The last time I remember the Turf Club being so packed and abuzz on a weekday night was when the guy previously billed in town as “Ben Iver” performed there (coincidentally with Roma di Luna as an opener). Last night, at least one attendee was similarly saying how excited she was to see “Po-leek-ah.”
Since all the hype around Poliça (“po-lisa”) is still largely and deservedly based on who’s involved in it, there was really no telling how well the band would go over at its first local headlining gig. Nobody knew the songs, except a modest familiarity with the pair posted online. Nobody who was a Roma di Luna fan could expect just how electrified and Auto-Tuned former RdL singer Channy Casselle sounds in this new group. And nobody had ever truly seen a band like this, with two monstrous drummers (Digitata’s Drew Christopherson and Marijuana Deathsquads’ Ben Ivascu), a bassist who plays as melodically and fluently as a guitarist (Vampire Hands’ Chris Bierden), an angelic-voiced singer, a lot of pre-programmed electronics and nothing more.
The 55-minute set started with the slow, hypnotic, fuzzy whir of “Amongster,” also the opening track on Poliça’s unreleased debut album. More so than on record, the song crescendoed powerfully into crashing drums and circuit-blowing noise as Channy delivered a sort of operatic chant. Pretty much a wow moment right off the bat.
There were several more of those later in the show, but with the crowd now firmly hooked, the band proceeded to churn out some of its more subversive, moodier, slow-thumping tracks, including “I See My Mother” and one of the two online tracks, “Dark Star.” The latter turned out to be absolutely mesmerizing in concert, with an extra rhythmic oomph and a passionate display of Casselle’s seductive, smoky, vaguely Nina Simone-like singing. There was a bolder and more overt touch of jazz in the one “new song” – new, as in it’s not on the record that’s not even out yet. A true reason to be excited by Poliça’s future: That song sounded far different than anything that is on the first record.
“You’ll have to keep these songs ringing in your ears until the album comes out,” Casselle told the crowd toward the end of the set, almost apologizing that it still doesn’t have a release date. Aside from the newer tune, the album was pretty well played in order. That set up a strong 1-2 wallop of a finish with the ethereal rocker "Wandering Star" and the stormy finale “Leading to Death,” which was way more explosive than on record. Also different, Casselle’s voice actually sounded less modified and Auto-Tuned than it does on the album (a good thing, I’d say).
One other reason to be excited by Poliça’s prospects: As impressive and infectious a showing as this one was by a band still in its infancy, I spent a lot of Monday’s set imagining what the music would sound like if and when the quartet adds a guitarist or live keyboardist or even a horn section (the latter of which seems inevitable, for some reason). Whatever happens, I’m more excited for the third, fourth and fifth albums than I am the first record -- even though the debut should have no trouble igniting the excitement already lit by these initial live shows.
Click here for a photo gallery from the concert.