By Malvina Rincón
It’s Monday, November 7th at The Echo in Los Angeles. Death Kit, One AM Radio, and Evan Voytas take the stage throughout the night. Their respective sonic, synth-pop, spacey tunes prove to be a good mix with the current act in residence, The Chain Gang of 1974.
As the vocalist and musical wonder kid, Kamtin Mohager is The Chain Gang of 1974. Having released his debut full-length album, ‘Wayward Fire”, earlier this year, Mohager takes the stage hidden behind his hair. In the darkness of the small venue, Mohager looks like a young Michael Hutchence, cloaking himself over the microphone, as he launches into the set with “Devil Is a Lady”. Immersing himself in the heavier sound of the melodies, his energy soon takes a clearer form and his hard-pounding delivery is reminiscent of Trent Reznor, as the intensity of the song increases. Despite its dark overtones, the song has a poppy, dreamy break, which progresses into the band’s set.
Upon first hearing songs like “Matter of Time”, “Teenagers”, and “Heartbreakin’ Scream”, there is an immediate connection to the New Wave bands of the 80s, like Echo and the Bunnymen, the Psychedelic Furs, and OMD. The synth-heavy sound, mixed with the catchy jangly-guitar hooks has the small crowd bobbing their heads and some of the more motivated attendees, full-on dancing towards the front of the stage. The projection playing behind the band could have easily been a montage of John Hughes films.
At one point, a request to take off his shirt is directed at Mohager. He greets it with a smile, but it almost seems as if it may not be the first time he’s been met with such a request. The truth is that although Mohager doesn’t exude the sexuality of a more seasoned frontman, one can’t help but imagine that it’s only a matter of time before the bra flinging ensues, if it hasn’t already. Although Mohager certainly offers an eye-catching performance with his intense delivery and spontaneous dancing, his live band isn’t stagnant. The band provides an energy that pairs well with Mohager’s. The frontman interacts with the band throughout the set, which seems to energize each of the members as they dance in place and groove to the beats and rhythms of their own making.
As the set starts to wind down, Mohager offers a personal reflection on his home city of Denver before assuring the crowd that “There’s nothing like L.A.” The crowd approves of this statement and the band soon goes into “Stop,” which has an air of something from the brain of one of L.A.’s native sons, Beck. It soon turns into something that validates where the LCD Soundsystem comparisons come from. The unhurried grooves and monotone vocals are surprisingly upbeat and have the crowd moving around to find a better spot to dance. The mood soon changes as a slow and dreamy landscape fills the venue. The Jesus and Mary Chain come to mind. Yes, the ‘80s comparisons continue, but Mohager manages to take it past comparison. “Don’t Walk Away” is a modern love song tinged with nostalgia. The crowd seems to be thinking the same thing as they sway to the beat, but before there’s time to sentimentalize, the song is over and Mohager is thanking the crowd. The band ends their set with their best known song. A mix of Cut Copy and The Bloody Beetroots (Don’t believe me, just listen to the last minute of the song), “Hold On” is the undeniable hit for The Chain Gang of 1974. The crowd is dancing and even though the venue isn’t at capacity tonight, I wouldn’t be surprised if on the last Monday of The Chain Gang of 1974’s residency the Echo might have to call in the fire marshall.
The Chain Gang of 1974’s residency at The Echo in Los Angeles runs through every Monday in November.