With four girls in front of her, Jessica Westwood is an impatient wreck as she waits for a stall in the ladies’ room. “No way I’m getting a spot in the front row now, I’ll have to push my way up, I haven’t seen BLVD for over a year, they’re one of my favorites,” she gushes. Her confession is received with nods from the others waiting in line.
Tonight is BLVD’s third annual winter showcase at The Independent in San Francisco. Just six days after New Year’s Eve, winter takes a turn for the warmer while locals take the popular venue by storm. All guests are in rare form, including an unwavering party-ready honey badger centered prominently on the show flier- “Honey badger don’t care… honey badger just wants to get down!”
House lights dim to dark and three slender silhouettes slip on stage. The rowdy crowd settles as a calm, methodical pulse hits through the kick drum. The stage is swept over by a rich peach glow illuminating the members of BLVD– Dylan McIntosh, drums/samples, Curtis Sloane, electric guitar/samples, and Tripp Bains, bass/keyboard– along with an eager Westwood who is now standing, front and center, in the first row.
For the next ninety minutes, BLVD takes their audience– both local fans and long-time friends– on an euphoric roller coaster of synthesized jams, mashed up remixes, electro pop riffs, and energized arrangements that showcase classic BLVD genius; one epic dance party.
Since the conception of BLVD’s legacy in 2003, the band has tested various production and talent to stimulate their audience and progress their sound. They have featured elaborate laser shows that prove to be a sensational highpoint during late night sets. And in 2008-10 they invited noteworthy lyricist, Souleye, on board to fuse the trio’s instrumental talent with flowing hip hop vocals.
Tonight the band invites members of supporting acts– livetronica duo, Crush Effect, and electronic hip-hop group, Vokab Kompany– to sit in. Saxophonist Jesse Molloy fills the house with smooth, sophisticated vibration. And Vokab Kompany MCs, Robbie Gallo and Matt Burke, energize the stage with charismatic fashion giving fans a chance to reminisce on days when Souleye dominated the mic and danced the stage.
Over the last two years, BLVD has developed new method for their original sound. Their set is built on covered samples from Michael Jackson, Kaskade, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Ghostland Observatory, Foster the People, Empire of the Sun, LMFAO, Foals and Calvin Harris; and peppered with new rhythms that range from original Cuban sahara to popular Miami cool. Luckily, BLVD has not abandoned their signature rhythm– an eerie X-Files cadence glittered with angelic beats that give way to hard-hitting wah-wah bass– and make conscious efforts to feature melodies that celebrate their initial blend of unique synthesized melodies and unpolluted instrumental technique.
Center stage, under sporadic projections of Japanese characters and pulsing heart rate monitors, McIntosh shoots a smirk to Bains at stage right and then looks to Sloane at stage left before announcing the next selection in their set, BLVD’s first-written song, “Again in the Light.”
Wearing satisfied smiles, collard black shirts, and professional confidence, BLVD is nine years deep, three men strong, four albums produced, and thousands of fans deserved. With a reinvented sound full of energy, sophisticated attitude and just enough pop culture to keep critics on their toes, BLVD still holds electronic legacy to make fans– and even a ferocious honey badger– get down.
Tripp Bains on bass guitar at The Independent- 1/6/2012. Photo by: John Mortimer Photography
Dylan McIntosh on drums at The Independent- 1/6/2012. Photo by: John Mortimer Photography
BLVD at The Independent- 1/6/2012. Photo by: John Mortimer Photography