Most of the time when I love a band, you know it; I can’t shut up about them. I mean, if you have missed my capital-F Feelings about Frank Turner, you are just not paying attention. (Spoiler alert: I love Frank Turner.)
But I’m genuinely unsure if there’s anyone out there, honestly anyone, who knows the depths of my feelings about Centro-matic, the deep and scary and honest ones, because people who love me know I love Will Johnson and his prolific songwriting output, but I don’t think that I have ever bothered to verbalize that it’s not just love, it’s teenybopper honest-to-God awe mixed in with the love and the grief and the heartbreak and the hope that Will’s songs brings me, every time I listen to them. They opened last night’s show at the 506, touring in support of the just-released Candidate Waltz but of course with almost two dozen recordings to the band name, with the staggering “Love You Just The Same”, which is one of my all-time favorite Centro-matic songs, and I started off the evening crying in gratitude; how Will knew I needed to hear that song then, I don’t know, but it was wonderful.
Centro-matic is a disgustingly dynamic band on stage; all of Will’s songwriting is incredibly powerful, and it’s all pinned down by Matt Pence’s phenomenal drumming. They would be great without him, but with Pence, who drums with Animal’s fierceness and a containment that’s rare in drummers that powerful, they are otherworldly. Clea and I stood in front of Will, but on the corner of the stage I had a clear view straight to Pence the whole time, and I couldn’t help staring at him for most of the show. You know I love drummers, and Pence is probably my favorite working drummer to watch right now. He never makes a wrong move, and it’s all so fantastically metronomic and shuddery.
(For those of you who don’t know, Matt Pence also happens to be a phenomenal photographer who’s one of my big photographic idols, and he spent most of the opening set crouched down by my knees taking video and shooting. Disconcerting, to say the least. But lovely to watch him work.)
They blew threw an hour long set without a wasted second or a missed note, a set full full full of old favorites — “Calling Thermatico” is about a comic book character Will wants to draw someday! “All These Flashes And Cables” is still my favorite Centro-matic song by 16 miles and I cried at that, too! — and a bunch of stuff of the new album, which is even darker and less poppy than the album itself, and the crowd was quiet and spellbound for all of it. Gorgeous, life affirming, religious.
Sarah Jaffe, who I knew nothing about before this set, opened — David Bazan, formerly of Pedro the Lion, headlined, but I skipped out on his set for reasons to be disclosed later — and she absolutely blew me away. Her voice is huge, her songwriting is catchy in a slippery, clever way, and her band was tight as hell and fun to watch. She doesn’t sound like anybody else I’ve ever heard, and I’m incredibly excited to dig into her catalog.