Noise is a beautiful thing. Beyond the musicianship of the band, beyond my wild dancing, beyond the questionable soundwork, what I took away from the Crocodiles show is that chaotic, frenzied noise can be all you need to feel alive. At a certain point, I have to believe that the experience of feeling alive, or of feeling incredibly invigorated on a visceral level, is what live music is about. I’d be willing to bet most people aren’t there because that’s their heroes up on stage, but rather because it’s an inexplicably cathartic thing to be gut-punched by the gravity and intensity that live music induces in the body.
This is almost certainly how Crocodiles feel as well. The lights in the audience dimmed above the thirty or forty people who were actually there to reveal a blood-red lighting set up onstage, as three figures began dutifully pummeling at their respective instruments in an effort to create no other melody than noise. On the one hand, they had to wait for their drummer and lead singer to even climb onto the stage, but on the other there was something telling about how the show began, light show and all, with three friends causing a gigantic ruckus. There was no eye contact with the audience, and no eye contact with each other. There was only feeling and a disoriented wave of sound. Then, and only then, did frontman Brandon Welchez decide to join the party.
The band kicked it off with a faithful and energetic rendition of their breakout song “I Wanna Kill” from 2009’s Summer Hate, Welchez hugging the microphone stand and bouncing about as a good frontman might in between his lyrics. Welchez tows the fine line between bratty and passionate onstage, screaming obnoxious “WOO!”s into the mic during the midst of almost every song to the point where it became more annoying than exhilarating for me. In fact, no disrespect to Welchez, but at times his voice was rendered almost subordinate to the racket made by principal guitarist Charles Rowell and curiously enough the anonymous female keyboardist. The role of the keyboardist is an underutilized one in noise pop bands of Crocodiles’ breed, but for every melody she played with her right hand she worked an overdrive pedal with her left, constantly fluctuating her position in the mix from docile to fearsome as if to match Rowell’s marvelous flourishes. This interplay between Rowell and the keyboardist proved to be fruitful, bringing songs like the stunning closer “Mirrors” to points of sublimity with their penchant for flooding the speakers and submerging the entirety of the Congress performance room beneath their noisy waves.
To Welchez’s credit, the closer for the band’s record Sleep Forever, cleverly titled “All My Hate and Hexes Are For You,” was an absolute highlight due to his subdued and humble vocal performance. Of course when the song finished the band returned to its faithful guitar/keyboard team for another few stompers before closing their eight song set with “Mirrors.” In addition to being quite possibly the best song in the group’s canon, “Mirrors” was punctuated live by an additional three to four minutes of methodical single-chord strumming that rose from a buzz to an all-encompassing fervor. By the time the band had walked offstage, appropriately leaving behind their guitars to feedback into the amplifiers, it was difficult to say how much time had passed or what had just happened. All that was clear, in a most impressive way, was that this group of San Diego twenty-somethings are the latest in a line of musicians who are keen to just how affecting sheer noise can be.
While their records are certainly worth listening to, particularly their second record Sleep Forever, it’s understandably a different experience from seeing them live. The only thing to say is that next time you’re given the opportunity to see Crocodiles, especially in a small club setting where there is no escape from their aural attack, take it. In the meantime, here’s another live version of “Mirrors” (I assure you, nothing like the life-changing version they played last night) to tide you over.