Dan Boeckner’s voice has long ached, bayed, and bellowed with a longing grit. His slight frame mapped with tattoos, his staccato motions on stage a product of electric conviction – the Operators frontman is a butane fueled enigma. And things were no different during his April 10th show at the Soda Bar in San Diego. Flanked by the towering drumming of Sam Brown, the viciously resolute bass playing of Dustin Hawthorne, and the hypnotic keyboards of Devojka, Operators were a band in command of their trade.
Live, there are few musicians with the same kind of confessional abandon. Rich, volatile, and yet contained. There are pockets of sublime tension, release, and reflection. With the Canadian artist’s work in Handsome Furs, Divine Fits, and, most notably, Wolf Parade, Boeckner has an incendiary compass for catchy introspection. The raw instrumentation, paired with Boeckner’s mane flipping, leg jutting, lip curling live wire of uncompromising energy controlled the room at the Southern California venue. The singer’s unpretentious burst of vulnerability and confidence rippled throughout the audience. Scar tissue set to the acerbically playful lilt of keyboards and the ferocious licking of guitars – it was, quite honestly, religious.
Boeckner’s vibrantly inexorable personality was on display this Sunday evening. From sending barbed volleys of cavalier quips to the crowd, to the reluctant admonishment he dished out to a particular set of vociferous snapchatters in the front row – this performance was emboldened by Boeckner’s open and charismatic candor. The snapchatters in question were tallboy-toting kids that seemed to be having a filibuster on the floor of a legislative assembly (homies, go to a booth).
Earlier in the night, Bogan Via christened the show with Madeleine Miller’s melodically buoyant vocals. With spectral samples of Marilyn Monroe’s voice humming across Soda Bar’s speakers, there was an otherworldly feeling to the electronic landscape of the Phoenix, Arizona-based band – think Mates of State meets Climber. Between Bogan Via and Operators, there was a very palpable sense of vital urgency. Two bands playing without a net – and the unbridled emotion was evident.