The Cedar Cultural Center is a truly beautiful place. I don’t mean the building (although it’s not too shabby), I mean more the atmosphere and the vibe. Basically fully run by volunteers, you walk into The Cedar and instantly feel comfortable and at home. I’ve been to a couple of shows there and, although always alone when there, I never feel completely alone and end up leaving with at least a couple new friends whether from the friendly volunteers or the always chipper audience members. Last night was no different but the style of show. Typically I get into the stage part of The Cedar and pick a seat towards the back. Last night the only chairs were a couple along the side. The rest of the venue was empty (other than the fans that had turned out early) and it really gave me a chance to appreciate what all this venue stands for. This eureka moment only lasted just that- a moment- as Peach Kelli Pop jumped right into their set promptly at 7:30.
Although I just saw Peach Kelli Pop at The Turf Club in June, I was beyond excited to have another chance to check them out. Their punk rock vibe was just what I needed to get through my Tuesday evening slump and they more delivered. Although the audience was still filing into the venue, they gave the audience that was there absolutely everything they had. I could recognize some songs from the last time I saw them which proves consistency but there was something more polished about their sound last night. Just like last time, I seemed to be completely captivated by Allie (the singer). There’s just something about the way she sings through a genuine smile that makes her impossible to not watch. Add her bubbly personality that seems to bubble over between songs as she jokes with the crowd and you are left with a set full of charm and fun. With only thirty minutes to perform, Allie and her bandmates played songs that set the mood perfectly for what was to come. Fast and dirty but fun and poppy, I only wish that PKP would have had longer so I could have heard more. But alas, there were still two bands to follow and with my looming 5:45 AM spin class, maybe the short set was a blessing in disguise.
Following PKP was a personal favorite of mine- Vundabar. Where do I even start with this trio. To call them quirky would be an understatement. Having seen them three times in just a little over a year, they never fail to keep me on my toes and keep a smile on my face. Singer Brandon Hagen took the stage in a way that only he could. If it was your first time seeing this group, you were busy trying to figure out if he was drunk or what drug he was on but, after seeing them a couple of times I’ve come to find out that this is literally just how he is on stage. Although he’s all fun and games and definitely makes the audience laugh with every odd sound and strange movement he makes, as soon as the trio kicked into a song, Brandon and the rest of the band shifted gears and gave the audience a next to flawless performance. Sure, there were still some random hoots and hollers that escaped from drummer Drew McDonald throughout the set that didn’t quite make sense or fit but that was just the personality of this band shining through.
Vundabar is one of those bands that, when I listen to them, I can picture them performing and I hear those quirks even though they aren’t there in the recordings. There’s something about Brandon and his personality that is just so strong that, once you see him perform, you will never listen to the band the same way again. There aren’t many bands that can do that so for such a young band with only a couple of albums out to have that kind of power is definitely impressive. Majority of the audience seemed caught off guard with Vundabar’s performance but I was definitely in my happy place as they powered through their quick forty-five minute set.
Closing out the already amazing night was the one and only Joyce Manor. Having taken the scene by storm, I’ve had the chance to catch these guys multiple times and I seem to fall more and more in love with them with every show. Hailing from California, Joyce Manor has a sound that seems to be somewhere in between pop-punk, indie rock, and good old fashioned rock n’ roll. Their music makes you want to bounce around a little bit and maybe even politely shove your neighbor while getting a little sweaty but not getting out of hand. That was the exact vibe of the young crowd as the band played through their set of new and old songs. It didn’t matter if they were playing a song from my favorite release “Never Hungover Again” which came out in 2014, or if they were playing a song from their newest album “Million Dollars To Kill Me” which just came out. There were plenty of people singing along to every word like their life depended on it.
Joyce Manor’s lyrics are honest and the banter between songs matched that. With singer Barry Johnson checking on the poor souls right in front of the stage surely getting their knees bashed into the low stage, there was a sense of community and love that seemed to fit perfectly with everything that The Cedar stands for. Whether you wanted to stand in front and let you knees get all kinds of bruised, or if you wanted to stand closer to the back and enjoy your reasonably priced drink, you felt like you were part of something special. That’s a feeling I wish every show had but it doesn’t happen often enough and it made last night a truly amazing show.
I was hesitant to go to a rock show at The Cedar Cultural Center. It seemed like an odd setting for such an upbeat and energetic show but the bands mixed with the atmosphere made for the perfect combination and a beautiful night.