Save for a few live shows here and there, So Many Dynamos has kept a low profile in the past year or so. The quartet's been focusing on writing new music and experimenting with new instruments and styles, which has resulted in a marked expansion in its sound.
That was evident right away on Friday night at the Firebird: The show started with every band member playing some form of percussion instrument during a new song. For the rest of the set, the Dynamos injected more energy into older songs and clearly had a blast playing five new tunes. The healthy crowd enjoyed itself as well: An animated, fiercely loyal mass of fans crowded near the front of the stage and clapped, moshed, flailed around and generally lost their collective shit during most of the set. (See below.) The enthusiasm was heartening to see.
"The Formula," live at the Firebird on Friday night
So Many Dynamos' new songs are heavily influenced by '80s groovepop and keyboard-based music. Think Steely Dan meets !!!, with hints of Tears for Fears and Talking Heads thrown in for good measure. (A new instrumental in particular boomed and popped like TFF's mid-'80s prog-pop.) Each member of the band switched up instruments as they de-emphasized rock music; at various times, bass, various percussion implements (both organic and electronic) and keyboards guided the new songs. Clayton ("Norm") Kunstel left his drumkit for a song and came to the front of the stage to play, and vocalist/keyboardist Aaron Stovall even played a little guitar.
Most of the new songs don't yet have names, although the previously released "Barely Listening" has a breezy tropical vibe and this fresh tune has some nice corrugated guitar mixed in with bustling rhythms. Above all, groove and texture triumphed over tradition -- which made the transition between Loud Wars tunes "Glaciers" and "The Formula" more seamless than one might think. (Perhaps we should nickname 'em So Many Discomos?)
The band's onstage configuration -- which in the past featured Stovall smack-dab in the middle of the stage flanked by guitarists -- reflected this instrumental flexibility. Stovall and guitarist Nathan Bernaix set up shop on equal footing, with their gear turned in toward each other, while guitarist Griffin Kay hovered behind on stage right. Thanks to this closeness, the always-strong live band was even more locked into place on the explosive "New Bones" and "We Vibrate, We Do." Bernaix in turn added forceful backing vocals to older songs -- "In Every Direction" in particular -- and fed off his bandmates' energy.
For the encore, the Dynamos invited openers US English and Bo and the Locomotive onstage to add vocals to a cover of the Human League's "Don't You Want Me." The audience went nuts for the charmingly wobbly, entirely entertaining cover.