When I saw that Boy Harsher was coming to Cat’s Cradle it felt surreal, like there’s no way that band was coming to that venue at this time. For the uninitiated, Boy Harsher is a darkwave artist, sort of on the edge of post-punk and electronic, and darkwave is a genre that I have been essentially submerged in this whole semester. Seeing one of my favorite darkwave bands in my favorite venue felt too good to be true, but no, it happened and it was awesome.
The opening acts did what all great opening acts should: got us moving and excited for what was to come while also leaving their mark on the show. Durham’s Permanent was someone I had wanted to see for awhile as they were at some shows I was really close to attending but couldn’t quite make, and they certainly lived up to the hype. As it was an opening act the crowd sadly wasn’t as energetic as they would be later which was a shame as Permanent really was going hard, with somewhat dissonant and chaotic synths that still came together with the drums to create an extremely danceable set.
Club Music, the second opener, kept the energy levels up and I liked the order because they felt like the perfect hybrid between Permanent and Boy Harsher, definitely bringing some darkwave as well as some traditional sounding, well, club music. They played on despite being on crutches and even incorporated it into the show by raising it in the air like they were leading a cavalry charge during some of the more powerful moments.
Then Boy Harsher was on, their arrival announced by completely filling the stage with smoke to the point where it (almost) concealed a guy’s vape in the front row. And through the murkiness came the first of many exquisite synth lines of their set. Vibes took center stage here, with an emphasis on echoey vocals and the feeling they imparted. The absolute peak of the show was this one ~30 second part where lead singer Jae Matthews kneeled and repeatedly screamed over almost ritualistic pounding drums in an incredibly memorable and bizarre sequence that captured what makes Boy Harsher so fun to listen to: taking sounds straight out of 80s synthpop and twisting them into something intriguing and sinister.
Joining Matthews onstage was the other half of Boy Harsher, Augustus Miller, who in addition to working various synths and MIDI controllers had a really cool electronic drum pad that he would occasionally turn to. Drums featured heavily in all of the songs but he would pull out the drum pad for specific moments when another dimension was needed such as the aforementioned ritualistic pounding, and the live performance of the drum in the middle of all these other electronic instruments was a great touch. Their chemistry was awesome, with their movements often synchronized and there were many moments where they just let the instrumental play while dancing.
While I knew I was going to like this show, I didn’t know going in that it would end up being one of my favorites I’ve been to yet. There was just something about the hypnotic way the evening rolled out, nonstop pounding drums and interesting melodies that combined with some amazing lighting choices (every show needs horizontally spinning lights from now on) truly made this an evening to remember.