Mikal Cronin walks onto the stage this past Saturday night [March 1] for the third time this week, settling into the right corner; a spot he’s apparently comfortable in, given that it’s his usual post when playing in (fellow Laguna Beach native) Ty Segall’s band. Tonight was Cronin’s night, however, and his first Noise Pop appearance this year as Segall was suspiciously absent from the roster — perhaps a result of his recent deflection from San Francisco to LA? Regardless, Cronin was joined by his eponymous band at The Chapel, who wasted no time on introductions as they broke into one of their signature clamorous surf-rock jams.
The crowd eagerly soaked in the band’s offerings throughout the course of the evening, thrashing along to the jangly guitars and getting down with the miry basslines for the nearly hour-long set. Even on songs whose refrains seemed rather redundant (like the underwhelming second of the evening “Situation”) there was no shortage of hair flying, both on and off the stage. Speaking of hair, though — the band has the game locked. The headbanging displayed by Chad Ubovich, Mike Anderson, and Cronin is the kind of stuff that would make even the most famously coiffed girl bands (ahem, HAIM) jealous, as they did it with such great fervor, intermittently draping their mics with long, stringy manes.
College-rock favorite “See It My Way” was the first song officially announced, though if the amount of people singing along was any indication, it was probably the one that least needed an introduction. The room was silent as the tempo slowed down before Cronin concluded, “No I’m alright/I’m coming home/and I will find a way,” before launching into the chorus that sent the crowd into a bouncing frenzy. Feeling the love coming off the last song, Cronin thanked the audience as the band began to play the opening chords of another hair-band anthem, “Back in Black” — thoughis was only a tease, to the dismay of fans who let out a resounding sigh as the band transitioned into one of their own songs.
The garagey-beach guitar was omnipresent and at times came across as formulaic, which is interesting, because it’s that very quality that takes attention away from the somber lyrics which are noticeably in discord with the upbeat melodies. In a way, the repetitive sound of the music almost acts like a cloaking device, masking the feelings of desolation in certain songs — like “Change,” for example, which goes, “I can’t climb the mountain all alone/I’ve been at the bottom for a long time/I’ve been waiting for the sun to set, the moon to shine/The day to change to night so I can fall.”
Cronin reappeared on the stage solo for the encore, playing “Don’t Let Me Go,” in one of the more emotionally exposed moments of the evening — even the lights made his sweaty face look like he had been crying — but it was an ephemeral moment, as the rest of the band took up their instruments and played a droney, spiraling, psych-riff laden version of Wreckless Eric’s “(I’d Go The) Whole Wide World” to close out their set. If nothing else, it was a finale that proved that, even though Cronin takes place at the side of the stage, he is indeed a front man.