The ascending Pittsburgh quartet Soda Club treated a hometown crowd to its lazy-Sunday brand of guitar-driven indie-pop on Saturday, peppering a highly danceable, hour-long set of originals with covers of 80s classics by The Violent Femmes, The Cure and, yes, Cyndi Lauper.
Dueling fronts Shay Park (on guitar and ukelele) and Jarrett Krause (on sax) stole the show with their playful vocal give-and-take; Park was particularly effective on songs like the set-closing ”Republican Girl,” where she cooed the vocals and joined drummer Mason Jaynes for a stop-and-start that underlined Krause’s sax bridges.
”Stone Soup,” where ukulele took center stage, featured incredible give-and-take on lead vocals from Park and Krause, calling to mind a more nuanced Beat Happening. (The fact that bassist Tosh Chambers clearly is more trained in the four-string department than some of his lo-fi pop forebears surely lent some dimension to the proceedings.) The ukulele also was downright riveting on ”Sleepwalking,” a Modest Mouse cover, where Park alternated between shuffling chords and carefully plucked notes, each stroke resonating more than the last.
Then there were the 80s covers. A funky bass line introduced ”Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” which drew quite a bit of dancing and lip-synching from the crowd, and the bright guitars on ”Just Like Heaven” drained some of The Cure’s inherent moodiness. (The sax didn’t hurt that, either.) ”Blister In The Sun” was a nice staple.
The real glow, though, was in the original material. On the enveloping ”Welcome Home,” when Park softly intoned ”I would go anywhere with you,” many in the audience probably wished she was talking to them; it was that enticing of a moment. And, contrary to its title, the drumline on ”Punk Song” actually called to mind early-era Beatles, though Ringo’s tea-towel-wrapped snare was replaced Saturday on Jaynes’ kit by a Sonic Youth t-shirt, which did an effective job of dampening the pop and keeping most of his rhythms a kind of jazzy, slithery pulse-beat.
It’s not often crowds get to catch a young band in Pittsburgh that’s still in its nascent stages but is developed beyond its tenure. Soda Club are an act for which you should keep on the lookout and Saturday’s set, really, only begs one question: what can we do to get these four in the studio for their debut?