December 28, even when it isn't a Saturday, is the least essential day of the year. You're still stuck firmly in the middle of the holidays, but the holiday that's the reason for the euphemistic season is already past, leaving the red and green decorations around town looking a little ratty. You've gotten your gifts, and you've just begun to confront the reality of New Years Eve, which is that you're going to be sitting in a bar only more people will be there than usual.
If you're willing to sit in a bar with more people there than usual a couple of days early, you can rehabilitate December 28 with four Valley stalwarts at a President Gator Records showcase: ROAR (our 2013 Best Local Band), Vial of Sound, Bogan Via, and Future Loves Past.
ROAR's omnipresent anxiety -- about reincarnation, change, Phil Spector, etc. -- typically lies balled up inside a fuzzy blanket of guitars and harmonies. Saturday's set will be acoustic, which means that creepy song about Phil Spector won't be mediated by all that Phil Spector.
If ROAR is a nervous revision of the early '60s, Vial of Sound takes its aesthetic and its analog synth gear from the '70s. Josh Gooday and David Owens, who make up the sound side of VOS -- Kym Gooday handles a video synthesizer on stage -- build up the kind of dramatic, strobe-lit dance songs that other people are just sampling now.
They're rescued from the possibility of kitsch by just how close they come to the music the synthesizers' original owners were making 30 years ago, but more contemporary connections might come to the fore in their next record, which began recording in November; LCD Soundsystem alums David Scott Stone and Matt Thornley are set to produce.
Bogan Via, whose bouncy, foreboding "Kanye" criss-crossed the internet with the aid of a pitch-perfect heist-flick video back in June, spent October touring Europe, returning to Crescent Ballroom by way of Mexico and Los Angeles.
Their sound is remarkable for all the things it isn't quite; Wait Up, their debut EP, sidles up close to dance-pop, stompy piano declamation, and Home Depot-commercial folk, but turns away from all of them in favor of an uneasy, cold-seeming quiet. (They manage to go full-on goofy-sweaters-and-warmth in their newest recording, a cover of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," but that one might be an outlier.) Future Loves Past, who's been celebrating the weeks leading up to the show with a series of increasingly creepy Christmas photos and videos, take themselves at least a little more seriously than they do traditional Christmas folk tales; their debut album, All the Luscious Plants, carries a precision that's evident in everything from its angels-on-a-pin, tilt-shifted cover art and the vaguely lupine subject matter to the tight drumming underneath its dance-lesson riffs.
None of these bands has a particular sound in common with the others, which is how you can tell President Gator is involved. The Phoenix label, run by Stateside Presents' Jeremiah J. Gratza, trades in split EPs that mimic this same experience; earlier this year Future Loves Past was paired up with erstwhile solo project Yellow Minute, and ROAR appeared on a President Gator split with Gospel Claws, whose proto-rock influences seem to run a little further into the past than ROAR's own.
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You can hear a very particular taste at work in the bands that make up this show and President Gator's catalog, but it has less to do with their sounds than the dedication and skill that's evident in each song.