The marquee of the Fonda Theater promoting Calpurnia's show on June 23 (Photo by Ashley Ramynke)
El Modena High School

Concert Review: Canadian indie-rock band Calpurnia reinvents the teenage dream with release of debut EP “Scout”

On the outskirts of Hollywood Boulevard, Canadian indie-rock band Calpurnia played a sold out headlining show at the Fonda Theatre, a mere eight days following the release of their debut EP “Scout.” The band, composed of Netflix original series “Stranger Things” star Finn Wolfhard (lead vocals, guitar), Ayla Tesler-Mabe (vocals, guitar), Jack Anderson (bass, keyboard) and Malcolm Craig (drums), range from ages 15 to 17, and amongst the stress of teenage life have found a haven in indie-rock.

Integrating the sound of contemporary indie band Spendtime Palace and fellow Royal Mountain Records artists Mac Demarco, with the psychedelic rock of the Beatles and the pop rock of Weezer led to the birth of their six song EP produced by Cadien Lake James of Chicago rock band Twin Peaks. The EP released on June 15 reached mainstream success with accolades from Billboard and NME, and mass ticket sales for stand alone shows in Los Angeles, New York, Seattle and Massachusetts.

With a maximum occupancy of 1,200, an eclectic collection of teenage girls fitted in “Stranger Things” merchandise, supervising parents, trendy Angelenos and new wave punk kids fled into the floor level and balcony of the historic 1920s venue awaiting opening act, Costa Mesa, Cali. indie band Spendtime Palace. Last July, Wolfhard starred and co-directed, alongside filmmaker Josh Ovalle, Spendtime Palace’s video for the lead single off their EP under the same name “Sonora,” which led to the bands’ musical collaboration.

The half-an-hour period between sets contained chants led by members of Spendtime Palace and ear-piercing screams of fans at every tune of an instrument behind the closed curtain. Beginning two minutes late in typical rock and roll fashion, the curtain opened and the drums built anticipation before Wolfhard yelled “Let’s get kooky and random,” immediately transitioning to the vocals for “Wasting Time.”

The stage decorated with a black background and a miniature marque that read “HI LA! WE ARE CALPURNIA” rested on an array of amps and added to the laid-back minimalistic aesthetics of the band with Wolfhard fitted in a vintage Beatles t-shirt, Tesler-Mabe in red high-waisted bell bottoms, Anderson in a patterned button down and Craig with his long curly locks.

Continuing with songs off the EP, the integration of dynamic guitar and bass jamming alluded to this hybrid of modern indie and classic groovy rock that has defined Calpurnia’s sound. To add to the small catalog of songs, the band performed covers of “Where Is My Mind?” by the Pixies and “El Scorcho” by Weezer. Coming full circle as these were songs played at their first Los Angeles show.

Closing out the setlist, Tesler-Mabe commanded the stage with the melodic, sad beach ballad “Waves” that provoked the audience to sway in a trance-like state. Exiting the stage, the band reappeared from the wings less than a minute later and performed a cover of “Wanted You” by Twin Peaks, a historic song for the band as it was the first cover they posted to YouTube as Calpurnia.

Stopping between songs to make humorous remarks, like Wolfhard’s, “Who’s a surfer in here? *mild roar* Not as many people as a thought,” and the actions of throwing water and attempting to return a fan’s shoe, demonstrated the light-hearted energy of this band; that is almost every teenager’s dream to play in a band, record an EP with one of your favorite artists and sell out a show in the mecca of fame and fortune.

Though on the brink of becoming teenage rocks gods, lead single and closing song “City Boy,” depicts the continuous teenage cycle of falling in love and not feeling adequate. The poppy melody and simplistic lyrics transcend Calpurnia from a band that is literally and figuratively put on a stage to genuine young teenagers in pursuit of perfecting the modern indie-rock sound.

Setlist:

  1. Wasting Time
  2. Greyhound
  3. Louie
  4. Blame
  5. Where Is My Mind (Pixies Cover)
  6. El Scorcho (Weezer Cover)
  7. Waves
  8. Wanted You (Twin Peaks Cover)
  9. City Boy

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