The Stepkids looks like the opening band for Jefferson Airplane at the Fillmore in San Francisco circa 1966, but the group is in fact warming up a crowd at New York’s Webster Hall for Brit rock troupe the Horrors this evening. Up in the balcony, two techies are controlling a light show that is projected, Airplane-like, onstage and against the Stepkids’ crisp white outfits as the boys jam out, all long hair and solos. The trio noodles through tracks from its fresh self-titled debut LP, hitting “La La” and ending with a drawn-out rendition of “Cup Half Full.” The last song is a winding affair, each bandmate tickling and pattering and rocking out until they all come together on that last note and freeze—drumsticks in the air, guitar necks pointing skyward—freeze and freeze and then drop the note into a tangle of percussion.
And then the retro hippie vibes are over. Forget 1960s San Francisco—now Webster Hall looks like the image of the 1970s in the U.K. or maybe CBGB. The Horrors, like the Kills, have the punk-rock posture down pat: all black, leather jacket, skinny jeans, Oxfords. In demeanor, the band is more emo than punk. Lead singer Faris Badwan sings instead of screams, and although it’s hard to make out what he’s saying it sounds like Robert Smith, and none of his bandmates seem at all likely to spit on someone’s face or smash a speaker or even just say something to the effect of “Go to hell!” They don’t even really look like they’re having that much fun onstage.
Horrors guitarist Joshua Third finally got a new ‘do (because this was just not cutting it), which makes him look adorably like a floppy, shaggy doggie when he wanders around stage with his guitar. On Badwan’s other side, Tom Cowan stands behind the keyboard looking noticeably nerdier than his picturesquely punk-rock bandmates—in lieu of all-black everything, he’s rocking a shirt buttoned all the way up with his hair neatly styled. Badwan himself is perfectly punk looking but in a way that suggests he could pull off any look just as well. Like a skinny rockstar paper doll, Badwan could convincingly pose as a member of Weezer or a coffeehouse singer-songwriter.