You could see it on the faces of the audience as you looked around: What they were hearing was really damn good.
Neo-psych band James Supercave caught lightning in a bottle with their phenomenal song “Better Strange,” and unleashed it on the very full house at the Black Cat on Sunday night.
As people were walking into the venue to see Wild Belle, they may have been greeted with an opening act unfamiliar to them. After that opening song (the title track to the band’s debut album), the crowd definitely wanted to hear more.
Vocalist Joaquin Pastor takes to the stage and starts his first song out slow, but his voice rises into a crisp falsetto as the full instrumentation of his bandmates come together in the first verse of “Better Strange.” With the song, James Supercave also first visit a theme common to the band’s songs — “You’re so much better strange, you’re so much better when you make mistakes with me.”
The big idea behind the band’s first album, released in February on Fairfax Recordings, is that you should be yourself — and that you shouldn’t follow the pack. And they deliver that message in sweeping, soaring melodies that take dynamic, engaging turns that are sometimes like a bit more disco than they are psychedelic.
Other than Joaquin, who occasionally takes up guitar, an impressive player in the band is Patrick Logohetti on keyboards, who is always a man in motion. Swiveling expertly from a front keyboard to the side, while occasionally providing backing vocals, Patrick draws out a range of dazzling sounds on a Prophet ’08. And those sounds are an integral part of the band, even if you might think Patrick occasionally looks like he belongs in The Cars some 25 years ago.
The rest of the band also impress. From my position at stage right, I don’t get to see much of third core member Andrés Villalobos but I can hear the ring of his guitar as clear as day. Touring members Patrick Phillips (bass) and Rhys Hastings (drums) augment their bandmates with smart playing and impeccable timing.
Other album numbers like “Burn” roll out with sublimely funky licks and catchy synth notes while Joaquin again sings of a relationship that is bad news –- Joaquin sings, “Don’t stop seeking for me/I’m too tired to fall apart,” and it’s just convincing enough to seem revelatory and just cryptic enough to seem hauntingly familiar. So as a song, it does that improbable dance of presenting itself as something both new and reassuring at the same time.
James Supercave closed their set Sunday night with another excellent song, “The Right Thing.” It’s a song about perceptions, but again also about being true to yourself and doing right because it’s right. More importantly, it’s an outer space super-psych jam that manages to reference the whimsy of ‘60s psychedelia a la “Sgt. Pepper” with some powerhouse vocals that follow in the footsteps of The Who. You may accuse me of overstating its power, but it’s really rather well done.
James Supercave continue their tour opening for Wild Belle tonight, May 5, in New Orleans and through May 17 when they wrap it up in Seattle. It’s well worth your time to check them out, particularly if you have a taste for psychedelia and you’re honestly in the mood to hear something different.
Here are some pictures from the performance by James Supercave at the Black Cat on Sunday, May 1: