“These guys sound like Nirvana backwards,” a guy said to me during Heatwarmer’s set Wednesday at Neumos.
He had a point, the way this band turns on a dime, changing keys and meters. But some of the crowd was singing along, which only goes to show how devoted a following this group has attracted.
Long a mainstay in the orbit of musicians that collect around the improvisatory Racer Sessions, Heatwarmer has been a favorite on the Seattle DIY scene. On Wednesday, the synth-pop quintet celebrated the release of its self-titled debut and kicked off a national tour with a rollicking, well-attended show that also featured the eclectic pairing of avant-jazz duo Bad Luck with the washed out surf-rock of La Luz.
Despite being a tour kick-off, Heatwarmer’s set felt much like a homecoming. Frontman Luke Bergman, known for his work in Seattle jazz circles, noted that he seemed to know most everyone in attendance. The band, which features catchy synthesizer work from keyboardist Aaron Otheim and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Swanson, summed up the genre-bending billing, smoothly darting in and out of sections that ranged from cheeky circus-music to arena rock anthems. The band pulled off its eclectic catalog impressively, easily cycling through styles, while showcasing Bergman’s intricate melodies between soaring synth solos.
Fans already excited for the new record were treated to even more fresh material, as the band debuted two songs completed since the record’s completion. The group also interspersed some older favorites, with the popular “Flavorite Sings” inciting the crowd to sing along to the trademark lyrics “The ocean has so many flavors/it makes you scurvy with fervor.” By the time the group closed out with the recent single “Keep Shining Through,” there were few in the crowd who weren’t exuberantly bouncing along.
Bad Luck, composed of saxophonist Neil Welch and drummer Chris Icasiano, jump-started the evening with a raucous set, with the virtuosic Welch taking his instrument to the limit with screeching high-notes and guttural, machine-gun attacks. For someone who has seen the pair many times in more traditional environments, the juxtaposition of their performance on the Neumos stage, more commonly home to dance beats and power chords, proved exciting if a bit strange.
La Luz, a last minute addition to the bill, brought precision to its mellow set. Preparing for a new release on Seattle’s Hardly Art Records, the quartet has honed its sound as it comes off a national tour and mainstay status at area festivals this summer, including Capitol Hill Block Party and Doe Bay.
On a day when temperatures sent many Seattle residents to the beach, the quartet’s surf sound fit right in, as well as providing the perfect link to the headliner’s sophisticated dance pop. “Call Me in the Day,” which features rolling background vocals and march-like drumming, was, as always, a crowd favorite.
With many concert bills today booked to highlight similarities, Heatwarmer’s night proved to be a refreshing and successful study in contrast.