Last Friday night YACHT headlined the Lodge Room, a new venue in a repurposed Masonic Temple in Highland Park. It’s beautiful inside, albeit up a flight of stairs (though fully wheelchair accessible!), and as a result, prone to overheat; can’t blame the people for wanting to dance and shake all night long. The room was bursting with excitement for YACHT and their openers, French Vanilla, and the bands took full advantage of the energy of this sold-out hometown show.
French Vanilla are the feminist art punk quartet that you didn’t know you needed. That is, if you hadn’t already seen them playing around LA before. For the past twelve months, the band has been on a semi-constant tour, with tons of local dates bookending trips all over the country. This night’s show was actually their last local gig for awhile, with their next show not until the final date of Shopping’s tour on March 21st (at Resident–tickets).
With that, they pulled no punches in their performance at the Lodge Room. Lead singer Sally Spitz owned the stage, galloping around her bandmates as they kept pace with her unpredictable vocals. When not playing the saxophone, Daniel Trautfield manned the bass, a pivotal role in the unshakeable track “Thru the Earth.” The single that will stick with any new fan, though, is their unflinching two-and-a-half minute “Carrie” adaptation, with sax accents and Spitz’s cries: “Carrie got her period in the shower! Carrie got her period and everyone laughed at her!” YACHT’s Claire L. Evans called French Vanilla the best band in LA, and if I weren’t so attached to her band, I would be inclined to agree.
YACHT began sixteen years ago as a solo project founded by Jona Bechtolt, eventually leading to the addition of Evans who is, if I may use a cliché, his better half; then the band evolved into a dance pop trio accompanied live by Rob Kieswetter. Their moniker stands for Young Americans Challenging High Technology, and their career has never lost sight of this mission. The release of their last full-length, I Thought the Future Would Be Cooler, was preceded by a rollout that told a short history of society and technology starting with fax machines and billboards, leading to drones and Uber surges. Lest we forget about their fake sex tape, which infamously caused an uproar among fans and critics alike. This band has always flirted with controversy and in a way, having to do damage control after a PR disaster might have been their greatest societal farce yet.
There is another, less overt side to YACHT, and that is their love for the city of Los Angeles. This is their home, and they find ways to honor it whenever they can, whether in a song named after (both) L.A. Plays Itself, in a video centered around a famous Silverlake landmark, or in an app Bechtolt and Evans created called 5 Every Day, which suggests five activities to explore in LA every day. It has been at least a year since they played a local headlining show that wasn’t a festival, so their return on Friday night was given the warmest of welcomes from everyone in the crowd.
Evans has been the de facto lead singer ever since she joined the band, so she commanded a majority of the stage, while Bechtolt and Kieswetter typically stuck to their places behind their machines–computers, synths, and guitars–in the center-back. They played everything off their recent Strawberry Moon EP, and several other tracks from earlier records like See Mystery Lights and ITTFWBC. They even played their Brigitte Fontaine cover, “Le Goudron,” but only one song came from their 2010 record, Shangri-La: the doom-pop single, “Dystopia.” “We wrote that song seven years ago after an oil spill,” Evans told us, laughing in spite of herself. “We really thought that was the worst thing, and that we couldn’t sink any lower.” Everyone began laughing with her. Sure, that seems naive and outdated now, but it turns out that lyrics in that song reference building walls as one specific way that society around us is crumbling; needless to say, that metaphor is especially prescient today. YACHT writes music as depressing maxims, always applicable no matter how dystopian life gets.
Always at war with norms, the band even did a gag about their encore, only to explain rather explicitly that they would be back out to play more songs as long as we kept cheering after their “last” song. So we did. They came back out to close their set with “the hit” “Psychic City (Voodoo City),” when the crowd grew to such a roar, I couldn’t tell if Evans was even still singing along. Seems that LA was the heartbeat city on Friday, where all our dreams came true at least for one night.
This show served as French Vanilla’s vinyl release show, but fret not, you can purchase a copy of their debut album on wax via Bandcamp. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram. You can also grab YACHT’s EP Strawberry Moon on Bandcamp while you’re there. It’s also worth noting that Claire L. Evans will be releasing a book on March 6th called Broad Band; pre-order it! For more information on YACHT, follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Words: Zoë Elaine
Photography: House of Vivian