By AlternativeNation.net Reader LJ Marchica
Review of Sleeper Agent at The Irenic, San Diego, CA, April 29, 2014
Approaching The Irenic in the North Park neighborhood of San Diego, I noticed a particularly eclectic group of characters a few blocks away. I strolled inside after being handed a free Sleeper Agent sticker and coaster from two smiling greeters and got my first look at one of the areas most debated venues.
Part of a church, this auditorium hosts a variety of shows with a professional-grade sound system. Immediately in front of the stage is a slightly elevated crescent-shaped dance floor allowing the performers’ sweat to hit you, without a barricade to get in the way. The result is a more intimate club vibe.
Being an all-ages show, I noticed many young high-schoolers in the crowd, along with college kids and aging hipsters rounding out the mixture. The show began at around 7:00pm, and unfortunately, I did not make it in time for Pagins, the opening group which ended its set before 7:30.
The next act, Holychild, took the stage at 8:00pm. A relatively new band, fresh off of the release of their debut EP, Mindspeak emerged with explosive energy. The female lead vocalist, wearing a long, flowing white dress, jumped, crawled, and climbed across the stage like an 80s-era Madonna. The three other band members pounded primal drums, often all at once, on a huge and continuous “U” shaped kit stretching from one side of the stage to the other. Interestingly, all members, singer included, would share job duties on their respective synths, making for a hulking quantity of decibels. Toward the end of their set, Sleeper Agent, donning various animal masks, joined them on stage to pound away on drums. Their sound was unique but echoed somewhere between Foster the People and Sleigh Bells and thanks to the showcasing of their talents as a live band; I am looking forward to hearing an LP soon.
Next up was the headliner, Sleeper Agent. Just before they took the stage, comic Doug Benson suddenly emerged from the backstage area and meshed into the crowd. As the band began to take their places, I recognized them as the same people I had seen wandering the surrounding neighborhood before the show!
While the performance was itself excellent and powerful, one small annoyance, a matter of contest particular to The Irenic itself was that the acoustics were becoming lost in a jumble. When close to the stage, it was difficult to hear the dueling vocal harmonies that the group is known for. The band mentioned after the first song that the on-stage monitors were not audible which may have been responsible, and I noticed toward the rear of the venue, the sound was sharper.
The set was a solid mixture of hits from their 2011 LP Celebrasion, in particular, overwhelming audience sing-along dominated “Force a Smile”, “Get it Daddy”, “Be My Monster”, and “Far and Wide”. New songs from their current record, About Last Night, filled the rest of the set, with an instant crowd favorite being “Waves”. With the setlist visible, I counted seventeen songs and before the final four, they surprised the crowd and added another from the new album, bringing the total to eighteen. For the finale, all members of the two opening bands crept onto the stage in a conga line; banging triangles, tambourines, cymbals, and cow bells, and continued to dance and play through the end of the show with everyone present dancing and rocking until the last note.
Afterwards, members of all bands, and Doug Benson, hung out, and were available for pictures and chatting with fans. It is a quality that many bands lack nowadays.