The Make-Out Room is a dark, narrow space. A spiderweb of tinsel and deer heads and jewelry hangs from the ceiling. And when BOYTOY played June 26, the sound didn’t echo, but rather reflected back in from the street, making the concert an insular and enveloping experience.
BOYTOY’s rough-around-the-edges riffs and blazing rhythm section made its songs shine even without preparation or a large stage. In between songs, lead singer and guitarist Saara Untracht-Oakner admitted that the band had arrived in San Francisco less than an hour before its performance.
The steady trio of Untracht-Oakner, Chase Noelle and Glenn Van Dyke, along with a touring bassist, launched right into the show. The show was high-energy, ramping up quickly into number after number of passionate rock outbursts.
The brightly lit stage illuminated the energy pouring out from the band. The show lights were tinged blue and green, washing across the musicians and creeping up the back wall. Bright spotlights collected in the corner and didn’t creep into the rest of the bar, which was dark despite the red candles flickering at every table.
BOYTOY’s sound on its recent record Night Leaf pairs elements of ‘60s surf rock rhythms with biting, distorted ‘90s grunge riffs. Where these elements evoked sunset strolls before, here they were cranked up to develop the songs into explosive jams. At its show, the band discarded the chill melodies and warm beachy instrumentation for a blazing run through a series of high-energy rock numbers. The concert was song after song of frantic passion for the audience to both take in and take part in.
Onstage, the visuals were simple, and the members spoke only briefly to each other or the audience between numbers. Instead, the group put the music at the forefront of its show, the members exhibiting their technical abilities and letting their instruments talk. They presented a messy-but-confident sound, executing solos and expanding on the concise pop structures of their recorded songs. The rhythm section laid down a solid base at the start of each track, over which Untracht-Oakner and Noelle layered piercing, hooky guitars.
The highlight of the set was the one-two punch of “Static Age” and “NY Rip Off” at the show’s midpoint. The first drew in the audience through its bouncing bassline and angular guitar riff before completely entrancing the crowd with its distorted, far-reaching chorus hook. In “NY Rip Off,” the band quickly pivoted the bouncing energy of the drums into passionately chanted vocals. Just as the energy of the song was ready to drop off, a searing guitar solo filled with screeching feedback prolonged its run.
Above all else, the band promoted an explosive energy. Though the members clearly played well together, the solos were where they shined. They focused on dramatic transitions, jarring guitar solos, shouted vocals and built-up tension to perform their music. The added live flourishes brought more energy, heightening the audience connection and keeping the concert fresh.
The last song of the night, “Pretty One,” was a great example of the dynamics that BOYTOY harnesses over its songs and shows. The band started at a crawl, building up speed as the song progressed. The lead guitar line repeated itself and then built on itself in small variations, heightening the tension.
This tension was palpable, released only when Untracht-Oakner broke through the wall of noise with her vocals, “Hey there, pretty one, be my friend.” For the next verse, the band worked into even more of a flurry before the next vocal release, driving the song forward with each repetition.
The version of BOYTOY that performed was closer to the sound of the band on its earlier, rougher releases. Yet the careful pop rhythms on Night Leaf showed complexity in the band’s songwriting, with the cranked-up concert versions providing a satisfying, frantic expansion. The band perfectly balanced these two different moods, allowing for a concert experience that was completely unexpected but completely exciting throughout.