My initial introduction to Generationals came about because of a well placed needle-drop on HBO’s debut season of Girls. Generationals has had an insane amount of widespread success in much bigger ad campaigns (ads featuring “TenTwentyTen”, “Exteriorstreetday”, and “When They Fight, They Fight” come directly to mind), but I was inducted into fandom during Jessa’s first dance at her *spoiler alert!* wedding */end spoiler alert* set to Generationals’ “Yours Forever” – a sugary-sweet synth-pop ode to devotion in its most innocent form… Jessa and her husband are divorced by the end of Season 2. Hah. Get it?
For a band who formed less than 10 years ago, it’s a testament to their discography that there’s not a single bad release under the Generationals’ belt: Four full-lengths, two very solid EPs and a trio of recent 2017 singles that all succeed at eclipsing mediocrity. Eclipsing mediocrity, however, doesn’t necessarily bode well for complete and total domination of the airwaves. Luckily, based on the Generationals’ performance last night at Teragram Ballroom, I don’t think total domination of the airwaves is necessarily what this New Orleans duo is aiming for. Ted Joyner and Grant Widmer, the two core members, are never going to be household names. Neither is Generationals. But it doesn’t seem like the members of Generationals truly care – they’re having fun and surviving. Living the indie rock music dream while it lasts.
Nowhere was this more evident last night than the rousing rendition to fan favorite “Lucky Numbers” – a glitzy sonnet-esque track about relationship ignorance – when the entire live act finally took shape. Joyner relaxed his goddamn shoulders, Widmer regained vocal confidence – and the vibes started flowing full-force. It took a while to get to this point, sadly, with some of the band’s more mediocre tracks gumming up the works at the outset of the concert. But once Generationals realized they had a rapt audience that just wanted to vibe-the-week-away, the whole venue started returning the good energy.
What has always made Generationals stand out, in my mind, is their musical competency. Both Joyner and Widmer are clearly well-versed in the trappings of 50s/60s/70s/80s pop rock, as well as up-to-date concerning the musical trends and explorations of upper-echelon contemporaries such as Passion Pit, Neon Indian and MGMT. Generationals possess a dominion over their tracks that most live acts can’t seem to grasp in this day and age. It’s especially impressive considering the concert took place on a Friday evening in LA – perhaps the worst night to try and keep a crowd engaged in The City of Angels.
The highlight of the evening came when Generationals treated the crowd to two of their more highly recognizable (and structurally experimental) tracks back-to-back before finishing off their initial set. “Put a Light On” – a glittery, bass-driven, schizophrenic tizzy about risk vs reward – straight into the bands’ lead track off their debut album “Nobody Could Change Your Mind” – a Cake-influenced track about a particularly stubborn lass. Moments like this, as fun as they were, made me realize just how unaware Generationals are of what they could achieve live if they would consider hiring some local horn players to make this track come fully to life – you’re in Los Angeles for god’s sakes and the songs aren’t difficult to master… — but, again, it genuinely adds to Generationals’ odd, laissez-faire persona.
Look, if you came in blind to this concert, you were going to be disappointed. Generationals are storytellers first and foremost and, vocally, they’re not the most talented live – so if you don’t know the lyrics ahead of time, you’re probably inclined to dislike this performance. That said, they match their simple yet seductive lyrics with catchy pop hooks that actually address the emotion their aiming for – that’s becoming more and more rare with pop music these days. Top 40 airplay aims to settle your sonic sweet-tooth in that goddamn 3:30 and Generationals don’t want to play that game. I can’t say that it’s a winning formula for the long-haul, but when Generationals ended last night’s show with the final lines from “Trust” – ‘What’s the use in trusting more than we have to?’ – and the crowd went wild off of such an engaging, transparent lyric… they proved it’s a promising formula for the near future.
Conor Patrick Hogan is a writer living in Los Angeles. He pens articles exclusively about debut LPs on his own website Debuts of Note. You can find him on Twitter @cpatrickdood. Oh! And his favorite My Little Pony is Magic Star. Duh.