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There is a neon street gang that is spitting acid all over conventional genre and industry standards. They are the Voidz, former Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas’s new posse of derelicts that makes the strangest music you’ve ever heard. The band is now touring behind their newest release, Virtue, a 15 track album that spans the gaunt of the bands darkest, twisted fantasies ranging from beautiful synth rock to Sabbath inspired video game hell. Produced by Shawn Everett and Chris Tabron, the album is dark and puzzling in a deliberate way. Some of the tracks feature a kind of VHS fidelity that is supposed to challenge the listeners perception of what a “good” recording really is. The guitars are often modified to the point of sounding nothing like their original sonic capability, yet their tandem playing style that weaves in and out of each other melds perfectly with the overall sound. It is heavy, yet fun. Perturbing, yet irresistible. Casablancas even takes up autotning his voice on certain tracks. And why the hell not? The Voidz have started a fistfight with modern pop music, and they showed up armed to the teeth. The band is doing a residency at Elsewhere in Brooklyn every Wednesday of the month, and I got the chance to see their second performance there on June 13th.
The venue itself is done up to look more like a laser tag arena than a performance space, which only adds to the fun. The smaller venue size also adds to the intimacy of the show itself and allows the bands to feed off the energy of the crowd. This is probably why they chose to play frequently at smaller venues rather than single shows at larger venues. The opening band, Public Access TV brought a brand of garage rock reminiscent of what the Ramones would have sounded like if Tom Petty was writing their songs. The music was fun, the energy was lively, and about a quarter of the crowd decided that it was time to open the pit up during this seemingly non-moshable set. They played for around thirty minutes, and then the calm before the storm began.
Stark red light bathes the stage as The Voidz walk out. It’s hard to tell whether they are heroes or villains, but without a doubt they are not of this world. In an interview with the popular LA based alternative radio station KCRW, they describe themselves as “six breakfast cereals in one bowl,” a metaphor that couldn’t be more accurate. The band comes in hot, opening with “QYURRYUS” the abstract arabic dance banger that melts the crowds faces into the year 3011. This is immediately followed by the dark and ravey “Black Hole,” then mellowed out into the more laid back, synthy “Permanent High School.” The crowd devours every second of it, pushing and shoving each other into an ocean of sweat. The show is loud and dangerous, two elements missing from a lot of modern rock acts.
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There is something instantly recognizable about The Voidz onstage. They’re having fun, loads of it. The guitar players Amir Yaghmai and Jeremy “Beardo” Gritter relish in the crowd responses to their textbook guitar moves,. The drummer Alex Carapetis is a silhouette of sweat that locks and loads the rhythm section through the abyss he creates along with bass and keyboard player Jake Bercovici. Not much can be said about keyboard player Jeff Kite other than he keeps it real pretty up on stage. And of course, Casablancas. The beloved frontman, who drank heavily to combat his nerves during his time with The Strokes, is as comfortable as ever, but this time he’s sober. He’s not trying to be a rockstar, he just is one. At one point he gets down on one knee and pantomimes stirring the pot of chaos around him, sprinkles some spice, and dips his fingers in for a taste. It is brilliant and delicious. They play two encores, the crowd loses what’s left of their minds.
In a world of unambitious background playlists, The Voidz are making a statement about the future of music, and that statement is “let’s get weird.” They are drawing from genres around the world and mixing in their own disgustingly fun brand of entertainment to splatter all across the current musical landscape. They want us to dig deeper in the world of music, and not just accept what is hand fed to us by major labels. To steal a lyric from “Permanent High School,” “Just because something’s popular, Don’t mean it’s good.”
Ray Young once drank a melted car tire, and has never heard music in his life. He is an American Studies major and plays in 2 bands