It should come as no surprise by now that I REALLY love going to shows and here is another (not so) secret thing about me: I absolutely build my monthly work/life schedule around the shows I’m most excited about (since I also happen to mostly work nights but have the good fortune of being able to make my own schedule). So when I saw the flyer for this one, I was very excited indeed and made sure I was 100% clear for the night so I could be there. LAPÊCHE and Desert Sharks are two of my favorite bands, then add in Russian Baths, who had been on my list to see for a while, and you have the makings of a perfect show. LAPÊCHE has been touring throughout the fall on various dates and had been on a short run with Russian Baths; this was their homecoming show.
Desert Sharks kicked off the night and honestly, if you had closed your eyes for a moment, you might have been mistaken for being at a stadium rock show. A four piece once again with the addition of rhythm guitarist Cait Smith, the big riff energy and the wall of sound were in FULL effect. Additionally, Smith has now begun singing harmony/backup vocals which really added such a pleasant dynamic to the sound and played perfectly off of lead vocalist Stephanie Gunther’s potent alto. I’ve known them and have been going to their shows for several years now so I hesitate to say something was “missing” before, because I always enjoyed their sound and thought Gunther did a phenomenal job on her own vocally, but I suppose it’s just one of those things that now that it’s here you’re like “OHHHHHHH!” for a eureka moment. In any case, it sounds incredible and is a really wonderful addition. They also have begun writing new material and debuted a new song at the show much to my delight; I’m very excited to hear even more new material from them.
Russian Baths is a band that had been in my awareness for a while and I had been meaning to see but kept missing. I also admit I didn’t really listen to them ahead of time because I do like seeing bands live first if I can (though obviously this isn’t always possible) so I was coming into their set pretty green despite knowing of them for a while. They also happen to share two members with Activity (who I saw/shot last month, see pics here), drummer Steve Levine and guitarist Jess Rees. This project is for sure in a similar vein as far as being dark in tone, experimental and nuanced, but Russian Baths has a decidedly heavier sound and leans more towards noise. Certainly not a bad thing for me at all and despite being a punk at heart, I always love things that have a lot of texture to them. Since the show I have been digging in with their recorded output finally, starting with their 2019 debut album, Deep Fake, and will explore some of their older singles soon. I absolutely plan to make it out to more of their shows too.
LAPÊCHE is a band that I came to a bit later in the local scene, but once I heard them for the first time in 2019 when they opened for J. Robbins (which I covered for BrooklynVegan) I was absolutely hooked. They take the best of punk rock aesthetics and blend it with post punk and indie vibes, along with a good dash of shoegaze and alt rock in the mix to create the perfect sonic blend. Their album Blood in the Water was one of my favorites of 2021 (and not just because I had the honor of doing the insert photos, but because it is an incredible body of work) and touches on many themes. According to their Bandcamp:
“Blood in the Water, the second album by New York’s LAPÊCHE, walks the line between nature and nurture, objective reality and subjective perspective, joy and pain, suffering and hope, and addiction and sobriety.
Since 2016, singer and guitarist Krista Diem, her husband and bassist David Diem (of 12 Hour Turn), guitarist Drew DeMaio (Asshole Parade, Floor, Strikeforce Diablo), and drummer Jeff Gensterblum (Small Brown Bike, Able Baker Fox) have fused folk-inspired melodies with sonic backdrops inspired by punk aesthetics, DIY scenes, and basement shows. As they’ve blossomed from a singer with a backing band to a full-blown collaboration, their songs have found the power to dive deep while shining brightly, pushing toward personal growth as we collectively stare down the void.
I don’t really need to follow that up because the last line in particular sums up how I feel about the record and the band perfectly.
LAPÊCHE at Sultan Room
Since the record came out there have been some lineup changes and Gensterblum has departed the band. The last time I saw them play during the spring, they were joined by a fill-in drummer, but the band has now been completed with the addition of Richard Salino behind the kit; this show was my first time seeing the new lineup. While I did miss Gensterblum, who is a fantastic drummer, there is no doubt that Salino is also fantastic and very capably filled the role. He nailed all the parts in much the same way and being a drummer myself, I know this is not always easy, as we all have our own idiosyncrasies to how we play and it can be difficult to mirror someone else.
All in all this was a really awesome way to spend a Saturday night off, with great music and lots of friends. The house was pretty packed which is always wonderful to see, but in particular since there have been so many setbacks and uncertainties with live music, so I still don’t take it for granted whenever I get to go to shows. I never will again and nights like this re-enforce for me that none of us should.
Scroll down for pics of the show (photos by Kate Hoos)