8/6/14– SCATV

We were summoned. The small crowd of 20-somethings hurried to finish the last drops of wine in their plastic cups and follow Zoya, the marketer and promoter for Radclyffe Hall (and a musician in her own right), as she disappeared from the crowded room where we had gathered to eat, drink, and shmooze before the show.

Tonight’s “secret showcase” was an event exclusively for family, friends, and the media at SCATV in Union Square. It was also Radclyffe Hall’s first gig. The small, dark room where the band was set to play was empty — the musicians had yet to arrive. As the audience waited, they began to talk in small groups, some couples taking advantage of the near-darkness to steal a kiss.

Radclyffe Hall was a pleasant surprise, from their name (self-described as “both a literary reference and an affectionate nod to Beantown academic culture”) to their image. Dhy and Jaqui, wearing crop tops and jeans, flanked the stage with their synths. In the middle, Sean and Carl held their drumsticks at the ready. When the group kicked of the set with an original, a fellow listener looked over at me and grinned. “Not another Boston singer-songwriter, is it,” she said. It wasn’t.

The pulsing electronica was punctuated by the sharp drumbeats of the boys and the girls’ ethereal vocals. The sound, which the band describes as “dark pop,” was a hybrid of techno, pop and smooth soul. The drummers moved their whole bodies as they whipped their sticks with unharnessed enthusiasm, which balanced the suave demeanor of the female singers. However, what Radclyffe Hall will need to work on is harnessing that energy. The vocals often fell flat, and sometimes it seemed like the two lead singers weren’t quite in sync yet. It conjured up the image of a performance in a space with bad acoustics — the talent was there, but something was causing a disconnect between the performers.

Throughout the show, Dhy plugged the band incessantly. “Thanks guys,” she’d chirp in an upbeat voice that was an interesting contrast with her dark vocals. “If you like that song, you can get it for free. How are you going to do that? Well, if you like us on Facebook…”

“Okay, Billy Mays, we get it,” teased one of the drummers after the third plug. As a new band, it’s understandable that they would try to build their Internet following, but it seemed a little strange and excessive in a crowd full of family and friends.

The set ended surprisingly early, less than an hour before it had begun, and there was no encore. “You can see us again in September at our EP release,” Dhy said, laughing. “Now that you guys have been tortured enough, go drink the rest of our beer and wine.” The audience was happy to oblige.

We talked to Dhy after the show, and she was conscious of the unperfected elements of the performance. “We just need to focus on tightening it up,” she said. Radclyffe Hall has the talent and the charisma — if they can focus on connecting the elements of their sound and doing some fine-tuning when it comes to levels and pitch, they could be a very interesting new presence in the Boston scene.

Dark Pop: Radclyffe Hall
  • Image
  • Songwriting
  • Innovation
  • Pitch
  • Cohesiveness
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