“Wow,” I said. “That guy is playing his synthesizer ON THE GROUND.”
And indeed John Famiglietti of HEALTH switched up from bass to synth, swinging the bass around to his back to swoop down on the synthesizer rig in front of him, laid flat on a plastic crate. As a man fond of big cinematic flourishes, he may have been the star player in this specific show by his band HEALTH, performing at the Motorco Park in Durham, NC, on Friday, May 20.
That’s not to say that John could do this show single-handedly! He was capably met, and balanced, by frontman Jake Duzsik, who sang in a manner occasionally evocative of New Order’s Barney Sumner and also played some dazzling guitar. Side by side, Jake and John present quite the team, effortlessly merging dynamic rock with sweeping electronics. (Drummer Benjamin Jared Miller was good as well!)
And so it was that Los Angeles noise rock trio HEALTH brought flair to Moogfest 2016.
This was my first exposure to HEALTH, and my initial impression is that the band have matured a great deal since their 2007 self-titled debut album. They catapulted into indie consciousness through their collaborations with fellow electronic artists Crystal Castles, making waves with a remix of their single “Crimewave.” At a glance, it looks like the band may have stalled for a bit before roaring back into view with a third album and a new drummer last year with Death Magic, an album released on Loma Vista Recordings.
Clad in black and given to generating a great deal of glorious noise, HEALTH may strike the casual observer as a “goth” band. I’m going to acknowledge such an inevitability but point out how witty, fun, and accessible the songs by HEALTH can be. New songs from the album caught the crowd’s ear — songs like “L.A. Looks,” a churning synthpop pleaser with a semi-confessional lyric in its refrain: “It’s not love but I still want you.”
Another new song played by HEALTH, “Dark Enough,” ponders life and love with steady, pulsating waves of dreamy beats. In contrast to that, its tracklist-partner “Stonefist” is a pounding rock song with a recurring ominous chord progression that speaks lyrically of growing old and never looking back.
HEALTH were happy to appease its longtime followers as well with earlier songs like “Die Slow” (no goth overtones here, eh, friends?), a lurching, searching number about reaching the point of no return, and later “We Are Water,” a pulse pounder that contemplates mortality — both from 2009’s Get Color.
All in all, HEALTH were very entertaining, and a great live band. Jake rises and collapses with his vocals, alternatively whipping way from his mic with his guitar, while John is a beast of a musician, slapping the bass in one moment and swooping down like a raven upon his synths in the next moment, his long hair obscuring his face and lending an even greater sense of mystery to the proceedings.
HEALTH have some sporadic tour dates coming up, including a June 3 gig in Los Angeles with fellow synthband YACHT, and apparently a July 30 show in New York City. HEALTH are good for your ears, so let them give you a checkup next time they visit your town.
Here are some pictures of HEALTH performing at Motorco Park in Durham, NC, on Friday, May 20, 2016.