HOBOKEN, NJ—I first discovered the surf rock sound of The Raveonettes while making my way to New Jersey’s underground live music venue, The Meatlocker, back in 2007. A bunch of filthy punk kids—including myself —crammed into a heatless, rickety and rundown Honda on an arctic winter night to catch a performance of local punk rock band Blanks ‘77. While rattling down the quiet streets of Montclair, “Dead Sound” (off of The Raveonettes’ Lust Lust Lust album) sulked through the speakers of the radio. The ballad filled the car’s frosty air with FM static noise, distorted guitar fuzz, and ghostly vocals. I recall coming to this profound conclusion: “This band…I like this band.” Shame on me, as I never made the time to check out more of their music after this experience.
Two years later, The Raveonettes and I crossed paths again when I attended the first stop in the North American tour for the Danish duo’s latest creation, In And Out Of Control, at Maxwell’s on Oct. 13. The Raveonettes— consisting of guitarists and vocalists Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo—have several releases under their belts, including Chain Gang Of Love and Pretty In Black. The new album (released on Oct. 6) has garnered rave reviews, which made me uber excited to see the band despite the gig’s late start time of 11 p.m. on a weekday work night. (Yeah, I know. Worrying about my sleepy time after the show? I’m dusting off my granny panties as we speak.)
As it turned out, the show actually started at midnight. At 11 p.m., a chain of concertgoers lined up outside of the venue’s closed doors and listened as the band performed sound checks on the other side. As the access ways were opened, I elbowed off overzealous fans trying to cut their way in line to catch a good spot up front, which actually wasn’t necessary since about only 50 people attended the performance.
But the wait was worth it as The Raveonettes started off the show with “Gone Forever,” a track off of their new release. The gentle purring of the duo’s guitars filled the room with vibrations of love and magic. Calling upon the singing technique of 1950s rockabilly band The Everly Brothers (one of my favs), Wagner’s and Foo’s harmonies collided in a peppermint swirl of flavor for the second number, “Do You Believe.”
Plumes of marijuana smoke hovered atop the audience’s heads as Foo and Wagner exchanged bashful glances and beat on tambourines for the start of “Break Up Girls.” The ballad about douchebag boyfriends and the girls who love them sounded extra threatening as Foo muted some the strings on her fret board with her palm, causing the single notes she plucked on her electric guitar to sound like muffled screams. The beautiful noise triggered bodily movements from the crowd, with one couple swing dancing to the left of me and a guy grinding against the air to the right.
Foo switched places with the percussion department for several tracks. Utilizing a “play while standing” drum set that consisted of only a floor tom, snare and cymbal, she produced deep, brooding pulses with mallets for “The Beat Dies” and finger-snapping beats with drumsticks in “Heart Of Stone.” The bass made up for the lack of a complete drum kit, keeping the tempo popping and the melody moving.
After playing a lovely cover of “All I Have To Do Is Dream” by The Everly Brothers, The Raveonettes played three encores before the night was over, including “Aly, Walk With Me.” As the band made their final exit off the stage, members of the crowd drunkenly slurred “We wants shum more” with phony Oliver Twist English accents (the group is Danish, by the way).
“Their music is psychedelic and pop mixed into one,” said the air grinding super fan when spoken to after the show. “It makes me want to sit back, smoke something, and contemplate the mysteries of life.”