‘A Cosby reference’
Slow Down Theo and Deerpen party at Coco Caffé
Open late this past Saturday for a rock show, Coco Caffà was especially warm, nearly filled with a fresh-scrubbed young crowd waiting for openers Slow Down Theo.
It’s wrong for this reviewer to expect that guys a decade and a half younger than he is will sound like other bands of their generation. The first clue that SDT might draw influence from eras outside its own was a revelation about the genesis of the band name scrawled across the front of Jason Edwards’ kick drum: “It’s a Cosby reference.”
While I could see mop-headed guitarist Rob Reeves (sporting calf-high rolled-up trousers) in a colorful Huckstable sweater, the band’s ‘80s influences manifest themselves in the delivery of towering front man Jon Simcox.
With a row of ardent young female fans dancing and mouthing the words in the front row, Simcox lived up to the rock star image by stumbling and snaking around like Iggy Pop in slow motion. Simcox even sounds a little Iggy-ish on “Special Shoes” (the later, throatier Iggy of “Real Wild Child” and “Passenger"), singing of a night of drinking, dancing and breaking up, even stopping to deliver a jab at the goth kids: “That’s so juvenile/ It’s just like those kids who like Lenore and Nightmare Before Christmas just a little too much.”
SDT seems to be at a between stage—between high school and college (which is endearing and makes for a somewhat self-conscious yet loose and fun show), and in the case of bassist Garrett Edwards, between that “first amp” and the one that actually sounds good. He made do admirably, but the thin tone of the Peavy guitar amp was distracting and did not do justice to the night’s groovy shuffles.
For the rockin-est tune, “El New,” it didn’t matter, though. The popping bass fit in nicely with Reeves spiky new-wavish chord progression and Simcox’s pleasantly affected baroque vocal meandering.
I hate to complain about show times in a review, but part of the appeal of the early show (scheduled from 7 to 9 p.m.) is being able to make plans for afterward. Partly due to SDT’s starting really late, and partly due to Deerpen’s taking a little too long to set up (it’s a cafà show; do you need to do mic checks for 15 minutes?), the closers didn’t start till after 9 p.m. The half a set I did catch was spectacular, however.
The second song, “Make Believe,” is one of the best songs I’ve ever heard come from Chico band (and the one that followed, “Amoeba,” isn’t too far behind), and it showcases what Deerpen does best—let overcaffeinated drummer Courtney Morris lead the band with a pounding mid-tempo rhythm and have sleepy-eyed singer Rett Matthews soar across the top like he’s bellowing from a mountaintop, or a stadium stage. Without Matthews’ vocals demanding so much attention, this kind of sludgy groove might fall down the jam-rock rabbit hole, but his Bono-meets-Thom Yorke-meets-Live vocal chops and hummable drawn-out melodies balance things out nicely.