Weekend at Rhythm Room, 9/20/11

" know it's The Weekend, right? Not The Weeknd."

I had a couple people let me know, just to be sure. See, The Weeknd -- the project name of Canadian soul singer Abel Tesfaye -- has a plenty of hype, and the potential to bring elements of dubstep and chillwave into the mainstream. In short, the guy has star power.

Weekend, on the other hand, are a San Franciscan shoegaze trio, who play kind of music that has little to "break out" into the mainstream.

Good. Shoegaze -- that blurry term used to describe even blurrier music -- is the sound of underground romance, of high-register New Order basslines, vocals smeared and obscured in reverb, guitars coursing through massive effect pedal rigs. It's less about the statement and more about the feeling. A bit too ambiguous for radio, but then again, it belongs in small clubs like The Rhythm Room, where the faithful can worship the amplifiers.

Local openers The Orphans play a particular brand of shoegaze, one a little more akin to Britpop. Modern practitioners sort of include Coldplay, but Orphans are more like Ride or Slowdive. The band reminded me solidly of the dearly missed Stratford 4, a band I really loved.

Otro Mundo followed, a band I caught with Dirty Beaches a couple months ago. Last night felt like an entirely different band. The quartet seems to have embraced their inner pop fans -- at one point I scrawled "Melvins meet Pixies" in response to the band, and a moment later I realized, "Hey, that's Nirvana." Otro Mundo blew me away -- I picked up the group's tape, and would really love to see more of them in the future.

Weekend is a buzzy band -- Pitchfork liked Sports, their debut (and Sports Illustrated mentioned it in the same breath as Huey Lewis' classic of the same name). But the crowd was hardly the kind of group that cared about that. These were fans of a genre, and a band that excels at it. Like My Bloody Valentine, a touchstone for bands of this ilk, Weekend hid subversive, yearning melodies underneath the distortion and fuzz, with barely there vocals conveying an atmosphere more than saying anything specific.

The songs pulsed and the three members thrashed around onstage, tight black jeans highlighted by glowing red lights. The shoegaze genre originally got its name from the downward cast eyes of the artists: but in 2011 shoegaze bands aren't adverse to music. Weekend isn't afraid to move, and neither was the crowd.

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: Weekend, Otro Mundo, and Orphans at The Rhythm Room.

The Crowd: Noise loving lifers, punk kids, some metal dudes.

Better Than: Staying at home listening to Joy Division bootlegs (but that is fun, too).

Random Notebook Dump: "Stop drumming with your pen, Woodbury -- you look like an idiot."

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.