Surfaces lead singer Forrest Frank and ukelele player Colin Paledecki share the stage. (Photo by Jennifer Woo)
Orange County School of the Arts

Concert Review: Surfaces fill El Rey Theater with refreshing energy

Just six days before Christmas, hundreds of people lined up around the perimeter of the historic El Rey Theatre in the heart of the Miracle Mile waiting to see this Texas-based band in an intimate venue.

With 3.6 million monthly listeners and 138,000 followers on Spotify in just two years, Surfaces makes the kind of music that you listen to while cleaning your room or while taking a breath of fresh air on a sunny day.

Their album covers have a unique pastel pop art style and they infuse their music with good feelings and bubbly energy.

The band has some R&B and jazz influence, and their music is often compared to Rex Orange County and Khalid, but also has a driving pop music rhythm. And of course, happy melodies and good feelings.

When we arrived at 6 p.m., a line of mostly teenage girls in their Brandy Melville tops wrapped around the perimeter of the building. Flashes of iPhone camera lights constantly flickered from girls taking Snapchats of themselves in front of the marquee.

This was not the crowd I had expected, but I was also one of those teenage girls taking photos in front of the theatre, so I’m not really one to speak.

The floor quickly filled up as people flooded through the doors, rushing to try to get a front row spot. El Rey Theatre, whose original purpose was a movie theater, was deep but very narrow, so not very many people were able to snatch a spot up front.

Conrad Hsiang, known professionally as Public Library Commute, opened for the band with a short and sweet 30-minute performance.

Cramped shoulder-to-shoulder on the floor, we bopped to Hsiang’s mellow music that none of us knew the words to. Hsiang’s songs were separated by him turning around to hit play on his next track on his MacBook while the audience gave a few hoots and cheers.

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After a 30-minute break, the audience, exhausted from standing on the packed floor, suddenly came back to life when the curtains opened and Surfaces members, Forrest Frank and Colin Paledecki came bouncing out and running around the stage to greet their screaming fans.

The duo was accompanied by saxophonist and musician, Lito Hernandez, who recently played for Kanye West in his Sunday Service Coachella performance. Hernandez stole the show with his occasional saxophone solos and his keyboard jams.

Paledecki, who sings backup and percussion had his spotlight moments too, and stole the show with a cowbell solo.

Surfaces filled the 771 person capacity theater with their incredible stage presence that undoubtedly put a smile on everyone’s face.

“It really doesn’t matter what happens to us, because we know at the end of the day there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” they said during the concert.

The band incorporates light motifs into their music, as seen in “Where the Light is” and “Shine on Top.” On their band blog, Paledecki said, “in a room full of darkness… I found the light within myself.”

Both Paledecki and Frank carry this incredible sense of carefree youth and playfulness, but at the concert, I found myself drawn to their connection to life and humanity, and to all of the amazing messages they had to share.

Even Surfaces’ only sad song, “Low,” was introduced by Frank explaining how when him and Paledecki were going through a tough time in their lives, their support for each other and love for music got them through it.

Surfaces packed their best songs into a surprisingly short 1-hour set, but made each song count with a high energy performance. There was never really a dull moment in the show, and it definitely kept the audience engaged.

After an hour of playing their vibey hits back-to-back, Frank announced they’d play their newest single “Bloom.” The response was a mix of cheers for the song and gasps that the show was over.

After playing their high energy hit, they exited the stage, and in classic concert fashion, the crowd chanted, “Surfaces” and “Sunday Best,” which was one of Surfaces biggest hits that they hadn’t played.

Just as the crowd had hoped, Frank and Paledecki came bouncing back onstage and a wave of cheers from the audience filled the room.

I tried to take a video on my phone of the song, but when I went to rewatch it, it was just a blur of what looked like a 8.0 California earthquake and the sound of me and my friends screaming at the top of our lungs.

The energy in the room was refreshing and the messages of optimism and positivity in Surfaces’ music reverberated through the room. The El Rey Theatre was filled with, as the Beach Boys’ song says “good vibrations.”