By Pier Harrison
Toward the end of Crocodiles’ set at Music Hall Of Williamsburg on Saturday, frontman Brandon Welchez repeated into the microphone, barely audible under the racket of feedback, “New York, New York: the cradle of civilization … the cradle of civilization.” It was hard to tell if the San Diegan was complimenting the city or mocking it. This ambiguous sarcasm exemplifies the dark but pleasure-driven attitude of the band’s two-album oeuvre, where homicidal instincts are soaked in fun and packaged in a catchy melody (“I Wanna Kill”), and inclement weather-induced house arrest leads to proclamations of love (“Sleep Forever”). Onstage, Crocodiles brings that to life with the mammoth energy of California punk.
Bouncing around the stage like a tweaked-out grasshopper in a Sex Pistols tee and sunglasses, Welchez yelped, spit beer into the air and grabbed the mic with both hands like a balladeer when not twitching or playing guitar. Watching him forces you to experience his ecstasy. Opening track “Sleep Forever” was definitely a high point for all of its theatrics, beginning in total darkness with echoing synths, guitar and its intro dual vocal part, then ripping into the body of the song with a forceful rhythm section.
As Crocodiles tore through tracks from both 2009’s Summer Of Hate and last fall’s Sleep Forever, distortion on the bass was so thick that each note could have been wrapped in a faux fur vest. Not many bassists dare to tread such unorthodox levels of fuzziness, so it’s so satisfying, even enchanting when they do. Unfortunately, levels were not great throughout the show, and at times you could hardly hear the vocals, but this was sorted out in time for the band’s cover of the Ramones’ “Beat On The Brat” so that Welchez and the synth player’s stellar harmonies could properly double-team our ear drums, singing, “What can you do? What can you do? What can you do?”
The Fresh And Onlys also played a furious, noteworthy set. The band has a huge, full sound that’s at once noisy and polished. Rife with high-speed rhythms on bass and drums, their guitarist’s hands were even so fast it looked like he was just slapping the pickups, but the strings were producing very clean-sounding, intricate solos. Almost rootsy, but very tight, this group was a worthy representative of San Francisco’s current prolific indie scene.