during the encore. Shabazz Palaces came on stage to play with them during “Father Electricity”, which promoted their already-eccentric sound. All in all, I left content, energized and excited, wishing I had listened to Julian Casablancas + The Voidz long before so I could truly appreciate the show. That 80s vibe never seems to go out of style, and I can’t wait for the next time they come around so I can sport that trailer trash swag and become one with the static-rock flow.

Photos by Bree Rockbrand. Click on the photo to launch the slideshow. 

Julian Casablancas

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