“You want the scoop? / Yeah I got it, baby!”
Those first two lyrics of The Garden’s opening song “U Want the Scoop?” alone were enough to send the small crowd of UC Berkeley students attending ASUC SUPERB Productions’ latest show on Upper Sproul Plaza into a frenzy of fist pounding and head thrashing. Whether or not the crowd was familiar with eclectic punk band, on a cold night of sprinkling rain and twisting wind, the energetic, genre-fluid set suited the climate perfectly.
Below the white tent propped up to shield the amps, drum kit and microphones from the pelting rain, twin brothers Wyatt and Fletcher Shears stood. Otherwise identical, Wyatt’s black hair under his cowboy hat and Fletcher’s blonde strings across his face were the only way to distinguish the two as they claimed their respective spots. Cloaked in the purple and blue shimmer of the spotlight, the duo was performance-ready, spirits not at all dampened by the stormy weather or size of the crowd. Instead, The Garden took advantage of the intimate ambiance.
Born out of the underground garage-punk scene of Orange County, California, The Garden is a band accustomed to tight venues and makeshift stages. Playing their genre-surfing music in skateboard shops and the garage’s of friends as a part of the SoCal DIY collective, the brothers know exactly what is required to enchant a small setting to feel like they’re performing in a vivacious amphitheater. Those skills, cultivated from their early days of performance, translated well to the steps of Sproul Hall.
The brothers possessed an elusive yet bewitching stage presence that kept the audience swarming like a hive of bees from start to finish. Everyone slammed into one another, a whirlpool of artsy youths moshing together – ironic for the setting. Various beanie-wearing kids managed to crowd surf, gliding over the crowd as The Garden performed “Have a Good Day Sir.” Wyatt Shears moved his hands as if conjuring magic, emphasizing each lyric. Fletcher Shears jumped off the amp and dangled from the metal rods of the tent like a monkey.
The drum fills bled like rapidfire, and the bass set a tone of malaise and gung-ho rebellion that melted together with the nonsensical yet poignant lyrics. These instrumentals had unique roles on stage and, at the same time, were interchangeable – with Fletcher Shears occasionally abandoning his post at the drums and taking the mic to sing a couple verses.
While there were only about a hundred people there, it sounded like a thousand voices were screaming “I like cereal! But I ain’t no serial killer!” – lyrics to the catchy tune “Clay” that the audience may or may not have known before the show. In fact, it seemed like every song was a favorite of the audience, who never took a break from jolting to the beats. As Wyatt edged his way into the pool of people for a moment, the crowd condensed, packed together — all attempting to reach him.
The Garden is nostalgic of the original punk scene while also being a blend of music that foreshadows the age of garage punk on the horizon. It’s reminiscent of ‘90s Seattle, basement brawls and mosh pits, Los Angeles angst and long, bleach-blonde hair. With that hint of the past present in each track, the band’s impalpable, enthralling mix of rap, unbalanced electronics, and pure punk sound is a genre-transcending mix that is like a catcall to the future of grunge music.
With astonishing charisma and a contagious need to punch-dance all of its tension out, The Garden shook the very plaza it stood on. As the rain resumed its sprinkling and the clouds twirled above, the audience was left invigorated, unwound and grateful for the mellow yet energized experience they were gifted.