Words and photos by WKDU guest writer Madison Kierod
Vundabar brought Philly out of hibernation on Tuesday, March 6th with their sold-out show at PhilaMOCA. Devoted fans had been awaiting their return to the City of Brotherly Love since their show at the First Unitarian Church with The Frights and Hockey dad this past November. This time, the Boston punk/surf/math rockers headlined the show with support from Chicago-natives Ratboys, and D.C. indie rock duo, The Obsessives. The intimate venue was decorated with paintings and prints from local artists, allowing the performance to become tailored and personal for Philly fans.
The band jumped right in with their upbeat new single, “Acetone” off of their 2017 record Smell Smoke, and, after some dramatic pauses and heckling from the audience, continued the show with fan-favorite “Chop” from their second studio album Gawk. This single particularly showcases the band’s ability merge catchy vocal melodies with crunchy guitar tones, and incorporate tempo changes from Grayson Kirtland’s groovy bass lines to Drew McDonald’s quick, almost frantic drum solos. The progression was inherently entertaining to watch and the urge to dance was hard to resist.
Consistent with the name of their first studio album, their show was certainly filled with Antics. Their fun, high-energy tunes kept the audience jumping, and lead singer Brandon Hagan’s commentary between sets kept them laughing with cheeky rants promoting their band, asking for food, and asking silly, rhetorical questions such as “what do you sound like when you sweat?”. His witty sense of humor even kept the audience entertained while dealing with some noise interference mid-show, as the band had to overcome what Brandon described as “the crickly-crackly.”
Part of Vundabar’s charm is in their unpredictability, their improvisational dance moves, facial expressions, and vocal runs while jamming and soloing mid-song. No track shows this better than “$$$”, where the band took a 2-minute detour to exchange solos just to build up to a clean and abrupt end to the song.
The songs off of their newest album Smell Smoke such as “Diver” have a slower vibe, and were aptly placed in the middle of their set This left room for extra-long, extra-loud, extra-crunchy renditions of one of their more mosh-able tunes “Alien Blues” and “Voodoo” for last.
Overall, Vundabar’s set was tight and precise, yet natural and energetic–a difficult balance that their fan base acknowledges and appreciates. The band’s animated stage presence emanated into the audience, and kept the whole crowd moving (and laughing) for their entire hour-long set. The fun-loving band was exactly what the audience needed to get out of our houses on that cold and soggy Tuesday. Without a doubt, Vundabar fans will be anxiously awaiting their return to the east coast.