Surf’s Up: PAPA, Cayucas and Sun Club bring summery sounds to Boot & Saddle

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Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | http://jeremy-zim.com/
Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | http://jeremy-zim.com/

Even though the weather here in Philly might not be fully ready to acknowledge it, we’re in the throes of Summer. On Tuesday night, the humidity was certainly in the right place as Cayucas, PAPA and Sun Club brought the surf-pop party to a small, yet appreciative crowd at Boot & Saddle. After an afternoon of torrential downpours, the skies cleared for a bit as the sun sank, and the three bands reminded us that longer, warmer days are here.

First up were the Baltimore boys of Sun Club. Ever since seeing them tear the roof of the legendary 9:30 Club in DC, I’ve been in love with these guys, and putting them on a bill with Cayucas made this show an absolute must-see. Before the show, I chatted briefly with the guys. Getting to know them reveals that the earnestness that they put into their music is just a reflection of their collective characters. During our chat they regularly interrupt each other, or finish sentences that started to drag. It’s obvious that they’re five best friends, doing something awesome every day. They’re giddy on playing the music they love, and about the fact that they just wrapped their first headlining tour this spring — “Mostly basements and tiny places, but it was just so much fun,” says frontman Shane McCord.

Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | http://jeremy-zim.com/
Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | http://jeremy-zim.com/

The East Coast isn’t really known for its surf-music scene, that’s something which California both invented and perfected. Sun Club is putting their foot in the waters of a different shore and making waves, all based out of the ever-eclectic Baltimore. “Yeah, the sound is really reflective of our environment. We all grew up in Maryland, on boats and stuff, so that feel – the water, the sun, all that – comes out naturally when we write music.” Incorporated into the sunny sound is a gritty, almost-punk aesthetic as well. McCord laughs when I mention it and says “Well that’s the suburban background that some of us bring, we had to get out, to get to the city, ya know?”

Gathering buzz – and new management – at this year’s South By Southwest, the future looks bright for the Baltimore boys. This fall promises time in the studio to record a full-length follow up to January’s EP Dad Claps at the Mom Prom, as well as the possibility of a short European tour. I can’t help but project them as a Maryland version of our own hometown boys, The Districts. Watch out for them in the future, and don’t let strange track titles dissuade you from adding Sun Club to your beach playlist this year.

Hitting the stage, Sun Club gives it everything that they’ve got. All of the yelps, chants, and yips found in their exuberant songs are amplified tenfold, live. Guitarists McCord and Mikey Powers leap about the small stage at the Boot, with McCord’s hips gyrating when he needs to remain stationary to use the mic. Multi-instrumentalist Kory Johnson switches back and forth between a floor tom and a keyboard with seasoned fluidity, sometimes even playing both at the same time.

Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | http://jeremy-zim.com/
Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | http://jeremy-zim.com/

Sweaty and pushing his long hair out of his eyes, McCord thanks the audience before Sun Club rips into closer “Beauty Meat.” Altogether, the friends move at lighspeed, zipping through songs which sound brighter than their already incredibly bright future.

Utilizing the palpable energy left in the room, Cayucas breathed life into their surf-chill songs that isn’t present on 2013’s Bigfoot. While certainly a good record, it’s quite far from what anyone would call “energetic”. The Californians sang songs about hometown memories, kept banter to a minimum and channeled good vibes to the max. With time constraints on their set, lead singer Zach Yudin awkwardly said “This is our last song, I guess?” and got right into feel good jam “High School Lover”. With its machine gun drum beat and peppy piano lead, Yudin was able to put his guitar down and take the mic off the stand, grooving about the stage while serenading fans. Even though the breathy, barely-there feel of Bigfoot wasn’t necessarily carried through on stage, Cayucas did a good job in the time that they were give to work with, impressing old and new fans alike.

Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | http://jeremy-zim.com/
Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | http://jeremy-zim.com/

PAPA had just come from playing Governor’s Ball, and played their set with every ounce of confidence that a festival appearance imparts. Fronted by drummer Darren Weiss, the San Fran band moved with a tight-knit precision which led a lot of credence to their air of success. The towering, bombastic sounds of PAPA are hard to pin down in definitions, but the fun, summery sounds of synth and guitar layered over pounding drums made them a nice act to close out a surf-pop bill like this one.

About halfway through their set, someone at the front asked Weiss if the band would be at Bonnaroo this week, to which Weiss contemplatively responded “Will we be at Bonnaroo? Hmmm… No, we’ve got more important shit to do. How about instead of playing Bonnaroo, we play you a brand new PAPA song, instead?” The audience certainly didn’t refuse, and the band debuted a funk-bass heavy affair. As their set drew to a close, Weiss asked for house lights, and asked “Philadelphia, are you with PAPA tonight?” The audience responded enthusiastically in the affirmative, and of course obliged when Weiss incited a dance party by playing the pounding “Put Me To Work,” with its relentless attack and release crescendo to close out the evening.

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