Describing an experience as one that “renews your faith in rock and roll” is as overplayed as it is unhelpful, even if it rings particularly true. For Los Angeles-based quintet Modern Eyes, a recent sold-out headlining show at the Troubadour wasn’t so much an act of persuasion towards the vitality of rock, but rather a disruption to the idea that the genre has ever been endangered.
On their second official outing on August 3rd, Modern Eyes headed up a bill of talented, fresh young acts including fellow locals Dysplay, Saticoy and Zoe Zobrist for an evening that introduced a force to be reckoned with. Embodying the presence and energy of an acclaimed, professional and well-traveled outfit, the band ripped through a series of original songs with such effortless style that one would be hard pressed to find any hints of sophomore show jitters.
Performing songs from their string of releases of singles over the course of 2019 as well as material yet to be released, Modern Eyes’ original compositions fit in just as well as they do with their re-imagined cover of LCD Soundsystem’s “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House.” That is to say, there’s seemingly no divide between the band’s interpretation of what we now define as the new alternative classic and brand new material that fits right in the same oeuvre. Sure, the reverence for the band’s inspiration and forefathers is present, but it never clouds their ability to deliver on something fresh and thoughtful, something that lead single “Conversations Kill” perpetuates from its opening moments.
Vocalist and guitarist Andy Groke, vibrant as ever, prowls around on stage as if he’s been treading the boards of a Hollywood residency for decades. Dressed in a Ziggy Stardust inspired outfit and frequently armed with a exuberant red and white Rickenbacker, Groke’s reverence for an era of rock long past is ever present without overshadowing his evident affinity towards musical futurism. Like Bowie himself, Groke is fluid between decades, inhabiting several at a time without losing himself to a committal of just one. Groke is particularly virile on “Burn The Witch,” the most recent single, a burning effigy of wood and straw ready to come down on the uninitiated masses with a blow of earthen power.
Confronting the sound in a dueling strings scenario, guitarist and vocalist Troy Ambroff and bassist Joseph Pertusati hold down the jams as pillars of rock (both literally and figuratively) adding a brand of secret-language piquancy that only two life-long friends and long-time collaborators can.
Ambroff, a highly accomplished figure in the industry and musician in his own right, plays the proverbial dark side of the stage, thrashing around and incorporating a background of punk, funk and hip-hop sensibilities. Ambroff is reminiscent of peak Lenny Kravitz era rock with a completely audacious and ambitious approach to his sledgehammer tonality.
On the lighter, though equally gifted side of Modern Eyes is Pertusati, who lets his inner Michael Shuman out over a stampede of notes thought otherwise unachievable on four strings. Pertusati becomes his share of the rhythm section himself, transforming into a living embodiment of the bass lines that he executes with precision and expertise.
Credit, of course, must also be served to Modern Eyes drummer Edgel Groves Jr. (who has arguably one of the finest names in rock) for his commitment to perfect pace and the ability to code switch between real emotion and feeling. Lest we not forget synth player Tim Ozer who lends the band the ability to reach that euphoric Los Angeles sound with a gentle yet confident nuance of the new guard.
As a rule, new talent very rarely comes off as such a seasoned and presentable group with a clear idea of what they need you to know. Modern Eyes is an exception to this rule as well as many others to come.