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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 28, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 04
Secret Shoppers turn head colds into hotness
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Secret Shoppers turn head colds into hotness

by Rahul K. Gairola - SGN Contributing Writer

Secret Shoppers
January 19
Neumos


It's not often, if ever, that the principle vocalist of a local synth duo is described as 'Robyn onstage with the haircut and oversized shirt.' But this is one of many quirky descriptors of Evan Rodd, vocalist of local Queer synth pop duo Secret Shoppers, offered by concertgoers after last week's show at Neumos. Consisting of Rodd and electric guitarist Garrett Vance, the pair has made an explosive debut on the Queer club circuits of Capitol Hill. The innovative fusion style seemed to permeate the stage they shared last Wednesday night with MK Speed Dial, White China Gold, and PonyHomie.

Secret Shoppers cannot be pinned to a solitary style, which is perhaps a good - no, great - thing that might provide insight as to why Rodd has been compared to Swedish pop icon Robyn. His look blurs the boundaries between genders and nationalities as the combined orchestration between his voice and Vance's strums defies conventional musical forms even as it re-shapes them. This blurring of the scene came to life when the pair mounted the stage as smoky silhouettes bathed in cool-colored lights. Commencing with 'It's Confidential,' Vance's soaring guitar hooks were punctuated by Rodd's epic vocals after he greeted the audience with, 'Hi, kids! I have a cold, but I don't care - we are punk rock.'

What was immediately evident to me as they launched into 'Eating Before Swimming' and 'The Creeps' was the way that the music merged with the atmosphere. The former song's heavy drumbeats were propelled by synthetic thrusts that slithered from the recesses of the fog. Both musicians dominated different sides of the stage: Vance's passionate guitar seemed to collide against the primal angst of Rodd's vocals and lyrics. Though either musician was positioned at opposite ends of the stage, the gulf between the two was filled by lights, sounds, and fog that set an eeriness about the venue that is trademark of better-known, electronic music duos like MGMT and Empire of the Sun.

Cranking up the intensity a few notches, Secret Shoppers launched into a song titled 'Reptile House' while awash in red lights that visually signaled danger. These red lights bled into the next song, for which the color red is most appropriate. 'This is a really new song - we have only played it three times,' exclaimed Rodd. 'It is about how socialism needs to hurry the fuck up and get here.' Rodd's passionate vocals matched to the desperation of Vance's guitar, and the pair was highlighted by flickering green lights that pierced the red overlights, creating an eerie lighting effect that suggested conflict between capitalism's greenback and the blood of Socialist ideals.

The show ended with 'Circa 1984' and the band's first single, 'Genie,' whose video was shot by local filmmaker Alex Berry. This spacey electronic anthem is also featured on an EP that the duo plans to release in the near future. Perhaps what is most striking about the music and live shows that Secret Shoppers stage is not just that Rodd and Vance are talented newcomers on the local scene of Queer music and culture, but that they are invested in the kind of social and political stakes that actually mean something to Queer people the world over. If this is what Rodd and Vance sound like when suffering from a cold, then let's hope they remain 'sick' for a long time, and let us get ill with them.

Secret Shoppers play with Noddy on February 18 at Pony, which reached capacity at their last show there.

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Lights, camera, Oscar party at Purr!
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Secret Shoppers turn head colds into hotness
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