By Karynn Brown; photos by Brittany Ward
April 11, 2018
Duffy’s casual but well-loved “Dollar Beer Night” featured a twist this Tuesday. Live music from Omaha’s FiFiNoNo and St.Petersburg’s Pleasures brought a solid crowd of friends and fans into the bar.
FiFiNoNo started off the night with a performance of dark, anxious, and powerful grunge rock. The five-piece band emphasizes heavily rhythmic repetitions of strong power chords and dramatic basslines.
FiFiNoNo’s performance was driven by classic influences in the genera of power/volume/angst/existential noise. Frontmen Blake Kostszewa (vocals) and Josh Javorsky (bass) held an emotionally driven stage presence, often leaning against each other; or in Kostszewa’s case, collapsing to the ground.
FiFiNoNo has released four EP-esque works on Bandcamp. After roughly ten live shows and eighteen months as a band, the group hopes to take some time to work on more songwriting in the coming months.
All five band members live together in Omaha, which is what started the jam sessions that ultimately lead to FiFiNoNo’s conception.
“When it came time to name that band, we wanted something silly,” says Jay Jacobson, drummer. “It’s named after an old comedy show sketch, they would prank call people and just make noise.”
Following FiFiNoNo were Flordia-natives Pleasures.
Described as “Space Psych” on their Facebook page and as “alien prog” by a fan, Pleasures more than lived up to their name and expectations.
A band steeped in tightly-run live performances, the trio’s stage presence is both fascinating and beautiful.
On stage, bassist Roger Lanfranchi, drummer Morgan Soltes and vocalist/guitarist Katherine Kelly, shroud themselves in tower of lights and synthesizers, creating an other-worldly look and feel to the performance.
Soltes takes center stage, his complex and fast-paced drumming adding a live, grounding edge of cleanliness and technique to the otherwise space-y sounds. Lanfranchi switches between bass and synth instruments, creating body-moving waves in the highs and lows of each piece. Kelly, as the vocalist and guitarist, holds a focused stage presence in her important melodic roles.
The vocals often take a backseat to the anthem-like rises and falls of each piece. Pleasures fills this vocal space with highly narrative and anthemic rises and falls. Their effects and machines play at the edges of the sound, adding sharp highs and growling lows over the tight live instruments, creating a jazzy and improvisational aspect.
Overall, the performance is artistic, anthemic, narrative, focused and a weird kind of wonderful.
Kelly’s voice is mixed through several effects, including a harmonizer and pitch-shift, which creates a one-of-a-kind mix that sounds truly alien. Inspired by the work of Black Moth Super Rainbow, Tobacco, Kelly created the vocal effect to mimic the sound of a vocoder.
Pleasure’s stage presence was cinched by their accompanying lights and film. Unsung fourth band member Ryley (Lastname unknown), ran the film projections and synchronized light rods from the crowd, timing everything to the music. The film clips included bits from the horror film Pleasures produced as well as outdated scientific teaching materials.
Nothing quite says progressive rock like wormholes and cell division.
Pleasures stopped in Lincoln on the first leg of their spring tour, and will be playing The Sydney in Omaha on Wednesday April 11th. This is their fourth time playing in Lincoln,
“We love playing here, it’s just always so welcoming” says Kelly.
Pleasures will return to the Duffy’s stage in October, after their current spring tour and a week-long summer stop in North Carolina. The spring tour follows the band’s March 30th release of their second album “Body Pop” which embodies the less synthesizer-driven sound of this iteration of the band.
Karynn Brown is an editorial intern with KZUM.