Dillon Basse leads the band flipturn in a performance at Black Cat on Nov. 12, 2022. (Photo by Casey Vock)
In a world where anything might work, but could just as well flop, it’s almost impossible to preconceive what a rock band could or should look like, what would be tasteful, what could be enjoyable.
But you know it when you hear it or when you see it. And once you set ears and eyes on flipturn for the first time, you know you’re looking at a band with the right juices, a winning blend of sophisticated sounds and a stylish swagger that oozes off the stage and from the recorded work of this promising outfit from near Jacksonville, Florida.
Packing the Black Cat the night of Nov. 12, with fans crammed from one side to the other and layers deep along the bar and the opposite wall, the thrilling and irresistible outfit showed why it has moved so swiftly from a garage band to selling out venues in the nation’s capital, with attendees screaming like mad at the sight of the band preparing for its set on the dimly lit stage.
Stream flipturn’s new album, Shadowglow, via Spotify:
Formed back in 2015 as a three-piece group comprised of lead singer Dillon Basse, bassist Madeline Jarman, and lead guitarist Tristan Duncan, flipturn has been able to grow its reputation by way of key festival appearances and through gradual single and EP releases, culminating with its first full-length album, Shadowglow, which dropped digitally over the summer and is set to be released on vinyl at the end of November.
Touring to support the album, flipturn used an immersive set of high-flying, intoxicating songs this past Saturday night to astonish and delight a Black Cat venue full of wildly enthusiastic ticketholders that had no problem waiting in the long line that stretched around the block.
Some came from as far as Charlottesville if not further, and they were treated to a collection of songs both new and those that have helped the group gradually build its fanbase while touring and growing its core to include Mitch Fountain on the synthesizer and additional guitar and Devon VonBalson on the drumkit.
The band came out to some of the most kaleidoscopic hues the Black Cat might showcase this fall, and it set the course for a seamless transition into “The Fall,” the swirled, realizing opener to the new album, which was released on Dualtone Records.
“DC, we gonna have a good time tonight or what?” Dillon asked the audience, and this group of ticketholders was boisterous — to say the least — as hearing most of what Basse had to say was difficult through the guttural screams coming from every cranny of the place.
The lithe and lively head singer, who also wields the guitar, brings an uncommon bounce and a zest to the stage, with his hair flinging to the music, leaps and shoulder-high kicks that turned into jamming workouts alongside Duncan and Jarman. Together at the front of the stage, these three led the casting of the groovy, cutting-edge tones they began polishing as a garage band in and around Fernandina Beach, snugged just between Jacksonville and the Georgia border.
Jarman embodies the band’s spirit and eagerness, but she also powers it — digging in to hammer the bass alongside Basse and Duncan. And Duncan injects such an excitable presence with vivid, tense chords drawn with an added punch to become lyrical on their own.
With so much of the music characterized by texture and briskness, it’s clear that Fountain and VonBalson are essential to the advancing depth and abundance of the band’s sound from its earliest singles.
Perhaps a vow of what’s to come from a tactful unit just now offering up a full-length album more than seven years into its existence, the track “Sad Disco” stands out on Shadowglow and already ranks among flipturn’s most streamed songs. At Black Cat, this piece resonated as a masterpiece of the far out, reflective and illusory breed of dance rock flipturn is establishing, and it made for a fanciful atmosphere within an extremely dark venue.
The track “Chicago,” a sprightly favorite from the 2017 EP Heavy Colors, showcased perhaps the most distinguishing aspect of this group: the elegant touch Dillon gives to his words — they have a longing and sensuality, making them drip over top of these radiant and invigorating compositions.
Watch the official music video for flipturn’s single “Playground” via the band’s Youtube channel:
With only a few shows left on what was an ambitious tour that extended from summer into fall, the band appeared sharp and ripened, playfully engaging with members of the audience. During a take on “Playground” from the new album, Devon emerged from behind the drumkit to hand a tom and a cymbal to a pair of unsuspecting young women, who took great joy in bracing the gear as he banged away overhead.
As some fans noticed, what looked like a hand-stitched chicken was hanging from one of Fountain’s boards, and as Jarman would explain, the stuffed fake creature had been with the band out on the road for some time.
“This is our tour chicken,” Madeline said, holding it up with a grin. “I saw some of you checking him out.”
She took the opportunity to thank the crowd about midway through the set: “This is one of my favorite cities to play in.”
And as the show progressed, and as flipturn worked through more acclaimed singles and additional new tracks on the forthcoming vinyl, it became clear that the tight-knit nature of the band — a plain-as-day agreeable chemistry between these bright musicians — has emboldened it to convincingly make a name for itself.
Eventually capping the set with a magnificent, grandiose endeavor in “Space Cowboy,” this cosmic voyage was wholly original in its instrumentation. Swaying, shouting and truly immersed, the crowd didn’t want it to end.
Stream flipturn’s 2018 EP Citrona via Spotify:
And when flipturn returned to the stage for an encore presentation of “August” from the 2018 EP Citrona, the bandmembers might have felt the same way. After commending the Connecticut-based group during the set, and in the elation of the moment, Basse invited the night’s opening act, The Brazen Youth, to the stage for a rowdy group performance of the nonchalant, youthful flipturn anthem “Nickel.”
With fantastic, stimulating sounds that absolutely blend rock genres, and with supplemental kick to go along with it, flipturn has tremendous momentum. To observe a band with so much energy and artistry in such an intimate setting, last Saturday night at Black Cat will live on as a memorable occasion to see an act that will soon make even bigger swings.
Here are images of flipturn along with openers The Brazen Youth performing at Black Cat on Nov. 12, 2022. All photos copyright and courtesy of Casey Vock.
The Brazen Youth