Tenderpunk pioneer .
Ok I’ll admit I had this show circled on my calendar for a long time- so long actually, that i nearly missed it. Weeknight concerts have a way of creeping up on you like that. Lucy Dacus- the Richmond native songwriter and one-third of indie supergroup boygenius who turned in one of the most critically acclaimed albums of last year, Historian, is the headliner tonight and justifiably top draw. But it’s Illuminati Hotties- dubbed “the best band you haven’t heard of” and gathering rave reviews across indie rock message boards for their live shows- that I really want to see. I want to see Tenderpunk in action.
Illuminati Hotties has an interesting origin. The project of Sarah Tudzin, a veteran studio engineer from Boston’s Berklee College Of Music with some serious credentials (the HAMILTION OST and acclaimed recent self titled album by shoegaze legends Slowdive among them), who turned singer/songwriter and moved to L.A. Her background comes through in the craft- her debut album, Kiss Yr Frenemies, but there are some well written album reviews out there. This is about the show.
As showtime for the opener gets closer, the majority of the crowd here for Dacus empty the bar and fill in the room as Tudzin and her crew take the stage- clad in matching white shirts and (what appears to be) red lifeguard shorts, and to a sinister sounding audio recording espousing the history of the famed ILLUMINATI. This definitely carries a feel of an act that’s been on a tour or four. Could they deliver?
Short answer is yeah, pretty much. Tudzin’s songs are explosive surf rock meets- Replacements style melodies that carry stories of the struggle of debts both financial and emotional, friends and exes. “The zipper’s broken on my favorite hoodie/At 24 I’m somehow making rookie mistakes” comes blasting out of the speakers, and way more cheerfully than one would imagine, during “Paying Off The Happiness”.The live versions of these songs adding a crunchier sound; Sarah’s got guitar chops, her band is tight, and the interplay with the crowd is fun (she asks what is one thing she should do while in town, the reply is about a dozen various BBQ joints to visit. We are southerners, Sarah. BBQ is vital.)
The only downside here is that Illuminati Hotties only have a single album of material- but with Kiss Yr Frenemies recently selling out of its first press run, I’m pretty certain this will be something that resolves itself as we get more from this band. “And I cuff my tshirt sleeves/And grit my teeth/How else can I tell myself, I can do most anything?” Tudzin delivers with a bomb drop of guitars at the peak of slow burn ballad “Cuff”- yeah well, I think the next “most anything” on the list will be headlining tours.
You can follow Illuminati Hotties on IG @illuminati.hotties *
You can also check them out on Bandcamp:
*Disclaimer: following them on IG will likely net you several daily follow requests from characters trying to get you to join “the real Illuminati”. It’s still worth it.