Cure for Summer Blahs: A Not-So-Subtle Cindy

July 11, 2019 @ The Green Lantern

Last Thursday night, I found myself at a party--the raucous event that was the Cindy EP release show. I guess that’s what it was? At times, I felt like I was in someone’s parents’ basement--rather than at Lexington’s premiere dive bar--the Green Lantern. A pretty solid wave of male energy surged around the room, culminating in a spray of beer exploding from the middle of the sloppiest mosh-pit I’ve seen in awhile, like ten-year-olds just figuring that maybe hitting each other for fun was cathartic. That said, I had an absolute blast witnessing this spectacle, and I didn’t even get to see the whole show! After Lylak practice Thursday night, my bandmates and I went over to the Lantern, around 10:45pm.

There were four bands on the bill--Sean, Whalerus, Cindy, Townsel Turner--and Whalerus were jamming at full tilt by the time we arrived. What a pleasant, kick-ass surprise that they were on this bill! I was excited to finally get to see Whalerus, because Zane (guitar+vox), is one of our contributors here at We Saw Music. I’ve been hearing/reading good things about the band for a while!

Whalerus has got a weird punk punch like classic Weezer (I’m sorry if you are reading this and are triggered because I called Weezer classic--I was born in ‘91). Their amps are turned up to the high numbers, heights that make me realize my “rock band” may be a bit acrophobic on the volume scale. That said, there’s much more than a classic punk sensibility going on here. The fast+loud approach is tempered with sounds and grooves that feel solidly Southern, classic rock, especially present in Dylan Jeffery’s singing and guitar solos. Dylan absolutely SHREDS this prima-color Danelectro. I’d guess Dylan is in his mid-twenties, but his playing reminds me of those old guys who’ve played in gig bands for 40 years and can rattle off any famous rock solo you know, but faster and with ad-libs. “Dick Dale,” a song supposedly written as a tribute to the surf rock king, sounds more like Skynyrd than “Misirlou,” and might usurp the place of prominence held by the “Freebird” solo in my mind (for the time being, anyway). 

Whalerus has their sound locked in, as shown through the well-arranged, destined-for-radio hit “Figured Out.” They start it with a slow doo-woop feel (I asked myself, “Are they covering ‘Stand By Me?”) with great harmonies from Zane that give the band some extra-credit in my book--they know their rock history. After this intro, the song breaks down into a punky chorus that works as well for scream-along as any Weezer or Green Day track that can still rattle your cage. 

Towards the back half of their set, Dylan told the audience that he was going to play a new one, that neither Naz Taylor (bass) or Dean Tyler (drums) had heard before. Watching Zane lead Naz through the changes was cool, and Dean more than kept up, feeling Dylan’s energy shift and launching the song forward with heavy, driving rhythm. Whalerus is undoubtedly a team: they know their plays, they know how to communicate, and they can do it all at breakneck speed and incessant volume. Their set ended with Zane lying on the floor with the rest of their fan-crew, hammering out guitar licks to harmonize against Dylan’s.

Cindy’s time on stage showed they are a dynamic, relaxed, and powerful duo, although I did expect something more organized from a so-called “EP release” show (but...I’m a nerd). Josh Hutson (drums) and Bryce Benifield (guitar) were set far apart from each other on the stage, yet Cindy somehow brought everyone into the weirdness they were dishing out. Josh instigated most of this with self-deprecating banter or inside jokes, and Bryce seemed almost like he was along for the ride, maybe even proven powerless against Josh’s avalanche of absurdity. In my notes, I literally just wrote, “Wow,” then put my phone away for the rest of the night. Their energy level was insane, despite Josh complaining he was “too out of shape for this”--after repeating the pit-opening, crazy-tempo breakdown section to trash out their tune “Vent.” As the song suggests, beers (and shots of tequila) were brought out to fuel the players. 

Most of the time, I was unsure of what was going on. It was bliss, it was confusing. It was exciting to watch it all unfold. I couldn't decide if I wanted to try to stay out of the way, or jump in and get jostled around a bit. Is this what all of Cindy’s shows are like?? Most of the time, I was in awe that Bryce and Josh could sing with such dexterity and volume, all while throwing down this the entire wall of sound with just two players. While the EP shows the surfy and slightly-subtle side of Cindy, this show was one big adrenaline rush. With only one EP under their belt, Cindy rounded out their set with a few covers. First up was a meme-derived cover of Weezer’s “Undone”, with the opening lyrics exchanged for those of Smashmouth’s “All Star.” It was a fairly impressive experiment in brain/body independence (singing one song while playing another), but Bryce and Josh lit into it and their audience (me included) ate it up. At another point, Josh+Bryce led their adoring public into a jam out of the Skegg’s “New York California,” a rousing number with super singable, repeating lyrics: poking fun at all surf-punk songs that have ever been hits…

Goin down, to New York California.
I got my Coca-cola, and my cigarettes;

(If you’re not yelling those lyrics as you read, you’re not doing it right)

The guy-fans at this show really let loose, haphazardly moshing and dancing, taking off their beer-drenched shirts for most of Cindy’s set. They all had their arms around shoulders, singing along with the lyrics they knew, walking up on stage to hit the drums, grabbing the singer’s microphone... Towards the end of Cindy’s set, Dylan Jeffery walked up and kissed Hutson straight on the mouth, in a sign of mad respect and total elation.

I think Cindy’s set ended with more beer, shouts of “encore!,” and Josh and Bryce insisting they were out of songs, but honestly I can’t remember…it ended as it began: raucous, unorganized, and fun as hell. I found myself at this show kind of by accident, but it was exactly what I was looking for. It was something I needed to shake off those summer doldrums, remind me that I’m not old yet, and to get a dose of the blistering joy that comes with loud rock, joy that leaves a hum in your eardrums through the night and maybe into the next morning. 

Whalerus has released some live recordings, and is working on an official EP. These recordings, and The Essential Cindy EP, can be found on Spotify and other major streaming platforms. As Chris Boss says about Cindy in his review on Soft Shake, “Wherever you consume this essential listening, play it loudly.”

Elizabeth Varnado is a musician and writer living in Lexington, KY. She is a member of Lylak, the indie rock four-piece, and occasionally adds violin and vocals with other musical outfits in town. She is currently pursuing a PhD in ethnomusicology at the University of Kentucky, with research focusing on live music and music festivals.